Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Holy Week Recollection

April 11, 2009

Easter Light
by The Rev. Dr. Paul S. Nancarrow

Out of the darkness, light shines.

Out of the chaos waste and void,
when storm raged over the yet uncreated earth,
and the darkness lay on the face of the deep—
God acted,
and the light of creation burst forth,
and the world began to be.

Out of the dark night at the shores of the Red Sea,
as the children of Israel fled from the armies of Pharaoh,
as they saw the joy of their liberation from bondage and slavery
turn into terror at the approaching revenge of a bitter tyrant,
as they cried out to Moses to save them from the enemy—
God acted,
and the light kindled into a pillar of fire
which stood before the Israelites to protect them,
and a strong east wind blew back the waters of the sea,
so that God’s people could cross on dry land,
and there they were saved.

Out of the dark of the garden tomb,
the new tomb were no one had yet been laid,
where Joseph of Arimathea
and Nicodemus the Pharisee
had put Jesus’ body
when Pilate gave them permission to have it taken down from the cross,

Out of the darkness sealed in stone and heavy with the nothingness of death—
God acted,
and light flared forth in an unimaginable glory,
and the tomb was empty,
empty,
the graveclothes folded where the body had been laid
and was laid no longer;
the stone rolled back and open to the gentle dawn air,
letting in the first light of the sunrise
of the day when the whole Creation
was made new.

Out of the dark of a shadowed church,
where the faithful are gathered to remember God’s mighty acts,
where the long fast of Lent is coming to its end,
where the story of God’s love is being rehearsed
and remembered
and reconnected to people’s lives
in their here
and in their now—
God acts,
and a new fire is kindled,
and the Paschal Candle is lighted,
and the people chant
“The Light of Christ! Thanks be to God!”
and Easter has begun.

Out of the darkness of sin and grief,

out of the shadows of pain
and suffering
and ill will
that so often shroud our human lives—
God acts,
and the light of Christ comes to us,
blazing forth in new glory
that is redemption
and re-creation
and resurrection
and eternal life.
This is Easter,
this our Feast of Feasts.

Out of the darkness, light shines.

(Photo Credit: Dr. Ashra Fekry)

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Bizarre Holy Week Tradition: Crucifixion in Pampan

April 8, 2009

About 2,000 years have passed since the death of Jesus Christ on the cross and crucifixion is still being practiced in Pampanga. Supervised by the government, the villages of San Pedro Cutud, Sta. Lucia, and San Juan observe the Lenten tradition with ceremonial flagellations and the nailing of the cross watched by crowds of curious spectators. The reenactment of Jesus’ suffering is preceded by a “pabasa” and way of the cross recalling the Christ’s passion.

The practice of crucifixion might have originated in 1962 when Artemio Anoza, a faith-healer who agreed to be nailed on the cross. From then on, a growing crowd of penitents, about 500-600 “repentant” human beings parade the street, whipping themselves in atonement for their sins.

As a culmination of a Calvary-like imitation of Jesus, the people get to see about 10 to 15 people undergo nailing in Cutud. In addition Sta Lucia, and San Juan have 9 and 5 people respectively are put on the stake to be crucified. More than 70,000 to 80,000 spectators troop to these rituals.

“A man who paints houses and makes streamers for a living, Enaje will be nailed to the cross for the 23rd year. He took to the cross as a thanksgiving after he survived a fall from a three-story building in 1986.”—-Inquirer (04/07/09, Oreias, T)

Village leaders say the crucifixions are acts of repentance and expressions of thanks. For a special favor penitents fulfull their promises of being nailed on the tree on their own volition. Contrary to the allegations of others, people say the flagellants (Mandarame) don’t get crucified for a fee.

The crucifixion isn’t part of the Catholic religious observance that dates back in pagan times. The primitive practice is discouraged by the modern Catholic Church. Yet in Pampanga, it has been a compelling tradition.

A macabre source of tourist curiosity, this bloody observance of Jesus Christ’s death has drawn criticisms from various segments of society. The public complains this Lenten observance is primitively gruesome. Diluting the significance of the Holy Week, the crucifixion has lost it’s solemnity with the crowds. It has become commercialized.

