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Monday, February 28, 2005

Miracle and Hope

Subdeacon Theophan has this to say about the miracle of Sarah Scantlin, and what hope (if any) to offer to families of other comatose loved ones in their care:
 "After speaking with a nurse friend of mine the other day about this story, he told me that as amazing as this story was, he almost wished the press didn't get a hold of it so that other families in the same situation wouldn't be given false hope. At first I felt some sympathy with his statement for deep in my heart I would not want to see a family hurt even more after watching their loved one suffer so, but then I thought, that without miracle stories like this one, there would be no hope at all, and despair would be the only option in these cases."
The fear of giving false hopes has good intentions but, as explained by the good subdeacon, that way also lies peril, playing into the hands of despair. Besides, this is not mere conjecture. It really happened, and therefore it is empirical proof that it can happen again. It would be false hope if the story was a hoax, or if it wasn't given with a healthy dose of reality: "It is extremely unusual," said Sarah's physician. For the pragmatic rationalist, a consolation is that this sort of thing can renew research enthusiasm and provide new data to support such research. Read the entire post from Blogodoxy, one of my favorites.

Out of Coma after 20 Years

 "(CBS) Not only is Sarah Scantlin speaking after suddenly awakening from the coma-like state she'd been in for 20 years, she's displaying "uncanny recall," her father says. And Sarah's doctor says she seems to improve by the day."
Glory, praise and thanksgiving to the Lord our God!

Journalistic Pretzel-Twisting

I still can't get over this twisting of the truth. These days it's called a spin, but I see it as a serious lack of professionalism:
 "A judge gave Terri Schiavo's husband permission to remove the brain-damaged woman's feeding tube in three weeks, handing him a victory in his effort to carry out what he says were his wife's wishes not to be kept alive artificially."
The articles spins what this means for Terri's husband by calling it a victory. It wasn't a victory because Judge "Greer previously granted the parents a stay until 5 p.m. Friday." That's Friday, February 25. The stay has effectively been extended, as the new ruling "will allow the husband, Michael Schiavo, to order the tube removed at 1 p.m. on March 18" instead. That's a three-week setback for his cause, not anywhere near a victory. To claim that it's a victory is .. pathetic, really.

Prayers organized for JPII

EWTN is organizing a spiritual bouquet of prayers for the Holy Father in his time of great physical suffering. While the Lord may have other plans for his vicar, I fervently hope and pray that his debilitation passes soon so that he may continue serving us as our spiritual father. He has done so much already, but here at the dawn of the third millenium, our need for prayerful and courageous spiritual pastoring is more crucial than ever. Please offer your prayers for him, whether or not through the EWTN spiritual bouquet. If you're after something different, try the Virtual Rosary.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Three More Weeks

Pinellas County Circuit Judge George Greer gave Terri Schiavo's parents three more weeks to appeal an effective and legal mandate for her guardian, her own husband, to remove her feeding tubes, starving her to death. Note that I deliberately avoided using this article that headlines the latest court decision as a victory for the husband, Michael. It's got SPIN written all over it, considering that he was originally allowed to remove the feeding tubes by 5 pm of Feb 25. The latest court order postpones that by three weeks in order to give Terri's parents more time to make their appeal. This is a victory for her parents, to give them more time to prepare their appeal. It's amazing that My Way News in that sorry link for Feb 26 could instead use a headline that reads "Man Cleared to Remove Wife's Feeding Tube." He was originally cleared to do that by Wednesday, Feb 23, but the effective stay at that time was extended up to Feb 25. Now the judge handed the Schindlers, Terri's parents, three additional months to appeal, up to March 18, 2005. This wasn't in favor of Terri's husband at all.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Overview of Terri Schiavo's Story

Thanks to Amy Wellborn's blog, Open Book, I learned of this comprehensive post, by Donald B. Hawthorne. May God grant that the two motions before Judge Greer, filed separately by the Florida Department of Children and Families and by Terri's parents (reported at Blogs for Terri), will find some success by tomorrow.

JP II Recovering after Tracheotomy

The Holy Father underwent a short surgical procedure to help him breathe easier. That will make it very difficult, and against medical advice, I think, for him to speak for a while. On the other hand, I suppose he could use some rest anyway. The usual hand-wringers and smirkers might have a field day with their gloom and doom articles, but what I think this calls for is relief and more prayers. Relief that our beloved Papa can breathe easier, and prayers for his complete recovery over the next few weeks. Personally, I'd also pray that, with the Holy Father unable to speak for a while, we don't get a spate of too many people speaking for him. I'd be particularly worried about the dissident types.

