Monday, November 30, 2009

On Christ, the Foundation of Hope

"He Is 'Flesh' Like Us, and Is 'Rock' Like God" Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address before praying the Angelus at midday with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.


According to the Gospel of John, St. Andrew was St. Peter’s brother and the first of the apostles to follow Jesus. As Apostles of Prayer, we venerate the Twelve Apostles in a special way, asking that like them, we may come to know Jesus more intimately and follow Him through a life of prayer and service. As we reflect on part of Pope Benedict’s General Audience of June 14, 2006, let us ask that we, like St. Andrew, may join the crosses of our lives to the Cross that has saved the world.

This is what the Apostle is claimed to have said on that occasion, according to an ancient story (which dates back to the beginning of the sixth century), entitled The Passion of Andrew: "Hail, O Cross, inaugurated by the Body of Christ and adorned with his limbs as though they were precious pearls. Before the Lord mounted you, you inspired an earthly fear. Now, instead, endowed with heavenly love, you are accepted as a gift. Believers know of the great joy that you possess, and of the multitude of gifts you have prepared. I come to you, therefore, confident and joyful, so that you too may receive me exultant as a disciple of the One who was hung upon you.... O blessed Cross, clothed in the majesty and beauty of the Lord's limbs!... Take me, carry me far from men, and restore me to my Teacher, so that, through you, the one who redeemed me by you, may receive me. Hail, O Cross; yes, hail indeed!".

Here, as can be seen, is a very profound Christian spirituality. It does not view the Cross as an instrument of torture but rather as the incomparable means for perfect configuration to the Redeemer, to the grain of wheat that fell into the earth. Here we have a very important lesson to learn: our own crosses acquire value if we consider them and accept them as a part of the Cross of Christ, if a reflection of his light illuminates them. It is by that Cross alone that our sufferings too are ennobled and acquire their true meaning.

The Apostle Andrew, therefore, teaches us to follow Jesus with promptness (cf. Mt 4: 20; Mk 1: 18), to speak enthusiastically about him to those we meet, and especially, to cultivate a relationship of true familiarity with him, acutely aware that in him alone can we find the ultimate meaning of our life and death.

Immaculate Conception Novena - Day Two

First, recite the Prayer to the Immaculate Conception.
Then, recite the appropriate prayer of each of the nine days.


O God,  who by the Immaculate Conception
of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
did prepare a worthy dwelling place for Your Son,
we beseech You that, as by the foreseen death of this, Your Son, You did preserve Her from all stain,
so too You would permit us, purified through Her intercession,  to come unto You.
Through the same Lord Jesus Christ,  Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen

Day Two 

O Mary, ever blessed Virgin, Mother of God, Queen of angels and of saints, we salute you with the most profound veneration and filial devotion as we contemplate your holy Immaculate Conception, We thank you for your maternal protection and for the many blessings that we have received through your wondrous mercy and most powerful intercession. In all our necessities we have recourse to you with unbounded confidence. O Mother of Mercy, we beseech you now to hear our prayer and to obtain for us of your Divine Son the favor that we so earnestly request in this novena...

(State your intention here...)

O Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Mother of Christ, you had influence with your Divine Son while upon this earth; you have the same influence now in heaven. Pray for us and obtain for us from him the granting of my petition if it be the Divine Will.


First Monday in Advent - A Time of Preparation

Week 1: Monday

 Many peoples shall come and say: "Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths." For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:3)


Christ is the ultimate center of meaning in the universe. It is through Christ that all people will be led to the Father. How can we hope to achieve a world in which all will seek the path of God? Only when men and women are working to achieve the unity that Christ’s redemption promises us.

Advent Action

Perform an act of kindness for someone you do not know.


Lord, help me be at home with You, that I may listen to Your word and walk in Your way.

HLI: Thwarting the Culture of Death in the Caribbean - Part 1 of 3

 ASPIRE: Advocates for Safe Parenthood: Improving Reproductive Equity Aspire is intent on legalizing abortion in our county their mission is given below:

ASPIRE is committed to reducing the incidence of unsafe abortions and promoting sexual and reproductive equity.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pope on Advent: With Jesus, there is no life without meaning

On Saturday night, Pope Benedict XVI officiated a celebration in St. Peter's Basilica of first vespers before the first Sunday of the Advent season.  His message in the homily was one of 'silence and hope' during the season of Advent.

The Holy Father ushered the Church into the new liturgical year, telling those in attendance at yesterday evening's celebration of first vespers that "Advent invites us to pause in silence to understand a Presence."

