Thursday, August 30, 2007

CNN's God's Warriors program

Last week, CNN presented a three part documentary called "God's Warriors." I watched all three nights and I learned a lot. But I was also a bit disappointed with aspects of their coverage. Of course, it is difficult to cover centuries of history in six hours, so they had to narrow their focus, but I still found a bit of a disconnect. I'll explain.

The general idea of the entire documentary was to look at the three major religions of the world, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, and specifically to look at the "warriors" of those three religions. The first night was "Jewish Warriors" followed by "Muslim Warriors" and finally the last night was "Christian Warriors." Since watching the whole documentary I've had mixed feelings on commenting about them. But I finally decided that I should; it was an interesting documentary overall even if there was an obvious bias and I like history and it had a lot of that. So I did learn something.

The first night I was mostly just curious to see what this whole documentary was about. The focus, as I said above, was on the "Jewish Warriors." The focus was mostly on the Jews in Israel, well almost entirely. They talked about the wars in that area (around the Gaza strip, the West Bank, etc.) during the 20th century. Plus they commented on various other violence in that area between the Jewish people and other peoples of the region. The focus on how religion and politics intermingle was the most fascinating part for me. I was most interested in that based on the articles I read before I even saw the program. In the U.S. we are always trying to create this separation of church and state. Unfortunately we try to take that position in our international relations as well. But for many areas of the world religion and politics are intermingled much more. During this first program it was interesting to listen to the interviews with many people who said that they didn't care what the UN or their government said about which land they could live on and which they couldn't. God gave the Jews specific land and that's the land they want to live on. The state can't change their minds and won't. They also made sure to discuss terrorists among the Jewish people. Now there is something you never hear about in the news. At least not these days. These days if you hear about terrorists we automatically assume a completely different group.

The second part of the documentary was called the "Muslim Warriors." Again, there was a lot of focus on the Middle East and a lot of discussion of history throughout the 20th century with some look back to previous centuries. The Islamic religion is probably one of the most misunderstood religions for most of us. The focus on "warriors" was not not just on violence. Yes, that was discussed and it was interesting to hear what the influences were on people like Osama bin Ladin and others. But they also talked about the peaceful warriors, about the head coverings for women, and, of course, all the politics of the region. Again, there was a lot of focus on how their religion is intertwined with their politics.

After watching those first two nights I was very interested in seeing what the focus would be with the "Christian Warriors" part. I ended up being disappointed. After two nights of politics in the Middle East and some look at international politics and the role the U.S. has played in that region I was curious to see how the Christian peoples of the Middle East would be discussed. I should also mention that in both of the previous episodes they also did interview people in the U.S. who were either Jewish or Muslim who had connections with the Middle East, either directly or indirectly. But when it came to the Christian Warriors the focus went entirely to the United States. I was okay with this to a point, but this part of the documentary was so completely different with a seemingly very different focus that it totally threw me off. The "warriors" they focused on in the part of the documentary was almost exclusively on the more evangelical protestants. Not a bad take, but it certainly narrowed the focus. They discussed the pro-life work of many Christians, the young people who are fighting against our Western culture by pushing abstinence before marriage, and there was a lot of attention on Liberty University, founded by the late Jerry Fallwell.

My biggest disappointment was that, as a Christian, I saw a lot of stuff completely left out. I also found the shift in focus a little jolting and was disappointed that the history aspect of the documentary went down from looking at the past century to looking at only the past 30 years. And it made the U.S. look like it was full of people who were either very secular and not religious or evangelical. No mention of some of the larger Christian denominations and the work they are doing to try and improve our society. As a Catholic I was surprised that Catholicism wasn't mentioned at all. When you talk about the three major religions of the world, how can you leave out Catholicism? At one moment they were showing a group of people outside the White House or some important building who were protesting, peacefully, for a reversal of Roe v. Wade and I happened to spot a rosary in someone's hand as they panned the crowd. That was the only bit of Catholicism in the entire two hours.

I was also disappointed that there was nothing about Christians in Jerusalem. All three episodes started in Jerusalem and comments about the three major religions of that holy city. Oh well, anyone watching who didn't know would have thought that no Christians lived in Jerusalem anymore. They could have at least mentioned Rome, but maybe that would have brought them down a road they didn't want to travel. As a result, once they got past the introduction of the third episode they really didn't mention the Holy City again.

After watching all three and being disappointed with the third part it makes me wonder how skewed the first two parts were and I just didn't notice because of my own ignorance.

