Peace & War & Memorial Day

I write this blog today with a heavy heart knowing that there is so many places in the world that still suffer the ravages of war, but also hopeful there are great efforts for making peace in this world such as the messages and actions of Pope Francis.  Pope Francis condemned those who supply weapons and help prolong wars and request we pray for their conversion.  I pray that his efforts help bring peace to the many peoples and religions of the Holy Land.

Pope Francis in the Holy Land

Pope Francis arrive in Jordan.

Pope Francis arrives in Jordan.

This Memorial Day Weekend began with the historic pilgrimage that Pope Francis is making to the Holy Land.  Just before leaving on his trip the Vatican website began to offer an Arabic language version for the first time in history, showing the efforts Pope Francis is making with interreligious dialog.  When Pope Francis arrived in Jordan, he thanked for Jordan for their efforts for peace and helping the many refugees who have fled Syria in their war.  Here is a condensed version of his speech in the arrival in the Holy Land:

I thank God for granting me this opportunity to visit the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in the footsteps of my predecessors Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. …

Jordan has offered a generous welcome to great numbers of Palestinian and Iraqi refugees, as well as to other refugees from troubled areas, particularly neighboring Syria, ravaged by a conflict which has lasted all too long. Such generosity merits the appreciation and support of the international community. The Catholic Church, to the extent of its abilities, has sought to provide assistance to refugees and those in need, especially through Caritas Jordan…

I take this opportunity to reiterate my profound respect and esteem for the Muslim community and my appreciation for the leadership of His Majesty the King in promoting a better understanding of the virtues taught by Islam and a climate of serene coexistence between the faithful of the different religions. I am grateful that Jordan has supported a number of important initiatives aimed at advancing interreligious dialogue and understanding between Jews, Christians and Muslims. I think in particular of the Amman Message and the support given within the United Nations Organization to the annual celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week.

I would also like to offer an affectionate greeting to the Christian communities present in this country since apostolic times, contributing to the common good of the society of which they are fully a part. Although Christians today are numerically a minority, theirs is a significant and valued presence in the fields of education and health care, thanks to their schools and hospitals. They are able to profess their faith peaceably, in a climate of respect for religious freedom. Religious freedom is in fact a fundamental human right and I cannot fail to express my hope that it will be upheld throughout the Middle East and the entire world. The right to religious freedom “includes on the individual and collective levels the freedom to follow one’s conscience in religious matters and, at the same time, freedom of worship… [it also includes] the freedom to choose the religion which one judges to be true and to manifest one’s beliefs in public” (Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, 26). Christians consider themselves, and indeed are, full citizens, and as such they seek, together with their Muslim fellow citizens, to make their own particular contribution to the society in which they live.

Finally, I cordially invoke peace and prosperity upon the Kingdom of Jordan and its people. I pray that my visit will help to advance and strengthen good and cordial relations between Christians and Muslims.

I thank you for your courteous welcome. May the Almighty and Merciful God grant happiness and long life to Your Majesties, and may he bless Jordan abundantly. Salaam!

This visit to the Holy Land also marks 50 years since Pope Paul VI has made the same visit and met with Patriarch Anthenagoras to end 900 years of division between the Eastern and Western Catholic Churches.  Pope Francis will be meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew to continue the friendship and work toward Christian unity in the modern era.

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Pope Francis at the River Jordan (site where Jesus was Baptized)

Pope Francis at the River Jordan (site where Jesus was Baptized)

Memorial Day Weekend

memorial-day

This is a special weekend for many Americans in honoring those who serve our country in the military, and especially for those who gave their lives in service to the United States of America. Archbishop Timothy Broglio serves the largest single diocese — the Archdiocese of the Military.  He offers this inspiring message in the following video from Catholic News Service in what Memorial Day means to Catholics:

Suicide in the US Military

One of the very sad issues facing many men in the military is the increasing problem of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Depression that has caused many to take their own lives through suicide.  The number of veterans committing suicide now is a 22 per day or 660 per month.  This is twice the rate in the general population, and an increase from just two years ago.  The military and veterans are trying to offer better education and supports.

Here in Charlottesville the Center for Peace and Justice collaborated with Vets for Peace to help raise awareness about the large suicide rate and to help with prevention.

My friend Evan is a vet, and in the following picture,  got a local artist to display 660 dog tags on a tree on our Downtown Mall Plaza to represent visually the impact of how many people commit suicide every month in America.

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Veterans for Peace — 660 Dogtags on tree represent the monthly suicide rate in America currently.

Vets were also passing out the ACE card with instructions to family and friends of vets in how they can help prevent suicides.

ACEcard

 

How can we change the world towards making peace?