Kansas Probe on Abortions

I'm not an expert on the legalities, but it sounds like a good move: the Kansas attorney general is conducting an investigation over abortions performed on "90 women and girls" who may have been victims of rape and other crimes, where child rape would probably be the focus. There's a law in the US that requires health personnel to disclose possible crimes committed against their patients. Nonetheless, this is not the first time I've read about how the abortion industry has been uncooperative. ChildPredators.com has been making serious allegations against Planned Parenthood about this for a while now.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Genocide in Darfur

Warning: Link below has disturbing, violent photos. The Secret Genocide Archive, NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, New York Times (Feb 23, 2005). The first thing that came to my mind was that this can't be true. How can human beings be capable of this? "A voice is heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; She refuses to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more." (Jer31:15)

Continuing the fight for Terri Schiavo's life

To this day, it is still mind-boggling how the case has come to this. Excellent sources regarding the case will be given below, but I have the following as my summary of the case:
  • Terri collapses in Feb 1990, and "Terri's attending physician.. testified at an evidentiary hearing last year (that) .. said she hadn't received therapy. He said he accepted (Michael) Schiavo's word that therapy had been deemed unnecessary" [1]. How can they conclude that she's beyond treatment and consign her to death, when they never even tried therapy?
  • Her husband's camp claims that Terri is in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) and has twice been granted court approval to remove her feeding tubes, threatening to end her life by starvation. Fortunately, courts intervened for temporary stays, but the threat remains. Follow stories about the medical issues [2] throughout the case, and how adequate treatment has been repeatedly denied [3] her by Michael Schiavo.
  • Videos and pictures of Terri [4] show that she is conscious, responds to some verbal commands, laughs, speaks in a limited capacity, and focuses on people around her.
  • There is evidence that 43% of PVS diagnoses are misdiagnosed [5]. Given that there was never any attempt to treat her, could it be that she was also haphazzardly (mis)diagnosed?
  • Her husband remains Terri's guardian despite factors that suggest a conflict of interest:
    • He "stands to inherit what's left of monies awarded (to Terri) in a malpractice lawsuit. As WND reported, $1.2 million was placed in a medical-care fund for Terri in 1992. Schiavo says only about $50,000 remains in the fund and that the money was spent on Terri's medical needs" [1]. I wonder which medical needs that pertains to if she has never gone to therapy?
    • "The estranged husband is living with another woman with whom he has two children but refuses to give up guardianship and (to) divorce Terri, as the Schindlers have requested" [6].
    • There was testimony "given during last year's evidentiary hearing about her being presented at the emergency room with an 'extraordinarily rigid neck' described by one physician as 'consistent with attempted strangulation,' plus a 1991 bone scan report that suggests she had a history of trauma" [1]. This suggests the possibility of spousal abuse, as supported further in this testimony [7] by a psychiatrist and expert witness explaining how Michael Schiavo, in Dr. Lieberman's professional opinion, "fits the profile of a wife abuser.
  • "Terri has no written directive on the matter. Schiavo says she told him during a casual conversation a year before her injury she would not want to be kept alive through artificial means. He insists he is carrying out her wish to die" [1]. All we have is his word? Given the suspicious nature of Terri's injuries around the time when she collapsed, why do the courts consider his word to be completely credible?

Join Terri's fight if you feel strongly enough about this. Pray for her and the people around her and the case -- including her husband, his lawyers, as well as state and court officials. Terri's heart and lungs work fine without assistance. She just needs food and fluids as we all do, albeit through a feeding tube. If you've an open mind, at least, read about it at Blogs for Terri and at WorldNetDaily. This fight is not just for Terri: it's for her parents, brother, sister, for victims of spousal abuse (as Terri could be), and for other handicapped people whom far too many wish to see euthanized.


