Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Real Face of Santa Claus

By Ryan Scheel 

(uCatholic) ...According to scientific analysis and computer models, Saint Nicholas, the 4th century Bishop of Myra who Santa Claus is based on, would have looked a bit different than the Nordic woodsman of popular culture and more like a 4th century Byzantine Bishop.

According to The Saint Nicholas Center 
St. Nicholas’ remains are buried in the crypt of the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy. These bones were temporarily removed when the crypt was repaired during the 1950s. At the Vatican’s request, anatomy professor Luigi Martino from the University of Bari, took thousands of minutely-detailed measurements and x-ray photographs (roentgenography) of the skull and other bones...

Using this data, the medical artist used state-of-the-art computer software to develop the model of St. Nicholas. The virtual clay was sculpted on screen using a special tool that allows one to “feel” the clay as it is molded. Dr. Wilkinson says, “In theory you could do the same thing with real clay, but it’s much easier, far less time-consuming and more reliable to do it on a computer...”


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Scottish monk arrested for distributing leaflets promoting sexual morality

By Thaddeus Baklinski

( A Scottish monk has been arrested for distributing a series of leaflets in the Cambridgeshire area critical of homosexuality, fornication, contraception, euthanasia, abortion, and divorce.

Brother Damon Jonah Kelly, head of the Glasgow based charity the Black Hermits, was arrested by Cambridgeshire Police on December 8 on suspicion of a Section 5 (religious/racial) public order offence after he wrote a letter to the homosexual news publication, Pink News, claiming responsibility for the distribution of leaflets in the city of Ely, as well as in Cambridge, King’s Lynn and several other Cambridgeshire towns and cities.

Initially police declined to take any action following a number of complaints about the leaflets, saying that neither the distribution of the leaflets nor the messages they contain were a crime, and in fact protected by free speech laws.

A spokeswoman for Cambridgeshire Police said in a statement to Ely News, "Leaflets of a homophobic nature were distributed in Cambridge earlier this year. Additionally, similar material has been distributed in other areas of the county and indeed, the country.”

"While the material being distributed earlier this week will in many cases offend, irritate, shock or disturb, the content, context and actions of the male concerned fall short of any criminality at this time,” the spokeswoman added.

However, once the source of the leaflets identified himself, the police arrested him. They then released him on bail with a promise to appear on January 20.

The leaflets in question have titles such as "The Works of Darkness," "Homosexuality," and "Christmas, Christ and AntiChrist."

"Homosexuality" states that "God created man and woman for their mutual compatibility and for the procreation of children," and that, "all sexual activity outside of matrimonial union of one man and one woman is sin, and therefore immoral."

Warning that "through the sin of lust the Devil tempts man to sexual impurity, excess and perversion," the leaflet states that homosexuality is in reality a mental illness, but has become a cult that belongs to the culture of death.

“Homosexuality, as well as being a sin and a vice, is essentially a neurosis, a pathological condition; the result of several factors including childhood experiences. It is a dangerous temptation rather than a healthy orientation,” it reads.

“If the practice of homosexuality is acceptable, then in time any form of sexual deviation, perversion and experimentation will be acceptable, including the progressive lowering of the age of consent, taking it below the age of puberty and thus legalizing paedophilia. A common form of homosexuality is pederasty."

The leaflet goes on to say, “The condition of homosexuality can be treated and healed, as all distorted sexuality can be healed, and as many cases in recent years have proved," adding that homosexual people should not be persecuted but that homosexual inclinations should “not be encouraged."

“They need healing, not approval,” the leaflet says.

"The Works of Darkness" leaflet states that, "The deliberate killing of the baby in the womb is infanticide, is homicide, and those who perpetrate such an act are guilty of murder," and that, "Divorce wreaks havoc in society and is part and parcel of the plague of the 'one-parent family' which is a great evil."

It states that, "Homosexuality is not inborn, it is a development disorder, a traumatized condition arising out of a dysfunctional family, or it is a lifestyle choice. It is utterly opposed to the law of God and to nature, and should in no way be condoned or promoted."

This leaflet also comments on fornication, contraception, assisted fertilization, pornography, transgenderism, euthanasia, and atheism as serious societal problems.

"Christmas, Christ and AntiChrist," which was delivered in Cambridge last week, states that, “Christmas is the invasion by God into the world He created out of pure love; which through man’s evil has become a polluted landscape of de-humanized people, debasing themselves with their false gods and fetishes."

In his letter to Pink News, Brother Damon claims to have been arrested on nine occasions for leafleting, and despite this has brought his 2014 campaign to a “satisfactory conclusion.”

He closed the letter saying, "I wouldn’t be a good monk if I didn’t exhort you to repentance and conversion to Christ."


Monday, December 8, 2014

Mass with Fr. Z in Rome

From J. P. Sonnen:

It was a proud moment to serve Fr. Z's Low Mass in the crypt chapel of the Basilica of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere.  During our Mass we could hear the chants of the Church from a sung Mass being celebrated above at the main altar.  For over 20 years I have been serving Mass for Fr. Z.

Fr. Z was first in Rome in 1981.  His second Mass was celebrated at the main altar of this Basilica, after his ordination by Pope St. John Paul II.  Having Mass at the tomb of St. Cecilia has a bit of an enchanting feel like having Holy Mass in the catacombs.   A very special place to visit, especially at dusk.  I saw it on my first trip to Rome and return every time. 

