Luke 15 House offers parolees a place to start over

Our Catholic faith tells us to forgive those who have trespassed against us, but putting that into practice isn’t always an easy thing to do.

In reading a story about Luke 15 House in The B.C. Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Vancouver, British Columbia, in western Canada, we are able to visualize how this Christian-based organization has overcome adversity during the years to help paroled prisoners readjust to life in society.

The program offers these men counseling, vocational training, Bible studies and spiritual direction.

Catholic teens in St. Louis examine plight of the homeless

Parents who believe their children don’t understand the hardships of life may want to read a story about a group of teenage parishioners in St. Louis who got a close look at what it’s like to live as a homeless person.

The account in the Oct. 24 issue of the St. Louis Review, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, tells how the encounter with the homeless became a life-changing event in the lives of these youths.

One high school girl said she saw the “face of Christ” when she looked into the eyes of homeless people and their children during the parish-run retreat.

Do not forget their silent cries

Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad, Iraq. (CNS/Carol Glatz)

Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad, Iraq. (CNS/Carol Glatz)

VATICAN CITY — Iraqi Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad told me in a recent interview at the Vatican that he felt the international community had all but forgotten the plight of Iraqis as well as the country’s Christians who continue to suffer tremendously from a lack of infrastructure and religious intolerance.

The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need publishes a number of reports each year to remind people that there are countless people worldwide who need our help as they are suffering — and perhaps dying — for their faith.

Just last week, the charity’s president, Father Joaquin Alliende Luco, presented its annual Religious Freedom in the World report documenting the limitations, coercion, violations, or persecution nations levy against people solely because of their faith or religion. That report found that 10 of the the top 13 countries with serious limitations on religious freedom were all countries in Asia.

Another publication called “Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians Oppressed for their Faith” looks just at the situation Christians face worldwide. This “snap-shot view” of the terrible oppression and violence Christians face is meant “to fill the gap in people’s knowledge about a subject that is worsening because it largely escapes media attention,” says the report’s Index of Persecution.

Countries the report lists where the plight of the faithful has deteriorated sharply since last year:

Algeria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Egypt, Eritrea, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel and Palestine, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.

CNS Bible Blog: God’s omnipotence

By Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ
Special to Catholic News Service

Brother Guy

Brother Guy

Over the years, I’ve gotten e-mails from a number of people asking me if planets, stars or constellations are mentioned in the Bible. Of course they are!

There are computer programs you can get that contain the whole text of the Bible and allow you to do global searches on words or phrases. When I just looked up “stars” I came across a number of instances. (And, in the process, I missed one of the most famous ones: the opening from Psalm 19, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.”)

But of course, that’s just gathering data. As a scientist, what I do instinctively is to look the data over and try to find trends. And over the next few days I want to share some of these insights here. It’s not just that stars are mentioned in passing in the Bible; what is fascinating to me is how they are used.

The first instance of astronomical objects in the Bible is, of course, the first chapter of Genesis where their creation is described:

Genesis 1:16-19 reads: God made the two great lights — the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night — and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

Father Michael Kolarcik wrote a beautiful blog about the opening of Genesis at the beginning of this series:

I shouldn’t have to remind my readers here that this description, appropriate for the time it was written and the people for whom it was directed, did not intend to describe the science of astronomy, the nuts and bolts of how God made the stars. Instead, it carried a far more important message: that the stars were not themselves pagan

The whole Milky Way can be seen in this fish-eye view of the skies over Mt. Graham, Arizona, the site of the Vatican’s Advanced Technology Telescope, operated by the Vatican Observatory in conjunction with the University of Arizona. Such dark skies are becoming more and more rare, however; even here, the sky glow from the cities of Phoenix and Tucson, both more than fifty miles distant, can be seen as the yellow patches on the right hand side of the picture.

The whole Milky Way can be seen in this fisheye view of the skies over Mount Graham in Arizona, the site of the Vatican’s Advanced Technology Telescope, operated by the Vatican Observatory in conjunction with the University of Arizona. Such dark skies are becoming more and more rare, however; even here, the sky glow from the cities of Phoenix and Tucson, both more than 50 miles distant, can be seen as the yellow patches on the right side of the picture.

gods nor the random result of pagan gods messing about in the primordial chaos, as the mythological stories of the neighboring nations would have it. Rather they are the result of the one true God’s deliberate act of creation. For the first time, we are told that everything in the universe, including the lights in the sky, are but creatures … things made by God.

And because the stars are God’s creation, they are under God’s rule. We see that in Job 9:1-10: Then Job answered:  “… how can a mortal be just before God?  If one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand. He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength who has resisted him, and succeeded? –  he who removes mountains, and they do not know it, when he overturns them in his anger; who shakes the earth out of its place, and its pillars tremble; who commands the sun, and it does not rise; who seals up the stars; who alone stretched out the heavens and trampled the waves of the sea; who made the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the chambers of the south; who does great things beyond understanding, and marvelous things without number.”

Orion is perhaps the most famous constellation; the Bear, the Lion, the Pleiades are references to the familiar constellations of Ursa Major, Leo, and the famous star cluster in Taurus. These descriptions of the constellations are found without much ambiguity in the Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament, while the Hebrew version uses words that ancient commentators usually connect with those constellations, though some argue that different stars are actually meant. Which stars are being talked about really doesn’t matter for our purposes, however. The important point is that even the stars are made by God.

That’s a pretty big God, even if your understanding of the universe is limited to seeing the stars as points of light in a dome relatively close overhead.

The power of God over the universe is most directly inferred in Psalm 147: Praise the LORD! How good it is to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting. The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure …

As we saw in Genesis where Adam is given the task of naming the animals, to give a name is to claim ownership — and responsibility. You don’t bother naming something that you don’t care about.

And if God cares about the physical universe, so shouldn’t we?

(Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, ©1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.  All rights reserved.  Used by permission.)