In his homily, Pope Benedict, gave a short lesson on the meaning of 'advent' to those early Christians who adopted the word "to explain their relationship with Jesus Christ."  He taught that the word adventus would have been understood by them in that time to mean "God is here, he hasn't retired to his world, he hasn't left us alone."  He further explained that an additional definition of the word could be " a visit from God."

His Holiness implored that the faithful put aside the activities, amusements, and multiple societal interests that "possess us" and can "sweep us away" to take the time observe silence and seek to understand signs of God that are present in every day life.  These signs, he said, illustrate the presence of His love.

The Pontiff explained that "Advent invites and stimulates us to contemplate the Lord present."

"Advent is a time of the presence and the expectation in the eternal," he stated.  "Exactly for this reason, it is... the time of joy, an internalized joy, that no suffering can negate.  Joy because God is made child."

Immaculate Conception Novena - Day One

First, recite the Prayer to the Immaculate Conception.
Then, recite the appropriate prayer of each of the nine days.


O God,  who by the Immaculate Conception
of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
did prepare a worthy dwelling place for Your Son,
we beseech You that, as by the foreseen death of this, Your Son, You did preserve Her from all stain,
so too You would permit us, purified through Her intercession,  to come unto You.
Through the same Lord Jesus Christ,  Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, world without end.

Day One

O most Holy Virgin, who was pleasing to the Lord and became His mother, immaculate in body and spirit, in faith and in love, look kindly on me as I implore your powerful intercession. O most Holy Mother, who by your blessed Immaculate Conception, from the first moment of your conception did crush the head of the enemy, receive our prayers as we implore you to present at the throne of God the favor we now request...
(State your intention here...)

O Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Mother of Christ, you had influence with your Divine Son while upon this earth; you have the same influence now in heaven. Pray for us and obtain for us from him the granting of my petition if it be the Divine Will.

Week 1: First Sunday of Advent - Our Liberation from fear

 Our Liberation from fear

Fear is the most crippling of all emotions and there are many things in life and in the world to make us afraid. We lack integrity because we are afraid to be ourselves. But today we lift up our souls to Christ who comes to deliver us from fear. We can stand erect, hold our heads high, and dwell in confidence.

 Prayer for the Advent Wreath

Lord, our God, we praise You for Your Son, Jesus Christ, for He is Emmanuel, the Hope of all people.
He is the Wisdom that teaches and guides us.
He is the Savior of us all.
O Lord, let your blessing come upon us as we light the first (purple) candle of this wreath.
May the wreath and its light be a sign of Christ’s promise of salvation.
May He come quickly and not delay.
We ask this in His holy name. Amen.


Last year on this day Pope Benedict reminded us of the value of time. Let us renew our offering as we reflect on the Holy Father’s words from last year’s Angelus Address.

Today, with the First Sunday of Advent, we begin a new liturgical year.   wish to start with a very concrete observation: we all say that we do not have enough time, because the pace of daily life has become frenetic for everyone. In this regard too, the Church has "good news" to bring: God gives us his time. We always have little time; especially for the Lord, we do not know how or, sometimes, we do not want to find it. Well, God has time for us! This is the first thing that the beginning of a liturgical year makes us rediscover with ever new amazement. Yes, God gives us his time, because he entered history with his Word and his works of salvation to open it to eternity, to make it become a covenantal history. In this prospective, already in itself time is a fundamental sign of God's love: a gift that man, as with everything else, is able to make the most of or, on the contrary, to waste; to take in its significance or to neglect with obtuse superficiality. …

The liturgical season of Advent celebrates the coming of God in its two moments: it first invites us to reawaken our expectation of Christ's glorious return, then, as Christmas approaches, it calls us to welcome the Word made man for our salvation. Yet the Lord comes into our lives continually. … This involves a proper detachment from earthly goods, sincere repentance for one's errors, active charity to one's neighbor and above all a humble and confident entrustment to the hands of God, our tender and merciful Father. The icon of Advent is the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus. Let us invoke her so that she may help us also to become an extension of humanity for the Lord who comes.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Vespers Mass from The Vatican Sunday

Presidents of Chile and Argentina visit the Pope

Pope Benedict XVI received the presidents of Chile and Argentina at the Vatican.

But it wasnt just any traditional visit by a head of state.

Argentina' president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Chile' president Michelle Bachelet were here to celebrate.

In the late 70s the two South American countries were on the verge of going to war over territorial issues. Then in 1984, they signed a peace treaty under mediation of the Vatican, which the late Pope John Paul II played a key role in.

The visit marks the 25th anniversary of the Peace and Friendship treaty. An anniversary the two heads of state wanted to commemorate along side the countries delegations and other special guests here at the Vatican.

