Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Polycarp, Martyr

Along with Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp is one of the three chief apostolic fathers. These were early church leaders from the latter half of the first century and the first half of the second century who are credited with keeping the Christian faith alive in a time of persecution. They were each personally acquainted with one or more of the apostles. Polycarp was at least for a time a disciple of the apostle John. Polycarp’s pupil, Irenaeus, was an early proponent of the tradition holding that the apostle John was in fact the author of the fourth Gospel that today carries his name. Irenaeus wrote that Polycarp had been personally converted to Christianity by some of the apostles.

Polycarp became bishop of Smyrna, an important congregation in an area where the apostles had labored. As they matured, and with the apostles no longer alive to personally keep Christian teaching on an orthodox path, Polycarp and other church leaders were inevitably confronted with various novel and heretical teachings. Polycarp is particularly credited as an important voice against the ideas of Valentinus, an early Gnostic, and those of Marcion, who taught that Jesus was not the son of the “bad” God of the Jews, but rather the son of another, “good” God.

A contemporaneous description of Polycarp’s martyrdom was written by the church of Smyrna in a letter to the church of Philomelium. It is historically an important account because its authenticity is unquestioned and it paints a vivid picture of the persecution of early Christians in Rome.

Because Christians refused to worship the emperor, they were considered criminals. The practice when a Christian was captured was to demand his public apostasy, to release him if he did, and to punish him with death if he refused. Polycarp had been in Rome converting heretics when a particularly fervent wave of persecution arose. He was urged by his friends to leave the city and go into hiding. He went to a farmhouse where he spent three days in prayer and fell into a trance in which he saw his pillow burning. He told his companions that it was necessary for him to die by fire. A body of men came to arrest him, and though escape was possible, he refused. He came down to meet his pursuers, talked with them affably, and even served them dinner. While they ate he prayed for them and for the church. After dinner, he was led away.

The captain of those who captured Polycarp attempted to persuade him to save his life, but he refused. He was led into a stadium in Rome, where a great crowd had assembled. As he entered, a voice from heaven said, “Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man.” Other Christians present in the crowd attested to hearing the voice but not seeing the speaker. The proconsul was present in the stadium, and urged Polycarp to curse Christ. His famous reply was: “Fourscore and six years have I served Him, and he has done me no harm. How then can I curse my King that saved me?”

It was decided that Polycarp should be burned alive. The fire was said to have made a wall around his body, but Polycarp was unscathed. The executioner was then ordered to stab him to death, and the Smyrnian account is that this resulted in so much blood that the fire was extinguished. His body was then burned. The likely date of his death was February 23, 155.

Spend time today giving thanks to God for the witness of Polycarp. We could not be Christians today if it were not for these early church fathers who so willingly gave up their lives to Christ.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

2010 Message for Lent

Pope Benedict’s 2010 Message for Lent is beautiful and worth reading. The pope is aware of the cultural problems in the West and is responding by educating the faithful, but the Vatican curia is becoming a source of confusion and, in some ways, is an obstacle to this response. If you wish to read a heartbreaking example, the Academy for Life has publicly issued statements in the Vatican’s newspaper that appear to support abortion. This is a very sad case. The pope’s efforts become increasingly difficult as bishops use the Vatican’s own resources to create uncertainty on basic Catholic teachings.

The Absence of Religion at Harvard

Newsweek offers an interesting look at the ideological dismissal of reason at the premier university in the U.S.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

American Food Supply: U.S. Crops Grown in Herbicide

Most families are smart enough to not spray poison on their garden for fear that it will harm the small harvest they will consume. What most people do not realize is that genetically modified crops do exactly what we wish to avoid at home: genetically modified agricultural products are designed to grow in RoundUp. While the food industry argues that this is harmless, there is new evidence that this slowly poisons consumers. The food industry likes these modified crops because they no longer have to weed, they can simply dump a herbicide to destroy all competing plants. What is good for the food industry is bad for consumers.

A paper published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences (Abstract PDF) links genetically modified corn to liver and kidney poisoning (the organs that detoxify the body). This study comes to the reasonable conclusion that food grown in RoundUp may be bad for those who consume it. This food is currently legal and common in the U.S. An Australian news agency reports that the multinational enterprise seeking to advance this product used fraudulent research in its attempt to get this food approved.

