Oswaldo Paya, RIP. Cuban, Catholic and Corageous….

July 24, 2012

I’ve admired Cuban dissident and practicing Catholic Oswaldo Paya for a number of reasons.  Not the least of which is that he decided to fight the good fight from within the iron shackled island instead of from the comfy land of exile. Paya was apparently silenced by being run off the road while driving in a remote section of Cuba.

Paya founded the Varela Project; named after now venerated Cuban priest Felix Varela.  Varela lived through the Spanish occupation and was credited for teaching Cubans how to think for themselves; independently of the Spanish Crown. 

The Varela Project collected signatures across the island in order to show the communist government a desire from the people for a new democratic and socially responsible constitution.  The petition was turned into the government never to be heard of again……

I spoke to a recent arrival and was told the vast majority of Cubans never heard of Paya and even less of the Varela Project.  Fewer still have heard of the Cuban Blogger Yoani Sanchez; whose blog is read by millions around the free world.   It is sad to think that in 2012 an entire society, only 90 miles away from the Southernmost point of the United States, lives in total darkness.  There is only one official radio station and television station and one newspaper. 

The Arab Spring had one major denominator that had a direct causal effect on their victory over a totalitarian government:  a vibrant internet community.  Twitter and Facebook played a dominant part in allowing the dissident movement to communicate their plan amongst each other.  Yoanni Sanchez hides in touristy internet bars in Havana while transmitting her most inner thoughts.  The ten million or so Cubans left in Cuba are forced to fend by themselves while the marxist government controls every aspect of their lives. 

Let’s pray that the heroic Cubans fighting from within find a small crevice to hold on to as they climb the wall of inevitability; a democratically elected government where freedom of speech and religion are in the forefront.  Paya’s dream will be fulfilled and Yoanni will be able to sit on the malecon in the open and blog to her heart’s content!

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Family vacation and Mass….Not mutually exclusive!

July 9, 2012

As we were nearing our destination of our first road trip this summer, we passed by a Catholic Church. My backseat was filled with two,  just turned teen girls and my daughter, a soon to be teen. As I was focused on finding the hotel my daughter stated, as a matter of factly, that we were passing a Catholic Church and one of her friends asked me to drive slowly to see what times the Masses were on Sunday! 

Now, I shouldn’t have been surprised and was in fact very proud that my wife and I apparently got through at some level to our daughter!  And it speaks volumes of the upbringing the parents of her two friends had done.  But I was surprised at this brief moment of religious clarity on their part.  I had spent 3 hours hearing the latest music, most of it sung by the three at the highest possible decibels, listening to gossip on boys and of course the requisite whining on material items they wished they had.

But at that specific moment they had a beautiful pause, albeit it for a brief instance, to wonder about Mass times!

I remember not too long ago on my walk how Mass was reserved just for Sundays and when we took  a vacation, it wasn’t only from work or school – but also from other “responsibilities” like Sunday Mass.  

One of the first things we  have done for years, is to seek out a local Catholic Church close to the area we are vacationing in.  It has always been a wonderful experience.  We learn about the universality of our religion and enjoy the different cultural differences each community has to express in a Catholic Mass.

In this past Sunday’s case the priest was there to greet each family before the Mass as they entered; not afterwards like at our parish.  This parish has the custom of having all parishioners share in the Blood of Christ as well as in the Eucharist.  We all share in the same faith but it’s really interesting to see how different faith communities worship  – while still staying within the parameters set by the Catholic Church.

We had a wonderful, relaxing and fun vacation, including a spectacular sunrise enjoyed from our room every morning.  The least we could do was to take an hour to thank our Lord for the wonders he has given us, as well as to thank Him for the opportunity to vacation as a family…. 

As this summer starts I hope we all share the same Mass opportunity with our family.  I am listing below a link to be able to find a Catholic Church and Mass times in whatever area you are vacationing.  Just input the zip code of the area you are visiting. Make this a natural part of vacation planning for you and your family!    www.masstimes.org or 734-794-2100.

                        Sunrise at Melbourne, Florida


Prayer chains….Please not again!

July 1, 2012

I chose you because I know your are a prayerful man….send this request to 15 others within 30 minutes and your life will change for the better….you will be rich! Your problems will be over!  Your family’s health will improve!  Napoleon won wars using prayer pigeons!

These type of modern prayer chains drive me up a wall.  And what makes it so much worse for me is when I receive them from practicing Catholics!  Since when do those of us that practice our faith need voodoo, or black magic or prayer chains to make things happen in God’s kingdom?  Is not God’s plan for us already perfect?  Do we tell Him, yes I belive but just in case….  let me make sure I help manipulate Your plan for my life….Because I really don’t believe and just in case…..

I know many of us are in difficult positions with financial issues, family or personal challenges and general questions concerning God’s plan for our life.  I know sometimes we feel we have to resort to whatever is available to help us get out of the maladies affecting our lives.  But as practicing Catholics we should resort more to the Eucharist and deep personal prayer to understand what God’s plan for us is. 

When we least understand is when God is working miracles in our lives. This process of discernment can only be effective when we quiet ourselves in front of the Lord.  Prayer chains are just unnecessary noise, dependence on false forces that do nothing to improve our spiritual lives. On the contrary,  as practicing Catholics we confuse those that may look up at us for insight in their faith.  By asking for special formulas we are telling them that God’s plan is not perfect and that if we don’t fulfill the chain His plan will not work!

In our Emmaus community we have a group of men and women prayer warriors that routinely stop what they are doing during the day to respond to prayer requests from fellow brothers and sisters.  Now that is a powerful force showing what community prayer can accomplish!  There are no formulas, hoops to jump through or chains…just good old fashion prayer for one in need…. 

Whenever in a personal crisis of faith or in need of a recovery of illness or when a loved one needs prayer…..write us at:  littlefloweremmaus@gmail.com.  We will show you how prayer warriors trump prayer chains every hour of the day!

                                   ad maiorem Dei gloriam