Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Washing of the Feet. . . because of the King Who washed His disciples' feet.

 On a Sunday a couple of weeks ago, when Mass was over, Fr. Ray, our pastor emeritus, asked us to wait for him for a moment. I thought he wanted to talk about my younger sons' upcoming First Holy Communion, but he'd surprise us by asking Maximilian whether he'd like to participate in the Washing of the Feet on Holy Thursday.

Needless to say, Maximilian was thrilled to have been asked. That day all the high school freshmen were going on a field trip to the Boston Museum of Science, from where they would around 4:30 p.m.. The Holy Thursday Mass would be at 7:00 p.m., and we'd need to be at St. Joseph's, in Newport, RI, by 6:30. Maximilian didn't even want to go on his field trip for fear of being late for the Washing of the Feet. Yet, we convinced him that he'd be able to do both, and even if with some delays and some rushes, we'd manage to be at the Church not exactly by 6:30 but still well in advance of 7:00 p.m..

We all know that there is always a blessing in disguise in absolutely everything we go through. Well, I finally found a blessing in disguise in a presidncy that is no blessing at all. Seeing how the Catholic Church stood up against Trump's racism and bigotry, how emphatically they condemned Trump's Muslim ban and Mexican border wall strengthened Maximilian's faith. It is unthinkable to have at the White House a jerk who belittles the immigrant and laughs at the disabled. I cannot find any justification for that. Trump is not ProLife and is only damaging the ProLife cause. But when it comes to that adorable little boy turning into an awesome young man who impresses everyone around him, it took that big bigot playing president of the United States for him to witness what sparked, ignited, fired up his faith so that now he became a faithful, fervent, devout, committed Catholic, eager to have his First Holy Communion this spring and to get even more involved with the Church. He witnessed how the Catholic Church stood up against racism and supported the immigrant. He loved to hear both our pastor and pastor emeritus clearly and emphatically exhort the congregation to side with the undocumented aliens whose only "fault" is to want a better future for their children, to give their kids what they never had in their countries of origin when they themselves were growing up. He loved to learn that Pope Francis, The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities U.S.A., Catholic Relief Services, Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, and countless cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and clergy members not only denounced the evils of the Muslim ban and Mexican border wall but also urged Catholics and the population at large to do the same.

Notwithstanding having entered our family through international adoption from Bulgaria, Maximilian shares that passion for volunteering, reaching out, making a difference that I saw in my parents and grandparents, at a time when they could give away not only their time and efforts, but also sizable financial support---something that I cannot even remotely do today. Maximilian shares that passion for service to the community that made my three older, biological, children be top volunteers since the age of six or seven in San Diego area to the point that they were featured in the Rancho Santa Fe Review eighteen or nineteen times and interviewed by local T,V. channels due to their extraordinary volunteerism. And, by the same token, it was that same, or, rather,  even more selfless call to serve others what in July of 2008 made my three older children give up the laurels of organized volunteering and since then devote every minute of their free time to an even more selfless, more self-sacrificing, more self-denying, more self-effacing kind of service--the one that since then they have been doing for their younger siblings in the anonymity of the immediate family context, without it ever showing up in their resumes.

Quite often I have felt, and keep on feeling guilty for allowing my three older children to put aside their own goals and dreams for the sake of their five younger brothers, to do for me what I cannot do by myself. But my older ones are happy that way, and, of course, so are my younger ones. All my five younger sons love their older siblings much more than they love each other. Even if the road might be slightly bumpy sometimes, all five of them are learning from the awesome, amazing  examples they get from my older daughter and twin sons. For my younger ones, it is a slow process of ridding themselves of the effects of many long years of abuse and neglect in their early lives as they were all between the ages of seven and ten at the time of their respective homecomings. But it is happening. No matter some behavioral outbursts now and then, they all have good natures, and they all know how to care and how to love.

Let's go back to Maximilian, who is now totally over those little sharp, mordacious, hurtful comments he used to make. Those are totally a matter of the past. He has severe mobility limitations and some medical issues. Yet, his most cherished dream is volunteering and helping others. And he has a larger-than-life personality that makes its way into people's hearts. Meeting Maximilian equals liking him and being impressed by him. It means admiring his noble attitude in the face of his physical challenges, his resiliency, and his determination to change this world for the better.

