You may have heard of Father Adelir Antonio di Carli, the Brazilian priest who attempted to raise funds by breaking a world record. It involved being carried aloft by helium-filled party balloons. Yes, this is for real. Sister Mary Martha says so.
He is now lost at sea. They found a few of his balloons, but no sign of the priest. Thanks to my fallen human nature, I had an awfully hard time convincing myself this was more serious than hilarious. It would be hilarious, if only he had landed more or less safely.
Then I read an article in the Telegraph. The poor guy is not even known to be dead yet, but the Telegraph has already nominated him for the Darwin Awards. Not very nice of them.
I must give full disclosure: I'm not a huge fan of the Darwin Awards. That said, I don't see how Father di Carli could qualify. He was very well-prepared. He is an experienced sky diver and equipped himself with a helmet, a thermal flight suit, waterproof coveralls, a parachute, a satellite phone, and a GPS device. More practically, can a person sworn to lifetime celibacy even be in the running for the Darwin Awards? He removed himself from the gene pool when he took his vows.
Thursday, April 24, 2008 |
Protesters at the sites of the Holy Father's visit to the United States so far:
- Protesters from SNAP calling for changes to policy regarding abusive priests
- Protesters against the sex abuse scandal "cover-up"
- Gay Catholics denouncing the Pope's lack of support for gay rights
- Excommunicated supporters of women's ordination
- Catholics who oppose the teachings of the encyclical Humanae Vitae regarding birth control (one of their major arguments is that American Catholics don't follow the teachings anyway)
- Protestant protesters (I suppose that's redundant) complaining that Catholics have a Pope rather than "going directly to Jesus"
- Hindu protesters who believe the Catholic faith is exclusionary to other religions
- An atheist protesting the fact that a religious figure enjoys diplomatic status
- The Westboro Baptist Church, for reasons only Satan knows (there are also protesters of these protesters)
It kind of seems to me that any organization that has ticked off that many disparate groups for so many diverse reasons (a) is very strong (almost... rock-like)in the face of fickle human opinion, and (b) might actually be getting something right, since it is at the center of a daisy of extreme views. And every bee knows that the center of the daisy is where the honey is.
- The BBC's slide show of the papal visit
- Reporter Glen Zimmerman's video blog
- NY1 online newschannel story
- Spero News story
- 365Gay story
Monday, April 21, 2008 |
I have heard it said that in our faith lives, Christ and the cross must be inseparable. If you follow "fluffy happy Jesus", a kum-bah-yah caricature that avoids any mention of sacrifice, then you do not know the real Christ. Likewise, if you follow "guilt Jesus", a fire-and-brimstone caricature that focuses only on sin, then you do not know the real Christ. The real Christ is joy coming from sacrifice -- both the Incarnation and the cross.
At Mass today, I was meditating on that theme after Eucharist, and the idea came to me that Christ turned the usual order of the world backwards. In the natural world, birth comes first, and is followed by death. In Christ, the spiritual death of sin comes first, and is followed by the spiritual birth of the sacraments of forgiveness: baptism, penance, and anointing. And in another reflection of the same theme, our physical death on earth will be followed by our physical birth in heaven at the general resurrection.
The faith has so many layers, symbols, and types. You can delve into a theme, such as the reversal of the order of birth and death, and go deeper and deeper to find new reflections of that theme. From the Egyptians' death at the first Passover came the Hebrews' birth into freedom and the promised land. From Isaac's near-death came the birth of Jacob, also known as Israel -- the birth of the chosen people of God. This is what I love about the faith: the way themes are repeated in so many rich layers.
Sunday, April 20, 2008 | 1 Comments
This article has been moved to the new site:
Thursday, April 10, 2008 | 3 Comments
This guest post is by my sister, Mile Hi Mama of Mama Says. She graciously wrote this at my request.
I have often decried the fact that Beijing is hosting this year’s Olympic events. Hosting the Olympics creates a sense of legitimacy for a government, a tacit world-wide approval as each country sends their most elite athletes to compete in a spirit of brotherhood. China's human rights abuses, in my opinion, were simply too egregious to ignore. Then the story came out that the Chinese government had kicked almost two million people out of their homes in order to make the Olympic stadium, and simply bussed them out of town when foreign dignitaries came to visit.
Tibet, which Communist China took over in 1954, is taking advantage of the new attention being paid to that part of the world. Their government-in-exile is led by the Dalai Lama from India.
