Today's Wisdom

When we meet a person truly in need, do we see the face of God?
Pope Francis

Handel's Messiah by Halleluja Chorus

Loading...

An Elegant Hymn

Written by the Late Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III (in English My Throbbing Heart; in Arabic قلبي الخفاق )

Friday, July 24, 2015

Henri Boulad, S.J.: Lord, give me a heart of compassion

In ancient Greece, people loved beautiful things, beautiful women, beautiful kids. It’s all too natural and spontaneous. Such a love called "Eros" was widespread in the ancient Greek, Roman and Assyrian-Babylonian cultures. With Jesus, we have a revolution. He does not suppress "Eros" but he brings to us a new notion called "Agape."  The human being is not a way to play around but he is an end in himself. We see Jesus in the Gospel healing paralytics, casting out demons, showing a preference to the marginalized. This is Jesus. Without him, we would not have known social justice, human rights and respect of the person.
In the suburbs of Cairo, Beirut, Rome, Paris or Toronto, billionaires live in luxurious compounds and travel all over the world for fun, while entire families are packed in one room and try to survive with a few dollars a day. When you read the gospel, you cannot accept such a situation.
From the beginning of the Church, the principle of keeping nothing for oneself was practiced by the Christian community. At the time, sharing everything with others was a totally new notion. When persecution of Christians ended in the 4th century, St. Basil started what we call today hospitals. It was not 5-star hospitals, but halls and rooms where the sick, the poor and the hungry were taken care of.
With Jesus, religion becomes compassion. The good news does not consist of telling the suffering « some day you will rejoice in heaven with God and his angels » but going right now to the poor, the distressed, the hungry and treat them as your brothers and sisters.  
Do we know that all that started with Jesus? ​Do we know that the Universal Charter of Human Rights is essentially inspired by the Gospel? Do we know that the principles of the French Revolution - liberty, equality, fraternity – have their roots in Christianity? Try to discover such principles in the other religions around you. Liberty is reserved to rulers and masters. Equality between man and woman, rich and poor, persons belonging to other religions does not exist. Fraternity is based on blood, and is reserved to the members of one’s clan, group or community... 
Saint Paul makes it clear that everyone is equal to everyone else. « There are neither rich nor poor; neither man nor woman, neither free nor slaves… »
Let’s think of Vincent de Paul in the 17th century. This nobleman struggled to buy slaves and free them. You have no idea how horrible was their situation at that time. They were sold like merchandise or animals in the market places of Zanzibar and Gorée Island, next to Dakar in Senegal, then sent from Africa to the Americas to be sold there. They were laid on top of each other inside the ship carrying them where they would vomit or excrete feces on each other for days and weeks. 
Vincent de Paul cared for them to the point of himself becoming a slave for two years due to his activities for which they wanted to get rid of him. This man inspired scores of people willing to share Jesus'​compassion for the belittled.
Egypt would not have been what it is today without this army of religious men and women who struggled to build hospices, hospitals and schools. Their sense of total self-giving is rooted in Jesus’ teaching. It’s not easy to give your whole life when you could get a great job, gain money, become rich.
When we see misery around us, we can no longer settle around a hot meal or get under a warm cover in the cold night without saying: “Why me and not the others?” A few weeks ago, I was very tired. When people came to visit me I said to myself "Why me and not the thousands of other sick persons in Alexandria?" When I see the medicines I consume to recover and the cost of the hospital, I say: "Why so many people cannot afford such expenses?”
Jesus came to reveal us God's compassion. The word “compassion” comes from the Latin – compatire which means “to suffer with, to feel empathy with”. So many people visiting a sick person sell words and say nice expressions without true feeling. Oftentimes it’s a comedy of compassion. If somebody visits me when I am sick, I know immediately if he really communes with me or not. This is why the Lord sometimes allows us to suffer tragic incidents... so that when somebody says "I suffer" we really understand him and feel empathy with him. True compassion is badly lacking today!
Recently I visited a sick person in a far hospital. Alone and rejected by his family, he was feeling terribly hungry. When we brought him food, a large smile appeared on his face!
Mother Teresa insisted that we should go “to the poorest of the poor". All her followers try to embody her wish. I am in deep admiration for so many young sisters leaving their homes and countries to help our poor in Egypt. This is extraordinary.
Lord, give me a heart of compassion... a heart that beats with those who suffer… a heart able to make their suffering mine. Along with material help, let me feel true compassion for them. Let me show them respect, regardless of their appearance and social status.
The Gospel is a revolution. We do not know what the world would have been without Christ. We, who are supposed to be his followers, have a long way to go until we become real Christians. If Christianity is to continue its powerful presence in the world, it is by its appeal to the dignity of the human person, created in the image of God.
Lord, you said "I came to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!" (Luke 12: 49). Is not this the fire of the Holy Spirit blazing in the heart of humanity to heal it? Is not this the fire that Christ baptizes us with in order to return ours to his everlasting joyful heart?
Lord, Give me a heart of compassion like yours...
Original in French :