The Art Nouveau era mosaics were completed in the year 1900 under Cardinal Rampolla, who at age 43 in 1887 had been named Cardinal-Priest of Santa Cecilia.  Always nice to visit here on her feast day, November 22.  She is the patron saint of musicians.  A saint of the Roman Canon and Roman martyr - one of eight female saints mentioned in the Canon... (continued)


This 29-year-old was a waitress — then she got a cat with dwarfism, quit her job, and became a multi-millionaire

By Alyson Shontell

(Business Insider) Tabatha Bundesen, 29, is the owner of feline internet sensation Grumpy Cat. She lives in Arizona.

Grumpy Cat has a form of dwarfism and an underbite that yields a perpetual frown.

On Sept. 22, 2012, Bundesen's brother changed her life.

Bundesen was working as a waitress. Her brother took a photo of her peeved-looking cat and posted it to Reddit. The photo went viral and Grumpy Cat quickly became a meme, with recognition on sites like BuzzFeed and CNBC. It earned more than 1 million views on Imgur within 48 hours.

Here are the original pictures posted of Grumpy Cat:

The fame allowed Bundesen to quit serving tables.

"I was able to quit my job as a waitress within days of her first appearance on social media and the phone simply hasn't stopped ringing since," she tells The Telegraph.

In two years, Bundesen has generated nearly $100 million from Grumpy Cat's paid appearances, book deals, and modeling career, according to The Telegraph (Bundesen tells Huffington Post that amount is inaccurate, but doesn't say if it's high or low). Bundesen believes Grumpy Cat is "unstoppable."

"We knew she was extremely unique, but we didn't know she would be this magnitude of special," Bundesen said at Grumpy Cat's second-birthday party in April.

"I'm used to working every day, so this is a huge routine change," Bundesen said. "You don't have to have a routine when you have to take pictures of the cat."

Another perk: "I'm getting to travel ... we get to see my family that lives in different parts of the country more often," Bundesen told Phoenix Business Journal in an interview. "It's really awesome that Grumpy Cat can spread to joy to so many people — and she's a cat."

Grumpy Cat was born in Bundesen's home. Grumpy Cat has a brother named Pokey.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Solving the ‘enigma’ of Pope Francis


(Fox News) Since Pope Francis was elected pontiff in 2013, his actions and what he has to say have been under the intense glare of the media spotlight. However, his background has remained largely unexamined.

A new book argues that in order to understand Francis’ radical agenda for the Catholic Church, it is necessary to delve deep into the pontiff’s background and the complex Argentinian political system in which Jorge Mario Bergoglio was raised.

Austen Ivereigh, journalist and former adviser to now-retired British Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, argues in “The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope” that, like his home country of Argentina, left-right paradigms do not adequately define Jorge-Mario Bergoglio, but this makes him no less revolutionary for an institution frequently defined by its wariness to change.

The thrust of Ivereigh’s book is that only by delving into Francis’ past, particularly his Jesuit background and his acceptance of certain forms of Peronism, can the reader understand his plan for the Church. Peronism -- a movement launched by former-Argentinian president Juan Peron -- rejects both capitalism and socialism and advocates a third way based on social justice, nationalism and state involvement in the economy.

Ivereigh describes Peronism as “a movement rather than a party, a culture rather than an interest group, a political hybrid so popular and absorbent that for decades it has dominated modern Argentina.” The movement was highly influential on Bergoglio, who was once reprimanded for wearing a Peronist symbol to school as a boy.

Bergoglio came to respect Peronism for the way it articulated the values of the people and their traditions. It leads, in Ivereigh’s view, to a Bergoglio who rejects Marxism and neo-liberalism as ideologies that place ideas above people, especially the poor. Ivereigh uses as an example Bergoglio’s position after the Second Vatican Council (1962-5) where he embraced the Council’s “preferential option for the poor” without sliding into the camp of some progressive bishops and clergy, who blended church teaching with Marxist ideology.

“He had a particular understanding of the renewal which was anti-liberal and anti-Marxist. He’s a nationalist, comes out of a nationalist Catholic tradition in Argentina…which tends to value the values of ordinary people and the traditions of Argentina and would see the Enlightenment as being foreign to that tradition,” Ivereigh told  ‘So he wasn’t a conservative, but he had an understanding of the Council that was at odds with a certain kind of progressive view.”

This caused Bergoglio a great deal of trouble as part of the head of the Jesuit order in Argentina. Made provincial in 1973, Bergoglio soon upset a powerful and ideological elite in the order who hated his popularity, and the direction he was taking the order. A bitter struggle ensued and despite being a popular and successful provincial, by 1990 he was exiled from the order after the anti-Bergoglio Jesuits successfully petitioned Rome to have him removed from his post.
Consequently, despite being made bishop in 1992 and Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, Bergoglio was estranged from the Jesuits and had minimal contact with the order until he became pope.

“When he was elected, a kind of collective groan went around Jesuit houses across the world,” Ivereigh says, although pointing out that since then the pope and the Jesuits have reconciled.

“The Great Reformer” also deals with the accusations that as provincial, the future pope was negligent in his actions during the Argentinian military dictatorship’s “Dirty War” during the late 70s and early 80’s. Ivereigh deals head-on with charges that Bergoglio gave the green-light to the military junta to arrest two rogue priests, and could have done more to save more people.

