Friday, July 31, 2009

President Barack Obama, Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sergeant James Crowley walk from the Oval Office to the Rose Garden of the White House, July 30, 2009.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Unfortunately, my own guardian angel did not prevent my injury, certainly following superior orders," Benedict said.

"Perhaps the Lord wanted to teach me more patience and humility, give me more time for prayer and meditation," the pope added.

h/t to American Papist

Catholic independent film company

From Our Lady's Tears blog:
"My husband and I prayerfully discerned our calling to found this company to make authentically Catholic films for wide distribution. Our first film is entitled Requiem of a Soul and is the life story of St. Germaine Cousin. Go HERE to view our newly launched website. We have completed a 30 min short film and plan to complete an entire feature length movie once we have the funds. A trailer can be viewed on the site..."

New Ferrari 458 Italia

Franciscan Friars Trudge 300 Miles and Find Kindred Souls on the Way

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 29, 2009

They've been mistaken for Jedi-wannabes headed to a Star Wars convention. They've been investigated by police, approached by strangers, gawked at from cars and offered gifts of crumpled dollar bills and Little Debbie snacks.

After trekking along more than 300 miles of dusty Virginia country roads and suburban highways, six Franciscan friars reached Washington on Tuesday, having seen it all during an offbeat modern-day quest for God.

For six weeks, the brothers walked from Roanoke with only their brown robes, sandals and a belief in the kindness of strangers to feed and shelter them.

The sight of six men in flowing habits, trudging single file on the side of the road, prompted many to pull over and talk, even confess. People on their way to work described their loneliness. College students wanted help figuring out what to do with their lives. Children, mistaking them for the Shaolin monks in movies, ran up to ask the friars if they knew how to beat up bullies.

"Dressed like we are in our habits, it's like a walking sign that says, 'Tell us your life's problems,' " explained Cliff Hennings, the youngest of the friars at 23.

In every instance, the friars made time for conversation. They shot the breeze with a gang of drunk bikers, dispensed relationship advice to the brokenhearted commuters and bore witness to one and all, yea, even to the Chik-fil-A employee dressed as a cow.

The pilgrimage was the idea of four young friars just finishing their training in Chicago and working toward taking lifelong vows. Seeking to emulate the wanderings of their founder, Saint Francis of Assisi, they wanted to journey together as a fraternity, ministering to one another and to strangers, while depending on God for every meal and place to sleep.

Joined by two older friars supervising their training, they picked as their destination a friary in Washington, D.C., called the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land -- a symbolic gesture, because the actual Holy Land was too far away.

Then last month they drove from Chicago to Salem, just outside Roanoke, parked their van at a church and set out on foot.

They tried to live by the ascetic rules Jesus laid out for his 12 disciples: "Take nothing for the journey -- no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic." The less they brought, they reasoned, the more room they could leave for God. The friars did make a few modifications, carrying a toothbrush, a wool blanket, water and a change of underwear ("a summer essential," one explained), as well as one cellphone in case of emergency.

Some rules, however, had to be made on the fly. They had agreed not to carry any money, but just minutes into their first day, strangers were pressing dollar bills into their hands. So they made a pact to spend what they received each day on food, often high-protein Clif bars, and to give the rest to the needy.

The next morning, they set out again on their journey northeast.

They walked 15 miles their first day and found themselves at dusk in front of a fire station just outside Roanoke. One of the friars, Roger Lopez, a former fireman himself, knocked on the station door and asked whether there was somewhere they could sleep. As they talked, the friars spotted a giant trampoline out back.

"It seemed like such a good idea at the time," said Lopez, 30.

The six spread out on the trampoline as if they were spokes on a wheel. But soon they realized gravity was against them, pulling everyone toward the center. Some tried to sleep clutching the side railing. When one person rolled over, the rest bobbed uncontrollably like buoys. No one got much sleep, but the firefighters did send them off the next morning with corned beef sandwiches.

Since then, they have slept on picnic tables outside Lynchburg, basement floors in Charlottesville, even on office tables at a food pantry.

One night they were hosted by a man with tattoos on his arms, an unkempt ponytail and all of his front teeth missing. He had pulled up in his beat-up Jeep and offered to let the friars stay with him in an old one-room schoolhouse in Nelson County.

"He looked like he had just gotten out of prison," said Hennings, but the man turned out to be a Native American healer. The friars stayed up all night talking to him. He told them Native stories and played his double flute. They chanted Latin hymns in return and told him stories from the Gospel.

Such moments of grace became a daily occurrence for the friars. Sure, some passersby gave them the finger. One guy even leaned out the window to add a sprinkling of Nietzsche ("God is dead!") to his vulgarities. But most encounters were meaningful, even profound.

Just outside Harrisonburg, a woman in her 40s with a young daughter pulled over in her old Dodge sedan to talk to 25-year-old friar Richard Goodin.

She'd recently caught her husband cheating on her. He had kicked her and her daughter out of their house, she told Goodin. Now, like the friars, they were wandering through the wilderness, unsure of their next meal or their next move.

As they talked, the woman's daughter rummaged through the car and gave the friars a soda. Then she found a chocolate bar and offered that. As the conversation began winding down, the daughter said there was nothing more in the car. The woman reached for her purse and told Goodin, "I want to give you what we have left."

She pressed $3.52 into his hand, which he accepted reluctantly.

"I realized she wasn't giving this to us or to me," Goodin said. "I think she heard us talk about trusting in God and she wanted to try to trust in the same way. She was giving that money to God."

He and the other friars have thought about the woman a lot. Last week, they thought about her as they walked along Lee Highway in Fairfax, where Mary Williams and her three kids pulled over in their minivan and offered to take the brothers to a Chik-fil-A.

"It was the oddest experience sitting there at Chik-fil-A with everyone staring at us," said Williams, 45. "The high point was when the guy dressed up like a cow came out and gave us all high fives. He was in costume. They were in robes. A lot of people were wondering what was going on."

People had much the same reaction Tuesday as the friars crossed the Memorial Bridge and wandered past the Lincoln Memorial. In an instant, tourists went from posing in front of Lincoln's statue to posing with the Franciscans.

Their plan was to spend one last night wherever God provided and then arrive this morning at the monastery near Catholic University. They hope to spend the day there, telling the story of their journey and the goodness they encountered to anyone who wanted to listen.

Their message will be simple: "Anything can happen when you live in the moment, one step at a time," said Mark Soehner, 51, one of the mentors to the young friars. "But to find that out, you have to be willing to take that one step."

The six pilgrims against a scenic backdrop, the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Transparent Aluminum Is ‘New State Of Matter’

ScienceDaily (July 27, 2009) — Oxford scientists have created a transparent form of aluminium by bombarding the metal with the world’s most powerful soft X-ray laser. ‘Transparent aluminium’ previously only existed in science fiction, featuring in the movie Star Trek IV, but the real material is an exotic new state of matter with implications for planetary science and nuclear fusion.

In the journal Nature Physics an international team, led by Oxford University scientists, report that a short pulse from the FLASH laser ‘knocked out’ a core electron from every aluminium atom in a sample without disrupting the metal’s crystalline structure. This turned the aluminium nearly invisible to extreme ultraviolet radiation.

''What we have created is a completely new state of matter nobody has seen before,’ said Professor Justin Wark of Oxford University’s Department of Physics, one of the authors of the paper. ‘Transparent aluminium is just the start. The physical properties of the matter we are creating are relevant to the conditions inside large planets, and we also hope that by studying it we can gain a greater understanding of what is going on during the creation of 'miniature stars' created by high-power laser implosions, which may one day allow the power of nuclear fusion to be harnessed here on Earth...’


Touched by Padre Pio's guardian angels

PURPLE SHADES By Letty Jacinto-Lopez Updated July 26, 2009 12:00 AM

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The main altar at the church where Padre Pio used to say Mass

It was 1965. My brother and sister-in-law (“sis” for short) had wanted to have a baby in the first five years of their married life but all attempts failed. Anxious and getting desperate, my sis agreed to travel to a then-sleepy town called San Giovanni Rotondo — about a four-hour drive from Rome, Italy — to meet Padre Pio, the Capuchin friar who bore the nail wounds of Jesus on the cross.

She said, “I waited for three hours at the confessional room. Finally, I saw Padre Pio motioning to me to speak. I was holding my knees to keep them from shaking. My confession was brief but I felt that he knew that I was there for something more important. After giving me the Absolution, he looked up and whispered, ‘Next year, you will have a baby boy.’”

“Wow!” my sis exclaimed. “He closed his eyes and made the sign of the cross on my forehead. Immediately, I felt a warm glow, both calming and comforting.”

