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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bishop Weighs In on Fr. Corapi Suspension...

In a statement posted on Fr. John Corapi's website today, the Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Rene Gracida, weighs in on the suspension of the popular Catholic evangelist and calls for a revision of the process that, he calls, a "grave injustice" against priests accused of sexual misconduct not involving minors.

The public controversy over the announcement of the accusations against Father John Corapi, SOLT, and his suspension from exercising his priestly ministry offers an opportunity to reflect on the flawed procedure apparently being followed in too many dioceses of the United States these days in the case of a priest accused of sexual misconduct not involving minors. The procedure is flawed because it inflicts grave injustice on the priest and serves as a deterrent to young men thinking of offering themselves as candidates for the priesthood.

The procedure operates something like this. A person accuses a priest of sexual misconduct (again, not involving a minor). The priest is immediately suspended from active exercise of his priestly ministry while an investigation is launched into the truth or falsity of the accusations.

There is no need for a public announcement to be made that gives the name of the priest and the fact of the accusation and the suspension, and yet, all to often such a public announcement is made. Such public announcement by a diocese almost always results in media exploitation of the news in a sensational manner to the detriment of the Catholic Church and its priesthood. It seems that rarely, if ever, is mention is made in the announcement of the name of the accuser.

The investigation may take days or months or years to complete. In the meantime the priest’s reputation is effectively destroyed and perhaps he is ‘thrown out on the street’ with no means of support. The accuser, on the other hand, enjoys anonymity and suffers no loss of reputation or negative material consequences and in the case of an accusation later proven to have been false the injustice to priest is great.

In cases where the priest is accused of having used force (rape or some other form of involuntary abuse) there is some justification for not publishing the name of the accuser. But, where there is reason to believe that the alleged sexual misconduct was effected through mutual consent there is no justification for not publishing the name of the accuser. Under the present procedure it is too easy for a person to allege sexual misconduct (again not involving minors) for a variety of possible unworthy motives: revenge, hope for monetary gain, hostility to the Catholic Faith, etc. Such is reported to have been the case of the accusation against Father Corapi. The only safe way to guard against damaging the reputation of individual priests and the Catholic priesthood in general is to not publish the name of an accused priest until an investigation has proved beyond doubt the guilt of the priest.
Like Bishop Gracida, several bishops and priests have come out in support of Fr. Corapi in recent weeks.
Bishop Gracida makes a valid point.  After the sex scandal, and the subsequent barrage of lawsuits filed against the Church, the new zero-tolerance policy is swayed heavily towards the accuser, maybe without much concern given to the detremental effect it could have on priests wrongfully accused. 
I agree with an immediate suspension in cases involving minors (it's better to be safe than sorry), but in cases like that of Fr. Corapi, where the allegations are made by an adult, it should be handled with more caution and all avenues of an investigation should be exhausted before action is taken against the priest.
Listen, I understand why the Roman Catholic Church may be gunshy, especially after the millions of dollars that had to be coughed up in legal defenses and awards over the past two decades.   However, high profile priests are especially vulnerable to anyone that may feel slighted or have some sort of resentment towards them.  If priests are automatically suspended (when accused by an adult), for fear of a lawsuit, the stain on their reputation may be irreperable and may be just as damaging to the image of the Church.  
As most know by now, Fr. Corapi was accused of sexual misconduct and drug abuse by a former employee on Ash Wednesday.  While the investigation is underway, he was placed on administrative leave by the hierarchy of his order, the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, prompting a whirlwind of controversy.  
Scheduled speaking engagements have been postponed and his popular show on EWTN has been temporarily pulled.  The popular priest, who has been known to draw as many as 10,000 people in public appearances, has proclaimed his innocence from the onset and has asked for prayers for everyone involved.
What do you think?...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fr. Corapi, Priests on a Pedestal and the Church...

Many of you may already know that one of the greatest and most beloved evangelists of the Catholic Church, Fr. John Corapi, was recently put on administrative leave, after being accused by a woman that formerly worked for him of having sexual encounters with her and other women and drug abuse.

In a statement, Fr. Corapi posted on his ministry's web page, he calls for prayers for everyone involved.