Ivereigh concludes the opposite, that Bergoglio saved dozens of lives and did the best he could in trying circumstances, doing more than if he had spoken out against the military junta, which Ivereigh argues, could have only made things worse.

“I have a problem with some liberal journalists in another era wagging their fingers if you’ve never lived through a dictatorship,” Ivereigh told “Totalitarian regimes are never brought down by internal opposition and speaking out against totalitarian regimes usually means more people get killed.”

One of the more unique aspects Ivereigh brings to Francis’ story is an insight into the Vatican politics that got Bergoglio elected in the 2013 conclave.

Ivereigh cites sources to argue there was a bloc of progressive European cardinals who pushed Bergoglio, first as the “anti-Ratzinger” candidate to oppose the future Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, and then again in 2013, where this time a fragmented conservative opposition allowed “Team Bergoglio” to push through and win.

The chapter is noteworthy as deals and pacts are expressly forbidden by conclave rules. While Ivereigh believes that no canon law was infringed, the revelations will no doubt lead to speculation as to whether an apparently pre-determined faction of European progressives undermined the spirit of the conclave.

Ivereigh also notes, that while he was being pushed by European progressives as the “anti-Benedict,” Bergoglio had no desire to be part of this role.

“There is much more continuity between Benedict and Francis than people have realized - I hope that comes through from the book,” Ivereigh said.

By delving into Francis’ background, his encounters with the poor, his fight with his Jesuit order and the political undercurrents in Argentina, Ivereigh paints a picture of a pope who eschews ideology in order to live out the evangelical radicalness of the Gospel. “Francis’ radicalism is not to be confused with a progressive doctrine or ideology,” Ivereigh writes. “It is radical because it is missionary, and mystical.”

Ivereigh’s Francis is a complex man full of surprises and contradictions, trying to balance faithfulness to the Church’s doctrines with an evangelical passion for bringing people to Jesus Christ, and trying to helping the poor spiritually and politically without embracing Marxism. “The Great Reformer” does not solve what Ivereigh calls the “Francis enigma” but it does go a long way to shining light on the pope’s background, how he thinks and what he has in store for the Church.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mickey Rourke Prepared for Moscow Fight With Images of Saints and Sign of the Cross

From The Eponymous Flower:
MOSCOW -- We're always encouraging fellow Catholics to keep physically fit and militant. Mickey Rourke isn't an exemplary Catholic, but he seems sincere, and he is setting an example.
Hollywood actor Mickey Rourke returned to the boxing ring Friday at the age of 62, defeating a fighter less than half his age in an exhibition bout.

Rourke sent 29-year-old Pasadena, California, native Elliot Seymour to the canvas twice in the second round before the referee stopped the fight.

Rourke prepared in a dressing room in front of a shrine featuring candles, images of saints, and photographs of his dogs. He said he had been in mourning for his recently deceased Chihuahua.

He took to the ring in a Stetson hat, a red-and-gold robe and shiny gold gloves, repeatedly crossing himself.
Link to ESPN...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

NASA builds a time-machine telescope 100 times as powerful as the Hubble

(The Washington Post) Inside a very big and very clean room at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., nearly 30 workers dressed in white protective suits, goggles and blue booties cluster around the parts of a time machine.

These parts — gold-covered mirrors, tennis-court-size sun shields, delicate infrared cameras — are slowly being put together to become the James Webb Space Telescope.

Astronomers are hoping that the Webb will be able to collect light that is very far away from us and is moving still farther away. The universe has been expanding ever since the big bang got it started, but scientists reckon that if the telescope is powerful enough, they just might be able to see the birth of the first galaxies, some 13.5 billion years ago.

“This is similar to archaeology,” says Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb, who helped plan Webb’s science mission. “We are digging deep into the universe. But as the sources of light become fainter and farther away, you need a big telescope like the James Webb.”

Named for a former NASA director, the 21-foot-diameter Webb telescope will be 100 times as powerful as the Hubble Space Telescope, which was launched in 1990. Although Hubble wasn’t the first space telescope, its images of far-off objects have dazzled the public and led to breakthroughs in astrophysics, such as determining how fast the universe is expanding.

The Webb will be both bigger and located in a darker part of space than Hubble, enabling it to capture images from the faintest galaxies. Four infrared cameras will capture light that is moving away from us very quickly and that has shifted from the visible to the infrared spectrum, described as red-shifted. The advantage of using infrared light is that it is not blocked by clouds of gas and dust that may lie between the telescope and the light. Webb’s mirrors are covered in a thin layer of gold that absorbs blue light but reflects yellow and red visible light, and its cameras will detect infrared light and a small part of the visible spectrum. As objects move away from us, the wavelength of their light shifts from visible light to infrared light. That’s why the Webb’s infrared cameras will be able to see things that are both far away and moving away from us... (continued)


Monday, November 17, 2014

Pope Francis Gets Patti Smith Singing For Cardinals at Vatican Christmas Concert

By Umberto Bacchi


(International Business Times) The Holy See has announced that Patti Smith will be among the artists set to perform live in front of bishops and cardinals at the traditional Vatican Christmas concert in December.

The US singer who once sang: "Jesus died for somebody's sins -- but not mine," was expressly invited by Pope Francis, Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera reported.

The two famously met and shook hands at St Peter's Square on the sidelines of a weekly general audience in April last year.

The concert will be held at Rome's Auditorium Conciliazione, a few metres from the Vatican, on December 13, and is to be broadcast live on television.

