Friday, May 30, 2014

Quote of the Day

"We must tell the truth: Christian life is not just one big party. Not at all! We cry, we cry so many times: when we are sick; when we have a problem with our son, in the family, with our daughter, or wife, or husband; when we see that our salary does not reach the end of the month and we have a sick child; when we see that we cannot pay the mortgage on the house and we must somehow survive ... So many problems, we have so many. But Jesus tells us: 'Do not be afraid!' 'Yes, you will be sad, cry and people will even rejoice, the people who are against you.'...

"Be courageous in suffering and remember that after, the Lord will come; after, joy will come, after the dark comes the sun. May the Lord give us all this joy in hope. And the sign that we have this joy in hope is peace. How many sick, who are at the end of life, in pain, have that peace of soul.

“This is the seed of joy, this is the joy of hope and peace. Do you have peace of soul in times of darkness, in times of trouble, in times of persecution, when everyone else rejoices at your suffering? Do you have peace? If you have peace, you have the seed of joy that will come later.”

--Pope Francis

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Quote of the Day

“Let us receive the special grace of this moment. We pause in reverent silence before this empty tomb in order to rediscover the grandeur of our Christian vocation: we are men and women of resurrection, and not of death. From this place we learn how to live our lives, the trials of our Churches and of the whole world, in the light of Easter morning. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the basis of our hope! Let us not deprive the world of the joyful message of the resurrection! And let us not be deaf to the powerful summons to unity which rings out from this very place, in the words of the One who, risen from the dead, calls all of us 'my brothers.'"

--Pope Francis, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem, May 25, 2014

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Reflection for Memorial Day

"No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." --John 15:13

Every year on Memorial Day, we Americans take a break from our normal work routine to gratefully remember and honor all those men and women who have given their lives in military service to our country--those who have died defending our freedom. This annual holiday offers an opportunity to reflect on the true meaning of freedom, as our nation's great Founders understood this term.

Today we often think of freedom as the self-endowed, absolute and inviolable ability to do whatever we want to do, with no regard for an objective moral law. But this is an erroneous conception of freedom which is detached from any responsibility to God and to our fellow human beings, and if we all put it into practice it would result in social chaos and anarchy. By contrast, freedom properly understood is the ability to do what we ought to do--to choose good and reject evil, to live by the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Christ. Moreover, true freedom is a gift from our Creator, and it sets certain basic limits on human behavior for our own good. As Bill Donohue has clearly pointed out in his excellent book Why Catholicism Matters, our nation's Founders believed in "ordered liberty," that is, freedom to do the right thing in accordance with "the laws of nature and of nature's God."

We need to get back to this concept of ordered liberty anchored firmly in the objective and unchanging natural law established by our Creator. It is this concept and its implementation that has made us a great nation. Only if we understand and use our freedom properly will we return to greatness as a nation.

"Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen."

So Much for the "May Camelopardalids"... least from my extremely limited perspective as a lone amateur astronomer who observed the night sky from about 8:45 PM to a little past 11 PM Friday evening from my home in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Perusing my emails early Friday evening, I read an article from Astronomy magazine about a brand-new meteor shower predicted to occur that very night, so I jumped at the chance to witness it for myself. The new shower has been nicknamed the "May Camelopardalids" because the meteors would appear to radiate from a point in the northern sky in the large but faint constellation Camelopardalis the Giraffe (I can identify quite a number of the constellations, but haven't learned this one yet). The shower was caused by our planet Earth crossing through a stream of dust particles along the orbit of an obscure comet, 209P/LINEAR. The article predicted rates of anywhere between 100 and 400 meteors per hour in the early morning hours, which would have put it in a class by itself since the year's traditionally best meteor shower is the Geminids in December, which produce up to 120 meteors per hour under excellent conditions. So despite partly cloudy skies, I headed out to see if I could get at least a little slice of this spectacular show, keeping watch on the northern sky. However, I only saw two meteors radiate from the expected location, one at 10:18 PM EDT and the other at 10:23 PM.

Going to bed around midnight, I wondered what I would be missing in the early morning peak of the show. Apparently I didn't miss much, as other observers recorded just a handful of meteors early Saturday morning. See, for example, this image taken on the northern shore of Lake Erie from NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day website (note that the long bright streak across this image is not a meteor but the International Space Station passing through the field of view). So the expected show failed to materialize. But at least the astronomy professionals were correct that we would see a new shower, because we did. We mustn't be too hard on them for being so far off on the numbers, because even annually recurring meteor showers are notoriously fickle and hard to predict. They can be dazzling one year and boring the next, even if sky conditions are similar. More often, the opposite happens--an unusual outburst will occur entirely unpredicted, and only those who happened to be observing will see it. A good reason to observe on a regular basis, because you never know when you might be treated to something special.