PRAYER, ACTION, & ADVOCACY:

Making peace is a hard task, and actually even harder than making war, BUT it can be done.  First, I think that the power of prayer can help, and one of the best prayers is the Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love;

For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life. Amen

 

Second, we can take individual action to help working towards peace and healing.  We should be engaged in government to advocate for peace – maybe a letter to a congressman, or attending a rally, standing up to talk publically to show action for peace.

 

Third, we need to have better advocacy for peace.  There are too many lobby groups in Washington for making war, and the military companies who make weapons have too powerful a lobby at this time.   We need to personally & financially support groups locally and in Washington, that make efforts for peace to match the power of these opposing lobby groups–to have effect of legislators and change attitudes.  You can support groups like Pax Christi, USA,  Catholic Relief Services, Caritas, and World Beyond War.

LINKS

Custos of the Holy Land (Franciscans)

Pope Francis’ Visit to the Holy Land (Catholic News Agency)

Archdiocese of the Military, USA

Veterans Affairs Mental Health

Suicide Rate for Veterans (Center for Public Integrity)

Veterans for Peace

Pax Christi, USA

Caritas

Catholic Relief Services

World Beyond War

David Swanson (Peace Activist and Blogger)

 

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Archbishop Charles Chaput visits UVA

 

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM, Cap., D.D.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM, Cap., D.D.

We were very honored to have a visit in Charlottesville from Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., on February 18th, as a speaker at the St. Anshelm Institute for Catholic Thought at the University of Virginia.  Archbishop Chaput gave a very good talk entitled City Upon a Hill:  Augustine, John Winthrop and the soul of the American Experiment Today.  Archbishop Chaput has been a great advocate for American Catholics to know their role in being faithful citizens, and it is part of everyone’s call to holiness to be involved in making a free and just society.

Archbishop Chaput speaking at The University of Virginia's St. Anshelm Insitute of Catholic Thiught

Archbishop Chaput speaking at The University of Virginia’s St. Anshelm Insitute of Catholic Thought

Archbishop Chaput is a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribe, and was the second Native American to be ordained bishop in the United States, and the first Native American archbishop. He chose as his episcopal motto: “As Christ Loved the Church” (Ephesians 5:25)  Archbishop Chaput has served as a bishop of South Dakota and worked in the church for Native American issues, and spoke about Indian Spirtuality and its good and bad points, and why many Native American’s are drawn to the love of Jesus Christ.  Archbishop Chaput has also served as bishop of Denver, and presently in Philadelphia.  I find it most interesting that he as a Franciscan Capuchin, and his fellow bishop (Cardinal Sean O’Malley) were both called to “rebuild the church” in two of the most challenging dioceses in America (Philadelphia & Boston) that were affected by scandal and corruption.  I am extememly proud of my fellow Franciscan bishops, and that Pope Francis, in choosing his name, to take on this task of renewing our beautiful Catholic Faith in the spirit of St. Francis “to rebuild God’s house.”

Archbishop Chaput was just two weeks earlier called by Pope Francis to join the new Pontifical Council on the Laity.  Archbishop Chaput spoke in his talk of the great importance of the laity to help with the church in evangelization, prayer, support, and active participation amongst everyone, including those in the secular world.  Archbishop Chaput said he does not know yet what he will be doing on this new council, but looks forward to the challenges ahead.  I was pleased to meet him after his talk, and wished him well and said that he will be in my prayers.

I encourage you to view his entire talk, because I can’t do it justice in my writing, and the Q&A afterward in link below.

LINKS

Video of Archbishop Chaput’s Talk

St. Anshelm Institute for Catholic Thought at UVA

Archbishop Chaput’s website at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Pontifical Council for the Laity (Vatican)

Previous Blog about Archbishop Chaput at the Fortnight for Freedom Mass in DC

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Cold Hard Truth — March for Life 2014

It was a cold five degrees today in Washington, D.C. for the 41st Annual March for Life, but that did not dampen the enthusiam for tens of thousands of people from across America advocating for the dignity of life from conception to natural death in this country.  I was very moved at the fortitude of so many people coming out in harsh weather conditions to fight for a noble cause in saving innocent life.  Life that is under constant threat regarding abortion, aging, healthcare, and developemental disability rights.  It is sad to report that the count is now up to 55 million babies murdered since the passage of Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973.

Many arriving at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for prayers and Masses.

Many arriving during snow storm at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for prayers and Masses.

The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

There were thousands of people who came to visit the National Shrine on Tuesday for many activities including, Eucharistic Adoration, Mass, and Confessions, and Prayer Vigil for Life that filled the many chapels and the Basilica with faithful from around the nation.  It was so upilifitng to see the youth of today practicing their faith so devoutly.

