Next Week: The Rite of Acceptance

Sorry about the lack of updates recently. I've been tired. The RCIA course is progressing well. Nothing has been remarkable though.

Next week, however, is a different story altogether. Next week is the Rite of Acceptance. It's a major step towards full conversion to Roman Catholicism this Easter. According to TeamRCIA.com, the Rite of Acceptance is "[the] first public rite for those becoming Catholic; marks transition from inquiry period to catechumenate period."

I am both nervous and anxious and not really fond of being in the spotlight. However,
from what I've been told, Fr. Terry and my sponsor, Randy, will lead the RCIA students through it. They gave us a brief overview today. Knowing that they'll be leading me has helped allay the nervousness somewhat.

I hope they make photos available. If they allow it, I'll post them.


The Empty Chair

A short, apparently allegorical story that was taught at last Sunday's RCIA class:

A man's daughter had asked the local minister to come and pray with her father. When the minister arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows. An empty chair sat beside his bed.

The minister assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit.

"I guess you were expecting me," said.

"No, who are you?" said the father.

The minister told him his name and then remarked, "I see the empty chair; I figured you knew I was going to show up."

"Oh yeah... the chair," said the bed ridden man. "Would you mind closing the door?" Puzzled, the minister shut the door.

"I have never told anyone this, not even my daughter," said the man. "But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At church I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it went right over my head. I abandoned any attempt at prayer until one day about four years ago my best friend said to me, 'Johnny, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here is what I suggest."

"Sit down in a chair; place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It's not spooky because he promised 'I'll be with you always.' Then just speak to him in the same way you're doing with me right now."

"So, I tried it and I've liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I'm careful though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she'd either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm."

The minister was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old man to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him, anointed him with oil, and returned to the church.

Two nights later the daughter called to tell the minister that her daddy had died that afternoon.

"Did he die in peace?" he asked.

"Yes," replied the daughter. "And when I left the house about two o' clock, he called me over to his bedside and told me he loved me and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead. But there was something strange about his death. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on the chair beside the bed. What do you make of that?"

The minister wiped a tear from his eye and said, "I wish we could all go like that."


One Solitary Life

One Solitary Life is a poem adapted, it is believe, from a 1926 sermon by a pastor named James Allen Francis, although attribution is sometimes given as "unknown."

"One Solitary Life"

He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant.
He grew up in another village, where He worked as a carpenter until He was 30.
Then, for three years, He was an itinerant preacher.
He never wrote a book.
He never held an office.
He never had a family or owned a home.
He didn't go to college.
He never lived in a big city.
He never traveled 200 miles from the place where He was born.
He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness.
He had no credentials but Hmself.
He was only 33 when the tide of public opinion turned against Him.
His friends ran away.
One of them denied Him.
One of them even betrayed Him.
He was turned over to His enemies and went through the mockery of a trial.
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.
While He was dying, his executioners gambled for His garments, the only property he Had on Earth.
When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the human race. I am well within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned — put together — have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one, solitary life.


One-Issue Voter?

My recent article explaining why I'm not voting this year drew a response from an anonymous reader who wrote that the Bishop of Memphis, J. Terry Steib, stated that Catholics should not be one-issue voters. I also spoke out against the Iraq War, which makes the "one issue" claim complete nonsense.

I believe that the abortion issue can and should be used as a singular litmus test by Catholic voters in deciding who to vote for. I can defend that: Christ defended the life of a reviled woman and in doing so, placed Himself in mortal danger.

Bp. Steib stated: “a person might choose not to vote, but voting is a necessary part of our witness to Jesus Christ and a witness to our baptism. So, sometimes hard choices will have to be made... We must recognize that God through the church, is calling us to be prophetic in our own day. If our conscience is well formed, then we will make the right choices about candidates who may not support the church's position in every case.”

Hard choice? Jesus made a lot of hard choices. Perhaps some of the hardest choices ever faced by a human being.
I don't see how voting is a necessary part of witnessing to anyone. However, I am in concert with Pope Benedict XVI's comments in a May 9, 2007 Time magazine article in which he unambiguously stated that: "it's envisioned in the law of the Church that the killing of a human child is incompatible with being in communion with the body of Christ."

He had also had earlier called abortion: "...a crime of aggression not only against the unborn, but also against society."

