8.31.2009

Hearing Vs. Listening

Each day many of us use words in our language that mean something other than what is intended. For example: Do you think there is a difference between hearing and listening? Stereotypically, women have asked their husbands for decades, "Do you hear me?" when they should have been asking "Are you listening to me?"
If you said there is a difference between these two words, then you are right, there is! Hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound by the ear. If you are not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens. Listening, however, is something you consciously choose to do. Listening requires concentration so that your brain processes meaning from words and sentences. Listening leads to understanding and learning.

Most people tend to be "hard of listening" rather than "hard of hearing." Perhaps we should be more conscious of our listening to God. Speak, Lord, I'm listening!

8.24.2009

Bishops Offer Healthcare Site


WASHINGTON, D.C., AUG. 17, 2009 (Zenit.org).- As the U.S. president and Congress continue to consider health care reform, the nation's bishops are offering a Web page to support a package that protects human dignity.

The site includes letters from bishops to Congress, videos, facts and statistics, frequently asked questions, and links for contacting legislators.

Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, describes how abortion relates to the health care reform debate. Kathy Saile, director of Domestic Social Development, outlines the bishops' general position and concerns.

The page also contains facts and statistics about Catholic health care in the United States, which includes 624 hospitals, 164 home health agencies, and 41 hospice organizations.

Bishops' health care site: http://www.usccb.org/healthcare

8.23.2009

Bishop Barres Visits OLPH

Monsignor Sacks, Bishop Barres & Me
Photo: Ralph K. Sullivan

A Lost Soul: FOUND

8.17.2009

What Is Truth?

Nikolai Ge (1890)
The other day I was in a lively discussion with someone who told me that I "do not hold back anything" when it comes to the truth. It amazes me how often people want to "know" the truth, but they do not want to "hear" the truth. I think that this is really based on society's pressure upon us to conform to the understanding of political correctness.

Pontius Pilate asked the question of Jesus as we see above, "What is Truth?". The definition of "truth" is the conformity to fact or actuality. And yet there is no single definition on which all scholars or philosophers agree and there is great debate as to whether truth is absolute or relative or objective or subjective. And of course, truth can be sought after in many areas of life.

Jesus told His disciples that He was "the Way, the Truth and the Life". Not only was He the Truth, but He spoke the Truth. As a minister of the Word, I am often perplexed by the people in the pew and their understanding of what Jesus says. Maybe it is the lack of the minister to preach the challenging message of the Gospel. Maybe it is our "couldn't care less attitude" to make it part of our life. Maybe it is the fact that we have allowed the society to instill in us the lack of love for our neighbors because of our unwillingness to be hurt in the relationship.

The truth needs to be expressed now more than the ever before. Of course, it must be tempered with love and care as Jesus Himself did. If we are genuine with ourselves then we will do what God commands of us and hear the direction He gives us to do better each day, for Him.

8.12.2009

A Prayer To The Mother Of God


You saw the windstorm flames descend,
Fishermen moving inland to mend
The hopes of men with heaven to hear
Now we embark on ground swells to fear;
We sail to water's end:
O Star of the Sea, be near,
Shining guardian, guiding friend.

Lead us by fire through trackless night;
Release our eyes from shadowed sight:
Maid, who can make --- from little --- all
And fructify the barren fall
With prayer from heaven's height,
To you in hope we call,
O Mother of the Lord of light.

Treasure room, where the Spirit King
Has hid a brilliant, priceless thing;
Celestial mine, producing gold
That gives true value to the mold
Of time: Sweet Mary, sing,
And let God's poor be told
Of aid good men and angels bring.

Your spark of pulsing glory grew
To warm this wintry world anew;
You set the Morning Star in place
From out of Jacob's darkened race
And pondered visions through
The light on Moses' face:
O Maid of grace, we look to you.

Through your transparency we gaze.
In awe at clouded heights, ablaze
With conversing splendor yet serene
In majesty; your glass is clean;
No interposing haze
But ours obscures the scene:
O loyal Queen, we join your praise.