Maximilian understands all about equality and social justice and does care about it.  I grew up in a home embedded into those values. I was taught to see Jesus in the homeless and the hungry. From very early age, my three older children stand up for the underserved, the minorities, the immigrant, and the oppressed. Maximilian fully shares in those concerns, and it was through those principles that he now totally embraced the Catholic faith.

Participating in the Washing of the Feet was perfect for him. First, Fr. Jacques and Fr. Ray washed the feet of a few previously selected parishioners, and then, in turn, those parishioners would wash the feet of any attendees who wished to have their feet washed. This is a tradition that honors the humility of the King of Kings Who washed the feet of His disciples, Who came to this world not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45), and Who sent His Apostles to serve others in His Name (John 13:14-15).

It was a beautiful ceremony where everyone felt united together as members of the "one and only human race."  It was a bilingual Mass. Many helpers had some challenges of different kinds. An altar server with D.S. (Down syndrome) was among the most avid ones to assist with everything and to convey the most vivid testimony of true faith.

Working on this post is a real opportunity for me to confront my own frustration, my own pain and bitterness over the things I cannot get done, and to see the wonder of those things that do get done. Yes, I do receive lots of help in the process. I so much wish I could do more on my own. But it's time to look at the cup half full and see how very much is getting done, how very much got already done, no matter how much help I may have had.

Moreover, it's a matter of giving testimony. There are so many children wasting away in orphanages all over the world, with only one bifurcated prospect for their futures. Those with no medical diagnoses are more than likely to end up on the streets, and those with even the slightest special needs may be locked up in a so-called mental institution. There are also so many kids living in foster homes where, even if in a family environment, they are fully aware of not being full-fledged members of that family. And, on the other hand, there are so many people out there who might have better, more fulfilled, more meaningful lives if encouraged to rescue at least one child instead of keeping on dwelling on past mistakes or past pettiness.

Let's say it once again. This is precisely why Jesus voluntarily accepted the excruciating pain of dying on the Cross--to bring us closer to each other as the most effective, most loving way of saving us all.

I'll just let the pics speak fir themselves.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Satan Couldn't Have Done a More Evil, More Diabolic, More Demonic Job. Please take a moment to read before you go to the polls.

Well, this time Satan did the best job ever to try to destroy the cause of life. Why? Obviously the devil could not be pleased to see how many people were turning ProLife. Even under an adverse government such as the Obama administration, the work of many courageous men and women who exposed the horrors of dismembering babies limb by limb and / or sucking out their brains was being fruitful.  The public opinion was getting moved by the heartfelt remorseful stories of mothers who had done it and  couldn’t live with that guilt as well as by the honest conversion of some former abortionists who dared expose the atrocities of what they themselves had done in the past. Those stories and videos were getting viral—and effective in building increasing awareness of the frail predicament of babies in the womb. More and more people were adopting children that many would have thought to be unadoptable due to the extreme severity of their physical and / or developmental challenges, the touch-and-go status of their serious medical conditions, or the concerning degree of their acting out behaviors. The constantly increasing number of adoptions, and particularly of special needs adoptions, had almost completely destroyed the myth of the ‘unwanted child’ that pro-choice propagandists were trying to sell to unsuspecting victims faced with a prenatal diagnosis that they didn’t expect or even with just an unplanned pregnancy. A so-called ‘unwanted child’ is a child who is frantically wanted, dreamed of, and prayed for by millions of families all over the world looking to adopt.

So, Satan had to come up with something more sophisticated than pushing for a candidate who is a recalcitrant abortion supporter without exceptions. That was not bad enough. It was not bad enough to get somebody who goes so far as not only promoting abortion but arriving to the point of celebrating  it. If you come to think about it, that was actually an insult to countless women who did it and now regret what they've done.

And the devil didn’t stop there anyway. It did something much more diabolic than that, something much more difficult to fight than pro-abortion propaganda, pro-abortion legislation or Supreme Court decisions. Even if abortion is available, thanks God still most mothers don’t kill their babies. And even the ones who are thinking about doing it can be shown how wrong that is. They can be helped to reconsider and can be given support and assistance to raise their children or place them in loving arms.

