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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pope Declares Fulton Sheen "Venerable"...

American Archbishop Fulton Sheen, one of the first and greatest televangelists of all time, who believe it or not once had his own prime time network television show, titled "Life is Worth Living," which was watched by 30 million viewers weekly (and even won an Emmy), is now one step closer to sainthood.

Pope Benedict XVI declared him "venerable" for living a life of "heroic virtues."...

Archbishop Wenski Collects on his NBA Finals Bet...

A good-sport after all... 
It's time to pay the piper, or in Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley's case, it's time to pay his fellow archbishop for losing an NBA Finals bet.

As we all know by now, the Miami Heat were crowned NBA Champions despite having lost the first game of the series, when the Archbishop of Miami Thomas Wenski and Coakley placed the friendly wager.

The Oklahoma City Thunder didn't win another game.

Coakley and Wenski took a photo wearing a Miami Heat Champions t-shirt and caps later comes the good stuff; organically-grown Oklahoma beef steaks!

I hope it's from a holy cow!...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Face Eater Was Not on Mind Altering Drugs...

Did Devil make him do it?..
The plot thickens.

The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner's Office concluded that, aside from traces of marijuana, which can be detected in the body for up to several months after being ingested, Rudy Eugene did not have any other drug, alcohol, prescription drug or other mind altering substance in his system.

The long awaited toxicology report was finally released Wednesday afternoon and the press release stated:
(MIAMI, June 27, 2012) – The Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Department has completed the toxicology on Mr. Rudy Eugene. The department’s toxicology laboratory has identified the active components of marijuana. The laboratory has tested for but not detected any other street drugs, alcohol or prescription drugs, or any adulterants found in street drugs. This includes cocaine, LSD, amphetamines (Extasy, Meth and others), phencyclidine (PCP or Angel Dust), heroin, oxycodone, Xanax, synthetic marijuana (Spice), and many other similar compounds.
The department has ruled out the most common drugs found in “bath salts.” The department has also sought the assistance of an outside forensic toxicology reference laboratory, which has confirmed the absence of “bath salts,” synthetic marijuana and LSD.
Within the limits of current technology by both laboratories, marijuana is the only drug identified in the body of Mr. Rudy Eugene.
As I blogged earlier this month, Eugene unexplainably attacked a homeless man, who was apparently sleeping under some trees, and brutally beat him senseless, punching him repeatedly and slamming him to the ground, and, by the time police arrived, he had chewed off most of his face (Talk about getting the munchies!  Sorry, I couldn't resist).

The officer ordered Eugene to stop the attack and, instead, the entranced man continued to maul his victim.  He was shot dead on the spot.  

While some of Eugene's friends and relatives suggested the man, who some called "Preacher" for his tendency of carrying his Bible everywhere he went and openly sharing it with others, was under some voodoo spell or some other demonic spiritual possession, many in the community, including police and government officials,  took a more pragmatic approach and believed that Eugene had to be on some sort of synthetic drug or hallucinogen.

Some even came out publicly and pointed to either synthetic marijuana or "bath salts" as the probable causes for his fiendish cannibalistic behavior.  

In fact, several municipalities in both Miami-Dade and Broward Counties quickly cracked down on these drugs, which are often sold as incense or actual bath salts, and banned their sale from within their limits. 

But now, all those speculations on the evil attack being caused by drugs seemed to have gone up in smoke as fast as a lit marijuana cigarette in strong wind (not that I would know!).

So, it's time to come up with a new explanation...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Niners Coach Shows Faith Through Missionary Work in Peru...

Jim Harbough
St. John Chrysostom once wrote, "Not to enable the poor to share in our good is to steal from them and deprive them of life. "

While I'm not sure if San Francisco 49ers Coach Jim Harbough has ever considered this thought, it apparently has not been lost in his charity.  

The first year NFL head coach just returned from a missionary trip to a small town in Peru, where the majority of the population is lives in poverty.

