Saturday, December 31, 2011

A tragic local story was our 2nd most read post from 2011

As I continue to reflect on the year in review on this blog it's time to reveal the #2 most read story of the year.  I've decided not to repost it here but encourage you to go and find it(it's a July 18th post) as I'll describe why I don't want to repost.  The story concerned the still to be determined fate of a young Northshore girl who was missing in waters south of here from a tragic boating accident.

The young lady, named Samantha Vinturella, indeed died from this tragic event.  The crux of the news article was how the community, and two Northshore churches were in prayer and support of the family.

I remember attending the beautiful memorial Mass for Samantha at Our Lady of the Lake.  The outpouring of love and support was great.  We lost a wonderful young girl in 2011 from this accident but heaven gained an angel.

The 3rd most read post of 2011: And with your spirit

Way back in February I began a series of posts to help prepare us for the new translation of the Roman Missal.  This particular post was popular enough to be #3 on the most read list of 2011.  Here it is:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

And with your spirit. This is the 3rd post on changes to the Roman Missal

Louie VerrecchioPreparing the Way for the Roman Missal 3rd Edition, Part 5: Introductory Rites

During the Introductory Rites when the priest says The Lord be with you, no longer will the people reply And also with you, but rather by saying, And with your spirit.

The Lord be with you… One just kind of expects a priest to say this sort of thing, no? But what on earth can we say about that response of ours? And with your spirit.

Something you’d never employ in an everyday situation? Entirely out of the ordinary? You bet it is, and for good reason! You see, qualities such as these are inherent to the sacred. But where does this expression come from and what exactly does it mean?

Well, the first thing you should know is that the response And with your spirit is documented as far back as the year 215 A.D. Share that with the grumblers back in your parish who are upset with the “newfangled” translation!

As for what it means, let’s turn to St. John Chrysostom for insight. In his “Homily on the Holy Pentecost” which dates to the end of the fourth century, he taught:

If the Holy Spirit were not in our Bishop when he gave the peace to all shortly before ascending to his holy sanctuary, you would not have replied to him all together, And with your spirit… You don’t first partake of the offerings until he has prayed for you the grace from the Lord, and you have answered him, And with your spirit, reminding yourselves by this reply that he who is here does nothing of his own power, nor are the offered gifts the work of human nature, but is it the grace of the Spirit present and hovering over all things which prepared that mystic sacrifice.

St. John makes it pretty clear that the priest isn’t simply saying, “Greetings in Christ, everybody!” To which the people politely reply, “Same to you, Father!” Unfortunately, this is how most of us tend to view the matter, and why shouldn’t we? Solid liturgical instruction notwithstanding, the current translation does seem to lend itself to the perception that we’re simply exchanging holy pleasantries here, but as St. John’s homily indicates, this is no mere greeting.

The priest’s words are really more akin to a blessing imparted by the spirit of Christ at the hands of his ordained minister, and our response is far more than a simple “same to you.” Rather, when we say And with your spirit, we are affirming our faith in the sacrament of Holy Orders; acknowledging aloud that we recognize the priest who leads us as one uniquely configured to Christ in such way as to act at Holy Mass in Persona Christi and most certainly not by his own resources.

Now I can assure you that some folks will read this and think, “It’s that pre-Vatican II clericalism all over again! Just 90 seconds into the Mass and already we’re tipping our hat to Father!” The truth, however, is just the opposite.

The response, And with your spirit, is not just important for what it says, it is timely for when we say it (a total of five times in all). We are acknowledging that Holy Mass and the various parts therein are not really about Father personally at all. It’s not his Mass; it is Christ’s Mass. Far from being a form of clericalism, our response is really best understood as a tangible expression of what St. John the Baptist said of himself; the priest must decrease so that the Lord Jesus Christ, the true High Priest, might increase.

All of this said, I think most of us realize that The Lord be with you isn’t exactly the typical way of blessing. For example, the priest blesses the people during the Concluding Rite using the far more familiar formula: May Almighty God Bless you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

So the question is, why does the priest bless us throughout Holy Mass with such words as The Lord be with you, and The peace of the Lord be with you always? In other words, what makes this blessing so unique?

Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it is a liturgical blessing; one that is intended in a particular way for those incorporated into Christ’s Body through Baptism – the gateway through which the laity are enabled to participate in the sacred liturgy (cf CCC 1119).

You see, when the priest says The Lord be with you, he is urging the faithful to turn to, or to be with, the spirit of the Lord received in the waters of Baptism, that they may be personally conformed to his divine presence and properly disposed to unite themselves with the sacred action that is about to take place.

It is fitting that we should begin our union with Christ at Holy Mass by turning inward, for as the Church teaches, “Interior participation in the sacred liturgy is the most important; this consists in paying devout attention, and in lifting up the heart to God in prayer” (cf Musicam Sacram 22a).

Turning to the presence of Christ within, however, is not enough. Our desire to participate in the sacred liturgy also compels us to become “intimately joined with the High Priest” (ibid.) who makes Himself present in a unique way “in the person of the ordained minister” (cf SC 14), so that “together with Him, and through Him we may offer the Sacrifice, making ourselves one with Him” (Musicam Sacram 22a).

This is where the response, And with your spirit, takes on an additional layer of meaning.

One may have noticed that St. John employs a subtle interplay between the words “spirit” as in And with your spirit, and “Spirit” as in “Holy Spirit.” This reveals something very important about our response as it relates to the identity of the priest.

The word “spirit” is often used in reference to one’s “inmost being.” For example, we find in Sacred Scripture, “The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching his innermost parts” (Proverbs 20:27). This “spirit” of man is also directly related to our share in Christ’s priesthood and thus to our participation in the Sacrifice of the Mass.

“You too are living stones, built as an edifice of spirit, into a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5).

Through Holy Orders, He who alone is able to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is made present to us in a unique way in the “spirit” of the priest who stands before us. The priest, in other words, is configured to Christ in a profound ontological way; i.e. not evident simply by what he does, but made manifest by who he is, and our response affirms it.

Furthermore, when we say, And with your spirit, we are also consciously saying that we hereby join ourselves in a particular way to Christ who dwells within, and acts through, the priest. This nuance becomes a bit clearer if we imagine giving our response with stress placed on the word “your:” “The Lord be with you / And with your spirit” – the “spirit” of the priest who celebrates Holy Mass being that of Christ Jesus.

We might also consider our response on yet another level; as a prayer for the man who stands before us, that he be strengthened by God’s grace, in faith, so as to lose his identity in such way as to yield entirely to Christ to whom he is configured – he who alone is worthy to ascend to the altar of the Lord as both High Priest and Holy Sacrifice.

The corrected translation And with your spirit is a wonderful first step toward recovering a sense of the sacred at Holy Mass, and we’ve just gotten started! With so much rich theological significance recovered in just a handful of words, all of us should be genuinely excited about the faithful translation to come and the great blessing it is certain to be. I know I certainly am.

We will continue in Part Six with an examination of the Penitential Rite.

