Jesus Goes to Prepare a Place for Us

In my Father’s house there are many mansions. I go now to prepare a place a place for you. I will come again to take you to myself, that where I am, you may be also. 

Why do you stand staring up into heaven. This Jesus you saw being taken up from you will come back …

 

Here’s hoping you have a happy and blessed Feast of the Ascension!

 

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Pope Will Canonize 800 Martyrs of the Ottoman Wars

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Cathedral of Otranto. The bones skulls of the martyrs were made into a mosaic behind the altar.

 Pope Francis will canonize 800 martyrs this Sunday. The 800 martyrs were killed at the hands of Ottoman soldiers in Otranto, in Southern Italy in 1480 for refusing to convert to Islam. 

Pope Benedict XVI recognized them as martyrs “killed out of hatred for the faith” in 2007. According to an article in the Telegraph, the Archbishop of Otranto was cut to pieces with a scimitar before the 800 were murdered. 

Hagia sophia

The Hagia Sophia; largest Christian church in the world before the fall of Constantinople on May 29, 1453. It was converted to a mosque, and is now a museum. There is discussion about turning it back into a mosque. 

The Turks were sent to capture Rome and thus complete what they had begun in with the sack of Constantinope. When his fleet landed in Oranto, the citizens held out, despite a siege and Rome did not fall. 

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What we owe these martyrs. Rome did not fall. 

Various media reports seem to want to make a political statement out of what is a religious ceremony. I do think that it’s important for Christians to insist on a more balanced and accurate reporting of such events as the Crusades. But it is equally important that we remember those who died rather than turn their backs on Jesus.

From CatholicHerald.co.uk:

Pope Francis is preparing to canonise an estimated 800 Italian laymen killed by Ottoman soldiers in the 15th century. The canonisation service will be on May 12 in St Peter’s Square and it will be the first carried out by the Pontiff since he was elected in early March.

The killing of the martyrs by Ottoman troops, who launched a weeks-long siege of Otranto, a small port town at the most eastern tip of southern Italy, took place in 1480.

When Otranto residents refused to surrender to the Ottoman army, the soldiers were ordered to massacre all males over the age of 15. Many were ordered to convert to Islam or die, but Blessed Antonio Primaldo, a tailor, spoke on the prisoners’ behalf. “We believe in Jesus Christ, Son of God, and for Jesus Christ we are ready to die,” he said, according to Blessed John Paul II, who visited Otranto in 1980 for the 500th anniversary of the martyrs’ deaths.

Primaldo inspired all the other townspeople to take courage, the late Pope said, and to say: “We will all die for Jesus Christ; we willingly die so as to not renounce his holy faith.” There were not “deluded” or “outdated,” Blessed John Paul continued, but “authentic, strong, decisive, consistent men” who loved their city, their families and their faith. (Read the rest here.) 

 

 

Tyndale Publisher Wins Again on HHS Mandate

Tyndale Publishers won by default at the Appellate Court level on a case against the HHS Mandate  Friday. The victory was automatic when the Obama Administration withdrew its appeal of an ruling by a lower court.

The publisher, which specializes in publishing Bibles, won a preliminary injunction in November from a lower court. The injunction prevented the government from enforcing the HHS Mandate against Tyndale, at least until the Supreme Court decides how to rule on the issue. The Obama Administration filed an appeal to this decision, which it withdrew on Friday, May 3.

The HHS Mandate forces religious businesses such as Tyndale pay for insurance coverage of abortifacient drugs. 

Alliance Defending Freedom, which is a legal group, has made statements that the reason the Obama Administration withdrew its appeal is that “The government dismissed its appeal because it knows how ridiculous it sounds arguing that a Bible publisher isn’t religious enough to qualify as a religious employer.”

Perhaps the person who said this has inside knowledge as to what the administration’s motives were for withdrawing the appeal. I am guessing that the administration thought they were going to lose the appeal, but I don’t know. 

