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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Spring's Sprung and Lent's Begun: Season Reflections


     My father and I were sitting on the back porch and saw the first robins of the season hopping about on the dewy grass in our back yard. Several days earlier, I had observed that tulip sprouts were shooting up by the driveway. "Wow, is spring on the way already?" I queried to myself. Then I felt my nose tingle and my ears plug like they always do when anything resembling life pops its head above the barren ground. Yep, spring's a-coming, alright. Good thing I decided to start taking my allergy medicine early!

    The end of February and the beginning of March, brought into transition this year by Julius Caesar and Pope Gregory XIII's ingenious "Leap Year" extra day device, makes me realize just how fast time is moving. And speaking of fast, the Forty Days of Lent are upon us! For me, that generally means grinding my secular reading list to a halt and picking up religious volumes instead. Also, it means those never-ending Fridays without computer, subsisting off a bowl of applesauce and an English muffin until dinnertime. Yes, I know it's not heroics, but in a culture where one is used to satisfying one's desires instantaneously, it's against the grain. And did you ever notice how everything starts looking like food around the house when you're on a fast? The clock is transformed into a pizza pie and pencils start looking like licorice whips! But alas, raiding the Lazy Susie for a snack is strictly forbidden. "Get thee behind me....."

    At my parish (or at least one of parishes we attend....you see, we are really "Roaming Catholics"), the preparations for a Living Stations of the Cross production are under way. This is a good opportunity for teens and young adults to get involved in a church program for Lent. I am going to play Veronica, so I hope to watch one of my favorite Lenten films with the group so that we can all get the feeling of our parts. The movie is called The Redeemer, produced by Fr. Patrick Peyton. In my opinion, screen depictions of the Passion do not have to be excessively gory in order to be moving. This cinema oldie portrays Our Lord and Our Lady with tasteful tenderness and does an emotionally engrossing job of contrasting the base cruelty of mankind with the fathomless mercy of God.

    For the celebration of spring, I am listening to a marvelous CD of seasonal English and early American folksongs. Contained within are rustic hymns, rowdy tavern toasts, and ritual ditties referring to planting, "pace-egging", and Maypole dancing, among other things. The amazing thing about folk music in general is the sheer depth and impact that can be contained within a simple rhyme and catchy tune. The nearness of death is often the back-drop of seemingly light-hearted songs, and after-life is shown as a looming reality and ultimate destiny. Lord Nelson and his crew return as ghosts to collect eggs; plants are depicted as men who are cut down only to spring up again; barleycorn (used for making beer) is cheered as a battle-hero who will "shed his blood for England's good." Perverse, darkly humorous, ghoulish? Perhaps. Profound and thought-provoking? Most definitely.

    This is a season for thinking deep thoughts, after all. Christ is wandering in the silence of the desert, resisting temptation, thinking on His mission, and probably contemplating His prophesied death. I wonder sometimes if He saw us all in his reflections, just as He saw us all during His Agony in the Garden. History was an open book to Him, and everything hinged on one paradoxical act: His own death. So we are invited to enter into communion with Jesus Christ in this Lenten Season, confront our own demons, and reflect on the things of God. With His Grace, we hope to emerge as better Christians, strengthened for the battle of Life that is brought to the forefront on Good Friday, and prepared to draw new hope from the Rising of the Easter Son.

    So tell me, my dear readers, what do you all plan on doing for Lent?


Christ Battles with Satan in the Wilderness






Sunday, February 19, 2012

"Free-Doom"?: The Scottish Independence Referendum


     The Scottish Independence Referendum has been granted by the British government, and it has been tentatively set for autumn 2014. There are many unanswered questions, however, as to what the Referendum actually means and who will be allowed to vote in it. One of the effects of the Union has been cross-border migrating. Therefore the question arises whether or not the Scots in England and the English in Scotland will be allowed to take part in the voting process. Also, the very theory that the referendum is an exclusively Scottish matter counteracts the reality of the union and the fact that the devolution of the country will affect all citizens of the UK. It is only fair that they should have the right to weigh in on the debate.

    I've been trying to stay abreast of happenings through my friends and acquaintances from "the Auld Country." I have found that the Independence question is far from a universal, popular movement. One friend from Glasgow said breaking up the UK would be one of the worst mistakes ever. Another friend from Kirkcaldy said that the referendum and its accompanying endless speculations were getting ridiculous. A friend in London whose father was a Scot said he believed the Scottish people were being manipulated by canny politicians. Other Brits that I follow on blogger often express their patriotism towards all four of the nations that comprise the union. They seem to have come to peace with that, while every government is a flawed organization, pulling it apart piece by piece improves nothing.