The announcement comes as another Catholic association has been trying to prevent the same singer from performing at the iconic Basilica of San Giovanni Maggiore in Naples on December 9.

The Portosalvo committee asked Naples Archbishop Crescenzio Sepe to block what they say is a "blasphemous" event.

Their chances of success, however, have been dramatically reduced after the pontiff placed Smith at the top of the list of stars for the Vatican Christmas concert.

Among other performers that will take the stage for the 22nd edition of the Concerto di Natale are house music DJ Bob Sinclar and Italian 'singing nun' Sister Cristina Scuccia.


Millennials Prefer a Classic Sanctuary, Turned Off by Trendy Church Buildings, Study Shows

By Stephanie Samuel, Christian Post Reporter

Millennials gravitate toward classic, quiet church spaces that feel authentic and provide a break from the busyness of a fast-paced, technological world, revealed a study commissioned by church architectural firms.

Online surveys administered to 843 young adults ages 18 to 29 by Christian research firm Barna Group and Cornerstone Knowledge Network, the market research organization created by church design firms Aspen Group and Cogun, found 67 percent chose the word "classic" to describe their ideal church. By contrast, 33 percent prefer a trendy church as their ideal.

"They don't want something created artificially for them; they don't want a bait and switch. What they want is something deeper and more authentic," Aspen Group AIA Architect Derek Degroot said of the survey results.

That search for authenticity translates into the look and sound Millennials prefer for their ideal church.

When asked to choose their preference between a church sanctuary and a church auditorium, 77 percent chose sanctuary. When shown four different kinds of church windows ranging from modern and least "churchy" to traditionally ornate, over a third of all respondents chose the most ornate stain glass window common to chapels. When shown four styles of church altars, the study showed that a majority of respondents chose altars that "are unambiguously Christian and are more traditional."

"Millennials are a very visual group," explained Barna Vice President of Publishing Roxanne Stone. "If they go into your church and they don't know where to go or it's ambiguous or they don't understand what something is for, they will move on."

Additionally, 78 percent of millennial respondents selected a quiet church as the ideal over a loud church.

The results seem to buck against the trends of the typical megachurch where the sanctuary is a vast space broken into several seating sections, congregants are treated to concert-like worship services, and the pastor preaches from a stage...(continued)


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Making Tiny Canons That Actually Work


It may look like a toy but make no mistake, this cannon fires steel ball bearings using real gunpowder.

(Make:) Back in the day (the Civil War) naval vessels were outfitted with state of the art Dahlgren guns (nicknamed Soda Bottles from their distinctive shape), which could lob a shell close to 2 miles in distance. The North used to heat those shells until they were red hot and fired them into the sides of Confederate ships, which would set them ablaze.

Scope it out- Sighting in the cannon is done using a custom-made scope that attaches to the barrel. Is the scope that useful?

As cool as cannons are, owning one is incredibly expensive and ammo is tough to find, however making one at 1/9th the scale is a lot cheaper provided you have the tools. Imgur user [Jefenry] designed his Dahlgren cannon using 4130 seamless alloy stainless steel with a 1-inch bore. The barrel fits snugly into his steel carriage with brass wheels, which was laser cut for an exact fit. Elevation is adjusted using a simple screw and sighting in is accomplished with a detachable scope... (continued)


Friday, November 14, 2014

Cardinal O'Malley: Pope Must Act on Bishop Who Hid Pedophile

By Drew MacKenzie

(Newsmax) Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley has called on Pope Francis to "urgently address" the fact that an American bishop heads a Catholic diocese even though he’s been convicted of shielding a pedophile priest.

In an interview on "60 Minutes" to be broadcast this Sunday, O’Malley told correspondent Norah O’Donnell that the Vatican must deal with the leadership problem surrounding Bishop Robert Finn of the Kansas City, Missouri, diocese.

"It’s a question the Holy See needs to address urgently," said O’Malley. "There’s a recognition of that from Pope Francis."

Citing the Catholic Church’s stated "zero tolerance" policy on sex abuse, O’Donnell told O’Malley that Finn "wouldn’t be allowed to teach Sunday school in Boston."

"That’s right," said O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, replied during the rare extended interview on the CBS show.

Finn, who has headed the diocese since 2005, has come under increasing fire following his misdemeanor conviction in 2012 for failing to report suspected child abuse in the case of a then diocesan priest who was producing child pornography.

Former priest Shawn Ratigan, who was suspected of sexually abusing a minor, was found guilty in federal court in 2013 of producing child pornography and sentenced to 50 years in jail.

Two months ago, the Vatican sent Ontario Archbishop Terrence Prendergast to Kansas City to examine Finn’s leadership. Prendergast interviewed a dozen people, and his main question reportedly was: "Do you think [Finn)] is fit to be a leader?"

Earlier this year, after the church had come under increasing attack for not doing enough to prevent sexual abuse by priests, O’Malley was named by Pope Francis as one of eight members of the Vatican’s new Commission for the Protection of Minors, which is aimed at dealing with the sex scandal that has rocked the church.

O’Malley was also chosen by Pope Francis to be on the Council of Cardinals — the pontiff’s closest advisers.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Pope demotes outspoken American conservative cardinal

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Saturday demoted an outspoken conservative American cardinal who has been highly critical of the pontiff's reformist leadership of the Roman Catholic Church.