CHOGM 2009 - Message from young people to leaders of the Commonwealth

Climate change will be a focal point of discussion at this year's CHOGM. Speaking about the Commonwealth, ahead of his arrival in Trinidad and Tobago, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said:

"The strength and clarity of our shared values gives us a unique legitimacy and ability to tackle the tough global challenges that confront us.

Despite our differences, each and every one of us is committed to freedom and democracy; to the eradication of poverty and inequality; to peace and the rule of law; and to opportunity for all.

These values must continue to underpin our work on climate change; democracy; and shared and sustained economic growth."

Further emphasising the importance of climate change at this year's CHOGM a short film has been launched,  showing young people from across the Commonwealth urging their leaders to take action on climate change.

No Apology Is Sufficient

In response to the publication of a report about sexual abuse of children by clergy, the archbishop of Dublin is stating that "no apology is sufficient."
The report, which details abuse cases in the Dublin Archdiocese from 1975 to 2004 and the response of Church and state authorities to these accusations, was published Thursday by the Commission of Investigation.  read full text here

"The abuse of children is an unspeakable crime," Cardinal Desmond Connell

The cardinal concluded: "I apologize again now from my heart and ask the forgiveness of those who have been so shamefully harmed.

"It has long been my prayer that they may be able to rebuild their lives and find healing and hope for the future."

Movie Review - The Princess and the Frog

NEW YORK (CNS) -- "The Frog Prince," a fairy tale that was already generations old when the Brothers Grimm committed it to writing in the early 19th century, gets a clever new twist in "The Princess and the Frog" (Disney). But this snappy variation on an ancient theme -- any more specific description would constitute a spoiler -- is just one inviting element in what is, overall, an enchanting animated musical.

Though images of fire-breathing masks and evil sprites may scare some tots, "The Princess and the Frog" otherwise provides quality entertainment for all ages.

The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences. All ages admitted.

Advent First Vespers

A lesson on iconography: a look at Christian Art

They are considered spiritual treasures. Religious figures painted using vivid colors on pieces of wood are thought to be the first representation of Christian Art.

Now a group of students are taking a crack at creating their own masterpiece by enrolling in an icon making course.

Iconographer Ivan Polverari teaches the 6 day class, steps away from St. Peters Square.

The first assignment is to make their own version of this12th century Byzantine icon, a not so easy task.

Ivan Polverari
The most difficult thing about making an icon is illustrating expression, the expression brings out the real person.

But theres a deeper dimension to an icon, one that isnt visible to the naked eye.

An icon is viewed as an expression of the Christian message.

Icons date back to the first millennium, before eastern and western divisions.

So to Polverari, an icon is not only the first type of Christian art but also the Churchs first language.

Ivan Polverari
The icon is the language of the Church. Its the art of the church the first way in which the church began to express its divine mysteries

As for the students while they may have joined the class for a lesson on icons, they walked out with a deeper understanding and appreciation for Christian art, theology and history.

Pope writes to Vietnamese bishops

          For the 350th anniversary of the creation of the first Catholic diocese in the country, Benedict XVI wrote a letter to the bishops of Vietnam. The Pope wishes that the anniversary serves to strengthen their faith, because, the Pope says "sometimes it has been tested.

Benedict XVI also requests that the celebrations lead to reconciliation with one another and God. In particular, Benedict XVI calls for recognition of "the faults of the past and present committed against fellow countrymen."

The Pope also encouraged the bishops to be united and work for a just society, solidarity and equality through genuine dialogue, mutual respect and healthy cooperation.

The letter sets the stage for a possible meeting between the pope and the president of Vietnam in the coming weeks.

The anniversary coincides with the resignation of the bishop of Hanoi. 57 year old Monsignor Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, has said he resigned for health reasons. But many Vietnamese Catholics believe its due to pressure from the Vietnamese government. In fact, the president of the Hanoi People's Committee asked for his resignation for allegedly "not respecting or cooperating with authorities" to end protests by Catholics for the sale of land expropriated from the Church. read full article here

"Miraculous Medal"

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Turkey Day!

[Image via Russell Heistuman's Flickr.]

The Pope dedicates message to children on the upcoming World ay of Migrants and Refugees

For World Day of Migrants and Refugees the Pope is asking for aid institutions to cater to immigrant children in order to enable their proper physical, spiritual and moral well-being.

The World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be held on January 17th and will focus on the youngest immigrants and refugees. Benedict XVI lamented that when children have no real role models or family support, they suffer from distress and severe disorders.

Thats why, the Pope has called for special attention to both children born in foreign countries as those living in their native countries but who do not meet their parents until years later. The Pope says these children are part of two cultures and they people need to be help them integrate to society.

In fact, Benedict XVI cited the Convention on the Rights of the Child and recalls that the rights of minors should be protected to prevent them being abandoned and exploited.

