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There has been much fuss made about a recent photo shoot which featured Miley Cyrus (aka Hannah Montana).

I was not going to comment on it here, until I read an article which deeply concerned me. In the article Cyrus said of the photo, “I think it’s really artsy,” she told the magazine at the time. “It wasn’t in a skanky way. Annie took, like, a beautiful shot, and I thought that was really cool. That’s what she wanted me to do, and you can’t say no to Annie.” A CNN article quoted further, “And you can’t say no to Annie. She’s so cute. She gets this puppy dog look and you’re like, ‘O.K.'”

You can’t say no to Annie? Why not? Because she is powerful? Because she will be sad if you do? If Miley Cyrus and her parents can’t say no to a photographer, there is little hope for the rest of her life. Eventually there will be a cute boyfriend who will get the “puppy dog look” too and what will happen then.

Young stars need to be taught there their values can’t be sold to the highest bidder. Perhaps Annie Leibovitz is an influential photographer who has the ability to help people advance in their careers, but she can certainly be told “no”.

If Miley’s dad, country star Billy Ray Cyrus, really wants to keep his daughter from following in the footsteps of so many other hollywood stars, he will start by teaching his daughter that the only one who you can’t say no to God.

Furthermore, if Miley or her parents expressed any concert with the poses and Annie Leibovitz gave them the “puppy dog look” then she should be ahamed of herself.

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As I look forward to starting my junior year in one month, I have also started looking at graduate programs. I have grouped schools into four lists: possibilities, reaches, dreams, and not even in my nightmares.

The Angelicum is one of the dream schools. Unless I become a millionare there is no way I will be able to pack up my family and move to Rome for a few years, but oh how I want to. This is one of the reasons I shouldn’t have put my education off for so many years. Maybe someday, when my kids are all grown and in school themselves I will be able to make the dream of studying with the Dominicans at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, but until then, I must console myself with this awesome ad.

I am halfway through reading the Last Secret of Fatima and I hate to have to put it down. I suspect I will finish it today if nothing interrupts me.

It’s an easy read and written in a very interesting style. The book is an conversation/interview between Dr. Giuseppe DeCaril and Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State.

I am not a great lover of apparitions, but since I am of Portuguese descent, Fatima gets a special acceptance. Still, I read the writings of most Fatimists with much suspicion. Not so with this book.

The book tells the story of the Revelation of the 3rd secret of Fatima and provides a great deal of credible evidence to the non-existence of a 4th secret. (That is if you aren’t a conspiricist). If you are convinced that the Vatican is hiding a 4th secret or has released a falsified 3rd secret, this book will do little to change your mind.

The book contains fascinating anecdotes and personal insights about Sr. Lucia and her personality.

Towards the end of the book. Cardinal Bertone takes on such issues as Medjugorje and Pope Benedict’s now infamous Regensburg address. Even personal issues, such as his transfer from the Archdiocese of Genoa to Rome are mentioned. In essence, there is something for everyone in this book.

I have already underlined and taken notes on many pages. So far, my favorite quote is from the Cardinal Albino Luciani’s (the future Pope John Paul I) account of his meeting with Sister Lucia.

We should pray the Holy Rosary. Naaman the great Syrian general, disdained the simple bath in the Jordan suggested to him by Elisha. Some people act like Naaman: “I am a great theologian, a mature Christian, who breathes the Bible with both lungs and sweats liturgy from every pore – and the tell me to pray the Rosary?” And yet the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary are biblical; the Pater, the Ave Maria, and the Gloria are Bible passages transformed into prayer, and they are good for the soul. Bible study solely for the sake of scholarship could puff up the soul and leave it in a state of sterile aridity. Bible scholars who have lost their faith are hardly a rare breed.

Perhaps my chosen quote is not the deepest or most Fatima based passage that I could have chosen, but see! There is something for everyone.

Place your order today. The book will be released on May 6th, just in time for the feast of Our Lady of Fatima.

Back to reading… check back tomorrow for more.

Simony is a term which refers to the sale of sacraments and church offices. The sin recieved it’s name from Simon Magus, also known as the Father of All Heresies, a magician who converted to Christianity, but afterwards desired the gifts of the Spirit which the bishops possessed and attempted to buy the office.