Canon Law states that abortion providers and women having abortions are automatically excommunicated. But is that law is applicable to Catholic politicians who, by their own words and or voting record, are pro-abortion? It should be.

The politicians in question should be given an opportunity to denounce abortion and promise to oppose any legislation, in whole or in part, which doesn't respect the life of the unborn. If not, they should be asked to voluntarily leave the church. If they obstinately choose not to, they should be excommunicated. Every person who
is desiring to enter the Catholic faith — such as myself — should be required to support life and protection of life at all times. Not just because it's the law of the Roman Catholic Church, but because it's a moral position.

I agree about Catholics following their consciences and sometimes having to make hard choices. As I noted earlier, Jesus did just that. Many times, in fact.

Opposing abortion — and war — and respecting and protecting life are issues we should all get behind and keep in mind at the voting booth
regardless of our religious beliefs.

I'm not voting this year. Here's why...

I'm not terribly fond of either Senators John McCain or Barack Obama over their lack of respect for life.

Even though my political views lean towards the libertarian for the most part, the Libertarian Party's nomination of Bob Barr as their 2008 presidential candidate makes me wonder if they've been corrupted. Bob Barr, you see, was once "anti-drug coordinator" for the Department of Justice and a member of former House speaker Newt Gingrich's Task Force for a Drug-Free America. He even, according to his Wikipedia article: "
...advocated complete federal prohibition of medical marijuana. In 1998, he successfully blocked implementation of Initiative 59 — the "Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998" — which would have legalized medical marijuana in Washington, D.C. The "Barr Amendment" to the 1999 Omnibus spending bill not only blocked implementation of Initiative 59, but prohibited the vote tally from even being released. Nearly a year passed before a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union eventually revealed the initiative had received 69 percent of the vote. In response to the judge's ruling, Barr simply attached another "Barr Amendment" to the 2000 Omnibus spending bill that overturned Initiative 59 outright. The Barr Amendment also prohibited future laws that would "decrease the penalties for marijuana or other Schedule One drugs" in Washington, D.C.

However, Bob Barr's supposed to be alright now. You see, in March 2007, Bob Barr joined the Marijuana Policy Project, which supports legalization — and government regulation — of marijuana. This is a reason I don't care for them. People have used drugs for centuries. For years since the United States was founded, Americans used drugs, too. But there was no real drug problem until the government got into the business of being a nanny and started trying to keep people from doing bad things to themselves.

You'd think people would learn.

And Bob Barr wants me to believe that after all he's done as a big-government, pro-drug prohibition Republican politician that I'm now supposed to support him because he switched sides to the small government, anti-drug prohibition Libertarians?

Fat chance!

Back to the major party candidates...

While I support John McCain's anti-abortion position, his support of the immoral war in Iraq is wrong. In the April 12, 2007 Washington Post, McCain called the war "necessary and just." The article also stated that two-thirds of Americans were against it. I have always questioned why our government invaded Iraq. 9/11? None of the supposed attackers nor its mastermind, Osama bin Laden, were Iraqi, and it's a fact that Al-Qaeda was not allied with Saddam Hussein. Of course, both bin Laden and Hussein were Sunni Muslims; allies they could have been. But it's absolute fact that they weren't because declassified Department of Defense records and a 2006 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report said they weren't.

Even the 9/11 Commission agreed with them! With all the holes and other irregularities surrounding it, they agreed with those reports.

So, what are we still doing in Iraq and why did we go there in the first place? Sen. McCain certainly knows the horrors of war. He should be among the leading voices of opposition in the United States Senate. But he isn't.

As for Sen. Barack Obama, the reason I can't support him is because of his support of abortion. He's stated some very pro-life positions, but he has never come out and explicitly stated that abortion is an evil and Roe v. Wade should be repealed. It's a shame because if he showed a bit of a independent-mindedness and bucked the official Democratic Party line and said that, I would probably vote for him. What's surprising and very distressing is that there are a number of Catholics supporting Barack Obama. There are even websites such as 10,000 Catholics for Obama or Roman Catholics for Obama which I think are complete disgraces.

And his running mate, Delaware senator Joe Biden, is pro-choice and a Catholic. At least, all the biographical material I've seen says he's Catholic.

Well, Sen. Biden, to quote the message of a bumper sticker I've seen on a few cars around town: "You Can't Be Catholic And Pro-Choice."