Benedict XVI thanked the work of many individuals and institutions working for children and called on all Christians to become more aware of the situation of child migrants and refugees.

Black Friday - Made For Humanity

CNN chooses young Filipino Catholic as 'Hero of the Year'

CNN has chosen a young Filipino Catholic as the winner of the their annual prize, “Hero of the Year.”  Efren Penaflorida, 28, is the head of an organization which seeks to prevent impoverished children from involvement with crime through education.

The son of a motorcycle-taxi driver and a homemaker, Efren grew up near a landfill in the city of Cavite southwest of Manila. He decided at a young age that he would not join the local gangs, as did most of his friends, and would overcome poverty by getting an education.

At the age of 16, he promised to help other children make the same choice, and subsequently created a program which offered tutoring and books to kids who live on the street and in poor neighborhoods.

His organization, Dynamic Teen Co., is made up of volunteers and has improved the reading and writing skills as well as the health of some 1,500 children.  Efren has become one of the models of the Asian Youth Day organized by the Catholic Church in the Philippines.

According to Bishop Joel Baylon of the Bishops’ Committee on Youth, Efren is an inspiring model for young people who demonstrates that they too can make a difference in their daily lives.

“E pluribus unum”: “Out of many, One”

On this long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, let us reflect on Pope Benedict’s encouraging words when he met with the representatives of various religions during his visit to the U.S. in 2008. May his words lead us to pray and to work for greater understanding and dialogue among all believers.

This country has a long history of cooperation between different religions in many spheres of public life. Interreligious prayer services during the national feast of Thanksgiving, joint initiatives in charitable activities, a shared voice on important public issues: these are some ways in which members of different religions come together to enhance mutual understanding and promote the common good. I encourage all religious groups in America to persevere in their collaboration and thus enrich public life with the spiritual values that motivate your action in the world. …

Americans have always valued the ability to worship freely and in accordance with their conscience. Alexis de Tocqueville, the French historian and observer of American affairs, was fascinated with this aspect of the nation. He remarked that this is a country in which religion and freedom are “intimately linked” in contributing to a stable democracy that fosters social virtues and participation in the communal life of all its citizens. In urban areas, it is common for individuals from different cultural backgrounds and religions to engage with one another daily in commercial, social and educational settings. Today, in classrooms throughout the country, young Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and indeed children of all religions sit side-by-side, learning with one another and from one another. This diversity gives rise to new challenges that spark a deeper reflection on the core principles of a democratic society. May others take heart from your experience, realizing that a united society can indeed arise from a plurality of peoples – “E pluribus unum”: “out of many, one” – provided that all recognize religious liberty as a basic civil right.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Inspiration


We pause today to give thanks. We thank God for all His good gifts, especially for the gift of the earth with its abundant resources. Our gratitude leads us to pray with Pope Benedict today that we may safeguard creation so that all people, today and in the future, may have the resources necessary for life. Our reflection is from Pope Benedict’s November 12, 2006 Angelus Address.

In Italy, the annual Day of Thanksgiving is being celebrated today. Its theme is: "The earth: a gift for the whole human family". In our Christian families, children are taught to always thank the Lord prior to eating with a short prayer and the Sign of the Cross. This custom should be preserved or rediscovered, for it teaches people not to take their "daily bread" for granted but to recognize it as a gift of Providence. We should become accustomed to blessing the Creator for all things: for air and water, precious elements on which life on our planet depends, as well as for the food that through the earth's fertility God offers to us for our sustenance.

Jesus taught his disciples to pray by asking the Heavenly Father not for "my" but for "our" daily bread. Thus, he desired every person to feel co-responsible for his brothers so that no one would want for what he needs in order to live. The earth's produce forms a gift which God has destined "for the entire human family". …[E]very person and every family can and must do something to alleviate hunger in the world by adopting a lifestyle and consumption compatible with the safeguarding of creation and with criteria of justice for those who cultivate the land in every country.

Dear brothers and sisters, today's Thanksgiving Day invites us, on the one hand, to give thanks to God for the fruits of agricultural work; and on the other, it encourages us to commit ourselves concretely to defeat the scourge of hunger. May the Virgin Mary help us to be grateful for the benefits of Providence and to foster justice and solidarity in every part of the globe.

Daily Reading & Meditation Thanksgiving Day (11/26)

"He fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks"
Scripture:  Luke 17:11-19  
11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Sama'ria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices and said, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." 14 When he saw them he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then said Jesus, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?"  19 And he said to him, "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well."

