Saturday, March 23, 2013

St Miguel Pro Meme

I created this meme for the feast of St Miguel Pro (Nov 23), one of my spiritual heroes.

St Miguel Pro, please pray for us.

Pope Meme #2

Here is a meme I posted just a couple of ours after Cardinal Bergoglio became Pope Francis. I posted this in the Catholic Meme Facebook page and got 1500 likes in 5 minutes!  It took me almost ten minutes to add the tilde over the N.


Pope Meme #1

Here is a meme I posted in Facebook. I have to admit that they idea came from my own experience. I think next time I will use bigger fonts.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

On Papal Elections and the War of (Photoshoped) Pictures

We have a Pope!

These are exciting times for faithful Catholics. The last time the Church got so much attention was when Pope Benedict was elected. I remember that time very well. I also remember how the enemies of the Church jumped at the opportunity presented to them by the fact that Benedict was German. The writing on the wall was obvious to them, if he was German and more than 60 years old then there must be a connection between him and the Nazi party.

Before Cardinal Ratzinger was elected to lead the Catholic Church there were a number of biographies which spoke freely about the fact that young Ratzinger had been, at the tender age of 14, a member of  the Hitler's Youth. Pope Benedict has long ago explained all this. It is a well known fact that he, along with many other German young men, was forced to joint this organization. It is also well know that young Raztinger found Nazism repugnant and refused to attend this organization meetings. This refusal was the cause why his family had to pay full tuition for his studies. All this is a matter of public record.

Some of those biographies included the following picture of young Ratzinger. You can see that in this image he is wearing the Hitler Youth uniform. 

Young Joseph Ratzinger at 14
When the enemies of the Church saw this picture they went on a frenzy! Finally the proof they needed!  Of course in this era of electronic media, tools like Photoshop can be used to enhance any feature in pictures.. Here is an example of this:

Of course facts such as Young Joseph's age (14), or that he was forced into joining the Hitler Youth, or the extreme dislike the Ratzinger family had for the Nazis (A fact corroborated by neighbors who knew them) are not important if the goal is to place the pope on a bad light.

Another young Benedict image which has been digitally "enhanced" in the following picture, perhaps you have seen it:

  Pretty incriminating don't you think? The critics were ecstatic! Finally a picture of Young Father Ratzinger giving the Nazi Salute!! This picture has been used to demonize the Pope and embarrass Catholics for the last eight years. In fact, even today you can find it in the most ardent anti-Catholic pages on the web. Of course critics not only enhanced this image, in their fervor to tie the Pope to Nazism, they went ahead and suspended all logic.

 Lets examine this picture with a critical eye. If you look closely Benedict is wearing the stole of a priest. This indicates that the picture was taken AFTER Benedict was ordained priest, in 1951...well after the Nazi party had been eradicated from Germany by the allies, so to accuse Ratzinger of using the "Nazi salute" is a historical anachronism. But not only this, the picture in question is a clever crop job of a larger picture, done for the exclusive purpose of raising strong negative emotions about the Pope. Here is the Original Picture:

As you can see, this is a picture of young Pope Benedict and his brother the day of their ordination back in 1951 while they are imparting their priestly blessing to friends and family at the the end of their first mass. Quite revealing don't you think?

Why am I telling you this? Well, the enemies of the Pope are at it again. As you know by now, the College of Cardinals elected Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, as the 266 successor of Peter.  It took less of 24 hours after the Cardinals elected Pope Francis for someone to send me this "very incriminating picture". The man you see here receiving communion is none other than General Jose Rafael Videla, the man who deposed Isabel Peron on a brutal Coup d'état back in 1976. The priest giving communion to Gen Videla is (claimed to be) none other than Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio.  The picture gives an impression of intimate familiarity between these two man. The humble communicant receiving the Eucharist from his priest. I received this picture with the claim, that "support (for) murderers is a bit much for a pope".

 Now I do not know the origin of this photo so I can not corroborate who these people are. Of course it is a matter of public record that Pope Francis was the provincial for all the Jesuits in Argentina during the reign of terror instituted by  Virela. As leader of all Jesuit priests he demanded the most strict neutrality in all matters political from his priests. Because of this, some people have accused him of indirectly favoring the oppressor by following this attitude of neutrality and of not doing more to speak against the government, and specifically of "abandoning" two priests in the hands of Videla's thugs
****UPDATE 1: One of the priests which were supposedly abandoned by then Provincial Father Bergoblio, has exonerated him from any wrong doing.