Tyndale, functions as a Christian organization. It’s states that one of its “corporate goals is to honor God.” It holds weekly chapel service for employees, opens business meetings with prayer, and sends employees on Christian missions projects that are paid for by the company. Tyndale’s trustees must affirm a statement of faith says “there is one God, eternally existent in three persons.”

I want to emphasize that, while this victory is a good thing, it is not final. All roads in this case lead to the Supreme Court and what it decides.

From the Baptist Press:

WASHINGTON (BP) — A leading Bible publisher won another court victory against the Obama administration’s abortion/contraceptive mandate Friday (May 3), thanks in part to the administration’s own partial retreat in the case.

The publisher, Tyndale House, had won a preliminary injunction in November from a lower court that prevented the government from enforcing the mandate, which forces businesses such as Tyndale to cover contraceptives that can cause chemical abortions. The drugs often are called “emergency contraceptives” and can act after conception and implantation, and come under brand names such as Plan B and ella.

The administration appealed that injunction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, but eventually asked that the appeal be dismissed. The three justices on Friday granted the administration’s request and dismissed it.

The injunction will remain in place while the case itself, Tyndale House Publishers v. Sebelius, moves forward. The lower court judge, Reggie B. Walton, had said in his November injunction ruling that Tyndale likely would win the overall case.

The legal group Alliance Defending Freedom says the government’s desire to withdraw its own appeal is a good sign for religious liberty. ADF is representing Tyndale.

“Bible publishers should be free to do business according to the book that they publish,” said ADF senior legal counsel Matt Bowman. “The government dismissed its appeal because it knows how ridiculous it sounds arguing that a Bible publisher isn’t religious enough to qualify as a religious employer. For the government to say that a Bible publisher isn’t religious is outrageous, and now the Obama administration has had to retreat in court.” (Read the rest here.)

Do God and His Church Hate Women?

“The reason why any free, independent woman would call herself a Christian is beyond me.”

This thought came from a blog that I read yesterday. It’s a small personal blog, but the sentiment it expresses is passed around among unbelievers like a toke at an dorm party from the 1960s. That makes it worth talking about.

Does God tell Christian women, as this author proclaims, to “shut the h— up?”

Are Christian women downtrodden, silenced people who are not allowed to speak up about the things that matter to us?

While I can’t speak for every Christian woman in every denomination in all the world, I am a rather public member of the largest Christian denomination on this Earth. You may have noticed that nobody’s silenced me. 

In fact, I can honestly say that nobody wearing a collar has ever tried to silence me. That is not to say that the collar-wearers in my life don’t get perturbed by me and disagree with me from time to time. But silence me? Nope. Nobody has tried. Not once. Never.

If they did, it wouldn’t do them a lot of good. You can convince me that I’m wrong. It’s not easy, but it has been done. But you can’t just yell at me and tell me to shut up and get me to change my opinion. It won’t/doesn’t/hasn’t ever worked.

I would like to remind the readers of this last paragraph that I have been a woman for decades now. Before that, I was a little girl, and before that, I was a baby girl. My female credentials are undisputed. 

I have definitely had people try to silence me in the course of all these years of living, but not once has anyone wearing a collar been the attempted silencer. In fact, a good number of the people trying to get me to shut up have been other women who were mad as a nest of proverbial hornets at me for defending the unborn.

From what I’ve read, sexism in atheist circles is rife. It is also of a particularly vicious type.

Those who try to attack Christianity for its supposed mistreatment of women always trot out a series of Bible verses written by St Paul that truly are used against women in some churches. Unbelievers attempt to use this as “proof” that God wants women to be silenced. They ignore Deborah, who judged the tribes of Israel and was basically their commander in chief during a successful military engagement. They don’t mention Our Lady who asked the Lord Himself to help out at the wedding at Cana and then ignored Him when he demurred and … He obeyed her.

I assume that those who bandy Scripture about to “prove” that God “hates women” are operating more from ignorance than anything else. They are unaware of Church teaching on the full dignity of women, unlearned about the many women saints, some of whom, such as St Catharine of Siena, were downright salty in their criticisms of the male hierarchy.