The following year — as promised by Padre Pio — my sis gave birth to a healthy boy and she named him (you guessed it) Pio. My nephew, Pio, is now 43 years old, happily married and a loving father to two kids.

All the time, one teeny question kept popping into my head: “How did my sister-in-law and Padre Pio communicate? She didn’t speak a word of Italian, nor did Padre Pio speak English.

Simple. Padre Pio’s guardian angel had acted as his translator and spokesman. “You don’t say!” I yelped. “Yes,” said my sis. “I heard Padre Pio speak to me in English!” Still, I was not completely convinced. Maybe there was a hidden booth somewhere with UN-trained translators. That is, until I read a similar incident written by Father Alessio Parente, author of the book on Padre Pio entitled Send Me Your Guardian Angel:

“A little American girl was brought to Padre Pio so that he could hear her first confession. Since she didn’t speak a word of Italian, an American religious sister by the name of Mary Pyle, who was close to Father Pio, brought the little girl to him. ‘Father, I’m here to help you as this little girl doesn’t understand any Italian at all.’

“‘Mary,’ said Padre Pio, ‘you can go, as the little one and I will take care of this.’ Mary Pyle waited outside and when the little girl emerged from confession, she asked her, ‘Did Padre Pio understand you?’ ‘Yes,’ came the reply. Mary, a little surprised, asked one more question: ‘Did he speak in English?’ ‘Yes, in English,’ said the little girl.”

If you enter the area called Ricordi di Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo, you will walk into a room containing some of Padre Pio’s memorabilia. You will see thousands of letters from devotees all over the world encased in glass cabinets. It was a known fact that Padre Pio could only read, write and speak in Italian yet he was able to reply to these letters. How? He counted on his multi-lingual guardian angel and kept him busy and on his toes, in his “translation booth,” so to speak, all the time.

Padre Pio kept an active and vivacious relationship with all guardian angels — including his own — fulfilling a promise he made long ago to all his spiritual children that “If you are too busy to see me, send your guardian angel!” (Note: A special liaison that Padre Pio promised to continue even after his death.)

For example, there was a woman who never failed to attend the daily Mass celebrated by Padre Pio. One day, she was running late so she sent her guardian angel to Padre Pio to “delay” the Mass so she wouldn’t miss it. As a sign that her guardian angel would do this task for her, she told him to hide the skullcap of Padre Pio. When she reached the church, there was Padre Pio, indeed a little late, but ready to say Holy Mass. The woman confessed to Padre Pio what she did. Nonchalantly, Padre Pio replied, “I know that. Your guardian angel hid my skullcap and I could not find it in the usual place and only pointed me to where he kept it after a few minutes.” This guardian angel had played “hide and seek” with Padre Pio in complete obedience to his ward.

A Capuchin brother used to hear Padre Pio talking to himself in his private cubicle. This got him very curious so he asked Padre Pio, “Who were you talking to?” Padre Pio replied, “Guardian angels. They came with petitions and requests and they kept me up late again last night.”

Mind you, Padre Pio was physically beaten up and tormented by the devil, but he remained unyielding, thanks to the encouragement and protection of his personal guardian angel.

There are many more amusing stories of Padre Pio’s interaction with guardian angels and when I finished reading these inspiring stories, I was struck by Padre Pio’s consistent reminder not to forget the Virgin Mother. In the thick of all these amazing “save and rescue” operations, we must remember that our beloved Mary is the Queen of all Angels. They would not have made any move without her stamp of blessed approval (or is it “blessed conspiracy”?).

Incidentally, Padre Pio also had something to say about our tears. “Your tears are collected by the angels and are placed in a gold chalice and you will find them when you present yourself before God.” Now, who wouldn’t want to cry me a river or gather a bucket of tears or let the floodgates (of tears) open?

After a full day of touring San Giovanni Rotondo which included a private Mass in the same church where Padre Pio said Mass, watching videos on Padre Pio’s ministry, shopping for some religious souvenirs and posing for a group photo, Father Dave Concepcion, our tour chaplain, gave us something to think about. “You will notice that all the saints manifest three deep loves in their lives: the love for God, the love for the Holy Eucharist, and the love for Mama Mary.”

I turned to my co-pilgrims and said, “Hey, doesn’t that apply to us as well? Could it be possible that we can also become saints, someday?”

They all laughed — nervously, but maybe hopefully, too.

Divorce is bad for your health

Posted on July 28, 2009, 11:41 AM | Margaret Cabaniss

Further evidence that the Church is right and marriage is good for you:

Divorced people have 20 per cent more chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer than married people, according to the study of 8,652 people aged between 51 and 61 by Professor Linda Waite of the University of Chicago.

They also have 23 per cent more mobility problems, such as difficulty climbing stairs or walking short distances...

Divorce is bad for your health
Divorce damages your health – and getting remarried barely helps

Japanese bishops: Priests should refuse to serve as lay judges

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan is urging priests to pay fines of up to $1,050 rather than accept a summons to serve as a lay judge. In the newly introduced lay-judge system, citizens serve alongside judges in major criminal cases.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Apollo 11 on the Sea of Tranquility

Pope Benedict XVI greets the faithful after the Angelus prayer ...

Pope Benedict XVI greets arrives to celebrate  the Angelus prayer ...

In this photo made available by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore ...

In this photo made available by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore ...

Bernanke Opposes Audit Of Fed Monetary Policy

WASHINGTON - Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Friday said he opposed legislation moving on Capitol Hill that would allow the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, to audit the central bank's monetary policy goals. "We are more than happy to work with the GAO and open to giving them broad authority to look at various aspects of our operations, including our responses to the financial crisis, but we are worried that an audit of monetary policy would result in a reduction of the independence of the Fed," Bernanke told lawmakers at a hearing on regulatory reform on Capitol Hill. Two pieces of legislation in the House and one in the Senate would compel the GAO to conduct a monetary-policy audit at the Fed and issue a report. One GAO audit bill, introduced by Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, has 245 co-sponsors, and would require an audit of every aspect of the Fed, including its interest rate policy as well as its wide-variety of programs responding to the financial crisis such as its lender of last resort authority.

Orthodox activists announce contest for church project to replace Lenin's Mausoleum

Moscow, July 17, Interfax - The Union of Orthodox Church Banner-Bearers announced a contest for the project of a Church of New Russian Martyrs and Confessors in the Red Square to replace Lenin's Mausoleum.

"Revival of Russia is impossible until the occult lab for destroying will and conscience of Russian people remains in the very heart of Moscow "the Third Rome." To this end, the Mausoleum should be destructed, body of the world proletarian leader should be taken away, this place should be consecrated and an Orthodox Church should be constructed at this place," the Union's Head Leonid Simonovich-Nikshich has told an Interfax-Religion correspondent on Friday.

He has already presented the first contest project and suggested building a small copy of Yekaterinburg Church-on-the-Blood erected at the site of the last Russian emperor's execution instead of "the main world Satan temple."

Simonovich-Nikshich said that the contest started on July 17 on the day of the 91st commemoration "of the ritual murder of the holy royal martyrs," thus the future church in place of the mausoleum should be consecrated in honor of "the assemble of new Russian martyrs and confessors suffered from atheistic rule."

"Sooner or later, God providence will destroy the Satan temple. Meantime, we should get ready for laying the first stone to the foundation of finally awaken Russia," he said.

The Union's website will present all projects for nation-wide discussions and due to the participants wish authors may comment them "for explaining their conception."

Conyers Sees No Point in Members Reading 1,000-Page Health Care Bill - Unless They Have 2 Lawyers to Interpret It for Them

Monday, July 27, 2009
By Nicholas Ballasy, Video Reporter

( - During his speech at a National Press Club luncheon, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Democratic Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich.), questioned the point of lawmakers reading the health care bill.

“I love these members, they get up and say, ‘Read the bill,’” said Conyers.

“What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?”

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Healing Prayer at Bedtime

Lord Jesus,
through the power of the holy spirit,
go back into my memory as I sleep,
Every hurt that has ever been done to me,
heal that hurt.
Every hurt that I have ever caused
another person, heal that hurt.
All the relationships that have been
damaged in my whole life
that I am not aware of,
heal those relationships.
But, Lord,
if there is anything that I need to do,
If I need to go to a person
because he or she is still suffering
from my hand,
bring to my awareness that person,
I choose to forgive,
and I ask to be forgiven,
Remove whatever bitterness
may be in my heart, Lord,
and fill the empty spaces with your love,

Friday, July 24, 2009

Hagia Sophia's angel uncovered
Experts have uncovered one of the six angel mosaics within the world-famous Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul after it had been hidden for 160 years behind plaster and a metal mask.