On Ash Wednesday I learned that a former employee sent a three-page letter to several bishops accusing me of everything from drug addiction to multiple sexual exploits with her and several other adult women. There seems to no longer be the need for a complaint to be deemed “credible” in order for Church authorities to pull the trigger on the Church’s procedure, which was in recent years crafted to respond to cases of the sexual abuse of minors. I am not accused of that, but it seems, once again, that they now don’t have to deem the complaint to be credible or not, and it is being applied broadly to respond to all complaints. I have been placed on "administrative leave" as the result of this.

I’ll certainly cooperate with the process, but personally believe that it is seriously flawed, and is tantamount to treating the priest as guilty “just in case”, then through the process determining if he is innocent. The resultant damage to the accused is immediate, irreparable, and serious, especially for someone like myself, since I am so well known. I am not alone in this assessment, as multiple canon lawyers and civil and criminal attorneys have stated publicly that the procedure does grave damage to the accused from the outset, regardless of rhetoric denying this, and has little regard for any form of meaningful due process.

All of the allegations in the complaint are false, and I ask you to pray for all concerned.
Unfortunately, one of the many effects of the priest sex scandal is a zero-tolerance policy that may infringe on the rights of innocent clergy that get accused of improprieties. Although, I must point out that it has not been determined whether Fr. Corapi has been wrongfully accused.

The popular priest, who is a regular on EWTN, as a catechist and guest, and a prominent national Catholic speaker, has many supporters.

The Vice-President of Operations of Santa Cruz Media, Inc., which produces Fr. Corapi's speeches into videos, says, "There is no evidence at this time that Fr. Corapi did anything wrong, only the unsubstantiated rant of a former employee, who, after losing her job with this office, physically assaulted me and another employee and promised to "destroy" Father Corapi. We all continue to pray for this person, and we ask you to do the same."

His conversion story, which is one of my favorite CD’s, resonates with audiences. Without glamorizing his past, he humbly discusses going from a man of the world, who ran in the fast lane with the Hollywood crowd and owned a Beverly Hills mansion with a yacht and several luxury cars, to cocaine addiction, homelessness, depression and an eventual conversion that led him to the priesthood in his 40’s. He was ordained in Rome by Pope John Paul II.

While the blogosphere has been in a frenzy since the allegations broke (see here, here and here) and while I want to believe in Fr. Corapi’s innocence, former Anglican convert, Fr. Dwight Logenecker brings out an interesting point.

Fr. Logenecker writes that sometimes, we have a tendency of putting priests on pedestals because they represent, in holiness, everything that we want to aspire to. Often, we get caught up in certain priests' homilies or seek certain priests out for Confession. I've even heard friends and relatives tell me they "hate" attending Mass with such and such a priest and would rather attend with so and so because their homilies are more powerful and interesting.  

Unfortunately, we have to be reminded, or at times, hit with a four by four across the forehead with a story of scandal, to realize that the reason we attend Mass is not the priest, the homily, the music or the entertainment value. The reason we attend Mass as Catholics, is the Eucharist; the summit of our faith. It's to listen to the Word of God. It's to thank, honor and praise God.  It's to enter into the Communion of Saints, the Body of Christ, the Church. It's the Sacrament.

As holy as any priest may be, they are human.  We should hold them to a higher standard because of their vocation and respect them for their commitment to God but also understand they are not perfect. 

Priests have enlisted to be in the front line of a spiritual warfare that is beyond our comprehension.  If there is anything evil can do to discredit and humiliate the priesthood, and thus the Church, it will do it.  Unfortunately, while a great majority of priests remain faithful to their vows, some do fall from time to time, and those are the ones that get the headlines. 

During the height of the media hysteria to try to connect Pope Benedict XVI with the bishop cover-up of the sexual abuse scandal, a Jewish friend asked me that if it was determined that the Pope was guilty of being involved in the cover up, would I still believe that he should remain as pope (In other words, should he resign?). This is a profound question for a Catholic, considering that we believe the College of Cardinals in Conclave, guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit, elected Joseph Ratzinger to lead the Church. It was probably more profound than my friend intended.

I remember telling him, something to the effect, that regardless of Pope Benedict's failures as a man, as Catholics we believe that he was chosen to be our shepherd.  And as our shepherd, he is protected by the Holy Spirit from misleading God's flock. 

