Monday, April 30, 2012

The Osteens' Night of Hope on a Sunday Afternoon in Washington, DC

The Night of Hope was a New Wave revival meeting that was held is a largely filled National's Park in Washington DC. Due to inclement weather, the event was rained out on Saturday night and held on a beautiful Sunday afternoon...

Joel Osteen, the scion of charismatic Lakewood Church founder John Osteen, has pastored the Houston non-denominational mega-church since 1999 and helped them acquire the former Compaq-center as their new worship space. So the large setting was not problematic but the rain was.

Osteen lifts spirits by combining elements of an evangelical tent revival with a squeeky clean rendition of a rock concert. Even the Osteen's entrance to the stage was televised and generated excitement among the gathered crowd.

READ MORE at the DCBarroco website

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Monday, April 23, 2012

Islamic Shotgun Weddings on Rise in Pakistan

Grandmother of Hindi women abducted for marriage
The Los Angeles Times remarkably reported a story about an alarming trend where young Hindi women are abducted in Pakistan and forced to convert to Islam and marry their warrior "wooers". The victim is taken to areas where Muslim overlords have extensive pastoral property where they wield great influence over law enforcement and the judiciary.

The pattern is that the young Hindi women is seized by the kith and kin of these feudal overlords and is taken to a mosque where she is greeted by the groom’s family which threaten her life and that of her family. When the threatened bride to be complies, she is brought to a courthouse for a Muslim judge to rubber stamp the forced conversion and the marriage. Often, the wedding party has an armed escort. Even if an unwilling bride to be balks or there are Hindi witnesses that object, it is a handful of dissenters against an armed crowd of hundreds for the groom. Little question as to which side prevails.

L-  Azra Fazal Pechuho
There have even been calls by Pakistani Muslims to check this practice. Azra Fazal Pechuho, he sister of President Asif Ali Zardari testified before Parliament that there is a growing number of Hindi women who are being taken and being held in madrassas where they are forcibly converted.

This sort of shotgun wedding is barbaric and deplorable. It seems like a fusion between tribal culture, power politics and aggressive abuse of sharia. Yet when writing about religion, the popular press is content to make hay over Georgetown Law co-ed who wanted the taxpayer to pick up the tab for her contraceptive needs instead of concerning itself about religious liberty.

h/t: Los Angeles Times

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Forcing Catholics Institutions Out of Charity Not Fine with US

The HHS final rule on qualified health plans imposes a Contraception Mandate that poses a poison pill for faithful Catholic and other institutions that believe that life begins at conception. Mark Rienzi, the Becket Fund For Religious Liberty attorney who represents Ave Maria University, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University and ETWN , is confident that the outcome in federal courts will come out the right way and protect religious liberty in America. However, if Rienzi’s optimism is misplaced, he believes that Catholics could end up engaging in civil disobedience against an unjust law.

The civil disobedience with religious liberty protestors will not be like the sit-ins of the civil rights movement. Instead, Rienzi anticipates institutions not paying for the contraception, sterilizations and abortifacients. This would lead to crippling fines which eventually would put the charitable and educational missions out of existence.

In a perverse way, such a shuttering of Catholic identity might be the aim of the Obama Administration. The Obama Administration budgetary proposal for FY2013 sought to limit the deductability of charitable contributions for those making over $250,000 a year, exactly the demographic which makes substantial gifts to non-profit causes. As for Catholic hospitals, they make up 15% of all bed-space in America and they are often the only provider in rural regions. If conscientious Christians cede the field due to the Contraception Mandate (or being fined out of existence), the federal government will dominate the health-care playing field and be a major step towards a single-payer system.

It is not fine to force charitable institutions from living their faith by penalizing them for not acquiescing. It may be time to recall the Man of All Seasons, St. Thomas More who was a martyr for not submitting to an unjust law proffered from English King Henry VIII, the secular power that be.

h/t: CNS News

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Academic Survey Measuring Belief in God

The University of Chicago conducted a worldwide survey on "Beliefs in God Across Time and Countries".  While the report found that in most countries around the world, there was a slow decline in the belief in God, they found that true believers could be found in higher percentages in developing and Catholic countries. 

In the Phillippines, polling revealed that 94% of the public had strong believers.  Other nations in the top five of true believers were the Chile at 79%, Israel at 65.5%, Poland at 62% and the United States at 60%. The United States was notable as having the highest belief rate for a predominately Protestant population.