The mosaic, which measures 1.5 meters by 1 meter, was last seen by Swiss architect Gaspare Fossati, who headed restoration efforts at the museum between 1847 and 1849, and Ottoman Sultan Abdülmecid. Experts were surprised to see that the mosaic, believed to date from the 14th century, was so well preserved.

Hagia Sophia, built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian between A.D. 532 and 537, was originally a basilica before it was converted into a mosque when Ottoman Turks conquered the city in 1453. During the conversion process, the Ottomans covered the mosaics with plaster instead of removing them.

The building served as a mosque until 1934, when it was turned into a museum.

The uncovered mosaic is located in the pendentive, an arched triangular section supporting the building’s huge dome. After 10 days of work on the area, experts removed several layers of plaster and the metal mask to uncover the angel.

The mosaic’s true age will be assessed after an analysis by the Hagia Sofia Science Board compares it to similar mosaics. The six-winged figure is though to depict the seraphim, an angel described in the biblical book of Isaiah.

Priest's Last Words: "I Forgive You"

Friend Tells of Spaniard Slain in Cuba

SANTANDER, Spain, JULY 22, 2009 ( The last words of Father Mariano Arroyo Merino expressed his forgiveness for the would-be robbers who knifed and burned him.

The Spanish priest, 74, was murdered July 13 at his parish of Our Lady of Regla, in Havana, Cuba. Father Arroyo was the second Spanish priest to be assassinated in Cuba in less than a year. Father Eduardo de la Fuente Serrano, 59, was killed Feb. 14.

Father Isidro Hoyos, another Spaniard who carries out his ministry in Cuba, was a friend of them both. In Santander for vacation, Father Hoyos was interviewed by the Diario Montañés. He recounted that Father Arroyo's last words were "I forgive you."

This revelation came from the suspect who has admitted to killing the priest.

Father Hoyos met Father Arroyo in 1970 in Spain. At the urging of his friend, Father Hoyos left for Cuba in 2001, having reached the age of retirement in Spain, to continue with his priestly ministry on the island. "Yes," he explained, "it happened that that summer (of 2000), Mariano was here (in Spain). He had already spent many years in Havana. I told him (I'd go to Cuba), it seemed a good idea to him and I went. We lived together for four years and then they assigned me to the barrio of Alamar in Havana."

There, he carries out his mission among a population of 100,000 people. "It is a village that was created after Castro's revolution, but a village of 100,000 inhabitants. Actually it's a city-dormitory" and it has just one parish.

The priest described it: "It's a little house with a patio -- a few grains of sand among this immense multitude. On Sunday we have the (Eucharistic) celebration and some 300 people participate. That's not many, but before there was nothing."

Father Hoyos said being a priest in Havana is not difficult. "People treat you very well," he explained. "I wasn't accustomed to the adoration that is felt there for the figure of the priest. The Cubans are very reverent with sacred things."

He said he supposes that the investigations are correct in presuming the motive for Father Arroyo's murder was an attempted robbery.

"Mariano had a big safe but he didn't have much of value there -- only a crown for Our Lady that had more sentimental than monetary value. It was very old," he noted. "If he had money, it wouldn't have been much. Mariano had just finished doing some work in the parish because it was in very poor conditions. And if he had money from donations, he didn't keep it in the house but in the bishopric. In any case, if the robber would have given him the choice between the money and his life, undoubtedly Mariano would have given him the money without resistance."

The two suspects under arrest for the murder have confessed, Father Hoyos noted, "and the one who killed Mariano revealed that his last words were, 'I forgive you.'"

And that would be characteristic of Father Mariano, his friend contended. "He was a profoundly religious man. He was very coherent, very austere."

Father Hoyos added that it was no surprise multitudes attended the funeral. "I imagined that would happen," he said. "Mariano was very well-known there. I think that it was the biggest gathering Havana has seen, not counting Castro's manifestations."

For his part, Father Hoyos will be returning to Cuba next month, and reported that he is not frightened by this prospect. "I don't think (the two slayings) are going to become an unending chain," he said. "I have a commitment to those people and I am going to fulfill it. It seems cowardly to not return. I am not saying that I'm indispensable, but I feel obligated to return."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Litany of Humility

by Merry Cardinal del Val, secretary of state to Pope Saint Pius X
from the prayer book for Jesuits, 1963

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, O Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I go unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Jimmy Carter vs. Christianity

Posted by Tom McFeely

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 11:15 AM

Jimmy Carter has announced he is leaving the Southern Baptist Convention because of his opposition to the church’s attitude toward women.

One can certainly empathize with Carter’s legitimate concerns about the mistreatment women endure in many societies. But he makes it clear he isn’t just taking issue with the Southern Baptists or their contemporary views on this issue; in the commentary he published July 15 in Australia’s The Age newspaper about his decision, he attacks other religions for their positions regarding the equality of women.

And his article, titled “Losing My Religion for Equality,” also implicitly attacks the Catholic Church for allegedly purging the Christian religion of the women leaders who, according to Carter, were a prominent feature of the first three centuries of the history of the Christianity:

During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn’t until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.

Carter cites no authorities to back up these unhistorical claims, but it’s highly unlikely he’s basing his arguments on a careful consideration of historical evidence anyway. Instead, the former president is seeking to rewrite both history and religion to make them conform with his personal beliefs.

Pope Benedict XVI walks in the Italian Alps with his personal ...

In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore ...

Man and Woman

By Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

In human love there are two poles: man and woman. In Divine love there are two poles: God and man. From this difference, finite in the first instance, infinite in the second, arise the major tensions of life. The difference in the God-man relationship between Eastern religions and Christianity is that in the East man moves toward God; in Christianity, God moves first toward man. The Eastern way fails because man cannot lift himself by his own bootstraps. Grass does not become a banana, through its own efforts. If carbon and phosphates are to live in man, man must come down to them, and elevate them to himself. So if man is to share the Divine Nature, God must come down to man. This is the Incarnation.

The first difference in the man-woman relationship can be understood in terms of a philosophical distinction between intelligence and reason which St. Thomas Aquinas makes, and which has saved his followers from falling into errors like those of Henri Bergson. Intelligence is higher than reason. The Angels have intelligence, but they have no reason. Intelligence is immediacy of understanding and, in the domain of knowledge, is best explained in terms of "seeing." When a man says, "I see," he means that he grasps and comprehends. Reason, however, is slower. It is mediate, rather than immediate. It makes no leap, but takes steps. These steps in a reasoning process are threefold: major, minor, conclusion.

Applying the distinction to man and woman, it is generally true that man's nature is more rational and woman's, more intellectual. The latter is what is generally meant by intuition. The woman is slower to love, because love, for her, must be surrounded by a totality of sentiments, affections, and guarantees. The man is more impulsive, wanting pleasures and satisfactions, sometimes outside of their due relationship. For the woman, there must be a vital bond of relationship between herself and the one she loves. The man is more on the periphery and rim, and does not see her whole personality involved in his pleasures. The woman wants unity, the man, pleasure.

On the more rational side, the man often stands completely bewildered at a "woman's reasons." They are difficult for him to follow, because they are not capable of being broken down, analyzed, torn apart. They come as a "whole piece"; her conclusions obtrude without any apparent basis. Arguments seem to leave her cold. This is not to say who is right, for either approach could be right under different circumstances. In the trial of Our Blessed Lord the intuitive woman, Claudia, was right, and her practical husband, Pilate, was wrong. He concentrated on public opinion as a politician; she concentrated on justice, for the Divine Prisoner in her eyes was a "just man." This immediacy of conclusion can often make a woman very wrong as it did in the case of the wife of Zebedee, when she urged Our Lord to allow her sons to sit at His right and left side when He came into the Kingdom. Little did she see that a chalice of suffering had to be drunk first, for Divine Reason and Law has dictated that "no one would be crowned unless he had struggled."

A second difference is between reigning and governing. The man governs the home, but the woman reigns. Government is related to justice; reigning is related to love. Instead of man and woman being opposites, in the sense of contraries, they more properly complement one another as their Creator intended when He said: "It is not good for man to be alone." In the old Greek legend referred to by Plato, he stated that the original creature was a composite of man and woman and, for some great crime against God, this creature was divided, each going its separate way but neither destined to be happy until they were reunited in the Elysian fields.

The Book of Genesis reveals that Original Sin did create a tension between man and woman, which tension is solved in principle by man and woman in the New Testament becoming "one flesh" and a symbol of the unity of Christ and His Church. This harmony, then, should exist between man and woman, in which each fills up, at the store of the other, his or her lacking measure in quiet and motion.