Harbough, who is Roman Catholic, visited Piura, Peru with a group of U.S. volunteers to help the 1400 peasant families of the village.

An  article in the Catholic New Agency on Tuesday reports that the consensus 2011 NFL Coach of the Year, after guiding his team to a 13 win and 3 loss season and leading them to their first NFC Championship Game since 1997, not only helped build about twenty homes and provide food for the neediest of the needy, with the group, but also spent a little time teaching the kids about the game that has been and continues to be a large part of his life:
It's not every day that children in Piura, Peru, learn to play American football from the coach of a National Football League team.
Jim Harbaugh, the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, told CNA that impromptu lessons with the kids during a recent eight-day trip to the town brought him joy.
Harbaugh was one of several U.S. volunteers who traveled in June to Piura – a small town nearly 600 miles north of Lima – to help the Most Blessed Sacrament Parish with its daily ministries to the poor.
The parish's outreach includes a women’s shelter, an orphanage, a drug rehabilitation center, a hospice facility and, most recently, tuition-free Catholic school for kindergarten through eleventh graders.
“It’s incredible the amount of work they do and they joy that they do it with,” Harbaugh said, noting that more than 60 percent of Piura’s population live in poverty and over 20 percent in extreme poverty.
The coach said he first learned about the mission trip through friends at St. Raymond's, his parish in Menlo Park, Calif. 
Now, four years and three trips later, Harbaugh said he has seen Most Blessed Sacrament become a “very vibrant and growing parish.”
“I’ve always been struck by the attendance and the joy they have for Mass,” Harbaugh said, adding that the pews are filled with faithful at daily evening Masses. “You can only describe that as the fruit of the Holy Spirit.”
Harbough with a boy in Piura, Peru
The 15 year former NFL quarterback, who was a number one pick for the Chicago Bears in 1987, has been involved in the sponsorship program, titled Santisimo Sacramento, and organized by the pastor of the Most Blessed Sacrament parish and school, Father Joe Uhen, who grew up in Milwaukee, encourages American families “adopt” a family in Peru, by supplying scholarships to its Catholic school, food and basic housing needs. 

The 48-year-old coach, who is a husband and father of five children, decided to adopt a family and when he heard about the mission, he decided to go.  

The experience of serving God by serving the least and most vulnerable, and seeing that despite their hardships and deplorable living conditions, they remain devout, hopeful and Godly, was so profound that he has already gone two more times, including this month.  In fact, he says the missionary trips have changed him forever.    
“The doors that God will open for you by the people you meet or by the circumstances you’re in (allow) your character to be shaped and your spirit to grow,” he said. “Those kinds of doors are opened for (me) here.”

Harbough says he plans to continue taking trips to Peru in the future.

In the Letter of James, it states that faith without works is dead, and if you can measure a man by the love he gives, then through his work for the less fortunate in Piura, Harbough is showing the true sense of faith and love, by, as St. John Chrysostom wrote, enabling others to share in the good that God has given him...     

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pondering Fatherhood Over a Book and a Beer…

Norman Rockwell's Freedom from Fear
"You're a good dad, Carlos," a friend on Facebook commented on a photo I posted of my four-year-old son, who spent the day at work with me last Friday.

The words lingered uncomfortably in my mind.  

Really?  I knew he was just trying to make me feel good and, maybe, from previous comments and pictures I have posted, he really does think of me as a good dad, but it did make me pause.  What does it mean to be a good dad?

The question was apropos to ponder a couple of days later on Father's Day while reading a book and having a beer, as my wife and children were enjoying the swimming pool of a club that we joined for the summer (Yes, some people like to think.  I like to ponder.  And, what better way to ponder than with a beer in my hand, I say)

Anyway, the more I pondered, the more I realized, the enormity and complexity that answering the question entails.

Bl. Pope John XXIII once wrote, "It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father."

What a sad commentary but how profoundly astute.  