Sen. Biden, when you ignore rules which say that in order to be a Catholic you must respect all life, then you've relinquished the privilege of being a member of the One True Church.

A prominent American Bishop, Arthur J. Serratelli, wrote in a June 2007 article for the official Paterson, New Jersey archdiocese newspaper, The Beacon that, "by steadfastly choosing to be pro-choice, a Catholic — politician or not — excludes himself or herself from communion."

Hear, hear!

Bp. Serratelli also criticized 18 politicians who had criticized Pope Benedict XVI for stating that supporting abortion is incompatible with receiving communion."

Oh, and what's Bob Barr's position on abortion? Well, he says he's opposed to it. Well, if that's the case, why did he support his second wife, Gail, when she decided to have an abortion and even pay for it? All this at a time when he was a member of the Pro-Life Caucus.

It's pretty hypocritical, isn't it?

So, I am not bothering with voting. I may be through with it permanently.

Another reason: does voting really mean anything? I can't tell anymore. Increasingly, I'm believing that presidents and prime ministers are just puppets. When you've got politicians and ex-politicians and business people and other wealthy and affluent people attending secret meetings behind an army of guards and the media says nothing or next to it and calls the meeting a conspiracy theory despite loads and loads of evidence that a meeting took place, you are forced to wonder if the press isn't corrupted by and large, too.

So, I think I'll just pass this time.


Rays Win Exciting ALCS

The Tampa Bay Rays are going to the 2008 World Series!

I'll say it again: t
he Tampa Bay Rays are going to the 2008 World Series! They'll meet the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies.

A little history:

The Rays entered Major League Baseball in 1998 as the expansion Devil Rays along with the Arizona Diamondbacks and, unlike the Snakes, who won the World Series in their third year of existence, toiled in futility until this season. After their last season as the Devil Rays, owner Stu Sternberg changed the team's name to signify "a beacon that radiates throughout Tampa Bay and across the entire state of Florida." And gone were the drab black and green in favor of navy blue, Columbia blue, and a shock of gold.

And something else was gone: the mediocrity. Suddenly, the Rays were winning games and, as the regular season went into its last weeks, they were considered contenders and battled the Boston Red Sox for the AL east championship and eventually won it.

The Rays, who, prior to 2008, had never had a winning season and finished out of last place just once and had lost 96 games in 2007 were suddenly the talk of the baseball world.

And even more so that they put the game five and game six disasters in the American League Championship Series behind them and made believers in manager Joe Maddon's mantra "9=8" by winning a tight game seven 3-1 behind right-hander Matt Garza's gem.

Despite the second-lowest payroll in baseball and despite playing in MLB's worst venue, the Rays could very well win the World Series. As a Cincinnati Reds fan, I've been through three World Series championships. I'm trying to tell Rays fans that a league championship celebration pales in comparison to a World Series championship celebration. And I really think that the Rays have the talent to do it.

The 104th Fall Classic is going to be fun.


Almost back to normal

Wow! What a difference a week makes. My voice is still a bit rough, but whatever virus I had is gone.

Actually, there's not a lot to discuss. This week's RCIA class dealt with what I think is probably one of the overtly political moments of the New Testament outside of the Passion narrative: Matthew 22, in which the Sanhedrin attempts to back Jesus into a corner with a crowd of people looking on with great interest.

First, they try to butter Him up by saying they know He is a truthful man who teaches the way of God in accordance with the truth. However, they then ask Him to tell them if it's legal to pay the census tax.

If Jesus says yes, He risks alienating the Jews and possibly being stoned to death. But if He says no, He risks angering the Romans and being charged with treason and being sent to the cross. Either way, our faith would probably not exist today had Jesus not recognized what was really going on and defty stepped out of the trap and rebuked the deceivers at the same time. He asked for a denarius (a Roman coin bearing the likeness of Caesar.)

"You hypocrites! Why do you test me... Whose image is on this coin?" He asks.

"CAESAR'S!" roars the crowd.

"Then render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God that which is God's!"

The discussion centered around this: just what is God's? Our faith, of course. Jesus' "render unto Caesar" command is multi-layered and our interpretation may be beyond the point Jesus intended to make. However, it could just as easily mean where one's responsibilities lie and setting proper priorities. God, church, family, work, debtors, etc.