Continuing a review of the Top Six Posts of 2011: #4 saying goodbye to Archbishop Hannan

This story was from the Times Picayune describing the procedure to lay to rest our great Archbishop, Philip M. Hannan:

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Archbishop Hannan to be buried alongside other Bishops in St. Louis Cathedral

Archbishop Philip Hannan has plenty of company beneath St. Louis Cathedral

Published: Sunday, October 02, 2011, 7:00 AM
Bruce Nolan, The Times-Picayune To walk up the marble tile center aisle of St. Louis Cathedral is to step over and past the bones of people. Lots of people.

diagram-hannan-100211.jpgGraphic: Where, how Archbishop Philip Hannan will be buried (click to enlarge)

The triple-spired cathedral that is the international symbol for New Orleans is more than a church. It’s a working cemetery as well.
The mortal remains of 11 bishops and archbishops, as well as the unmarked graves of scores of early residents of the French and Spanish colony lie under the cathedral’s floor.
On Thursday, the cathedral will receive another body when hundreds of priests, bishops, and members of the general public gather celebrate a funeral Mass for Archbishop Philip Hannan.
Hannan died early Thursday at age 98, having spent 23 years as archbishop and another 23 years in an active public retirement in and around New Orleans. By long tradition, Catholic bishops and archbishops are buried in or near their cathedrals.
After his funeral Mass, Hannan’s remains will be lowered into a crypt below the crimson carpet in the sanctuary in front of the altar, where he will lie alongside eight predecessors.
An ancient tradition
Burying the honored dead within churches — or more accurately, building churches atop the remains of honored dead -- is an ancient tradition, dating to the earliest days of Christianity, said Monsignor Crosby Kern, the cathedral’s rector.
The temporal center of Roman Catholicism, St. Peter’s Basilica, is the most recent of several churches built over the site that tradition holds is the grave of Simon Peter, the fisherman Jesus picked to lead the church.
Recent archeology seems to have confirmed that St. Peter’s is, in fact, atop the grave of the apostle.
Later, Christians celebrated the Eucharist on the very tombs of the martyred dead, partly in the belief that those dead heroes were “friends of God” who would help carry forward their prayers in heaven, according to Ken Woodward, author of “Making Saints,” an account of the Catholic church’s sanctification process.
Saints' relics entombed in altars
For centuries, Catholic altars worldwide were required to keep the link between worship and tombs by containing a tiny relic of a saint — perhaps a sliver of bone — making each altar a symbolic tomb, said Monsignor Ken Hedrick of the archdiocese’s Office of Worship. The practice is no longer required, but strongly encouraged, he said.
For tens of millions of Christians, the Protestant Reformation eliminated the role of intercessory saints, and dismissed any inclination to draw near to their remains in prayer, in church or elsewhere.
But even so, the custom of burial in church is not restricted to Catholicism.
The Episcopal Church’s Washington National Cathedral, technically the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and Paul, houses the remains of more than a dozen people, including writer Helen Keller and President Woodrow Wilson.

A hole in the cathedral floor
Preparations For Archbishop Philp Hannan's Funeral
Enlarge SUSAN POAG / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE Jimmie Dorsey holds the trap door up as The Rev. Crosby Kern, rector of St. Louis Cathedral , right,shows where eight other bishops and auxiliary bishops are buried beneath the floor at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans Friday, September 30, 2011 Preparations For Archbishop Hannan's Funeral gallery (21 photos)
On Thursday, when the public gathers around Hannan’s casket, there likely will be no sign that a grave has been prepared for him a few feet away, Kern said.
Earlier, a few workers will have sawn a hole in the sanctuary’s wooden floor, then located an open crypt, one of eight new burial vessels ordered a few years ago by now-retired Archbishop Francis Schulte, Kern said.
Flooring and carpet will be replaced for the funeral Mass, leaving nothing amiss, he said.
Probably, Hannan will lie at the far right of the sanctuary, near the wall — the ninth in a wall-to-wall line of subterranean crypts bearing predecessor bishops or archbishops going back to Leo Raymond de Neckere, who died in 1833, Kern said.
Archbishop Joseph Francis Rummel lies beneath the floor a few feet away, in the center in the somewhat ragged row, Kern said.
Kern remembers that 1964 funeral, the last for an archbishop of New Orleans.
Exact burial spots are not marked
And memory is important, because in all but two cases, final resting places are unmarked.
Instead, past bishops and archbishops are memorialized by wall-mounted plaques along the perimeter of the cathedral, without reference to where their remains lie — if indeed, they are dead.
Archbishops Francis Schulte and Alfred Hughes both have plaques, and both are very much alive.
Within the cathedral, only two actual burial sites are marked: one for Francois Philippe Marigny de Mandeville, landowner and soldier who died in 1728, and another for Andres Almonester y Roxas, a Spanish philanthropist died in 1798 after founding what would become Charity Hospital. They lie on each side of the main aisle, short of the sanctuary.
Beyond the sanctuary, scattered about beneath the pews stretching toward Jackson Square, lie the remains of many more colonial New Orleanians, clergy and lay alike, Kern said.
Colonial citizens lie under the pews
Before 1803, they were buried inside the cathedral’s predecessor building, which stood on the same site until 1850. That building was demolished to make way for the wider, deeper church that opened a year later, Kern said. The width of the old building was roughly defined by the rows of interior pillars in its successor.
Within the footprint of that earlier, narrow church, the locations of those early graves are lost.
But their burial records still endure in archives of the Archdiocese of New Orleans:
Male child Bosques, buried in 1798; Juana Maria Destrehan, buried in 1798; Luis Chauvin Beaulieu, buried in 1801; Costancia de Reggio, buried in 1796.
They are under the pews, somewhere.
By the mid-19th century, burial in the cathedral became reserved for clergy, and later, reserved for archbishops only — and a few auxiliary bishops, with permission, Kern said.
Three auxiliary bishops lie in the cathedral, although not under the sanctuary. Three empty crypts in St. Anthony’s Garden, behind the cathedral, are available for others, or perhaps for Kern.

The year in review at the "abitadeacon"

Scrolling through my archives in 2011 I thought today, New Years Eve, would be a great day to look back on my year in review month by month.  So here goes:

January 2011:  Many posts about starting the New Year at a new Church.  I blogged about my beginning experiences at Most Holy Trinity.  There is a post about my farewell Mass and dinner at St. Jane's too.  January posts also focused on the pro-life movement around the anniversary of Roe v Wade and there is an important post about a Mass in Mandeville with the visiting choir from the Rayburn Prison.

February 2011:  The 2nd month of the New Year brought more posts about my early days and weeks at Most Holy Trinity.  I blogged about starting Benediction on 1st Friday's for the parish and our celebration of Confirmation with our young adults.  There was some posts about the beginning of our Mardi Gras season here in the New Orleans area.

March 2011:  As Spring sprung we blogged in March about the end of Mardi Gras and the beginning of the season of Lent in the Church.  March brought the 3 day Kairos retreat weekend inside Rayburn Prison; always a poignant and spiritual weekend for me personally.

April 2011:  A lot of my blogging in April brought late Lenten posts and then posts centered around the Easter celebration, my first at MHT.  We also remembered the 6th anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II.  And of course there was the pver hyped royal wedding from London.

May 2011:  I blogged about the death of Osama Bin Laden and our reaction to it, moving on to my first time attending a traditional Latin Mass.  There was a post about American Idol judge Steven Tyler that was very pro-life and we celebrated the birthday of Archbishop Philip Hannan.  And I mentioned that it was really getting hot.  But the most important posts for me in May were those centered around the graduation from LSU by daughter Elizabeth.

June 2011:  I had to post about the disturbing news that the state of Louisiana was considering closing the prison where I minister.  And then the good news later in the month that Rayburn would not be closed.  June also brought my first post about mounting challenges and frustrations at work.  I also remember the news of one of my inmate worshippers who died unexpectedly on the prison yard.  And there were more posts about the failing health of Archbishop Hannan.  June also brought news of the start of our 2015 Deacon class, aspirants beginning formation.