One more thing. There was a very interesting moment in the middle of the documentary. Christiana Amanpour, the host, was in one of the Middle Eastern countries (Iran I think) and she was wearing a loose head covering at various times during her coverage of the Muslim people depending on where she was. So, she was sitting in a car and was explaining where she was about to go to talk to some very conservative Muslims. She needed to change her head covering to one that completely covered her head and hair only leaving her face exposed. So she took off her regular head covering and as she did she glanced over her shoulder out the car window with one of those fearful expressions on her face, like she was afraid of being caught. It was very quick and may not have even been noticed by everyone. She is such a confident and intelligent woman and she's not afraid to ask the tough questions. It was kind of strange to see her in a moment like that. As it turned out she had difficulty trying to figure out how to put this particular head covering on and had to go into a dress shop to get help from an expert. It was also interesting that the group she was going to interview were so conservative that they would not look at her during the interview. So, women in this particular group had to be almost completely covered and yet the men were still not allowed to make eye contact with them.

Overall, it was a good program. Obviously a documentary like this can't cover everything, so what they did cover was good. I think the Christian aspect could have been completely different, but otherwise I did learn a lot and found the whole thing very fascinating.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Fences and Decks

We spent all day Saturday sealing fences and decks. And it did take ALL day!

We started around 9:30AM at Chris' house working on the fence there. After he fed me breakfast, of course. We pretty much worked nonstop until around 1pm. It took us about an hour to clean up and pack everything into the car.

We stopped at Wendy's to get some lunch around 2pm and took it to my house to eat.

It was a little after 3pm when we started working on my fence and back deck. We had a sprayer for the sealer, but we ended up actually painting a major part of the deck. So it was after 6pm when we finished at my house. Chris had everything cleaned and loaded into the car by 7pm. He headed home and I finally got to take a shower.

We were both so exhausted that after getting a shower and relaxing a bit that neither of us had any interest in going anywhere. So we didn't see each other Saturday night, but we certainly saw enough of each other during the day.

Sunday at church one couple told us that doing a big project like that together, and surviving it, is a good test for our future marriage. We did have some arguments at the beginning, but we got past those and worked well together after that.

So after that was all done I suggested that we paint the master bedroom before we move my furniture in. I don't think Chris was very happy about potentially adding something to the pre-wedding to-do list. But I went and picked out colors ... so we'll see how good my power of persuasion is! Haha!!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I am NOT a cook!

I do like to cook sometimes, but overall, I'm not a cook, and I'll readily admit it. For the most part I see it as a chore, necessary of course, but still a chore.

On the other hand, Chris likes cooking! He likes to experiment and he enjoys his time in the kitchen. I sometimes wish I liked cooking more, but I get bored with it after a while. We've talked about this, I get bored real fast with a lot of "domestic" type things.

Monday night Chris came to my house for dinner. Dinner was good, he said he liked it. Later that night he finally admitted that it was bland. I must have blander taste than I thought; I don't use enough spices and seasonings. But I don't miss it.

End result: I may stop trying. We're not even married yet and I am guessing that he may prefer that I not do the cooking. Any comments, Chris?

Last night I read an article in a magazine I get. The article was a guide for newlyweds. It was pretty short, but had some interesting things to say. I thought about my cooking attempts Monday night while I read the article. Thankfully I have no delusions about my cooking abilities. I know that Chris is a better cook and that's okay by me. The article mentions that you should not let little things bother you. Cooking may not seem like a little thing to most people, but it is for me. So this is not bothering me at all. Actually, I'll happily give this chore to Chris.

The only down side to this is what chores will I be responsible for instead if he's doing all the cooking?? I guess time will tell! :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rock the Collar

If anyone out there watches MTV you may have heard of "Rock the Vote." I don't watch MTV so I actually don't know what Rock the Vote is, but I think it had something to do with getting younger Americans registered to vote and encouraging them to vote for our nation's leaders. But that's not really what this post is about. This is a take off of that concept: Rock the Collar.

Last week several seminarians who are studying to be priests of the Diocese of Lexington took a tour of the diocese before they all headed back to their studies for the fall semester. This tour was the "Rock the Collar" tour. They mostly went to parishes in the rural parts of the diocese, but on the last day (Sunday) they ended at the Cathedral in Lexington where there was an afternoon reception for them.