  Now, before I continue and for full disclosure, I must make something clear: I know very little of the history of General Videla or of Pope Francis during the 70s. I also have no idea where and when this picture was taken or where it came from. However I find it very suspicious, here is why:

  First of all, if this picture was taken in the 70s during the high of the Argentinian political troubles, it means that Father Bergoglio was in his early 40s. I'll ask you then does this priest look like a 40 year old man to you? In fact, I'm taking the identity of the priest in the picture at face value since you can't really see if this is Father Bergoglio or not. But lets assume this is him. Is he lending support to the Argentinian junta by giving communion to its leader? Him and General Virela look very comfortable with each other, if you ask me. Well... Once again the enemies of the Church are busy with their Photoshops. Here is the original picture:

****UPDATE 2: The man on this picture is not Pope Francis, this Argentinian article reveals the date and identity of this priest. The date is 1990, the man Father Carlos Berón de Astrada. Here is a video of the moment in which this picture was taken. It is clear this IS NOT Bishop Bergoglio

As you can see, there are a number of people in this picture. and if you are Catholic you will recognize what is going on here, we call it a communion  line. In the original picture, it is not just General Virela receiving the Eucharist. You can even see other people in other lines waiting to receive communion from other priests. I guess Virela and Bergoglio do not look as cozy or intimate as before. In fact I do not see a bishop making a statement of support by giving a political figure communion in a private and intimate setting. I see a good priest giving communion to one of dozens of other people in a public mass. Is there any sign of recognition or familiarity by Bergoglio, I do not see it. How about you?

**** UPDATE 3: Since I started working on this article I have found other sources which shed more light about Pope Francis history during this turbulent period of Argentinian history as well as, explain reasons about this smear campaign.

Article in which the Argentinian Supreme court exonerates Pope Francis from any wrong doing during that country's "Dirty War".

Article explaining the animosity some groups in Argentina have against Pope Francis.

And, another article.

"Viva Cristo Rey!!"

Sunday, March 17, 2013

5th Sunday of Lent

   Being from the Caribbean my family used to go to the beach all the time.  I remember one day, we went to a beach called Mar Chiquita, famous for its blue waters and strong waves.  For a 9 years old kit, I was (at least I thought) a pretty good swimmer. As I was playing in the waves with my cousins I lost my footing just long enough for the undertow to pull me under. I do not remember how long I was tumbling under water, I do remember that at one point I opened my eyes and the only thing I could see was blue all around me. As I tried to swim to the surface I realized there was a lot more water above my head than what I had originally thought. I was not scared and the thought of drowning never crossed my mind, but I knew I could not hold my breath for much longer.
    I wish I could convey the feelings of those few moments when my lungs were burning, and I realized that the only chance I had to reach the surface was to swim as hard could while resigning myself to swallow gallons of ocean water.
   Today’s readings, reminded me of the feelings of that day. You see this was the very first time in my life I felt completely helpless, the very first time in my life I was forced to accept that sometimes there is nothing you can do to help yourself, The very first time in my life I was forced to accept my luck, and allow forces which I knew were much more stronger and powerful that myself decide my destiny.
   In today’s Gospel we read about a woman in pretty much the same situation, a woman who was caught in sin, tittering between life and death too; brought to Jesus so that He could decide if she should live or die.
   I’m willing to bet that if we were to think about it, if we were to ask ourselves how many times have we been in the same situation?  Every one of us can recall very easily a moment or two in our lives in which we were as powerless as this woman.  I’m also willing to bet that if we look really hard, if we take time to examine our lives we will find that moments like these are much more common than what we like to admit to our selves, in fact, the reality is, that for many of us the felling that our lives are out of control, that we are at the mercy of forces much more stronger than us is a very real daily companion.
  The child that is been bullied, the wife that has been abandoned,  the unexpected diagnostic of a doctor,  the parents witnessing the slow self destruction of a child, the spouse confronting the sickness or imminent death of a beloved partner, the family living with the  absence of a loved one… I could go on and on. The point I’m trying to make is that, on the surface we might think we can handle anything live can throw at us, but on the inside… on the inside, more times that we like to admit, we all have felt like the poor woman of today’s reading,  like we are drowning underwater, not able to catch our breath, not knowing where we are going to go or what is going to happened next.
  I tell you my brothers and sisters if this were all there is to existence, life would be a horrible thing, a cruel joke. But Christians, for the followers of Jesus there is always hope. It is when we abandon ourselves to the mercy of God that we receive strength and consolation. Now this is not easy, in fact it is very hard to resist the temptation to act, to take maters into our own hands and tell ourselves “If I’m going I’m going to go awinging!” When what we should say are the words of St Paul in the second reading “For his sake I will accepted the loss of all things that I may gain Christ and be found in him” This is the attitude of the mature Christian when we are drowning in the waves of adversity.
    The woman brought to Jesus encountered Gods mercy.  Perhaps she did not realized who she was talking to, but when all other doors had close to her she found the one person that could forgive her sin.
   Many years ago, when I was ready to accept my fate, the use the words of the first reading God “opened a path in the mighty waters” In the last second, I felt a hand graving me and pulling me up, It was not the hand of God, it was the hand of my uncle, who was the only person who noticed I was missing. But this is the way God acts, by using those closest to us, to help us, guide us and support us.
   Sometimes we might feel, we are underwater, that we have run out of options, Sometimes the only choice is to do nothing and abandon ourselves to the mercy of God.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Helping Atheists Understand The Bible: Matthew 15:1-9

