Friday, May 05, 2006

The DaVinci Catechism?

Fr. John Wauck has a great blog today (as usual). He calls it the DaVinci Code Catechism:

The Da Vinci Code is only a novel. It is not a source of serious information, but it does raise some serious questions.

1. Was Jesus Christ really married?
Yes. Jesus was married to the Church. In the New Testament, Jesus is frequently referred to as the Bridegroom, and St. Paul tells us: “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh. This is a tremendous mystery. I’m applying it to Christ and the Church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32) In fact, the Christian vocation is nothing less than an invitation to the eternal “wedding supper” (Rev. 19:9) of Christ and His Bride, the Church.

2. Did the Church really create the New Testament?
Yes. Without the Church, we wouldn’t know which of the many ancient texts that talk about Jesus were inspired by God; we wouldn’t have the New Testament. Jesus Christ directly gave His divine authority not to a group of texts which didn’t exist in His time, but rather to a group of men, the twelve apostles and their successors (bishops), who teach in His name and with His authority.

3. Is sex really meant to be holy?

Yes. That’s why one of the seven Christian sacraments is called Holy Matrimony (the literal meaning of “hieros gamos”). Christian marriage and the priesthood are holy and sanctifying vocations approached through special sacraments (Holy Matrimony and Holy Orders respectively). All the sacraments – like Baptism or the Eucharist, for instance - are outward signs instituted by Christ to give grace, and, in fact, the ministers of this sacrament are the bride and groom themselves.

4. Did Jesus Christ really leave descendents?
Yes. Jesus is God, and He gave all who believe in Him the power to be God’s children. In short, we are His descendents: “See what love the Father has given us so that we might be called children of God – and so we are!… Beloved, we’re now God’s children” (1 John 3:1-2). So forget about the Merovingians. We are the royal bloodline of Jesus Christ: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9).

5. Is our culture really missing a figure of female sanctity?
Yes, in today’s world there is such a missing woman. Her name is Mary, and she should be venerated not as the wife of a mortal man but rather as the Mother of God. Happily, she is not hard to find. Hers is the most familiar female face in history, represented in countless works of art. The best place in the world to find grown men and women praying on their knees to a woman, perhaps saying the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is in a Christian church.

6. Should we really pray over the bones of Mary Magdalen?
Yes. Saint Mary Magdalen is honored by the countless churches and women named after her and by a special Mass on her feast day (July 22). In fact, for more than a millennium, Christians have made pilgrimages to pray in the Basilica of St. Maximin in southern France, where a tradition says that Saint Mary Magdalen was buried.

7. Does a Holy Grail really exist?
Yes. The popular story of “the Holy Grail” is a medieval legend, but a non-fictional Holy Grail can be found on the altar during every Mass. What made the chalice of the Last Supper so holy was the blood of Jesus Christ that it contained, and in the Holy Mass, that blood is once again present. This means that every chalice in every Mass is truly a “Holy Grail.”

8. Did a woman’s womb really carry the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
Yes. The uterus of the Blessed Virgin Mary contained not only the blood but also the entire body of Jesus Christ for nine months. That’s why, when they pray the “Hail Mary”, Christians refer to Jesus as the fruit of her womb and praise Mary as a most honorable “Vessel”.

For once I agree with Iran's clergy....

Women shouldn't be allowed to watch sports with men....

Iranian clergy angry over women fans
By Frances Harrison
BBC correspondent in Tehran

Iranian football crowd
It is hoped the presence of families will improve stadium behaviour
Iran's religious right is voicing growing opposition to a decision to let women watch football matches for the first time since the 1979 revolution.

Six grand ayatollahs and several MPs have protested against the move, saying it violates Islamic law for a woman to look at the body of a male stranger.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that stadiums would reserve special areas for women and families.

The move was welcomed by women's rights groups which long contested the ban.

Mr Ahmadinejad, who is regarded as an ultra conservative, lifted the male-spectators-only rule on Monday.

It was a highly populist move in a country where both sexes love football and there is growing excitement about the World Cup.

Bad language

Members of the clergy say it is wrong for men and women to look at each other's bodies, even if they have no intention of taking pleasure from it.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wearing Iran's football strip, practises with the national team
The president may find he has kicked an own goal
One MP said, if the reformists had tried this, there would have been suicide bombers protesting on the streets of Teheran.