  1. Court to hear petition to remove husband as guardian (2003, WorldNetDaily)
  2. Medical Issues Archive, (Blogs for Terri).
  3. A Family's Torment - Terri Schiavo (ProLifeBlogs.com).
  4. Terri's Videos (Blogs for Terri)
  5. Andrews K, Murphy L, Munday R, Littlewood C. Misdiagnosis of the vegetative state: retrospective study in a rehabilitation unit. British Medical Journal 1996;313:13-6.
  6. Stay extended in Schiavo case (WND, 2005-02-23)
  7. Preliminary thoughts on how Terri Schiavo's husband, Michael, fits the profile of a wife abuser (Carole Liberman, M.D., M.P.H., Psychiatrist/Expert Witness)

Monday, February 21, 2005

Off-the mark reactions to JPII's "Memory and Identity"

Paul Spiegel of the Central Council for Jews in Germany levelled this charge against the Catholic Church: ""the Catholic Church does not understand or does not want to understand that there is an enormous difference between mass genocide and what women do with their bodies." First of all, JPII does not make that allusion. The Holy Father's commentary seems more about the flaws in the democratic process that on one hand gave Hitler the mandate for mass genocide, and on the other hand gives western countries today the mandate for abortion, just about on demand. The Pope did not equate the mass genocide in Nazi Germany with legal abortion today, only the dangers in modern democratic societies where anti-Gospel totalitarianism might be hiding behind a mask of democracy. However, is his charge essentially correct? Does the faithful Catholic who follows orthodox teaching on abortion view Hitler's acts of infamy against Jews at the same level? There is a divergence between how Judaism and the Catholic Church have viewed abortion from the beginning. Various sources seem to suggest that abortion for Jews is not equated with murder. On the other hand, that is how the Catholic Church has always considered abortion. There are clear injunctions against abortion in both the Didache (before A.D. 100, possibly 70 or 90) and the Epistle of St. Barnabas (A.D. 130-131). The Didache says in English: "thou shalt not kill a child by abortion" (2:2). While both were dropped from the official Canon of Scripture in the 4th century (some canons up to that time included them), they are evidence of how the Church considered abortion then: the murder of a child. Personally, my own perspective is that the acts in question are both alike and not. Both were wrongful acts perpetrated against innocents unable to defend themselves. I agree with the Catholic perspective that abortion is a murderous act. On the other hand, Hitler's acts were more deliberately evil while legal abortion is carried along by a lot of ignorance and misplaced good intentions. I don't believe Hitler had any intentions that could ever be considered good. Furthermore, the horror of his acts also comes from having so many lives snuffed out in so short a time as against 30 years for legal abortion. On the other hand, 30 years of legal abortion in the US alone constitutes more than 30 million lives snuffed out over that period. Was there a need for JPII to write those lines in his book? I believe that there was: his point was that governments can get it wrong with disastrous results. I believe that this is a sober and relevant warning for us tday. Was there need for Mr. Spiegel to make his objetions? It could have at least been said differently. His motives were probably to make sure that the horror of Hitler's regime is never distilled nor forgotten. It should not have been a case of "my horror is worse than yours". People might come away with the notion that abortion is always right and is always a right. Unfortunately, in this day and age, far too many would.

"Let the seeds sown by our labors today.."

Today's (bedtime at 2:40 am) night prayer (compline*) ended thus: "Give our bodies rest, Lord, to restore them; and let the seeds sown by our labours today grow and yield an eternal harvest. Through Christ our Lord, Amen." My thoughts went back to having spent more time playing with my kids today than ever before. Drawing, writing, dominoes and a silly game made up by my wife and kids with a maroon sock and the table which had a hole in the middle. Lord, may these seeds sown today, with lots of giggling and silliness, grow and yield an eternal harvest tomorrow. * I visit Universalis to follow the Liturgy of the Hours.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Flexing the right muscles

