“Turn Me Over. I’m Done On This Side!” Says A Man Condemned To The Flames

10 08 2013

Lawrence was a deacon in charge of giving help to the poor and the needy. On Aug. 10, 354, a persecution broke out and the Prefect of Rome, a greedy pagan, thought the Church had a great fortune hidden away. So he ordered Lawrence to bring the Church’s treasure to him. Lawrence said he would, in three days. Then he went through the city and gathered together all the poor and sick people supported by the Church. When he showed them to the Prefect, he said: “This is the Church’s treasure!”

In great anger, the Prefect condemned Lawrence to a slow, cruel death. They tied him on top of an iron grill over a slow fire that roasted his flesh little by little, but Lawrence was burning with so much love of God that he almost did not feel the flames. In fact, God gave him so much strength and joy that he even joked. “Turn me over,” he said to the judge. “I’m done on this side!” And just before he died, he said, “It’s cooked enough now.” Then he prayed that the city of Rome might be converted to Jesus and that Faith might spread all over the world. After that, he died and went to heaven to receive his reward of Everlasting life.





Top Ten Films that Provide Insights into the Nature of Faith

9 08 2013

Top Ten Films that Provide Insights into the Nature of Faith

NEW YORK (CNS) — Since the advent of cinema in the late 1800s, faith has been treated on film in a wide variety of ways, from the respectful to the satiric. Here in alphabetical order are capsule reviews of 10 films that engage with this often elusive topic in an accomplished and illuminating manner. Sometimes directly, in other cases only by subtle implication, these screen parables provide viewers with insights into the nature of faith — as well as its effects.

“Andrei Rublev” (1969) Russian production about a 15th-century monk (Anatoli Solonitzine) who perseveres in painting icons and other religious art despite the civil disruptions and cruel turmoil of his times. Director Andrei Tarkovsky visualizes brilliantly the story of a devout man seeking through his art to find the transcendent in the savagery of the Tartar invasions and the unfeeling brutality of Russian nobles. Subtitles. Stylized historical violence.

“Babette’s Feast” (1988) Screen version of a story by Isak Dinesen, set in a rugged Danish fishing village in 1871, shows the impact of a French housekeeper (Stephane Audran) on two pious sisters who carry on their late father’s work as pastor of a dwindling religious flock. The conclusion follows the preparation and consumption of an exquisite French meal, with focus on its sensual and religious implications and its healing effect on the austere sect and the Frenchwoman who prepares it. Danish director Gabriel Axel’s low-key and understated work is rich with detail and fine, controlled performances. Subtitles. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G — general audiences.

Brother Orchid” (1940) Seriocomic tale of a gang boss (Edward G. Robinson) returning from a vacation in Europe to find his mob has a new leader (Humphrey Bogart), but he escapes being rubbed-out by hiding in a monastery where he works as a gardener while plotting his come-back — until he has a change of heart. Director Lloyd Bacon mixes some droll comedy and a bit of spiritual uplifting into a standard crime melodrama, with surprisingly agreeable results. Stylized violence and criminal menace.

“The Fugitive” (1947) Underrated screen version of Graham Greene’s novel, “The Power and the Glory,” about an all-too-human priest (Henry Fonda) who is hunted down by a puritanical officer (Pedro Armendariz) after the Mexican Revolution proscribes the free practice of religion. Director John Ford‘s flawed masterpiece uses deeply felt religious symbolism in telling the story of a weak man who, despite his fear of death, continues ministering to the spiritual needs of a poor community. Menacing atmosphere may be inappropriate for young children. TheCatholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage.

Henry Poole Is Here” (2008) Moving little fable of a depressed loner (Luke Wilson) whose life is changed when a warmhearted Latina busybody (Adriana Barraza) discerns a miraculous image of Christ’s face on his stucco wall, after which he slowly opens up to her and the other neighbors: an empathetic widow (Radha Mitchell), her sad child (Morgan Lily), a nearsighted grocery clerk (Rachel Seiferth) and the local priest (George Lopez). Despite some formulaic turns and occasional platitudinous dialogue, director Mark Pellington sustains a suspenseful, sometimes poetic, generally unsentimental mood, not without humor, solidly anchored by Wilson whose transformation from spiritual emptiness to redemption is fully believable, with themes of faith and community strong plusses for the Catholic viewer. Two instances of profanity and a few crass words. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

“Lilies of the Field” (1963) When an itinerant jack-of-all-trades (Sidney Poitier) stops to help a group of German nuns newly arrived in New Mexico, his cheerful generosity is disdained by the stern, demanding Mother Superior (Lilia Skala) until he builds them a chapel with the aid of the local Mexican-American community. Directed by Ralph Nelson, the movie’s simple little story of the triumph of faith coupled with good will has enormous charm in the winning performances of the two principals, some good-natured comedy and an infectious theme song that will leave viewers humming “Amen.” The Catholic News Serviceclassification is A-I — general patronage.