A hardline newspaper said the atmosphere in football stadiums was now so deplorable one should weep - a reference to the bad language and rowdy behaviour of male football fans here.

It is this failure to control the male spectators that is often given as the main reason for not allowing women into football matches.

Women can watch football broadcast on Iranian television and they can attend basketball and volleyball matches even though they too involve men dressed in shorts.

Speaking on state-run television on Monday, Mr Ahmadinejad said he had ordered the head of Iran's Physical Education Committee to make sure women were adequately catered for during Iran's major sporting occasions.

"The presence of women and families in public places promotes chastity," he said.

"The best stands should be allocated to women and families in the stadiums in which national and important matches are being held."

Bootylicious Backlash...

Several month ago my wife and I saw some middle school girls get off the bus after a long day at class, and I was struck by one thing: Oh my gosh, they have no clothes on. They were dressed as if they were going freak dancing in some shady NY club at 2 in the morning. I could see more skin than cloth. And this was they wear to math class?

Anyway, here is an interesting article about the "pure fashion" movement, which teaches that "you don’t have to look promiscuous to be glamourous." Our society definitely promotes the idea to young women that "your body is your best asset", which is a huge lie...this group is a good way to attempt to turn this attitude around. Here's the intro to the article:

Bootylicious backlash ANNE MARIE OWENS

The Pure Fashion movement is giving girls an alternative to hyper-sexualized ways of dressing.

When the models stroll down the catwalk at Calgary’s Spruce Meadows Congress Hall this weekend, there will be no plunging necklines, no exposed thongs or teddies, no skintight pants or barely-there skirts.

These models, all of them young women between the ages of 12 and 18, will instead be adhering to the dictates of an alternative fashion movement that espouses these kinds of counter-cultural beliefs: Undergarments should not become outer-garments; clothing should not reveal what should be concealed; and it’s possible to be pretty without being provocative.

This is the Pure Fashion movement, gaining popularity among churchgoing families as an antidote to the Britney-Spears-induced realm of sexualized attire for girls at ever-younger ages.

And while what’s going on in Calgary this weekend and in the handful of U.S. cities also involved in this program may be a fringe movement, there are hints that its new modesty ethos may be gaining ground.

The fashions at all of the major international shows took a noticeable turn toward covering up this season, with longer hemlines, higher necklines and more voluminous clothing on the runways in Paris, Milan, New York and London.

Even the world of cheerleading is beginning to eschew its sexualized dress and demeanour: The British Cheerleading Association recently adopted new modesty rules that prohibit any midriffbaring fashions; and the House of Representatives in Texas — home state of the original pom-pom-toting sex symbols, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders — voted to ban “overtly sexually suggestive” routines for school cheerleaders.

A controversial window display in the Oakville lululemon outlet encapsulates the competing choices for its young, affluent clientele this way: On one side is Yoga Girl in the stylish but comfortable attire that has made the retailer popular; on the other, Stupid Girl identifies the crasslooking fashion of mannequins surrounded by trashy celebrity magazines.

“There’s such a big push from the entertainment media and from Hollywood that these girls just get sucked into thinking they have to dress provocatively to be in fashion. We’re teaching them they can be fashionable and pure,” says Jodie Britton, the Calgary woman who has brought Pure Fashion to Calgary, the only Canadian city to officially join the organization, although there’s been interest in hosting similar events in Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver and Halifax.

Fr. Thomas Williams on "inclusive Christianity"

I've seen these ads for the United Church of Christ, which basically say "come join our church, we're not judgmental". But what they really mean is: " we don't care about morality...everything goes!" Fr. Thomas has a few insightful thoughts, as always. Here's the intro to the National Review article...

Inclusive Christianity REV. THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, LC

To celebrate Holy Week and Easter, the United Church of Christ (UCC) produced an attention-grabbing television ad highlighting its inclusive policies.

Viewers watch (see here) an “intolerant” church rejecting — or rather, literally ejecting — a black mother, a gay couple, an Arab, and a person using a walker. As each tries to sit in a church pew, he or she is sent flying by an ejector seat. The ad contrasts the inclusive UCC with the ejecting church: “The United Church of Christ: no matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you’re welcome here.”