I was discussing muscle development and atrophy of sorts with a friend of mine some time ago. "Worry muscles" could become over-developed from constant practice, as "faith muscles" might atrophy from lack of use. Hours worrying over things that are out of one's hands, occasionally leading to anxiety attacks, could only cause the worry muscles to grow stronger. It occured to me that those anxiety attacks are like cramps that we suffer when certain muscles become overused: they overheat. Worse, overusing those worry muscles causes the opposing muscles to shrink and go to flab. It occured to me that this applies to me. I would overuse my "temper muscles" sometimes to the point of apoplexy. God knows that temper is part of human nature, but Christ cautions us even against anger. Why? Because while becoming angry is an emotional response, staying angry is a conscious decision that we unfortunately make occasionally. By staying angry, turning over the cause of anger over and over in my mind, I feed the fire. This often results in hurt feelings when it boils over -- quite often not my own. It is silly of me to ask the Lord in prayer to grant me more patience and an even temper, if I choose to overuse those miserable temper muscles. It is actually my choice whether or not to remain angry, risking the prolonging and even propagation of misery around me. As I told my friend, use of the undesirable muscles should be avoided. For me, when the occasion comes up to get angry, I must immediately crush the bitter and resentful thoughts that come with that in order to avoid feeding the fire. It's easier said than done, of course, but God would count every effort we make, not just the successes. Thankfully, if we exercise the "self-control muscles" often, we can expect them to be strengthened, causing my "self-indulgent muscles" to hopefully shrivel up to minuteness. SO what does this have to do with Christian Unity? Not much, really, but this is a topic close to my heart because my temper has been my cross for years. On the other hand.. has anyone ever heard of what causes "Christian Unity muscles" to atrophy?

Friday, February 18, 2005

The Angelus and the Incarnation

The Angelus is one of those old Catholic devotions that would send chills down the spine of the very Evangelical Protestant. The foremost objection (of course) would be the fact that it involves three Hail Mary's. This prayer has a Scriptural basis, and the special veneration of Mary makes sense to many -- even to Martin Luther. However, this post is about what the Angelus means to me -- and to you, if you'll permit me to explain. The Angelus has three main parts that slowly unfold the mystery of the Incarnation in us (who pray the Angelus). The three main parts each consists of Scripture-based texts followed each by a Hail Mary. The three texts are: "The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.. and she conceived by the Holy Spirit" "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word" "and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." The first two texts are from the annunciation narrative when the angel Gabriel informed our Mother about her impending motherhood to the Son of God, the Word Incarnate. The last text is from the Gospel of St. John. These three are, to me, the three stages of the Incarnation of Christ within each Christian. First, the angel's news is God's invitation to us to bear Christ in ourselves. Second, we hopefully say with our Mother: behold, I am a handmaid or servant of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word. Last, we can be sure that the Lord's words do not depart from him in vain: the Word will be made flesh, in our flesh, for as long as we cooperate with Grace to become Christ to our neighbors. So those who pray the Angelus everyday are blessed indeed, because each time they prayerfully do so, they relive the mystery of the Incarnation and remind themselves of what being Christian mean: God's invitation, our generous response and the Word made flesh! The first two are what comprise a relationship with God (he calls, we respond), while the last completes a divine relationship because it is so real: it is the Incarnation recalled and vows to be Christian renewed. So why do Catholics bother to pray the Hail Mary after such a beautiful, personal Scriptural journey through the mystery of the Incarnation? To me the answer is simple: it happened to her FIRST! She was the first to be told that Christ would be incarnate within her. She was the very first to say yes! She was the very first to bear Christ in herself. It is no trivial matter to say that she was the first Christian, the very first to experience Christ personally. In this and in other instances (I guess I'll write about those some other time), our Mother was a commentary and a role model. In this instance, she is a commentary on how Christ can truly be Incarnate. She is also a role model in Christian humilty and obedience to the will of God, and the continuing mystery of God's salvation that follows. By the last bit I mean that our actions, born from Grace and inspired by the Holy Spirit, continue to advance the kingdom of God to "the nations" who must hear the gospel. Of course, there are those who would say that our Mother had no choice, that she was created for no other answer here except "yes". No wonder so many people think that Christians are mindless slaves (eyes rolling here). No, she was not "programmed" to say "yes" -- no more than Adam and Eve were programmed to disobey. The Angelus ends with these prayers, which is a summary of our ultimate hope in the risen Lord, and I hope you won't protest too much about them, even if they're Catholic prayers: Pour forth, we beseech thee, O Lord, your grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ, your son, was made known by the message of an angel, may, by his passion and death on the cross, be brought to the glory of his resurrection, through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen! Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen! (I usually end this with the following, which would be significant to some: St. John Baptist de La Salle, pray for us! Live Jesus in our hearts forever!)

