I first saw a story on CNN about the group declaring that the rapture will happen today a few months ago on CNN. May 21, 2011 is it. “The Bible Guarantees It,” they assure us. It was interesting to watch and then move on with my life. (I thought about making sure I went to confession, but I don’t think that would help me with the rapture.)
But there wasn’t much moving on in the media or every day conversation. I’ve seen more stories about this group, stories about others profiting from their prediction (e.g. selling t-shirts or offering to pet-sit for the raptured), conversations about it have come up with friends both in Minneapolis and Denver, even the priest at Mass yesterday qualified his announcement about a Sunday event, “as long as rapture doesn’t happen…”
Why are we so interested in this group that is so easily written off as crazy, fringe, and unreasonable? They sure have gotten people talking. While most who talk about couldn’t possibly convinced that anything big will happen later today, other than the U2 concert that I will be attending tonight, I get the feeling that a lot of our fascination comes from legitimate wonder. What if they are right? Even though only at the very most, I toy with the idea, I still toy with the idea!
It’s also interesting to see the secular elite mock them. "Those crazy e-vans driving around the country preaching their absurd belief that they know when the world will end!" From the secular standpoint, aren’t I just as crazy? I believe that God became man, died and rose from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and now remains with us in what looks, feels, and tastes like bread. From a secular perspective of dogma, the only difference is that their message has a more obvious and immediate relevance to everyone’s life and destiny… curious that everyone seems to be listening.
These are just musings and half-thoughts. As I said, tonight I will be seeing U2 in Denver, The Fray (a Denver hometown band!) will be joining them. Luckily, The Fray’s lead singer said on the radio that he and at least U2’s bass-player are unlikely to be raptured. Even if they’re the only two “left behind,” the show will go on. I don’t have much to be worried about.
This week, ilsussidario.net is offering a number of testimonies to Pope John Paul II's extraordinary life.
Fr. Massimo Camisasca writes:
Behind all this was not a machine, but a true man. Certainly he was a man with special gifts: the knowledge of languages that enabled him to speak directly to each audience, the oratorical skills that he inherited from his former experience as an actor, the subtlety in the use of words that made him a poet, the philosophical attitude to penetrate the deepest layers of human life. But at the center of all this was an encounter with Christ, who came to him from the tradition of his family and his people. A lordship, that of Christ, was felt by Karol Wojtyla as a source of joy and security, human fullness, and thus a source of courage, proposal, and even provocation.
And personally, he recalls the Pope's attentiveness: "When I saw him, at table with Don Giussani, in the Vatican or at Castel Gandolfo, he was always asking questions, curious, attentive, listening, ready to capture any new event or any new word that might be useful to his understanding of man and his mission."
Cardinal Angelo Scola recalls John Paul II first as a man of prayer:
The first time I went up on the altar with him, in 1979, I was struck by the way he celebrated. John Paul II was a “mystic” Pope. He lived a relationship of extraordinary immediacy with God. It is not surprising that people called for his sainthood starting the day he died. It was enough to see him pray. When we went to lunch with him, we went first to the chapel to say the Angelus. All of us thought that it would take about thirty seconds. Instead, sometimes it took so long that we could no longer remain on our knees on the floor. The Pope was truly immersed in prayer, and for him space and time no longer existed. You could see it by the movement of his lips. In his prayers I perceived—I could see—a profound dialogue with God, uninterrupted. Like a breath, the Pope let out sounds like the gurgles of a river that never ends. It was amazing.
He also calls Wojtyla "the Pope of freedom and the Saint of freedom."
The pope's biographer, George Weigel, writes:
What unifies the man is his profound, indeed radical, Christian discipleship. Karol Wojtyla's commitment to Christ was at the root of everything else he did in his life...
It would be impossible to calculate the number of people who encountered this Pope during a 26 year reign and after visiting 129 countries. I was one of the pilgrims who went to Rome in the first year of his papacy and shook his hand in the crowd. He looked intently at each person he met. Wojtyla showed Christ's face to the world in an unprecedented and undeniable way and continues to accompany us today.
Here is the video of Clara Gaymard's witness about her extraordinary father, Servant of God Jérôme Lejeune, who was a geneticist and physician to those afflicted with Down syndrome. The story is moving from the point of view of a child of a happy family and of a father who took the risk to live his faith within his profession.
Christ is in our midst!
Recently I've held an interesting discussion on Interfaith Dialog with Muslims. I am especially interested to find out your thoughts on the following questions:
1. What we should learn from Pope B16's Regensburg Address?
3. Is the Holy Father correct when he claims “that today we are living in a completely different world, in which the battle lines are drawn differently. In this world, radical secularization stands on one side, and the question of God, in its various forms, stands on the other”?
4. If the Holy Father is correct in his claim above, shouldn’t this change our approach and perspective about Islam and Muslims?
5. Are Muslims capable of discovering truth, beauty and goodness?
In December 2009, a case brought before the European Court of Human Rights objecting to the display of crucifixes in public school classrooms in Italy. The first ruling in December 2009 prohibited the crucifixes. The current ruling overturned the previous one by 15-2 pending another hearing.
Professor Joseph Weiler of New York University School of Law and Honorary Professor at London University, represented, pro bono, the Governments of Armenia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, The Russian Federation and San Marino in the case of Lautsi vs Italy. Weiler expressed optimism and commented on the case in a press release:
Overturning the decision of the Chamber represents a rejection of a ‘One Size Fits All’ Europe and a vindication of its pluralist tradition in which equal dignity is accorded to the constitutional choices of a France and a Britain, an Italy and a Sweden and the other myriad formulae for recognizing religious symbols in the public space. Europe is special in that it guarantees at the private level both freedom of religion and freedom from religion, but does not force its various Peoples to disown in its public spaces what for many is an important part of the history and identity of their States, a part recognized even by those who do not share the same religion or any religion at all. It is this special combination of private and public liberties, reflecting a particular spirit of tolerance, which explains how in countries such as, say, Britain or Denmark to give but two examples, where there is an Established State Church no less – Anglican and Lutheran respectively – Catholics, Jews, Muslims and, of course, the many citizens who profess no religious faith, can be entirely ‘at home,’ play a full role in public life including the holding of the highest office, and feel it is ‘their country’ no less than anyone else. It is an important model for the world of which Europe can be justly proud.