Through almost two thousand years of Catholic Church history, there have been a handful of popes who were notorious sinners.  However, not one of them pronounced, misled or changed the teachings of the Church, as handed down by the Apostles, to suit their whims and sinfulness.

I don't believe in the Catholic Church because of Pope Benedict XVI or because of the bishops and priests. I believe in the Church because, it was established by Christ as His Kingdom on earth for better or worse.

Why did Jesus choose twelve misfits and give them the authority that God the Father had given to Him, including the ability to bind and lose on earth what would be bound and lose in heaven, forgive sins and spread and preserve the Gospel throughout the world? And, why did He give Peter the Keys to the Kingdom, and charge him with feeding and tending His sheep and flock? We’ll never know.

Consider that despite following Jesus for three years, listening to His sermons and witnessing miracle after miracle, one of the twelve Apostles betrayed Him, another denied Him, and most faltered, doubted and ran for cover when the feces hit the fan.

Therefore, as we consider the plight of Fr. Corapi, whether he is wrongly accused or not, we need to pray for him and all priests, who are fighting the good fight.  And, while we have to love them, as we must love all God's children, and respect them, despite their human frailties, we cannot idolize them and expect them to do no wrong.

As it is commonly said, the Catholic Church is a hospital for sinners not a museum for the saints.  And, if there is one thing the Church has proven through its rich history, is that we have many sinners.

Fortunately, we have many saints as well...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Local Conference Aims at Helping Men Grow in Faith...

The EWTN men’s team of Crossing the Goal, is hosting a conference in South Florida, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Miami, to help men grow in faith and understand their role in society.

The one-day conference by men for men is the brainchild of Deacon Vince Eberling, of Mary of Help of Christians Parish in Parkland, who has been involved in several men’s ministry and is hoping to make the conference an annual event.

In an interview with the Florida Catholic, Eberling, who is a nuclear cardiologist, says, “Men really have a great deal of difficulty knowing where they are supposed to fit and where they are supposed to be in the world today: We came through women’s liberation and the sexual revolution and men don’t play the roles they used to play. So without having a role model they are wandering around by themselves.”

The format and style of the conference will resemble the Crossing the Goal TV show, which is modeled after an NFL football show, including sports terminology and interactions that men can easily identify with. The guest speakers share their experiences, failures, and the skills and tools they have learned over the years of growing and studying the Catholic faith.

Speakers include former New Orleans Saints wide receiver and NFL coach, Danny Abramowicz, who is one of the founders of the Crossing the Goal Ministry, and brings his unique perspective of working with men, dealing with the many temptations NFL players face, and overcoming dependencies on substances and vices.

The other members of the Crossing the Goal team include:

• Peter Herbeck, vice president and director of Missions for Renewal Ministries and co-host on television and radio programs.

• Brian Patrick, a broadcast veteran of nearly 35 years and an active volunteer, mentoring men who struggle with addiction, speaking openly of his own recovery and conversion.

• Curtis Martin, president and founder of FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, one of the fastest growing movements in the Catholic Church. Martin holds a master’s degree in theology, is the author of the best-selling author.

The conference will be held this Saturday, March 26th at St. Mark Church in Southwest Ranches.  It begins with morning refreshments and is followed by the team member talks. Priests will be available throughout the day for Confession and there will be time for prayer, questions and answers and fellowship. The retreat will close with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Thomas Wenski.

Registration is $25 per person. A special website has been set up for the retreat at; or call 954-773-7170.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Curious George and the Forbidden Fruit Down My Toilet...

You’ve heard the phrase, “Curiosity killed the cat.” Well, in my case, curiosity cost a lot.

My six-year-old daughter and three-year-old son are the curious type.

While neither is as daring as my older daughter, who started jumping out of her crib at 18-months-old (hopefully not an indication of things to come), they are both more inquisitive and like experimenting. In fact, my younger daughter says she wants to be a scientist.

A couple of weeks ago, my little Curious Georgette (since she is the ringleader) and her sidekick decided to do an experiment. They wanted to see what would happen if they flushed fruit they found in our yard, from our Creeping Fig Ivy, down the bathroom toilet (Did you know if you let your ivy grow wildly on a wall, it produces a fig-like fruit? I really need to spend more time in the yard!).