The report observed that religious belief had slowly eroded since the 1950s.  Atheism and non belief was most prominent in Northern Europe and particuarly accute in what was East Germany at 13%

However, there were upticks in belief levels in the Russian Federation, Israel and Slovenia.  The report found that belief levels were higher in older participants.  The social scientists hypothesized that the increased levels were attributable to having some sense of their mortality rather than due to inculturation.

An obvious shortcoming of the survey is that non of the 30 nations that were polled were mostly Muslim.  Of course, it would be dangerous to openly declare oneself apostate in such situations.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Easter Baptism in Iraq

What a wonderful way to join Chrisendom. Hallalujah!

Reflections on Farrakhan's Alabama Eschatology

While recently speaking at Alabama A&M University (a traditionally black institute of higher education), Minister Louis Farrakhan offered some novel theological insight. Farrakhan contends that the people of Israel would listen to neither Elijah the Prophet nor Jesus of Nazareth because of the way they look. Farrakhan contends that "[Y]ou are not trained to accept wisdom from a black person no matter how wise that black man is... Jesus was a black man." In fact, the Minister Farrakhan goes further and postulates: If Elijah was at the door and he was black, you would call 911 and say there’s a n****r at the door, claiming he’s Elijah! Send the police!”

Farrakhan, as a spiritual leader of the Nation of Islam, believes that Jesus' submission to the Lord's will means that He was a Muslim. “Because Jesus said ‘Not My will, but Thy will.’ You know what we call that in Arabic? Islam. He was a Muslim.” Of course, a Muslim would not think that Issa was the Son of God or that his Crucifixion was a Sacramental Death for the remission of the world's sins.

While it is not surprising that a minister professing Islam would claim Jesus as a Muslim prophet, Farrakhan's obsession with race colors his world view and sounds confrontational instead of ecumenically oriented to serving others. Farrakhan's fervent voice in the wilderness echoes the klaxon calls from Reverend Jeremiah Wright's black liberation theology, which the pastor emeritus of Trinity United Church of Christ (where President Obama attended for twenty years on Chicago's South Side) inveighed against injustice which was charged against Caucasians.

Louis Farrakhan has often been at the edge of civil society with his race conscious jeremiads. But as we enter an era of racial tension and unrest, it is sad that no prominent black religious self-appointed leaders have spoken up against the inflammatory incitements. In fact, the Reverend Al Sharpton has used the Trayvon Martin tragedy to stoke the fires of race.

Martin Luther King observed. “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends” But ask Malcolm X what happens when you stray from the right way of the Nation of Islam.

Is that how we should live our lives in America? Chaffing from coercion from the state in how we practice our spiritual lives and cowering from bigoted bullies? The Easter Message is to “Be Not Afraid.”

After Cardinal Timothy Dolan (Catholic Archbishop of New York) was elevated to the College of Cardinals in February, he noted that they wear red because it is the color of martyrs, hence they should not be afraid to stand up for their faith to the point of suffering a martyr's death  . May it not come to that, but I hope that spiritual leaders will take their mission seriously and proclaim the gospel of the New Testament between God and man.   In this day and age, the good news  would be most welcomed.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

St. Faustina Kowalska on Love

Tales of Totalitarianism- Restricting Religious Liberty

GBTV showed a special featuring oral histories on how Communism affected ordinary citizen with their necks under the boot of the state.

A poignant segment of this show on Communism is how religious liberty can be restricted by an overbearing totalitarian irrelegious state.

We should not simply dismiss these tales as distant blasts from the past. Nor should it be laughed off as Sinclair Lewis' satire It Can't Happen Here.   As George Santayana wrote, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Friday, April 13, 2012

Lunacy in Luton

This compelling video features a young woman who returned to her hometown of Luton, England and she dares to dialogue with the "South Asians" exercising their free speech rights.  As it turns out, the Muslim protest was over the detention of the wife of the Jule-tide Jihadi from Stockholm in December, 2010.

The calls from the peaceful mob of"UK Go to Hell" and "British Police Go to Hell" expresses their outrage over a secular British government using their police power on a faithful Muslim.  The three telling exchanges was a woman in a niqab and a burka who tells the young British woman to put on clothing because she was "naked".  When the stunned Britsh woman retorted "I don't judge you", she was pointed told: "I am judging you" by the Muslim woman in black.  Finally, the native Luton woman spoke with Muslim men about politics.  She was told that Muslims would obey a Muslim government but that secular governments could go to Hell. 