The Miracle of Marcelino” (1955) A foundling left at a Franciscan monastery in 19th-century Spain is spoiled by the attention of all the monks who raise him until, as a mischievous five-year-old (Pablito Calvo), the lad’s disobedience leads to a miraculous encounter with the crucified Christ. Directed by Ladislao Vajda, the Spanish production’s story of childhood innocence and the power of faith is told simply but with sincerity and good humor. Dubbed in English, the movie’s miracle may tax the credibility of some, but all can enjoy its picture of a child in unusual circumstances. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage.

“Ordet” (1954) Challenging Danish production about different kinds of faith and various sorts of miracles, one of which restores a dead woman to life. Directed by Carl Dreyer, the austere narrative centers on a farming family troubled by the madness of a son (Preben Lerdorff Rye) who believes he is Jesus Christ until, regaining his balance, his faith in God achieves the miracle which brings the story to a positive though less than convincing conclusion some may find disappointingly ambiguous. Mature themes. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults.

“Three Godfathers” (1948) After robbing a bank, an outlaw trio (John Wayne, Pedro Armendariz and Harry Carey Jr.) pause to help a dying woman (Mildred Natwick) deliver her infant son on Christmas Eve, then take the babe with them as they are pursued across a desert wasteland. Dedicated by director John Ford to Western actor Harry Carey, Sr., the story may be unabashedly sentimental and the action romanticized, but its lyrical images and religious resonances celebrate the myth of the Old West and its rugged heroes with good hearts. Off-screen suicide of one of the principals.

“Wise Blood” (1980) Screen version of Flannery O’Connor’s novel about a God-haunted young man (Brad Dourif) who on his way to Taulkinham, Tenn., to preach a new religion, meets such bizarre characters as a failed preacher pretending he is blind (Harry Dean Stanton), his mildly depraved daughter (Amy Wright) and a jovial evangelist (Ned Beatty). Director John Huston has made a powerful and provocative movie whose spiritual implications are as compelling as its artistic excellence. The incidental violence and moral complexity are more appropriate for adult viewers. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

 