July 2011:  The big event in July was the opportunity to be a presenter at a 3 day retreat for our 2012 deacon class.  We spent the weekend at the Abbey in Covington and our theme was A Simple Path by Mother Teresa.  July also brought the disturbing news of Fr. Corapi, resigning in disgrace and locally, the murder of a Hammond, La priest and his funeral.

August 2011:  I blogged about August being my least favorite month(too hot) and we remembered the anniversary of Katrina.  There was the beginning of several posts aroung the controversy here locally over St. Augustine High School and corporal punishment.  Indeed we had a few posts about the start up of the New Orleans Saints season.

September 2011:  This turned out to be a busy month.  Posts about the Saints and LSU began in earnest.  We had Labor Day posts and comments on MDA going forward without Jerry Lewis.  I blogged about being a teacher/facilitator for the 2012 Deacon candidates homiletics classes.  I shared the details of Wendy and I vacationing in Chicago, via Amtrak.  And then the sad news at the end of the month: Archbishop Philip M Hannan was dead.  Many posts on this great man, his ministry and his funeral arrangements.

October 2011:  This fall month began with many posts still centered on the funeral of Archbishop Hannan and the fond farewell to this great man.  October brought the shocking news of problems for Fr. Frank Pavone, Priests for Life.  We had many more football posts, LSU winning and the Saints winning and the Saints helping one of their own, Steve Gleason, stricken with ALS.  And we talked about Halloween from a Catholic perspective.

November 2011:  All Saints, All Souls, Veterans Day, 11-11-11, Thanksgiving Day.  Many posts about these important dates.  Still more football.  Posts about the new Roman Missal.  Advent begins.  I blogged about the first Mass experience for me with the new Missal translations.  A curious post at end of month while I was watching the cartoon Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.

December 2011:  More Advent postings and continuing updates on the Saints and LSU.  We discussed: what is a honey badger?  I blogged personally about my health scare(all is good) and preparing for Christmas.  As Christmas drew near we blogged about celebrating Christmas as a season, not just a day.  I posted about my own Christmas experience and just yesterday posted one of my favorite posts about a 18 year old teenagers youtube message about his medical condition and faith in God, just one week before he died.

So that's a very brief year in review.  2011 was certainly a very busy year.  I hope you will take the time to look back on 2011 and feel free to look back at the "abitadeacon" too!

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

A 4th century Pope is our New Year's Eve Saint of the day

St. Sylvester

St. Sylvester
St. Sylvester
Feastday: December 31

St. Sylvester, born in Rome, was ordained by Pope St. Marcellinus during the peace that preceded the persecutions of Diocletian. He passed through those days of terror, witnessed the abdication of Diocletian and Maximian, and saw the triumph of Constantine in the year 312. Two years later he succeeded St. Melchiades as Bishop of Rome. In the same year, he sent four legates to represent him at the great Council of the Western Church, held at Aries. He confirmed it's decision and imparted them to the Church.
The Council of Nicea was assembled during his reign, in the year 325, but not being able to assist at it in person, on account of his great age, he sent his legates, who headed the list of subscribers to its decrees, preceding the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch. St. Sylvester was Pope for twenty-four years and eleven months. He died in the year 335. His Feast Day is December 31st.

Continuining my look back. My 5th most read post from 2011

Continuing my review of the top six posts based on readership of this past year comes a reflection from the Monday after Thanksgiving.  I had been off for a nice extended weekend for the Thanksgiving holiday after a particularly difficult few weeks at work.  On that Monday morning I awoke early and felt reflective.  This post did not seem particularly interesting to me other than it was a sincere personal reflection.  For some reason my readers made it #5 among all the many posts of 2011:

Monday, November 28, 2011

A rare Monday morning, pre go to work post

I find myself on this first Monday of Advent, the first return to work day for me after the Thanksgiving holidays, willing to be a little late for work to make this post.  After these family holidays and the opportunity to usher in Advent and our new Roman Missal, I am reflective about the challenges in our lives.  I could easily sit in this chair all day today, even after the time off, because I've been facing challenges at work.  These challenges have even given me cause to reflect on what direction I want my life to travel in the near future.  However, I am more acutely aware this morning that my focus can, and should shift.

When I leave this house every morning I leave someone who loves and cares for me.  When I arrive at work I am surrounded, for the most part, by good people, many of whom care for me as well.  They are people who I care for and many of whom I genuinely enjoy being with.  My mission at work, not all that unlike my ministry as Deacon, is to care for and serve those who are placed in front of me with a need or a want.  Seems simple enough this morning.

As for the balance of this day, and every day for that matter, I remember that I walk as a child of God, a minister in His holy Church and am blessed by so much more than those things that get me down.  So head up this Monday morning, face the challenges of another day, give thanks to God, not just for the blessings but for the challenges too.  Remember those you love in prayer, pray for those who are struggling today with far greater struggles and rejoice in the gift of your life.  As for the haters and those who like to spew evil and steal your peace; just don't let them.  It's your peace; a free gift from God.  Pray for them, pity them if you must, but don't give them more importance than that which will last; our hope, our joy, our faith and the love of family & friends and the love of God!

Is the tide changing? Abortionists charged with murder!

Authorities: Abortion doctors charged with murder

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two out-of-state doctors who traveled to Maryland to perform late-term abortions have been arrested and charged with multiple counts of murder, an unusual use of a law that allows for murder charges in the death of a viable fetus.
Dr. Steven Brigham, of Voorhees, N.J., was taken into custody Wednesday night and is being held in the Camden County jail, according to police in Elkton, Md. Authorities also arrested Dr. Nicola Riley in Salt Lake City and she is in jail in Utah. Each is awaiting an extradition hearing.
The two doctors were indicted by a grand jury after a 16-month investigation, police said.
The investigation began in August 2010 after a botched procedure at Brigham's Elkton clinic. An 18-year-old woman who was 21 weeks pregnant had her uterus ruptured and her bowel injured, and rather than call 911, Brigham and Riley drove her to a nearby hospital, where both were uncooperative and Brigham refused to give his name, according to documents filed in a previous investigation by medical regulators.
A search of the clinic after the botched abortion revealed a freezer with 35 late-term fetuses inside, including one believed to have been aborted at 36 weeks, the documents show.
Brigham, 55, is charged with five counts of first-degree murder, five counts of second-degree murder and one count of conspiracy. Riley, 46, faces one count each of first- and second-degree murder and one conspiracy count.
The charges all relate to abortions performed at the Elkton clinic or fetuses found there, authorities said. Cecil County State's Attorney Ellis Roberts declined to elaborate on the charges or the circumstances that led to them, saying it would be inappropriate to comment before Brigham and Riley, who were taken into custody on fugitive warrants, had seen the indictments.
Maryland is one of 38 states with a law that allows murder charges against someone accused of killing a viable fetus. The 2005 law has so far only been used for cases in which defendants were accused of assaulting or killing pregnant women.
"We are in uncharted territory," Roberts said. "At some point in time," he added, "you will hear our explanation" of the charges.
Brigham's attorney, C. Thomas Brown, said in an emailed statement that he does not believe his client has violated any Maryland laws. He said he has not seen any charging documents or spoken with Brigham since the arrest.
"Dr. Brigham has fully cooperated with this investigation," Brown said. "I had an agreement with the state's attorney's office that if Dr. Brigham was charged, he would voluntarily come to Maryland to surrender. For reasons unknown to me, the state did not honor that agreement. ... It is my opinion that Dr. Brigham's arrest in New Jersey was orchestrated to ensure that he remained in custody over this holiday weekend."
An attorney for Riley also took issue with her client being behind bars.
"We believe the charges are without legal merit," said Sharon Krevor-Weisbaum. "We believe it's inappropriate for her to be held without bond. She is not a flight risk and she should be released on her own recognizance."
Krevor-Weisbaum said Riley's legal team would comment further after they had seen the indictment.
A spokeswoman for the Center for Reproductive Rights, a legal advocacy group, said she was not aware of any cases in the United States in which an abortion provider had been charged with murder in the death of a fetus. A Philadelphia doctor, Kermit Gosnell, faces murder charges in the deaths of seven newborn babies but has not been charged with killing fetuses.
The botched 2010 abortion led regulators to order Brigham to stop practicing medicine in Maryland without a license, and Riley's Maryland license was suspended. Brigham's New Jersey license was also suspended, and authorities there are pursuing revocation of his license. New Jersey authorities have cooperated with the Maryland criminal probe, said Thomas R. Calcagni, director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs.
According to regulators, Brigham would begin abortions in New Jersey and have his patients drive themselves to Maryland to complete the procedures, taking advantage of Maryland's more permissive laws. Brigham was not authorized to perform abortions in New Jersey after the first trimester, and regulators called his actions manipulative and deceptive.
Anti-abortion activists hailed the arrests of Brigham and Riley.
"These two individuals are now where they belong and should be in jail for the rest of their lives," the Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said in a statement. "Even those who believe abortion should be legal can join with us to stop the out-of-control practices of people like Brigham and Riley."
Associated Press writer Beth DeFalco in Trenton, N.J., contributed to this report.