This is the first of several posts that will examine the use of carcinogens in commonly consumed American products. This post concerned the long-term dangers in consuming non-organic (or genetically modified) corn.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Our Language To Remain English

In what may be a small surprise to our small group of regular readers, we have gone international and may from time to time have a post in Italian. Normally, we will try to have a translation available immediately below (either in the actual post or in the comments section). We are behind in translating the words of our late friend Enzo Piccinini, but we will try to have the English version available shortly.

In the meantime, you should continue to expect posts in English and, hopefully, will enjoy what you read.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Saintly Clown: Cecilia Eusepi

Venerable Cecilia Eusepi has a story very similar to the Little Flower and was compelled to keep a diary that told of her relationship with Jesus. She died at the age of 18 from TB and is likely to be soon beautified. Her story is presented in the most recent issue of 30 Days (30 Giorni).

Best Pro-Life Superbowl Ad

Troy Newman, a pro-life activist president of Operation Rescue, voted the Google commercial for the Superbowl as the best promoter of a culture of life. I missed it and in case you did too, you can watch it below. I highly recommend it.

Read Troy Newman's commentary "My Vote for Best Pro-life Super Bowl Ad: Google’s Parisian Love Story."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Planned Parenthood, NOW, and the Tim Teabow Superbowl Ad

After a week of hostile and heated criticism of a pro-life Superbowl ad featuring Tim Teabow and his mom Pam that they had not yet seen, and now after having seen the ad, Planned Parenthood and NOW should be left speechless. The commercial they so fiercely attacked for being offensive to women and their right to choose was a "clean, simple, family-oriented message that never mentioned abortion" as LifeSiteNews described it.

A normal person would think there is really nothing more to say about it. Well, not the pathetic angry women of NOW, because after all the fuss they made, the had to cling onto something to justify their absurd behavior. And so the president of NOW came up with a condemnation of the ad for its celebration of violence against women (did we see the same ad???). I'm not even going to report what she said, you can read it on LifeSiteNews or in many other websites and online newspapers.

Instead, I want to link to Dr. Gerard Nadal's blog and his "Open Letter to Planned Parenthood and NOW." There are no better words to describe the nonsense of these groups.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Home of Virtual Friendship: Facebook

I cancelled my facebook account a few months ago because I am philosophically opposed to using private lives as entertainment (I will write more about this later). The online ‘friendship’ generated through this service may serve to increase alienation in our society as people try to connect to others in a way that makes a true encounter impossible. For people employing facebook, the very attempt to ‘friend’ others may lead to greater isolation as more and more human communication becomes virtual and less human. The problem is that this interaction can never satisfy the requirements of the heart. The New York Review of Books provides a short history of the expansion of facebook.

In the World of Facebook - The New York Review of Books

The Saints Come Marching In-- At Last!

When John Mecom, the original owner of the New Orleans Saints, decided to name the franchise the ",Saints," he called Archbishop Philip Hannan to make sure the Catholic community would not be offended.

Archbishop Hanna assured Mr. Mecom that Catholics would not be offended. But he cautioned Mr. Mecom, "You do know that many of the saints of the Church were Martyrs."

Archbishop Hannan wrote a special prayer for the newly formed Saints football team. That was forty-three years ago. Archbishop Hannan is still alive and very active at ninety-six years of age. He has lived long enough to see "Hell freeze over!" when
the Saints won the Super Bowl.

"God, we ask your blessing upon all who participate in this event, and all who have supported our Saints. Our heavenly Father, who has instructed us that the 'saints by faith conquered kingdoms ... and overcame lions,' grant our Saints an increase of faith and strength so that they will not only overcome the Lions, but also the Bears, the Rams, the Giants and even those awesome people in Green Bay.

"May they continue to tame the Redskins and fetter the Falcons as well as the Eagles. Give to our owners and coaches the continued ability to be as wise as serpents and simple as doves, so that no good talent will dodge our draft. Grant to our fans perseverance in their devotion and unlimited lung power, tempered with a sense of charity to all, including the referees.