Cardinal Raymond Burke, 66, was removed as head of the Vatican's highest court and appointed to the ceremonial post of chaplain of the charity group Knights of Malta.

The move, which the Vatican announced on Saturday without comment, had been expected. Burke said last month he had been told he would move to a new job but did not know when.

Burke, who until Saturday was the highest-ranking American in the Vatican, gave a series of recent interviews criticizing the pope and had emerged as the face of conservative opposition to Francis' reform agenda.

In an interview with a Spanish magazine last month, Burke, known for his unbending interpretation of doctrine, compared the Catholic Church under Francis to "a ship without a rudder".

At a meeting of bishops from around the world last month, Burke was the flag-bearer for conservatives opposed to the Church adopting a more welcoming attitude towards homosexuals.

Burke has publicly clashed with the pope several times since the Argentine pontiff's election in 2013 and Vatican sources have said the pope saw Burke's outspokenness as part of the so-called "culture wars" among Catholics that he wants to avoid.

During the synod, Burke assailed German Cardinal Walter Kasper, who had argued that the Church should modify teachings that ban Catholics who have divorced and then remarried in civil services from receiving communion.

Burke was also highly critical of an interim synod document that had talked more positively of homosexuals than ever before in Church history.

Shocked by the language, Burke and other conservative bishops spearheaded a campaign that led to a much watered-down version in the gathering's final statement.

It was the second time in less than a year that the pope had sidelined Burke, the former archbishop of St. Louis. Last December he removed Burke from the board of the influential Vatican department that handles the appointment of bishops.

Burke said last month he would be disappointed to leave his post at the top Vatican court, which oversees the administration of justice in the Church and hears appeals from lower Church tribunals, but would obey the pope's orders.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Vampire Hunting Gun

From Colt:

"Thanks to NRA Museums for sharing one of our favorite custom Colts, perfect for this time of year!
This elaborately engraved, silver-plated Colt .38 Detective Special Revolver. is fitted within a coffin-shaped ebony case that holds holy water, a mirror, a wooden stake, and silver bullets cast in the shape of miniature vampire heads."


Sunday, October 26, 2014

In rebuilding a church, cancer patient rebuilt his health


Five years ago this spring, Greg Thomas sat on the crumbling steps of an abandoned church.

Contemplating how to serve his creator during what he believed were his final days, he came upon the idea of restoring the tiny wooden church outside Montgomery, Minn. He never imagined that in doing so, he would restore his own health as well.

“It’s an amazing story,” said Thomas, 61. “I can’t tell you how many things have transpired because of that church.”

That story includes a century-old church opening its doors for the first time in 70 years, a community drawn together by its rebirth, the arrival of a Hollywood film crew and an unexpected spotlight on a former propane truck driver who was just trying to do some good.

Until 2009, Thomas lived an ordinary life. A Bloomington native, he worked as a truck driver, bricklayer, insulation installer and more. A big guy of 210 pounds, he enjoyed hunting, fishing and the quiet beauty of Minnesota farmland. Divorced, he had a son and grandson.

But in May of that year, Thomas was stunned by a diagnosis of Stage 4 neck and head cancer. He found himself with a feeding tube in his stomach, all his teeth removed and 40 rounds of radiation treatments and chemotherapy, which left him wiped out.

He returned to his house in Montgomery, about 60 miles south of the Twin Cities, not knowing if he would live or die. He said he overheard doctors tell his family that they might want to plan for a funeral, and he was “terrified.”

Solitary walks along the rural roads near his home soothed his spirit, and one day, Thomas spotted an abandoned church next to a little cemetery. Curious, he shook the door handle, but it was locked. So he sat on the steps and prayed — a move that became nearly a daily ritual.

One morning, a jolt of inspiration struck on those steps, and suddenly the wandering cancer patient had a plan. Thomas walked to a nearby farmhouse and asked who had the keys to the church. That someone was Don Rynda, an 82-year-old member of the church cemetery association.

Thomas called Rynda and shared his idea — namely to repaint the lovely old church. If the association could come up with paint money, he’d try to come up with the labor.

“I thought, ‘Am I just dreaming?’ ” Rynda recalled thinking that day. “That church has always been closed.”

St. John’s Catholic Church stands where the early Czech settlers thought the town of Montgomery would grow, he explained. Most folks in town still have family members buried at its cemetery.

The association said yes.

Bugs and beauty

It was a warm August day when Thomas unlocked the church with anticipation, stepped inside — and promptly fell through the rotted wooden floorboards.

Undeterred, he gazed across a place frozen in time. “It looked like people just left after the last service,” he said.

“All the pictures were still on the walls. The old Catholic Bible was still on the altar. The statues of Jesus and Mary were up at the altar. The candles were in their holders. Inside a little cabinet [tabernacle] in the altar were some folded blue cloth they used for holy communion.”

Stepping out of the hole onto the floor, Thomas heard the crunch of dead beetles under his shoes and noticed spider webs draped around.

“I couldn’t wait to get started!” he said.

Thomas began slowly by replacing outside shingles, working as long as his energy allowed. He filled buckets of water and cleaned the spider webs and beetles. He began scraping the outside paint.

Something funny happened, he said. The more he worked, the better he felt.

“It was like as I was rebuilding the church, God was rebuilding me,” he said.

By the next summer, the man who had hovered near death was on a scaffold outside the church, scraping paint.

One day two pickup trucks pulled up, and about 10 people spilled out. “They asked if they could look around the cemetery,” Thomas recalled.