Year in Review: #6 on the most read list

Over the next day or so I plan to look back at the year 2011 here at the abitadeacon.  Based on the most read posts of 2011 by my loyal readers I will review the top six stories.  My first entry is #6, based on my frustration of the American media coverage of the royal wedding, the state of affairs of Catholicism in the UK(although I think the very law I complain about has recently been ammened) and the same news that very day concerning the beatification of Pope John Paul II.  And here is the #6 top read story on the abitadeacon for 2011:

Friday, April 29, 2011

The royal wedding and the beatification of a beloved Pope. Are you kidding me.

In case you missed it, there was this "royal" wedding today in London.  The son of Charles and Diana, Prince William, exchanged vows with Kate Middleton in Westminster Abbey.  What a "royal" fuss has been made worldwide over this event.  The media is absolutely insane and quite frankly, I've had it up to here with the Amercian media.  NBC viewed this event as so stupendeous that the Today crew has been in London all week.  Good grief.  I think we all can agree that we wish William and Kate well; I pray that more effort has gone into a lifetime of marriage than went into preparing for the wedding.  And I am quite pleased that the Anglican Archbishop of Cantebury did give a great homily extolling married life; he even called all weddings "royal" weddings.  The Archbishop even evoked the role God plays in marriage.  Hmmm.  Makes me pray harder that the Anglicans, Episcopalians, et al really return to the proper theology on marriage.

By the way, did you catch goofy NBC with a countdown clock to the "royal" kiss?  Talk about juvenile.

Just a little something for Catholics to consider.  The British, by law, and fully supported by the Church of England and the Monarchy, continue to discriminate and reject Catholicism.  What?  Did not Great Britain lay out the royal red carpet for Pope Benedict?  Yes they did.  And they remain stunned at the fallout; Catholic converts in record numbers, the Anglican ordinariate where Church of England types are converting en masse.  But to my brother and sister Catholics: it is still British law that no member of the monarchy may marry a Catholic.  He/she may marry many folks; just not Catholics.  300 years later, the Brits still cling to the Settlement Act of 1701 which says no heir to the throne may marry a Catholic.  And God forbid, if a Catholic falls in love with a royal, he/she must renounce Holy Mother Church for the royal.  Seems crazy; not so fast.  It happened in just the last 10 years or so.  Sad.  In 2011 the Brits, the Royals and the Church of England still disdain the Catholic Church.
Today, while the world sat like deer in the headlight of a "royal" wedding and will he kiss her or not, the bodily remains of Pope John Paul II were moved ahead of the Sunday beatification  of the beloved Pope.  Rome witnessed another day of pilgrims, obviously capable of functioning this day without being glued to the TV, flocking to Rome to take part in the beatification ceremonies.  The beatification of Pope John Paul II is indeed something I will wake up early for.  I must admit, I did  get up early during today's events because the bathroom was calling(middle-age man humor).  But I will get up joyfully and eagerly to soak up all the events of Sunday as the Pope of my lifetime becomes Blessed.

So tonight, I can pray for William & Kate because I am a huge fan of marriage.  My bride and I have been at it for 34 years and I love preparing young couples for married life.  So I hope these "royals" will make a go of married life not just over hyped weddings.  But for me, my focus this weekend will be on Rome and the events from the Vatican.  I cannot wait til Sunday when with the entire Church I can say, Blessed Pope John Paul II, pray for us. 

As people of faith, we need to keep our priorities straight!

Here come the Anglicans, just in time for New Years

Doors open for Anglicans to join Catholic Church

( New Year’s Day ushers in a new era for Roman Catholics and members of the Anglican Church who will have the opportunity to enter into “corporate reunion” with the Holy See.

An apostolic constitution, Anglicanorum coetibus, issued by Pope Benedict XVI, will lead to the creation of “personal ordinariates,” geographic regions similar to dioceses but typically national in scope.

Parishes in these ordinariates are to be Catholic yet retain elements of the Anglican heritage and liturgical practices. They are to be led by an “ordinary” who will have a role similar to a bishop, but who may be either a bishop or a priest.

The Vatican’s action was in response to repeated and persistent inquiries from Anglican groups worldwide who were seeking to come into sacramental communion with Rome.

Some are currently part of the Episcopal Church and others, though Anglican, are not part of the Episcopal Church. Ordinariates seek to provide a way to enter in “corporate reunion” as a group and not simply as individuals. This would allow them to retain their Anglican liturgical heritage and traditions, and to have their own leadership structure, accountable to the Pope alone.

The Pastoral Provision, established by Pope John Paul II in 1980, already provides a way for individual Episcopal priests, including those who may be married, to be ordained Catholic priests for dioceses in the United States.

It also allows Anglican parishes to become Catholic parishes or chaplaincies within existing dioceses. Since 1980, three parishes and a number of smaller groups have been established. They are commonly referred to as “Anglican Use” communities, since they use The Book of Divine Worship in their liturgies, a Vatican-approved Catholic resource that reflects traditional Anglican prayers and formularies

At the fall meeting of U.S. bishops in November 2011, held in Washington, D.C. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, announced that Pope Benedict XVI approved the creation of an ordinariate in the United States.

Set for New Year’s Day

The canonical establishment of the ordinariate will take place on Jan. 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. An ordinary for the United States will be named at that time. It is expected that former Rio Grande Episcopal Bishop Jeffrey Steenson will named the ordinary.

In anticipation of the move, local Anglicans have established St. James, a mission congregation of the pro-Diocese of the Holy Family, headquartered in Orlando.

“Anglicans may retain distinctive aspects of their spiritual and religious patrimony, while enjoying full communion with the See of St. Peter,” explains St. James mission administrator Nicholas Marziani. “This very new and innovative development in the Roman Catholic Church embraces Anglicans seeking union with the Holy See in a manner unprecedented in history,” Marziani continues.

Anglicanorum coetibus is new in two ways: It applies to the world, not solely the United States, and it allows Anglican groups to be received into the Catholic Church — not through a local diocese, but through a new entity, an ordinariate which, though similar to a diocese, is national in scope and is fully responsive to Anglican liturgical and other traditions.

