Archive for July, 2014

July 27, 2014 – The Story You May Not Have Heard

July 27, 2014

Sitting here on a Sunday afternoon it’s tempting to block out the happenings of the world outside.  The Cardinal game is on TV, the trees are blowing in the breeze outside the window, and the trends on Facebook include the Tour de France and a new Godzilla movie.  However, we know that much chaos and tragedy reigns.  Locally, the community is still reeling from the loss of the young Chandler couple in a traffic accident.  And worldwide, the news is still dominated by a war in Gaza which still rages on despite  pledges of a truce, and continued tensions between Russia and the Ukraine.  To say that I understand all of the details of what is going on with these conflicts would be a lie, because I don’t.  I only know that continued strife in these areas threatens a peaceful way of life.

There is something that I do know, however, that you won’t here much of on the news – what I would say is the most important, most harrowing story of the week—quite possibly, the most historically significant story of this year.  That is: the obliteration of Christianity from Iraq.  The world is only now seeming to pay attention to a horror that is unfolding before our eyes. It wasn’t until Thursday that the New York Times editorial page finally weighed in and condemned what is happening there. Other media coverage has been scant. Our government has been largely silent.

But attention must be paid.  In the city of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, the church bells have fallen silent. For the first time in 1600 years, there are no Christian church services, no Masses, no liturgies. Crosses have been ripped from churches. The cathedral has been turned in to a mosque. A monastery has been raided, looted, overtaken; the monks have been expelled, taking only the clothes on their backs. In a video that is, frankly, incredible, the ancient tomb of the prophet Jonah—one of the holiest sites in the region—was bombed and destroyed.  Here is a link to that video:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/24/world/iraq-violence/

Men, women and children are literally running for their lives, fleeing to safer places to the north. In some towns, ISIS – the Islamist extremist group now dominating the country—has cut off water supplies and electricity. They have confiscated medicine. If they catch people trying to flee, they take everything they have – passports, medicine, wedding rings. The edict has gone forth: convert to Islam, or pay an outrageous tax that no one can afford. If you do not pay, you will be killed. It’s not an idle threat. Some people are being crucified.  And it is happening for one reason only: because they are Christian.

Seventy years ago our country fought in a war to stop genocide.  Now it has returned, in another place, targeting another group, going by another name. One Catholic archbishop has called it, bluntly, “religious cleansing.”  This time, the ones being cleansed are us. Christians. The first Christians were baptized in Iraq nearly 20 centuries ago. Some speak the same language that Christ himself spoke, Aramaic. Now they are being crushed under the heel of evil.

Some are trying to stop it—including Muslims. Last week, professor Mahmoud Al Asali at the University of Mosul spoke out against the reign of terror being inflicted on Christians, saying he believes it goes against the Muslim commandments.  For his courage, he was killed.  Other voices are continuing to be raised.  Friday, Jordan’s Prince El Hassan – himself a descendent of Muhammad – called for an end to violence in the name of religion in a statement that was signed by several religious and secular leaders. He wrote: “We cannot stand idly by and watch as the lives of the most vulnerable, our women and our children, are destroyed in the name of religion.”  Last Sunday, in Baghdad, both Muslims and Christians gathered in the St. George Chaldean Church to pray together—and to weep together. Some Muslims carried signs: “I’m Iraqi, I’m Christian” – a powerful show of solidarity.

Arabic-Nazarene

 

You may have seen this symbol popping up on social media recently.  In Mosul, members of ISIS have been marking Christian homes with this Arabic letter “N,” which stands for “Nazarene” – meaning Christian. It is reminiscent of the Star of David that marked Jews in Nazi Germany. But now, that “N” has swept social media and is even being seen on tee shirts. The message: no matter what our belief or our nationality, we are all Christians. We are all Iraqis. We stand together in defiance of genocide, of persecution, of hate.  If there is any consolation here, it is this: Our brothers and sisters in the Middle East are not facing this alone.  Neither are we.  Many in the media may be ignoring this onslaught. We cannot.  At this moment of despair, we turn to God in prayer with love and trust. We pray, above all, for peace for all our suffering brothers and sisters in Iraq, and around the world.

I don’t want to make this entire blog gloom and doom, especially since we mark a nice anniversary tomorrow (July 28).  On July 28, 2004, 10 years ago, Fr. Gene became our pastor.  Boy, it sure seems like 20 (LOL).  Seriously, we cannot thank Fr. Gene enough for his leadership and care of our parish and our people.  As I have mentioned before, we have been so fortunate as a parish regarding our pastors.  Since 1892, a span of 122 years, we have had only six pastors, an average tenure of a little over 20 years each.  So Fr. Gene, you’re only halfway done with us (LOL).  Again, we have been so fortunate to have been able to benefit from his guidance, and we pray for his continued well-being.