Meditation: What can adversity teach us about the blessing of thanksgiving and the healing power of love and mercy?  Proverbs states: A friend loves at all times; and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17). When adversity strikes you find out who truly is your brother, sister, and friend. The gospel records an unusual encounter between people who had been divided for centuries. The Jews and Samaritans had no dealings with one another. And they were openly hostile whenever their paths crossed. In this gospel narrative we see one rare exception – a Samaritan leper in company with nine Jewish lepers. Sometimes adversity forces us to drop our barriers or to forget our prejudices. When this band of lepers saw Jesus they made a bold request. They didn't ask for healing, but instead asked for mercy.

"Lord Jesus, may I never fail to recognize your love and mercy. Fill my heart with gratitude and thanksgiving and free me from pride, discontentment, and ingratitude. Help me to count my blessings with gratefulness and to give thanks in all circumstances."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Bible according to the Sistine Chapel

One of the most important pieces in the rich history of the Churchs art is found within these 1,000 square meters.

Its walls are an open book that narrate the story of the Bible in the most visual way possible up to now.

Its the Sistine Chapel, whose frescoes are featured in the book, The Painted Word.

Michelangelo, Perugino and Boticelli were able to depict complex theological concepts, now featured in this book, with the stroke of a brush. Thats why John Paul II called the Sistine Chapel a sanctuary for theology.

Antonio Paolucci
Director, Vatican Museums
Michelangelo, Perugino and Boticellis frescoes tell the story of salvation, mans destiny from the creation until the end of the world.

Every detail of the frescoes in the book is accompanied by the Bible passage that inspired it. An example of art and the spoken word coming together.

The Sistine Chapel is one of the most famous artistic treasures of our time, now explained step by step through this book.


Today’s saint was born in Alexandria, Egypt—a center for learning in the ancient world. She was a philosopher who, after becoming a Christian, debated the pagan philosophers of Alexandria. To silence her witness to the truth, she was beheaded. As we continue our prayer that believers of every religion may sincerely search for the truth and dialogue in a way that leads to peace, we reflect on part of an encyclical by Pope John Paul II, “Fides et Ratio”, “On the Relationship between Faith and Reason, #104:

Philosophical thought is often the only ground for understanding and dialogue with those who do not share our faith. The current ferment in philosophy demands of believing philosophers an attentive and competent commitment, able to discern the expectations, the points of openness and the key issues of this historical moment. Reflecting in the light of reason and in keeping with its rules, and guided always by the deeper understanding given them by the word of God, Christian philosophers can develop a reflection which will be both comprehensible and appealing to those who do not yet grasp the full truth which divine Revelation declares. Such a ground for understanding and dialogue is all the more vital nowadays, since the most pressing issues facing humanity—ecology, peace and the co-existence of different races and cultures, for instance—may possibly find a solution if there is a clear and honest collaboration between Christians and the followers of other religions and all those who, while not sharing a religious belief, have at heart the renewal of humanity. The Second Vatican Council said as much: “For our part, the desire for such dialogue, undertaken solely out of love for the truth and with all due prudence, excludes no one, neither those who cultivate the values of the human spirit while not yet acknowledging their Source, nor those who are hostile to the Church and persecute her in various ways” (Gaudiem et Spes #92). A philosophy in which there shines even a glimmer of the truth of Christ, the one definitive answer to humanity's problems (Gaudiem et Spes #10), will provide a potent underpinning for the true and planetary ethics which the world now needs.

Daily Reading & Meditation Wednesday (11/25)

"You will be delivered up ..but not a hair of your head will perish"

Scripture: Luke 21:12-19

12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. 13 This will be a time for you to bear testimony. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds, not to meditate beforehand how to answer; 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends, and some of you they will put to death; 17 you will be hated by all for my name's sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish.19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

If the gospel message is good news, then why do so many oppose it with hostility and even violence? Jesus warns his followers that they will be confronted with persecution, wickedness, false teaching, and temptation.

God may call some of us to be martyrs for our faith. But for most of us, our call is to be 'dry' martyrs who bear testimony to the joy and power of the gospel in the midst of daily challenges, contradictions, temptations and adversities which come our way as we follow the Lord Jesus. What will attract others to the truth and power of the gospel? When they see Christians loving their enemies, being joyful in suffering, patient in adversity, pardoning injuries, and showing comfort and compassion to the hopeless and the helpless. Jesus tells us that we do not need to fear our adversaries. God will give us sufficient grace, strength, and wisdom to face any trial and to answer any challenge to our faith. Are you ready to lay down your life for Christ and to bear witness to the joy and freedom of the gospel?