The St. James mission congregation meets 4:30 p.m. at the House of Prayer, across from the Nombre de Dios Mission grounds for Saturday Evensong. Other services will be conducted as the ongoing liturgical year warrants. At present seven community members attend Evensong, and it is anticipated that potentially up to 100 Anglicans and current Catholics interested in the Anglican Patrimony will join the mission congregation when the Holy Eucharist will be offered this coming summer upon the completion of Marziani’s seminary training and ordination to the Catholic priesthood. The training is being conducted through distance learning arrangements with St. Mary’s Seminary at the University of St. Thomas in Houston.

Father Mike Morgan of the Diocese of St. Augustine noted that: “At the request of Cardinal Wuerl, the Diocese of St. Augustine is working with Dr. Marziani to help him complete the requirements necessary before his request for ordination receives final approval from the Holy See.”

Marziani, a former engineer, teacher and Episcopal priest, currently holds the doctor of ministry from Trinity Episcopal School of Ministry in Ambridge, Pa. He and his wife of 40 years, Joanne, are residents of St. Augustine Beach. The couple have three adult children and four grandchildren.

A blogger, his sister, her death and the beautiful town and people of St. Francisville, La.

Going Home Again

Rod Dreher grew up in St. Francisville, La., a town of about 1,700 people 30 minutes northwest of Baton Rouge. He left for college and then lived in Washington, New York, Miami, Dallas and Philadelphia, working as a writer for various magazines, a newspaper and a foundation.
Josh Haner/The New York Times
David Brooks
His younger sister, Ruthie, went to L.S.U., returned to St. Francisville as a middle-school teacher and married an Iraq war veteran who worked as a fireman. On Feb. 22, 2010, Ruthie, who was 40 then, was diagnosed with a virulent form of cancer. She told her brother that she was afraid that her three young girls would be angry with God for taking her from them: “We can’t have anger,” she told him. “Make sure nobody is angry at the doctors, either. They couldn’t have caught it earlier.”
The entire town rallied around her. There were cookouts to raise money for her medical care. Ruthie met a woman named Stephanie when they were both getting chemotherapy. Stephanie continued to accompany Ruthie to the hospital even after her own round of treatments was finished.
April 10, 2010, was officially Ruthie Leming Day in St. Francisville. More than half the town went to a fund-raising concert. Somebody took a camper-trailer to the concert so Ruthie would have a place to rest and take oxygen.
Dreher, one of the country’s most interesting bloggers, captured Ruthie’s illness in real time. “It’s so beautiful to see it’s almost painful,” he wrote the night of the concert, “and so unreal in its generosity that you think it must have been a movie.”
As Ruthie’s illness worsened, Dreher’s grief would be mixed with something else. “The outpouring — an eruption, really — of goodness and charity from the people of our town has been quite simply stunning,” he blogged. “The acts of aid and comfort have been ceaseless, often reducing our parents to tears of shock and awe.”
She died on Sept. 15 this year. More than 1,000 people signed the guest book at the funeral, Dreher reported. Mike, her husband who had wrenched his back trying to perform C.P.R. on her, stood for hours by the open coffin as people filed past. Since Ruthie liked to go barefoot, the pallbearers took off their shoes, rolled up their pants and carried the coffin to the grave in bare feet.
During the wake, Dreher and his wife received an e-mail informing them that the deal for a farmhouse they had hoped to rent in Bucks County, Pa., had fallen through. They were surprised as waves of relief swept over them.
Then a thought occurred. Maybe they should leave the Philadelphia area and move back to Louisiana. “Standing in Ruthie’s kitchen the day after she died, laughing with all of Mike’s friends who had surrounded him to hold him up (‘We’re leaning, but we’re leaning on each other,’ Mike later said), I thought, ‘Even with all the sadness, there’s no place else in the world I’d rather be.’ ”
They considered the practicalities. They wondered if they were experiencing a passing emotion from a traumatic event. To their great astonishment, they decided to make the move.
They wanted to be enmeshed in a tight community. They wanted to be around Ruthie’s daughters, and they wanted their kids to be able to go deer hunting with Mike. They wanted to be where the family had been for five generations and participate in the rituals ranging from Mardi Gras to L.S.U. football. They decided to accept the limitations of small-town life in exchange for the privilege of being a part of a community.
They moved in just before Christmas. For the past many years, Ruthie and her mother had a tradition of going to a nearby cemetery on Christmas Eve to put candles on all the graves. This year, with Ruthie in that cemetery, her mother was too sad to do it. But, as she was driving by the cemetery that night, she noticed little flames dotting the graveyard.
She called Dreher, sobbing. “You’ve got to find out who did this for us. ... Whoever it is, they will never know what this meant to me. They will never, ever know.”
It turns out that it was a neighbor named Susan Harvey Wymore, who had learned that Ruthie’s mother would be unable to light the cemetery and did it for her.
Dreher is a writer for The American Conservative and is part of a communitarian conservative tradition that goes back to thinkers like Russell Kirk and Robert Nisbet. Forty years ago, Kirk led one of the two great poles of conservatism. It existed in creative tension with the other great pole, Milton Friedman’s free-market philosophy.
In recent decades, the communitarian conservatism has become less popular while the market conservatism dominates. But that doesn’t make Kirk’s insights into small towns, traditions and community any less true, as Rod Dreher so powerfully rediscovered.

Watch this video; you will never be the same. He died one week after making this video

I don't know this 18 year old brave young man.  I heard abouth this video dominating youtube, facebook and other social media.  Never saying a word, Ben Breedlove tells of his life long struggle with a serious heart condition.  On December 18th, he made this video after surviving another near death experience.  Remarkably, Ben died of this horrible heart condition one week later, on Christmas night, December 25, 2011.

Watch him use flash cards to tell his story and watch as he smiles at certain cards and watch and see if you can catch the hope in this young man, and, by the end of the video, his faith!

I just watched it today for the 1st time.  I will never be the same.

Ben Breedlove, thank you for sharing your story and may you rest in peace in Heaven with God!

Celebrating the Feast of the Holy Family

Christmas: December 30th

Facebook Twitter Feast of the Holy Family

Scripture tells us practically nothing about the first years and the boyhood of the Child Jesus. All we know are the facts of the sojourn in Egypt, the return to Nazareth, and the incidents that occurred when the twelve-year-old boy accompanied his parents to Jerusalem. In her liturgy the Church hurries over this period of Christ's life with equal brevity. The general breakdown of the family, however, at the end of the past century and at the beginning of our own, prompted the popes, especially the far-sighted Leo XIII, to promote the observance of this feast with the hope that it might instill into Christian families something of the faithful love and the devoted attachment that characterize the family of Nazareth. The primary purpose of the Church in instituting and promoting this feast is to present the Holy Family as the model and exemplar of all Christian families.
— Excerpted from With Christ Through the Year, Rev. Bernard Strasser, O.S.B.
The Sixth Day of Christmas