This is, in many ways, a wonderful message. It strikes a chord with us Americans in our conviction that all should be welcome, none rejected. The inscription on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, penned by American poet Emma Lazarus in 1883, sums up American open-heartedness:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

More to the point, wasn’t it Christ himself who welcomed the “wretched refuse” of his time, associating with publicans and adulterers, lepers, prostitutes, and the whole offal of Palestine? He and his disciples were from the wrong side of the tracks, the Palestinian outback of Galilee — a powerful message for the rich and famous of his time and ours. He was fiercely criticized for fraternizing with outcasts, and disparagingly dubbed a “friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Isn’t this absolute inclusiveness essential to the Christian message?

Yet I suspect the UCC ad had a more specific criticism in mind. I am unaware of any church in America that turns away blacks, or that has a policy against Arabs or handicapped persons. There are, however, a number of Christian churches that consider homosexual behavior to be sinful. By sneaking the gay couple in between the African-American woman and the Arab-American, the UCC disingenuously equates racial discrimination with moral principle.

Masons say they can be Christian?

This article confused me...why do the Mason care what the Catholic Church teaches?


Madrid, May 04, 2006 (CNA) - The head office of Masons in Spain is calling on the Spanish bishops’ Committee on the Doctrine of the Faith to review the decree of excommunication imposed on Catholics who practice Masonry, claiming it does not contradict Christianity.

In a press release, the Spanish masons said that the Church is committing an “injustice” in their case, because the Masonic system to which they belong-the Rectified Scottish Rite (RSR)-is “totally Christian” and does not attack “Christianity or any Roman Catholic dogma.”

The masons said they have turned over the complete texts of the RSR to the Benedictine Monastery of Montserrat “as sign of our good will and so that they can be calmly reviewed and studied by the person or persons designated by the Catholic Church.”

The masons said the press release was “the continuation of diverse contacts” that have been made with the Church in Spain. They added that they were determined to find a resolution to the matter.

The Code of Canon Law promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1983 states in canon 1374 that, a “person who joins an association which plots against the Church is to be punished with a just penalty; however, a person who promotes or directs an association of this kind is to be punished with an interdict.”

Since the new code only implicitly mentions Masonry, then-prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, published a statement on November 26 of the same year in order to clear up any confusion and reaffirming the Church’s “negative judgment” regarding Masonry, “because their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the teaching of the Church.

Consequently, membership in such associations continues to be prohibited by the Church. The faithful who belong to Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and cannot present themselves to receive Holy Communion,” the statement noted.

Likewise it warned that local Church authorities do not have the competence to issue pronouncements about the nature Masonic associations that would imply a repealing of what the Church has already established in the declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of February 17, 1981.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Mommies should make $135,000

Any man who is married and has a stay-at-home wife knows that even $135k is too little a salary for all the work she does...but here's an interesting study which calculated what a stay-at-home mom shoud make. Here's the intro:

Study: US Mothers Deserve $134,121

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A full-time stay-at-home mother would earn $134,121 a year if paid for all her work, an amount similar to a top U.S. ad executive, a marketing director or a judge, according to a study released on Wednesday.

A mother who works outside the home would earn an extra $85,876 annually on top of her actual wages for the work she does at home, according to the study by Waltham, Massachusetts-based compensation experts

To reach the projected pay figures, the survey calculated the earning power of the 10 jobs respondents said most closely comprise a mother's role -- housekeeper, day-care teacher, cook, computer operator, laundry machine operator, janitor, facilities manager, van driver, chief executive and psychologist.

"You can't put a dollar value on it. It's worth a lot more," said Kristen Krauss, 35, as she hurriedly packed her four children, all aged under 8, into a minivan in New York while searching frantically for her keys. "Just look at me."

Employed mothers reported spending on average 44 hours a week at their outside job and 49.8 hours at their home job, while the stay-at-home mother worked 91.6 hours a week, it showed.

An estimated 5.6 million women in the United States are stay-at-home mothers with children under age 15, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data.

Rome church before and after DV Code

Fr. John Wauck updated his great blog to show the before and after pictures of St. Pantaleone with the DV Code advertisement. He said that actually they didn't take the ad down, but simply turned it around. Here they are....

A Constitutional Prayer Amendment

It doesn't have a prayer (pun intended) of passing, but I guess it brings school prayer to the forefront...