To keep peace and order, about 200 police officers will be deployed on Good Friday. Local government officials regard the crucifixion as a tourist attraction from which part its income comes from. (Photo Credits: Caroline Butler; LA Times/ Mark Boster; Michel Detay x 2; Caroline Butler) =0=

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Christians worldwide marks Palm Sunday

April 6, 2009

There is always grief as the Christian world enters the Holy Week to observe the passion and death of Jesus Christ. This Sunday, April 5, 2009, commemorates the triumphal entry of Jesus to Jerusalem in a donkey — a prelude to the observance of his way to Calvary and the crucifixion, 2,000 years ago.

With branches of olives and palms, Catholics remember the crowd that welcomed Jesus during the Jewish passover. Catholics retraces the path of the cross till His death on Good Friday and the resurrection on Easter Sunday.

In Vatican City, Pope Benedict XVI led the celebration attended by thousands of pilgrims in the Square of St. Peter’s Basilica. In a clear day abundant sun, the pontiff and the people solemnly prayed for the African migrants who where lost at sea crossing the Mediterranean Sea on their way to a better place in Europe. The day is also offered to the youth who will celebrate the next youth day in Spain. (Photo Credit: KregSteppe; Newsbreaker) =0=

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Bishop Rojas named as head of new diocese in Camarines Sur

March 28, 2009

The prelature of Libmanan, Camarines Sur which was canonically created by the late Pope John Paul II in March 19, 1990 had been designated a new diocese by Pope Benedict XVI and appointed Jose Rojas, Jr. as its bishop. This was announced by the pontiff’s envoy to the Philippines, Archbishop Edward Joseph Adams. —CBCP News (03/25/09, Lagarde, R)

Together with 51 priests, Bishop Rojas, 52, who is from Naga City serves the new diocese with about 500,000 Catholics in 27 parishes.

For this significant milestone, UP Ibalon Bicol and its members joyously congratulate Bishop Rojas and the entire Libmanan Diocese. (Photo Credit: Libmanantowards20decade)=0=

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Divine Mercy Pilgrimage at Stockbridge, Massachusetts

March 13, 2009

A pilgrimage to the Divine Mercy National Shrine at Stockbridge, Massachussetts is being sponsored by Our Lady of Penafrancia Devotees Association (OLPDA.) Those who are interested to join the group on April 19, 2009 (Divine Mercy Sunday) may contact the following:

Lily Lacap (201-985-2350); Sylvia Tablizo-Kurt (201-653-6654); Boy & Dina Cabaero (201-794-0999); Thelma Silerio (908-629-1426)

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OLPDA holds Lenten Recollection

March 12, 2009

The Our Lady of Penafrancia Devotees Associaton (OLPDA) of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut invites Ina’s devotees to a day of prayer at the Church of Our Lady of Victories in Jersey City, NJ on Saturday, March 21, 2009.

Boy Cabaero, chairman of the association extends the free invitation to all and requests those attending to call him at 201-566-8424 or Genevieve del Rosario at 201-424-4435 on or before Wednesday, March 18, 2009. The whole-day religious event has the following schedule: (Photo Credits: Groenling x 2) =0=

PROGRAM

I. HOLY MASS – 10:00 – 11:00 A.M.

II. STATIONS OF THE CROSS – 11:00 – 11:45 A.M.

III. LUNCH – 12:00 – 12:45 P.M.

IV. FIRST TALK – 12:50 – 1:20 P.M.

V. BREAK – 1:20 – 1:30 P.M.

VI. SECOND TALK – 1:30 – 2:00 P.M.

VII. QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS – 2:00 – 2:30 P. M.

VIII. CONFESSIONS – 2:30 – 3:00 P.M.

Presider, Homilist, and Speaker: Rev. Joe Saltarin, Pastor, St. Anne’s Church, New Jersey

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Obama’s stem cell research policy: the use of embryonic cells from helpless unborn sparks religious debate

March 10, 2009

As a sign of the moral dilemma and political divide rocking the United States, Pres. Barack Obama reverses the Bush-era stem cell policy that protects the embryo from being used as a tool in finding treatments and cures for illnesses. It is one of the many secularist liberal thrusts of the new administration.

The contentious decision is a triumph for those who want effective treatments against diverse illnesses like cancer, stroke, heart attack, and Parkinson’s disease. However, it is a set-back for the outspoken anti-abortion groups and pro-lifers who believe that life starts at conception and therefore the unborn is deserving of social protection.