Pilgrims arriving to pray at Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel

Pilgrims arriving to pray at Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel

Blessed John Paul II Shrine

I then went to visit the Blessed John Paul II Shrine which is just a few blocks away from the National Shrine.  I was blessed to attend a Mass at the Shrine and the chaplain invited attendees to  venerate a new relic that was a piece of the vestment that Pope John Paul II wore when he was shot.  It was a moving experience for many, and especially this year when he will be officially canonized on April 27th (Divine Mercy Sunday) along with Pope John XXIII.  During our Mass there was a lot of construction noise as the Knights of Columbus are busily getting the Shrine ready for events in April.  There will be many events announced soon for the canonization including a Masses at the National Shrine and a procession of the Holy Eucharist up the road to the “Saint John Paul II Shrine.”  There will be a new 400 seat chapel unveiled for the canonization that includes a new sacristy and confessionals where the sacrament of reconciliation will be offered every day.  They are also remaking a 14,ooo square foot area in the basement featuring interactive displays on the life and teachings of Saint John Paul II, but unfortunately will not be ready until July.

Veneration of a new Blessed John Paul II relic (his vestment when he was shot).

Veneration of a new Blessed John Paul II relic (his vestment when he was shot).

March for Life 2014

I arrived early at 10am on the National Mall and was one of the first to see all the crews setting up the sound system.  I was really psyched to meet Matt Maher as he arrived for his sound check in fridged tempertures to play an accoustic guitar.  I have included a link to his last music album below from SoundCloud – definately worth a listen.

Matt Maher warming up for March for Life performance

Matt Maher warming up for March for Life performance

I was also priviledged to meet Gus Lloyd and Fr. Jonathan Morris from The Catholic Channel on XM/Sirius Satellite Radio.  Great to see them in action providing wonderful Catholic radio programming accross the nation.  I also met Teresa Tomeo, from EWTN, and seeing their camera teams in action offering live TV coverage interviewing many eager participants in the march.

Gus Lloyd braodcasting for XM/Sirius Satellite Radio

Gus Lloyd braodcasting for XM/Sirius Satellite Radio

Catholic New Media

The March for Life became more involved with using social media including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.  The March for Life also unveiled a new logo for 2014.  There were also two new Apps that became good resources for the March for Life this year.

  • The March for Life App offered a list of events, maps, ticket links, news, video, take action, and education resources.
  • Nine Days for Life App offering a nine day novena from January 18-26.  It offered prayers, meditation, and suggested exercises of faith.  I also like that it offered the time of day you could select to get a reminder text sent to you from the USCCB.

New Ways in Saving Lives

Save The Storks Bus

Save The Storks Bus

Save the Storks is a new program offering mobile vans that offer loving support to women thinking about abortions.  The vans are equipped with a screen to watch supportive pro-life videos, and offer 3-D sonograms of their babies.  Pregnancy resource centers are able to park these units outside abortion clinics to show Christ’s love and compassion to help women in making a lifesaving decision.  Save the Storks is looking to grow this program to more communities, and has made a wonderful start in serving the Archdiocese of Boston over the past three years.

Interior of Save the Storks van.

Interior of Save the Storks van.

Lifeboat Coffee is a new coffee company that offers gourmet coffee in both ground and whole-bean.  All the proceeeds from the sale of these coffees go to help for the cause of the pro-life movenent.  You can find out more about their wonderful story and how to get their coffee at the link below.

LifeBoatCoffee

 

 

 

 

 

Bagpiper playing Hail Holy Queen

Bagpiper playing Hail Holy Queen

The Supreme Court

Monsignor Charles Pope in front of the Supreme Court

Monsignor Charles Pope in front of the Supreme Court

The crowds from many walks of life marched up Capitol Hill to the Supreme Court.  When I arrived with the other photographers before the crowd turned the corner, I was pleased to see my cousin, Monsignor Charles Pope there praying the rosary.  He is a wonderful priest for the Diocese of Washington, and is the main writer for the diocesan blog which now has many readers.  He recently rededicated the Ten Commandments monument which is just behind the Supreme Court which had been vandelized.  I continue to pray for the end of legalized abortions and the protection of innocent life in our country and thankful for so many people who came out for the 2014 March for Life — God Bless you all.

The Ten Commandments Monument

The Ten Commandments Monument

God’s Grace

I did have one other casualty on the March for Life — my iPhone battery.  It was so cold that it drained much quicker than anticipated.  I think the Holy Spirit intervened– while visiting a Starbucks, some very kind young people from Florida who were here for the March for Life, let me borrow their charger, which was a life-saver (God Bless you again).