The Pill Made Same Sex Marriage Inevitable

5 08 2013

The Pill Made Same Sex Marriage Inevitable

Opponents of legalized same-sex marriage say they’re trying to protect a beleaguered institution, but they’re a little late.
The walls of traditional marriage were breached 40 years ago; what we are witnessing now is the storming of the last bastion.
Marriage is primarily a social institution, not a religious one. That is, marriage is a universal phenomenon of human cultures in all times and places, regardless of the religion of the people concerned, and has taken the same basic form in all those cultures. Marriage existed long before Abraham, Jesus or any other religious figure. The institution of marriage is literally prehistoric.
The three monotheistic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) actually recognize this explicitly in their holy writings. The book of Genesis ascribes the foundation of marriage in the very acts of God himself in the creation of the world: “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him. . . . A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:18, 24).
The three great religions base their definition of marriage on these verses and others that echo them. In Christian theological terms, the definition of marriage is part of the natural law of the creation; therefore, the definition may not be changed by human will except in peril to the health of human community.
Psychobiologists argue that marriage evolved as a way of mediating the conflicting reproductive interests of men and women. It was the means by which a woman could guarantee to a specific man that the children she bore were his. In biological terms, men can sire hundreds of children in their lives, but this biological ability is limited by the fact that no one woman can keep pace.
Siring kids by multiple women is the only way men can achieve high levels of reproduction, but there is no adaptive advantage for women in bearing children by men who are simply trying to sire as many children as possible. For a mother, carrying and raising a child is a resource-intensive, years-long business. Doing it alone is a marked adaptive disadvantage for single mothers and their children.
So the economics of sex evolved into a win-win deal. Women agreed to give men exclusive sexual rights and guaranteed paternity in exchange for their sexual loyalty and enduring assistance with childbearing and -rearing. The man’s promise of sexual loyalty meant that he would expend his labor and resources supporting her children, not another woman’s. For the man, this arrangement lessens the number of potential children he can sire, but it ensures that her kids are his kids. Guaranteed sex with one woman also enabled him to conserve his resources and energies for other pursuits than repetitive courtship, which consumes both greatly.
Weddings ceremoniously legitimated the sexual union of a particular man and woman under the guidance of the greater community. In granting this license, society also promised structures beneficial to children arising from the marriage and ensuring their well-being.
Society’s stake in marriage as an institution is nothing less than the perpetuation of the society itself, a matter of much greater than merely private concern. Yet society cannot compel men and women to bring forth their replacements. Marriage as conventionally defined is still the ordinary practice in Europe, yet the birthrate in most of Europe is now less than the replacement rate, which will have all sorts of dire consequences for its future.
Today, though, sexual intercourse is delinked from procreation. Since the invention of the Pill some 40 years ago, human beings have for the first time been able to control reproduction with a very high degree of assurance. That led to what our grandparents would have called rampant promiscuity. The causal relationships between sex, pregnancy and marriage were severed in a fundamental way. The impulse toward premarital chastity for women was always the fear of bearing a child alone. The Pill removed this fear. Along with it went the need of men to commit themselves exclusively to one woman in order to enjoy sexual relations at all. Over the past four decades, women have trained men that marriage is no longer necessary for sex. But women have also sadly discovered that they can’t reliably gain men’s sexual and emotional commitment to them by giving them sex before marriage.
Nationwide, the marriage rate has plunged 43% since 1960. Instead of getting married, men and women are just living together, cohabitation having increased tenfold in the same period. According to a University of Chicago study, cohabitation has become the norm. More than half the men and women who do get married have already lived together.
The widespread social acceptance of these changes is impelling the move toward homosexual marriage. Men and women living together and having sexual relations “without benefit of clergy,” as the old phrasing goes, became not merely an accepted lifestyle, but the dominant lifestyle in the under-30 demographic within the past few years. Because they are able to control their reproductive abilities–that is, have sex without sex’s results — the arguments against homosexual consanguinity began to wilt.
When society decided — and we have decided, this fight is over — that society would no longer decide the legitimacy of sexual relations between particular men and women, weddings became basically symbolic rather than substantive, and have come for most couples the shortcut way to make the legal compact regarding property rights, inheritance and certain other regulatory benefits. But what weddings do not do any longer is give to a man and a woman society’s permission to have sex and procreate.
Sex, childbearing and marriage now have no necessary connection to one another, because the biological connection between sex and childbearing is controllable. The fundamental basis for marriage has thus been technologically obviated. Pair that development with rampant, easy divorce without social stigma, and talk in 2004 of “saving marriage” is pretty specious.
There’s little there left to save. Men and women today who have successful, enduring marriages till death do them part do so in spite of society, not because of it.
If society has abandoned regulating heterosexual conduct of men and women, what right does it have to regulate homosexual conduct, including the regulation of their legal and property relationship with one another to mirror exactly that of hetero, married couples?
I believe that this state of affairs is contrary to the will of God. But traditionalists, especially Christian traditionalists (in whose ranks I include myself) need to get a clue about what has really been going on and face the fact that same-sex marriage, if it comes about, will not cause the degeneration of the institution of marriage; it is the result of it.

Rev. Sensing is pastor of the Trinity United Methodist Church in Franklin, Tenn. He writes at DonaldSensing.com. Donald Sensing.

 