The man is normally more serene than the woman, more absorbent of the daily shocks of life, less disturbed by trifles. But, on the other hand, in great crises of life, it is the woman who, because of her gentle power of reigning, can give great consolation to man in his troubles. When he is remorseful, sad, and disquieted, she brings comfort and assurance. As the surface of the ocean is agitated and troubled, but the great depths are calm, so in the really great catastrophes which affect the soul, the woman is the depth and man the surface.

The third difference is that the woman finds less repose in mediocrity than man. The more a person is attached to the practical, the concrete, the monetary, and the material, the more his soul becomes indifferent to great values and, in particular, to the Tremendous Lover. Nothing so dulls the soul as counting, and only what is material can be counted. The woman is more idealistic, less content over a long period of time with the material, and more quickly disillusioned about the carnal. She is more amphibious than man, in the sense that she moves with great facility in the two zones of matter and spirit. The oft-repeated suggestion that woman is more religious than man has some basis in truth, but only in the sense that her nature is more readily disposed toward the ideal. The woman has a greater measure of the Eternal and man a greater measure of Time, but both are essential for an incarnational universe, in which Eternity embraces Time in a stable of Bethlehem. When there is descent into an equal degree of vice, there is always a greater scandal caused by a woman than the man. Nothing seems more a profanation of the sacred than a drunken woman. The so-called "double standard," which does not exist and which has no ethical foundation, is actually based on the unconscious impulse of man to regard woman as the preserver of ideals, even when he fails to live up to them.

There never can be a Giver without a Gift. This suggests the fourth difference. Man is generally the giver, woman the gift. The man has; the woman is. Man has a sentiment; woman is sentiment. Man is afraid of dying; woman is afraid of not living. She is unhappy unless she makes the double gift: first of herself to man, then of herself to posterity, in the form of children. This quality of immolation, because it involves the wholeness of self, makes a woman seem less heroic than a man. The man concentrates his passions of love into great focal points. When there is a sudden outburst of love, such as on a battlefield, he is immediately crowned the hero. The woman, however, identifies love with existence and scatters her self-oblation through life. By multiplying her sacrifices, she seems to be less of a hero. Her daily dissipation of vital energies in the service of others makes no one act seem outstanding. It may well be that the woman is capable of greater sacrifice than man. not only because she is gift, which is the same as surrender, but also because seeing ends rather than means, and destinies rather than the present, she sees the pearl of great price for which lesser fields may be sacrificed.

These differences are not irreconcilable opposites; rather, they are complementary qualities. Adam needed a helpmate, and Eve was made --- "flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone." The functional differences corresponded with certain psychic and character differences, which made the body of one in relation to another like the violin and the bow, and the spirit of one to another like the poem and meter.

There is no such problem as, "Which is the more valuable?" for in the Scriptures husband and wife are related, one to another, as Christ and His Church. The Incarnation meant Christ's taking unto Himself a human nature as a spouse and suffering and sacrificing Himself for it, that it might be unspotted and holy; so husband and wife are bound together in a union unbreakable except by death. But there is a problem which is purely relative, namely, "Which stands up better in a crisis --- man or woman?" One can discuss this in a series of historical crises, but without arriving at any decision. The best way to arrive at a conclusion is to go to the greatest crisis the world ever faced, namely, the Crucifixion of Our Divine Lord. When we come to this great drama of Calvary, there is one fact that stands out very clearly: men failed. Judas, who had eaten at His table, lifted up his heel against Him, sold Him for thirty pieces of silver, and then blistered His lips with a kiss, suggesting that all betrayals of Divinity are so terrible that they must be prefaced by some mark of esteem and affection. Pilate, the typical time-serving politician, afraid of incurring the hatred of his government if he released a man whom he already admitted was innocent, sentenced Him to death. Annas and Caiphas resorted to illegal night trials and false witnesses, and rent their garments as if scandalized at His Divinity. The three chosen Apostles, who had witnessed the Transfiguration, and, therefore, were thought strong enough to endure the scandal of seeing the Shepherd struck, slept in a moment of greatest need, because they were unworried and untroubled. On the way to Calvary, a stranger, interested only in the drama of a man going to execution, was forced and compelled to offer Him a helping hand. On Calvary itself, there is only one of the twelve Apostles present, John, and one wonders if even he would have been there had it not been for the presence of the Mother of Jesus.

On the other hand, there is not a single instance of a woman's failing Him. At the trial, the only voice that is raised in His defense is the voice of a woman. Braving the fury of court officials, she breaks into the Judgment Hall and bids her husband, Pilate, not to condemn the "just man." On the way to Calvary, although a man is forced to help carry the Cross, the pious women of Jerusalem, ignoring the mockery of the soldiers and bystanders, console Him with words of sympathy. One of them wipes His face with a towel, and, forever after, has the name of Veronica, which means "true image," for it was His image the Saviour left on her towel. On Calvary itself, there are three women present, and the name of each is Mary: Mary of Magdala, who is forever at His feet, and will be there again on Easter morn; Mary of Cleophas, the mother of James and John; and Mary, the Mother of Jesus --- he three types of souls forever to be found beneath the Cross of Christ: penitence, motherhood, and virginity.

This is the greatest crisis this earth ever staged, and women did not fail. May not this be the key to the crisis of our hour? Men have been ruling the world, and the world is still collapsing. Those very qualities in which man, apparently, shone are the ones that today seem to be evaporating. The first of his peculiar powers, reason, is gradually being abdicated, as philosophy rejects first principles, as law ignores the Eternal Reason behind all ordinances and legislation, and as psychology substitutes for reason the dark, cavernous instincts of the subterranean libido. The second of his powers, governing, is gradually vanishing, as democracy becomes arithmocracy, as numbers and polls decide what is right and wrong, and as people degenerate into masses who are no longer self-determined personalities, but groups moved by alien and extrinsic forces of propaganda. The third of his powers, dedication to the temporal and the material, has become so perverted that the material, in the shape of an atom, is used to annihilate the human, and even to bring the world to a point where time itself may cease in the dissolution of the world as "an unsubstantial pageant faded." His fourth attribute, that of being the giver, has in its forgetfulness of God made him the taker; assuming that this world is all, he feels he ought to get all he can out of it, before he dies like an animal.

This does not mean that woman has kept her qualities of soul untarnished; she would be the first to admit that she, too, has failed to live up to her ideals. When the bow is broken, the violin cannot give forth its chords. Woman has been insisting on "equality" with man, not in the spiritual sense, but only as the right to be a competitor with him in the economic field. Admitting, then, only one difference, namely, the procreation of species, which is often stifled for economic reasons, she no longer receives either minor or major respect from her "equal" --- man. He no longer gives her a seat in the crowded train; since she is his equal in doing a man's work, there is no reason why she should not be an Amazon and fight with man in war and be bombed with man in Nagasaki. Totalitarian war, which makes no distinction of combatant and civilian, of soldier and mother, is a direct consequence of a philosophy in which woman abdicated her peculiar superiority and even the right to protest against the demoralization. This is not to condemn women's place in economic life, but only to condemn the failure to live up to those creative and inspiring functions which are specifically feminine.

In this time of trouble, there must be a hearkening back to a woman. In the Crisis of the Fall of man, it was to a Woman and her seed that God promised relief from the catastrophe; in the crisis of a world when many, blessed with Revelation, forgot it and the Gentiles abandoned Reason, it was to a Woman that an Angel was sent, to offer the fulfillment of the promise that the seed would be Word made flesh, Our Divine Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is a historical fact that, whenever the world has been in danger of collapse, there has been re-emphasis of devotion to the Woman, who is not Salvation but who renders it by bringing her children back again to Christ.

More important still, the modern world needs, above all things else, the restoration of the image of man. Modern politics, from Monopolistic Capitalism through Socialism to Communism, is the destruction of the image of man. Capitalism made man a "hand" whose business it was to produce wealth for the employer; Communism made man a "tool" without a soul, without freedom, without rights, whose task it was to make money for the State. Communism, from an economic point of view, is rotted Capitalism. Freudianism reduced the Divine image of man to a sex organ, which explained his mental processes, his taboos, his religion, his God, and his Super-Ego. Modem education denied, first, that he had a soul, then that he had a mind, finally that he had a consciousness.

The major problem of the world is the restoration of the image of man. Every time a child is born into the world, there is a restoration of the human image. but only from the physical point of view; The surcease from the tragedy can come only from the restoration of the spiritual image of man, as a creature made to the image and likeness of God and destined one day, through the human will in cooperation with God's grace, to become a child of God and an heir of the Kingdom of Heaven. The image of man that was first ruined in the revolt against God in Eden was restored when the Woman brought forth a Man --- a perfect man without sin, but a man personally united with God. He is the pattern of the new race of men, who would be called Christians. If the image of man was restored through a Woman, in the beginning, then shall not the Woman again be summoned by the Mercy of God, to recall us once again to that original pattern?