What Satan did was much more devastating, much more insidious, and much more damaging.  It found someone who embodies everything that is despicable, reproachable, nauseating, revolting . . . and made that person say that now he’s ProLife.

A large number of Catholic organizations condemned Trump as someone who goes against what the core of Catholicism is--and that was way before his scandals were made public. Someone who discriminates against minorities, has KKK affiliations, rejects the immigrant, and makes fun of the disabled is totally against what Catholic values stand up for and support. And I'm not even addressing his obvious lack of good moral habits. That man is a disgrace to humankind. Far from helping the ProLife cause, Trump is deeply harming it by trying to put people against it. Why do you think he said that women who had an abortion needed to be punished somehow? To help all of us who defend the sanctity of human life--or to be against us in a much more concealed and dangerous way? The Catholic Church is the strongest force against abortion--and yet, far from talking about punishing those women who already did it, many parishes have programs to help them heal. I'm totally against Hillary--but Trump can damage the cause of life even more. As evil as it is, Hillary's fanatic pro-abortion stand make people feel disgusted at the atrocity of tearing babies apart limb by limb or chopping their little heads off. Instead, because Trump's nauseating personality. his recent and still suspicious alleged conversion to the pro-life side may make many who are undecided on the issue become pro-choice.

Trump does not hide his racism. He uses racial slurs, mocks disability, and boasts of his indecent, deplorable, immoral treatment of women. He sells himself to a foreign government and admits to his admiration for a foreign dictator.

On September 17, 2016, in his homily at our Parish, St. Joseph's, in Newport, RI, Fr. Ray, who retired last year but is pastor emeritus,  very directly said that he was talking about the elections and that being a priest of course he is Pro-life, of course he supports life--but precisely for that reason, protects life at all stages, from conception to natural death, and including the poor, the immigrant, and the disabled. Once again, he made it clear that he was talking about the polls. Those are words that bring support for the ProLife movement, words that speak the truth and result in pews filled with Mass attendees.

I want to make it clear that I have nothing in common with Tim Kaine. I'm a devout cradle Catholic, and as such stand up for the sanctity of human life at all life stages and no matter any circumstances. There are no exceptions to the rule. Precisely because of that, having had the most fervent, most committed, most involved, most impeccable Catholic upbringing, my family always taught me by word and deed to respect everyone, to welcome the immigrant, to ignore skin tone, to reach out to anyone in need, to see Jesus in the homeless and the hungry.

I do care about the ProLife cause much more than many of those who are unable to see that there cannot be any greater danger to it than Trump. Please mind that what I'm about to say is not at all in favor of Hillary. This is the scenario, though: With her in the White House a lot of pro-abortion legislation will be passed. Yet, the legislation itself does not kill babies. It's murderous mothers and physicians turned into butchers who do. And if we keep on campaigning by showing the atrocities of all abortion procedures and resorting to social justice and human rights arguments, more and more people will keep on changing from pro-abortion to pro-life, as it did happen during the Obama administration. Instead Trump, with all that bigot, racist, lewd, vulgar garbage he has built upon himself, will cause many without too solid Pro-Life convictions to become pro-choice. Had the Republican party appointed anyone, and I do mean it, almost anyone other than Trump, they'd have been sure to win over Hillary at the elections. I am ProLife with absolutely no exceptions--and that is why I'm so extremely concerned about all the damage that Trump has already caused and may keep on causing. All the Catholic saints and martyrs have devoted their lives and died for those Trump had the nerve to laugh at, to make fun of, to insult. Only he devil itself could have made Trump run for president so as to cause division and confusion within the ProLife movement and to pull many away from it. Only the devil can cause so much havoc as what we have in front of us at this time.

I will say it in plain language—and I apologize for capitalizing it for emphasis, without trying to shout at anyone: THE PRO-LIFE CAUSE IS NOT AT ALL RIGHT WING AS TRUMP IS.  The problem here is that we all know the common aphorism that says that “birds of a feather flock together.”  That's why no ProLife supporter can flock together with Trump.  Only the devil could have devised such a clever, sophisticated plan—not to save babies but to get more babies killed.

