Monday, March 30, 2015

The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary…..Points to Ponder

In this week of contemplating the Passion of Our Lord, I offer the following thoughts/questions that may be of help while reciting the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary.  How he suffered for us!  These "points to ponder" first appeared as a post on  The original post can be found HERE.

The First Sorrowful Mystery—The Agony in the Garden

·      Imagine the Garden of Gethsemane, a favorite place of prayer for Jesus and the apostles.  It is said to be very beautiful.
·      Agony:  1. Intense pain of mind or body  2. A violent struggle or contest (Merriam-Webster)  This agony was a mental suffering.
·      “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by,” Jesus asks the father.  As a human, Jesus dreaded suffering as much as we do.
·      Jesus surrenders to the Father’s will even though he knows full well what he will suffer. “My Father, if this cannot pass me by without my drinking it, your will be done!”
·      Three times Jesus asks for the cup to be taken away and each time again surrenders to the Father’s will.  An angel then came to strengthen him. Was it just the sight of the angel that strengthened him?
·      Jesus was let down by his three closest friends.  He needed their company and wanted them to pray with him.  Three times he asked them.  They gave in to sleep instead.  They did not know what lay ahead.  Nor do we at any point in our lives.  That’s why we must always try to do what the Lord may be asking.
·      “In his anguish he prayed with all the greater intensity, and his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.”  This is a very rare medical condition called hematohidrosis, caused by extreme stress.  It is said to also make the skin more fragile.
·      The soldiers arrive and Jesus says, “Sleep on now. Enjoy your rest!” The apostles receive this well deserved sarcasm.
·      Jesus is betrayed with a kiss by one of his very own, with whom he had just sat at table and celebrated Passover.  Let’s not forget that Jesus loved Judas.  This was a painful betrayal of friendship.
·      One of the apostles grabs his sword and slashes off the ear of the high priest’s servant.   Jesus answers, “Enough!” then touches the man’s ear and heals him.  The soldiers witness a miracle before their very eyes and still continue the arrest.  How often do we too ignore the miracles in our lives?

The Second Sorrowful Mystery—The Scourging at the Pillar

·      We know that because of the hematohidrosis Jesus’ skin was very fragile and tender.  It was in that state that he received the blows from the torture instruments.
·      Did Mary witness the scourging?  It was done in a public place. Did any of Jesus’ followers see it?  Imagine their anguish.
·      The Precious Blood of Jesus is spilled all over the ground. The Precious Blood!  The soldiers were probably spattered with it.  They probably stepped in it.
·      How long did the scourging last? For Jesus and for those who loved him, it must have seemed an eternity.
·      We can easily ask how the soldiers could have done such a thing.  How could they be so sadistic?  Yet, we are the ones who truly inflicted the wounds.
·      Jesus had told the apostles that this would happen.  Speaking of himself as the “Son of Man” Jesus said, “He will be delivered up to the Gentiles.  He will be mocked and outraged and spat upon.   They will scourge him and put him to death, and on the third day he will rise again.” (Luke18: 32-33)
·      Surely the apostles put this prediction out of their minds at the time.  They must have been in denial, hoping he was speaking in some kind of figurative sense.
·      On this day they came to realize that Jesus’ words were literally going to happen.  Imagine their horror and fear.
·      Did the apostles wonder why Jesus would allow this to happen?  They knew he had control of even the wind and the waves.  Why would he allow this to be done to him?  Perhaps some were starting to understand.  “Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed. “           Is 53:5
·      What was the reaction of Pilate’s wife when she heard of what Pilate had ordered?  Perhaps she too was filled with fear.