Hopefully the coming week will bring better news to us.  Have a great week.  Peace to all of us.

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July 19, 2014 – Lots to Share

July 19, 2014

Yes, the webmaster dropped the ball again and didn’t stick with his weekly blogging schedule.  However, that doesn’t mean that I have been away from the keyboard and the mouse.  On the contrary, as you probably know we have now made available the means to give donations to the parish online through electronic giving.  Jan and Bonnie did most of the groundwork for this, but I have also put in some time to it as we have gotten it off of the ground.  If you were at Mass last weekend, then you heard my pitch for it, why I think it is a good idea, and why I think it will be beneficial to both parishioners and the parish.  If you were not at Mass last weekend, I also made available a handout which basically has all of the information that I talked about.  This handout is also available on our website.  Here is the link to access it:

http://www.maryhoc.org/files/onlinegive0001.pdf

As I said last weekend, this program is not replacing the traditional way that giving has been done in the past.  I know that some folks do not have internet access, and others are still not comfortable doing their financial business electronically.  So if you continue to receive your contribution envelopes and give in that fashion, then by all means do so.  However, we also have an obligation to continue to try to stay in tune with technology and with how many people’s lifestyles have changed because of it.  One of these changes is that people are having their bills paid automatically through electronic means.  How convenient would it have been last winter, for example, to have your contributions taken care of even though the weather did not allow you to attend Mass, and you wouldn’t have had to worry about making up your offering the following week.  How convenient will it be when at the end of the year you can print out your own reports for tax purposes, etc.

As you can tell I am excited about this and what the potential of it is.  I also know that venturing into something new like this can be scary, especially at first when people aren’t sure if it will work and if it will be everything that is advertised.  I think as time goes along, more people will utilize it and it will be a worthwhile venture.  Again, as I said at Mass, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me if you have questions or need help in setting up your online account.  I was serious when I said that I am willing to even go to people’s houses to help with the process.  This is how excited and confident I am in this program (and how pitiful my lifestyle is … LOL).

As I looked at the calendar, I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t blogged since late June, which means that I hadn’t blogged since Independence Day has come and gone.  I spent part of my Independence Day watching the Mass from Washington, D.C. which concluded the Fortnight for Freedom.  The homily at the Mass was given by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, the current President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  He gave a thoughtful reflection on how important our right to religious liberty is to our ability to serve those in need.  As you know, no organization devotes more resources to helping those in need than the Catholic Church, and as Archbishop Kurtz observed, “We need a robust and healthy religious freedom in our nation. We need laws like the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act to protect people of deep faith convictions when their practice is threatened. This act rightly holds our government to high standards. It ensures that, when government authorities would impose a practice that conflicts with the deeply held religious beliefs of some, the government must make a special showing to justify both the ends and the means. The government’s ends must be compelling, and it must choose the means, among all those available, that is the least restrictive of religious exercise.”  To read his homily in its entirety, here is the link to go to:

http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/fortnight-for-freedom/2014-fortnight-for-freedom-closing-homily-archbishop-joseph-kurtz.cfm

Speaking of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, just this past week the Senate took up a vote on considering a bill which would have empowered the federal government to override this act and other federal conscience laws when it mandates including any “item or service” in health plans.  This legislation was supported by 56 Senators but failed to achieve the 60 votes needed to proceed. Commenting on the vote, USCCB Director of Government Relations Jayd Henricks said: “While the outcome of today’s vote is a relief, it is sobering to think that more than half the members of the U.S. Senate, sworn to uphold the laws and Constitution of the United States, would vote for a bill whose purpose is to reduce the religious freedom of their fellow Americans. We need more respect for religious freedom in our nation, not less.”  An information sheet which talks about what the impact of this bill would have been if it had passed has been published by the USCCB, and can be viewed at the link below:

http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/S-2578-Backgrounder.pdf

Finally, can you believe that the start of school is only about a month away (I ‘m sure parents are counting the days – LOL).  I mention this because the safety of our children, particularly as it pertains to those who entrust their kids to employees and volunteers of Catholic ministries, continues to be a hot-button issue.  I would like to share some statistics from the 2013 Annual Report on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People:

The Catholic Church in the United States has:

  • Trained 98% of our nearly two million volunteers, employees, educators, clergy, and candidates in parishes in how to create safe environments and prevent child sexual abuse.
  • Prepared more than 4.6 million children to recognize abuse and protect themselves.
  • Ran background checks on more than 97% of our 2 million volunteers and employees, 168,000 educators, 52,970 clerics and 6,400 candidates for ordination.

Does this guarantee that an incident of abuse will not occur in the future?  No.  However, it is safe to say that no organization is doing more to eliminate the abuse of children than the Catholic Church.

Whew!  A lot of information to share with you this go around!  Thanks again for reading.  Have a great week ahead!  Peace.