Needless to say, after getting home from work that night, I went to do my usual afternoon reading before dinner and after flushing the toilet and it overflowed, lovely! Unfortunately, with three small children, who use way too much paper, it's not that uncommon (at least once every two or three months).

I don’t know about you, but when I see the water rising in the toilet, I get an eerie feeling. It’s like, "Aaaaah! Stop! Stop! Please, stop!" Luckily, it stopped before completely overflowing, which could get really sticky (no pun intended), but then comes the realization that before dinner, instead of relaxing with a beer, I was going to have to address the clog in my toilet; that stinks! (Literally and figuratively)

So, once again, it's up to me and the plunger to carefully clear the congestion. Since I have experienced this situation before, I keep the plunger behind the toilet, just in case.

This time, it got ugly.  I sometimes clear that problem with a couple of thrusts but this wasn't the case on this occasion.  I had to struggle.  I got splashes of water all over the bathroom floor, the rug, my jeans, and shoes (does this sound familiar?).  And, for those that don't know me, the more I failed, the more frustrated I got and the harder I tried. I have a lot of patience, although my wife would argue with that, but when I blow up, it's not pretty. After about twenty-minutes of hand to hand combat, I threw in the towel. "No mas!" as Roberto Duran would say.

I couldn’t understand it. I was sweating like a race horse. I tried everything that usually clears even the most stubborn blockages and mustered up all the force I could. But, nothing. By this time, I was beyond frustrated. I was outright teetering on anger.

As I disappointedly walk into the living room, wanting to vent on my wife (Some could be tempted to call this “crying to mommy” but what else was I going to do?). I'll be honest, aside from not being able to unclog the bathroom, I can get a bit competitive, even with the toilet! It beat me! Now, to make matters worse, I was going to have to call the plumber and thought of the expense that would entail (not that I'm cheap but we just paid registration fee for our kids' school tuition).

Then, my wife tells me that our two little ones had flushed fruit down the toilet earlier that afternoon.

"Why didn't anyone tell me?" I ask. 

She says, “It flushed. I didn’t think there was anything wrong.” Great. Just great.

Let's just say, I didn't take too kindly to the news. I blew my top and started ranting and raving. My kids scurried about the house for cover. It was reminiscent of a time the men’s baseball team I managed many years ago, gave up in a game and got slaughtered by a lesser opponent (I really railed into them!).

After my tirade (and I realize this was not a great moment in parenting), I reluctantly called the plumber, put duct tape (it works for anything) around the toilet so the kids wouldn’t use it and took the bathroom rug outside (to deal with at a later time).

We were forced to use one bathroom for the weekend (it was on a Friday) until the plumber was able to come. By the way, one bathroom for five people in the mornings can be challenging, especially for me. I lost my reading room!

Two weeks, three visits from the plumbers and a plasterer (they had to make a hole in my bedroom wall to reach the main line behind the toilet) and $1,850 later, the fruits (my daughter admitted to flushing four) and all the repairs needed, as a result of them, were finally completed last night.  Those that think of the glass half full might say that the kids' experiment helped us discover a problem that could have become a major issue, but not me.   

New Espinosa house rule: regardless of the circumstance, and despite how exciting it may seem, fruit is absolutely forbidden anywhere near the toilet!

I realize God forbade a certain fruit too, and, unfortunately, that didn't go over too well.

We'll see...

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Adventures of Morning Mass with My Son...

Going to morning Mass with my three-year-old son can be interesting.

While most people rave about his good behavior, he does have his moments (not that I’m expecting anything less from a toddler).

Yesterday, we ran out of milk and he couldn’t have his morning bottle, so he was unusually ornery (yes, I wrote several months ago that we were going to wean him off the bottle but not yet. I just make sure he leaves the bottle in the car when we get to his school!). As soon as we pulled up to the church, he started crying and saying he didn’t want to go to church.

I’ll be honest, he rarely complains. He’s a great sport and usually just finishes off his bottle and lies down on the pew, usually placing his head on my lap, which gets interrupted after the Gospel is read and I have to stand up or kneel. Although sometimes, as I kneel, he tries to wedge himself between the back of the pew in front of us and me or he’ll ask me to carry him when I stand (and he doesn’t take "no" for an answer!). He even occasionally kneels next to me, puts his hands together as if he was praying and looks at me through the corner of his eyes to see if I am looking at him.