The tour sounded pretty amazing. Chris and I went to the reception at the Cathedral on Sunday and they showed off pictures they had taken and a video they created from their trip. They visited about 10 parishes, spent the day with the priest, got a tour of the various areas, visited parishioners, stayed with host families, and had some sort of potluck meal or reception or something at each parish they visited. It sounded like such a great thing for these young men to participate in! They got so much out of it:

  1. They got to see more of the parishes then just their home parish and some of the larger parishes in the city of Lexington (as one young man said: he saw the diocese as just Pikeville, where he was from, and Lexington, where the Cathedral is).
  2. They got to meet priests who will one day be their brother priests AND some of those priests have been in the diocese for a very long time and have lots of wisdom to impart
  3. They got to know each other better: our seminarians attend 3-4 different seminaries, so this gives them a chance to bond with each other
  4. They got a chance to talk about their vocations, make themselves more visible, and show parishioners of the diocese that they are regular guys. Hopefully this will help foster more vocations to the priesthood

At the Cathedral on Sunday they each introduced themselves, told how old they were, what their home parish was, and what year in seminary they were and which seminary they attended. One of them gave his vocation story and another told us a bit about what his typical schedule was like in seminary. Then the Bishop also spoke. Oh, and the seminarian who was the driving force behind this whole thing told us how supportive our Bishop is: visiting them at seminary and keeping in touch with all of them, attending their convocations, and so much more. Apparently not every Bishop is that available to his seminarians.

The Bishop, as always, had wonderful things to say. He talked specifically about vocations and he made me think about some discussions I have had with protestant friends over the last year or so about the Catholic Priesthood. Bishop Gainer said one thing in particular that surprised someone sitting near me. It didn't totally surprise me, but I think I had heard it before. He said that he would be very hesitant to ordain any man to the priesthood who didn't think he wanted to be a dad or thought fatherhood was not anything he could see himself doing. This seems surprising at first considering that our priests take a vow of celibacy and are not allowed to marry. But his reason for this is because as a priest you are called to be like a father to all those you serve. He said that the priesthood is not the opposite choice from having a family. If you're not called to marriage that doesn't automatically mean that you're called to the priesthood (or religious life, as the case may be). The two are not opposites. If you think about, it does make sense. Everyone has a vocation. Some are called to marriage, some to the priesthood or religious life, and some are called to a single life. I've heard some debate on the single life vocation, but I'm not going to go into that here.

I also liked that the Bishop talked about encouraging our children to consider the priesthood or religious life. It was something that was once worn as a badge of honor if one of your children chose that life but doesn't seem to be the case any longer. But he is encouraged by the growing number of seminarians everywhere. We have 12 this fall and may have 14 by January. We are ordaining 2 next summer and hopefully we'll have more entering seminary next year. Those numbers are great, especially for a diocese that is so young (we'll be 20 years old in 2008). Having our seminarians touring the diocese and making themselves visible will help foster vocations; or at least make more people think about it.

Sunday was a fun event. We met several of the seminarians, talked to plenty of other people, and had a bit of cake and other treats. The movie they put together was cool to see as well, set to a song by U2.

I also encourage everyone to check out THIS WEBSITE. This website was put together by our diocese to be an information center for any vocation in life. It has resources for marriage, priesthood, religious vocations, and more. If anything is posted about the "Rock the Collar" tour, it'll be put on this website. Check it out!!

UPDATE: For a first person account from one of our new seminarians (starting his seminary formation this fall) see Alan's post at his blog which he titles "Wow".

Monday, August 20, 2007

Two Months!!

I'm getting married in 2 MONTHS!! Oh wow!! That's just amazing!!

It's hard to believe that we've been together 18 months now and engaged for 10!! In some ways it seems we've been together a lot longer than that. And in two more months we'll be husband and wife!! Wow!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Catholic Topic of the Week 5: The Assumption

Today is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Church. Today we celebrate the Assumption of Mary. I posted about this last year as well and for those interested in knowing more about what the feast day is you can check out the same website that I referred to last year HERE.

The Catholic Church celebrates Mary in a variety of ways throughout the year. She is the Saint of all saints and a great person from whom to ask for intercessions. Several weeks ago the Bishop of Lexington spoke at the Theology on Tap series about the Second Vatican Council. He mentioned at one point (maybe during the Q&A at the end) that many people thought Mary was downplayed by the Council. He explained very clearly how the Council did not change anything about the Church's teaching on Mary and that she is still very much a big part of our Catholic faith. I wish I could remember everything he said on this topic, but I can't. Suffice it to say, he was very eloquent!