St Catharine was exercising the great moral courage of women when she did this, and by doing it, she was following the Lord. It’s no accident that the Church regards this outspoken woman as a Doctor of the Church. It’s a direct function of her refusal to be silent when speaking out was the moral and Christian thing to do.

Catholic women are not battered, silenced and ignored. We may not be priests, but we are movers and shakers in the world at large, as well as our homes, and yes, in the Church as well. I have never encountered resistance from any of the bishops I’ve dealt with when I asked them for support in the fight to end violence against and degradation of women. In fact, the strongest supporters of legislation to provide protections for women have been officials in the Catholic Church.

I am not claiming that everything is golden for women throughout all the Christian world. Sin is everywhere in this fallen world, including, sadly, the church. I have personally witnessed a congregation that allowed itself to be drug into a vote on whether or not a rape victim should be allowed to remain part of that congregation. This was not a Catholic parish. It was an independent and quite small Protestant congregation.

Sin against women does exist in churches and among Christians. But it is not of God, and it is not the policy or the universal practice of Christians. Sins against women are condemned, and rightfully so, by the Catholic Church. The teachings of Blessed John Paul II are a case in point.

No woman has to be afraid that converting to the Catholic Church will deprive her of the freedom to exercise her individual voice on behalf of women’s rights. I have found that rather than silencing me, the Church has supported me in my feminist work. I do not feel diminished as a human being because I am both a woman and a Christian. I feel empowered by it. 

I have prayed, studied and thought about this a lot. I believe with my whole heart that when I stand up to fight against the degradation or limitation of women, I am speaking from the heart of the Gospels and with the full support of Catholic teaching. I do not doubt that my angels stand beside me and the Holy Spirit is working through me when I do these things.

Far from coercing me to sit down and shut up, the Church has taught me the meaning of fearless advocacy for justice of all people, including and most especially women. 

What it Means to be Catholic

What does it mean to be Catholic? This video gives some thoughtful answers to that question.

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Missionary Sister Talks about Christians in the Holy Land

I have friends who spent a long time in Papua New Guinea, working as missionaries for Wycliffe Bible Translators.

It is true that God calls special people for this work. They don’t look different than the rest of us. The differences are inside, but they are profound.

In this video, a missionary sister in the Holy Land talks about the challenges Christians who live there must face.

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Member of Original STURP Team Talks about the Shroud of Turin


Believers are, for the most part, quite equitable about whether or not the Shroud of Turin is the burial shroud of Christ.

Atheists, on the other hand, tend to get worked up about it. They seem almost to fear it. I am guessing that this is because they’ve got so much ego invested in their non-belief that the thought that some artifact might rattle that a bit is scary to them.

The first time I ever heard of the Shroud was when I came across a book written by a member of the scientific team which investigated it in 1978. This group is often referred to as STURP Team. The acronym stands for Shroud of Turin Research Project.

The video below is a brief reflection by one of the team members on how the investigation and its findings affected him.

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Christian Bashing: Are There Any Limits?

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Michael Weinstein, Esq, the Founder and President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, is living proof that anyone with a word processor can call themselves a civil rights activist.

He’s also living proof that you can say just about any Christian-bashing thing you want and get away with it. 

I ask you, what would happen if you substituted “Jew,” or “black,” or “Muslim” or just about any other group of people for Christian in this little diatribe:

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me tell you of monsters and monstrous wrongs. And let me tell you what these bloody monsters thrive on.

I founded the civil rights fighting organization the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) to do one thing: fight those monsters who would tear down the Constitutionally-mandated wall separating church and state in the technologically most lethal entity ever created by humankind, the U.S. military.

Today, we face incredibly well-funded gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nation’s armed forces. Oh my, my, my, how “Papa’s got a brand new bag.”