Angels from Florida

Angels from Florida

LINKS

March for Life

National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Blessed John Paul II Shrine

Matt Maher on SoundCloud

March for Life App (iTunes)

March for Life App (Google Play)

9 Days for Life Website

9 Days for Life App (iTunes)

9Days for Life App (Google Play)

Save the Storks

Lifeboat Coffee

Crowds Marching up Capitol Hill

Crowds Marching up Capitol Hill

 

March for Life 2014 up Capitol Hill

March for Life 2014 up Capitol Hill

 

A person's a person no matter how small (Dr. Suess)

A person’s a person no matter how small (Dr. Suess)

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WWJD = What Would Jesus Drive

 

2014 Pagani Huayra

2014 Pagani Huayra

I am a big fan of automobiles, and have always kept up with the latest innovations in the auto industry.  I have always wanted to drive an exotic supercar, but am content to motor around town in my 2005 Honda CRV.  Pope Francis has certainly been frugal with his mode of chosen transportation with a Ford Focus over the Mercedes-Benz Popemobile. Pope Francis recently wrote in the opening of his Apostolic exhortation The Joy of The Gospel:

1. The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness.

2. The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor.

The Catholic Church is NOT against the wealthy, we all need wealthy citizens to help in making a robust economy for a nation, as well the need to be generous in giving in charity.  I think that Pope Francis is saying that the disparity of the wealthy and the middle/poor class has gotten to be too great.  Does a wealthy person really need a home of 50,000 square feet, or a $1,400,000 automobile?  Could they buy something of fine quality and perhaps still have money left to give to charity or invest in jobs?

Here is a suggestion for the wealthy to live closer to living the Gospel Life that Pope Francis suggests.  Following is a video of one of the most expensive and exotic sports cars with a $1,400,000 price tag called the 2014 Pagani Huayra.   I admit that after viewing the video about this incredible hyper car, it creates a desire to own and drive one, BUT this is the type of excess that Pope Francis is preaching against.  This car will be owned by very few people, and employs very few people in its production and maintenance.

Now here is a video of the new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Z-51 with a $70,000 price tag,  which is still an incredible car with a much more reasonable price.

Could there be a happy medium for the wealthy that still allows for enjoyment of toys travel, and technology, and also helps the middle-class and poor?  Here is a suggestion to the wealthy in living the Gospel Life, that will bring driving joy, as well as a joy in life of giving to the needy:

  • Buy a 2014 Corvette Z-51 at $70,000 and help build a more just society with the savings.
  • Suggested donations & investments of $1,330,000 to charities and industries that help the poor and middle-class from remaining savings from buying a Pagani:
  1. Invest $1,000,000 in salaries for new or existing employees (helps economy & employment)
  2. Donate $200,000 to Catholic Charities (helping feed, shelter, and clothe many of the poor and homeless in many areas of the world including Haiti, Syria, Sudan, and Afghanistan)
  3. Donate $130,000 to St. Jude Children’s Hospital (helping pay for children who can’t afford needed healthcare)

This Christmas reminds me of a quote from Henry Ford who invented the mass production process for automobiles with the Model-T and believed in paying good wages, so his employees could afford to buy the products he manufactured.  Henry Ford sent the following Christmas message in 1923:

“Christmas stands for the human factor which makes life tolerable midst the hurry of commerce and production.  All of us need the annealing effect of Christ’s example to relieve the hardening we get in the daily struggle for material success.”

Henry Ford

Pope Francis has certainly been an inspiration with his choice of vehicles and purchased a Renault 4 that runs in bio-diesel, and requested that priests purchase modest cars for their use.

Pope Francis' Renualt 4

Pope Francis’ Renualt 4

My own pastor recently need a replacement for his car, and purchased a Toyota Prius which is economical and environmentally friendly.  Apparently an artist agreed with this choice and made this mock-up ad for Toyota:

What Would Jesus Dive by Chris Dalton

What Would Jesus Dive by Chris Dalton

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  May we all help to build a more just society in 2014 and the years to come.

God Bless,

John

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Greater Good Technology – NEW ministry

Greater Good TechnologyGreater Good Technology is a new ministry developed by Catholic Web Services to help give disadvantaged people access & training in technology.  We have developed a successful pilot program here in our hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia.  Greater Good Technology’s program aims to help homeless people, by giving them a fair seat at the table to search for a job.

 Empowering those transitioning from homelessness

Today’s society requires modern communications to be on a level field for employment.  We train a Lead Training Mentor that targets 12 other men and women transitioning from homelessness to train.  The lead trainer receives a Google Chromebook with which to train his trainees and receives payment for each trainee they graduate that is verified by our online training system at Catholic Web Services.   Each trainee receives a Google gmail account, Google Voice number for email, begins to create a resume, and receives training on how to make calls online.

Successful Pilot

Catholic Web Services is successfully working with Howard, our first Lead Training Mentor, in the Charlottesville pilot program.  Our Director of Technology, Carl Stacy became friends with Howard through a local mentoring program. Howard wanted a way to give back to the community, the same community that had provided him assistance in his time of need, and was very enthusiastic about sharing his new technology skills with others to help them find employment.

We were thankful for an initial grant from the Lions Club, but need your help to grow this deserving ministry.  Please contact us if you are interested in bringing Greater Good Technology to your community.

