Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pope Practiced Flagellation

VATICAN CITY - Pope John Paul II whipped himself with a belt, even on vacation, and slept on the floor as acts of penitence and to bring him closer to Christian perfection, according to a new book by the Polish prelate spearheading his sainthood case. The book was written by Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the postulator, or main promoter, for John Paul's canonization cause and was released Tuesday. It was based on the testimony of the 114 witnesses and boxes of documentation Oder gathered on John Paul's life to support the case.

At a news conference Tuesday, Oder defended John Paul's practice of self-mortification, which some faithful use to remind them of the suffering of Jesus on the cross. "It's an instrument of Christian perfection," Oder said, responding to questions about how such a practice could be condoned considering Catholic teaching holds that the human body is a gift from God.

In the book, Oder wrote that John Paul frequently denied himself food — especially during the holy season of Lent — and "frequently spent the night on the bare floor," messing up his bed in the morning so he wouldn't draw attention to his act of penitence. "But it wasn't limited to this. As some members of his close entourage in Poland and in the Vatican were able to hear with their own ears, John Paul flagellated himself. In his armoire, amid all the vestments and hanging on a hanger, was a belt which he used as a whip and which he always brought to Castel Gandolfo," the papal retreat where John Paul vacationed each summer. While there had long been rumors that John Paul practiced self-mortification, the book provides the first confirmation and concludes John Paul did so as an example of his faith...
There will be no shortage of raised eyebrows at this revelation that a man we consider an example of holiness and extraordinary virtue included self flagellation among his spiritual disciplines. Yet, the image of John Paul II at whatever age whipping himself with a belt is one that, if we are honest, most of us are not completely comfortable with.

The practice of asceticism as a path to Christian holines has an ancient history. Though not exclusively a Christian practice, it has been present in the church both east and west. The Apostle Paul speaking to the Church at Corinth, speaks of punishing his body and keeping it in servitude. Asceticism, including fasting, limited sleep, work and mortification of the body are in mild forms practiced among Christians today. More severe forms such as self flagellation, found still in popular Holy Week devotions in the Phillipines and Latin America are not officially sanctioned by the church.

For most 21st century American Christians mention of such a practice is not comforting! It may evoke obscure tales about the Middle ages or worse images from popular culture and film. The most memorable perhaps the image of Silas, the murdering albino monk featured in the Da Vinci Code, nude before a crucifix while whipping himself until bleeding. I am not sure where to fit the image of the saintly John Paul engaging in this practice without the picture of Silas intruding!

Maybe it is us! We live a much more confortable Christianity where the idea of self inflicted suffering does not fit in. Maybe we are bombarded with the reality of suffering, images flooding our eyes and ears through the media and see it as an evil, not an instrument of holiness. As for me, it seems I have seen enough suffering in the lives of people, including those I love, to last me ten lifetimes! There is surely more to come, it is an unescapable fact of life!

Humans suffer in mind and body, often in ways which seem senseless.It may be that we participate on the sufferings of Christ, that we learn through the trials which life brings us, that we are consoled in our misery so we can console others, Scripture assures of many of these things. Yet in the state of uncertainty, fleeting happiness and despair which characterize much of human life it seems self defeating to add to the pain we already must bear! I can not help but to think of the Roman soldiers whipping Jesus, the devil or the taskmasters whipping slaves into is hard to see flagellation as a spiritual discipline without feeling an accomplice to those whom I would be free of! Perhaps I am not healed enough, nor strong enough nor free enough nor mature enough...but I sure feel I have been whipped enough!

I need to be consoled by Christ, in my sorrow, my woundedness, sadness, insecurity. Humans clamor for healing from the emotional scars left by sin, the whipping of the belts of rejection, illness, separation from loved ones, the death of dreams and innocence, the certainty of death! It feels as though we need no whips or belts but oil to soothe, life restoring grace, a helping hand a loving embrace, a kind word, a litsening ear, a champion, a deliverer!

I will always admire and revere John Paul II though I may not understand this aspect of his spiritual discipline. Maybe it is a grace given to some, or a path to be freely chosen, God only knows and he guides each soul as he sees fit. Perhaps I need a little whipping sometimes but... for now no belts please....Christ have mercy on me a sinner!



Saturday, January 23, 2010

Majority of Americans see abortion as morally wrong

-- On the eve of the 37th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion throughout the United States, a new survey shows a strong majority of Americans believe abortion to be "morally wrong."

"Millennials" (those 18-29) consider abortion to be "morally wrong" even more (58%) than Baby Boomers (those 45-64) (51%). Generation X (those 30-44) are similar to Millennials (60% see abortion as "morally wrong"). More than 6 in 10 of the Greatest Generation (those 65+) feel the same.

The most recent Knights of Columbus – Marist survey – conducted in late December and early January – is the latest in a series of such surveys commissioned by the Knights of Columbus and conducted by Marist Institute for Public Opinion. In October of 2008 and July of 2009, the survey has

been tracking an increasing trend toward the pro-life position – a trend confirmed by Gallup and Pew surveys in mid-2009. K of C – Marist surveys are available online at

"Americans of all ages – and younger people in even greater numbers than their parents – see abortion as something morally wrong," said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. "America has turned a corner and is embracing life – and in doing so is embracing a future they – and all of us – can be proud of."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Coming Home

A Gay Christian Speaks to Fundamentalists

Jonathan Odell

Last year I got a call from an administrator at a Midwestern seminary with a reputation for its “take no prisoners” conservative theology. He had permission to conduct a series of seminars on hot-button issues like abortion, stem-cell research, and gay marriage. His plan was to bring in a succession of speakers, one to take the pro side of an issue, followed by a second to present the opposing view.