"Lord Jesus Christ, by your atoning death on the cross you have redeemed the world. Fill me with joyful hope, courage, and boldness to witness the truth of your love for sinners and your victory over the powers of sin, Satan, and death."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Fun

For some, Thanksgiving is a great time to relax, watch football, spend quality time with your family and be thankful for the blessings in your life. However, for Darrell and his family, Thanksgiving doesn't quite have that relaxing and restful feel.

Countdown to Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM)

In the next three days, my beloved Trinidad and Tobago (TT) will again be the focus of global attention as the country hosts its second major international conference for the year — the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). It’s an unprecedented feat for a small, developing Caribbean nation but one which the Government believes is pivotal in further cementing the country’s foreign interests.

“We feel certain that, among other benefits, as has happened in other countries that hosted the CHOGM, investment flows into our country will increase as a result of the meeting being held in Port-of-Spain,” Prime Minister Patrick Manning said in a televised address to the nation on Wednesday last.

However, the majority of the citizens are not convinced that TT has seen, let alone reaped the benefits of the last meeting, the Fifth Summit of the Americas, held in April in Port-of-Spain.
The budget for the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference now stands at TT$265M (US$42M) this was revealed by Finance Minister Mariano Browne. He said since TT$505M was spent on the first summit, the Fifth Summit of the Americas, it would mean that the total cost of both summits would be $740 to $750 M (US$119M).

It is truly amazing that in 2009, in a country that is populated by 1.3 million people and rich in energy resources, we have 30 per cent or more of the population living under the poverty line; poor health services because of a lack of medical supplies, beds, healthcare professionals or healthcare assistants; children dying because they cannot get money for life-saving operations; a horrendous lack of pre-school places available to those who need them most; many sub-standard primary and secondary educational facilities for the ordinary citizen; poor drainage, roads and bridges nationally; flooding that is as common as rainfall; poor community facilities; an almost total lack of facilities for senior citizens; one of the highest rates of murder in the world; and one of the most dangerous cities in the world as our capital city.

Despite all the negatives the citizens for the most part will put their best foot forward and try to portray all of the many strengths which our country has to offer.

Mindful of the debate as to whether TT should have hosted another international conference, the focus of that debate remains centred on the question of priorities for the country. I am of the view that despite the many difficulties which have plagued us in the past several years, Trinidad and Tobago is a very special place and a country whose true potential is greater than any of our wildest dreams.

In the next few days I'll will be blogging about GHOGM - Queen Elizabeth will be attending along with the goodly French President (even though France is not part of the Commonwealth) with more than 100 member entourage (at the expense of Trinidad & Tobago no doubt) as it will give me an opportunity to highlight the beauty of our dear country.

A traditional dancer on stilts called a Moko Jumbie participates in the welcoming committee for the arrival of the cruise ship Serenade of the Seas, which will be used as a floating hotel for delegates to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) that begins on Friday, in Port of Spain November 22, 2009. 


Today we honor St. Andrew Dung-Lac and 116 other martyrs (59 lay people, 50 priests, 8 bishops), native Vietnamese and foreign missionaries, who gave their lives for the faith. In the early Church, during similar persecutions, it was said that the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the faith. After the blood of these martyrs was shed, the Church grew in Vietnam so that today it is the Southeast Asian country with the second largest population of Catholics. (The Philippines is the largest.) A modern witness to the faith who spent thirteen years in prison after the fall of Vietnam to the Communists was Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan who died of cancer in 2002. The following of reflection of his, entitled “Value the Ordinary,” can help us as we make the offering of all the ordinary moments of this day.

By your example, Lord Jesus, you have taught me to live close to reality and to value ordinary tasks: gathering leftover loaves and fish, fishing, cooking, buying oil, visiting the abandoned and sick, sharing food and clothes, loving, pardoning those who do me wrong, …many completely ordinary responsibilities! Each of us carries out ordinary tasks every day, but the range of their influence is immense. Ordinary tasks can bring life and happiness to a person, provoke a family’s collapse, or even prepare a new society for the future. Such tasks bear witness to our love and, if done for the Lord, serve as a key that opens the doors of paradise. Who proclaimed this? Jesus himself when he said: “Whoever is faithful in small things will also be faithful in the great.”