The group explained they were a film crew looking for an old European-style church for a scene in their movie. Could they do it here?

Turned out the film starred Oscar-nominated actor James Cromwell as a World War II veteran. The script was written by Jeff Traxler, whose family hails from Le Center. Thomas was recruited to play a German soldier “extra.”

“It was my three seconds of fame,” he laughed.

No fame, but good fortune

The film, “Memorial Day” didn’t launch Thomas’ acting career. But it did launch a series of coincidences that supported a renovation with virtually no budget and one volunteer worker.
The church’s crumbling steps, for example, were replaced thanks to an unexpected offer from the film crew.

The roof was a mess, and after Thomas contacted Springer Construction Services of Prior Lake for a bid, he wound up with free roof tiles from Kansas supplier DaVinci Roofscapes and at-cost labor from Springer.

Dutch Boy paint representatives came to the rescue last year, when the newly painted white church began peeling because of moisture problems. Its volunteers scraped off Thomas’ two-year paint job and are returning this summer to repaint.

As Thomas’ story spread, neighbors stopped by and offered support. Nearby farmers helped erect a huge donated cross in the churchyard. The American Legion of Montgomery hosted a fundraiser. Frandsen Bank & Trust in Montgomery became the depository for donations to the new St. John’s Chapel Fund.

Thomas, meanwhile, grew stronger. Last year, the feeding tube was removed from his stomach, allowing him to eat solid food for the first time in four years. He acknowledges he’s received very good medical care, but he’s not convinced that’s the only thing driving his health.

“I don’t believe my healing came from being in a hospital,” he said. “There are too many things that have happened in my life.”

Candlelit opening

On a cold December night last year, Thomas placed luminarias along the gravel driveway to the church to welcome the community to his first major open house. A new fireplace provided some warmth, and the kerosene lamps on the walls and candles on the altar emitted a gentle light.

Connie White Tupy, president of CornerStone Bank in Montgomery, was among more than 120 people who attended. She was not prepared for the wave of emotion that struck her when she entered the place. Said Tupy: “It was like taking a step back in time. It was serene.”

Thomas locked up the church for the winter after the party, waiting to reopen it until this month. He’s now launched the next phase of his work — installing insulation and repainting the white interior.
No Easter event is planned, but Thomas does not miss the significance of this holiday.

“Easter is about rebirth,” he said. “And that’s what happened to me.”

h/t to Father Z


Friday, October 24, 2014

Pope Benedict: Relativistic Ideas of Religious Truth “Lethal to Faith”

From Fr. Z:

From CNS:
Retired pope says interreligious dialogue no substitute for mission
VATICAN CITY – Retired Pope Benedict XVI said dialogue with other religions is no substitute for spreading the Gospel to non-Christian cultures, and warned against relativistic ideas of religious truth as “lethal to faith.” He also said the true motivation for missionary work is not to increase the church’s size but to share the joy of knowing Christ.
The retired pope’s words appeared in written remarks to faculty members and students at Rome’s Pontifical Urbanian University, [Urbaniana] which belongs to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household and personal secretary to retired Pope Benedict, read the 1,800-word message aloud Oct. 21, at a ceremony dedicating the university’s renovated main lecture hall to the retired pope.
The speech is one of a handful of public statements, including an interview and a published letter to a journalist, that Pope Benedict has made since he retired in February 2013.
“The risen Lord instructed his apostles, and through them his disciples in all ages, to take his word to the ends of the earth and to make disciples of all people,” retired Pope Benedict wrote. [Watch this...] “‘But does that still apply?’ many inside and outside the church ask themselves today. [Classic Ratzinger.  He brings up a theme and then asks a question.] ‘Is mission still something for today? Would it not be more appropriate to meet in dialogue among religions and serve together the cause of world peace?’ The counter-question is: ‘Can dialogue substitute for mission?’  [No!]
“In fact, many today think religions should respect each other and, in their dialogue, become a common force for peace. According to this way of thinking, it is usually taken for granted that different religions are variants of one and the same reality,” the retired pope wrote. [Do I hear an "Amen!"] “The question of truth, that which originally motivated Christians more than any other, is here put inside parentheses. It is assumed that the authentic truth about God is in the last analysis unreachable and that at best one can represent the ineffable with a variety of symbols. This renunciation of truth seems ["seems"] realistic and useful for peace among religions in the world.
“It is nevertheless lethal to faith.  [How I have missed you.] In fact, faith loses its binding character and its seriousness, everything is reduced to interchangeable symbols, capable of referring only distantly to the inaccessible mystery of the divine,” he wrote.
Pope Benedict wrote that some religions, particularly “tribal religions,” are “waiting for the encounter with Jesus Christ,” but that this “encounter is always reciprocal. Christ is waiting for their history, their wisdom, their vision of the things.[Inculturation takes place at this intersection of Christ and cultures.] This encounter can also give new life to Christianity, which has grown tired in its historical heartlands, he wrote. [He has a special preoccupation about Europe.]
“We proclaim Jesus Christ not to procure as many members as possible for our community, and still less in order to gain power,” the retired pope wrote. “We speak of him because we feel the duty to transmit that joy which has been given to us.” [He has a book entitled "Minister of Your Joy" about priestly formation and spirituality.   It is also, perhaps, a nod to... someone else who - contrary to some - didm' invent joy.]


