26 January 2015

ONGOING UPDATES: A Boko Haram Ongoing News Round Up

26 January 2015
25 January 2015
23 January 2015

21 January 2015
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30 December 2014
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11 December 2014
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7 December 2014
3 December 2014
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30 November 2014
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1 November 2014
31 October 2014
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25 October 2014
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10 October 2014
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30 September 2014
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12 September 2014
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4 September 2014
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29 August 2014
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27 July 2014
11 July 2011
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June 2014
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26 February 2014

January Islamic State Updates (Continuing)

Previous Updates: December 2014 | November 2014 | October 2014 | April - November 2014

26 January 2015
25 January 2015

24 January 2015
23 January 2015
22 January 2015
21 January 2015
20 January 2015
19 January 2015
18 January 2015
17 January 2015
16 January 2015
15 January 2015
14 January 2015
13 January 2015
12 January 2015
11 January 2015
10 January 2015
9 January 2015
8 January 2015
7 January 2015
6 January 2015
5 January 2015
4 January 2015
1 January 2015

25 January 2015

On the shore of the Sea of Galilee

The shore of the Sea of Galilee at Capernaum
The above photograph was taken at the place where the Gospel proclaimed in today's Mass occurred:
As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.

He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him (Mark 1:16-20).
What is it that keeps us from abandoning our nets to follow Jesus? What ties have we set in our lives that we refuse to sever? To what do we keep looking back when the Lord calls out to us, "Come after me"?

Unless we abandon ourselves to the care and call of the Lord Jesus, we cannot fully answer his call to "repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15). Let us then strive, with the help of his grace, to let no one or no thing keep us from abandoning ourselves to him. If we follow after him without reserve, we will on the way that leads to justice and to the satisfaction of every desire of our hearts.

24 January 2015

What will you think about this weekend?

Weekends can often be filled with a great number of distractions - oftentimes good in their own right - which sometimes keep us from making good use of the additional free time a weekend affords us. Used properly, a weekend is a time to rest, to enjoy the company of family and friends, and for growth in the spiritual life.

To this last aim, I offer you these words from the Seraphic Doctor to help guide your thoughts this weekend:

Therefore, you must solicitously consider and frequently reflect that God, who does not lie, has promised to those who believe in God and love God: the removal of all evils, the company of the saints, the fulfillment of all desires in God who is the font and final goal of all goods - God who is so good as to exceed every wish, every desire, every imaginable estimation. Moreover, God regards [you] as worthy of such a good, if indeed you love and desire God above all else, and for the sake of God alone; and so you must struggle to reach with every desire, affection, and choice of resolute goodness.
- Saint Bonaventure

23 January 2015

Black and white photo of the day - Rome, down a side street

Saint Marianne Cope: Creep into the heart of Jesus

"Creep down into the heart of Jesus," said Saint Marianne Cope, adding, "He alone can comfort you in your supreme hour of sorrow." When she offered this counsel in 1904, she had already been living and working among the lepers of Molokai for sixteen years and would continue to live among them for another fourteen until her death on 9 August 1918.

At this point in her life she knew all of the miseries of the human heart.  So many of her lepers could rightly echo the words attributed to Moses:
For all our days pass away under your wrath, our years come to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are threescore and ten [70], or even by reason of strength fourscore [80]; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away" (Psalm 90:9-10)?
And likewise the words of Job:
Has not man a hard service upon earth, and are not his days like the days of a hireling? ... My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and come to their end without hope (Job 7:1, 6).
But like Saint Damien before her - whose work she continued and upon which she improved - she was not content to leave their lives filled with misery; rather, she sought to bring a ray of hope, the Light Unfailing, Jesus Christ, who knows well their suffering.

Indeed, as he hung upon the Cross, similar words passed his lips: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" (Mark 15:34). Jesus quoted from Psalm 22, which begins as a great lamentation but turns toward tones of great hope: "For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him" (Psalm 22:24). Mother Marianne's greatest desire was to lead her lepers deeper into the love of Jesus Christ, and what better way to do so than to urge them to "creep down into the heart of Jesus"?

We know that the heart of Jesus is open to us because "one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water" (John 19:34). What is more, Jesus invited Saint Thomas the Apostle, saying, "put out your hand, and place it in my side" (John 20:27). His side remains open to us; the way to his heart has not been closed!