A man named Simon used to practice magic in the city and astounded the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great. All of them, from the least to the greatest, paid attention to him, saying, “This man is the ‘Power of God’ that is called ‘Great.'” They paid attention to him because he had astounded them by his magic for a long time, but once they began to believe Philip as he preached the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, men and women alike were baptized. Even Simon himself believed and, after being baptized, became devoted to Philip; and when he saw the signs and mighty deeds that were occurring, he was astounded.

Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the holy Spirit.

When Simon saw that the Spirit was conferred by the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me this power too, so that anyone upon whom I lay my hands may receive the holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your money perish with you, because you thought that you could buy the gift of God with money. You have no share or lot in this matter, for your heart is not upright before God. Repent of this wickedness of yours and pray to the Lord that, if possible, your intention may be forgiven. For I see that you are filled with bitter gall and are in the bonds of iniquity.” Simon said in reply, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” Acts 8:8-25

That was then, this is now. Meet the new Simons.
From the Telegraph:

Roman Catholic schools are refusing to admit pupils who have been baptised late by parents anxious to get them into top-performing schools.

Parents are going through a “five-year epiphany” when their children reach school age, with a consequent dramatic increase in baptisms of older children.

Many schools are now refusing to accept such late baptisms. Some set the upper limit at 12 months, others within a few weeks of birth.

At St Joseph’s RC primary in Maida Vale, London, said Peter Stanford, a governor, “if you have had your child baptised at two or three or four they won’t get in.”

At London Oratory, a grant-maintained Catholic school in Fulham where Tony Blair sent his two eldest children, the policy is only to admit children baptised no later than four months old.

Staff confirmed that it helped to weed out parents who were playing the system to gain admission. Last year the school had 700 children chasing 160 places. Its head teacher, David McFadden, said: “Our policy has never changed. There are a series of admission criteria, all of them based on canon law.

“The first criterion is based on Mass attendance. The next is to what extent the Catholic parents have met their obligations regarding the Church’s sacramental practice, including baptism.”

Another top Catholic school, Sacred Heart High, in Hammersmith, attended by Mr Blair’s daughter Kathryn, specifies baptism within the “first few weeks of birth” to qualify for a place.

A 37-year-old hairdresser from Essex said she and her husband had converted to Catholicism two years ago to get their daughter into the local Catholic school.

“I did this purely for my children,” said the woman, a mother of three who wished to remain anonymous. “I wasn’t religious beforehand and I wasn’t brought up in a religious family. I could count on one hand the number of times we’d been to church. But I felt very strongly that I wanted to give my children the best chance. That was my main priority.”

The audacity of these parents to treat a sacrament as simply a means to a good education without any spiritual intentions is sickening. However, although I understand the point of view of the school administrators, I still think that to require that baptism occur within 4 months of birth is a bit excessive. I was not baptized until I was 6 months old. I know many church-going families who, rightly or wrongly, delayed baptism for numerous reasons.

Welcome to all those coming from the Ignatius Press link.
Thanks to Ignatius Press for this great surprise.

Part 2 is available here.

The music began and the Cardinals began to process to the altar. The music was spectacular!

The Cardinals in Procession (The first three are DiNardo, O’Malley and Rigali)


If you look very closely, you will be able to see Pope Benedict’s miter and staff next to the black wall.

Incensing the Book of the Gospels. The candles which were held at the ambo are visible.

The homily

The Mass was beautiful even though we were watching it on TV. At seemingly every opportunity those seated in the front of the stadium erupted into cheers of Be-ne-dic-to! There was an exceptionally excited group in the upper left level. Before Mass, they had been doing the wave. The bleachers were very quiet.

Communion in my area went very slowly. We were instructed to descend from the top down and to go to the left, down the stairs, through the corridor, around through the inside and back to our seats. It was not even close to the way the video explained it. By the time the Holy Father gave the final blessing only the people in the upper 8 rows had received the Eucharist. I was in the 5th row from the bottom. For some reason, we did not receive Communion.

After Mass, the Holy Father returned to the Popemobile and finally the electric energy returned to the bleachers. We were going to get to see him. The people went to the lower area in order to get a better view, since the wall was higher than the Popemobile. The NYPD in my section did not like that and ordered everyone to return to their seats, although the people in other areas were not ordered to move. The people returned to their seats, but because the group in front of me was refusing to move and was preventing my return to my seat, I was stuck there. The police were getting very testy and I thought someone was going to get arrested. Finally, someone in charge said we could stay at the wall.