The Third Sorrowful Mystery—The Crowning with Thorns

·      What horrible irony—the King of Kings and Lord of Lords mocked and tortured with a crown of thorns.
·      “The soldiers then wove a crown of thorns and fixed it on his head, throwing around his shoulders a cloak of royal purple.”
·      “Repeatedly they came up to him and said, ‘All hail, king of the Jews!’,’slapping his face as they did so.”
·      The Savior, the long awaited one of Israel, has his kingship mocked.  He suffers now the additional pain of derision.
·      “Meanwhile the men guarding Jesus amused themselves at his expense. They blindfolded him first, slapped him, and then taunted him:  ‘Play the prophet; which one struck you?’  And they directed many other insulting words at him.”
·      Do you think they blindfolded Jesus to avoid looking into the eyes of love?  Perhaps they could not do what they did and also see his eyes.
·      Have you ever felt that you were being treated in a manner that you did not deserve?  Think of Jesus wearing this crown.  How many thorns pierced his scalp?
·      “…I am an object of reproach, a laughingstock to my neighbors, and a dread to my friends….”  Psalm 31:12
·      “Continually striking Jesus on the head with a reed and spitting at him, they genuflected before him and pretended to pay him homage.”
·      We are the reason Jesus endured this suffering and mocking.  When we genuflect before him perhaps we can remember and offer him true homage.

The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery—The Carrying of the Cross

·      How heavy was the cross Jesus carried?  Even just the crosspiece would weigh about 100 pounds.  Have you ever lifted that much? 
·      Jesus had lost a great deal of blood and his skin had been ripped apart.  In this state he carried the cross.  Unimaginable.
·      He fell three times.  How painful each fall must have been.  Surely he felt that he would not be able to get up.
·      Imagine Jesus meeting his mother.  What emotional pain he must have endured at the sight of her horrified face.  How could any mother see her son suffering like that?
·      Perhaps the “women of Jerusalem” knew each other.  Did they gather together to find Jesus on the Via Dolorosa?  Were they women who had shown him hospitality?  Women who were his friends?
·      How did Simon feel about helping Jesus carry the cross?  Did he realize, in some way, what a mystical privilege he had been given?
·       Scripture says that Simon was forced to help Jesus carry his cross.  But surely as he carried it, he was flooded with grace.  Did it change his life?
·      Did Veronica see the blood dripping down Jesus’ face and felt that she just had to do something?  Was Jesus’ blood perhaps dripping into his eyes? 
·      Imagine the tenderness with which Veronica  must have patted her own veil against his skin.  Imagine the look of gratitude and love that Jesus surely gave her.
·      Imagine Veronica discovering the miraculous image of the face of Jesus on her veil.

The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery—The Crucifixion

·      Jesus arrives at Golgotha.  Imagine the pain of the torn flesh of his back against the cross.
·      Imagine the pain of the nails entering his hands.
·      Imagine the pain of the nails in his feet.
·      Think of the pain as the cross is lifted high and his weight is pressed against his nailed hands and feet..
·      How difficult it was for Jesus to breathe as he had to press upward against his feet.  How awful it must have been for him to not be able to get enough air.
·      Jesus gives us his mother.  Even in the agony of his death Jesus was still thinking of us.
·      How sweet was the reassurance Jesus gave to the good thief that he would see him in paradise.  Who was the good thief?  Had he listened to Jesus preach before?  Or did he simply realize by the power of the Holy Spirit, or the power of the presence of Jesus, that this was indeed the King of kings?
·      “My God, my God, why hast thou abandoned me?”  Did Jesus the man truly feel abandoned?   Was this an exclamation of the depths of his suffering and not to be taken literally?
·      “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”  With what complete and utter surrender to the will of the Father did Jesus die.  “It is finished.”
·      When the soldier’s lance pierced the side of Jesus, blood and water gushed forth, the blood representing the Precious Blood of Jesus which is now given to us in the Eucharist, and the water representing the water of Baptism.  Imagine the Divine Mercy image and the perfection of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.  May we be eternally grateful.

As we say the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary may we come to a greater understanding of the infinite depth of God’s love for us and the mystical power of the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus, our Lord.

Oh, Father, for the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Friday, March 27, 2015

What Is Going On With Our President??