In fact, I get a kick whenever he tries to emulate me by genuflecting at the end of Mass as we leave the pew or when he tries to do the sign of the cross with the holy water (although lately he’s been avoiding the holy water like the plague at church. I guess he thinks he gets enough blessings with the holy water before going to sleep each night).

This morning, while he was happy to be at church, he made his presence known. During a moment of silence, while the Deacon approached the pulpit to read the Gospel and the entire congregation was still, he decided to let out some steam. It was a loud and quick burst of air that emanated from his rear end, as he lay peacefully on my lap. Although he occasionally lets one rip at Mass, today’s was unusually loud. Fortunately, there was nobody sitting in the pew in front of us and I was too embarrassed to turn around (thinking they could have thought it was me!). After his little explosion, he looked at me and smiled.

Later, after Communion, as I was kneeling in silence and solemnity, peacefully praying, he began calling me. “Daddy, Daddy!”

When I didn’t pay attention, focusing instead on my prayers as the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ dissolved in my mouth, he started pounding on my head and shoulder. “Daddy, Daddy!” When I finally turned to him to see what the urgency was, he says, “Boo-boo. I have a boo-boo on my finger. I need a band aid.” (He loves wearing band aids, almost as much as he loves taking them off). But, did he really need to tell me at that precise instance? I just had to smile.

At the risk of sounding sappy, for me, one of the greatest blessings God has given me over the past couple of years, is the opportunity to take my son to morning Mass and letting him see his dad on his knees praying to the God of the universe.

As we left church this morning, a thought crossed my mind. Next year, my son starts Pre-K4 at the Catholic school that my girls attend. He will be in school at the time of morning Mass.

Despite his occasional gassiness and interruptions, I will definitely miss the time we share in Mass together every morning…

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

From Apostle to Ireland to Reason for Partying…

There are few saints whose feast day elicits more enthusiasm than St. Patrick’s Day.

Unfortunately, instead of remembering and celebrating the life of the 5th Century Catholic Bishop, called the Apostle of Ireland for almost single-handedly helping convert the nation to Christianity, the day is more commonly known for parades, shamrocks (the symbol he is believed to have used to explain the Holy Trinity), green clothing (gotta wear green or get pinched), leprechauns (Irish folklore), and green beer, lots and lots of beer.  An old Irish saying states, “In heaven there is no beer… That’s why we drink ours here!”

Therefore, St. Patrick's Day, like Cinco de Mayo, is infamously known for partying and reveling, especially in the United States.

In fact, the day of the patron saint of Ireland, is one of the biggest days for alcohol consumption in the U.S. and one of the busiest days of the year for bars and restaurants.  And, you thought Fat Tuesday was the last day to party until Easter.

It seems almost every restaurant and bar has St. Patty's Day decorations, food and drink specials and activities.

One of my favorite “establishments,” Duffy's Tavern in West Miami, sets up tents outdoors to handle the overflow of patrons tonight and another restaurant/bar nearby, John Martin's Irish Pub in Coral Gables, hosts a yearly bash that includes street closures and a U2 cover band (which is appropriate considering that many of their lyrics have Christian undertones).

This year, since St. Patrick’s Day lands on a Thursday, it coincides with my men’s group’s weekly meeting, as we prepare for an upcoming retreat. Following our meetings, we usually go to Duffy’s to get a quick bite and share in some male bonding. However, yesterday, as we were getting ready for work, my wife asks, “You are not going to Duffy’s after your meeting this week, right?” Was that a question or a suggestion? In any effect, we probably will skip out on our regular routine to avoid the crowd.

But, for the benefit of those who will be going out tonight, let's remember why the Irish have been celebrating the day for over a thousand years.

Although many legends have surfaced about St. Patrick over the years.  According to the saints own Confessions, which is one of his writings authenticated by scholars, he was actually born in Scotland, and considered himself a Roman-Briton. At the age of sixteen, he was captured along with some of his father's workers and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep.  He was kept in deplorable conditions in captivity for about six years, where he experienced many hardships, including hunger.