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The mythical stem cell dilemmas

It's all about false dilemmas, actually. There are two chief dilemmas that have been posited over the last few (two?) years: 1. Embryonic life in exchange for stem cell treatments to save lives: either we go full tilt on embryonic stem cell research or we say goodbye to the promise of cures to serious diseases like Parkinson's disease. 2. Science or ideology: either we scrap the ideologies, i.e., sanctity of human life, or we scrap the promise of those cures from stem cell research. These are both false dilemmas, explained very well by Peter J. Cataldo, director of research for the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, in his article, Myths of stem cell research require closer look at facts over at the Detroit Free Press (online). Regarding the first false dilemma, first of all, there are these things called ADULT stem cells that can also provide the stem cell lines for therapeutic research. Second, adult stem cells have been used (so far) in 56 treatments with good results. Third, embryonic stem cells have apparently not had any success in actual treatments. Fourth, harvesting embryonic stem cells require the destruction of embryos. Considering its zero success rate so far, what's the point? Regarding the second false dilemma, there is no blanket resistance to stem cell research, only to EMBRYONIC stem cell research. If the "ideologists" are so quick to condemn it, it is only logical, since it has a zero success rate so far while adult stem cells are available and have chalked up 56 successful treatments so far. Besides, the "scientists" who condemn the resistance to embryonic stem cell research are guilty of an ideology themselves: that the embryo has no value as a human being. Why don't they consult the science of embryology? Read this article . As Dr. Dianne N. Irving explains in that piece, embryology clearly tells us that human beings begin right there with an embryo. The egg and sperm cells have 23 chromosomes each. The result of fertilization has 46 chromosomes: the embryo. What animal on the planet is uniquely characterized by having 46 chromosomes? Human beings. This isn't ideology -- it's science, plain and simple. So why do some powerful folks keep rationalizing with false dilemmas? Simple: because they can't rationalize it in any other way. And why do they refuse to acknowledge the evidence concerning adult stem cells? I suspect that they need to win their case against the rights of the unborn to live. After all, if that debate is lost, then the abortion debate will also be lost (for the pro-aborts). Don't be surprised it if ties in with the euthanasia debate, too. Human life is precious. Proof: self-simulate the opposite..

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Recommended Reading: Praying the Scriptures by Christopher Hayden

I've only gone 1/3 into the book, but I love what I've read so far. I hope to practice the lectio divina from now on (as soon as I've mastered it, that is). That roughly translates to divine reading, but it also means a few other things, such as gathering or collecting from the divine, as the author explains. He stresses that Scripture is an invitation to us. It is God speaking to us, reflected by the many invitations to listen: shema!. This verb is "one of the most frequently recurring in the entire Bible." The author goes on to say that it doesn't end here. "The end is prayer, a relationship with God, growth in discipleship." Early in the book, the author stresses that prayer is relationship with God. A good relationship requires a great deal of listening - for us! A relationship is fundamentally doomed if the parties are only interested in hearing their own voices. I can also relate as a father: how frustrating it must be for God the Father when we are bawling in misery over some apparent catastrophe, when it is precisely at that time when we should quiet down and listen to Him, because He just wants to make it all better. There are other things that constitute a good relationship, too. Sharing a meal is a common way to do this, and praise God, He provided us with such a one as befits His divinity: The Eucharist, the communion with the body and blood of Christ. It is a physical intimacy that is unique to the Eucharist. It reflects the Lamb's supper, with its beautiful vision given to us in the book of Revelations. The Eucharist is prayer. The highest form of prayer, Catholics are taught, is the celebration of the Eucharist, for it is a very serious relationship. It is a communion: The chalice of benediction which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord? For we, being many, are one bread, one body: all that partake of one bread. (1 Cor 10:16-17) That makes the Eucharist an all-in-one package, too, for it not only makes us one with Christ, it also makes us one with all the saints, as all Christians were referred to back then. One of the best articles I've read that explains this was this article by James Cardinal Gibbons. I'm amazed that what started out as a post on Scripture and prayer ends here with some texts on the Eucharist, but perhaps that is not so strange. If prayer is about relationship, then we can expect that there's more to it than Scripture. While Scripture is everything that Christians proclaim and more, i.e., inspired, revealed, profitable, God is so much more than can be put down into writing. While his revelation starts with Scripture, it doesn't end there. It ends in a relationship with us, for He is not only the teacher of Truth, He is Father, Son and Paraclete. Note: text emphasis above are mine.