I was stunned to read that our president had not even responded to a request from Jens Stoltenberg, the new secretary general of NATO, to meet with him.  He didn't reject the request.  He didn't even answer.  Nearly all of the leaders of the 28 NATO countries have met with Stoltenberg.  But our president either didn't have time or didn't have the inclination.  Does he think he's too important to talk to our allies? Is he so anti-military that he refuses to treat our allies with even the basics of common courtesy? Is he suffering from a mental illness? That last suggestion is not tongue-in-cheek.  I find his behavior so inexplicable that all possibilities need consideration.

From an article entitled NATO Chief Added to Obama's 'Diss List' by Hana Levi Julian in the Jewish
But there’s just no getting around the fact that Obama’s behavior is an outright insult. Where was he and what was so incredibly important that he could not make time for the head of NATO –an alliance in which the U.S. is a pivotal member?
The only event on Obama’s schedule for Wednesday, media moguls said, was a short speech to launch the Affordable Care Act. On Thursday he is also pretty free: he heads to Alabama to deliver a speech. Wow. Stressful.
Read the rest of the article HERE.

And from an article entitled Obama Snubs NATO Chief as Crisis Rages by Josh Rogin in Bloomberg View:
America's commitment to defend its NATO allies is its biggest treaty obligation, said Volker, adding that European security is at its most perilous moment since the Cold War. Russia has moved troops and weapons into eastern Ukraine, annexed Crimea, placed nuclear-capable missiles in striking distance of NATO allies, flown strategic-bomber mock runs in the North Atlantic, practiced attack approacheson the U.K. and Sweden, and this week threatened to aim nuclear missiles at Denmark’s warships.
“It is hard for me to believe that the president of the United States has not found the time to meet with the current secretary general of NATO given the magnitude of what this implies, and the responsibilities of his office,” Volker said.
Read the rest of the article HERE.

Rick Moran in a piece called Obama disrespects NATO chief, raising questions about his commitment to the alliance at the American Thinker had this to say:

"Putin is no doubt delighted at the snub.  Russia has been trying to drive a wedge between Europe and the U.S. since NATO was established.  Now, Obama has done that for them."

Read Moran's entire article HERE.

It seems to me that it is more than high time to hold our president accountable for this and many other mind-boggling decisions he has made in the area of foreign policy.  What is with him??

Thursday, March 26, 2015

On the few warm days we have had this month I have gone out on my bike a few times to my favorite  destination-- Gallup Park.

It's more lovely in the other seasons, but even winter has its own charm..

The blue sky melting the lingering ice and snow is magnificent.

When it's in the forties, I am on my bike. :-)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Living In The Day You Have

It’s so easy to forget that God is loving us in the Now.  He is with us at this very moment.  Our relationship with him is not about yesterday and not about tomorrow.  It is about the moment we are in, on this day. 

What does he want right now?  He wants our love.  He wants us to turn our faces to him, to ask for his help, to praise him, to thank him.  We only have to ask.  God never imposes himself.

How is he blessing us at this very moment.  For me, I can feel the sunshine on my face as I sit in a teahouse with my daughter.  She is studying.  I am writing.  What a blessing to have her company.  The sunshine coming through the window is warm despite the bitterly cold temperature outside.  It’s so comforting.  The light sparks my spirit as does the crystals on the piled snow on the side of the road in front of us.

The tea is delicious as are the macaroons my daughter just brought back to the table.

Now is the time to embrace the joy that the Lord is offering.

No one has a perfect life.  But the present moment can be nearly perfect if we stay there.

Stay in the Now, the day or the hour that you have.  The Lord is offering his love.  We have only to receive it and offer it back to Him who is waiting for our response.

Live in the Day you have.  It is the only one that exists at the moment.  Live it in love.  Live it in gratitude.  Live it in and with the Lord.

This article was first published in at THIS SITE.

Well Said (In My Opinion) Wednesday

From the Wall Street Journal Opinion page, "Review and Outlook," written before it was widely recognized that Netanyahu had won......