Ordinary things await us at every moment of life. If we all accomplished our humble tasks with the heart of Jesus, his revolution of love would be complete and success would be in our hands! My surprise and joy will be great when I hear Jesus say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful in the little things…. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

Daily Reading & Meditation Tuesday (11/24)

"Take heed that you are not led astray"

Scripture: Luke 21:5-11

5 And as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, 6 "As for these things which you see, the days will come when there shall not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down." 7 And they asked him, "Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign when this is about to take place?" 8 And he said, "Take heed that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name, saying, `I am he!' and, `The time is at hand!' Do not go after them. 9 And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified; for this must first take place, but the end will not be at once." 10 Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11 there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 

Meditation: How would you respond if someone prophesied that your church or place of worship would be destroyed? An American judge, named Robert H. Bork, wrote a book a few decades ago entitled, Slouching Towards Gomorrah. His message sounded an alarm about the moral crisis and decay of culture which he saw in Western society. We often don't recognize the moral crisis and spiritual conflict of our age, until something "shakes us up" to the reality of our present condition. The reward for doing what is right and just and the penalty for sin and wrong-doing are not always experienced in this life; but they are sure to come in the day of judgment. The Lord Jesus tells us that there will be persecution, suffering, and difficulties in this age until he comes again at the end of the world. God intends our anticipation of his final judgment to be a powerful deterrent to wrongdoing. God extends grace and mercy to all who will heed his call and his warning. Do you take advantage of this season of grace and mercy to seek God's kingdom and to pursue his will?

"Lord Jesus, your grace and mercy abounds even in the midst of turmoil and destruction. Increase my hunger for your kingdom and help me to be faithful to your word. May nothing, not even the fear of death or the loss of all that I have, deter me from seeking you and the coming of your kingdom with hope and joy."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Human Rights leader calls for the end of anti-blasphemy law

Islam is the official religion in Pakistan. A religion that greatly influences the life of every citizen in the nation.

In 1986 an anti-blasphemy law was proclaimed. In theory this law is designed to defend the honor of Islam. But in practice it punishes by imprisonment or even death those who disrespect the Koran or the name of the Prophet Muhammad.

The law brutally discriminates minority religions and its known to be used by extremists in order to attack Christians in the country.

The director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace in Pakistan, Emmanuel Muni, has come to Rome to seek help from the international community. He wants to put an end to this law.

Fr. Emmanuel Y. Muni
Dir. National Justice & Peace (Pakistán)
So we would like that the international community help us to bring about the change because the change will come together when we are breaking down the Muslims also which we are trying

Father Muni says Since July, more than 200 Christians have been accused of breaking the blasphemy law. Theyve reportedly been attacked and some have been burned to death. Muni says many times the accusations are launched by mosque leaders.

Fr. Emmanuele Y. Mani
Dir. Nacional Justicia y Paz (Pakistán)
The mullah, the priest, makes an announcement on the loudspeaker of the mosque that one supposed person has committed blasphemy, so the whole village and the related villages come together and attack the other community, they attack the Churches, the houses, they destroy the houses

When the pope received Pakistans president in October, he talked about the treatment of Christians in the region and urged for the end of laws like these that violate human rights.

Thats why Emmanuel Muni from the National Justice and Peace Commission of Pakistan is asking for collaboration to overturn these laws. Collaboration that will help make Pakistan a free and pluralistic state.

Experts doubt U.N. Population Fund’s claim that population control will help fight climate change

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) claims that climate change could become "much more extreme and conceivably catastrophic" as population growth "outpaces the Earth's capacity to adjust." (Really ludicrous!)

However, several experts say the claim is alarmist and lacks clear more

Pope asks artist to bring hope to the world

Benedict XVI: "Be grateful for the gifts you have received and be fully conscious of your great responsibility to communicate beauty, to communicate in and through beauty! Through your art, you yourselves are to be heralds and witnesses of hope for humanity! " read full text

Take Note, Give Thanks

The Gratitude Challenge, is a 21-day challenge created to help people take note of the brighter side of life.


Jesuit Father Miguel Pro was born in Mexico and lived during a time of persecution. For a series of reflections during this Year for Priests, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix wrote about this priest who made the ultimate offering of his life for the salvation of souls. Let us renew our offering as we reflect on part of Bishop Olmsted’s reflection which can be found in the October 1, 2009 issue of The Catholic Sun

At 10 a.m. on Nov. 23, 1927, the prisoner was taken from his cell and led across the compound to the execution site. … As Padre Pro walked with his crucifix in one hand and a rosary in the other, one of the policemen who had helped to capture him a few days before broke ranks and approached him with tears, begging the priest to forgive him for his part in the ordeal. Reaching out to him as a brother, Padre Pro said, “Not only do I forgive you, I also give you thanks.” Upon arrival at the wall of execution, the priest asked permission to pray before being executed. Being granted his wish, he knelt before the wall riddled with bullet holes from previous executions and, clasping the crucifix and the rosary next to his heart, he asked God for the grace of a holy death. Then, he rose, kissed the crucifix, extended his arms in the form of a cross and, facing the firing squad, declared: “May God have mercy on you. May God bless you. Lord, you know that I am innocent. With all my heart I forgive my enemies.” Finally, as the firing squad took aim, Padre Pro said in a calm and steady voice, “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” “Long live Christ the King!” …

In 1988, Pope John Paul II beatified Miguel Pro, bringing great honor to the priesthood and immense joy to the faithful in Mexico and far beyond. In his beatification homily, the Holy Father said of Blessed Miguel Pro, “Neither suffering nor serious illness, neither the exhausting ministerial activity, frequently carried out in difficult and dangerous circumstances, could stifle the radiating and contagious joy which he brought to his life for Christ and which nothing could take away. Indeed, the deepest root of self-sacrificing surrender for the lowly was his passionate love for Jesus Christ and his ardent desire to be conformed to Him, even unto death.”