I'm no expert but if there is something I have learned in my eleven short years of fatherhood, and the last six of learning a little about my faith, is that being a good dad, or a real father, as the Pope stated, means a lot more than just having children and providing for them.
A "real" father has to go beyond his procreative and financial contributions.  A real father has to be a leader in all aspects of his family's life.

That's a pretty monumental and, in all honesty, intimidating responsibility, which may account for why so many men today relinquish their duties.

Let's face it, it takes a lot of courage (sometimes more than I have) and, while I still have times where I act more like Al Bundy of Married With Children than Jim Anderson of Father Knows Best (probably too many if you ask my wife), it's not something I take lightly.

One of the most satisfying moments for me as a father in recent weeks, came a few Sundays ago at Mass.

My two younger kids, who are seven and four, started mimicking everything I did.  They sat on either side of me and, when I kneeled and prayed, they kneeled and prayed.  When I followed the readings in the missal, my seven-year-old read along in her Magnificat Kids and my four-year-old pretended to be reading.  When I stood, they stood. 

They were unusually quiet throughout the entire liturgy.  At times, they were overtly affectionate and cuddled next to me and hugged me.  My son even gave me unsolicited kisses.  It was probably one of the most rewarding masses my wife and I have ever experienced with our children.  

Like many Catholic dads of young children, I spend many Sunday mornings at Mass shushing them or separating them when they are fighting.  Even my eleven-year-old occasionally acts up and starts bothering one of her younger siblings in church.
However, that day was different.  They were truly on their best behavior.  

What I think it shows is that, despite all the distractions and apparent lack of attention, my kids are watching me and they are willing to follow, if I lead them.

And that, for me, means leading by example.  As most studies show, kids learn more from what they see at home from mom and, especially, dad than from what they hear us say.

In fact, the moral funk our society has been in over the past several decades, unfortunately correlates with the deteriorating role of the father within the American family.

Therefore, being a good father begins with being a good husband, which most men would agree is not easy.  Yet, if I can't set an example as a husband in my own marriage, which is the most important and intimate relationship I can ever experience with another person, then what kind of example am I really setting for my children about love, respect, honor and commitment?

Hence, a real father must get outside of his selfish and self-centered tendencies (and God knows it's a struggle for me) and focus on the needs of his wife and children.  In other words, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, who came to serve and not be served (which I have not yet mastered).

Father's Day was a great example.  We got up early, as we usually do on Sundays to go to Mass, then went to breakfast at a Jewish deli (of my choosing).  

By the time we got back home, it was early afternoon and instead of going out with my son, who wanted to play basketball outside in the hot sun, I distracted him by putting on a movie and, while the kids watched the film, I took a little nap (not exactly focusing on the needs of my family, I know) and my wife worked out (Mother's Day, Father's Day, it doesn't make a difference, that's what she does!).  

After the movie, they all wanted to go to the pool, although I could have just stayed on the couch watching TV all day!

As a matter of fact, when my wife suggested to the kids that they go ahead and I join them later (one of the perks of Father's Day!), I almost broke into a touchdown dance in the middle of the living room.

So, I stayed behind watching TV.  This is what Father's Day is all about.  I'm on our leather couch, with my feet up on the coffee table and the remote in my hand.  I could watch whatever I want and not be distracted or feel that my wife was going to get upset because she was doing chores and I was relaxing.  It was wonderful.  

However, about twenty minutes into my self-absorption, a thought crossed my mind (they don't happen often but...); here it was Father's Day and I was neglecting to act like a father! (They say ignorance is bliss but unfortunately I read too many books and listen to too many CD's on fatherhood, my bad!).  So, I reluctantly decided to join them.

Still, it was a halfhearted effort.  When I showed up at the pool, my wife quickly asked, "You didn't bring a bathing suit?"  I saw the disappointment on their faces.

All I took was a book and my reading glasses (I guess you can say, I showed up as if I was doing them a favor but this was still all about me).    

But, God has a funny way of making a point.

My wife asked if I wanted to order something from the menu and we ordered food for the kids and I ordered a Corona.