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Who is next?

Canada is the most admired country in the world in 2015 according to the Reputation Institute's survey of 48,000 residents of the G8 countries. Norway placed second on the list, followed by Sweden, Switzerland and Australia. The United States slotted into the 22nd spot. According to the Institute's Fernando Prado, Canada is praised for "its effective government", "absence of corruption", "friendly and welcoming people", and its welfare support system (here).
The above report was published at a time in which the people of Greece are experiencing hard times. The people of Greece will have to accept tough conditions from their external creditors such as the IMF and Germany. In a significant analysis Dr. George Friedman (founder of Stratfor, an American global intelligence specializing in geopolitics) wrote a significant article on the background of the European crisis in Greece (Titled The Empire Strikes Back, it can be found here). Professor Stephen Walt at Harvard writing in the American Foreign Policy did not shy away from writing "Does Europe have a future?" (The analysis can be read here). And The Economist. as always, bombarded its readers with more updates on it (here).

If Canada is the most admired country in the world, why should Christians in Canada care about Greece or the nearly-broken Europe?
There are a number of answers to the above question:
1. Europe is the continent where Christian civilization made the most-enduring influence for some 2000 years. It is in Rome that Peter was crucified to death and his successors continue to govern the Catholic Church. Today, as before, the world listens to the voice of the successor of St. Peter as the global moral authority.Unchallenged by its political representation in the majority of countries from the North to the South and from the West to the East, the Vatican has an immense political influence.
2. Pope Francis is particularly seen as a man of God who advocates the poor, the marginalized and neglected against the tyranny of money and excessive capitalism. This reality worries the very rich in North America and Europe. The average high standard of living in the G8 countries is a question mark for poor people in other countries; some of them are in East Europe and/or part of the European Union such as Greece and Ukraine. Many other poor people live in underdeveloped countries or emerging economies including most countries in Africa and Latin America. On his way back from Latin America, Pope Francis was asked questions to which he gave precise answers on why he advocates the poor. In his mind, it is not a sociological or economical class warfare that he is advocating but a doctrine of the Church expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Read the interview here).  The question remains: Can anyone hope for a serious dialogue between the rich North and the poor South?

The renowned Jesuit scholar Henri Boulad, SJ, who belongs to the same order from which the pope hails will be in Toronto from July 24 to the end of July 2015. Fr. Henri Boulad (who is a personal friend to many of us in Toronto) is the head of Caritas Egypt; a Catholic organization (Caritas Internationalis) through which he served the poor in the Middle East for decades. In the presence of His Eminence Cardinal Thomas Collins and many priests, both Catholic and Orthodox, Fr. Boulad will be speaking in a large dinner served by the Knights of Columbus standing for the dignitaries on Tuesday July 28 at St. George Centre an essentially Christian Orthodox centre (9116 Bayview Avenue, Richmond Hill). All Christians in the Greater Toronto Area are invited to buy tickets by contacting george.farahat@gmail.com or bouladcanada@gmail.com