There is absolutely no situation in which I'd condone an abortion or any end-of-life measure of any kind. I'm not 100, but 1,000% Prolife. That's why it hurts me when some people out there identify the ProLife cause as being a hard line position.  We care about good moral values--but are not ProLife for the sake of good moral values. We are ProLife for babies' sake.  We are ready and willing to defy society for the sake of one human life. We need to talk louder about social justice and about human rights. We should appeal more to the sensitive arguments that are the ones that will stop women from killing the babies in their womb.

For instance, although it's been a while with no activity in it, I entitled my YouTube channel as "ProLifeProAmnesty", meaning an amnesty for all hard working undocumented immigrants that are trying to give their kids what they didn't have in their childhood. We should make people know that we protect babies, the elder, the terminally ill, and that we seek better life conditions for the immigrant and the oppressed, that we give voice to the voiceless, that we feed the hungry and clothe the naked.

In 1989, at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, which he owned at the time, Trump co-sponsored a dinner to honor Robin Chandler Duke, a former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. In 1999 he described himself as “very pro-choice” and stated that he would not support any ban on partial birth abortion. And now he claims to be pro-life while doing everything possible and impossible to present himself as a totally reprehensible person from every viewpoint. He has even insulted veterans who suffered at the hand of the enemy by saying that he didn’t like someone who got caught. What kind of a statement was that?  Well, nothing can be surprising if coming from someone who seems to pledge allegiance to a country other than the one he wants to rule and expresses his admiration for that country’s leader whose approach is a  dictatorial style.

On election day, Trump is resorting to intimidation by having his almost all-white fanatics wearing fake badges and patrolling precincts in minority neighborhoods. He has been telling those fans to “go around and watch other polling places”—meaning “other than white”, and has been doing that for months.

What kind of presidential candidate is he? Who thought that those things didn’t happen in the United States. Those things are happening right now, in U.S. in 2016.

God bless us all—and God protect us all, starting with those who need protection the most.

Much more eloquent than my own words, I’m copying and pasting herein what a large number of very respectable Catholic organizations had to say about Trump.  I’m not talking about fake Catholics here, but about Catholics who embrace the right to life, social sensitivity, and social justice, in the true spirit of the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church. I'd like to copy and paste part of the document--but before doing so I want to repeat that as Catholics and therefore defenders of life we should not allow the devil to cause division, bad will, and grudges at and against each other. Otherwise we ourselves will be handing in the weapons to the culture of death for them to destroy us. That will mean countless helpless babies being brutally, atrociously, mercilessly massacred in the womb. That will mean desolate, distraught, heartbroken families powerlessly watching how murderous physicians without the least respect for their hippocratic oath rush to pronounce brain damaged patients brain dead way too soon. Let's not allow that to happen.

 I'm copying and pasting a good part of the article, as follows: "On March 7, dozens of prominent Catholic leaders released an appeal calling Trump “manifestly unfit to be president of the United States.”

“His campaign has already driven our politics down to new levels of vulgarity,” the statement says. “His appeals to racial and ethnic fears and prejudice are offensive to any genuinely Catholic sensibility. He promised to order U.S. military personnel to torture terrorist suspects and to kill terrorists’ families – actions condemned by the Church and policies that would bring shame upon our country.”

“And there is nothing in his campaign or his previous record that gives us grounds for confidence that he genuinely shares our commitments to the right to life, to religious freedom and the rights of conscience, to rebuilding the marriage culture, or to subsidiarity and the principle of limited constitutional government.”

The statement is signed by more than 30 leading U.S. Catholics, including Robert George, law professor at Princeton University; Mary Rice Hasson, director of the Catholic Women’s Forum at the Ethics and Public Policy Center; and Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University. Church teaching does not dictate which party or candidate a Catholic should choose. It does, however, offer guidelines for the faithful to use in making their decision.

In their document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the U.S. bishops outline an understanding of political responsibility based upon developing a “well-formed conscience.”

“While Catholics must vote their conscience, the conscience can be in error, and so faithful Catholics must make every effort to ‘educate’ or form their consciences according to the teachings of the Church,” said Dr. Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at The Catholic University of America and one of the signers of the Catholic petition against Trump.

Catholic teaching holds that the “right to life” is paramount. St. John Paul II described it as “the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights.” The bishops’ document stresses that the direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life “is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed.”