So much for the "May Camelopardalids," at least for this year. Only time will tell whether this will develop into a major shower or sink into obscurity alongside the South Taurids and the Ursids. Despite the lackluster performance from this new meteor shower, however, I enjoyed looking at the stars and planets Friday evening. God's creation is magnificent and communicates to us His awesome power, glory, wisdom and intelligence, and above all His infinite love for us human beings, the masterpiece of His creative work, regardless of the occasion or time of year.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Quote of the Day

"In every human situation, marked by frailty, sin and death, the Good News is no mere matter of words, but a testimony to unconditional and faithful love: it is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast...Love is more powerful, love gives life, love makes hope blossom in the wilderness."

--Pope Francis

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

ElectionWatch 2014: Gearing Up

With the big midterm Congressional and many state gubernatorial elections less than six months away, it's time to begin another ElectionWatch series here on my blog. Some readers may recall my previous ElectionWatch 2010 series that I ran four years ago leading up to the historic 2010 midterm elections, which resulted in a landslide victory for the Tea Party movement and for the traditional religious and moral values held by the great majority of the American people. Now it's time to prepare for another important election season that promises to be just as exciting and historic, if not more so, than the elections held four years ago.

Surveying the current American political landscape allows us to discern some striking similarities between now and four years ago. The red tide of Republicanism that swept America in November 2010 was largely driven by public anger and outrage with the Obama administration over its new healthcare reform law, the deceptively misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), colloquially referred to as ObamaCare, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama despite the loud objections of fully two-thirds of the American people. Thus the elections of 2010 became a referendum on ObamaCare, a massive and outrageously expensive piece of legislation that turned out to be little more than pork barrel for the abortion, pharmaceutical, and insurance industries and for our corrupt Democratic leaders who supported it. Just two years after Barack Obama had been elected to the White House by a landslide, Republicans took back the House of Representatives by a comfortable majority, increased their strength in the Senate, and took over more than half of all state governorships.

Now, four years later, the American people are once again angry with President Obama and his corrupt Democratic cronies, and for the same reason: ObamaCare. The difference is that now this disastrous law we never wanted is in effect and we the people are suffering all the consequences that President Obama and Senate Democrats persistently denied would ever materialize. Our freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, and freedom to make our own healthcare decisions are under attack as never before. Catholic hospitals are being forced to either perform or provide referrals for abortions. Health insurance plans must now include such population control items as abortifacients, contraceptives, and sterilizations, or they don't qualify as health insurance. Thousands of Catholic and Christian educational and charitable institutions, as well as secular business owners, are being forced to sue the federal government to avoid paying massive fines for refusing to violate their religious and moral principles. Many business owners can't afford to comply with the new health insurance regulations, so they're cutting back on employees and work time. Many good doctors are suffering pay cuts and can't afford the new insurance plans either. The states can't afford to administer ObamaCare, and those attempting to do so will soon be going bankrupt. Millions of us have lost our existing health insurance coverage and can't afford the ObamaCare premiums. Millions of us are in the "coverage gap" and don't qualify even for Medicaid, leaving us just one health emergency away from financial ruin. And tens of millions of us are watching our hopes for a decent and prosperous future fade away under the onslaught of higher healthcare costs, more taxes, new bureaucratic regulations and a national debt spinning hopelessly out of control.

Bottom line: ObamaCare is destroying America, and we know it. We've been lied to. We've been cheated. The truth is getting out and hitting home. If our country is to be rescued from annihilation, ObamaCare must be repealed. But it can't be repealed unless we have a majority of Tea Party leaders in both houses of Congress. We already have a Republican majority in the House, which we held on to and slightly increased in the otherwise disastrous (and fraudulent) 2012 election. Our job now is to take back the U.S. Senate. We're only six seats away from regaining control of the Senate. We must win at least those six seats. And we have a good chance of doing just that. Incumbent Democrats in the Senate are in big trouble precisely because of their unstinting support for ObamaCare. Their constituents of both parties are angry with them. Thus, barring massive voter fraud (which negatively affected the outcome of the 2012 elections), I think it's safe to predict that we will win a majority of seats in the Senate this November, and that most of the races will be landslide victories for the Tea Party.