Finally he came to my area.

People were screaming and waving the white and yellow handkerchiefs.

Bye-bye Papa!

The Mass was beautiful, the music was perfect, the homily was awesome. I have since watched the Mass online and we definitely missed out on so much beauty. I know that planning a Mass like this is a huge responsibility, but I hope those who have this responsibility in the future will take care to ensure that the people in the back get as beautiful a view as those in the front. Also, I hope they will realize that even looking at the Holy Father’s back from a distance is more exciting than looking at a TV and knowing that the TV is blocking our view. I and those sitting near me would have not minded watching Pope Benedict celebrate Mass ad orientum. It would have created a much more prayerful environment and a sense that we were actually at Mass.

While watching the video I discovered that the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Boston was severely reprimanded by the Secret Service for reaching out to the Holy Father and it even appeared the Pope Benedict, himself, was slapped by an agent. Bishops who reached out to shake hands with the Holy Father did not fare much better. I found security to be far too harsh. I know they had the best of intentions, but I doubt the Pope needs to be protected from his own bishops.

To those who think I am just bitter and ungrateful, I am not. I am delighted to have been there. It was a momentous and spectacular day that I am grateful to have been a part of. I simply think that everyone should have been given equal consideration. This was my 5th time seeing Pope Benedict (I was exceptionally close all 4 previous times); but for most of the people there, this was their first and likely only opportunity. A police officer told me that only 1/3 of the people in the stadium could see the altar. I don’t know why the sanctuary was set up the way that it was, but there must have been a better option.

To those who have to plan Masses like this in the future: remember the folks in the cheap seats too! We don’t mind facing the same way as the celebrant.

So, after all that, what was the best part of the Mass? For me, it was seeing the Holy Father and being united with Catholics of all ages and walks of life from all over the country. The theme of this Apostolic visit was Christ our Hope and my hope was definately renewed by the large numbers of young seminarians, priests, and sisters, as well as the large numbers of young laity. The church is alive, even if it is not obvious in your own parish.

Photos by Domini Sumus

Part 1 can be found here.

Ronan Tynan

By the time we reached our seats, a good portion of the Concert of Hope was already over. Although the concert sounded great on TV, the loud songs did not sound as good in person. I wish the songs would have played more of a role in preparing us for Holy Mass, but it was still awesome to hear so many musicians I admire.

Jose Feliciano

The paper birds were pretty at first


The real birds were better

Security was in full force.

When the concert was over, we waited for the Holy Father. The excitement was electric. We waited for the popemobile to emerge and finally…Papa!

As he made his way around the stadium we expected that he would make a complete lap so everyone would be able to see him up close, but he stopped in front of the altar and went into the locker room to prepare for Mass. Many of the people seated in my area began to grumble because they had been unable to even see him.

Photos by Domini Sumus

After only three hours sleep, at 5 am, I headed to the parking lot where I was to meet the bus. I checked in with the bus captain and boarded the large charter coach bus. There were three buses, and 137 pilgrims traveling from my diocese (My diocese recieved 100 tickets, but the Archdiocese of Boston graciously provided 37 extra tickets). We left for New York promptly at 6 am and I finished up on my sleep.

Around 10 am we were treated to the video Inside the Vatican. It was an appropriate foreward to the Papal Mass. As we approached Yankee Stadium it became apparent that we were at the end of a long stream of buses. It took half an hour to reach the parking lot and get off the bus. It was now 11 am. No problem! We still have an hour to get in the stadium, right!

We walked from the bus to the skybridge that lead to the stadium. Along the way volunteers were offering pilgrims free bottles of water and police officers reminded us to have our tickets out for a spot check. I was waved through with no problem.

As I climbed the stairs to the skybridge, I saw a simple sign on the stadium announcing the Pope’s arrival. There were so many people in front of us that at times I wondered if the stairs and bridge would be able to support all the weight. I didn’t need to worry. We crossed the bridge with no problems and I saw the mob of people. A police officer checked my ticket and told me which gate to enter (there would be fewer people there, she said). I walked to the gate and after half an hour I finally reached the gate. As I handed my camera and purse to the Secret Service another Secret Service agent barked, “Bleacher tickets will not be accepted at this gate!”. What! I just waited in line for half an hour and now you tell me! I had asked before getting into line if this was the right line and I was assured that it was. I pleaded my case, but it was futile.