“When a candidate supports abortion rights, or assisted suicide, the Catholic should have no doubt that this is opposed to the teaching of the Church, and should not vote for such a candidate,” said Pecknold.

However, beneath the life issue, “Faithful Citizenship” also lists a number of other moral issues of grave importance that must not be ignored.

“Racism and other unjust discrimination, the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war, the use of torture, war crimes, the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or a lack of health care, pornography, redefining civil marriage, compromising religious liberty, or an unjust immigration policy are all serious moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act,” the guide states.

Catholics may differ over “how best to respond to these and other compelling threats to human life and dignity,” it adds, but they “are urged to seriously consider Church teaching on these issues.”

It is on many of these issues that Catholics have raised concerns about Trump. While both major Democratic candidates – former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders – are long-time abortion advocates and therefore problematic from a Catholic perspective, critiques of Trump are more nuanced.

For one, Trump’s plan to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants stands in sharp contrast to the U.S. bishops’ repeated call for comprehensive immigration reform that emphasizes family unity and includes an earned legalization program.

The business mogul also gained considerable attention for his assertion that “torture works” and his plan to kill the family members of terrorists. Although he later backtracked on these statements, critics voiced continuing concern over his willingness to commit war crimes and compromise human dignity.

Trump’s casino was the first in Atlantic City to have an in-house strip club. And while the GOP frontrunner says he opposes same-sex marriage, he has attracted criticism from defense-of-marriage groups who note that he has bragged in the past about having affairs with other married women and has made numerous explicit and degrading statements about women.

Furthermore, his proposal for an indefinite ban on allowing Muslims into the U.S. has drawn serious concern from legal experts who say it is a flagrant violation of religious liberty, endangering the fundamental right for other faiths as well.

And while the Catechism teaches that the death penalty should be restricted to cases in which it is the “only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor,” Trump wants to expand the use of capital punishment, making it the mandatory penalty for killing a police officer.

While Trump currently says that he is pro-life, he made strong pro-choice statement in 1999 and 2000. A few months ago, he said that his sister Maryanne Trump Barry would be an ideal Supreme Court nominee, despite her striking down New Jersey’s ban on partial-birth abortions as a judge. Several major pro-life groups have questioned Trump’s commitment to the pro-life cause, saying he “cannot be trusted.”

Other criticisms of Trump include what many see as disparaging comments and actions toward women, immigrants, minorities and Pope Francis."

Halloween 2016 in pics

From left to right: Nicholas, Maximilian, and Thomas ready to go to a Halloween party, October 29, 2016

Thomas and Nichols as they went to school on Halloween. No actual costumes in high school. Just wearing orange and black.

Maximilian and Nicholas here

Spiderman (Philip) is doing a soldier's shoelaces while the soldier is holding Stella, the family dog

 No trick-or-treating this year.  just a family Halloween party at home. Now Catherine and Warren are working in Massachusetts and share a duplex there, from one and a half to two hours from home. They come all the time, though, to be with their brothers as they used to before. When I told them that they didn't need to drive so much back and forth on a working day just to come for Halloween, they told me that they would be here no matter what. They had even taken time off work already.  In honor to truth, I wouldn't have been able to prepare a Halloween party as Catherine did.  They all had a great time.

I never need to prepare any activities, arts, or crafts: Catherine does is all!!!

Maximilian and Philip are having too much fun spraying Catherine, who, BTW, had been the one buying and bringing the spray.

Thomas's turn to spray Catherine!

Catherine made them prepare some creepy, and yummy, edible bugs with pretzel sticks for the legs.

Not so easy to pick up those eight-legged treats with Batman gloves.

She made me try a bug too.

Catherine with Stephen: No more grumpy faces when she's around. Well, they all get grumpy with all the pictures I take.

Halloween dinner From left to right: Catherine, Stephen, Gerard, Maximilian, and, facing the other way, Philip

Catherine's culinary creation for her brothers: sausages made into octopi on mac and cheese. Yum!!!

Thomas has a grumpy face now.
Catherine's on a new mission: to turn another grumpy face into a happy, smiling one. Sometimes it takes a little longer than expected.

Warren, Nicholas, and I


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