This would seem to be the reason for the frequent revelations of the Blessed Mother in modern times at Salette, Lourdes, and Fatima. The very emergence of woman into the political, economic, and social life of the world suggests that the world needs a continuity which she alone can supply; for while man is more closely related to things, she is the protector and defender of life. She cannot look at a limping dog, a flower overhanging a vase, without her heart and mind and soul going out to it, as if to bear witness that she has been appointed by God as the very guardian and custodian of life. Although contemporary literature associates her with frivolity and allurement, her instincts find repose only in the preservation of vitality. Her very body commits her to the drama of existence and links her in some way with the rhythm of the cosmos. In her arms, life takes its first breath, and in her arms, life wants to die. The word most often used by soldiers dying on the battlefields is "Mother." The woman with her children is "at home," and man is "at home" with her.

Woman restores the physical image, but it is the spiritual image that must be restored, both for man and woman. This can be done by the Eternal Feminine: the Woman who is blessed above all women. Through the centuries woman has been saying: "My Hour is not yet come," but now, "The Hour is come." Mankind will find its way back again to God through the Woman who will gather up and --- restore the broken fragments of the image. This she will do in three ways.

By restoring constancy in love. Love today is fickle, although it was meant to be permanent. Love has only two words in its vocabulary: "You" and "Always." "You," because love is unique. "Always," because love is enduring. Love never says, "I will love you for two years and six days." Divorce is inconstancy, infidelity, temporality, the very fragmentation of the heart. But how shall constancy return except through woman? A woman's love is less egotistic, less ephemeral than a man's. Man has to struggle to be monogamous; a woman takes this for granted. Because every woman promises only what God can give, man is prone to seek the Infinite in a multiplication of the finite. The woman, on the contrary, is more devoted and faithful to the one she loves on human terms. But modern woman too often fails to give an example of this constancy; she either lets her love degenerate into a jealous possessiveness, or she learns infidelity from law courts and psychiatrists. There is need of The Woman, whose love was so constant that the Fiat to physical union with love in the Annunciation became celestial union with it in the Assumption. The Woman, who leads all souls to Christ, and who attracts only to "betray" them to her Divine Son, will teach lovers that "What God hath joined together let no man put asunder."

By restoring respect for personality. Man generally speaks of things: woman generally speaks of persons. Since man is made to control nature and to rule over it, his principal concern is with some thing. Woman is closer to life, and its prolongation; her life centers more on personality. Even when falling from feminine heights, her gossip is about people. Since the whole present political and economic world is gauged to the destruction of personality, God in His Mercy is trumpeting once more to The Woman to "make a man," to remake personality. The twentieth-century resurgence of devotion to Mary is God's way of pulling the world away from the primacy of the economic to the primacy of the human, from the things to life and machines to men. The praise of the woman in the crowd who heard Our Lord preaching and exclaimed: "Blessed is the womb that bore Thee and the breasts that nursed Thee" (Luke 11:27), was typically feminine. And the answer of Our Lord was equally significant: "Yea! Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it." (Luke 11:28.) This, then, is what devotion to Mary does in this troubled hour: it restores personality by inspiring it to keep the Word of God.

By infusing the virtue of Purity into souls. A man teaches a woman pleasure; a woman teaches a man continence. Man is the raging torrent of the cascading river; woman is the bank which keeps it within limits. Pleasure is the bait God uses to induce creatures to fulfill their heavenly infused instincts --- pleasure in eating, for the sake of the preservation of the individual --- pleasure in mating, for the sake of the preservation of the species. But God puts a limit to each to prevent the riotous overflow. One is satiety, which comes from nature itself and limits the pleasure of eating; the other is the woman who rarely confuses the pleasure of mating with the sanctity of marriage. During the weakness of human nature, the liberty of man can degenerate into license, infidelity, and promiscuity --- as the love of woman can decay into tyranny, possessiveness, and insane jealousy.

Since the abandonment of the Christian concept of marriage, both man and woman have forgotten their mission. Purity has become identified with repression, instead of being seen as it really is --- the reverence for preserving a mystery of creativeness until God sanctions the use of that power. While man is outgoing in his pleasure, womanly purity keeps hers inward, channeled or even self-possessed, as if a great secret had to be hugged to the heart. There is no conflict between purity and carnal pleasure in blessed unions, for desire, pleasure, and purity each has its place.

Since woman today has failed to restrain man, we must look to The Woman to restore purity. The Church proclaims two dogmas of purity for The Woman: one, the purity of soul in the Immaculate Conception, the other, the purity of body in the Assumption. Purity is not glorified as ignorance; for when the Virgin Birth was announced to Mary, she said, "I know not man." This meant not only that she was untaught by pleasures; it also implied that she had so brought her soul to focus on inwardness that she was a Virgin, not only through the absence of man, but through the Presence of God. No greater inspiration to purity has the world ever known than The Woman, whose own life was so pure that God chose her as His Mother. But she also understands human frailty and so is prepared to lift souls out of the mire into peace, as at the Cross she chose as her companion the converted sinner Magdalene. Through all the centuries, to those who marry to be loved, Mary teaches that they should marry to love. To the unwed, she bids them all keep the secret of purity until an Annunciation, when God will send them a partner; to those who, in carnal love, allow the body to swallow the soul, she bids that the soul envelop the body. To the twentieth century, with its Freud and sex, she bids man to be made again to the God-like image through herself as The Woman while she, in turn, with "traitorous trueness and loyal deceits" betrays us to Christ --- Who in His turn delivers us to the Father, that God may be all in all.

Store owner: Monkey caught on tape burglarizing business

NBC -- It's a crime caught on camera that has the owners of a north Texas business going bananas.

They have security camera video of what appears to be a monkey burglarizing their business.

Ellen Goldberg has more on the bizarre break-in.

"Definitely never been robbed by a monkey before," says store co-owner Jerry Duncan.

Yes, a primate is the prime suspect in the latest break-in at this Richardson, Texas nursery.

"I said no way until I look at it and said this is crazy," said store co-owner Shelley Rosenfeld.

The owners of "Plants and Planters" are convinced that's a monkey in the bottom left hand corner of the security camera tape.

"You can see the back legs the front arms and the white head," observes Duncan.

And with the help of a human accomplice, Shelley Rosenfeld believes the monkey was trained to steal several hundred dollars worth of her merchandise.

"He went out in this section out here and handed plants over the gate," she days.

About 40 plants were missing the next morning. There were also pieces of concrete shattered in the parking lot.

"They need to train him better if he is going to do the big jobs," Duncan adds with a laugh.

For now, Richardson police are stuck with the job of figuring out who or what this is.

"I wouldn't think there would be too many monkeys in this city," Duncan says.

Russian Navy UFO records say aliens love oceans

The Russian navy has declassified its records of encounters with unidentified objects technologically surpassing anything humanity ever built, reports Svobodnaya Pressa news website.

The records dating back to soviet times were compiled by a special navy group collecting reports of unexplained incidents delivered by submarines and military ships. The group was headed by deputy Navy commander Admiral Nikolay Smirnov, and the documents reveal numerous cases of possible UFO encounters, the website says.

Vladimir Azhazha, former navy officer and a famous Russian UFO researcher, says the materials are of great value.

“Fifty percent of UFO encounters are connected with oceans. Fifteen more – with lakes. So UFOs tend to stick to the water,” he said.

On one occasion a nuclear submarine, which was on a combat mission in the Pacific Ocean, detected six unknown objects. After the crew failed to leave behind their pursuers by maneuvering, the captain ordered to surface. The objects followed suit, took to the air, and flew away.

Many mysterious events happened in the region of Bermuda Triangle, recalls retired submarine commander Rear Admiral Yury Beketov. Instruments malfunctioned with no apparent reason or detected strong interference. The former navy officer says this could be deliberate disruption by UFOs.

“On several occasions the instruments gave reading of material objects moving at incredible speed. Calculations showed speeds of about 230 knots, of 400 kph. Speeding so fast is a challenge even on the surface. But water resistance is much higher. It was like the objects defied the laws of physics. There’s only one explanation: the creatures who built them far surpass us in development,” Beketov said.

Navy intelligence veteran, Captain 1st rank Igor Barklay comments:

“Ocean UFOs often show up wherever our or NATO’s fleets concentrate. Near Bahamas, Bermudas, Puerto Rico. They are most often seen in the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean, in the southern part of the Bermuda Triangle, and also in the Caribbean Sea.”

Another place where people often report UFO encounters is Russia’s Lake Baikal, the deepest fresh water body in the world. Fishermen tell of powerful lights coming from the deep and objects flying up from the water.