Daily Reading & Meditation Monday (11/23)

"She out of her poverty put in all the living that she had"
Scripture: Luke 21:1-4
1 He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury; 2 and he saw a poor widow put in two copper coins. 3 And he said, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; 4 for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living that she had."

Meditation: Do you know the joy of selfless giving and love for others? True love doesn't calculate; it spends lavishly! Jesus drove this point home to his disciples while sitting in the temple and observing people offering their tithes. Jesus praised a poor widow who gave the smallest of coins in contrast with the rich who gave greater sums. How can someone in poverty give more than someone who has ample means? Jesus' answer is very simple: love is more precious than gold or wealth! Jesus taught that real giving must come from the heart. A gift that is given with a grudge or for display loses its value. But a gift given out of love, with a spirit of generosity and sacrifice, is precious. The amount or size of the gift doesn't matter as much as the cost to the giver. The poor widow could have kept one of her coins, but instead she recklessly gave away all she had! Jesus praised someone who gave barely a penny – how insignificant a sum – because it was everything she had, her whole living. What we have to offer may look very small and not worth much, but if we put all we have at the Lord's disposal, no matter how insignificant it may seem, then God can do with it and with us what is beyond our reckoning. Do you give out of love and gratitude for what God has already given to you?

"Lord Jesus, your love knows no bounds and you give without measure. All that I have comes from you. May I give freely and generously in gratitude for all that you have given to me. Take my life and all that I possess – my gifts, talents, time and resources – and use them as you see fit for your glory."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival.

Hope you enjoy and are inspired. God Bless.

Sweet Potato Pie - Delicious Recipe


    * 1 pound 3 ounces sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
    * 1 1/4 cups plain yogurt
    * 3/4 cup packed, dark brown sugar
    * 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
    * 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
    * 5 egg yolks
    * Salt
    * 1 (9-inch) deep dish, frozen pie shell
    * 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
    * 1 tablespoon maple syrup

Cook potatoes until fork tender. Mash with potato masher and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place sweet potatoes in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment. Add yogurt, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, yolks, and salt, to taste, and beat until well combined. Pour this batter into the pie shell and place onto a sheet pan. Sprinkle pecans on top and drizzle with maple syrup.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Keep refrigerated after cooling.


On this feast in 2006, when we had the same liturgical readings as this year, Pope Benedict spoke about the kingship of Jesus in terms of love and truth. As we acclaim Jesus to be the King of our hearts and our lives, let us reflect on the Holy Father’s teaching.

On this last Sunday of the liturgical year we are celebrating the Solemnity of Christ the King. Today's Gospel proposes to us anew part of the dramatic questioning to which Pontius Pilate subjected Jesus when he was handed over to him, accused of usurping the title, "King of the Jews". Jesus answered the Roman governor's questions by declaring that he was a king, but not of this world (cf. Jn 18: 36). He did not come to rule over peoples and territories but to set people free from the slavery of sin and to reconcile them with God. And he added: "For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice" (Jn 18: 37).

But what is the "truth" that Christ came into the world to witness to? The whole of his life reveals that God is love: so this is the truth to which he witnessed to the full with the sacrifice of his own life on Calvary. The Cross is the "throne" where he manifested his sublime kingship as God Love: by offering himself in expiation for the sin of the world, he defeated the "ruler of this world" (Jn 12: 31) and established the Kingdom of God once and for all. It is a Kingdom that will be fully revealed at the end of time, after the destruction of every enemy and last of all, death (cf. I Cor 15: 25-26). The Son will then deliver the Kingdom to the Father and God will finally be "everything to everyone" (I Cor 15: 28).

The way to reach this goal is long and admits of no short cuts: indeed, every person must freely accept the truth of God's love. He is Love and Truth, and neither Love nor Truth are ever imposed: they come knocking at the doors of the heart and the mind and where they can enter they bring peace and joy. This is how God reigns; this is his project of salvation, a "mystery" in the biblical sense of the word: a plan that is gradually revealed in history.