   I was given  Matthew 15:1-9 by my Twitter atheist friend as a passage in which it is clear (to him) Jesus advocates the "murdering of children". Here is the Tweet:

 Lets look at the reading

Matthew 15:1-20

 1 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’”

   The first "issue" in TA's  (I have taken to call him TA, since he has not given me permission to use his twitter handle) interpretation of this passage which jumps at me is the use of the word "children". If you read closely Jesus never uses this word, instead he uses the word "anyone".  This reveals something I have noticed about many atheists, they display a deep and special concern towards the well-being of children, albeit, sometimes this concern spills over when considering anything reading  things in scripture which are just not there.

   To be fair to TA  I will concede that someone with no idea of Jesus' teachings and the things he stood for could, under very specific circumstances, make the claim that by using the inclusive word "anyone" Jesus is talking about all individuals which could possibly be considered as "children".   Of course this raises the troubling possibility that Jesus is talking about all types of children, to include: infant, toddlers, teens, young adults  and adults. This interpretation is problematic for many reasons: The way Jesus talks about small children in other parts of the Gospels, the way he treated them, the way his followers treated children, especially unwanted newborns at the time this Gospel was written would provide enough reason to think that Jesus had something else in mind when he said "anyone". However the strongest reason to reach this conclusion is the fact that Jesus never said this word either; in fact Jesus never said any of the words we read in the Gospels! Jesus spoke Aramaic and the Gospels were written in Greek, so what we read in English Bibles is a translation of a translation. It goes without saying that this translation process added some inaccuracies to the modern English version of the Ancient Aramaic, which, if not careful, might lead to misinterpretations of Scripture (Like TA's).

    Now we do not need to get a degree on Greek to understand Jesus' meanings. The greater message of his words could be understood from our English versions. However when we start quarreling about this word or that word it is best to apply a bit of  textual analysis to solve our problems. Lets do this to this passage to see were it takes us.

1 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

   The first thing we notice is that Jesus is talking to some people called "Pharisees" and "Teachers of the Law" who came from a place in Jerusalem to ask him a question, about the "washing of hands". Jesus answers their questions with another question:
“And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’

  The first thing we should ask our-selves is: what is going on on this passage? Recall on my previous post (Helping Atheists Understant the Bible: An Introduction) that the bible is composed of many writing styles. In this passage what we are reading is what, by today's standards, could be considered as a "legal argument".  We know, from experience, that when legal experts engage in discussions of these type, they quote sources, in this case Jesus, the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law are quoting precedent law to each other. This in itself is significant since in legal arguments the level of agreement or disagreement between the arguing parties with the presented law is not important, what matters is how is the law interpreted and applied.  Jesus quoting these laws says nothing about his agreement or disagreement with them.

The text follows:

 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.
   As you can see after Jesus quotes the laws, he critiques his interlocutors interpretation for applying these laws to their advantage.  Here we must pause and take a look at how these laws were created and how their interpretation evolved, to help us define Jesus true meaning.