We may not know the misery of those lepers torn from their families, who suffered from hunger and cold and boredom and pain, but in each of our lives there are moments of doubt, moments of grief, moments when all seems lost. Mother Marianne knew them, as well, but she also knew the cure for them: "Creep down into the heart of Jesus."

To enter into his heart is not easy. It requires that we let down our guard and allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to be vulnerable to love. It requires a recognition that we do not have all of the answers, that we are not in control. It requires us to simply trust and, as such, is very difficult in times of hardship and fear. This is why she tells us to "creep" into his heart, one step at a time.

From her place in the heavenly kingdom she continues to speak these words to us. She made her home, like her spiritual father Saint Francis of Assisi, in the wounds of the Crucified Lord and in his heart, in the sign of his love, found the strength to tend to the dying and to prepare them for death for thirty years. Let us seek to do the same, that resting securely in the peace of His heart, we, like Mother Marianne, may attend to the needs of our brothers and sisters who long for joy and hope.

Praying at her original grave at Kalaupapa, 6 March 2013.

Saint Marianne Cope, pray for us!

22 January 2015

Black and white photo of the day - Jerusalem

Attack of the giant birds

An interview with Bishop Habash about the real situation with ISIS

The National Catholic Register's Doreen Abi Raad recently sat down with His Excellency the Most Reverend Barnaba Yousif Habash, Bishop of the Syrian Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance, which has its see in Bayonne, New Jersey, to discuss the dire situation of the Christians in Iraq and Syria. Bishop Habash is a native of Qaraqosh, Iraq.

Please, take the time to read the interview, in which His Excellency spared no words, so that you might come a fuller understanding of what is happening now with the Islamic State. Here are a few snippets:
  • Why? The jealousy of the devil is what happened. This storm, what happened to them, you can easily call it the jealousy of the devil. They are Christians; they are authentic people. They are hard workers for peace. They love the others. They love their country. And all of a sudden, they have been told it’s not allowed for you to continue with Christianity without paying a tax, although we are in our land 600 years before Islam, although we were the teacher of the prophet of Islam. We were the teachers of the language of Islam; we were the teacher of the law of Islam; we were the engineers of the buildings and cities of Islam, since the beginning, until recent days. We are their doctors, as we were before; we are their professors. We taught them everything, until the last hours of our existence. Their sick were brought to our hospitals, treated by our doctors.
  • I visited more than 500 families in tents and uncompleted buildings. They said to me, “You are most welcome, Bishop.” And they have absolutely nothing. “Oh, you know what, Bishop, yes, we lost everything, but we still have our faith in the Lord Jesus.” Honest to God, almost every family said this: “We give thanks to the Lord. We are still Christian.” And our people were very convinced that, although they had been through a very evil storm, the arm of God saved them. They understood this very well.
  • I came from Irbil, I saw the miserable people, the catastrophe, and I have to speak with diplomatic words and to hide the crime, the crime of the world? Because what happened is truly genocide: uprooting innocent people of the wonderful and peaceful civilization of Christianity in this part of the world. But, unfortunately, when you speak about human rights in Europe or America, it is only for your people inside your country. But concerning the outside, the other human beings: “No, we don’t care; it’s their problem.” I say that about the (Western) politicians, not ordinary people. Americans are the most generous people, the most fine, with their love and with their respect. But the foreign politics is from hell. Nobody cares about us.
  • When we speak out, we get the routine answer from the Islamic religious or the Muslim authorities: “They are non-Muslim, the Islamic State.” How can it be, they are non-Muslim? All of them are Muslim. Or: “They work outside of the Islamic world.” So who is the financial source of ISIS? It’s very clear; it’s Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, no one has the guts to say that. Who is fighting Syria? Who is supporting and financing the war against Syria? It’s very clear: Saudi Arabia.
  • Please pray for our people. They do need prayer. And these prayers will save us, surely, surely. All the iron gates made by politics, by religion, will be broken; all the Christians will be liberated like Peter, when he was in prison and the angel brought him (to safety).

Cowardly Republicans back away from being Pro-Life

Last week it was announced that the U.S. House of Representatives would vote on January 22nd - the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion in the U.S.A. - on H.R.36, the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act sponsored by Representatives Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), a piece of legislation that would make abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy once again illegal.