Don't doubt the drive for dhimmitude.  Such suggestions of Sharia is not limited to the Muslim faithful but it is a holistic theopolitical viewpoint which does not tolerate religious pluralism.

h/t: Mark Shea, National Catholic Register

Enlightenment on Thomas Jefferson

As we celebrate Thomas Jefferson's 269th birthday (on the new styled calendar), this quote emphasizes two points about his  character.

Contemporary atheists are quick to discount the influence of religion on the founding of this nation by discounting Jefferson's skeptical faith.  The truth is that Jefferson was not irreligious.  Jefferson was a student of scripture, he attended services regularly and even served on the vestry of his Anglican Church and donated generously to Christian missionary works and causes.  Much is made about the Jefferson Bible, which excised miracles from scripture.   Well, it was an abridgment of the Gospels created in 1804 for missions to Indians.  Secularists quote his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Church advocating "the separation of church and state" like it was Gospel, but that reflected Jefferson's contention that freedom of religion would be strengthened by having government involvement.  Jefferson's notions of Deism may not comport with our understanding of Christianity, but he certainly had a fervent faith and was a friend to Christians.

The second point is about Jefferson's ardent advocacy for freedom.  From the natural law which shone when he penned the Declaration of Independence in 1776 to this quote, Jefferson believed in an individual's liberty.

Since American's education on history has been so poorly served of late, it is worth having some "Hysteria" for the Tom Jefferson Show.

Divine Texting

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Surity of the Scriptorium

While it is pure conjecture, the Good News may be aided by the good fortune of being composed at the advent of the codex, which made them easier to transport and preverve over scrolls.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

UK Must be PC on IPs

Adrian Smith, an 18 year veteran of the Trafford Council and Trafford Housing Trust (near Manchester, United Kingdom), was significantly demoted on his job for making moral comments on Facebook.

In October, Smith for daring to post on his own time on a private Facebook page that he thought that same sex “marriages” in churches was “an equality too far”.

These comments were brought to the attention of a supervisor. Subsequently, Smith was demoted from a £35,000 managerial post to a £21,000 position. The only reason that he was not fired outright was because of his long record of service.

The fracas over Adrian Smith’s Facebook posting raises some interesting issues...

READ MORE  at the DCBarroco website

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Scottish Cardinal Urges Faithful to Wear Their Crosses

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Archbishop of St. Andrews & Edinburgh
During his Easter homily, Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien urged Catholics to make the cross a more prominent thing in their lives by wearing crosses.

The Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh’s reflections on the “Triumph of the Cross” observed:

I hope that increasing numbers of Christians adopt the practice of wearing a cross in a simple and discreet way as a symbol of their beliefs. Easter provides the ideal time to remind ourselves of the centrality of the cross in our Christian faith.

Cardinal O’Brien contends that the sign of the cross is not a morbid way of looking back but acknowledging the path set out for us by Christ Himself.

Although O’Brien did not reference it in his homily, the theme of proudly wearing our cross is influenced by the cases before the European Court of Human Rights about two British women who were dismissed from their jobs by wearing cross pendants while at work.

Cardinal O’Brien’s exhortation that the faithful take up their crosses and wear them is a stark contrast to the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who urged Anglicans to attend church on Sundays, even if they are “a bit vague” about religion. As Williams celebrated his final Easter as the spiritual head of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury revealed that he does not lose any sleep about cultural Christians who just attend at Easter and Christmas. Williams hopes that the Christian story will wash over them but that there would not be a doctrinal examination.

It would not be surprising if such pusilanimous expressions of faith from Archbishop of Canterbury Williams inspires another wave of orthodox Anglicans joining the “Our Lady of Walsingham” Ordinariate in England that Pope Benedict XVI created in his 2009 Motu Proprio “Anglicanorum Coetibus”.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Maronite Easter Vigil

At Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church in Shepherd's Park (Washington, DC)  the Easter Vigil begins at midnight.

The interior of the church reflects the austere monastic sensibilities of St. Maron, the 5th Century Lebanese monk  who shaped this Syriac-Antiochian rite Catholic Church.

Prior to the accent lights being turned on, the design was stark and aesthetically challenging for me.  Even with the lights on, the altar is surprisingly barren for the most important feast of the liturgical year for Christians.  There were a few lillies at the foot of the main altar and there was a floral display on the East Apse which also served as the Empty Tomb for the Easter Vigil.

Note the tree stump at the foot of the altar, that is used as a stand for the veneration of the Cross.  Perhaps it harkens back to the Cedars of Lebanon, which is an important symbol amongst Maronite Catholics.