During that time, he turned to God.  After many months of prayer and fasting, he felt the Lord telling him to return home.  He continued growing spiritually, through continuous prayer and focusing on God.  Finally, one day, Patrick was able to escape and fled to the coast, where he found sailors willing to take him back to Britain.

St. Patrick writes that after returning home, he had a dream where he heard the voices of Irish children, including in their mothers' wombs' calling out to him to rescue them.  He became a priest and later ordained Bishop of Auxerre by St. Germanus, who was his mentor for many years, before being sent to take the Gospel to Ireland.

St. Patrick spent about 30 years going to one end of the country to another, preaching, converting, baptizing, and ordaining priests along the way.  Although, he met resistance, and there are stories of his life being threatened, he successfully converted the country's pagan nobility and their families, which served as an impetus to spread Christianity to the masses.  He also laid the groundwork for hundreds of monasteries, schools and churches that later spread throughout Ireland.  He died on March 17, 461.

The Irish started observing this day as a religious holiday several centuries later.  On St. Patrick's Day, families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Because the feast day is during Lent, restrictions on the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink and feast on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage (the post effect of the alcohol and cabbage must not have been pretty!).

The tradition was brought to the United States before the Revolutionary War.  And the first St. Patrick's Day Parade was held in Boston, then in New York and other U.S. cities before becoming a tradition in Ireland. 

So, before taking that first sip tonight, think about St. Patrick and ask him to help convert your heart as he helped convert Ireland.


And, remember, although not known for the same type of celebration, St. Joseph’s Day is on Saturday…

For more information on St. Patrick, check out this article by Deacon Fournier of Catholic on Line.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Priests for Life Gives Baby Joseph New Hope...

Baby Joseph and Fr. Frank Pavone
In a story that has gotten very little attention on mainstream media, a one-year-old baby that was on the brink of being disconnected from life support in a Canadian hospital is getting a chance to live a little longer after being taken to a children's hospital in St. Louis early this morning.

Fox News reports today (see story here), that Fr. Frank Pavone, of Priests for Life, was able to negotiate the release of Baby Joseph Maraachli, who was caught in a bureaucratic tug-of-war between the doctors in Canada's socialized health care system and his parents. reports:

Baby Joseph has a severe neurological condition doctors at the Ontario hospital said is fatal and they decided to remove his breathing tube.

The baby's parents objected, saying they believe removing the tube would cause him to choke and die violently.

They want Joseph to receive a tracheotomy, which would open his airway and allow him to die at home.

Joseph's parents fought the hospital's decision in a Canadian court last month, but the court ordered them to consent to the withdrawal of the breathing tube, at which point the parents sought to have the child transferred to the United States.

A press release  by Priests for Life stated:

For two weeks, doctors at the hospital in London, Ontario, have been delaying the baby's transfer to a hospital where efforts to save his life will not be officially labeled "futile."

"I knew, after this dragged on day after day, that I needed to be here myself to get Baby Joseph to safety," said Father Pavone. "He needs to be in a hospital that cherishes life over the bottom line. After around-the-clock negotiations, this really became a race against time." Father Pavone was accompanied by Priests for Life staff, who were there to assure the transfer proceeded smoothly.

Baby Joseph and his father, Moe Maraachli, were flown with Father Pavone to SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis, Mo., on a specially equipped air ambulance provided by Michigan-based Kalitta Charters, and sponsored and paid for by the New York City-based Priests for Life.

"If there is a chance this boy can live, we have to explore every option," said Father Pavone, who was to arrive back home in New York earlier today after weekend speaking engagements in Cleveland. Instead, he flew to Detroit and then on to Canada, vowing not to leave the country until he had Baby Joseph and his father with him.

"Priests for Life staff toiled through the night for many nights, working in concert with dozens of people to make this possible," Father Pavone said of the nighttime rescue mission. "Now that we have won the battle against the medical bureaucracy in Canada, the real work of saving Baby Joseph can begin."

Baby Joseph and his mother, Sana
The baby's parents, Moe Maraachli and Sana Nader, who lost a girl to the same illness several years ago, say all they want is to give the boy a chance to be loved and, if he must die, then die with dignity and not be forced into taking his last breath because he was refused treatment.  