Interestingly, the Dalai Lama does not want to secede, they merely want autonomy. He acknowledges the many benefits and modernity that has come to Tibet through China. The Tibetan Buddhists simply want to practice their religion in peace.
“Free Tibet” protests have broken out around the world, and are coalescing around the symbol of the Olympics, the Torch. In Paris this week, officials had to extinguish the torch twice in order to smuggle it past the protesters. San Francisco is upping security. Mount Everest is being closed to hikers, both in Nepal and China, when the Olympic torch is scheduled to come through.
Earlier this year, director Steven Spielberg distanced himself from the opening ceremonies (he was helping to design them), citing opposition to China’s involvement in Darfur, Sudan. Increasingly in America, and throughout the world, China has come under fire for human rights abuses, unsafe working conditions, lead laced toiletries, food, and toys, and for their oppressive use of force against their own people. China has also been criticized for its practice of executing criminals without the promised court oversight, and then selling the organs of the deceased for transplantation.
Hillary Clinton has publicly called for President Bush to avoid the opening ceremonies as well, which is quite ironic in light of her appearance as First Lady at the 1995 at the Conference for Women’s Rights in – you guessed it – Beijing. At the time, she was able to remark on the violation of human rights that takes place when children are forcibly ripped from their mother’s womb and killed simply for being a sibling, while standing in the very place such horrendous actions take place. This year, quite a few high profile politicians seem divided as to whether a boycott is the most effective way to cause change. One thing they do agree on is that change in China is necessary.
China exercises tight control of any information its citizens might read. The great Firewall of China effectively blocks any stories, websites, or news that does not line up with the Chinese governments Communist agenda. The average Chinese citizen has no idea that the world is rooting for Tibet, the world criticizes the government for abusing its people, that the world cares about them.
Instead, the Chinese government is telling their people that they have found dynamite and plastic explosives in the Buddhist monasteries, and floats whispers about suicide bombers.
When China became a host city for the Olympics, the Chinese government agreed to allow the foreign journalists uncensored access to the Internet. The Firewall would be lifted, at least for the duration of the event. It might be the only chance for the Chinese people to have unfettered access to the Net. If the Chinese people realized that the world was watching, and for the most part, rooting for an overthrow of the oppressive regime from the inside, what would happen? Could a week's worth of access to the rest of the world change the future of the Chinese people?
I'm for the Chinese Olympics now. It's their only chance.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008 |
On my blog roll to the right, you will see a link to ProBlogger, a "metablog" (blog about blogging) that has helped me improve my site a lot. Now the author, Darren Rowse, has co-written a book, ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income, currently available for pre-order from Amazon. Darren's a good writer, and unlike a lot of how-to authors, he isn't patronizing at all. I plan to check this book out.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008 | 2 Comments
Stumbleupon led me to this site, which lists the "seven blunders of the world" according to Ghandi. They are:
- Wealth without work
- Pleasure without conscience
- Knowledge without character
- Commerce without morality
- Science without humanity
- Worship without sacrifice
- Politics without principle
These happen to be themes that show up in my blog. I am planning (though I hate commitment, so don't consider this binding) to write posts on these "blunders." Stay tuned.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008 |
A new drug called Riobant (rimonabant) has been developed to help people lose weight. Users lose an average of ten pounds more over a year than people using a placebo. Story here.
The drug is an "endocannabinoid receptor antagonist," which is another way of saying that it's reverse marijuana. Apparently you lose weight because you get the anti-munchies.
Think for a second what else marijuana does, though: It makes you feel happy. So would reverse marijuana make you sad? Turns out the answer is yes. Users of rimonabant reported a high incidence of depression, anxiety, and insomnia compared to the placebo group.
Normally, a doctor and/or patient would weigh the risks of a drug against its potential benefits. Obesity is a risk factor for deadly diseases such as heart disease, so on the surface it would seem rimonabant might be worth the risk for obese people with unhealthy arteries. Unfortunately, weight loss associated with rimonabant does not improve coronary artery health.
So in my opinion, this drug should not be approved. "Psychiatric side effects" are a huge deal. Depression is one of the leading causes of disability in the U.S. The benefit of slight weight loss (less than a pound a month, remember) does not outweigh the risk of these unwanted effects, if the weight loss has only cosmetic impact.
Anybody disagree? Would losing weight, but not improving health, be worth depression, anxiety, and insomnia?
Saturday, April 05, 2008 | 1 Comments