I looked up the readings for mass today and thought I should share them with everyone here. They are available through the USCCB website here:

The first reading is from Revelations; a description of the woman giving birth to a child who is the Anointed One. Catholics take the woman in Revelation to be a Marian figure; she comes up several times. The Psalm speaks of a queen at the Lord's right hand. The second reading describes Christ as the ruler of the Kingdom until all enemies have been put down and he can hand it over to His God and Father. This is the reading that many people would look at and say "But what does that have to do with Mary?" That's easy to answer: she was assumed into heaven to sit at Christ's right hand (thus the Psalm passage) AND, most importantly, she leads us to Christ. Pray for Mary's intercession and she takes your prayers directly to Him.

Finally the Gospel is about Mary directly. We see Mary going to visit her cousin Elizabeth and Elizabeth says what today we say as part of the "Hail Mary." Mary's response is what we call today the Magnificat. The whole Magnificat is there in the reading. Here's the entire Hail Mary prayer:

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee;
Blessed are you amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thine womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

It's a beautiful prayer taken first from the angel's word to Mary, then Elizabeth's, and then an additional sentence at the end.

Anyway, go to Mass today, it's a Holy Day of Obligation! Chris and I will be attending the 5:30 Mass right after work today. Maybe we'll see you there!!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Lasts: Harry Potter and Singlehood

I finished reading the last Harry Potter book on Sunday. It was a great book. Only problem was that I forgot some of the details from book 6. I think when I have time again (maybe after the wedding) I'll have to sit down and read all 7 books in a row.

So Harry is now done and I'm starting to see a lot of things finishing up. Plus I read something the other day about "lasts" and it got me thinking about my many lasts coming up. Read on for the further explanation and bare with me as I ramble a bit:

Several seminarians from our diocese just started a tour of the diocese this week. They are visiting a variety of churches, visiting with the priest, and meeting the parishioners on a tour they are calling "Rock the Collar." One of the seminarians is starting seminary this fall, he's a member of my parish, and I discovered that he has a blog. I read through his blog and found it interesting to read about his many "lasts" as he prepares to leave for seminary. He spoke about the thrill of his vocation and also the sadness of leaving everything he's always known. I can totally relate!

Okay, so yes I finished Harry Potter. Now we know the end of the story. But of course, that's fiction. In the real world, I'm starting to de-clutter my house, get rid of things I don't need, and start packing things to take to Chris' house. I have a student who is interested in taking my stereo, a co-worker wants my DVD player, I have managed to set aside a lot of books to get rid of one way or another, and a former student stopped by to say hi today and she might be interested in my kitchen table and chairs.

What are my "lasts?" Well, I've had my last Christmas as a single person, this was my last summer as a single person, and I'm sure there are many others. I'm packing up my house to move into his house, which will be our house, but it still seems like "his house." It's weird to think of my name as being different. I never thought I would change my name, but I made the decision several months ago that I would, so now I'm realizing just how many things have to change: credit cards, Social security card, all my health and retirement benefits, drivers licence, passport, bank accounts, stocks, the house paperwork, and who knows what else. Its almost too much to comprehend. But at the same time, it's exciting and amazing. We're so excited about the many "firsts" we'll be having together as husband and wife.

There are certainly lots of lasts coming up, but there will be many, many firsts. We have less than 10 weeks left now! It's getting very exciting as my last lasts finish up and our first firsts begin.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Finally ... Harry

I'm finally reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Actually, I'm already half way through the book.

So I'm a bit sleep deprived these days. It's just so hard to put it down at night!!

I've been up until 1 or 2 AM every night this week before I finally make myself put down the book and go to bed.

So far, it's just as suspenseful as all the others and just as good. I just can't wait to see what's going to happen next!!!

Okay, it's 5:00! I'm heading home and maybe I'll read a little over dinner! :)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

New Baby Congrats!!

Some friends of mine had a baby in the early hours of the morning this morning. I ran over around 1:30am to be at the house with the two boys (ages 4 and 2) while mom and dad ran to the hospital. Actually, mom had left for the hospital before I got there. Dad ran off the moment I arrived; apparently the baby came right as I got to the house. Amazingly fast!!

I don't know the exact time of birth, but I'm guessing it was around 1:35am or so. They had a baby girl: Kayla Marie, 7 lbs., 11 oz.

All are doing well!! Congrats to the whole family!!