As I was sitting underneath an umbrella by the pool, sipping my beer and reading my book, Fr. Larry Richards' Be A Man! Becoming the Man God Created You to Be (which in retrospect, may not have been the best choice in my egocentric Father's Day mood), I came upon these words:

"Before you go to bed each night, ask yourself, "Did I commit one unselfish act today, one act of service?"   If the answer is no, you wasted your life in Christ today.  You are not a servant.  You are more concerned about yourself..."

I felt like I was hit by a two by four across the forehead.  What am I doing?  It's Father's Day, God's sake!

I immediately put down my book, removed my glasses and shirt, and jumped into the water in my Bermuda shorts.

The kids loved it.

"You don't even have a bathing suit!" my younger daughter exclaimed in delight.

We had a blast and, at least for that brief time playing in the pool, I was a good dad.

As I reflected on the day later that night, I realized that, going back to the first sentence in the Fr. Richards' book, we are all going to die.   And, at the end of the day, when I do, it's not going to matter how much knowledge I gained or how much time I had to relax and be selfish.  What will matter are the memories I leave my wife and kids and the love and time I gave and shared with them.

Maybe, that is what my Facebook friend meant by the comment on my picture because that is what being a good dad means...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Words of Wisdom by Archbishop Fulton Sheen...

“When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.”

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Archbishops Wager on NBA Finals...

Archbishops Wenski and Coakley
Despite being down one game to none in the series, and the Miami Heat looking a bit sluggish against the younger and more athletic Oklahoma City Thunder, Archbishop of Miami Thomas Wenski is not giving up hope.

In fact, he’s putting his money where his mouth is and announced having made a friendly wager with Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley on the NBA Finals.

An Archdiocese of Miami press release Thursday states:

Archbishop Wenski has thrown the ecclesiastic gauntlet by offering Miami hand-made cigars and stone crabs if Miami loses. Archbishop Coakley has accepted the challenge and is offering organically-grown Oklahoma beef, courtesy of the Oklahoma Beef Council, if Oklahoma loses. The losing bishop will receive a t-shirt from the opposing team, in which he agrees to be photographed.

"The Miami Heat is resilient if anything. We relish being the underdog, but the Thunder will not stand up to the Heat," said Archbishop Wenski.

“The Thunder have proven time and time again that they have what it takes to become the NBA Champions. It is a great time to be an Oklahoman,” said Archbishop Coakley.
The friendly wager was made during a break at the Spring General Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Atlanta, where both archbishops are in attendance.

Cigars, stone crabs, and steaks? Throw in a bottle of single malt scotch and it’s a party! Who says the descendants of the Apostles can’t have a little fun?

Hey, as the good book says, “So faith, love and hope remain, but the greatest of these is love.” And, what better way to show love between friends than sharing good conversation over steaks and stone crabs and topping it off with cigars, while rooting for their favorite team?...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Rapping Priest Loves Jesus and Religion Too!...

About six months ago, a self proclaimed poet named Jeff Bethke posted a You Tube video titled, Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus, which went viral and has gotten over 21 million hits thus far.

It expresses the sentiments of many disenfranchised Christians, who are fed up with the doctrinal division between denominations (about 35 thousand Christian "churches" in the U.S. and counting, since start-up churches continue to pop up each week) and have turned their faith into a personal "Jesus and me" and or "The Bible and me" thing.

Unfortunately, as the old saying goes, "Truth is One.  Error is manifold."

Faith was never meant to be a "Bible and me" or "Jesus and me" thing.  If it would have been, the world would still be mostly pagan and there wouldn't even have been a Bible, since there would have been no authority to comprise it in the late 4th and early 5th centuries (when the cannon was established).  

Moreover, Jesus prayed for unity.  He wanted His disciples to be one, as He and the Father were one.  To paraphrase Catholic apologist, John Martignoni, in one of his talks, "Did the Father believe a different doctrine from the Son?  Did the Son believe a different doctrine from the Father?"