A Paralyzed Woman on The Front Line

31 07 2013

A Paralyzed Woman On The Front Lines

Every morning Connie opens Diane’s door to begin the long routine of exercising and bathing her severely paralyzed friend. She has to be fed everything, pushed everywhere. The creeping limitations of multiple sclerosis encroach further each year; her fingers are curled and rigid.The sun’s rays slant through the blinds, washing the room in a soft, golden glow. The folds of the covers haven’t moved since Connie pulled them up around Diane the night before. Yet she can tell her friend has been awake for awhile.
“Are you ready to get up yet?”
“No…not yet,” comes the weak reply from under the covers.
Connie sighs, smiles and clicks shut the door.
The story is the same each dawn of every new day at Connie and Diane’s apartment. The routine rarely changes. Sunrise stretches into mid-morning, by the time Diane is ready to sit up in her wheel chair. But those long hours in bed are significant.
In her quiet sanctuary, Diane turns her head slightly on the pillow toward the corkboard on the wall. Her eyes scan each thumb-tacked card and pieces of paper carefully pinned in a row.
The stillness is broken as Diane begins to murmur. She is praying. She moves mountains that block the paths of missionaries. She helps open the eyes of the spiritually blind in southeast Asia. She pushes back the kingdom of darkness that blackens the alleys and streets of gangs in east LA. She aids the homeless mothers…single parents…abused children…despondent teenagers…handicapped boys…and dying and forgotten old people in the nursing home down the street where she lives.
Diane is on the front lines, advancing the gospel of Christ, holding up weak saints, inspiring doubting believers, energizing other prayer warriors, and delighting her Lord and Savior. This meek and quiet woman sees her place in the world; it doesn’t matter that others may not recognize her significance in the grand scheme of things…
Some would look at Diane—stiff and motionless—and shake their heads. People might look at her and say, “What a shame. Her life has no meaning. She can’t really do anything. But Diane is confident, convinced that the Merciful Heart of Jesus cannot but hear her prayers, her labors of love.

 





Why Do We Suffer? A Clue From The Apple Tree

31 07 2013

Why Do We Suffer? A Clue From The Apple Tree

In the apple-growing state of Maine in America, I was visiting a farmer friend and saw an apple tree so loaded down with fruit that the branches had to be propped up to keep them from breaking under the weight of apples. When 1 remarked about the fruitfulness of the tree, my friend said to me, “Go over and look at that tree’s trunk down near the bottom.”
There I saw that the tree had been badly wounded by a big gash across its side. The farmer explained, “That is something we have learned about apple trees. When the growing tree tends to run to wood and leaves and not to fruit, we stop it by wounding it, by cutting into its bark. And we don’t know why, but almost always the result is that the tree turns its energies to producing fruit.”
Could that be a parable for some of us human apples trees in the God‘s orchard? Christ‘s death on the cross bore the fruits of our redemption. Some of the best people in the world suffered a lot; wounded, and purified by the pain, they bore great fruits of goodness.

 





Heavenly or a Hellish Creature?

28 07 2013

heaven or hellPeople often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, “If you keep a lot of rules I’ll reward you, and if you don’t I’ll do the other thing.”
I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself.
To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.
That explains what always used to puzzle me about Christian writers; they seem to be so very strict at one moment and so very free and easy at another. They talk about mere sins of thought as if they were immensely important: and then they talk about the most frightful murders and treacheries as if you had only got to repent and all would be forgiven. But I have come to see that they are right.
What they are always thinking of is the mark which the action leaves on that tiny central self which no one sees in this life but which each of us will have to endure—or enjoy—for ever. One man may be so placed that his anger sheds the blood of thousands, and another so placed that however angry he gets he will only be laughed at. But the little mark on the soul may be much the same in both. Each has done something to himself which, unless he repents, will make it harder for him to keep out of the rage next time he is tempted, and will make the rage worse when he does fall into it. Each of them, if he seriously turns to God, can have that twist in the central man straightened out again: each is, in the long run, doomed if he will not. The bigness or smallness of the thing, seen from the outside, is not what really matters.
One last point. Remember that, as I said, the right direction leads not only to peace but to knowledge. When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse, he understands his own badness less and less. A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right. This is common sense, really. You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping. You can see mistakes in arithmetic when your mind is working properly: while you are making them you cannot see them. You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.
C.S Lewis





He died for me, a man said at a boy’s grave

27 07 2013

This boy died for me, says a man at a boys grave

For many years after the Civil War an Illinois farmer used to visit a soldier’s grave at Nashville, Tennessee, tending it and planting flowers with much devotion every day. If some stranger asked him: Is that your boy?’ he would answer: ‘No, he just lived in our town. You see, when the war came I had seven small children, and my wife was not strong. I was drafted for the army, there was nobody to carry on the farm, and they would have nearly starved without me. We were in terrible trouble about it, and the very day I was going to report at camp my neighbour’s boy came and offered to go to the war for me. He said he had nobody depending on him, so he could go better than me. He went, and was wounded at Chickamanga, and died here in hospital. This is his grave.’

Then he would point to a rough inscription, which he had cut with his own hand on the tombstone: He died for me.
Christians are a bit like the Illinois farmer. They believe that Christ died for them. Thus, they in turn, live for Christ.








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