Nearly fifty years have gone since the end of the Second Vatican Council which opened the Church to the dialogue with the world. And the question remains for the cause of the poor in Europe (already under much tension since terrorism targeted it in 2014-2015) and the rest of the world especially people of the Middle East exposed to terrorism: Who can speak for the poor, the marginalized and the neglected. Who is next to suffer?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Sexuality: An Introduction

It is commonly known that the oldest industry in the human race is prostitution. Prostitution continues to exist everywhere even though it is illegal in many countries. With the widespread access to the Internet, prostitution is accessible to persons with smart phones including teenagers and younger kids in most countries. While parents are busy at work, their kids have an easy way to watch pornographic videos on the digital media. With that in  mind,  liberal individualism has invaded homes and schools. The alarming trend of recognizing different types of sexual orientation as valid expressions of love, together with advances in scientific technology, pressed the justice systems in the West to legally recognize gay marriages.In imitation of other Western jurisdictions, the government of Ontario, Canada has introduced sex education to school students as young as 8 years old. 

However, thoughtful intellectuals have expressed their discontent with the above trend. In the June 2014 issue of the renowned First Things, Professor R. R. Reno describes the revolution of the "empire of desire".The full article can be found here

More comprehensive is Saint John Paul II's "Theology of the Body" which I presented in 2008 at Jesus the King Melkite Catholic Church in Thornhill, Ontario (See the lecture here).

Psychology: New findings

Any discussion on human sexuality requires familiarity with the advances in psychology and neuroscience particularly as the topic addresses the needs of children in schools.

A pioneer in cognitive child development, Jean Piaget taught his theory at the University of Geneva and at the Sorbonne in Paris (1950s). A most interesting article on the philosophy advanced by Piaget's psychology can be found at Stanford's Encyclopedia of Philosophy herePiaget's model goes through stages including "sensorimotor" (0 to 2 yrs); "preoperational" (2-7 yrs); "concrete operational" (7-11 yrs); and "formal operational" (11 yrs.+). His influential work in education was adopted by the U.K. Government in 1966. His work, however did not lack criticism by others. By the end of the 20th century,Piaget's work was rated second only to the behaviorist school of B.F. Skinner in psychology. 

Dr. Alfred Tomatis (1920-2001) was an internationally-known otolaryngologist and researcher/inventor. He received his Doctorate in Medicine from the Paris School of Medicine. His major contribution is his theory that in humans, hearing and speaking are integrated for communicating by means of the whole psyche and the entire body. Tomatis distinguishes accordingly between hearing and listening. The child in the womb of his mother listens to her conversations as early as two months before the formation of the brain. It is his cumulative experience which gets stored and can be elevated to the higher levels of the brain and consciousness when ready (Cf. Raymund Schwagger, S.J., "Banished from Eden", English translation 2006). Not only do Tomatis' experiments support Evolutionary Theory but also show the importance of listening in the relationship of children and parents. For more on the continuing research by his collaborators/scientists see here

A widely appealing psychology today is "Positive Psychology" pioneered by Professor Martin Seligman, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. As defined on the website, "Positive Psychology is founded on the belief that people want more than an end to suffering. People want to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experience of love, work, and play." To achieve the above, the reader is referred to a list of attributes here. Evidently, "Positive Psychology" generously uses Christian attributes for having a better community including responsible parenting, and communications between parents and children.

Associated for decades with the Christian Orthodox Youth Movement in Lebanon and Syria, the late Costi Bendaly, who earned a doctorate in applied psychology from the University of Lyon III,  wrote about sexuality and its human meaning as early as 1971 (in Arabic, republished later in Arabic and French under different titles). Check his website here and here.

In his lecture  in 2003 at Jesus the King Melkite Catholic Church, the Jesuit scholar Henri Boulad, S.J. spoke about sexuality from a psychological perspective in human life summarized in his book "The Dimensions of Love" (in French and Arabic) and based on his study of Freud and other psycho-analysts in his Master's degree from the University of Chicago. Henri Boulad, S.J. wrote extensively on the psychology of love, and sexuality. His publications can be found on his website here (French) and here (English). His latest publication translated to English is titled "Psychology of Love, Orality, and the Eucharist."  Once published, it will surely fascinate the readers as it draws on the insights of modern science, and the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.