On a closing note, Randy, one of the RCIA teachers, is now a Macintosh user! This pleases me greatly. Apparently he's got an older machine running an older version of OS X, but Randy says he'll probably get a new one in the spring. I burned a few of my favorite free apps to disc and gave it to him. I am resisting the urge to bombard him with Mac tips.


Getting Over the Flu

Well, apparently I contracted whatever virus a couple of other drivers had.

On a few hours of sleep and loaded up on meds, I (somewhat) boldly went to today's RCIA class and Mass. I can't blame it all on the flu; I had to watch the end of game two of the American League Championship Series between the
Boston Red Sox at the Tampa Bay Rays, which ended at about 1:30 a.m. The Rays won 9-8 on B.J. Upton's sacrifice fly to score Fernando Perez.

Back to the RCIA class...

Today's lesson was the Parable of the Wedding Feast from Matthew 22. It's a typical Jesus parable, and I agree with the
interpretation of the Boston Christian Bible Study Resource website, which states: Jesus was speaking of people's response to the gospel. They chose to work rather than accept God's free gift. There are those who are not particularly hostile, but simply distracted by worldly things to pay attention. Then there are those who are outwardly hostile to it. The illustration of people actually killing those who simply invite them to a wedding is truly outrageous, but nonetheless an accurate description of the persecution of the ministers of the gospel. Thus Jesus reminds such people, that they are not going to get away with such behavior. God is not Santa Claus. *


Judaism's version of Sharia law?

FoxNews.com is reporting that some Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem are fighting immodesty and have taken it upon themselves to patrol the city looking for such infractions as a woman wearing a red blouse and stores selling such modern amenities as computers.

Their biggest fear seems to be that computers will tempt Jews to view or download pornography. Or perhaps they also fear other viewpoints, particularly other Jews', which espouse such things as personal liberty or a philosophy of live and let live.

A 38-year-old man named Elchanan Blau defends the policing.

"These breaches of purity and modesty endanger our community; if it takes fire to get them to stop, then so be it," he stated.

In one case, an unidentified woman was attacked by a "rogue enforcer" (a term used by Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld) who gagged and beat her and tried to force her to leave the Haredi neighborhood. The attacker in that case was paid $2,000. In another case, a 17-year-old girl identified only as "Rivka" was accosted by a group of teens who were incensed that she was walking with a group of boys and pepper sprayed her. Originally from New York City, Rivka lives in
Beit Shemes, a Jerusalem suburb where the vigilantism has been particularly harsh.

Her comment about them is also harsh: "They can go to hell."

It's a surprise "they" haven't yet called for Jewish women in Jerusalem to wear burqas.

It's sad that the great Jewish religion which has contributed to humanity in countless and incalculable ways, has gone down the path of Islam. It also demonstrates the danger of religious extremism, which is the rule, rather than the exception, of Islam. As former PLO terrorist Walid Shoebat stated in the documentary, Islam: What the West Needs to Know: "There are moderate Muslims; there is no moderate Islam."

Whether Islamic, Jewish, Christian, or Hindu; when fanatical religious belief takes precedence over good sense and decency, it's a danger to us all and we should oppose it. All one need do is look at Afghanistan under Taliban rule, or even Nazi Germany (since Nazism had roots in the occult) to see what fanaticism can lead to. Yes, those are extreme examples, but the Taliban and the Nazi Party each started out as small fringe groups which grew in power and influence over a relatively short amount of time.

We received new bibles at this week's RCIA class

As I stated in a previous article, the Our Lady of Sorrows RCIA team did indeed give us bibles. They're New American translation bibles which provide answers and insights into passages to help increase knowledge about the bible as well as the teachings of the Roman Catholic church.

This is
exactly what I need.

The first thing they taught is the parable of the tenants in Matthew 21:33-46:

"Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, 'They will respect my son.' But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.' They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?"

They answered him, "He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times."

Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the scriptures: 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes'? Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit. The one who falls on this stone will be dashed to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls."

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they knew that he was speaking about them. And although they were attempting to arrest him, they feared the crowds, for they regarded him as a prophet.

I was not totally unfamiliar with the parable. The vintner is God; the son who was killed was, of course, Jesus Himself. The rlatter part of the parable foretells the conspiracy to rid Israel of Jesus, His rejection and His death.