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Clarification from Michael Voris


By Michael Voris

Hello everyone. Michael Voris coming to you from Rome with a clarification. This past weekend we aired a breaking news report about Cardinal Raymond Burke having granted an interview to a secular outfit in which he publicly revealed for the first time he was going to be transferred AND, in his estimation the pope not speaking out openly about the crazy ideas floating around the synod was harming the church. We decided to go with the story for two main reasons.

One – the tone of discourse had not risen to that level prior – that harm was being done to the Church and that he had now CONFIRMD he was going to be transferred.

Secondly – unlike much of the “inside the Catholic world” news reports that had been published before – THIS one had been released by the secular media – it had broken out of the Catholic media bubble and into the mainstream.

We approached the story and its details strictly from a journalistic point of view. In hindsight, that was a mistake because ANOTHER unintended impression was generated – that we were criticizing the Pope.

I could give a number of reasons why we didn’t forsee this – being close to the story here on the ground, being tired etc., but they aren’t sufficient to offset the unintended impression.

Given that some people may think we were criticizing the Pope, it was wrong to air the story. I alone made the decision so the responsibility is entirely mine. Again, I was approaching this from a journalism aspect, and not enough, or at all, from an apostolate standpoint. Other media outlets who cover Catholic things can run with the story as a newsworthy story, but this apostolate has an additional filter. What we do at Church is use the tools of the new media to further the cause of the Church. Period. We don’t use them as an end in themselves. On this occasion, I unthinkingly inverted those priorities and ran with it. For that I offer you my deepest apologies and ask your forgiveness.

I have dedicated the remainder of my life to serving the Church and to have to consider that I did something that brought some harm to Her makes me heart sick. On a personal note, to show you how bothered in spirit I am by my actions, I chose not to receive Holy Communion on Sunday, and have gone to confession over this entire matter.

Now .. shifting to the harm to the Church question, again, the harm has come in that some individuals have interpreted this report as being a criticism of the Pope, and by extension the Papacy, and by further extension the Church.

To whatever degree this has happened, again, I am to blame.

But others have taken my mistake and DELIBERATELY ran with it to imply that I and/or the apostolate have now hopped on the bandwagon of publicly criticizing the Pope. A very clear distinction needs to be made here. There are those in the Catholic blogosphere who do not like the pope and openly mock him and have practically created a cottage industry out of combing thru every syllable he utters and producing reams of criticisms over them.

They introduce to the Catholic world things that most Catholics would never hear of if it weren’t for their on-going discussions of them. He has been called evil, a heretic, an anti-pope – they have openly speculated that the conclave that elected him was bogus and Benedict is still somehow the real pope. They are sewing massive and countless doubts in the minds of many Catholics about this Pope’s legitimacy and authority and driving them to consider leaving the Church and entering independent Catholic enclaves that exercise no legitimate authority in the Church.

I wish to make abundantly clear that in no way shape or form do we condone anything of the sort. Pope Francis is the legitimate Pope and any kind of pretended communion with the Church while rejecting him is not possible. You are either in full communion or you are not.

Other blogs have speculated that I have “seen the light” at last. Wrong. I reported what I thought was a legitimate newsworthy story – I did not even consider, much less intend to destabilize belief in the Pope’s authority.

In short, my mistake is now being used to make hay and I decry that. Pope Francis is the Pope. He is the Holy Father. We are called to love the Holy Father, to pray for him. He is the very first name I mention in offering up my daily rosary. The Holy Father should not be being publicly criticized by lay Catholics, much less mocked and called insulting names and made the butt of jokes. If others do that, then they will have to give an account to Our Lord for mocking His Vicar when they die. I want no part of that, and make very clear in your understanding, I NEVER intended anything of the sort. Again, I was mistaken, and that mistake should not be being multiplied by those who see it as an opportunity.

Thank you and please keep our work here in your prayers. GOD Love you

h/t to Fr. Z.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

From Bishop Tobin: Random Thoughts About the Synod on the Family

By Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

– It’s an enormous challenge to maintain pristine doctrinal purity while at the same time respond to the experiential, personal, and difficult needs of married couples and families. Behind every arcane discussion of gradualism and natural law there are parents and children awaiting God’s grace.

— In trying to accommodate the needs of the age, as Pope Francis suggests, the Church risks the danger of losing its courageous, counter-cultural, prophetic voice, a voice that the world needs to hear.

— The concept of having a representative body of the Church voting on doctrinal applications and pastoral solutions strikes me as being rather Protestant.

— In addressing contemporary issues of marriage and the family, the path forward will probably be found somewhere between the positions of Fr. Z and the National Catholic Reporter.

— Have we learned that it’s probably not a good idea to publish half-baked minutes of candid discussions about sensitive topics, especially when we know that the secular media will hijack the preliminary discussions for their own agendas?

— I wonder what the Second Vatican Council would have looked like and what it would have produced if the social media had existed at that time.

— Pope Francis encouraged fearless and candid discussion and transparency during the Synod. I wonder if the American Bishops will adopt the same protocol during their meeting next month in Baltimore.

— Wherever he serves, Cardinal Burke will be a principled, articulate and fearless spokesman for the teachings of the Church.

— Pope Francis is fond of “creating a mess.” Mission accomplished.

— Relax. God’s still in charge.