Two paragraphs from the Journal's editorial "Israel's Election Cliffhanger."
One thing for sure is that whoever prevails, the winner won't be President Obama's nuclear diplomacy with Iran.  Almost everyone across the Israeli political spectrum opposes the emerging deal with Tehran.
A Netanyahu victory would be bitter news for Mr. Obama, who worked hard to defeat the Israeli leader, including an attempt to stop and then belittle his speech to Congress this month. It isn't Mr. Obama's habit to admit error, or to be gracious to his opponents, but it would serve the interests of both nations if he were.  Israel's raucous democracy is imperfect, like our own, but it is the only reliable one in the bloody cauldron of the Middle East.
Yes.  Would that our president could be a little more gracious.

And from the essay "Congress Deserves a Vote on Iran," by Joseph Lieberman, former four term US senator from Connecticut.
.....The Constitution and history, not to mention common sense, argue that it is entirely proper for America's elected representatives in Congress to review a far-reaching agreement with a foreign government of such national-security significance. The president as commander-in-chief deserves deference in devising national-security strategy, but Congress has clear constitutional standing and an institutional prerogative not to be cut out of the process.
....Congress should also review an Iran agreement because of the unusually extensive and direct role it has already played in formulating exactly those policies that a nuclear deal would alter and undo.
....The sanctions under negotiation, however, are overwhelmingly the creation of Congress--put in law through bills passed by large bipartisan majorities.  Given that Congress built the sanctions against Iran, it is unreasonable to bar it from any review or oversight in how that architecture is disassembled.
I THINK you can read all of Senator Lieberman's article HERE.

Indeed.  In fact, if Congress imposed the sanctions one might question whether or not the president even has the authority to lift them without an act of Congress.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Should We Trust Iran?

Should we trust Iran to honor a deal that allows them to develop nuclear energy but forbids them to develop nuclear weapons?

It almost seems that Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama believe that placing trust in Iran will somehow make them trustworthy.

If they have never been trustworthy, why would we expect that they will become so now?
From the end of the current negotiations, Iran will be left as a threshold nuclear power with very grave consequences – and it won’t stop there. It will continue to develop nuclear military capacity.
How do we know this? Because deceit is where Iran really excels. What it is doing today is just another version of what it has done in the past, a portent of the future. It hid a nuclear program in the side of a mountain for four years before we found out about it. Iran is, as we write, developing inter-continental missiles whose only purpose would be to threaten the U.S. The notion that Iran will give up its missile program is simply naive to the point of idiocy. Yes, it has reduced its production of fissile material, but this sounds better than it really is as it delays by only 24 days Iran’s ability to produce enough for nuclear weapons. It has not stopped its research and development on centrifuges, which puts it even closer to a nuclear breakout when the constraint period is over.

Read the whole article HERE.

From Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech:
The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency, the IAEA, said again yesterday that Iran still refuses to come clean about its military nuclear program. Iran was also caught -- caught twice, not once, twice -- operating secret nuclear facilities in Natanz and Qom, facilities that inspectors didn't even know existed. 
Right now, Iran could be hiding nuclear facilities that we don't know about, the U.S. and Israel. As the former head of inspections for the IAEA said in 2013, he said, "If there's no undeclared installation today in Iran, it will be the first time in 20 years that it doesn't have one." Iran has proven time and again that it cannot be trusted. And that's why the first major concession is a source of great concern. It leaves Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure and relies on inspectors to prevent a breakout. 
Read the entire text of the speech HERE.

Yes, it was extraordinary for Congress to have invited Netanyahu to speak to Congress, without having consulted the White House.  It was also extraordinary for senators to write a letter directly to Iran suggesting that whatever deal Obama makes could be overturned in two years.  

Were the senators trying to undermine the talks that our government is engaged in with Iran?  Yes, I believe they were.

I believe the senators who signed the letter want to undermine our country's negotiations with Iran because the administration is about to enter into an agreement that is decidedly not in the best interests of the Unites States and not in the best interests of Israel, our most important ally in the region.