   A quick search will find that these two laws come from one of the oldest books in the bibles: Exodus. Here is the first law quoted:

 Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you."
 The context of this law is The Decalog, or The Ten Commandments. It was given as one of the first 10 laws the Jewish people received from God.

Exodus 21:17 “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death."

   The context of this law is NOT The Decalog. The very first time we find this law is in a section of laws covering personal/physical injury. Just two verses before we see a very similar law:
Exodus 21:15 “Anyone who attacks their father or mother is to be put to death.
   I should say that the word "attack", is really the Hebrew word referring to a physical attack which could cause death. This is very significant since it puts Ex 21:17 in context. The personal injury we are talking about is not cause by just the uttering a curse against your mother and father, but a by an action which can cause great personal injury or affront to them. Words spoken in haste, by an angry child do not qualify as a violation of this law.

    There is another instance of this law in the Jewish Holy books. It is in Leviticus 20:9. Here is the complete section for more context, with the law highlighted:

Lev 20:7-21 “ ‘Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the LORD your God. 8 Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the LORD, who makes you holy.
9 “ ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. Because they have cursed their father or mother, their blood will be on their own head.
10 “ ‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.
11 “ ‘If a man has sexual relations with his father’s wife, he has dishonored his father. Both the man and the woman are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
12 “ ‘If a man has sexual relations with his daughter-in-law, both of them are to be put to death. What they have done is a perversion; their blood will be on their own heads.
13 “ ‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
14 “ ‘If a man marries both a woman and her mother, it is wicked. Both he and they must be burned in the fire, so that no wickedness will be among you.
15 “ ‘If a man has sexual relations with an animal, he is to be put to death, and you must kill the animal.
16 “ ‘If a woman approaches an animal to have sexual relations with it, kill both the woman and the animal. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
17 “ ‘If a man marries his sister, the daughter of either his father or his mother, and they have sexual relations, it is a disgrace. They are to be publicly removed from their people. He has dishonored his sister and will be held responsible.
18 “ ‘If a man has sexual relations with a woman during her monthly period, he has exposed the source of her flow, and she has also uncovered it. Both of them are to be cut off from their people.
19 “ ‘Do not have sexual relations with the sister of either your mother or your father, for that would dishonor a close relative; both of you would be held responsible.
20 “ ‘If a man has sexual relations with his aunt, he has dishonored his uncle. They will be held responsible; they will die childless.
21 “ ‘If a man marries his brother’s wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonored his brother. They will be childless.
   This time the "curse against parents" law is placed at the head of  a group of laws condemning sexual deviancy (Adultery, Incest, bestiality, etc.) Again, by this context, it is clear that the "curse" being punished with death is not just the simple ramblings of an upset child, but the type of offense that would bring great dishonor, and damage to a parent.

   One last place we will look at for context is in the commentary made by ancient Jewish Rabbis in a work named Jerusalem Talmud. This is a commentary in all the laws and traditions of the Jewish people and its valuable information on the type of "curse", punishable by death, this law codifies:
He who is liable for cursing his father is liable for cursing his mother. He who is not liable for cursing his father is not liable for cursing his mother.
   So as you see in order for someone to loose their lives for breaking this law, the "curse" in question has to be so great that even if one "curses" one of the parents, because of the nature and seriousness of this action, one is liable for cursing the other parent.

   With all this in mind, we look at Jesus' words and realize that he is not only quoting established legal precedence known to his opponents, but he is using this law the way it was intended. You see, during the times of Jesus there were no social nets like we have today. For a person to become unable to work, was a sure sentence to destitution, unless this person had children. The grown children of elderly parents were expected to take care of them and in fact, it was expected that part of their income was to be given to the care of their parents. Unless... This money was to be given to cover other charities.  The pharisees and Teachers of the Law were using this as a loop hole to release themselves and others from the responsibility of taking care of their elderly parents.

 The "curse" Jesus is speaking about is the life of poverty and destitution this practice caused on the elderly. In Jesus' eyes, a child which refuses to take care of his parents, and neglects his social responsibilities is liable of death. Jesus is not only quoting Law to them, he is showing how to apply it to common practices of this time. It is clear now that Jesus is not advocating the murdering of children but calling his interlocutors to accept the responsibility in God's eyes of honoring their parents in their old age.

I hope this helps clarify this passage.

"Viva Cristo Rey!!"