Monday, February 14, 2005

"we may and ought to forsake her"

How shocking! Read the link above, a commentary on 1 Tim 3. The shocking part is the commentary about 1 Tim 3:15, where the Church is referred to as the "pillar and foundation of truth". The commentary says: "When a church ceases to be the pillar and ground of truth, we may and ought to forsake her; for our regard to truth should be first and greatest." (copyright Biola University) What sort of pillar and ground of truth is that? Did Christ establish a Church on poor foundations then? Not so! For the Lord promised: "upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it." (Matt 16:18) The commentary is saying otherwise: the Church can be overpowered by heresy and her faithful members should abandon her to do.. what? Establish a new one??? The problem is twofold: rationalizing schism as somehow faithful to Christ's will and promise is a very big stretch of pretzel-shaped-backward-bending proportions, and trusting "the faithful" to determine when to abandon the church is just unrealistic. How sad. Does this reflect common Protestant thought? It seems to contradict Scripture. Luther's initial impulse, guided by good intentions, was reform, not revolt. Apparently, this was also true for some of the other Protestant leaders of the 16th century. A schism was never acceptable in orthodox thought, and St. Paul spoke against it. If schism was an option, then there is no visible, final court of appeals, and that just contradicts a Church established by Christ to be rock solid, even with the gates of Hell against it. It simply goes against what St. Paul must have had in mind when he wrote "pillar and foundation of truth."

Not dungheap covered with snow

The analogy of the justified as dungheap covered with snow, originally given by Martin Luther, I think, can be challenged by Scriptural texts on judgment. Today's gospel reading (Matt 25:31-46, Feb 14, 2005) is no exception. When the king speaks severely to those on his left, he is clear to point out sins of omission:
"He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones, 
you did not do for me.'"
But this does not necessarily attack all who follow Luther's analogy as such. You'd have to know some Evangelicals to realize that they're mostly as conscious about what they do (or don't do) as Catholics are. They may proclaim justification by faith alone, but they're just as prone to practice the living faith, where works (acts) are involved, spoken of in the epistles: an active, living faith that works (or acts). They may verbalize this as mere fruits of one's justification, but Catholics have no trouble with this as we know that they are fruits of the Holy Spirit in us, as everything good comes from God. Regardless of that manner by which Evangelicals verbalize this, they share with Catholics a concern for serving and pleasing God through these works (or acts). The problem lies in Evangelicals who would sit on their faith in Christ as a conscious assent, by intellect and emotion, without acting in love to the least of our neighbors. This has been referred to as "easy believism" by some, which contradicts the "and lordship" camp among Evangelicals which sees the danger, as Catholics do, of faith without fruits, i.e., loving acts. Among Catholics, the problem lies in those who would sit on their simply being Catholic. Neither faith nor membership are ends in themselves. When St. Paul tells Timothy about the profitability of Scripture, for example, his attitude towards Scripture was a tool, a means, "That the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work" (2 Tim 3:15-16). We should all broaden our understanding of Christ as, not only the Truth to be believed, but the Way that needs to be walked. You can't just sit on your faith nor your membership because you can't walk while sitting down.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Ash Wednesday

On my way to work the other day, after receiving the ash on my forehead, I was struck by an old dilemma. The Lord said in Matt 6:5-6 that our prayer should be private, not ostentatious. So isn't parading around with those ashes in my forehead ostentatious, so as to attract the admiration of folks around me? Then I realized that it's ashes I have on my forehead, not a sign that says "I'm saved, Alleluia!" I'm not advertising virtue, blessedness and prestige here. I'm strutting around with a sign that says I'm a sinner! Besides, another thought that struck me is that, in this day and age, most folks who see those ashes will not admire me. They'd be more likely to snicker secretly, or think "*bleep*ing Catholic", or some similar thought that does not constitute admiration. Oh well.. comes with the territory. It's not a bug. It's a feature! Alleluia!

The legacy of a fiery Catholic-Protestant past

Lovely! To this day, folks at Lewes still celebrate the glorious history of Catholic-Protestant relations in that corner of East Sussex. Never mind political correctness, I'm sure that this significantly contributes (in the other direction) to ecunemical relations between the two parties.