This is the Clergy approaching the altar for the beginning of the Qurbono (Divine Liturgy).  Note the Chorbishop in the center who's vestment has a cross with the Cedar of Lebanon.

The Liturgy was conducted in Syriac as well as English.  The hymns that were sung were in Aramaic which was impossible for me to read.  Aramaic was Jesus' native tongue so it sounded like what  the followers of "The Way" would have sung in the 1st Century A.D.

There were some unusual aspects of this Easter Vigil.  There was incense but no use of Holy Water or candles.  The Maronite Church tends to baptize their Catachumens on the Feast of the Epiphany in January.  Candles are not as import of an symbol at the Easter Vigil, as the Maronite Church breaks fast on noon of Great Saturday during the simple "Awaited Light" ceremony.  This may explain why there is not pent up anticipation for the Easter Vigil as observed amongst the Maronites.

It was remarkable how much this Liturgy celebrating the Resurrection emphasized the Glorious Cross.  The Chorbishop made prayers on the four corners of the altar with the processional cross, as if to proclaim the hope of the resurrection to all the Earth.  The faithful were invited to venerate the Glorified Cross as they received Communion.

Another interesting Easter feature of this vigil Qurbono was the emphasis on the Empty Tomb.  As the faithful departed from the Divine Liturgy, they were given flowers from the Empty Tomb as well as an Easter Egg.

Despite the alternating languages during the Liturgy, it was not challenging to follow.  The order of the Liturgy is different, as the Prayers of the Faithful are offered in the middle of the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  In addition, the sign of peace is passed along from the altar to the congregation by youthful altar servers.

For me, the Maronite Qurbono was the most exotic of my Holy Week experiences.  Unfortunately, I found  the Easter Vigil at Our Lady of Lebanon to be anti-climatic and personally unsatisfying.  That being said, I was intrigued by proclaiming the glory of the cross to the four corners of the Earth. In addition, I was touched by the post resurrection highlighting of the Empty Tomb as well as receiving the Easter souvenirs.

Star Wars Easter Eggs

But does the Egg-pire strike back (sic.)?  Sorry, but I had to make that wise crack!

Off the Mark Peanuts Easter Basket

It almost seems like the Easter Beagle had something off the mark at Woodstock (sic). 

Christ Has Risen!

As we celebrate the mystery of the empty tomb of our Savior Jesus the Christ, it is a time to celebrate his resurrection from the dead.

Many Christian cultures, particularly in the Eastern churches, acknowledge this miraculous gift from God with the greeting "Christ has risen! -Indeed, He is Risen!"

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sound the Strepitus

An Obituary and Eulogistic Meditation of Yeshua bar Yahosef bar Yaqub

The Strepitus is the sudden loud clatter that symbolizes how the Earth convulsed at the physical death of the only begotten Son of our Lord.   In Matthew 27:46-53, when Christ gave up His spirit on the Crucifix, there was a tumultuous earthquake.   It is the jarring closing of a Tenebae Service, which is done in preparation for the Paschal Triduum.

Some churches have the Tenebrae on Spy Wednesday.  Others choose to extinguish the lights after celebrating the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday or even Great and Holy Friday.  Regardless of the time, it is a ritual that reminds us of how the Light of the World was briefly extinguished to fulfill scripture as an expiation for mankind’s sinfulness.

While it is difficult to watch Mel Gibson’s cinematic masterpiece The Passion of the Christ (2004) for its depiction of the savage brutality inflicted by the Roman overlords on a political prisoner who challenged the religious practices and expectations of the Jewish hierachy.   The teardrop from heaven is incredibly moving.

When Salvador Dali painted Christ of Saint John of the Cross (1951), Jesus was depicted without wounds on a Cross that floated above the Earth. Dali listened to the color of his dream that indicated that depicting the nails, blood and crown of thorns would mar the image.  Dali wanted the emphasize the Trinity with the positioning of Jesus hanging on the Cross to represent the nucleus of the atom.  Clearly, the cross hovering over the Earth shows the cosmic significance of the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. In a modern manner, Dali celebrates Eastern Christian Church's emphasis mystagogy of Jesus' Divine Sacrifice by death on the cross.

But during a Tenebrae service, the faithful were reminded that unlike even in classical depictions of Golgatha (the place of the skull) where Jesus was crucified, the crosses of Calvary were not necessarily hung that high in the air.  Since those being executed had their feet nailed bound to prevent them from moving as they slowly suffocated on their crosses, they may have been only a couple of feet above the ground.