Washington DC, May 02, 2006 (CNA) - For the eighth time in 43 years, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) has proposed that the U.S. Congress adopt a constitutional amendment allowing voluntary prayer in public schools. Byrd introduced the amendment in the U.S. Senate April 27.

"The importance of prayer is recognized by people of faith in nearly all of the world's religions," Byrd said, according to the Daily Mail newspaper. "Yet, in America, prayer is increasingly barred from public life,” based on the argument that it violates the First Amendment."

Byrd believes the nation's courts pay too much attention to the clause in the First Amendment that says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," and disregards the second part about "prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..."

"I believe that, in ruling after ruling, the U.S. courts have been moving perilously close to prohibiting the free exercise of religion in America,” he reportedly said.

Byrd said the "ingrained predisposition" in the courts against religious or spiritual expressions is contrary to the intent of the country's founding fathers. Byrd discussed this point with Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

"It seems to me that any prohibition of voluntary prayer in school violates the right of our school children to practice freely their religion," the senator reportedly said. "Any child should be free to pray to God, of his or her own volition, whether at home, in church or at school."

Byrd also said that voluntary school prayer would help in "getting the country back on the right track,” reported the Daily Mail.

The amendment will go to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration. The Supreme Court struck down prayer in schools in 1962.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Fascinating article from Aljazeera....

It's an article from a Muslim scholar who uses the Quran to argue for:

1) Intellectual freedom
2) Religious freedom
3) An Islamic distinction between morality and legality
4) A recognition that apostasy does not equal treason and therefore should not be punishable by death.

Now, this scholar now lives in the US, and so he has the ability to write this article without fear of attack. However, if he were living in the Middle East somewhere, would he be willing to proclaim these same points? I don't know. But there needs to be more Muslim intellectuals who are seeking to understand how Islam and religious/intellectual freedom can co-exist.

Here is the beginning of the article:

"Intolerance show ignorance of Islam"
by Mohamed El-Moctar Shinqiti

Eighty years ago, Marmaduke Pickthall, the British scholar of Islam and translator of the Quran, wrote: "It was not until the Western nations broke away from their religious law that they became more tolerant, and it was only when the Muslims fell away from their religious law that they declined in tolerance."

Tolerance was regarded as irreligious in the Christian world, but was an essential part of Islam, but it is no longer credited to Muslims.

Nowadays, the more "religious" some Muslims regard themselves to be, the less tolerant they are. The cause is a troubling intellectual decline of the Islamic civilisation.

While Muslims complain about the Western lack of understanding of Islam, this misconstruction in the interpretation of religious texts is unfortunately prevalent in the Muslim mind today.

John Daly...what?!?@$!@?

So, John Daly...winner of TWO major championships has quite a track record of difficulties:

- alcoholism (claimed that he drank a fifth of Jack each and every day during the year he was 23 years of age) and has gone through at least three "programs"
- overweight
- three divorces
- wife in prison
- was kicked off airplane flight for abuse of the flight attendant while drunk
- smokes like a chimney
- got into several post round fights in parking lots
- many, many instances of making 10+ on holes on the PGA Tour from not caring
- once had to quit a tournament because he had the trembles so bad....that was sad to watch
- and much, much more....

However, he dropped an absolute bombshell in his recent book...apparently over the last 10 years or so, he has lost appromixately $50 to 60 MILLION DOLLARS ON GAMBLING. Are you serious? What? He tells one story in his book of earning $750,000 when he lost in a playoff to Tiger Woods last fall in San Francisco at a World Golf Championship. Instead of going home, he drove to Las Vegas and says he lost $1.65 million in five hours playing mostly $5,000 slot machines. Wow.

Here's an article from Sports Illustrated about it.

Monday, May 01, 2006

One Hundred Billion (pronounced BEEEEL-YON)...

...Catholics! Actually it's just 1.1 billion. Whatever.


Vatican, May. 01 ( - The world's Catholic population is now 1.098 billion, according to the latest figures from the Vatican's statistical bureau.