"May our beloved 'Bedlam Bowl' be a source of good fellowship, and may the 'Saints Come Marching In' be a victory march for all, now and in eternity."

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Planned Parenthood Develops an Ad Responding to Tim Tebow and His Mom: We Can't Resist Fisking

There’s a lot of talking leading up to the Superbowl about an ad focused on sports and family.

Ummm—I think the source of that talk has has been NOW, Planned Parenthood, and other pro-abortion organizations.

The ad features a great football player, Tim Tebow, and his loving mother discussing a difficult medical decision she made for her family.

I’m not sure Mrs. Tebow would agree that her decision was difficult. But then, you would have to acknowledge the humanity of unborn children in order to understand that being told that she should abort her child because of the likelihood he would have birth defects did not really present Mrs. Tebow with a viable option.

I respect and honor Mrs. Tebow’s decision.

Unless, of course, she chooses to tell America about it in an ad to be broadcast during the Superbowl. . . . Oh, sorry, that’s Planned Parenthood, the organization you are representing.

I want my daughter to live in a world where everyone’s decisions are respected. [emphasis in original]

Everyone’s decisions? Really? Hitler’s decisions? Stalin’s decisions? The decisions of the current government leaders in China? What about the decisions of some mothers to leave their newborn infants in the trash, or in a toilet?

My Mom showed me that women are strong and wise. She taught me that only women can make the best decisions about their health and their future.

Whereas men, infants, and children-- [Sigh] Oh, never mind.


We’re working toward the day where every woman will be valued.

An interesting statement. What is omitted speaks volumes. The pro-life position would be, we are working toward the day where every person will be valued. We assert that each human being, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death, has more value than all the material things in the universe. One could steal all of the art treasures from the Louvre museum, and the value of what was stolen would not equal the value of one fetus or embryo about to have his life snuffed out.

This is not really an argument about the right of people to make choices. It is an argument about whether we are going to recognize the irreducible humanity of all persons.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

May We Direct Your Attention to . . .

This fine blog, by Fr. John Hunwicke. He is actually an Anglican priest, though you would never know it unless you happened to click on the link to his parish. His knowledge and erudition about all things liturgical, his defense of Catholic faith and even the Church itself, and his evident orthodox faith, are all quite impressive.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Theatre and Cultural Evangelization

Father Peter Cameron (OP), whom many already know through his role as editor of the Magnificat, is also a playwright and has written The Living Silence, The Sacrament of Memory, The Women Who Served, and Mother and Sister to Me which have been produced in New York by the Blackfriars Repertory Theatre. Father Cameron gave a lecture titled “The Role of Theatre in the Evangelization of Culture” and the transcript is available online.

Hell Freezes Over!! WaPo Prints Two Articles Sympathetic to Christian Views in Two Successive Days!

Yesterday we ran a link to a story in the liberal newspaper, The Washington Post, which broke the news that a study of abstinence-based sex education suggested that the program may actually be successful. And then today the paper prints a column by staff writer Sally Jenkins in its Sports section entitled, Tebow's Super Bowl Ad Isn't Intolerant; Its Critics Are. We couldn't agree more, WaPo. Who wouldda thunk we could say that two days in a row?

Here is the hard-to-believe evidence.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sometimes What Seems Obviously and Intuitively True Turns Out to Be-- TRUE!!!

Advocates of abstinence based education offered to teens in High School and Junior High have relied mostly on the plausible, intuitively sensible position that advocating abstinence to kids in sex education classes may in fact reduce their tendencies to become sexually active before marriage. For years, critics have said that there is no evidence to support this idea. The Obama administration sided with the critics and has cut more than $150 million from federal funding for abstinence only education. But now the critics have a problem. It turns out that the evidence has proven them wrong, that a powerful study has shown abstinence based sex education programs are in fact effective. In other words, spring tends to follow winter, the sun tends to rise in the East, and maybe, just maybe, teaching kids about contraception makes them more likely to become sexually active, while teaching them about the value of sexual abstinence makes them less likely to do so.

This story by the way, comes to us from the Washington Post, a paper not generally known as friendly to conservative positions. Read it all here.