A young scholar priest from Indiana, named Fr. Claude (Dusty) Burns, who goes by the "stage name" of Fr. Pontifex on You Tube, made his own rendition of Bethke's poem, using a more sound theological perspective but with the same rapping style, visual effects and play on words.

Check it out:

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Was Face Eating Attack Drugs or Something More Sinister?...

Rudy Eugene
What would make an otherwise “sweet and well-mannered man,” who friends called “preacher,” because he liked carrying his Bible and quoting it, completely snap, to the point of tearing off all his clothes on a busy thoroughfare, and viciously attacking a helpless elderly homeless man that came into his path; pummeling him senseless, gauging out an eye out and chewing off most of his face?

It wasn't like an attack that escalated from a robbery.  Who would try to rob a homeless guy?

It wasn’t that the man had ran off with his wife or girlfriend, or had killed a relative or friend, as we often hear prompts other men to snap in the local news. 

It wasn’t even someone who was making his life a living hell. 

It was a random man, who he had never met before and was apparently sleeping harmlessly underneath some shade trees, where he was hiding from the piercing hot afternoon sun, just a couple of days after apparently having been kicked out of a parking lot at Jungle Island, where he had been sleeping. 

As most have probably seen or heard, surveillance cameras captured the 31-year-old aggressor, Rudy Eugene, slamming the victim, identified as Ronald Poppo, against the cement, inexplicably removing his pants and punching him repeatedly in the head before straddling him and starting to chew on his face. 

I can’t even imagine the pain, shock and horror that the 65-year-old victim, who had been roaming the streets of South Florida for decades and probably endured his share of beatings and assaults in the past, was in. 

Even if he was drunk, which could be why he appears lethargic, he must have been in excruciating pain. 

And in his daze and confusion, it all must have seemed like a bad nightmare.

Think about it, there he was underneath a man half his age and much stronger, who for some unknown reason, was in a state of uncontrolled rage, savagely beating him and pinning him to the ground while biting his face.

Just the thought of how helpless he must have felt makes my stomach turn.

Ronald Poppo
When police arrived almost 20 minutes after the attack began, and after a cyclist that came across the gory scene flagged down a police officer, Eugene is said to have growled at the officer with Poppo’s flesh in his mouth and refused to stop gnawing at the older man’s face.  The officer fired off about five shots and killed him.  

Blood was splattered everywhere on and around the two men, who lay side by side, one completely naked and the other naked from the waist down and his face unrecognizable, when it all ended.  

The good Samaritan cyclist described it as "a blob of blood."

It must have been surreal sight for the biker, a bus driver that got a good look as she drove by and hysterically called 911, and even veteran officers and paramedics, who say it was probably one of the most disturbing scenes they have ever encountered. 

But, the question that lingers is why?  What triggered this rage?  What provokes a man to even chew on another person like a wild animal or worse, a cannibal?

Was it drugs? That seems to be the logical conclusion and one that many of Eugene’s friends and family, and even police and officials, appear to favor, as they try to make sense of an otherwise senseless, brutal and grotesque attack. 

Bath salts, LSD, synthetic marijuana or other hallucinogen drugs have been mentioned as possible culprits and experts have been interviewed in the press about their effects.

However, not everyone is convinced.  

Could Eugene have had deeper psychological problems?  Although, his criminal record was mostly for minor offenses, there were at least a couple of incidents involving violent outbursts, including against his mother and an ex-wife.      

Some have even suggested, the former high school football player, who friends say would read the Bible nightly and had recently said he wanted to commit his life to God and give up smoking marijuana, which apparently had been his plague for years, was under the influence of a supernatural spirit.

One of Eugene’s friends writes on Facebook, “Open your eyes people, demons do walk among us.  No drug did that.  He had to be possessed.”

Another one writes, “I known Rudy since the 6th grade… My dawg was always a happy and funny dude. He was a genuine man. It could happen to anyone of us. I was with him Thursday that same week prior to this incident and the last thing he said to me is, "I want to change my life, and get right with God.”