Suddenly the administration is concerned about separation of powers.  Interesting.  I am pleased that we have a Congress that is looking out for the people of the United States.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"Well Said" Wednesday

Sometimes when I am reading a good article I will come across a passage and think to myself, "That is well said."  Today, I am going to share one of those. (And perhaps even make it a regular Wednesday post. )

Anthony Esolen, professor of English at Providence College, has written an excellent feature in Touchstone magazine (Jan/Feb) entitled "Mission Nary Impossible: The Unevangelized May Be Better & Worse than Savages."He speaks at length of Father Pierre-Jean De Smet who was a missionary to native Americans of the Northwest. He states that Father De Smet did not consider the Indians to be savages.  Esolen adds that they also were not insane,
"They could reason and act from principles.  You can argue with a sane man, advising him that his principles are wrong.  You can evangelize a sane society, directing minds and hearts to the Lord, who is alone the Way.  But what the evangelist meets today is insanity or perhaps subsanity.  It will not suffice to correct a mistaken principle when the people can no longer reason from principles.  You cannot redirect a lost people when they have no direction and no experience of following one..."
And here is the golden nugget.
"We are now among people who are better and worse than most savages.  They are, in most places, and for the time being, less likely to break crockery, as Chesterton put it, than were the savages of old.  They will cut babies to pieces in the womb, more than a million a year, but they will be roused to the height of righteous wrath should they see someone leave a dog in a hot car in the summer."
Indeed.  There are only a few things that merit widespread condemnation any more.  The very mention of a sexual morality will make people apoplectic.   Parents can let their children defy authority, even their own, mouth off and be generally and specifically disrespectful and that, it seems, is exhibiting patience. But when a child is given even the mildest of corporal punishment that is child abuse.  One cannot even hint that homosexual behavior might be immoral and an offense against human dignity because such a view would be declared intolerant.  But the most ignorant and mean spirited criticism of all things Christian evokes only nods of agreement and ridicule.

How on Earth did we get to this place of insanity.  Anthony Esolen has made an excellent point.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Whatever Happened to the Intelligence Gathered at the bin Laden Raid??

Friday's (3/6) Wall Street Journal included a very interesting Opinion piece by Stephen Hayes (senior writer for the Weekly Standard) and Thomas Joscelyn (senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies).  The piece was entitled "How America Was Misled on al Qaeda's Demise."

Hayes and Joscelyn explain that the CIA was given a tremendous amount of terrorist materials from the raid that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.  They write:
According to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the team produced more than 400 separate reports based on information in the documents.
     But it is what happened next that is truly stunning:  nothing.  The analysis of the materials-- the "document exploitation" in the parlance of intelligence officials-- came to an abrupt stop.  According to five senior intelligence professionals, the documents sat largely untouched for months-- perhaps as long as a year.
What??!!??  Why isn't the White House being hammered about this?  Who ordered that they not be touched?

Hayes and Joscelyn go on:
After a pitched bureaucratic battle a small team of analysts from the Defense Intelligence Agency and Centcom was given time-limited read-only access to the documents.  The DIA team began producing analyses reflecting what they were seeing in the documents.
     At precisely the time Mr. Obama was campaigning on the imminent death of al Qaeda, those with access to the bin Laden documents were seeing, in bin Laden's own words that the opposite was true.....
     This wasn't what the Obama White House wanted to hear.  So the administration cut off DIA access to the documents and instructed DIA officials to stop producing analyses based on them.
By limiting access to these documents wasn't the White House aiding and abetting the enemy?  Were they not also lying to the American people?

If a republican president had done this the media would have been screaming for impeachment.  It appears that the Obama administration can pretty much do whatever it wants.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Hilary Clinton and Those Emails....

Kimberly A Strassel wrote a great Opinion piece in Friday's (3/6) Wall Street Journal entitled "Hilary's Email Escapade."  Strassel writes a weekly column for the Wall Street Journal, Potomac Watch.

She writes:
First, historical context.  There are few politicians alive today who have a better understanding than the Clintons of the perils of paper trails-- and the benefits of not having them.  It really wasn't all that long ago that Mrs. Clinton was failing to answer questions about how her Rose Law firm billing records vanished.  Or using executive privilege to sit on documents that showed her involvement in the Travel Office firings.  Or grappling with testimony from a Secret Service agent who said Mrs. Clinton's top aide had removed files from Vince Foster's office.  Or explaining her connection to Sandy Berger who was prosecuted for stealing Clinton-related National Archives records.
Hilary knew full well that the Obama administration "had issued guidance requiring employees to use official email accounts."