For you are now what we would be,
Eternal flesh by heaven's degree;
Whose earthly mien, so chaste and fair,
Still trembles on the Maytime air:
O Virgin, lead us free
From sin and hell's despair;
In lands of unlikeness let us see.

Show us the Child of dawn, we pray,
As Simeon saw your piercing day
And hailed the life-restoring sun;
And if some healing work begun
Too late should meet delay,
O Mother, let it run
On feet of resurrected clay.

Surely your Son will not deny
The prayer you offer with our cry
Of need, whose blood in oneness beat
From Nazareth to the doleful street
That led to a sunless sky:
God's refuge and retreat,
Be with us now and when we die.

Abyss of love, conceiving night,
Where none can fathom depth or height:
Exalted lowliness, the bride
Of Him who rules the timeless tide
Of seas beyond our sight:
O Virgin, be our guide
Till we have reached the lands of light.

From One Shepherd, One Flock by Oliver Barres

8.07.2009

Pope Benedict On Health Care

The health-care debate is a perfect example of why Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical on the economy is called Caritas in VeritateCharity and Truth.
Think of it this way: Psychologists who have attempted to care for people’s mental health without regard to the reality of sin end up leaving people at the mercy of the worst psychological disasters. A medical community that rejects the sacredness of human life ends up killing more people — embryos and the elderly — than they save.
And economists who reduce people to economic entities — ignoring human love and the truth about the human person — find that they just make problems worse.
Health care is a perfect example. Charity and truth are why we have health care in the first place. The modern health-care system started with Christ’s command to “heal the sick.” Dedicated religious invented hospitals. Catholic nuns and brothers staffed them and allowed them to proliferate. Health care was affordable to all who needed it because, at its heart, it was a service of charity that responded to the dignity of the human person.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Catholic organizations provided education and health care that were practically free. At the beginning of the 21st century, the atheistic movements that worked so hard to unshackle society from the chains of the Church are faced with a society searching for, and not finding, lifelines to replace the ones the Church once provided.
Of course, there are plenty of other factors in the health-care situation America faces.
In order to head off labor unions, employers in the early 20th century started to add benefits, among them medical plans. Today, it is an expectation that employers will provide health-care benefits. That, in turn, means that health-care costs have been hidden from consumers for years: The money for the insurance comes out of their paycheck (and their employer’s account) before they see it.
The litigation explosion in the past 50 years in America has also caused a new dynamic in health care: Providers have to pay huge malpractice insurance rates, a cost they pass on to the medical insurers, who pass it on to you and me and our employers — or to prospective employers if we lose our job.
Yet health care remains a right. “The political community has a duty to honor the family, to assist it, and to ensure especially,” says the Catechism (No. 2211), “in keeping with the country’s institutions, the right to medical care, assistance for the aged, and family benefits.”
That doesn’t mean that all health care must be government-provided. After all, the Catechism is careful to use that phrase “in keeping with the country’s institutions” and also stresses the right to private ownership, housing and emigration — none of which are expected to be provided at government expense.
What, then, does it mean? How can we ensure the right to medical care in the face of our gargantuan, overpriced mess of a health-care system?
Pope Benedict’s encyclical gives his fundamental answer. “Love — caritas — is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace. … Development, social well-being, the search for a satisfactory solution to the grave socioeconomic problems besetting humanity, all need this truth.”
In particular, Catholic social thought has translated this love and truth into the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.
The principle of solidarity means we ought to love our neighbor, feed the poor, clothe the naked, and care for the sick.
On the one hand, the market alone will not achieve solidarity. “In fact, if the market is governed solely by the principle of the equivalence in value of exchanged goods, it cannot produce the social cohesion that it requires in order to function well,” writes the Holy Father (No. 38). He emphasizes: “Without internal forms of solidarity and mutual trust, the market cannot completely fulfill its proper economic function.”
On the other hand, “Solidarity is first and foremost a sense of responsibility on the part of everyone with regard to everyone,” he writes, “and it cannot therefore be merely delegated to the State.”
The principle of subsidiarity, on the other hand, is the Catholic belief that the person closest to a need has the strongest ability — and clearest duty — to provide care.
These two principles are at the heart of the health-care question: We are meant to help each other, and the person closest to the problem is responsible for assistance.
Pope Benedict XVI is careful not to place this responsibility solely on the shoulders of the marketplace or the state.
He nicely distinguishes between an over-reaching state on the one hand, and a laissez-faire approach on the other, when he writes (No. 58), “The principle of subsidiarity must remain closely linked to the principle of solidarity and vice versa, since the former without the latter gives way to social privatism, while the latter without the former gives way to paternalist social assistance that is demeaning to those in need.”
These two principles are helpful when assessing the health-care legislation being proposed in Washington.
Questions to ask: Does the proposal help us expand health care? In other words, does it allow us to cut the true factors that drive health-care costs — or does it kowtow to those who are responsible for those costs, for instance trial lawyers and pharmaceutical companies?
Also: Does the proposal put decisions about assistance in the hands of those closest to the need? Or does it move those decisions to Washington?
Of course, all of those questions are moot if a health-care proposal fails to protect the right to life. Health care that pays for abortion or pressures older patients to forgo necessary treatment isn’t a health-care system at all, but a death machine.
No matter how it is structured or how many benefits it provides to people, Catholics must oppose any legislator who proposes or supports a death machine.
Love and truth demand that.
Taken from National Catholic Register 08/02/09