Let's keep our nation in our prayers as we head towards the 2014 elections. While we have good reasons to be optimistic, we must remain vigilant. The corrupt Democratic politicians who have saddled us with ObamaCare won't give up without a fight, and they will certainly throw every dirty trick in the book at us in their desperate, last-ditch attempts to retain power. However, our country desperately needs better leaders--good Christian, pro-life leaders who will uphold and protect our God-given rights and liberties and govern our nation in accordance with the Constitution as the Framers intended. We have many such leaders in the House and state governorships already. We just need more of them in the Senate. The only way to get them in is to vote for them. And only American citizens can (legally) vote. So, if you're an American citizen, start preparing now for this important election. Make sure that you're registered to vote; that you clearly know the candidates' positions on the issues, especially on abortion, religious liberty, and ObamaCare; that you go to the polls on November 4, 2014; and that you vote pro-life, pro-liberty and against ObamaCare. We can't afford to lose this time!

Stay tuned for continnuing coverage of the decisive 2014 midterm elections.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Quote of the Day

“You can’t evangelize without dialogue. It’s impossible because you must begin from where the person who is to be evangelized comes from. And this is so important. ‘But father, we waste so much time because every person has his or her own story, he or she comes with their own ideas…’ And, time is wasted. More time than God wasted when he created the world and He did it well. Dialogue. Spend time with that person because that person is who God wants you to evangelize. It’s more important to give him or her the news about Jesus, but according to who he or she is -- not how it should be, but how he or she is right now.”

--Pope Francis

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Quote of the Day

"Throughout the history of the living, the origins of anything new have always been small, practically invisible, and easily overlooked. The Lord himself has told us that 'heaven' in this world is like a mustard seed, the smallest of all the seeds (Mt. 13:31-32), yet contained within it are the infinite potentialities of God. In terms of world history, Jesus' Resurrection is improbable; it is the smallest mustard seed of history.

"This reversal of proportions is one of God's mysteries. The great--the mighty--is ultimately the small. And the tiny mustard seed is something truly great. So it is that the Resurrection has entered the world only through certain mysterious appearances to the chosen few. And yet it was truly the new beginning for which the world was silently waiting. And for the few witnesses--precisely because they themselves could not fathom it--it was such an overwhelmingly real happening, confronting them so powerfully, that every doubt was dispelled, and they stepped forth before the world with an utterly new fearlessness in order to bear witness: Christ is truly risen."

--Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth--Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (Ignatius Press, 2011), pp. 247--248

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Timeless Message from Our Blessed Mother

Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima, an optional memorial on the Roman liturgical calendar. Today we commemorate the appearances of our Blessed Mother to the three shepherd children of Fatima, Portugal in 1917, a private revelation recognized by the Church as authentic. We are coming up on the one hundredth anniversary of these apparitions, which offers an opportunity to reflect on the mixed bag of our contemporary world. A lot has changed in the in the years since then, but some things, like sinful human nature, have not changed. Many great technological changes and scientific advancements have completely transformed our world for the better, yet the widespread denial and rejection of objective moral and religious truth in the name of false ideologies and philosophies has caused and is continuing to cause great suffering and misery for millions of people--as was happening in the early twentieth century with World War I and the godless ideology of Communism.

The core message of Fatima--prayer and fasting for the conversion of sinners and for peace in the world--is even more pertinent for us today than it was when first delivered nearly one hundred years ago. Our twenty-first century world, marked by selfish individualism and the "globalization of indifference," is in desperate need of prayer, fasting, conversion, and peace. Let this feast day be a reminder to us to heed Our Blessed Mother's request to pray our Rosaries and give little things up each day for the conversion of sinners and for peace in the world. And let's remember that this all starts right inside of each one of us; we must look honestly into our own hearts and identify the areas in our own lives where we ourselves need conversion. Only when human hearts change will our world really change for the better. Prayer and fasting are the means God uses to change hearts in every age. He can do it again in ours. So let's get to work!

Have a blessed feast day!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Quote of the Day

"The essential condition to preserve this gift [of counsel] is prayer. We always come back to the same subject: prayer! But prayer is so important. To pray with the prayers that we all know from childhood, but also to pray with our own words. To pray to the Lord: “Lord, help me, counsel me, what must I do now?” And with prayer we make room for the Spirit to come to help us at that moment. To counsel us on what we must all do. Prayer, never forget prayer! Never! No one, no one is aware when we pray in the bus, in the street: we pray in silence with our heart. Let us take advantage of these moments to pray, to pray that the Spirit will give us this gift of counsel."

--Pope Francis