So why did she use a private email account?  Why is the press not hammering her with this question?  Why?

Kimberly Strassel offers an explanation.  "Mrs. Clinton is the sole arbiter here of what is 'preserved,' made public, or available to freedom of information requests or to congressional oversees.  Don't think any of this was by accident."

Clearly she wanted to maintain control of the emails.  Is she just a control freak or did she want to make sure she could keep hidden whatever she wanted hidden?

If we had a media that was doing its job they would not let this go until the questions are answered.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Resurrecting My Old Favorite Blog List

Dear Blogging Friends,

As many of you may remember a while back I accidentally deleted my old beloved template, designed by Alexa.  All the links I had on that template were also lost.

If you read this blog please remind me of your address.  I am going to try to gradually reconstruct the list.  And if you are a new reader with a blog, by all means, ask to be put on my links.

Please know that there are many blogs I love and just can't remember where you are!

Any help in this endeavor is greatly appreciated. :-)


Friday, March 06, 2015

The Family Dinner

Is there any image of the family more iconic than the family at the dinner table?  Here is where the family gathers as a group, as a unit, as a whole.  Yes, the people there are imperfect, with varying degrees of brokenness, and all with far less than perfect love for each other.  But gathering around the table reflects a unity, a bond that is unlike any other on Earth.  This is the fundamental group to which we belong, the group we will turn to in the most difficult of circumstances.  These are the people who will run the extra mile for us, pick us up when we have fallen, the people we will call when life throws us an emergency.  These are the people we love.

Dozens of studies in recent years have documented the benefits of family meals.  Teens whose families eat dinner together have better emotional health, less substance abuse, higher self esteem, better peer relationships, higher GPAs, better vocabulary and reading skills, less obesity, more positive family interactions… the list seems to go on and on.  It would seem that the family dinner is beneficial for the body, the mind and the spirit! 

These positive effects should come as no surprise, of course.  Mothers have been preparing dinner for their families for centuries, if not millennia.  Everyone can feel the sense of well- being that comes from the family meal.  But busy schedules of both parents and children alike have lessened the frequency with which families sit down and eat together.  Some will say that only 40% of American families eat together two or three times a week.  Others will say there has been a 30% decline in the frequency of family meals.  Whatever the number, there are fewer families sitting down to eat together on any given night.

Families must reclaim the family dinnertime.  The benefits are enormous.  We live in difficult times.  As Catholics, we live in a world in which our beliefs are often mocked.  Raising healthy, holy children has become a great challenge.  We do not have the social supports we once did. 

At the family meal, we can regroup.  Everyone sits down.  For many families, this is the only time prayer is said together.  We look at each other.  We share food.  We pass it to each other.  The young are taught to say please and thank you.  Everyone learns that, when it come to our family food, the welfare of the group is more important than the desires of any individual.  We take portions that allow for all to have some.  We nourish our bodies, but more importantly, we nourish our hearts, minds, and souls.

The family meal is time spent together.  We put our electronic devices down.  We look at each other.  This is probably the longest eye contact we have had with other family members for that day.  We inquire about how each other’s day went.  We laugh.  We empathize.  We make plans. 

Beneath the surface, even more is happening.  Bonds are being reinforced.  Each individual’s sense of worth is being replenished.  The awareness of belonging to a group that intensely cares about me is being strengthened.  In short, each member of the family is being told that he is loved, that she belongs, that this is our place, our refuge, our fortress.  It is at this table that the teen no longer needs to pretend to be stronger than he is.  She does not need to watch for the reaction of others to see if she is accepted.  This is a safe place.  It is here that Mom and Dad can smile at the child or teen.  Here is where the hesitant are encouraged, achievements, however small, can be acknowledged.  It is at this table that advice can be given, preferences and opinions are honored, worth is affirmed.  At the family dinner young and old alike see that he is not alone, that she is loved. 