I took a deep breath. I knew what was coming next. “We want you to take the pro side on homosexuality,” he said.

“Yippee,” I thought. “I get to argue for Satan.” So I asked him, “Why me?” Why me indeed... “The administrator pleaded his case. “I want you to come here not only because you’re gay, but because you’re religious. You’ve obviously held on to your spiritual beliefs.”

I didn’t tell him I’d been able to retain my faith by steering clear of the hateful fundamentalists that universities like his turned out. Instead, I lied and told him I’d think about it. “Well, I can’t blame you if you say ‘no,’” he added. “In fact, I might lose my job over asking you. But I think it’s worth it.”

...I decided I would say no to the request, but I couldn’t tell my contact that I was really declining his invitation because I was terrified of being rejected. After all, I was apparently the only homosexual he had come across who actually believed in God, so I had to keep up the image for what to him must be a very select group of gays. So I did what I usually do when I need to make a purely emotional decision appear rational: I turned to Google. I entered the name of the school and the word “homosexuality” into the search engine. My aim was to find a way to blame these fundamentalist Christians for being so hopeless that I wasn’t going to waste my time on them.

The first hit was an anonymous letter, written by one of the seminary’s own students to a gay support group, pleading for help. He wrote about being a Christian, a closeted gay, and suicidal. “From the outside, I appear much like any other student on campus,” he wrote. “I am a Christian, dedicated to my family, my friends, and my academic career. I am also gay. I came close to committing suicide several times, but God had been looking out for me. He had given me one friend on this campus with whom I could be totally honest. I believe that were it not for him, I would not be here today. One day, I hope that we can be seen for who we truly are, as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.”

This student’s poignant testimony of desperation and isolation, his love for a church that rejects him, these brought me back to my own youth. As a boy, I too was desperate for some adult to say, “I know just how you feel. I was afraid, too. But look at me. I survived. So will you.”

Now I couldn’t refuse the invitation without rejecting this young man, and by the same token, rejecting that kid inside me who is still waiting for some adult to stand up for him. I guessed this terrified adult was going to have to do the job for both young men...

When I walked to the podium that night and scanned a room of budding fundamentalist preachers, I discovered the place was only partially filled. Most in the audience were faculty and female students. Hanging in the back was a crowd of young guys who eyed me suspiciously, still deciding whether this talk was for them, and what exactly their attendance might say about their own testosterone levels. I nervously blurted out the first thing that came to my mind: “Hello, I’m the gay guy!” It was meant to be humorous, but the silence was so thorough that I could hear them breathing.

“OK,” I told myself, “don’t be clever. Just tell the truth. If they walk out, they walk out.” I began again. “When I got the invitation to come speak today, it was a no-brainer.” I looked directly at the young men massed in the back of the room: “Not in a million years!” I noticed a few smirks, but at least we shared some common ground. We all would rather be somewhere else.

“I’d like to say I’m happy to be here today,” I continued, “but I’d be starting our relationship with a lie. Right now, you are the folks I grew up with. The folks I fled over thirty years ago and have kept running from: my family, my community, my church. You were my first family, and families know how to wound you the deepest. So today I just need to say I’m not here because I want to convert you, or change you, or sway you, or make you like me. I’m here because whether I like it or not, you are in my life and I need to somehow make peace with that part of my life.”...

Very thought provoking essay on a difficult subject for many Christians. It is definitely worth reading! I particularly liked the author's father statement "I guess both will have to be true". Sometimes congtradictory as it may sound it is the best possible answer!

You can read the entire essay by clicking on "Coming home", at the top of this post, or by going to;



The day I decided to stop being gay - Times Online

A minor incident in a barber’s shop last week has helped me to realise that I may no longer be gay. Not a fully fledged homo, anyway; perhaps not even a part-timer who helps the team out when it’s busy. It appears I may be going straight.

I was in Tenterden, the Kentish village where I was brought up and to which I have lately returned, working at a nearby aerodrome as a helicopter pilot. I was waiting my turn for a chatty Latvian to apply the hot towels and razor. A handsome young dad entered with a small, fair-haired boy at his side. The man took a seat and hoisted the wide-eyed child proudly on to his knee. The first haircut, I speculated inwardly, as an unfamiliar fatherly glow and feeling of mild envy swept over me. I could not tear my attention away from the mirrored reflections.

From time to time, the dad leant forward as they waited and whispered close to his son’s ear, tenderly kissing his fair head. Touching stuff.But then my eyes lowered and I became transfixed by the sight of the boy’s tiny pink fingers gripping his father’s huge, workman-like fist. And I almost wanted to burst into song.

I think my life changed at that moment...

I absolutely loved this post by a gay airline pilot contemplating fatherhood and the impication of such a desire to his lifestyle.

Life is seldom as simple as we would make it and that applies to the author's depiction of his life and hopes, yet it seems honest and refreshing. He tells his story and, though we are seldom objective when doing so, he comes across as sincere.

I can not help but to smile at his words "I may be going straight" in the same breath as he notices the handsomeness of the young father who brings his son for his first haircut.." . Talk about conflicting desires! But hey, life is complicated and people do evolve! He certainly will not be the first!I for one which him the best!

It is fun reading and the host of reader comments is very interesting.