 

Charlottesville’s Support Network for Homelessness

One of the reason’s this program works well is because it adds to a great support system of people and agencies who provide a network of services helping the homeless gain independence, housing, and employment.   Charlottesville’s system of supports has grown over the years and is getting better through the cooperation of our great provider groups: PACEM, The Haven, Lion’s Club, The Salvation Army, and county and city social services.

PACEM

PACEM is a grassroots organization that coordinates space and volunteers to provide shelter for individuals in our community who are homeless.  Charlottesville currently has no permanent shelter for the homeless, so the religious community united to help in the cause of sheltering the homeless during the cold months of the season.

More than sixty congregations in the Charlottesville area take turns opening their doors – setting up cots, serving warm evening meals, and providing companionship. Through PACEM, congregations of many faiths and community groups come together to address the need for shelter in our community.  The name, PACEM, is an acronym for (People And Congregations Engaged in Ministry). Pacem is also a Latin word meaning peace.

 

Director Tom Shadyac visiting his friends at The Haven

Director Tom Shadyac visiting his friends at The Haven

The Haven is a safe and welcoming place for the homeless and very poor of Central Virginia to be during the day. Opened for business on January 18, 2010, The Haven provides this community with a central place to receive vital services and get connected to social service providers.  The Haven came into being through the generosity of UVA alumni & Movie Director Tom Shadyack.  Tom came back to Charlottesville in 2006 to film the movie Evan Almighty, a hit comedy retelling of the Noah’s Ark story, and he gave proceeds of the film to buy an old city church to make it a “haven” for the poor and homeless.

The Haven provides meals, short-term storage, showers, laundry facilities, computer access, living room, community garden and referrals to on-site service providers offering substance abuse assessment, mental health peer support, financial literacy and counseling, legal assistance, public housing applications, resume development and job search coaching, health advocacy and navigation, social services such as food stamp screening.  It has been a wonderful asset to bring all the services under one roof, and Greater Good Technology is working to help with technology training to give these men and women an opportunity at a better life.

Help Us GROW! — YOUR SUPPORT NEEDED

We would like to continue this program and grow it to other communities, but we need your support.  Your help with financial support, and through prayers are very much appreciated.   We are seeing a great need to help the homeless and your support in any way helps us to keep our ministry going.  We are looking for people who could donate any size donations which are very much appreciated.  We are fundraising now through Christmas with an indiegogo crowd-source funding campaign.  You can contact Catholic Web Services Director, John Clem, if you have any questions:

John Clem, Director of Catholic Web Services

Office (434) 202-4297

e-mail:  jclem@catholicws.com

Please click here for secure donation to Catholic Web Services using Indiegogo Campaign & PayPal to support Greater Good Technology ministry

indiegogo for Greater Good Technology

LINKS

Greater Good Technology (Catholic Web Services)

PACEM (People And Congregations Engaged in Ministry)

The Haven

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Laura Ingraham at UVA Law

Laura Ingraham speaking at UVA Law School

Laura Ingraham speaking at UVA Law School

Laura Ingraham came to the University of Virginia Law School as an alumnus to speak about her work and experience in law and politics from a very personal perspective.   Laura was invited by The Federalist Society for Law Public Policy Studies to speak about politics and the public perception of the Supreme Court.  Maybe I was expecting to hear the same brash personality from FOX News, or from her conservative radio show, but really she offered a very honest and rational view of the state of America.  Laura was critical of Democrats, but even more so of her own Republican Party.

Laura Ingraham

Laura Ingraham

 

Laura shared with us that she is friends with both of the candidates for the Virginia Governors race,  Terry McAuliffe & Ken Cuccinelli.    She said that she goes to the same church as Terry McAuliffe, and often has friendly debates with him, even though they do not agree ideologically.  She said Ken Cuccinelli is a “good man,” but does not have a vibrant personality needed to win with voters.  Laura made clear that she thinks many of the people in Washington are well-intentioned politicians, but we need someone who can lead our nation and “wright the ship” from a $17-trillion deficit or disaster will come soon. She said she does not care what party a politician follows, she just wants to see America get leadership in place that will address the biggest issues of jobs, the economy, and liberty.

Laura is true patriot and wants to see a better future for her children, and very worried about the state of our nation.  Laura commented that the current problems with the Affordable Health Care website are representative of of the problems of the Obama administration, showing his lack of experience in running a business.  Laura said that our next president should have experience in leadership running a business, as a vital requirement of the Chief Executive.  Laura said she is not critical of Barrack Obama as a person, but rather about his lack of leadership skills needed for the office.  Laura did comment that the US Courts also need good leadership, and questioned the ruling by Supreme Court Justice Roberts on the Affordable Care Act.