The Holy Family
Marriage is too often conceived as the sacrament which unites a man and a woman to form a couple. In reality, marriage establishes a family, and its purpose is to increase the number of the elect, through the bodily and spiritual fecundity of the Christian spouses.
1. Every marriage intends children. Although Mary and Joseph were not united in a carnal way, their marriage is a true marriage: an indissoluble, exclusive union, wholly subordinated to the child. Mary and Joseph are united only in order to bring Jesus into the world, to protect and raise him. They have only one child, but he contains the whole of mankind, even as Isaac, an only child, fulfilled the promise made to Abraham of a countless progeny.
2. The purpose of every marriage is to establish a Christian family. The Holy Family observed the religious laws of Israel; it went in pilgrimage to Jerusalem every year with other Jewish families (Lk. 2:41). Jesus saddens and amazes his father and his mother because to their will and company he prefers "to be in his Father's house". Thus it may happen that God's will obliges the family to make disconcerting sacrifices. Yet every Christian family must live in harmony and in prayer, which are the pledges of joy and union.
3. "He remained obedient to them." Jesus was God. And through the fullness of grace Mary stood above Joseph. Nevertheless — if we except the event in the Temple — Joseph remained the head of the family; he took the initiative (as when the Holy Family fled to Egypt), and in Nazareth Jesus obeyed his parents.
Excerpted from Bread and the Word, A.M. Roguet

The Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph
The devotion to the Holy Family was born in Bethlehem, together with the Baby Jesus. The shepherds went to adore the Child and, at the same time, they gave honor to His family. Later, in a similar way, the three wise men came from the East to adore and give honor to the newborn King with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh that would be safeguarded by His family.
We can go further to affirm that in a certain sense Christ, Himself, was the first devotee of His family. He showed His devotion to His mother and foster father by submitting Himself, with infinite humility, to the duty of filial obedience towards them. This is what St Bernard of Clairvaux said in this regard, ‘God, to whom angels submit themselves and who principalities and powers obey, was subject to Mary; and not only to Mary but Joseph also for Mary’s sake [….]. God obeyed a human creature; this is humility without precedent. A human creature commands God; it is sublime beyond measure.’ (First Homily on the ‘Missus Est’).
Today’s celebration demonstrates Christ’s humility and obedience with respect to the fourth commandment, whilst also highlighting the loving care that His parents exercised in His keeping. The servant of God, Pope John Paul II, in 1989, entitled his Apostolic Exhortation, ‘Redemptoris Custos’ (Guardian of the Redeemer) which was dedicated to the person and the mission of Saint Joseph in the life of Christ and of the Church. After exactly a century, he resumed the teaching of Pope Leo XIII, for who Saint Joseph ‘.. shines among all mankind by the most august dignity, since by divine will, he was the guardian of the Son of God and reputed as His father among men’ (Encyclical Quamquam Pluries [1889] n. 3). Pope Leo XIII continued, ‘.. Joseph became the guardian, the administrator, and the legal defender of the divine house whose chief he was.[…] It is, then, natural and worthy that as the Blessed Joseph ministered to all the needs of the family at Nazareth and girt it about with his protection, he should now cover with the cloak of his heavenly patronage and defend the Church of Jesus Christ.’ Not many years before, blessed Pope Pius IX had proclaimed Saint Joseph, ‘Patron of the Catholic Church’ (1870)
Almost intuitively, one can recognize that the mysterious, exemplary, guardianship enacted by Joseph was conducted firstly, in a yet more intimate way, by Mary. Consequently, the liturgical feast of the Holy Family speaks to us of the fond and loving care that we must render to the Body of Christ. We can understand this in a mystical sense, as guardians of the Church, and also in the Eucharistic sense. Mary and Joseph took great care of Jesus’ physical body. Following their example, we can and must take great care of His Mystical Body, the Church, and the Eucharist which He has entrusted to us. If Mary was, in some way, ‘the first tabernacle in history’ (John Paul II Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 55) then we the Tabernacle in which Our Lord chose to reside in person, in His Real Presence, was also entrusted to us. We can learn from Mary and Joseph! What would they ever have overlooked in the care of Jesus’ physical body? Is there something, therefore, that we can withhold for the right and adoring care of His Eucharistic Body? No amount of attention, no sane act of love and adoring respect will ever be too much! On the contrary, our adoration and respect will always be inferior to the great gift that comes to us in the Holy Eucharist.
Looking at the Holy Family, we see the love, the protection, and the diligent care that they gave to the Redeemer. We can not fail to feel uneasiness, perhaps a shameful thought, for the times in which we have not rendered the appropriate care and attention to the Blessed Eucharist. We can only ask for forgiveness and do penance for all the sacrilegious acts and the lack of respect that are committed in front of the Blessed Eucharist. We can only ask the Lord, through the intersession of the Holy Family of Nazareth, for a greater love for their Son Incarnate, who has decided to remain here on earth with us every day until the end of time.
From the Congregation for the Clergy

>>>We usually are able to celebrate the Holy Family at a Sunday Mass during the week between Christmas and New Year.  With Christmas falling on a Sunday, the following Sunday, which is New Year's Day, is actually reserved for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God.  And the following Sunday will be the Epiphany.

So this Friday, the last weekday in the Octave of Christmas is reserved for this important feast of the Holy Family.  Even if you can't make it to Mass today, spend some time in prayer and remember the example of Jesus, Mary and Joseph!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Vacation...not the Griswold's either but mine

I've had time off before around Christmas week or, in the past Thanksgiving week.  I really enjoy being home sometime around the holidays.  For some reason, I've enjoyed this break with a certain sense of peace and contentment.  It certainly could be because on December 15th I received wonderful medical news from an angiogram procedure looking into what was really going on with my carotid artery.  I did indeed prepare myself mentally for the possibility of some type of hospitalization near Christmas.  Once reality set in that this would not be necessary, everything seemed to be very bright for the Christmas season.

Vacation came at the end of work on Thursday, December 22 and got really rolling when on Friday my daughter and I drove to the New Orleans Airport to pick up our son and his wife who live in the Greensboro, North Carolina area.  As many of you know, it is always special when reunited with loved ones we just don't get to see that often.  Their short stay with us, 4 and a half days, was delightful.  Christmas Eve brought for me my first Christmas Mass as Deacon at Most Holy Trinity.  I've already blogged about how amazing that experience was.  I still can't get over the overflowing crowds of last Saturday night.  Our Christmas Eve tradition, for many years now, includes spending time with our friends and neighbors, the Simons, who host one whale of a Christmas Eve party, complete with an always fun gift exchange game.  My son and daughter-in-law came with us for the second time for them and they seem to enjoy the time as much as we do.

Christmas Day included a return trip to Most Holy Trinity for morning Mass and then I made a little impromptu visit to my old church, St. Jane, just to see the decorated sanctuary and to say hello to whatever friends and parishioners I would recognize(I've been gone from St. Jane's since last January 3rd).  Our afternoon was spent hosting Christmas for those family members related to us from my side of the family.  Amazing food, good presents and a nice time just catching up and visiting.

December 26th brings two big events in my life each and every year.  It is the Feast Day of St. Stephen, deacon & martyr, who indeed is the patron Saint of our New Orleans diaconate community.  Every year we gather to celebrate Mass and a dinner together.  This year, because of the much anticipated Saints vs Falcons game in the city that evening, we decided to gather at 11 a.m.  I joyfully made the trip to be with my brothers and enjoy another special St. Stephen's day.  But Decemeber 26th will always be special for me for it is indeed the birthday of my dear wife Wendy.  She always disappears by mid-morning for a day of shopping, manicures & pedicures and lunch.  For this, I stay out of the way.  That evening, we had a special dinner with the family, and joined by Wendy's sisters family, to celebrate her birthday.  And what an extra bonus this year to be able to come home and watch the Saints destroy the Atlanta Falcons on national TV.

Tuesday was that bittersweet moment when James & Sara had to return home to Greensboro.  I drove them to the airport and had a nice time with them as we drove the hour it takes to get to the airport from here.  Did I mention, we left the house at 5:20 a.m.; that's o'dark thirty.  I actually made it home by 8 a.m.  Needless to say, that was it for me.  The rest of the day I spent chilling and relaxing at home.  How nice!  Wednesday also started early with a 8 a.m. doctor's appointment, which went very well, and from there I ran errands, visited with good friends and even met a deacon candidate for coffee in the late afternoon. 