Initially, I thought it was nothing more than yet another Republican public relations stunt, especially given the hundreds of thousands of people - particularly young people - gathered now in the nation's capital for the March for Life. Some small part of me,  however, held out hope that this time they actually meant to do something significant toward upholding the natural moral law in our legal code. I was foolish.

Moments ago, on the eve of the announced vote, Republican lawmakers decided to pull the vote. Out of fears they would lose the votes of women and young voters. Given the data, this only shows how very much out of touch Republican politicians are, and how lacking they are in integrity.

According to a recent CNN poll, 20% of Americans oppose all abortion and 38% oppose in most circumstances. That's right; the majority (58%) of Americans oppose abortion. Yet the Republicans are worried of losing the vote. Cowards.

Following a poll published in May 2010, Gallup described being pro-life as "the new normal". In 1995, 33% of Americans identified themselves as being pro-life; in 2010, 47% identified themselves as being pro-life. (Remember, just five years later, 58% oppose abortion). In 2015, Yet the Republicans are worried of losing the vote. Cowards.

On the other hand, in the same poll, in 1995, 56% of Americans identified themselves as being pro-choice; in 2010, that percentage fell to 45%. Yet the Republicans are worried of losing the vote. Cowards.

A recent poll from Marist University shows that 84% of Americans support a ban on abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. Faced with these results, even Slate had to acknowledge that "even the most pro-choice people aren’t sold on abortion rights beyond the first trimester." Yet the Republicans are worried of losing the vote. Cowards.

A poll from Quinnipiac University found that even 46% of democrats favor a ban on abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. Yet the Republicans are worried of losing the vote. Cowards.

The same poll found that 56% of independents favor a ban on abortions after the 20th week pregnancy. Yet the Republicans are worried of losing the vote. Cowards.

The same poll found that 57% of voters between the ages of 18 and 29 and 61% of voters between the ages of 30 and 49 support a ban on abortions after the 20th week of pregancy. Yet the Republicans are worried of losing the vote. Cowards.

What is more, the same poll found that 61% of men and 59% of women support a ban on abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. Yet the Republicans are afraid of losing the vote. Cowards.

To be fair, President Obama threatened to veto the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Some would say, then, that voting on the legislation would be a waste of time. To that claim, I answer that it would not at all be a waste of time. It would, rather, be an expression of the will of the people and this is never a waste of time. We do, after all, live in a representative republic and it is high time our politicians began governing with the will of the people instead of their own wills aimed only at re-election. It would also demonstrate to the voters that the Republicans mean what they say, which isn't the case at the moment.

In an effort to appease those of us who are furious at their cowardice and to make it look as though the Republicans actually care about being Pro-Life, they will vote instead (so they say, but what's to stop them from pulling this vote, too?) on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2015.

A pro-life quote from J.R.R. Tolkien

As hundreds of thousands of Americans march in the streets of Washington, D.C. today, I wish I could be there marching with them. Though I cannot be there physical, my prayers accompany them.

20 January 2015

Academy recognizes the worsening of Jackon's films of The Hobbit

It is no secret that I am not fond of Sir Peter Jackson's cinematic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic book of The Hobbit, though I still very much enjoy Jackson's adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. In fact, with each new edition to Jackson's trilogy of The Hobbit, it is my opinion that the quality of the production continually declined. I am, apparently, not the only one who thinks so.

In fact, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies received only one Oscar nomination (for "Achievement in Sound Editing"), whereas The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug received three nominations and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey received four nominations.

In my review of An Unexpected Journey, I noted that the movie has a "decidedly different feel" than Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. This was an unfortunate decision on Jackson's part which not only cost him the gratitude of many fans, but maybe also a few Oscar nominations and even wins.

The Tolkien Society compared Jackson's nominations and wins for his two Tolkien trilogies:
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – 13 nominations, 4 wins (second-highest number of nominations ever)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – 6 nominations, 2 wins
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – 11 nominations, 11 wins (joint highest number of wins ever – shared with Ben-Hur and Titanic)
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – 4 nominations, 1 win
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – 3 nominations, 0 wins
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – 1 nomination
Personally, I'm not sure The Battle of the Five Armies was worth even one nomination.