And so we eat together.  We break bread.  Our Creator God said from the very beginning that it is not good for man to be alone.  No, it is not.  We know it in our hearts.  At the family meal we can feel it in our very souls.  We are not alone.

Is it any wonder, then, that God himself expressed his own desire to be in union with us, to love us, to be with us forever, in the breaking of the bread, his own Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity? The source and summit of the Christian life is itself a communal meal.  How God knows and loves us!!  He knows what we need.  Always.

This article first appeared at

Venial Sins-- Things to Consider In an Examination of Conscience

From In Conversation with God, Volume Two: Lent and Eastertide by Francis Fernandez:
     To face up to this fight against venial sin in a determined way one must recognize venial sin for what it is: an offence against God which delays and can prevent union with Him.  One must call it by its name, without excuses, without reducing the transcendental importance it has for a soul truly wishing to go to God.  Flashes of anger, promptings of envy or sensuality not immediately rejected: a desire to be the centre of attention or attraction: not being concerned with anyone but oneself or with anything but our own interest and losing the capacity for being interested in others: acts of piety performed out of routine, with little attention and even less love: inconsiderately rash and less than charitable judgements about others...these are not faults or mere imperfections, but venial sins.
I must say that this passage in today's reading gave me pause. Yes. How easily we justify or even ignore certain venial sins.  We tend to think of them as minor character flaws or weaknesses.  But venial sins are sins.  Earlier in the same passage Fernandez writes, "These venial sins make the soul insensitive to the inspirations and motions of the Holy Spirit.  They weaken the life of grace and make the virtues more difficult to practice, and incline one towards mortal sin."

Kind of puts things into perspective doesn't it.  We must be diligent.  May this Lent give all of us victory over sin, large and small, and may we never underestimate the effect venial sin is having in our life.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

March-- In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb

The temps here in Michigan bounced up a little bit in the first few days of March.  Some days were even slightly above 32.

But this morning we are back to the single digits edging up to the teens by the afternoon.

Since yesterday was warmer we did have a lot of melting of accumulated snow.  The sidewalks are mostly dry.  Love that.

But since we have maybe a foot or more on the grass what melted was mostly on the top surface.  When that wetness met today's cold temperatures we ended up with a glossy, icy sheen on top of all the snow.

If my children were small I know they would want to try sliding on this.  But you can see from the above photo, it won't hold much weight.

It's very beautiful though.

I love the variety of weather, and especially the variety of snow/ice conditions we get here in Michigan.  It's most pleasant in March because we know that Spring in all its glory is right around the corner. (Well, getting close to the corner, anyway.)

It has come to my attention recently that not everyone is familiar with the expression, "In like a lion, out like a lamb." Sadie Stein at Paris Review has written a nice explanation of the proverb.
“In like a lion, out like a lamb” has always seemed a straightforward enough proverb: when March starts, it’s still winter, and by the end of the month spring has begun. True, in many climates the weather hasn’t quite reached the lamb stage by the end of the month—it’s more like a surly cat, maybe, or one of those awful territorial honking geese. But we get the idea. I have seen the phrase referred to as an “eighteenth-century saying” in more than one unreliable Internet source, while Wikipedia calls it “an old Pennsylvania” saw.
You can read the rest of her post here.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Netanyahu's Speech-- My Summary and Opinion

I have to say that I waited with eagerness to see Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, address Congress.  His address was unusual, of course, because the invitation to speak to Congress had come from Speaker of the House John Boehner, without any coordination or even notification of the White House.

Such a move by Boehner would seem unusual and perhaps even inappropriate were it not for the fact that this administration has been very dismissing of Israel and Israel's concerns.  Sometimes the White House even seems antagonist toward our most important Middle Eastern ally.

The Speaker of the House has every right to invite someone to address Congress and there is no requirement that the White House approve or be involved in any way.  Given the climate of the Middle East right now and the stakes involved in the talks regarding Iran's nuclear capability, perhaps Boehner thought the American people would benefit from hearing the perspective of Israel, since our own media was not reporting it and our president seemed uninterested, at best. I applaud Beohner's decision.