8.06.2009

The Man In The Glass


When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day,
Just go to a mirror and look at yourself,
And see what That man has to say.

For it isn't your wife or family or friend
Who judgement upon you must pass;
The man whose verdict counts most in the end
Is the one staring back from the glass.

Some people may think you a straight-shootin' chum
and call you a person of place
But the man in the glass says you're only a bum
If you can't look him straight in the face.

He's the man to please, never mind all the rest
For he's with you clear up to the end,
And you've passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the man in the glass is your friend.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you've cheated the man in the glass.

8.03.2009

The Retirement of Bishop Cullen

For the last eleven years Bishop Edward P. Cullen shepherded the Diocese of Allentown. To some the bishop was looked at, and to some degree still is seen, as an uncaring administrator who consolidated and closed parishes without concern for the people of God. I believe this is an unfair criticism. As soon as the bishop was seated in the diocese he knew that he would have to take on challenges that his predecessors did not attempt, primarily the restructuring of parishes.

However, Bishop Cullen did not start his leadership there. Instead, he turned his attention on prayer and asked the parishes of the diocese to initiate the RENEW program. Following this, the Church of the United States was forced to deal with the child sexual abuse by priests scandal. 2001 was not a great year for the diocese and the universal Church. Through it all Bishop Cullen did what he had to do by getting rid of priests where there was sufficient evidence of inappropriate conduct.

Once found in compliance with the norms of the Dallas Charter, the Bishop set his sights on having a campaign. It was entitled "Strengthening Our Future in Faith." Not only did it reach its goal, but surpassed it several times over. Today, our diocese and parishes benefit from this achievement.

That brings us again to the biggest and most difficult task Bishop Cullen was faced with -- the restructuring of our diocesan parishes. While he was not able to complete the process as bishop, it is well underway. Some are unhappy that their "church" was closed, but truth be told our faith was never supposed to be wrapped up in a building or ethnicity. Our faith should be something that we do, not where we do it. With the number of vocations to the priesthood declining, with the number of non-practicing Catholics increasing and with the demographics of the northern part of the diocese and inner city population shifts, one cannot argue that we needed to close churches. Bishop Cullen gave us the opportunity to be more alive in our faith, not allowing it to wither and decay, only to be thrown into the fire.

Let us pray that Bishop Cullen will enjoy his retirement and experience true peace.