Now I only had 15 minutes to get into the stadium before the doors would be closed. I kept thinking about the other diocesan pilgrimages where pilgrims had been left disappointed. (My diocese has a poor record for getting pilgrims into events. Pilgrims to World Youth Day in Toronto never made it into the Papal Mass, Pilgrims to the Consistory in 2006 missed both the reception at the North American College and Cardinal O’Malley’s Mass of Thanksgiving.) I got into the line that the Secret Service instructed me to enter. The line was huge, but my Portuguese heritage and my Roman experience taught me a lot about dealing with lines. Yes, I cut in front of several hundred people. To them, I apologize. I trust that if you had just spent half an hour in a line only to be told that the person who told you it was the right line was wrong, you would understand. 😉

After having my purse and camera bag emptied and searched, I passed through the Secret Service check and entered the stadium around 12:05. I recieved a package containing an issue of Catholic Digest, the Gospel of John, an issue of NY Priest, a poncho, and a white handkerchief. I could hear the music from the Concert of Hope through the speakers. Now, where were the bleacher.

I couldn’t find the bleachers anywhere, but as I looked through the openings onto the field the sanctuary was beautiful! I had to get a program from another entrance because we weren’t given them at my entrance, actually the same entrance I had originally tried to enter. Yes, I had to pass that entrance to get to my seat. Makes sense, right? I finally found my seat and what a disappointment. I couldn’t see a thing.
Part 2 can he found here.
Photos by Domini Sumus

We have spent much time thinking of what the Holy Father gave us during his apostolic visit, but what about what we have given him. Yes, he has recieved a Seder plate, a skateboard, and a whole series of material gifts, but apparently we have given him something greater: faith.

Think you read something wrong? You didn’t. On April 19th, Pope Benedict recorded an ad which is being aired on The Catholic Channel, a radio station operated by the Archdiocese of New York and broadcasted on Sirius Satellite Radio. The ad can be heard here. Click on “His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI speaks to American Catholics on The Catholic Channel”.

What you hear in the finished ad was not the only version which was recorded. Vatican Radio reported on April 20th that the Holy Father deviated from the prepared script during a voice test and said, “I came to the United States to confirm my brothers and sisters in the faith, but I have to say that American Catholics are confirming me in my faith”. Listen to the report here (27:16 on the audio feed).

Wow! What a thought! It is not one that surprises me, though. Pope Benedict’s joy and vibrance was more obvious during this trip than at any other time. Now we know why. Not only was the Supreme Pastor feeding his sheep, but the sheep were also feeding the Pastor. Isn’t that how it should be all the time.

Love your priests, care for your priests, feed your priests! Simple gestures, and sincere expressions of faith, and genuine love can go a long way in confirming our clergy in faith.

I have noticed certain bloggers scoffing at the Build A Bear papal T-Shirt. When I first heard about it I too wondered about the value of the item, but I was taught much about the mystery of evangelism yesterday.

My son has several stuffed animals from Build a Bear, so I thought that he would enjoy having the t-shirt since he was so disappointed that I was going to the papal Mass without him. I thought he would put it on one of the animals he already has. I was mistaken!

When he saw the shirt I noticed a light go on in his head. He then demanded that I take him to get another animals especially for the shirt. “They CAN’T wear the shirt! It’s not right for them”, he said. He was so insistent that yesterday I took him to Build a Bear. He refused to tell me what kind of animal he wanted, but he was a 3 year old on a mission. We walked into the store and he immediately grabbed an orange cat. Without saying a word he brought it to the girl who ran the stuffing machine and said, “I want this one”. After the cat was stuffed, the girl asked JP what he was going to name his cat. The answer, “Chico!”

I was out foxed by a three year old. What better animal to wear a shirt with Pope Benedict’s picture than an orange tabby cat named Chico?

When we got home JP pulled out his copy of Joseph and Chico and asked me to read it. I have to summarize the story to make it interesting for a three year old because it is written for a much older child, but JP loves the book. He asked me to read it to him twice today.

Taking a picture of Chico was a challenge’ JP takes him everywhere, and Chico even keeps him company in bed.

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