Netanyahu began his address very graciously.  He thanked John Boehner and all of the other Congressional leaders, calling them by name as well as title. He greeted personally Harry Reid who had been in a recent accident, "It's good to see you back on your feet.  I guess it's true what they say, you can't keep a good man down."

He went on to say that he was humbled to speak to the most important legislative body in the world, the U.S. Congress, thanking both democrats and republicans "for your common support for Israel, year after year, decade after decade.."

"Because America and Israel, we share a common destiny, the destiny of promised lands that cherish freedom and offer hope.  Israel is grateful for the support of America's presidents, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama."

Netanyahu then said how Israel appreciates all that Barack Obama has done for Israel and cited a number of examples.

"Thank you, America," he said, "Thank you for everything you've done for Israel."

What a gracious and humble beginning, I thought.  Here is a true statesman.

Netanyahu then shifted to the topic of Iran.  He mentioned that Ayattollah Khamenei "tweets in English that Israel must be destroyed."

He went on, "The people of Iran are very talented people.  They're heirs to one of the world's great civilizations.  But in 1979, they were hijacked by religious zealots who imposed on them immediately a dark and brutal dictatorship." (So wise and intelligent to distinguish between the Iranian leaders and the Iranian people.)

This year, he said, Iran has a new Constitution in which the revolutionary guards are directed to fulfill the ideological mission of jihad.  America's founding promises life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, he explained, while Iran's pledges death, tyranny, and the pursuit of death.

Netanyahu then pointed out what much of the U.S. media passed over quite quickly.  Just last week Iran carried out a military exercise in which a mock U.S. aircraft carrier was blown up.  This during the negotiations regarding their nuclear capability.  (Did the administration think nothing of this??)

Then the prime minister listed a number of atrocities and attacks committed by Iran against Americans and described Iran's global terror network.  "We must all stand together to stop Iran's march of conquest, subjugation, and terror," he said giving numerous additional examples.

Then came what I thought was a very significant point and one that perhaps most Americans (myself included) did not understand.  Iran and ISIS are fighting for the same thing-- militant Islam "They just disagree among themselves who will be the ruler of that empire."

He went on, "So when it comes to Iran and ISIS, the enemy of your enemy is your enemy.... the greatest dangers facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons."

"...the deal now being negotiated..would all but guarantee that Iran gets those weapons, lots of them."

Netanyahu then explained the problems he has with the current deal on the table.  He said it gives two major concessions to Iran.  First, it leaves Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure with a short break-out time to a bomb. Yes, there will be inspections, "But here's the problem.  You see inspectors document violations, they don't stop them."  And Iran has repeatedly deceived inspectors.

Secondly, "...virtually all the restrictions on Iran's nuclear program will automatically expire in about a decade....And their Intercontinental Ballistic Missile program is not part of the deal, and so far, Iran refuses to even put it on the negotiating table."  This provides the mean to deliver nuclear weapons to any part of the world, including the U.S.

(Yes, you read that right.  Iran will have the ability to launch a nuclear missile to the U.S. The country that shouts "Death to America" will have the capability to attack us with nuclear weapons.)

Netanyahu did say that "If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, let it act like a normal country."  All restrictions on Iran's weaponry could be lifted if it would stop it's aggression against its neighbors in the Middle East, stop supporting terrorism around the world, and stop threatening to annihilate Israel.

(Is that so much to ask?  Really.)

He then introduced Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and said, "But I can guarantee you this, the days when the Jewish people remained passive in the face of genocidal enemies, those days are over."

"Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.  I know that America stands with Israel...You stand with Israel because you know that the story of Israel is not only the story of the Jewish people but of the human spirit that refuses again and again to succumb to history's horrors."

Netanyahu then pointed out the image of Moses on the wall and quoted Moses, "Be strong and resolute, neither fear nor dread them."

The prime minister received a number of well deserved standing ovations and many interruptions of applause.

I thought to myself that here was a real statesman, a true leader, a man who recognizes good and evil and has the courage to call others to stand up for the good.  Would that our own president possessed such qualities.