Anthropology: Natural collaboration between sexes rather than competition for work

Desire has been studied by anthropologists and academics of fame including René Girard of Stanford University whose "Mimetic Theory" brought to light the powerful influence of mimesis (or imitation) that increases man's desire which he shares with a rival model (man) for the same object (woman). See an introduction and an interview with Girard in 2003 here and another interview in 2009 here. Readers may also wish to read this introduction to his thought here and here. In his book "Christ in Postmodern Philosophy" (2008), Frederiek Depoortere dedicates an entire section to Girard's responses to contemporary questions in several fields of science, anthropology, and philosophy (Pp. 34-91).

Recent discoveries in the evolutionary anthropology of the human race point to reasons why homo sapiens survived adverse conditions while their earlier neanderthal and homo erectus species could not. One factor is based on competition between male and female animals of the same species to hunt for the prey. In homo sapiens early males and females divided the jobs rather than competing for them which resulted in maintaining a higher level of reproduction and survival. Rather than going out together to hunt for and kill preys which harms the upbringing of offspring, the male fetches the food, likely by killing the prey, and brings it home to his female whose role is the delivery of, nursing and upbringing of their offspring. This way the jobs in the family are distributed. It does not prevent the female from getting her well-deserved education, but the government must compensate her with a suitable income in the modern state by taxing the very rich and using the tax to support mothers at home.

Once competition between males and females has been naturally eliminated, tension between them is reduced which results in more fruitful relationships. The events of wars should not blind humanity. If women had to go to work after so many losses of fighting men in World War I and World War II, it does not follow that society must legalize the selfish evils found in divorce, abortion and competition that result in the weakening of the family and the stealing of children from their parents by secular authorities with minimal interest in the healthy growth of kids.

Sociology: The Powerful Example of Brené Brown
Brené Brown, Research Professor at the University of Houston Graduate  College of Social Work, has shown and written on the need for children to be themselves  in order to achieve confidence that they are loved in society. Her TED talk about vulnerability has been watched online by 20 million people. See also Brené Brown, 2012, "Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love and Lead", Published by Gotham. And over 5 million listened to her talking about shame. But it is above all worth noting how Brené Brown was transformed into the loving parent through her research.

Probably parents can do what she did: Be yourself to your children. Love them as they are. This is the first step - a huge one - if parents are willing to teach their kids about sexuality. If it is true that the family is a domestic church, then it makes sense that the mystery of Christ, that starts with selfless love, should be lived in the family. By simple extrapolation or extension, if it is true that the diocese is a church, it makes sense that the Bishop be himself to his priests, children and collaborators so they can look up to him and say this is us. We are one in Church!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Will America Listen to Pope Francis?

On June 18, 2015, the Vatican published Pope Francis much-awaited encyclical "Laudato Si" on "care for our common home" or the environment (See link to the text in English here, in French here, and in Arabic here).

The encyclical is a masterful treatise not only on the Church's tradition from the earliest Book of Genesis but also on today's global economic situation. Pope Francis does not shy away from naming actions by their moral effect on the lives of creatures drawing from the canticle of the creatures written by his widely beloved patron and first humanist Saint Francis of Assisi. The encyclical notes that the theology of creation caused by the Good God finds its support  in the Angelic Doctor Saint Thomas Aquinas. A man of the gospel centered on Jesus Christ, Pope Francis is quick to call for actions that would bring people back to their senses and awaken their conscience (Cf. Matthew 5, Rom 8: 22). He refers to Genesis 2, 15 to show the commandment to humanity to care for the earth. While emphasizing the three fundamental relationships of the human person to God, his neighbour, and the earth, he points to the incorrect interpretation of Genesis 1: 28 that has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature. With regard to the ecological crisis and related human misuse of natural resources, Francis refers to encyclicals and texts by his predecessors Saint John XXIII (Pacem in Terris), Blessed Paul VI (Octogesima Adveniens, and his Address to the U.N. FAO), Saint John Paul II (Redemptor Hominis and Centesimus Annus) and more recently Pope Benedict XVI (Caritas in Veritate). In addition to Catholic tradition, Francis refers to the Orthodox Church voice in the Ecumenical Patriarch's repeated calls for us to repent of the ways humanity has contributed to the "destruction of creation".