When it comes to the moral teachings on life, the Church is clear: God is the giver of life and therefore only God can choose when to end it.

In fact, the Catechism states:  "Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted." CCC 2279.

Regardless of whether it is God's Will that Baby Joseph's life will end, at least at the non-for-profit Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center, he will get the proper medical attention, without his parents having to deal with the bureaucracy of a system that, according to Fr. Pavone, is more concerned with making "value judgements" and decisions on a life that they determine is not "worth the trouble."

Fr. Pavone says, "There are such things as worthless treatments but there is no such thing as a worthless life."

Let us keep Baby Joseph, his parents and doctors in our prayers.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A God of Second Chances and More...

It is often said that there is no sin that we can commit that is greater than God’s love for us.

In fact, if there is one thing that I learned over the past five years, since my reversion to the Church, is that God is a God of Mercy, Forgiveness, and Love. All He asks is that I repent, and like the Prodigal Son, start walking back to The Father.

Recently, I was watching my favorite TV show, EWTN’s The Journey Home, and they played a commercial, produced by Catholics Come Home.Org, that has run with great success in different archdioceses around the United States.  It is a moving message of hope and God's Mercy.

Although, I have seen the commercial many times before, thinking about it in the context of Lent, our continuous call for conversion and today’s Gospel, where Jesus tells His disciples that to follow Him, they (we) must take up our cross daily, it really hit home (no pun intended).

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

From Ashes to the Resurrection; Forty Days of Growth...

“Remember dust thou are and into dust thou shall return.”

A poignant reminder that our earthly life is but a fleeting moment in time and we are just sojourners.  With that, the priest, deacon or minister, marks each faithful with the sign of the cross in ashes across the forehead and thus we begin the Lenten Season.

As most Christians know, Lent is the 40-day period (46, if you include Sundays) of preparation for Easter Sunday, where we are called to repent and spiritually grow closer to God through prayer, penitence, almsgiving and asceticism, including fasting and abstinence on certain days.

In his homily on Lent, Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski writes:

Saying “no” to ourselves through some type of fasting and almsgiving during Lent, saying “no” to habits of sin by going to confession this Lent, is all about helping us say “yes” to God, “yes” to his mercy and compassion, “yes” to his plan for our lives — which is that we be delivered from the slavery of sin and receive the promise of the new life of grace.
It’s funny, even during my heathen years (which started in high school and lasted into my 40’s), when I wasn’t exactly practicing my faith, I still used to observe Lent, at least the penitence part of the tradition, mostly on self-serving sacrifices like giving up dessert, fried food or alcohol.

Several years ago, after a re-awakening of my faith, I realized that the purpose of Lent is to grow closer to Christ by correcting ill ways, asking for forgiveness and putting Him at the center of my existence. So, if giving up candy is not making me achieve this, then I was just wasting my time.

The reason to make a sacrifice is to unite ourselves to Christ’s ultimate sacrifice. In other words, it’s about love. He gave His life for me; the least I can do is give up French fries for Him, not because I want to eat healthier or behave better but because I love Christ.

So, as we start another Lenten Season today, an article on National Catholic Register gives forty useful suggestions of things we may want to consider.  Among them:

• Forgive/reunite with an estranged family member or friend.

• Visit an ailing relative or friend.

• Cultivate silence. Turn off the iPod and DVD player. Shut off talk radio in the car. Hide the remote control.

• Husbands, pray with your wives. Wives, pray with your husbands. (Let your young children see you praying together)

• Moms and dads, pray with your children — not just at meal times.

• Reach out to someone you don’t get along with and do something positive.

• Receive the sacrament of confession on a regular basis — a habit to make, not break.

• Spend less time on Facebook, or help your friends by posting or promoting more spiritually inspiring material.

• Spend a Saturday volunteering someplace you’ve never helped before.

• Commit to five to 30 minutes of mental prayer every day.

• Check in with a local retirement home and find out who has not had any visitors for a while. And visit.

• Meditate on the last four things: death, judgment, heaven and hell.