The figures contained in the Annuarium Statiscum Ecclesiae, presented to the press on April 30, show the number of Catholics in the world growing at roughly the same rate as the overall global population. The rising numbers of Catholics come mainly in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

The Annuarium, which will be published this week, covers the Catholic population from 1978 to 2004, the last year for which full statistics are available. The volume, which will be published this week by the Vatican, offers a more complete analysis of the figures provided in the Annuario Pontificio, the official Vatican yearbook that appeared in February.

From 1978 to 2004 the world's Catholic population grew by 45%, from 757 million to 1,098 million. But in Europe the percentage of Catholics dropped slightly over the same period, from 40.5% to 39.5%. There are now 280 millions in Europe: an increase of only 12 million from 1978.

The growth of the Catholic population in Africa has been much more positive. There the number of Catholics has almost tripled: from 55 million in 1978 to nearly 149 million in 2004. There has been a similar pattern of growth in Asia and the Americas-- where the number of Catholics has grown by 49.7% and 79.6%, respectively, over the same period. The Vatican statistical bureau notes that these figures reflect the overall population growth in those regions. Catholics now account for 62% of the people in the Americas, but only 3% in Asia.

The number of Catholic bishops rose 28% between 1978 and 2004, with the media age of those bishops also rising, so that in 2004 the average bishop was over 67 years old. The number of priests worldwide rose much less sharply: by 3.5%. The number of seminarians grew by 77%, with that increase attributable to sharp rises in Africa and Latin America. In Europe, however, over the same period of time the number of priests dropped more than 20%. In religious life, the number of male religious (excluding priests) dropped by 27% over the period of the Annuarium study, and the number of female religious dropped by 22%.

The steepest increase shown in the Annuarium is in the number of permanent deacons. From 1978 to 2004 that number soared from 5,500 to 32,000 worldwide, with 97% of the permanent deacons found in North America and Europe.

University presidents battle for honors in spinelessness

John Leo at gives his annual Sheldon Awards...given to lame university presidents who love double standards. He names five in this article....he could have gone on forever if he'd looked closer at the Ivy League presidents. Here's the intro to the article:

University Presidents Battle for Honors in Spinelessless
by John Leo

It's time for this column to announce its Sheldon Award, given annually to the university president who does the most to look the other way when free speech is under assault on campus. As all Sheldon fans know, the prize is a statuette that looks something like the Oscar, except that the Oscar shows a man with no face looking straight ahead, whereas the Sheldon shows a man with no spine looking the other way. The award is named for Sheldon Hackney, former president of the University of Pennsylvania and a modern legend in looking the other way.

College presidents who say and do nothing about newspaper thefts or unconstitutional speech codes usually make it to the Sheldon finals. But not this year. The competition was too keen. At least five colleges suffered thefts of newspapers in April 2006 alone, too many for even the most relentlessly silent president to make much headway toward a Sheldon.

The Pope kicks off the Month of Ma(r)y

Pope launches month of Mary with visit to Shrine

Rome, May. 01, 2006 (CNA) - Conversion to God, who is a God of Love, is necessary today for the world to be “liberated from war and terrorism,” said Pope Benedict XVI Monday during his papal visit to the Italian Shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love.

During his discourse to the faithful who gathered at the shrine, he recalled several points that he made in his first encyclical, Deus caritas est.

“From this shrine, I renew my invitation that was expressed in Deus caritas est: let us live love and, in this way, we will allow the light of God to shine in the world,” he said.

The Pope’s one-hour visit to the shrine on the first day of May launched what is considered the month of Mary in the Church. He led the recitation of the rosary in the old sanctuary and prayed privately in the new sanctuary, which was consecrated by Pope John Paul II in 1999. He recalled his predecessor’s first visit to the sanctuary in 1979.

“It is a comfort for me to be here with you today to recite the rosary in this Shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love, in which we express great affection for the Virgin Mary, rooted in the soul and history of the Roman people,” he said, following the prayer.

He noted how the Joyful Mysteries “allow the beginnings of our salvation to pass before the eyes of our heart… We have contemplated the docile faith of Mary, who trusts God without reserve and places herself fully in his hands.”

The link that unites Mary and the Holy Spirit was clear throughout her life, from the moment of her Immaculate Conception, to her fiat, to her Assumption into heaven at the end of her earthly life, the Pope said.

“In the encyclical Deus caritas est I wrote that Mary is a woman who loves,” he stated. “Yes, dear brothers and sisters, Mary is the fruit and the sign of the love God has for us, of his tenderness and of his mercy.