“Embryonic stem cells are master cells that can morph into any cell of the body. Scientists hope to harness them so they can create replacement tissues to treat a variety of diseases — such as new insulin-producing cells for diabetics, cells that could help those with Parkinson’s disease or maybe even Alzheimer’s, or new nerve connections to restore movement after spinal injury. But they come with criticism. “I believe it is unethical to use human life, even young embryonic life, to advance science,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative organization that opposes the move.”:—-Yahoo News/ AP (03/08/09, Eliot, J)

Obama is criticized by conservatives for approving the use of embryos in stem cell research to be funded by tax payers’ dollars. But his supporters believe curing sickness and allaying suffering take precedence over the welfare of the embryo. The advocates of the new policy are part of the rising number of Americans who believe that life without maladies is possible. They hope the words “incurable” and “terminal” may one day be banished from the vocabulary.

“This action is morally wrong because it encourages the destruction of innocent human life, treating vulnerable human beings as mere products to be harvested,” said Cardinal Justin Rigali, the Archbishop of Philadelphia and Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities”—-Yahoo News/ AP (03/09/09, Gorski, E)

There are those who believe that the public funding of embryonic stem research is a paradoxical prelude to setting up of a healthcare policy which will use less costly medical services to the aged and the severely ill—-a radical triage plan which favors more care for people who are young and productive over those who are old, and disabled.

Despite the advance of modern science and temptations to hasten social engineering, life must be respected at the start of conception. Having seen abortion and selective pregnancies done in the America first hand, I don’t concur with Obama’s stance to use the cells of developing embryos in research investigations.

Though I may well benefit from embyronic stem cells because of my illness and disability, on ethical and religious grounds, I believe researches must find a way to spare the embryo. Life in its early form has been redefined, used and abused to suit certain socio-political agenda. The growing embryo deserves equality, dignity, and protection from society just like any human being.

“Princeton University politics professor Robert George, a Catholic and another member of the Bush-era Council on Bioethics, said the moral argument over embryonic stem cell research is not rooted in religion but in ethics and equality. He said research shows that an embryo is a human being in its earliest form of development, so we have to ask ourselves whether all human life should be treated equally, with dignity and respect. “—-Yahoo News/ AP (03/09/09, Gorski, E)

Convenience, easing suffering, prologation of life, and escaping mortality must not be done at the expense of others in society. From the vantage of science, embyronic stem cell research is not the only way to find cures against life-threatening and debilitating illness.

It’s my belief that individuals and governments have no ethical right to use cells of helpless embryos to advance the conveniences of the strong even if the need is pressing. Though cures from stem cells may one day be realized with the use of the conceptus, humanity can’t escape the changes that go with something as natural as sickness and ageing—all that leads to dying and demise. (Photo Credits: California Institute for Regenerative Medicine x 2)=0=

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Recalling Fr. Damien of Molokai, Hawaii

February 25, 2009

Vatican announced that Fr. Damien de Veuster (1840-1889), the late 19th century Belgian priest who selflessly ministered to leprosy-stricken people in a settlement in Kalaupapa, Hawaii will be declared saint on October 11, 2009. Considered a “martyr of charity,” Fr. Damien served the quarantined patients in Molokai, Hawaii where he contracted Hansen’s disease (leprosy) until he died at the age of 49.

“Damien’s life was suffused with horror, yet he refused to be broken by it and refused to permit his little flock to be swept into despair. He ran foot races for the sports-loving lepers, even though some of them had no feet. He formed a band, even though some had few fingers to play the instruments. One witness reported two organists who played at the same time, managing ten fingers between them.”—Damien, the leper (www.ewtn.com/library/)

A protector of those shunned by society because of disease affliction, the Roman Catholic priest and member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a missionary religious group, was beatified by Pope John Paul II on June 4, 1995. He had been identified as a champion of the outcasts—those with HIV-AIDS, leprosy, and other contagious diseases.

The remembrance of Fr. Damien is timely as the Catholic Church observes Ash Wednesday on February 25, 2009, the onset of lent, the days of fasting, penance, and reconciliation. (Photo Credit: Hawaii State Archives x 2 PD) =0=

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Medicine & Religion: Is confession a potent balm against major diseases in RP?