Adoption

The most important thing in Laura’s life is her family.  Laura is a wonderful mother who adopted three children, and is a strong advocate for domestic and foreign adoptions.  Two of Laura’s children were adopted from Russia, where she had to use her legal skills and ability to speak the Russian language in their courts to save these children. Laura was recently outraged at the ban on foreign adoptions made by Vladamir Putin in Russia.  In response, she has started a charity to help promote a culture of supporting adoptions called Burning Both Ends.   Laura shows us bi-partisan leadership in partnering with Democrat Mary Landrieu for this wonderful cause. Great video below worth your time to view:

A Charitable Heart

Laura helps many charities, and shows a love of people with the many works of mercy and financial supports in her work.  Laura has been a supporter of the military with the Wounded Warrior Project, and a number of worthy causes for our troops.  Laura is a breast cancer survivor who helps others afflicted, and in finding a cure.  She is also a staunch supporter of life–from conception to natural death.  Following is a list of her worthy charities:

Laura Ingraham’s Favorite Charities

 

Convert to Catholicism

Laura is a recent convert to Catholicism.  Laura has a very strong faith, and it is wonderful that she shares her faith with her listeners on her radio show.  Laura is friend’s with EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo, and they both share time with their families and appear on each other’s shows.

Raymond Arroyo & Laura Ingraham

Raymond Arroyo & Laura Ingraham (photo Huffington Post)

Laura said she was very grateful of her experiences from living in Charlottesville, and attending the University of Virginia.  She said it gave her the skills and knowledge that has guided her well in life. It was an honor to listen to her talk tonight, and I join her in praying that we find leadership in America to help us all out of this mess.

LINKS

Laura Ingraham’s Website

The Federalist  Society

Burning Both Ends (adoption charity)

Great Blog:  SENATOR MARY L. LANDRIEU AND LAURA INGRAHAM UNITE IN BI-PARTISAN ADOPTION COALITION

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Franciscan Earth Corps – a new ministry

Franciscan Earth Corp

Franciscan Earth Corps

The Franciscan Earth Corps is a new ministry for young adults (ages 18-35) fostering Franciscan Spirituality in action for social & ecological justice in caring for God’s creation.  On September 20-22, forty young people gathered at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America for a weekend of prayer, fellowship, learning, and action in forming a new national effort to grow the Franciscan Earth Corps.  The Franciscan Action Network is now helping to grow this ministry with guidance and resources to start a chapter in your local area.   Below is a great video made by students from Syracuse University in New York that shows the Franciscan Earth Corps and invites young adults to help form new chapters:

The weekend in DC with the Franciscan Earth Corps members was very inspiring and motivating to meet many people from across America working on, or planning great projects in their local communities.  We were blessed to have a great speaker begin our weekend with a talk from Sister Ilia Delio, who spoke on the subject of “The Emergent Christ and Franciscan Spirituality.”  She has written many great books on Franciscan ecology, spirituality, and prayer.  One that is recommended to Franciscan Earth Corps members to read is Care for Creation, by Sr. Ilea Delio, O.F.S. , Keith Douglas Warner, O.F.M., and Susan Wood.  Below is a video from Georgetown University’s Woodstock Center with Sr. Ilia Delio talking on Food, Ecology, and Consciousness

Sister Ilia Delio

Sister Ilia Delio, OSF, speaking in The Memorial Church of the Holy Sepulchre at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land.

The group who met in DC had the opportunities to learn about the resources at the monastery.  The group had contemplative prayer time in the beautiful prayer gardens that have replicas of Holy Land sites, Lourdes Grotto, and Portiuncula Chapel.  We also got a tour of the garden programs, beehives, and ecology projects at the monastery. We also learned about community organizing, and shared experiences to help form a the beginnings of a great ministry.

Andre’s River

I had the pleasure to spend some time with a young man, Andre Rivera, from The Bronx, in New York City who is helping to form a new chapter of the Franciscan Earth Corps.  He has a wonderful story to tell, and it is well illustrated in a video he made to help save the Bronx River:

Guerilla Gardening

Our weekend ended with a beautiful Mass at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C.  This church run by Franciscan priests is a wonderful parish, that serves a diverse community with Mass said in Haitian, Vietnamese, Spanish, and English.  After Mass, members of the Franciscan Earth Corps joined members of the local community in a guerilla gardening project.  The Earth Corps helped beautify an abandoned lot that had the support of the community.  Beautiful photos below are from the event taken by Amanda Schulz.