In one case in 1982 a group of military divers training at Baikal spotted a group of humanoid creatures dressed in silvery suits. The encounter happened at a depth of 50 meters, and the divers tried to catch the strangers. Three of the seven men died, while four others were severely injured.

“I think about underwater bases and say: why not? Nothing should be discarded,” says Vladimir Azhazha. “Skepticism is the easiest way: believe nothing, do nothing. People rarely visit great depths. So it’s very important to analyze what they encounter there.”

The Semi-Permeable Membranes of the Various Protestantisms

by Mark P. Shea

One basic rule of thumb to understand in Catholic/Protestant conversations is that it is not the case that Catholics rely on Sacred Tradition and Protestants don't. Rather, Catholics (and by this I mean "educated Catholics speaking out of the Magisterial teaching of the Church") rely on Sacred Tradition and know they do, while Protestants rely on (parts) of Sacred Tradition and (usually) don't know they do.

So, for instance, despite Paul's prescriptions (directed only at clergy of his day) that a man must be the husband of but one wife, nowhere in the text of Scripture is it made clear that Christian marriage must be monogamous for all (a fact that did not escape Luther or John Milton). Nowhere does Scripture spell out that the Holy Spirit is a person, much less the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, consubstantial with the Father and the Son. Similarly, you will look in vain for instructions in Scripture on how to contract a valid marriage (unless you buy this list of "Top 10 Ways to Find a Wife, According to the Bible"):
10. Find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim her nails, and give her new clothes. Then she's yours (Dt 21:11-13).
9. Find a prostitute and marry her (Hos 1:1-3).
8. Find a man with seven daughters, and impress him by watering his flock (Moses, Ex 2:16-21).
7. Purchase a piece of property, and get a woman as part of the deal (Boaz, Ru 4:5-10).
6. Go to a party and hide. When the women come out to dance, grab one and carry her off to be your wife (Benjaminites, Jgs 21:19-25).
5. Have God create a wife for you while you sleep (Adam, Gn 2:19-24).
4. Kill any husband and take his wife (David, 2 Sm 11).
3. Cut 200 foreskins off of your future father-in-law's enemies and get his daughter for a wife (David, 1 Sm 18:27).
2. Even if no one is out there, just wander around a bit and you'll definitely find someone (Cain, Gn 4:16-17).
1. Don't be so picky. Make up for quality with quantity (Solomon, 1 Kgs 11:1-3).

Of course, this doesn't really help much. The fact is, the Bible says "marriage is good" but gives us not one word of instruction on how to do it. That's because Scripture is not and never was intended to be the Big Book of Everything. And yet, of course, Protestants all over the world get married, believe in God the Holy Spirit, and have but one spouse because, as James Dobson says, God's plan is one man and one woman. How do they do this when Scripture is so unclear?
Whether they realize it or not, they do it by accepting Sacred Tradition percolated to them from the Catholic Church through the Protestant tradition. It's the same way they know that the books of the Bible they accept are supposed to be books of the Bible. It's the same way they know that public revelation closed with the death of the apostles, even though Scripture is completely silent on the matter (Revelation 22:18-19 doesn't count since that passage refers to the Book of Revelation, not to the Bible, which was not fully collated -- and from which Revelation was sometimes excluded -- before the late fourth century).
Retention of Catholic Sacred Tradition fragments has kept Protestantism in such sanity as it still possesses. So when the Bible Answer Man appeals to "historic Christianity" in understanding what the Bible means, that's typically a good thing. He's appealing to Sacred Tradition and agreeing with the Church. It's Eupocrisy in action!

However, in those places where Protestantism attempts to reject Catholic Sacred Tradition, the narrative suddenly and wrenchingly changes. Suddenly, the demand is made for nothing less than an explicit proof text from the Bible. It works like this:
  1. If a thing is condemned by the Church but permitted by the Protestant (say, gay marriage), the demand is for an explicit text forbidding it. ("Show me where Jesus said one word about not allowing gay marriage! That's just the Church imposing its purely human ideas on what Jesus came to say.")
  1. Conversely, if a thing is allowed by the Church but condemned by the Protestant, the demand is for an explicit text commanding it. ("Where in the Bible do you find anyone asking us to pray to dead people? That's just the Church imposing it's purely human ideas on what Jesus came to say.")
Note how the terms of the argument shift to suit the "Heads I win, tails the Church loses" agenda. It's no longer good enough to say (as the Protestant generally does when, for instance, arguing for the divinity of the Holy Spirit), "Here are biblical passages which, taken together, point to the reality that the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person even though there is no text that says 'The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity.'"

No, arguing from such obvious implication is out the window. In many circles, even a nearly algebraic piece of logic like
  1. Jesus is God.
  2. Mary is His Mother.
  3. Therefore, Mary is the Mother of God.
. . . gets rejected as "inbred reasoning" since Catholics can't produce the Bible verse that says explicitly, "Mary is the Mother of God." Suddenly, only direct, explicit testimony and instruction in legally watertight language will do.
How this works on the ground can be seen everywhere. The Protestant who wants to permit abortion points out that there is no unequivocal commandment in either the Old or New Testament saying, "You shall not have an abortion," and evinces absolutely no interest in how the texts we do have ("You shall not murder," for instance) have been universally read by the Church from the earliest times. Likewise, the Protestant who dogmatically rejects, say, prayer to the saints simply ignores you if you point to the fact that Scripture shows us that the dead (like Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration) are aware of what's happening on earth, that we are told that "we shall be like Christ" (who intercedes for us), that the Body of Christ is One (not split in two by death), and that the early Church understood all this to imply that we can ask prayers of the dead just as we ask them of the living.

As remote as the flaky pro-choice Episcopalian and the starchy Bible-thumping Fundamentalist preacher may seem to be from each other, they share a deep commonality in the way they reject whatever aspect of Catholic teaching they dislike. From liberal to conservative, the argument proceeds: "Unless the Bible explicitly commands what I forbid or forbids what I want to do, then the Catholic teaching I dislike is 'unbiblical.'" (Of course, the word "Bible" is not unbiblical -- even though it also never appears in Scripture -- because the word "Bible" is a fragment of extra-biblical Christian tradition generally acceptable to Protestants.)

Indeed all the various forms of Protestantism have this (and only this) one feature in common. They may differ on Mary or baptism or the divinity of Jesus or even the existence of God (if you include Unitarians as a particularly robust form of Protestantism that has jettisoned more of Catholic teaching than its predecessors). But they all agree on erecting semi-permeable membranes in which some (but not all) elements of Sacred Tradition are allowed through (different bits for different groups).
Those elements that are allowed through are called "the witness of historic Christianity" or "the clear implication of Scripture" or "the obviously reasonable position." Those not allowed through are called "human tradition" or "myths" or "the unbiblical teachings of Rome" or "relics of patriarchy" or "ancient superstition" (even when they are the obvious testimony and practice of all the apostolic communions in the world since the beginning of the Church.) Finally, to the filtered-in elements of real apostolic theological and moral teaching are stapled sundry human traditions like sola scriptura or some theory about predestinarianism or the "perspicuity of Scripture" or the need to speak in tongues or (in the past) the curse on Canaan as a biblical basis for American chattel slavery or (more recently) the glories of homosexuality or abortion.

Of course, as history goes on and at least some sectors in Protestantism allow the centrifugal force of Private Judgment to move them further and further from both Sacred Tradition and (inevitably, given the logic) Sacred Scripture as well, you reach a point where appeals to Scripture as an authority in debate don't matter, since Scripture is, after all, simply the written aspect of Tradition. Sooner or later, it occurs to people trending away from acceptance of Apostolic Tradition to ask, "If I've rejected everything else the Church says, why should I care about its 'holy' writings? I can find a hundred German theologians who say of the supposed 'word of God' what I've been saying of 'Sacred Tradition' all along."

For the present, many (graying) Evangelicals still retain a deep reverence for the sacred writings of Holy Church (though there are some signs that the itch to deconstruct Scripture will wreak enormous damage among those who come to clearly face the choice between the pole in Protestantism that seeks the Apostolic Tradition and the pole that seeks to keep deconstructing until nothing, including Scripture, is left).