What’s Papa’s new tactic? You’re gonna just love this! These days, when ANYone attempts to bravely stand up against virulent religious oppression, these monstrosities cry out alligator tears in overflowing torrents and scream that it is, in fact, THEY who are the dispossessed, bereft and oppressed. C’mon, really, you pitiable unconstitutional carpetbaggers? It would be like the utter folly of 1960′s-era southern bigots howling like stuck pigs in protest that Rosa Parks’ civil rights activism is “abusing” them by destroying and disenfranchising their rights to sit in the front seat of buses in Montgomery, Alabama. Please, I beseech you! Let us call these ignoble actions what they are: the senseless and cowardly squallings of human monsters.

Queasy with the bright and promising lights of the cultural realities of the present day, those evil, fundamentalist Christian creatures and their spiritual heirs have taken refuge behind flimsy, well-worn, gauze-like euphemistic facades such as “family values” and “religious liberty.” These bandits coagulate their stenchful substances in organizations such as the American Family Association  (AFA), the ultra-fundamentalist Family Research Council (FRC), and the Chaplains Alliance for Religious Liberty(CARL). The basis of their ruinous unity is the bane of human existence and progress: horrific hatred and blinding bigotry. However, when the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and others correctly characterize them as “hate groups,” they all too predictably raise a deafening hue and disingenuously bellow mournfully like the world class cowards they are. (Read the rest here.)

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These lovely words did not come from some seldom-read little blog run by a nut and his pals. They were right up front on Huffington Post, with its huge circulation. 

I ask again: If the group which is the object of all this hatred was any other than Christians, what would the reaction be? But since it is about Christians, I ask you to notice the deafening silence. 

When it comes to discrimination and persecution, speech precedes action. Talking about people like this wears away the resistance to thinking about them in this manner. Thinking about them this way wears away the resistance to legal discrimination and ultimately, violent persecution. 

Zeke Pipher, who blogs at Man on the Run, has written an excellent article on Mr Weinstein’s Christian-bashing rant. You can find it here.

My question: How far does this have to go before Christians wake up, stand up, and say, Enough! 

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Pope Francis: Go Against the Tide and Change the World

It is called the Great Commission.

Jesus told His disciples:

“Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands that I have given you. And be sure of this, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”

Pope Francis echoed a version of that when he told young people to “go against the tide and change the world.” That is the specific business of all Christians, everywhere. The reason I am writing this blog is to do my small part to equip and encourage Christians to do exactly that.

We are not meant to just save our own little selves. We are here in this life for a purpose, and a core part of that purpose — which is the vocation of every Christian — is to witness to the Gospels with our lives. That means, by definition, that we must go against the tide.

Jesus Christ was not and is not just another man. He was and is and always will be, to paraphrase St Thomas, “our Lord and our God.”

Christianity is not a philosophy. It is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

The only way Christians can change the world is by going against the tide. Joshua told the Israelites, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” That challenge is repeated to each succeeding generation.

What is your answer?

From the Vatican YouTube Feed:

Published on Apr 28, 2013

“Build on high ideals, on the big things. We Christians are not chosen by the Lord for small little things, always go above and beyond, to the big things. Those were the Pope’s words to 70,000 young people from all over the world, gathered in St Peter’s Square on the occasion of the celebration of Mass with the Rite of Confirmation. The event, organized as part of the Year of Faith, saw Pope Francis, confer the Sacrament of Confirmation on 44 young people. To them and to all those present, the Pope asked him to go against the tide and change the world with daily gestures of love, despite the difficulties, armed with the courage that the Lord gives us. “There are no troubles, misunderstandings that we …

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Nuns and Sisters: To Inhabit the Habit, or Not?

TheBellsofStMarys

The old-fashioned habit that was worn by women religious for several hundred years is a romantic garb.

It is, in its own way, more high fashion than anything coming out of Paris, Italy or New York today. It harkens back to the days when Europe was going through a prolonged cold streak, when buildings where the common folk lived went mostly unheated.The habit began as the fashion of the day and, as time moved onward and the fashions of the days changed, it became an icon of religious identity for the women who wore it and those who saw them.