Today was another great vacation day.  I attended Mass at St. Jane's and sat in a pew; something I don't get to do very often.  It was also very nice to visit over coffee with old friends from my home parish.  The afternoon was spent with my daughter Elizabeth and Wendy at one of the best things New Orleans has to offer: the National World War II Museum, formerly known as the D Day Museum.  This place is spectacular.  It's so wonderfully done and gives such an amazing feel for what was going on during those horrible days of World War II.  The museum does take about 3 hours to tour and has wonderful exhibits from both the European front, especially detailed around the D Day invasion, and the Pacific front, from Pearl Harbor to the dropping of the atomic bombs.  Riveting!  Breathtaking!  And the movie shown at the Museum, Beyond All Borders, narrated by Tom Hanks, is a must see for every American.  Our visit was just spectacular.  And it was so nice to see New Orleans popping as Michigan and Virginia Tech fans are all over the place for the Sugar Bowl.  Tonight, the three of us ate dinner together at a local Northshore restaraunt.

I have 4 days of vacation left.  Friday is still up in the air but then we have New Years Eve and New Years Day.  As Catholics, we will celebrating the Feast of Mary, Mother of God this weekend.  For the secular in me, Wendy and I will enjoy the last night of 2011 with dear friends who have a great party and quite the fireworks display.  New Years Day brings another big Saints game.  And for lagniappe we are all off Monday, the 2nd, to celebrate the New Year's Bowl games and get an extra day of vacation.

So that's my Christmas vacation so far.  Hope you enjoyed this little view into a small slice of my personal life.  And please don't forget, this is still the Christmas season; it's o.k. to say Merry Christmas!

Please don't take the decorations down just yet

A friend of mine commented yesterday that the tree was down and the Christmas decorations packed away for another year.  I know many people who do this; mainly because they have some vacation time between Christmas and New Years and return to the hustle and bustle of work & school right after the 1st of the year.  I understand this but I still can't do this because I want to celebrate the entire Christmas season.  For many Christians, especially Catholics, Christmas is still in the very early stages as far as a season goes.  Whether we follow the season of Christmas as outlined in the Catholic ordo or the liturgical calendar or we just follow the song the 12 days of Christmas, we're just on day 5 of this special season.

If we attend Mass any day this week, or we just pray along with the breviary(the daily office of prayers) and when we attend this Sunday, we will hear Christmas carols.  Why?  Because it is still Christmas season.  In fact, the Christmas season traditionally ends on January 6th, which for centuries was the Feast of the Epiphany or what we called as children Little Christmas.  This would be when we celebrated the visit of the Magi and the giving of gifts to the child Jesus of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Years ago the Church moved this feast to the Sunday after the 6th and this year that will fall on January 8th.  So we can at least say with confidence that the Christmas season this year does not end until that Sunday, January 8th.

I still wish folks Merry Christmas and will do so for at least a few more days.  For me, even all the hoopla around New Years based celebrations are just icing on the cake for Christmas.  So what about the dilema of taking down decorations when we can?  How about this for a compromise: at least leave the creche, the nativity scene, up in your home and make it a focus for the remainder of this Christmas season.  Make an emphasis of the wise men as January 6th and 8th draw near.  Read the beautiful Gospel stories of those early days of Jesus as a babe.  And keep the Christmas season alive until it's really over, and then all year long in our hearts and minds.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury and a Saint

Thomas Becket (also known as Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Thomas of London,[1] and later Thomas à Becket;[note 1] circa 1118 – 29 December 1170) was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in 1170. He is venerated as a saint and martyr by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. He engaged in conflict with Henry II of England over the rights and privileges of the Church and was assassinated by followers of the king in Canterbury Cathedral. Soon after the death of Thomas Becket, Pope Alexander III canonized him.

Read plenty more about this Saint at the link provided here:

Ahh, see how those Christians love one another...

Broom-wielding clergymen clash at Bethlehem birthplace of Jesus

Published: Wednesday, December 28, 2011, 9:30 PM
The Associated Press The annual cleaning of one of Christianity's holiest churches deteriorated into a brawl between rival clergy Wednesday, as dozens of monks feuding over sacred space at the Church of the Nativity battled each other with brooms until police intervened.
bethlehem_brawling_clergymen.jpgView full sizePalestinian police officers intervene in a fight that erupted between Greek Orthodox and Armenian clergymen during the cleaning of the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Wednesday.
The ancient church, built over the traditional site of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem, is shared by three Christian denominations — Roman Catholics, Armenians and Greek Orthodox. Wednesday's fight erupted between Greek and Armenian clergy, with both sides accusing each other of encroaching on parts of the church to which they lay claim.
The monks were tidying up the church ahead of Orthodox Christmas celebrations in early January, following celebrations by Western Christians on Dec. 25. The fight erupted between monks along the border of their respective areas. Some shouted and hurled brooms.
Palestinian security forces rushed in to break up the melee, and no serious injuries were reported. A Palestinian police spokesman would not immediately comment.
A fragile status quo governs relations among the denominations at the ancient church, and to repair or clean a part of the structure is to own it, according to accepted practice. That means that letting other sects clean part of the church could allow one to gain ground at another's expense. Similar fights have taken place during the same late-December cleaning effort in the past.
Tensions between rival clergy at the church have been a fact of life there for centuries and have often been caught up in international politics.
In the 1800s, friction between the denominations at the church — each backed by foreign powers — became so fraught that Russian Czar Nicholas I deployed troops along the Danube to threaten a Turkish sultan who had been favoring the Catholics over the Orthodox.
Those disagreements threaten the integrity of the church itself, which was originally built 1,500 years ago and parts of which have fallen into disrepair. Although the roof has needed urgent work for decades, and leaking rainwater has ruined much of the priceless artwork inside, a renovation has been delayed all these years by disagreements among the denominations over who would pay.
Only recently, the Palestinian Authority brokered an agreement to move ahead with replacing the roof, and officials hope work will begin in 2012.

Archbishop Dolan reminds us that not all Catholics worship in safety and security


On Christmas Day, the New York Daily News published an op-ed article that I wrote on the persecution of Christians. I thought you might want to read it.
Here is an excerpt from my op-ed:
This coming weekend, Christians throughout our land will jam churches to celebrate the birthday of Jesus, accepting the angels’ invitation from the midnight skies over Bethlehem to “come, let us adore Him!,” the infant they believe to be their Lord and savior.
They’ll be praying and singing, laughing and hugging, wishing each other peace and joy as they leave church to return home for gifts and a festive meal with family and friends.
They will do it all in security and safety. Not so throughout a growing swath of the rest of the world. If recent ominous events are predictors, Christians in Egypt, China, Iraq, India, parts of Africa and Indonesia — just to name a few places — will keep to the shadows this holy day as they leave for church, avoiding people, walking to church by a back route, hurrying into a darkened church, with their prayers hardly of joy over the birth of the Prince of Peace.
Also printed in this morning in the New York Daily News was an op-ed about the tragic Christmas Day bombings in Nigeria.  Here is an excerpt:
Christians are under attack around the world, for nothing more than their desire to worship God as they choose.
The Nigeria violence marked the second year in a row that the Boko Haram Islamists — who seek to impose strict Sharia law across the nation of 165 million — have turned a day of peace into one of horror.
You can read the whole op-ed here.
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No greater love...Another powerful Pro-Life witness