Pope Francis has unleashed the second phase of his revolution for human dignity in the footsteps of his Master Jesus Christ. In the same Spirit of Christ, Francis demands a liberation from the slavery to money in what he terms excessive capitalism and the abuse of technology for business dominion. The encyclical is particularly aimed at North Americans and Europeans who maintain a "throw away culture" that is a symptom of deeper concerns for injustice that rich nations of the North contribute to the poor in the South. The pace at which technological advances move has already created a climate of adversity between nations that threatens the survival of the human race and the rest of creatures on the planet. The gap between the have and have not is increasing rapidly.


The encyclical, The New York Times wrote "offers blistering criticism of 21st-century capitalism, expressing skepticism about market forces, criticizing consumerism, and cautioning about the cost of growth." (full article here). A few days earlier, however, The Economist published a report that warns of a possible impending global recession which will be hard to avoid unless central banks raise interest rates in order to avoid inflationary pressures (full article here).

It is hard to predict what the reaction would be in a Congress controlled by conservative Republicans when Pope Francis speaks to them in his much-anticipated visit to the U.S. in September.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sex Education for Kids?

The Ontario Government wants to force its own liberal agenda on the entire people of Ontario. Part of the agenda is a cultural revolution similar to the sexual revolution of the 1960s. This September our kids in early school grades will be taught a new curriculum on sex education directed by the Ontario Premier, a self-confessed lesbian.

Example: In Grade 3, teachers will have to describe "invisible differences e.g. gender identity and sexual orientation." How does sexual orientation become similar to gender identity? Homosexuality is suddenly taught to young kids as only another sexual orientation similar to heterosexuality (which is the natural way of having sex between a grown man and a grown woman. The teacher will have to answer such questions as "If I am homosexual, how do I practice it?" But then those kids have no knowledge that active homosexuals cause fatal diseases such as AIDS and some other sexually-transmitted diseases through anal sex which involves a man putting his penis in the anus (or bottom) of the child. Not only there is a high risk of transmitting sexual diseases to children but also the educators are encouraging pedophilia which some men accused priests of having forced them into it when they were young serving the church some 40 years ago.

Example 2: In the curriculum for Grade 6 students, the teacher will have to prompt "Exploring one's body by touching or masturbating is something that most people do and find pleasurable. It is common and is not harmful and is one way of learning about your body." How is masturbating not harmful? Do they fail to tell kids in Grade 6 that masturbation is not only a physical act but has psychological effects such as narcissism (the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egoistic admiration of one's own attributes). Narcissism is considered a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. Stimulation of sexual organs leads to arousal which increases blood pressure and the heart rate, but above all stimulation of sexual organs leads to internal fluctuation of hormones which influence sexual arousal leading to orgasm which is naturally reserved to the very intimate relationship of a couple. Here again educators would be encouraging the child to try any drugs that stimulate a sense of orgasmic pleasure such as dopamine-based marijuana and heroin (See more here).

Example 3: In the curriculum for Grade 7 students, it emphasizes "the importance of consent and discussions about delaying or abstaining from any genital contact including vaginal, oral or anal intercourse." Who will be discussing this and with who?  Are we telling kids that they are free to discuss among themselves about what kind of intercourse they wish to have, abstain from or delay?Where is the role of parents in the curriculum in such intimate and emotional matters? What does the Liberal Government think of the religious traditions, expert opinions and Churches?

I will only mention the case of a student in the U.K. reported in November 2014 after implementing a similar sex education program (video here). The boy wanted to explore what he was taught so he asked his classmate a girl to have intercourse, but she refused. He finished it by raping her. He got his orgasm while her life was chattered.



Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)







Websites

See Links to Websites Below