February 16, 2009

Dr. Francisco Duque III, the secretary of the Department of Health (DOH) reportedly said a staggering 80% of Filipinos are suffering from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) “due to unhealthy lifestyle.” The doctor goes on to say that to combat cardiovascular illnesses, cancers, and diabetes, people have to go to church and make regular “confession.” I find his religious recommendation oddly misleading. It needs clarification.

“Among those considered as NCDs are cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes. Duque said the three are now among the major health problems in the country. Duque said one way to address this problem is for the people to go on regular confession.” I suggest that they go to church to pray and confess their sins because its one way of managing”—-GMANewTV.net (02/16/09)

It isn’t unusual to blame stress as a cause of sickness. Though stress goes with almost all diseases, its role is often indirect, sometimes obscure, in many organic diseases. As far as science is concerned, most illnesses have underlying pathogenetic bases whose roles are generally far-reaching than the effects of stress.

Heart diseases are related to high fat diet, sedentary lifestyle, and smoking. Diabetes mellitus may have an autoimmune basis but can come with risk factors like obesity, lack of exercise, and genetics. Certain cancers are triggered by stepwise mutations (alterations in the DNA) that generate clones of abnormal cells that invade, metastasize, and eventually kill the body. In all these, stress plays a role, albeit less strongly than what is suggested by Dr. Duque.

The act of confession (reconciliation) taught by certain religions is not shared by all believers. Confessing sins to a priest by the Catholics has markedly dwindled in recent years. Dr. Duque may encounter criticism and opposition in recommending the holy sacrament to prevent non-communicable diseases. There are non-faith based treatments in medicine which are more predictable and efficacious.

Stress is part of the normal challenges of daily living. Not all people who go through significant emotionally disruptive situations get ill in the process. Sick and healthy individuals, suffer from harrowing conditions in varying degrees. As such the roles of stress in every illness are hard to quantify; their effects on the body aren’t uniformly the same.

I believe emotion plus the working of the mind, and the entire body equilibrium are influenced by stress more than it affects specific organs of the body. It is probably the reason why religion, spirituality, a belief in the supernatural, exercise, meditation, and relaxation regimens have some roles to play in disease management. The mechanisms behind their healing properties aren’t fully understood.

Yet, medical science offers credible explanations in disease causation and treatment. Illnesses can be attributed to causes like direct physical injuries, infections, cancers, immunologic conditions, hormonal swings, metabolic derangements, nutritional deficiencies, hereditary disorders, chemical, drug and radiation exposures, poisonings, among others.

Stress is only one among the long list. Therefore, “confession” as Dr. Duque suggested may help in being healthy, preventing sickness, and going through an illness and subsequent recuperation. But surely, we need to account for greater ways to fight diseases more than what have been recommended by the standard and complementary approaches of medicine. This is important in the holistic way of maintaining the health of the nation.(Photo Credits: denislpaul; sacerdotal) =0=

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Groundhog Day and the Feast of Candlemas

February 2, 2009


Just as Pittsburg football fans celebrated the winning of the Steelers over the Arizona Cardinals in Superbowl XLIII, the residents of Punxsutawney, Pennsylavania saw the shadow of groundhog Phil on early Monday morning of February 2, 2009. The sight of the weather predicting furry badger supposedly indicated winter this year would extend to 6 weeks more.

Punxsutawney Phil came out to be seen by about 13,000 onlookers in a ritual of a small town in the county of Jefferson, PA, 84 miles northeast of Pittsburg.

According to German superstition, if a hibernating animal casts a shadow on Feb. 2 — the Christian holiday of Candlemas — winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow is seen, legend says, spring will come early..—-Yahoo.news/ AP (02/02/09)

Holiday of Candlemas

The holiday of Candlemas, a tradition of Christians like the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches, is commemorated in honor of the Jesus’ presentation in the temple on February 2. It is the day Simeon beheld Jesus as “the light.” The celebration occurs between the December solstice and the March equinox, about halfway prior to the onset of spring.

According to the gospel, Jesus for the first time was brought to the temple in Jerusalem as Mary completed the traditional 40 days of purification after delivery. Jesus as the “Light of the World,” is honored with the blessing of candles to be used through the year. The temple presentation is revered as the 4th mystery of the Catholic’s holy rosary tradition. (Photo Source & Credit: Presentation in the Temple by Ambrogio Lorenzetti PD) =0=

The Presentation of the Temple

by Ambrogio Lorenzetti (1344) Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy

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