His on and off again girlfriend for the past five years says either Eugene was drugged unknowingly at Miami Beach Memorial Day Urban Weekend, where he had gone early that morning, or someone put a voodoo spell on him.  She said she has never believed in Voodoo, until now. 

“I don’t know how else to explain this,” she told a local reporter.

It is something that is hard to explain.  And, trying to make sense of it from the outside without knowing the mental state of the man who has been dubbed the “Miami Zombie,” may be an exercise in futility.

But, there was obviously some evil deep within him.  As his Facebook friend stated, he was fighting internal demons.  Whatever they may have been. 

He had recently confided to friends that he was having “family issues,” which according to close relatives, may have started many years ago when he found out his stepfather, who raised him from the time that he was two-years-old, was not his biological dad. 

When he set out to look for his father, his mother didn’t even have a picture to show him.  In any case, his mother and stepfather believed he was dead.

Then, when his mother got divorced, it was another blow to Eugene, who some have said at times felt like everything was stacking up against him.

He numbed his pain with marijuana.

Even so, this is a man who is said to have grown up going to church on Sundays and served on the church choir.  Friends say he took his Bible everywhere and openly shared it with others.

What happened?

As I reflected on the answer, I couldn't help but be reminded of the story of Legion in the Gospel of Mark. 

It was a man who was tormented by many demons and was living naked in a cemetery.  St. Mark writes that the man was so out of control that not even chains could contain him:   

The man had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain.  In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains, but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed, and no one was strong enough to subdue him.  Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones. 

When Jesus meets him, He drives the demons out of him and sends them onto a herd of swine, who rushed into the sea and drown.  

While it might be a stretch to think that Eugene was inflicted with the same torments as Legion, I think it is safe to say, as this case proves, that evil is real and in the human condition, there lies a darkness that is constantly challenging us from within. 

Pope John Paul II once wrote, "He who does not believe in the devil, does not believe in the Gospel."

Meanwhile, Poppo had his own internal demons.  He had been living in the streets for about forty years.  In fact, his family thought he was dead.
He had checked out of what most consider a “normal life” and his family didn’t even know why.

Stuyvesant High Class of '64
In fact, he had been a smart student growing up with a bright future.  Poppo attended and graduated from an elite high school in New York.  He went on to college, although he dropped out after two years. 

He got married and had a daughter, which ironically, after his divorce, he never saw again.  Like Eugene, she was two-years-old when her father left her life and disappeared. 

He started living in the streets and apparently became an alcoholic, although the order is not quite clear.  Over the years, he had been arrested at least two dozen times, mostly for drinking and sleeping in public, and had been treated for a gunshot wound once in 1976.   

Fifteen years ago, his daughter tried to find him and even hired a police officer friend to help her.  They ran into a dead end after dead end and finally determined he was probably dead.  

While most of us would think, what a sad existence, that is the life Poppo chose to live; alone in the streets, without his family, his daughter or the old friends from his prep school that also tried searching for him over the years.  He was invisible and maybe that is what he wanted. 

It makes me wonder, how many other anonymous and faceless (pardon the pun) Poppos there are roaming the streets of Miami, or other major cities across America?  How many had "normal" lives and now find themselves downtrodden and living in obscurity.   

Unfortunately, Poppo was found on a sunny Saturday afternoon on the MacArthur Causeway in Downtown Miami and the result was tragic.

Doctors say, if he survives the infections, Poppo’s road to recovery may take years and multiple operations. 

And, while it's hard to imagine that this despicable act of evil can have an upside, but, maybe this will give him a chance to reconcile with the many people who he may have hurt by disappearing, including a 44-year-old daughter, who he hardly knows.

As for Eugene, it is ironic that one of his last entries on Facebook, quoted beginning of Psalm 59, which states, “Deliver me from my enemies, O my Lord; defend me from those who rise up against me," and then adds, "For the Lord God is my defense.”

Only God knows if his tragic ending was his deliverance from those enemies rising within him…