Teen Loses Cancer Fight After Delivering Son

  • jennilake.jpeg
    Jenni Lake's family, from left, father Mike Lake, sister Kaisee Lake, boyfriend Nathan Wittman, mother Diana Phillip with Jenni's newborn son Chad Michael Lake Wittman, and sister Ashley Lake pose for a portrait in Pocatello, Idaho on Dec. 6, 2011. (AP)
  • AP1112061153126.jpg
    In this Dec. 6, 2011 photo, Nathan Wittman, 19, holds a photo of Jenni Lake, who died of cancer shortly after giving birth to their son, Chad Michael Lake Wittman. (AP Photo/James B. Hale)
  • AP111206048204.jpg
    In this Dec. 6, 2011 photo, Jenni Lake's son, Chad Michael Lake Wittman, drinks from a bottle at the family's home in Pocatello, Idaho. (AP Photo/James B. Hale)
Jenni Lake gave birth to a baby boy the month before her 18th birthday, though she was not destined to become just another teenage mother.
That much, she knew.
While being admitted to the hospital, she pulled her nurse down to her at bed level and whispered into her ear. The nurse would later repeat the girl's words to comfort her family, as their worst fears were realized a day after Jenni's baby was born.
"She told the nurse, `I'm done, I did what I was supposed to. My baby is going to get here safe,'" said Diana Phillips, Jenni's mother.
In photographs, the baby's ruddy cheeks and healthy weight offer a stark contrast to the frail girl who gave birth to him. She holds the newborn tightly, kissing the top of his head. Jenni, at 5 feet and 4 inches tall, weighed only 108 pounds at the full term of her pregnancy.
A day after the Nov. 9 birth, Phillips learned that her daughter's decision to forgo treatment for tumors on her brain and spine so she could carry the baby would have fatal repercussions. The cancer had marked too much territory. Nothing could be done, Phillips said.
It was only 12 days past the birth — half spent in the hospital and the other half at home — before Jenni was gone.
Even so, her family and friends insist her legacy is not one centered in tragedy, but rather in sacrifice.
This month, her family gathered at their ranch style home in Pocatello, where a Christmas tree in the living room was adorned with ornaments picked out just for Jenni, including one in bright lime green, her favorite color. She had passed away in a bedroom down the hall.
Recalling Jenni's infectious laugh and a rebellious streak, her mother held the baby close, nuzzling his head, and said, "I want him to know everything about her, and what she did."
The migraines started last year, when Jenni was a 16-year-old sophomore at Pocatello High School. She was taken to the family doctor, and an MRI scan found a small mass measuring about two centimeters wide on the right side of her brain.
She was sent to a hospital in Salt Lake City, some 150 miles south of Pocatello, and another scan there showed the mass was bigger than previously thought.
Jenni had a biopsy Oct. 15, 2010, and five days later was diagnosed with stage three astrocytoma, a type of brain tumor. With three tumors on her brain and three on her spine, Jenni was told her case was rare because the cancer had spread from her brain to another part of her body with no symptoms.
Her parents, who are divorced, remember they were brought into a room at the hospital and sat down at a long table as doctors discussed her chances of survival.
"Jenni just flat out asked them if she was going to die," said her father, Mike Lake, 43, a truck driver who lives in Rexburg, north of Pocatello.
The answer wasn't good. With treatment, the teen was told she had a 30 percent chance to make it two years, Lake said. While he was heartbroken, Lake marveled at how strong she seemed in that moment. "She didn't break down and cry or anything," he said.
But her mom recalled Jenni did have a weak moment that day.
"When they told her that she might not be able to have kids, she got upset," said Phillips, 39.
Jenni started aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments, while also posting videos on a YouTube site titled "Jenni's Journey," where she hoped to share her story with updates every other day. She managed to upload only three videos, though, as her treatments left her tired and weak.
On her second video, posted Nov. 20, 2010, Jenni appears distraught while a family friend records her having lunch with her mom.
"Last night, like, I was just lying in bed and I was thinking about everything that was going on and it just like, it just hit me, like everything, and I don't know, it made me cry," Jenni says on the video.
Her mom is shown burying her face in her hands. "Do you know how hard it is to be a mom and know that she's sick and there's nothing you can do," she says, before collapsing into tears.
Jenni persists: "It's hard. It's like, I don't know how long this is going to last and I just want it to go away ... I feel like this is holding me back from so much ..."
By March of this year, the tumors had started to shrink, the family said.
In a picture taken at her prom in early May, Jenni is wearing a dark blue strapless dress and gives the camera a small smile. There's a silver headband in her hair, which is less than an inch long. Chemotherapy took her shoulder-length blond tresses.
Her boyfriend, Nathan Wittman, wearing a black dress shirt and pants, is cradling her from behind.
Jenni started dating Nathan a couple of weeks before she received her diagnosis. Their adolescent relationship withstood the very adult test posed by cancer, the treatments that left her barely able to walk from her living room to her bedroom, and the gossip at school.
"The rumors started flying around, like Nathan was only with her because she had cancer," said Jenni's older sister, Ashlee Lake, 20, who tried to squelch the mean-spirited chatter even as the young couple ignored it.
They were hopeful, and dreamed of someday opening a restaurant or a gallery.
Jenni had been working as an apprentice in a local tattoo shop. "She was like our little sister," said the owner, Kass Chacon. But in May, Jenni's visits to the shop grew less frequent.
She had been throwing up a lot and had sharp stomach pains. She went to the emergency room early one morning with her boyfriend and when she returned home, her family members woke up to the sound of crying. "We could hear Jenni just bawling in her room," said her sister, Kaisee, 19.
She had learned that she was pregnant, and an ultrasound would show the fetus was 10 weeks old.
Jenni's journey was no longer her own.
From the start of treatment, she was told that she might never have children, her mother said, that the radiation and chemotherapy could essentially make her sterile.
"We were told that she couldn't get pregnant, so we didn't worry about it," said Nathan, 19.
Jenni, the third of her parents' eight children, had always wanted to be a mom. She had already determined to keep the baby when she went to see her oncologist, Dr. David Ririe, in Pocatello two days after she found out she was pregnant.
"He told us that if she's pregnant, she can't continue the treatments," Phillips said. "So she would either have to terminate the pregnancy and continue the treatments, or stop the treatments, knowing that it could continue to grow again."
Ririe would not discuss Jenni's care, citing privacy laws, but said, generally, in cases in which a cancer patient is pregnant, oncologists will consider both the risks and benefits of continuing with treatment, such as chemotherapy.
"There are times during pregnancy in some situations, breast cancer being the classic example, where the benefits of chemotherapy may outweigh the risk to mother and baby," Ririe said. "There are other times where the risk outweighs the benefits."
There was no discussion about which path Jenni would choose. Her parents didn't think of it as a clear life or death decision, and Jenni may not have, either. They believed that since the tumors had already started to shrink earlier, she had a strong chance of carrying the baby and then returning to treatment after he was born.
"I guess we were just hoping that after she had the baby, she could go back on the chemotherapy and get better," her mother said.
Jenni and Nathan named the baby Chad Michael, after their dads. Nathan has legal custody of the child, who is primarily cared for by Nathan's mother, Alexia Wittman, 51.
"Nathan will raise him," she said. She brings the baby to Jenni's house to visit her family whenever they ask.
Jenni didn't show regret for her decision, not in the final weeks of her pregnancy as she grew weaker, and not when she started to lose her vision as the cancer took its course, her family said.
Jenni's last words were about her son as he was placed beside her a final time, her father said.
As she felt for the baby, she said: "I can kind of see him."

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