“For this reason, together with our brothers in the faith of every time and place, we turn to her in our needs and hopes, and in the difficulties of life,” he said.

The Pope noted that many people will likely make a pilgrimage to the shrine in May and said he expected “strong spiritual support” to emanate from the shrine for the Diocese of Rome, for its bishops and clergy, for families, vocations, the poor, children, the elderly, all those who suffer and the nation of Italy.

“We also await the interior strength to fulfill the promise made by the Romans June 4, 1944, when they solemnly asked Our Lady of Divine Love to spare this city from the horrors of war,” he said. The promise was to correct and improve one’s personal moral conduct and conform it more to that of Jesus.

The Pope also recalled the victims, civilians and troops, in last week’s attack in Nassiriya, Iraq. “We entrust them to the intercession of Mary, Queen of Peace,” he concluded.

Reviving an Ancient Monastery in Syria

Interesting article in the Christian Science Monitor about an Italian Jesuit who discovered a crumbling, unused 6th century monestary, and is attempting to bring it back to prominence. He is also trying to use it as a means of bridging the gap between Christians and Muslims in Syria.

A Syrian monastery lies at the nexus of Islam, Christianity

By James Brandon
- It is late afternoon at the monastery of Deir Mar Musa on the edge of the Syrian desert and the only sounds are the call of desert birds and the whisper of the breeze over time-worn stones.

Until, that is, a group of Muslim schoolgirls arrive from a nearby town to fill the monastery's valley with laughter and joyful chattering.

"Keep the noise down. This is a monastery," bellows the Rev. Paolo Dall'Oglio, the monastery's Italian Jesuit founder, looking stern for a moment before breaking into a broad, proud smile.

The monastery of Deir Mar Musa was first built by Greek monks in the sixth century as a remote retreat from the material and political world. Abandoned in the 19th century, it once again houses a small religious community. But now, under its second founder, Father Dall'Oglio, it is on the forefront of politics with a fresh approach to bridge-building with the Islamic world.

"When I arrived here 25 years ago, Syria was [a] center of the struggle between communism and capitalism," says Dall'Oglio, dressed in a worn gray pullover. "And today it is the crossroads between Islam and Christianity."

"For us, dialogue really starts from being curious about others," he says, explaining that instead of proselytizing, the Catholic Church now advocates building bridges with Islam.

Through day-to-day interaction, bridge-building is what the Deir Mar Musa's six monks and nuns and several lay assistants are working toward. Traveling to local Muslim communities they work with Muslim leaders to improve opportunities for young people, promote ecological awareness, and arrange theological discussions between religious leaders.

"It's really just a simple, evangelical life," he says, stroking silvery beard. "I accept pluralism as a gift from God."

In 1977, Dell'oglio began studying Arabic in Damascus, where he soon heard about a ruined Byzantine monastery 50 miles away on the edge of the Syrian desert.

Five years later he made his first visit. After leaving the main road and trekking into barren hills, he arrived at a crumbling building. Clambering through the ruins, he found himself in a roofless church staring at medieval frescos slowly dissolving beneath the sun, wind, and rain.

"I came here for 10 days of prayer and meditation," he says. When he returned to Damascus, he began laying plans for nearly a decade to restore the ruins and make it the home for a new sort of monastery.

REBUILT: An Italian Jesuit has reopened an ancient monastery in Syria to act as a bridge between Christians and Muslims.

Babe Ruth Helps Out a Parish

What a great story. In 1923, Babe Ruth made an apperance in Philadelphia to help a parish pay for its baseball field. The story, from the Philadelphia Inquirer, is definitely worth a read. Here's the intro to the article:

The Babe in Kensington

In '23, the legend helped a parish pay off its ball field.

By Frank Fitzpatrick
Inquirer Staff Writer

Barry Bonds might well surpass Babe Ruth's home-run total when he and the Giants make their only 2006 visit to Citizens Bank Park next weekend.

But you can bet your supply of performance-enhancing substances that Bonds won't duplicate the feat Ruth achieved in Philadelphia on Sept. 4, 1923.