This year, I have an ambitious list of things that I plan to implement to help me prepare.  They include: 1) Re-igniting my daily morning Mass attendance. I have been slacking off for several months.  2) Pick up where I left off last year in the Old Testament and read at least 15 minutes each morning. 3) Fasting on Fridays throughout Lent. The Church only requires fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and abstinence from meat on Fridays but I want to take it a step further. 4) Intensify my prayer life. Prayer is what transformed my faith but I have been lackadaisical in recent weeks.

As for the family: 1) After dinner, read the life of a saint with my kids.  It's a way of re-enforcing a life of virtue.  2) Movie night once a week with the family to watch a faith based film.  It worked well for us last Lent and I plan on implementing it again.  3) Pray with them every night before they go to sleep.  I usually bless them but haven't been praying as much as I should recently.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has a very useful internet site with daily reflections and suggestions to help Christians fruitfully prepare for Easter Sunday.

How do you plan to get ready?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Barron on Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, and Engaging the Culture...

Engaging the culture is one of the many focuses and reasons for success of Fr. Robert Barron’s new media evangelization effort, as evident in his YouTube videos.

In his recent commentary, Fr. Barron comments on quoting Keith Richards, Bob Dylan and other counter-cultural figures, as a way of reaching people that would otherwise reject anything having to do with God or religion…

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Living With the Blaming Tasmanian Devil...

I’m convinced that apart from the voracious appetite for rabbit, my three-year-old son may be a distant relative of "Taz," the Tasmanian Devil of Looney Tunes fame. Not in looks, of course, my son is a lot cuter, but in energy level and propensity for disruption.

When my son goes into a room, you know he has been there.

The guy is chaos waiting to happen. In a matter of turning your head, every single miniature car, pirate ship and superhero action figure is spread all over the floor, jig-saw puzzles (at least three at a time because he can’t just work on one) and books are scattered everywhere, blankets, pillows and stuffed animals flung in the closet, toy boxes that go under the bed and his costume trunk are emptied; in other words, a disaster zone worthy of a visit from FEMA. It really looks as though the Tasmanian Devil, who swirls around like a small hurricane, went by.

And, he loves to share his passion for disarray. Not satisfied with keeping the mess contained to his room, he exports it to the living room, dining room and our bedroom.

Moreover, ask him what just happened and Taz's cousin, twice removed, points the finger at one of his sisters quicker than Barak Obama blames George W. Usually, it's our six-year-old daughter, his partner in crime, who takes the lion's share of the blame. However, our boy doesn’t discriminate.

Last weekend, while my wife was away at a retreat and our younger daughter was sleeping at my mother-in-law’s house, to go to a birthday party in the morning, he was at it again.

While I was busy on the computer, I heard my son playing in the living room (Let's keep this between us. My wife says I spend way too much time on the computer or in front of the TV and neglecting our kids when she's not home. In my defense, I don’t like micromanaging).

All is calm on the outside
When I went to check on him, it was as though dozens of kids had been playing at the Sunnyside Daycare all day with Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear, Big Baby, Buzz and the rest of Andy's toys, and had just gone home (fortunately missing from the disorder were Dreamhouse Ken and/or Barbie).

"Oh my goodness," is all I could utter.

Before I asked him about the mess, he blamed his older sister, sort of like when Adam threw Eve under a bus in the Garden of Eden after God asked if they ate from the Tree of Good and Evil (Someone had to take the fall!). My son knew that aside from him and me, there was no one else to blame.

“I wasn’t even there!” I hear my daughter quickly screaming from her bedroom.

Now, we have a house rule. We call it The Three Musketeers rule; all-for-one-and-one-for-all, meaning, it doesn’t matter who makes the mess, they’re all responsible for picking it up (Unfair? Maybe, but we want them used to being their brother’s keeper; figuratively and literally since the little brother is usually the most responsible culprit).

However, this mess by Taz’s kin, aka my son, went beyond what would fall within the boundaries of our usual house rule. I couldn’t do that to my daughter, especially considering that our younger daughter was missing. So, I ended up spending part of the early evening picking up the havoc (I'm sure my wife would say it serves me well for not keeping a closer eye on my children).

It's funny because, according to his pre-school teacher, my son is learning to clean up after himself in his classroom. Now, if we can only get him to actually pick-up while he's singing the clean-up song at home!...