For those still in this betwixt-and-between stage, who reverence Scripture and have this conflicted grasp of an Apostolic Tradition coming to them through a semi-permeable membrane, what is needed is a paradigm shift: the realization first of the shell game that is played in order to filter out Catholic traditions according to the preferences of the particular Protestant tradition one adheres to and, second, a willingness to acknowledge the possibility that when this is honestly done, it will be found that no Catholic doctrine -- none whatsoever --actually contradicts Scripture and that all that is essential in Scripture is also essential in Catholic teaching.
That's a terrifying prospect if one has accepted any of the various myths by which the sundry Protestantisms justify the rejection of whichever bits of Catholic teaching they reject. All the myths -- ranging from "I listen only to the Bible alone and not to the traditions of men!" to "I accept Tradition within reason, except that church tradition is never accepted as equal in authority to canonical Scripture; it is always subject to revision provided a scriptural basis can be found" -- are equally doomed if that turns out to be so, which is why those committed to the sundry Protestant schemas require not new information but an alteration of the will: a willingness to consider the possibility that there is no conflict between Catholic Tradition and Scripture and that every apparent conflict is just that -- apparent and not real.
Once that possibility is squarely faced and accepted, the argument for receiving all of Sacred Tradition rather than simply the bits you like can naturally follow in a rather reasonable way. But first, the membrane(s) must go.

Mark P. Shea is a senior editor for and a columnist for InsideCatholic. Visit his blog at

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bono Admits He Dodged Hug From President Bush

U2 frontman Bono admitted he dodged a hug from President George W. Bush -- and was praised by then-Sen. Barack Obama for the skillful sidestep...

"What I was doing there," Bono said, motioning to a photo showing the singer shaking hands with a grinning President Bush, "I was dodging the hug and trying to hide behind the podium..."

Bono, whose work as a human rights activist is as well documented as his music, cited political differences for his reluctance to embrace Bush. He did say the 43rd president "did a lot for our issues," including tripling aid to the developing world...

From the Moon to the Earth

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.
click image to enlarge

From the Moon to the Earth
Credit: Apollo 11, NASA


Update: Cathy commented: "Ah yes! Nice animation! Where's the clip of me at the bar?"

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Mark Shea: Mariology From A-Z (Parts 1 & 2)

Former Protestant Addresses Marian Devotion

By Annamarie Adkins

SEATTLE, Washington, JULY 16, 2009 ( One would think it impossible to spill any more ink about the Blessed Virgin Mary, judging from the number of Marian titles on the shelf at a local Catholic bookstore.

But when popular Catholic author Mark Shea was considering entering the Church, there were no comprehensive titles where he could address his concerns as an evangelical Protestant about Catholic Marian doctrine and devotion.

Twenty years later, that book was still missing from the shelves, so Shea set out to write it.

The result is "Mary, Mother of the Son," a three-volume apologetics tool published by Catholic Answers.

Shea is senior content editor at Catholic Exchange and a regular columnist for both Inside Catholic and the National Catholic Register.

In Part 1 of this interview, he shares with ZENIT why almost everything non-Catholics think they "know" about Mary is wrong.

Part 2 of this interview will appear Friday.

ZENIT: Why did you write a book about the Mother of God? Where does your trilogy fit on the already crowded shelf of books and treatises about Mary?

Shea: I wrote this book because it's the book I wish somebody had written when I was coming into the Church.

I waited around for 20 years, hoping somebody else would do it, but when nobody did, I decided I'd take on the project (which is only fair since I'm the only one who really knows what questions and doubts I had and what would constitute a satisfactory reply to them).

As to where the trilogy fits on the bookshelf, I suppose I'd say "Anywhere."

That is to say, part of the reason I wrote it is because there simply wasn't any book I could find that did what this book does. For instance, the books on Marian dogma didn't deal with questions about apparitions. Devotional literature didn’t answer questions about where the Church was getting all this stuff about Mary. Books tracing the development of doctrine didn't talk about the rosary. In short, the literature was out there, but most people don't have time to locate all the resources for the host of questions they have about Mary. So I created "Mary, Mother of the Son" to be a sort of "one-stop shopping" resource for virtually every issue a non-Catholic (or uncatechized Catholic) might have concerning Marian doctrine and devotion.

It tackles everything from the sources of Marian belief and practice (a huge issue since oodles of non-Catholics simply assume the whole thing is a data dump from paganism) to the Catholic approach to Scripture to the four Marian dogmas to the broad spectrum of Marian devotion to private revelations and apparitions to possible ways forward in Catholic/Evangelical conversations about the Blessed Virgin.

When it comes to Marian Willies, I've run the gamut in my own life and had to deal with pretty much every difficulty and problem with Mary to which non-Catholic flesh is heir, so it's a book that comes from my heart (and gut) as well as my head.

Nothing in it is new (God willing) and the whole thing is ultimately a restatement of the Tradition. But it's a restatement that tries to run the gamut of Catholic teaching on Mary, not simply focus in on one specialized area. And it's written in order to be intelligible to the non-specialist.

ZENIT: You discuss in your books why most of what people think they know about both Mary and the Catholic Church is really pseudo-knowledge. Can you describe this phenomenon and why there is so much pseudo-knowledge lurking in the culture about the Church?

Shea: Pseudo-knowledge is the stuff that "everybody knows," not because it's true, but because somebody with "important hair" said it on TV, or because your favorite magazine said so, or because a beloved character in a movie stated it as fact and lots of other people repeated it around millions of water coolers.

Pseudo-knowledge is why "everybody knows" Humphrey Bogart said, "Play it again, Sam" (except he didn't). It's why "everybody knows" the US Constitution speaks of a "wall of separation" between Church and State (except it doesn't). And it's why "everybody knows" medieval Europeans all believed the world was flat (except they didn't).

Pseudo-knowledge causes people to go around talking as though they're certain that at one time or other they must have read the Federalist Papers, or boned up on the meteorological data for global warming from the latest scientific studies, or committed to memory the documents of the Council of Trent, when they cannot, in fact, quote five words from any of these things.

What they really know is what that resonant, well-modulated voice on TV or their own circle of friends (or both) told them was "common knowledge" concerning government or science or the Catholic Church.

And, of course, it's why "everybody knows" that "the Catholic Mary" is really just a warmed-over pagan goddess. It's a modern myth that has circulated around for so long that nobody even thinks to question it. And when you do, you discover there's no there there. Nothing. Not a scrap of actual historical support for the claim.

Like many of the myths about the Catholic Church, it arises from a superficial acquaintance with the Church (she's hard to avoid completely and people often judge by fragmentary impressions) and from the fact that many non-Catholics listen only to other non-Catholics circulating baseless junk as "fact".

ZENIT: What is the most important role Mary has played in the history of the Church and its mission of evangelizing the nations?

Shea: Being who she is. Mary is the "type of the Church" in the words of St. Ambrose. Her mission has been the same ever since Jesus gave her to us with the words "Behold your mother." As the model disciple, the Mother of God, the Ever-Virgin, Immaculate and Assumed into Heaven, she has constantly been interceding for us and has, on occasion, even been entrusted with critically needed calls to repentance and grace (as at Fatima and other places).

ZENIT: Why, in your opinion, does Mary keep appearing to people all over the globe? Is there a common theme in the various apparitions of the Virgin?

Shea: Essentially her mission has always been the same: to say to the world "Do whatever Jesus tells you."

As I point out in Mary, Mother of the Son, Mary's life is the most profoundly referred life any mortal has ever lived. All true private revelations have one thing in common: they point us right back to the public revelation of Jesus Christ and to the apostolic tradition of the Church. Mary's message is radically not new: Be good. Go to Mass. Trust Jesus. Little boys should tell the truth. That sort of thing.

If you are living a serious Catholic life of trust in Jesus, obedience to Holy Church, the practice of virtue, and frequent reception of the sacraments, you are doing everything that all those visions, miraculous healings, and dancing suns were wrought by God to say to the human race.

ZENIT: Why do so many important Church documents -- from conciliar statements (Lumen Gentium) to papal encyclicals (Caritas in Veritate) -- seem to always conclude with a paean and exhortation to seek the intercession of the Blessed Mother?

Shea: Because it is good and fitting (and smart) to do so.

God has given her primacy among all creatures and we are to accord her hyperdulia: the highest honor due a mere creature. But "creature" is such a cold word, isn't it? Like something out of a science fiction movie. You wouldn't give your Mom a Mother's Day card and address it "Dear Exalted Creature". You would give her a card that says, "Dear Mom: I love you and I appreciate all you've done and sacrificed for me." The Church says the same to our Mother.

Some will complain that speaking of Mary's "sacrifices" is taking away honor due to Jesus alone. I reply: Imagine a church service for the parents of a son killed in Iraq in which the pastor points to the grieving parents and says, "God was the one Who gave these parents their child and it was He Who sent their son to die for the freedom of the Iraqi people. They didn't sacrifice anything. They merely assented to be a part in God's plan."

Nobody talks that way at any time about any sacrifice that any ordinary person ever makes. All the rest of the time, we can grasp the fact that, while God is the Author of all things, our sacrifices and choices really matter too -- by the grace of God.