We won't see Bonds, or any other major-leaguer for that matter, playing two nine-inning games with his major-league team and a Catholic parish club on the same day. We won't see him hitting fungoes into a crowd of Kensington youngsters, donning the uniform of that parish team, or dirtying it by stealing home.

Ruth did that, and more, on that busy late-summer Tuesday nearly 83 years ago.

The strange saga - details of which were extracted from the Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Archives at St. Charles Seminary - all began when the Rev. William Casey became concerned that the working-class children in the Kensington parish he pastored, Ascension of Our Lord, didn't have enough wholesome activities.

So Casey took out a loan and built them a ball field at I and Tioga Streets.

Soon, it became clear that the workers who toiled at neighborhood factories making Stetson hats and Philco batteries weren't going to be able to put enough extra into the collection plates to pay for handsome Boger Field.

Casey, who also served as the Philadelphia Athletics chaplain, went searching for a money-making scheme. Looking at the A's schedule one afternoon at Shibe Park, he found one.

The two-time defending American League-champion New York Yankees, with their sensational 28-year-old slugger Babe Ruth, were due in town for an early September series. Casey knew that Ruth had grown up at St. Mary's, a Catholic orphanage in Baltimore, and had a soft spot for kids.

When the Yankees visited Philadelphia for a July series, Casey approached Ruth with his proposition: Would he be willing to help him pay off the ball field by participating in a charity game there in September?

"Is it going to help the kids, Father?" Ruth asked.

Assured that a significant ticket sale would indeed help the youngsters, Ruth instantly agreed to participate in the event two months away.

Another pro-lifish Democrat?

Pro-life Democrat Vying for Governor

By Valerie Richardson
May 1, 2006

DENVER -- After eight years of chafing under the rule of Republican Gov. Bill Owens, Colorado Democrats have a candidate for governor with a real shot at winning -- and he opposes abortion.
Bill Ritter, the former Denver district attorney who's running unchallenged for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, doesn't describe himself as pro-life -- but he is also not pro-choice -- thus violating what has become a virtual litmus test for Democratic officeholders.
His candidacy has created an awkward situation for state Democrats, who are presented this year with an opportunity to capture both the legislature and the governor's mansion.

CBS News investigates the Priory of Sion and finds out...

THAT IT IS A HOAX! Sorry Dan Brown and all you Da Vinci people, but unfortunately even CBS News can figure out that the "research" done by Dan Brown is pathetic.

Here's the link.

The Bishop of Fort Bend bring the hammer down on Notre Dame...

Bishop D'Arcy is greatly disappointed in the leadership of Notre Dame, who recently allowed the Vagina Monologues to be presented on campus. It was an opportunity to show the world that Notre Dame will stand for Truth and Light, and instead, they caved to the whims of society.

I have to say that I'm greatly encouraged to hear a bishop come out and speak against the intellectual and moral trash that many Catholic universities are spewing out these days.

Here is a phenomenal quote from his pastoral letter to the diocese:

Only when Notre Dame makes its great decisions in light of the truths of faith will its Catholic identity grow. To set aside these truths, as seems to have happened in this case, at least in the campus-wide discussions and in Father Jenkins’ Closing Statement, is to turn away from its vocation. It lacks fidelity to Father Sorin’s original enterprise and to the vocation to which every Catholic university is called.

Does this decision and the way it was explained mean that Notre Dame and its leadership will no longer make its critical decisions based on faith, on revealed truth, on those things which come from God and the church, but only on those things that may seem to endear it to secular institutions of higher learning? I pray that this may never be so.

And he closes the letter with:

Some have said that this is a watershed moment in Notre Dame’s history and certainly any discussion of academic freedom and Catholic character goes to the heart of Notre Dame’s everyday life — both in theory and in practice. Consequently, I believe that many people of good will who wish only blessings on Notre Dame will share my concern that on matters such as academic freedom, human sexuality, the nature of truth, the link between freedom and truth, the teaching of the church was not brought to bear on the wide-ranging dialogue and did not seem to find adequate room in the president’s closing statement.

Notre Dame, with its vast resources, can do better than this. I believe it will. Its responsibility to its students and to the position it has attained in Catholic higher education calls it to do better.

I do believe that Our Lady watches over Notre Dame and I place this matter in her hands, the woman of faith so revered in this place. We need her prayers and the light of her Son, who is the Way, the Truth and the Light during these hours and always.