One Kingdom in Ezekiel 37

Ezekiel 37:15-28 gives us a glimpse of God's Kingdom. The prophet Ezekiel receives a message for the divided people of the two kingdoms of Judah and Israel. Christians will easily recognize the kingship of Christ, son of David, foretold in these verses. It brings hope but it also makes the present situation of Christendom divided more poignant. Some would suggest that this prophecy pertains to the oneness of the new Heaven and Earth after the end of time, after the last day. That does not appear to be the case (emphasis below is mine):
And the nations shall know that I am the Lord the sanctifier of Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for ever (Ezekiel 37:28).
This echoes John 17:21 when Christ prays for Christians to be one, "that the world (or nations) may know that thou has sent me", again I took liberty in emphasizing the italicized text. The Lord repeats this prayer in 17:23. "The nations" or "the world" refers to those who do not believe in Christ whom the gospel must reach. My point is that the unity of God's Kingdom under Christ is meant to be a sign to the non-believers, to invite them into faith in Jesus Christ. This clearly happens before it is too late to save them: meaning now. Something else to keep in mind is that this kingdom had already been established by Christ 2000 years ago. The Church was born at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit annointed the disciples. Seated in council then, led by St. Peter, they appointed a 12th apostle, an elder, to take the office vacated by Judas Iscariot. These 12 elders signify the complete tribes of Israel. They are the new people of God united: they were one. They/We have Jesus Christ, king of kings. For centuries afterwards, the Church was one, united by one baptism, by frequent martyrdom and persistent persecution, united by the breaking of the One Bread. Apart from heresies that came up from time to time, this kingdom was mostly united for more than 1000 years until the sad split between East and West in the 12th century, and more fragmentation in the 16th century for the West. I repeat previous pleas here when I repeat Paul's appeal in 1 Cor 1:10. Let there be no divisions!

The Wisdom of I. Q. Lowe

I. Q. Lowe's famous book, "Gravity for Beginners", made its appearance in Bugs Bunny (copyright Warner Brothers cartoons) as the book that shattered the "invincible ignorance" of Elmer Fudd about gravity. That episode can teach us a thing or two. "Invincible ignorance" is used in Catholic Theology to express the faultlessness of the invincibly ignorant should he/she be unable to properly respond in faith to the good news of the Kingdom. In this particular episode, Elmer Fudd walks off a cliff and continues to walk on thin air. This is because he was only child then, so he was invincibly ignorant of gravity, and hence, gravity did not affect him. Until he reads a book on gravity that Bugs gives him, of course. He then quips after realizing his situation that "ignorance is the best policy." I mention that episode for two reasons: First, I am ashamed to admit that it took months for me to pluck up the courage to speak out about my faith in this way. No, I wasn't simply waiting for the Year of Evangelization to be proclaimed by the Church this year. I was simply too chicken. I had all sorts of excuses, such as (1) blog sites are expensive to pay for, and (2) it would be a doomed venture as I would be ineffective and might give up in shame within a week. I wish I were so invincibly ignorant as to excuse me from all this, but there has been this urge to stand up and speak (or write) about matters of faith for 4 years now. I have tried quite hard to resist it, but it was like dancing the cha-cha. I would spend hours and hours studying, give up on the idea, then get back to reading, studying, taking notes, and so on. I can resist no longer. I realize that I am not faultless in resisting because I am NOT invincibly ignorant. Invincible ignorance presumes that the impulse and the means to rectify the ignorance are absolutely absent and impossible. It took all of 2 minutes to verify that blogger.com was free (at least I haven't been sent the bill yet.. ), and I cannot really prove the futility of this venture until I have tried it. My second reason in mentioning Bugs, Elmer and M. Lowe's book on gravity came into my head just now. It relates to the reason for this blog. It has been almost 500 years since Protestant Christianity walked away from the Roman Catholic Church. It has been almost 1000 years since the split between the Orthodox Churches and Roman Catholic Church. It has been 2000 years or so since Christ established his Church. How much longer can we remain stiff-knecked people, refusing to heed his priestly prayer for unity in John 17, repeated a number of times by St. Paul, that we must not divide the Church, that we must be One Body as we share One Bread which is Christ? St. Paul must be beside himself in horror as we fight among ourselves while non-believers laugh at our disunity and completely miss the sign that God had sent us the Son (John 17:21). Yet most of us do nothing, not even so much as to acknowledge what the Lord plainly said in John 17. On this matter, we cannot be considered "invincibly ignorant". The Bible proclaims it, and the Church proclaims it. We know what the Lord wants, and in these dark days, the need is greater than ever. First and foremost, we must reject the notion that the present situation of so many denominations disagreeing in crucial matters of doctrine is acceptable to God. We must, in all faith and hope, be convinced that God will rectify this, but we cannot presume that we are not called to participate in the cause of unity in His kingdom.