Guerilla Gardening

“We pray this action of beautifying a forgotten place can be a spark,”
said Fr. Kevin Thompson, OFM Cap., whose nearby Sacred Heart parish
brought several of the young adults to the site. Neighbors said the
parking lot, church, and house at Georgia Ave and Park Road NW had
been abandoned for over a year and was a haven for drug dealers. Many
neighbors cheered on the gardeners as they walked past, with two young
boys joining in the digging and a woman adding a large flowering plant
from her own yard. A man living next door thanked the group and
pledged to take care of the flowers after they were planted.

guerrilla gardening Rev Yearwood speaking

Rev. Lennox Yearwood from the Hip Hop Caucus was invited to lend his
support and add inspiration to the event. With Franciscan Earth Corps
focused on global as well as local issues of ecology, Rev. Yearwood
spoke about the crucial role of people of faith in the struggle to
take on climate change. He applauded the role that local, nitty-gritty
efforts of solidarity must have in an expansive movement for change,
saying, “We must fight poverty and pollution at the same time and
bring hope to communities where there is no hope.”

Guerilla Gardening

Franciscan Earth Corps members helping care for God’s creation in Guerilla Gardening Project in Washington, D.C.

Find a Franciscan

Find a FranciscanThere is now a Find a Franciscan map system to find a sponsoring Franciscan community near you.  There are many parishes with a Secular Franciscan Order fraternities, or Franciscan priests, brothers, and sisters who would like to hear from you about helping with the Franciscan Earth Corp or any part of the Franciscan Family.  My local Secular Franciscan Order, Mount LaVerna Fraternity, is sponsoring a new chapter of the Franciscan Earth Corps, so if you live in Central Virginia, check us out.

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Franciscan Earth Corps in Washington, DC on September 22, 2013

LINKS

Franciscan Earth Corp

Franciscan Action Network

Mount LaVerna Fraternity, Charlottesville, Virginia

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Habitat for Humanity — Charlottesville

Habitat for Humanity

SUNRISE PARK

Today marked the completion of six new Habitat for Humanity Homes in a wonderful rebuilt neighborhood called Sunrise Park.   This Habitat Humanity project is unique, as it is the first entire trailer park replaced in America with affordable housing for its residents.  My parish, Church of the Incarnation, helped contribute $60,000 and provided over 1,000 hours of labor toward construction of one new duplex home serving two families.  With the help of other faith communities and business partners, this neighborhood has been transformed into a lovely place to call home for many families who provided their own sweat-equity and investments in making this a reality.  This has been so successful Habitat for Humanity is now using this model to replace a larger 100 acre trailer park called Southwood.

Sunrise Trailer Court, Charlottesville Virginia (before Habitat for Humanity project)

Sunrise Trailer Court, Charlottesville Virginia (before Habitat for Humanity project)

Sunrise Trailer Court used to be a neighborhood of 16 trailers, and its residents agreed to work with Habitat for Humanity to offer them affordable housing in a co-housing neighborhood model offering apartments, duplex homes, community center and market rate homes.  Local architects offered plans that provided, affordable, durable, green, and beautiful buildings for the site.  The residents were not displaced during construction, but were offered the new apartments built on-site, while their homes were constructed.

SunrisePark

 

The families who moved into new homes today gave heartfelt thanks to Habitat for Humanity and all the community members who make it happen.   Rachel Mayo is a new homeowner from the new house our parish built, and wrote for today’s dedication:

Rachel Mayo (new homeowner)

Rachel Mayo (new homeowner)

“I would like to thank the people from Habitat who made this dream possible for me and my family.  There are no words to express to you how grateful I am.  I always wanted to own my home and never thought it was possible until people at Habitat gave me hope.  Thank you all for everything that made this happen.”  Rachel Mayo

Mayo & Fuentes Families Homes (New duplex home built by Habitat for Humanity)

Mayo & Fuentes Families Homes (New duplex home built by Habitat for Humanity)

 

New community center, offering important gathering point for neighborhood residents.

New community center, offering important gathering point for neighborhood residents.

 

“Our Catholic tradition, eloquently expressed by Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI, insists that shelter is one of the basic rights of the human person. The Second Vatican Council has said with great directness: ‘There must be made available to all men everything necessary for leading a life truly human, such as food, clothing, and shelter…” [“The Right to a Decent Home,” USCCB, 1975]

Parishioners from Church of the Incarnation after workday this past April

Parishioners from Church of the Incarnation after workday this past April


Please consider volunteering or contributing to Habitat for Humanity to help in this worthy cause to bring affordable housing to those in need in your community.  There are more links at the bottom of this blog for contacts with Habitat for Humanity in your community.

Steel sculpture of Habitat for Humanity "Family" Logo, made from old trailer's I-Beams

Steel sculpture of Habitat for Humanity “Family” Logo, made from old trailer’s I-Beams at Sunrise Park

THE HABITAT STORE

Another great community asset is the Habitat Store here in Charlottesville.  It offers new & used building supplies at 25-75% off retail prices.  Many local contractors recycle their building supplies here and assist others with affordable housing.  Volunteers help run this store which offers many great products to anyone interested.

The Habitat Store

The Habitat Store

SPONSORS for Sunrise Park with Habitat for Humanity

Habitat Sponsors

LINKS

Video: NBC29 news coverage of the dedication featuring the home owner of the home built by my parish.