The only time people talk this way is when Evangelicals who are weirded out by Mary dehumanize her and dismiss the sword that pierced her heart so they can talk as though she was utterly irrelevant to the Incarnation and Passion of Christ, instead of the one who was, in fact, more intimately bound up with Him than any person who ever lived. No mortal suffered and lost more in the Passion than Our Lady did. If we can spare words of thanks to the parents of a fallen soldier, how much more gratitude should we have for her who gave, just as God did, her only Son.

So it's only fitting that the Church honor (and ask the intercession of) the Blessed Virgin. God didn't go to all the trouble of perfecting her in his holiness, love and power just to throw all that away. For 2000 years, it has been her joy to intercede for her children -- because she is more like Christ than anyone who ever lived and it his joy to do exactly the same thing.

[Mark Shea discusses Mary and ecumenism in Part 2 of this interview, to be published Friday.]

Mark Shea: Mariology From A-Z (Part 2)

Former Protestant Comments on Mary and Ecumenism

By Annamarie Adkins

SEATTLE, Washington, JULY 17, 2009 ( Even though the early Protestant Reformers praised the Virgin Mary -- some even had a great devotion to her -- Catholic Marian doctrine has become a stumbling block for many Protestants and divided Christians for over four centuries.

Now, however, some Protestants are rediscovering the Blessed Mother, reinvigorating conversations between Catholics and Protestants about her role in the life and faith of the Church.

Mark Shea decided to provide a comprehensive resource for this dialogue, and the result is "Mary, Mother of the Son," a three-volume work of apologetics published by Catholic Answers.

Shea is senior content editor at Catholic Exchange. In addition to his role as a popular Catholic blogger, speaker, and writer, Shea is the star of an upcoming motion picture -- an adaptation of G.K. Chesterton's novel "Manalive."

He spoke with ZENIT about why attacks on the Mother of God are really attacks on Christ and His Church.

Part 1 of this interview appeared Thursday.

ZENIT: Why is Mary such a stumbling block to Christian unity? Shouldn't all Christians at least be able to unite around their Mother?

Shea: They should, but they haven't for roughly four centuries. There's hope in that number however, because it means that hostility to and fear of Mary is, historically speaking, a very recent phenomenon and one that really only took off well after the Reformation began.

Many of the Reformers had a profound devotion to Mary and, in fact, accepted much of Catholic teaching about her. However, as Protestantism became more remote from Catholic teaching (and as, in English-speaking countries, Elizabeth I found it very convenient to supplant the cult of the Virgin with a political cult of the Virgin Queen), that connection failed and was eventually broken.

Along with that went the loss of a sense of the sacramental, of the senses of Scripture, and of an appreciation for the feminine in the life of the Church. Mary came to be seen almost exclusively as a sort of pagan goddess and an actual threat to genuine Christian devotion: a perception that would have been absolutely foreign to the mind of any Christian in the first 16 centuries of the Church.

ZENIT: You note that attacks on the Church's Mariology are really attacks on its Christology. How and why is this the case?

Shea: The thing about Mary is that the thing is never about Mary.

Take the Virgin Birth. One of the earliest slurs uttered against Jesus was that he was a bastard, the product of a liaison between Mary and a Roman soldier named Pantera (probably a corruption of "parthenos" which is Greek for "virgin").

Is the point of the slur to attack Mary? Of course not! The point is to attack Jesus as a mere common bastard and to deny that he is the Son of God or of any divine origin.

Likewise, when the heretic Nestorius demanded that Christians no longer hail Mary as "Theotokos" or "God bearer", his attack was directed not at Mary, but at the notion that the Man Jesus and the Second Person of the Trinity were a unity.

Similarly, the question, "Where is the Assumption of Mary in the Bible?" is not really about Mary. It's a question about the validity of Christ's sacred Tradition and the authority of Christ's Church.

"Why should I pray to Mary?" is not a question about Mary. It's a question about the relationship of the living and the dead in Christ.

"Do Catholics worship Mary?" is not a question about Mary. It's a question about whether Catholics really worship Christ.

In short, Evangelical jitters about Mary both pay homage to and yet overlook the central truth about Mary that the Catholic Church wants us to see: that Mary's life, in its entirety, is a referred life.

Attacks on Christ and his gospel virtually always are made via his Body, the Church. We saw this, for instance, with The Da Vinci Code. The message, as usual, was “I have the highest respect for Jesus, it’s just that the Church has totally perverted what he really came to say (which was, by a strange coincidence, what I am saying).” And since Mary is the type of the Church, it is fitting that she stands as a sort of hedge of protection around the truth of the Faith.

ZENIT: Should Protestants and others be concerned about Catholic Marian devotions? Is the poorly catechized Catholic who clings to her Rosary and prays in front of her makeshift shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Help really in spiritual danger?

Shea: When it comes to Mary, the average Evangelical Protestant is in a position analogous to that of a teetotaler terrified that a sip of wine at communion will transform him into a raging drunken libertine.

Rather than be hyper-focused on the question of whether Catholics honor Mary "too much" and are just about to bow down to Astarte and Isis, the Evangelical would find much more spiritual benefit asking the question "How is it we Evangelicals honor her ‘just enough'?"

When honestly considered (especially against the backdrop of historic Christianity and the practice of the apostolic Church), what he will discover is that it is Evangelicalism that is peculiarly fearful of the woman whom Scripture declares all generations shall called blessed.

Aside from pulling her out of the closet to sing "Round yon virgin, mother and child" she is basically never spoken of among Evangelicals—except to say that Catholics are way overboard about her.

But the reality is that the most Marian Catholics (think John Paul II or Mother Teresa) also tend to be the most Christocentric ones. That's because all real Marian devotion refers us to Christ.

Is that to say it's absolutely impossible for a Catholic to make an idol of Mary? Certainly not.

Human ingenuity in sin is never asleep and we can make an idol out of any creature. On very rare occasions, Mariolatry can happen. But it is to say that Protestant fears on this score are as much in touch with reality as a cradle Catholic of bygone generations who feared that reading the Bible on his own will lead directly to snake handling.

Catholics have, by and large, entered the twenty-first century when it comes to that superstition. But there are still millions of Protestants who subscribe to a grossly superstitious fear of Marian devotion that is a relic of the late nineteenth century. I’ve traveled from Australia to Ireland and have never met a soul who mistook Mary for God. The real blunder about Mary to which some Catholics (the sort who are fascinated with visions, apparitions and private revelations) are prone is this: some mistake her not for another God, but for another Pope, insisting that the bishops have to do this or that because Mary told them to.

For both Mary-wary Protestants and Catholics who imagine the Church should navigate by making Marian Apparitions into a sort of One Woman Magisterium, It's time to move on (or rather back, to the practice of the early Church fathers and a clear understanding of the Church’s magisterial office).

ZENIT: Is there too much attention paid to Mary in today's Church, or too little?

Shea: There's too little attention paid to the Faith, period. So ignorance and apathy about Mary are part of that, I reckon.

ZENIT: Your book is praised by a number of prominent evangelical-Protestant theologians. Is there a growing interest in the figure of Mary among Protestants? Why?

Shea: Starvation makes you hungry. Jesus knew what he was doing when he gave Mary to the Church as our mother. The human soul needs her and Protestantism has been starved of her for going on four centuries.

So there is, in the Providence of God, a growing interest in her, especially among the rising generation of Evangelicals (sometimes referred to as the "Emergent Church").

People are taking a fresh look at the ancient reverence of her in the apostolic Churches and asking "Where is the harm in that?" It's a good question, especially since Mary is, in every healthy expression of Christian spirituality, always immediately pointing us to Jesus.

And, of course, through Mary's unique gifts in Christ, God can minister to hurts in the human soul that are unreachable by other forms of Christian piety.

Evangelicals, for instance, who have lost a child, have found themselves turning to Mary for consolation since she too knows what it is to watch her Son die. That's a mighty powerful bond of compassion and it can overcome the fears of Mary which typically prevail in Evangelical culture.

ZENIT: Archbishop Fulton Sheen once wrote in an essay about the apparitions at Fatima that Mary was the key to bringing Christ to the Islamic world. What do you think of this proposal?

Shea: I think he's on to something.

I have no idea how it will all play out, but I was struck by a conversation I once had with a man from Turkey who emailed me asking for more information about the Catholic Church. He was raised Muslim but was drawn to Christ.

Looking over the vast menu of Christianities available on the web he was very quick to pare it all down to the Catholic Church. Why? "Because you honor Mary as we are taught to do in Islam."

I think there's something mighty important going on in that, just as I have noticed that, among the various folks I have met who have become Catholic from a Jewish background, virtually all of them have had some sort of mystical encounter with Mary.

I'm not sure what that means, but it has always felt significant to me.

She seems to be getting busier as we draw ever closer to That Day.