Such crosses would serve the Roman overlords as tangible examples of what happens to brigands, rabble rousers and revolutionaries. The low positioning would allow most passers-by to look into the eyes of the executed. This makes the taunts from the crowd and Jesus’ words of forgiveness all the more remarkable.

It is easy to gloss over how the expiation of mans’ sins required a blood sacrifice to seal the New Covenant. By cognitively sounding the Strepitus over Christ's crucifixion, we may "Ecce homo".

While some ears may find it as painful as the Stepitus, the Christ’s Passion has been told by Glenn Beck using a motif of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon  (1973).  Whether we use pop parables, cinematic accounts, scriptural studies, communal worship or prayerful personal reflections, it is worthy to reflect on how God's only begotten Son chose to be the suffering servant to right the relationship between God and mankind.

Spring at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington DC

Entrance of the Franciscan Monastery, Mt. St. Sepulchre,  Washington, DC

St. Francis in the Garden Statue, Franciscan Monastery, Mt. St. Sepulchre, Washinton, DC

Franciscan Monastery (rear), Mt. St. Sepulchre, Washington, DC

Marian Statue, Franciscan Monastery, Mt. St. Sepulchre, Washington, DC

Altar of St. Anthony of Padua, Franciscan Monastery, Mt. St. Sepulchre, Washington, DC

Baldaccino, Franciscan Monastery, Mt. St. Sepulchre, Washington, DC

St. John of the Cross on Adversity

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Last Supper Art or Outrage?

The Diocese of Würburg, Germany will permanently display a portrayal of the Last Supper by Henning von Glerken in its Cathedral Museum. This contemporary homage to Da Vinci’s Last Supper depicts six women and two children among the dozen apostles. Three adults and all the children are completely naked and one figure has a bare torso. The place for the Savior is not shown, but when visitors sit on a bench, their face is projected on the wall in the place of the Christ.

The director of the art museum, Fr. Jürgen Lenssen, defends the naked figures as being a correct expression of the “wounds of people”. Lenssen praised von Glerken’s triptych as it symbolizes different situations of life. According to Lenssen, “[T]he last supper is anywhere a celebration of life takes place.”

News reports have spuriously claimed that von Glerken’s work received the full approval of Pope Benedict XVI, but if so, what was the Vatican thinking.

Regardless of a papal indult, von Glerken’s opus does raise aesthetic and theological questions. Is this artwork or obscenity? Should the Diocese of Würburg be displaying this work? Is the Last Supper anywhere that a “celebration of life” takes place? How does von Gleken’s Last Supper compare vis-à-vis Leondardo da Vinci’s masterpiece? What does von Gleken’s Last Supper mean to you?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Faith

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Discovering New Life

Agonizing Ecclesial Re-Appraisals Between the Beltways

Two parishes in the Washington, DC Metro Area need to make agonizing reappraisals about their parishes.  Their struggles epitomize challenges of keeping the faith along with what church means during these turbulent times.

The historic Falls Church (Anglican) in Northern Virginia lost its six year battle with the Episcopal Church of the United States after it broke away from the denomination over the ordination of openly gay and incelebate bishops and the blessing of same sex unions. Now the large and vibrant Anglican faith community will lose rights to their church building, but not their congregation nor their steadfast faith.

In the Nation’s Capitol, St. Aloysius Catholic Church needs to choose how the congregation wants to reorganize as the Society of Jesus withdraws from leading the parish after 153 years.

Both parishes have to discern what is essential to the practice of their faith, how their faith is best formed and what sacrifices must be endured to achieve that end.

READ MORE at the DCBarroco website

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn on Raison d'etre

Monday, April 2, 2012

John Adams on Liberty and Christianity

Should We Be Cross?

The European Union Court on Human Rights is considering two cases of British Christian women who were prohibited from wearing crosses while at work. The British government is arguing that since the women in question had the right to quit their job and move elsewhere that it is not a violation of their human rights.

Adding to this argument, Church of England Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams postulated that for many people wearing a cross is just “religious decoration” and not an essential part of Christianity. While speaking at a church in Rome where Williams was meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, the Archbishop of Canterbury noted that the cross had been stripped of its meaning as part of the tendency to manufacture religion.

Should the faithful be cross with  banning wearing the cross? Should the public appreciate these efforts as a public railing against phony religiosity, or as freedom of religion from the public square? Perhaps it is an example of creeping dhimmitude where political correctness excoriates Christianity but effectively is Sharia compliant.