The habit meant something rather grand, speaking as it did of the mysteries of the sealed-off world of the convent and lives lived according to vows of lifetime commitment to Christ and His Church. The habit, when worn by Ingrid Bergman or Audrey Hepburn, was not only living religious icon, and high fashion; it was high Hollywood, as well. 

Nun s story

No wonder the laity longs to see its return and many young girls like to wear it. But given that it is bound to be a rather uncomfortable and hot dress for today’s climate and an altogether unwieldy one for much of today’s work, no wonder so many other nuns were only too happy to shed it.

Fifty years on in this experiment of habit-less nuns and sisters, the question remains: To inhabit the habit, or not? Should nuns and sisters wear this garb as it always has been, or should they wear a modified version of it, or, should they abandon it altogether?

I am not a nun or a sister. I don’t, as we say here in Oklahoma, have a dog in this fight. 

What I want from sisters and nuns is the same thing I want from priests: Authenticity of purpose and fidelity to Jesus. 

I do think that it serves an important purpose for God’s vowed ones to be identifiable in public. Priests wear the collar. But they don’t wear it on the basketball court or the swimming pool. They take it off to go out for dinner with their friends and family. 

Nuns playing basketball

From what I’ve seen, sisters and nuns try to wear their habits at all times, even when they are engaged in physical enterprises which make it clumsy or even dangerous. I think that is kind of extreme. 

Maybe the question should be more along the lines of what should nuns who are active in the world wear for a habit, rather than if they should dress like civilians. As I said, this isn’t my fight. The only reason I’m writing about it is because I see a crying need for sisters who will engage in ministries such as human trafficking, prostitution, and other crimes of violence against women. 

The truth is, many of the women who escape from these things are unable to relate to any man in a healthy way, and that includes priests. They are deeply wounded, maimed even, on a spiritual and emotional level. They need people of God to work with them, and it would be very helpful if at least some of these people had the authority of religious vows. 

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It can’t be men; not in the early stages. It has to be women. That, to me, means sisters. The reason I bring up the habit is that I can see that a full-bore, head-to-toe habit might be a barrier between a sister and the people they are ministering to. Victims of this kind of terrible violence have enough survival barriers they’ve created inside themselves without adding more with something like the clothing you wear. 

To me — and I’m going to say for the third time that I’m out of my depth here — but to me the question about whether or not to wear a habit should revolve around what purpose it serves. I think women religious should wear something that is uniform to their calling and that distinguishes them from the laity. But I also think that transporting middle ages fashion to the 21st century may not always be the best way to go. 

I’m not saying it’s wrong to wear this type of habit. It’s fine. But for certain kinds of ministry, it would interfere with the sister’s ability to minister. On the other hand, dressing like just anybody who walked in off the street would hamper that ministry, as well.

I mentioned the collar and black and white clothes that priests wear because I think they are a good solution. It is a distinctive and uniform look that anyone who sees it recognizes as clerical garb. At the same time, it does not inhibit a priest’s ability to walk, run, sit or drive a car. Priests even wear short-sleeved shirts in summer, which seems kinder than wearing a full habit to me. 

Priests also take their clericals off when they want to play golf or go jogging. They even take them off for private social occasions. 

Why can’t sisters and nuns exercise the same common sense in their clothing? 

I’ve read that the orders which use the full habit are growing while those that don’t wear a habit are declining. I don’t know if that has to do with the habit or with the spiritual practices and mission of these orders or what. I would like to think that young women are joining religious orders for much more important reasons that what habit they wear. 

220px Sisters Daughters of Mary Roman Catholic Singing

As I said, my interest in this comes from what I see as a crying need to have women religious in certain ministries. The lack of women religious to help in the fight against violence against women is a sadness to me. I know that they could make a profound difference for the good, but there are not women religious to do this work, at least none that I know of. 

This is a rambling post that goes off in several directions and doesn’t come around to any conclusion. That’s because I’m thinking this through as I type. 

What do you think about all this? 

Also, do you know of an order of sisters who might be interested in the kind of work I’m talking about? 

The Church needs nuns and sisters. It has to have them to do the work of evangelization that it has set for itself. 


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