On the Fixation with Moderation

By Father Erik Richtsteig

One of my former bishops was described, even by himself, as an extreme moderate. I would have called him a pathological moderate, but, hey, that's just terminology. He was and is a nice fellow and a good man, but he made the mistake of assuming that the middle ground was always the truth. He also made the mistake of thinking that he was always in the middle ground. (Often his positions were liberal/progressive.)

This is a common way of looking at the world. Heck, I looked at the world that way during my stupid liberal college days. You just find what you consider to be two opposite and extreme positions, create a continuum and stake out a mid-ground between them, and then you are safe. Except, that it makes a lot of false assumptions.

The first falsehood is that is assumes the things are opposites, like good and evil, male and female. Good and evil are not opposites. That view is heretical. Evil is a privation of good. It is nothing, a defect. Moderation between a thing and its privation is just less defective. Male and female are not opposites. The are complementary sexes of the same species. Neuter or androgyny aren't are virtuous middle between two extremes, but rather something else entirely...(continued)


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Marriage & Communion, Fr. Robert Dodaro with Raymond Arroyo

h/t to Fr. Z.


Michael Voris Interviews Edward Pentin Regarding Cardinal Kasper


Michael Voris - AP Interview

Pope Benedict’s private secretary speaks on Synod, divorce, same-sex relations

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, left, waits for Pope Francis, second from right, at the beatification of Pope Paul VI and a mass for the closing of a two-week synod on family issues. (Gregorio Borgia / Associated Press)

By John-Henry Westen

(LifeSiteNews) Pope Benedict’s private secretary has given a surprise interview on some of the hot-button issues at the Vatican’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family, advancing views aligned with those expressed by Pope Benedict during his time as cardinal and pope.

In the interview published in the print edition of Chi magazine last week, Archbishop Georg Gänswein said, "The Church has always declared, based on the Scriptures and tradition, that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”  The acts, he said, “are contrary to natural law, because they prevent the gift of life, the purpose of the sexual act.”

Gänswein went on to acknowledge that for people experiencing same-sex attraction the inclination can be a trial. “These people,” he said, “are called to live the will of God in their life and if they are Christians, to unite their sacrifice to the cross of the Lord, with the difficulties they meet because of their condition.”

The remarks echo the language of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which was published in 1992, when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger headed the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). They also bear marked similarity to the language of the 1986 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, published by the CDF and signed by Cardinal Ratzinger.

“Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered,’” says the Catechism. “They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life.”

In the 1986 letter on the pastoral care of homosexuals, Cardinal Ratzinger had written, “What, then, are homosexual persons to do who seek to follow the Lord? Fundamentally, they are called to enact the will of God in their life by joining whatever sufferings and difficulties they experience in virtue of their condition to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross.”

While Archbishop Gänswein did not directly address Cardinal Walter Kasper’s much-discussed proposal to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion in some circumstances, he left a clear impression that he opposed it. Even if a married couple separates, he said, "starting a new union contradicts what the Lord has indicated."

When asked directly if Catholics who have been divorced and subsequently entered a second marriage should be permitted to receive Holy Communion, Archbishop Ganswein said, "This is a very delicate question. According to Catholic doctrine, the sacrament of marriage is indissoluble, just like God's love for man.”

"The Church doesn't close Her eyes  to the difficulties of the Faithful who live in delicate and thorny situations," Ganswein added. "Nevertheless, the Church must offer sincere answers which directs, not towards the spirit of the times, but to the Gospel, to the word of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God.
"The evangelical message takes much effort but it is worthwhile to live it," he said. "God welcomes, forgives, this is true, but it  is also true He asks for conversion."

Vatican watchers told LifeSiteNews this would not be the first time that Pope Emeritus Benedict's private secretary has hinted at Benedict's own thoughts. Most notably, in an interview on German television in March of this year, Archbishop Ganswein revealed that Pope Benedict had written a 4-page critique of Pope Francis’ controversial interview with a Jesuit magazine wherein the pope had said the Church, “cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.”

The release of the interview with Archbishop Georg Gänswein came on the heels of the surprise publication of an interview with Pope Francis, which was unknown to the Vatican press office prior to its release, by the Argentine newspaper La Nacion on the opening day of the Synod.

In the interview, published October 5, Pope Francis was asked about the cardinals who have criticized Cardinal Kasper’s proposal to allow Communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics. In response, he indicated that he is not in agreement with the “very conservative” bishops, but said he still enjoys “debating” them as long as they are “intellectually well-formed.”

The pope also said that the Church must not “stigmatize” and “impugn” those who are living together in what the Church calls “irregular” situations outside of marriage.

“We have to approach social conflicts, new and old, and try to give a hand of comfort, not to stigmatize and not to just impugn,” Pope Francis said.

“So many young people prefer to live together without marrying,” he added. “What should the Church do? Expel them from its breast? Or, instead, approach them, embrace them and try to bring them the word of God? I’m with the latter position.”


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Apostolic Breakfast Table

By Father Ray Blake

I don't know what the conversation around the Apostolic breakfast table in Sta Marta was about this morning, probably relief that the Synod is more or less over and had gone more or less the Pope's way, a memo to someone to get out Edward Pentin's file, relief that Burke is off to the Knights of Malta, maybe a sense that it will be regrettable if he has too much spare time on his hands. There might even be some wondering about the best disguise for Kasper if ever he is to visit Sta Marta again, perhaps a burqa? But perhaps he has become too toxic, ever to be seen in the Pope's company again, Lord Patton and Greg Burke will have to advise.... (continued)