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville

Habitat for Humanity International

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Fortnight for Freedom – DC

Fortnight for Freedom

 

 

 

 

 

The second annual Fortnight for Freedom concluded this July 4th to an enthusiastic and patriotic group of faithful gathered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.  I was privileged to attend this special Mass with my parents, and my cousin, Monsignor Charles Pope, con-celebrating with 130 priests and bishops from around the nation.

Cardinal Wuerl of the Archdiocese was the celebrant, and offered a wonderful homily that addressed religious freedom from a historical, theological, and present day perspective of threats to religious liberty.  Catholics from all around the nation have been active in prayer and activities for religious freedom across the nation for the past two weeks.  Archbishop Lori of Baltimore also gave some excellent concluding remarks and encouraging all to be active year-round to be prayerful and active in public life for religious liberty.  The Mass concluded with everyone singing enthusiastically America the Beautiful.

July 4th Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

July 4th Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Video:  A candlelight vigil at the US Capitol began the Fortnight for Freedom:

Many Catholics from across America signing and playing guitars and drums after the July 4th Mass

Many Catholics from across America signing and playing guitars and drums after the July 4th Mass

Video:  Archbishop Michael O. Jackels on restoring America’s Forgotten Values (Catholic News Service)

LINKS

USCCB website for Religious Liberty

Archbishop Lori’s homily to open Fortnight for Freedom June 21, 2013

Cardinal Wuerl’s Homily on July 4th, 2013

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One Million Bones & The Labyrinth

 

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

Thomas Merton

One Million Bones art exhibit on National Mall

One Million Bones art exhibit on National Mall June 8-10, 2013

ONE MILLION BONES

I was witness to an amazing piece of artwork and political statement addressing genocide on Washington, D.C.’s National Mall this past weekend.  Seeing the huge pile of shoes at the U.S. Holocaust Museum a few blocks away, was one of the most moving things I have seen about genocide until this weekend.   Seeing one million bones laid out helps put into perspective the horrors and loss of genocide.  Naomi Natale is the artist who started this project, and she can be seen in this TED-Global video about her inspiration and creativity in making this project come to reality:

One Million Bones, a project of the Art of Revolution, was developed over three years and started with 50,000 bones being made and laid out in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  The project grew and went to other cities like New Orleans and growing to a national campaign to culminate the work of many people.  These hand-made bones were made by people from all 50 states and from over 30 countries by people affected by genocide.  It also raises awareness of the ongoing genocide and mass atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, Burma, and Somalia.  Congratulations to Naomi and the Art of Revolution for reaching their goal and shining light on this important issue.

Cellist playing beautiful and haunting music at the One Million Bones exhibit

Cellist playing beautiful and haunting music at the One Million Bones exhibit

 

 

THE LABRYINTH : The Testimony of Marian Kolodziej

Seeing these bones on the National Mall also brought to mind a DVD that I watched recently and highly recommend called The Labyrinth (2011).  It is a powerful documentary about a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp.  His artwork drawings are a haunting and detailed remembrance of the horrors of the camp.  Marian also honors Maximilian Maria Kolbe,   a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar he knew briefly in the camp and is represented in his artwork.

Saint Maximillian Kolbe

History of Saint Maximillian Kolbe (martyr): On July 31, 1941, in reprisal for one prisoner’s escape, ten men were chosen to die. Father Kolbe offered himself in place of a young husband and father. And he was the last to die, enduring two weeks of starvation, thirst, and neglect. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1982. (Catholic Online)

Below is a video clip of the documentary:

The Labyrinth Trailer from Jason Schmidt on Vimeo.

Marian Kolodziej was on one of the first transports to enter Auschwitz. He was given number 432. He survived and never spoke of his experience for 50 years. After a serious stroke in 1993, he began rehabilitation by doing pen and ink drawings depicting the experiences he and others endured in the concentration camp. These drawings, in their skeletal detail, are a gripping depiction of the pain, death, and horrors of the camp. While most of the drawings represent the memories of a young man’s hellish experiences in Auschwitz, some tell stories of small acts of kindness and dignity.

Marian’s story of survival, of persistence, of life before, during, and after Auschwitz are a testament to the human spirit. Marian’s drawings and art installations, which he called The Labyrinth, fill the large basement of a church near Auschwitz and draw visitors into the horrific reality of the holocaust.

“This is not an exhibition, nor art. These are not pictures. These are words locked in drawings…I propose a journey by way of this labyrinth marked by the experience of the fabric of death…It is a rendering of honor to all those who have vanished in ashes.”

Kołodziej

LINKS

One Million Bones Official Website

The Labryinth Documentary official website

Saint Maximillian Kolbe (SQPN) (patron saint of drug addicts, prisoners, and journalists)

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