    Of course, there are quite a few advocates for independence, but many of them seem to rely on aggressive displays and misleading information to make their point. They say that independence will bring economic prosperity to Scotland by giving her further access to oil and natural gases in reserve on the North Sea. However, they rarely highlight the overwhelming amount of expense that becoming independent in and of itself would entail. They emphasize The Wars of Scottish Independence, which gained a wave of international publicity thanks to Mel Gibson’s woefully inaccurate Hollywood epic, Braveheart, but strongly insist that the modern benefits brought about the union lack relevancy. It all could be truly laughable, if it weren’t so lamentable.

    Sadly, a lack of historical education world-wide may well be the historically rich UK's undoing. It is frustrating to realize how many people are taken in by the deceptions, including many Americans who seem to relish in the concept of Scotland breaking away from “England.” We are cultural rebels, and we are keen to connect to our own struggle for independence by championing similar movements, logical or not. We like to believe that the Scots were laid low by colonialism and are now finally asserting their rights of self-determination. It makes us feel fuzzy inside, and many of us can gleefully join the propaganda train and coyly remark, “It seems the Scottish Lion is finally going to roar!”

    Ironically, just one year after the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn in 2014, the Battle of Waterloo will be remembered on its 200th anniversary in 2015. Waterloo was one of the most important battles in world history, where English, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh troops fighting under the Union Jack succeeded in defeating Napoleon, a tyrant far worse than Kind Edward II of Bannockburn infamy ever was. Logically, Waterloo should gain far more publicity than the medieval Battle of Bannockburn and serve as a source of historical pride and unity for all Britons. However, the Nationalists would rather discount the Scottish soldiers who participated in the Napoleonic Wars as being used as cannon fodder, even though the distinguished careers and high ranks many of them reached proves that this revision is a complete fallacy.

    I can’t help but grow more and more worried with each passing day when it comes to potential outcome of The Scottish Independence Referendum. I feel strongly that Britain’s history and heritage is too precious to surrender to the mercy of those blinded by their own prejudices, and that is why I take an active interest in the ongoing debate. The best bet is to beat the Nationalists at their own game, show them up in front of their potential supporters, and send them off with their tale between their legs two years hence. Of course, this will take a lot of work. And prayer. Lots and lots of that.


The Scottish Thistle on British Military Regalia

Friday, February 17, 2012

40 Days for Life 2012.......

dedicated to ending the atrocity of abortion worldwide is being launched simultaneously in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and Spain. It is predicted to be the largest spring campaign ever, and it will last for the 40 days of Lent, from February 22 to April 1. The program will consist of a prayerful, peaceful, nonjudgmental effort to bring awareness of the abortion crisis in our world through prayer, fasting, peaceful vigil, and community outreach. It has been 40 years since the Roe vs. Wade court case legalized abortion in America, and some pro-lifers have hopes that we may be on the threshold of change, in spite of the fact that the US currently has a stridently pro-abortion government.

      40 has always been a significant number in relgious history, from the forty years that the Israelites wandered the desert to the forty days Jesus Christ fasted and battled temptations from the devil. There is always a glimmer of hope that we may be nearing the end of the tunnel. That's what keeps us going. Miracles do and have happened. The 40 Days for Life Campaign alone has brought about countless small victories for the cause. The unified effort has resulted in the saving of many unborn lives, the emotional healing of women who have had abortions, the closing of abortion physilities, and the conversion of abortion workers. Of course, we have many major hurdles yet to overcome.

     The fight to end abortion bares a striking resemblence to the fight to end the slave trade in the British Parliament. William Wilberforce, the main advocate for this course, battled tirelessly to outlaw the trafficking of African men, women, and children with little success for many years. But he refused to quit, trying one method and then another, pressing on even when he was abandoned by many of his fellow politicians and defeated over and over again in Parliament. In spite of everything, his faith, determination, and ingenuity won the day, and eventually the slave trade was outlawed. (I will talk more about Wilberforce in a future post which will include a review of the motion picture Amazing Grace.)

     Indeed, hopeless situations have been overturned, sometimes quickly and sometimes very, very slowly. But things can change. The Pro-life cause in America has been praised for its vitality and ability to mobilize. The Pro-Life marches in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles have been evidence of this. So we march on in this crucial election year, with liberalism on the rise around the world and general social decline. It's the only thing good Christians can do. Not just Christians, mind you, but anyone who cares about the sanctity of human life has stock in this.

     For those who would like to get involved in a 40 Days for Life Campaign and locate a program in their area, go to:  http://www.40daysforlife.com/location.cfm

     For those who live in the Penn-Mar border area, please contact Dan and Judy Mlinek at this telephone number:
(717) 698-0043
or at this email:
jmlinek8@gmail.com.

     I encourage my British friends and aquaintances who might be reading to also take part in this wonderful program. The futures of the UK and the US, I find, are often entwined by these moral issues. I call on people of all religious persuasions to join together on this issue in an effort to protect innocent babies from being killed in their mothers' wombs. I think most people of good-will should be able to agree on this. The Right to Life is the first and most poignant right of all, from youngest to oldest, from strongest to weakest. It is God-given and precious in His sight.

 
The Sanctity of Human Life