Latest Posts

Sleep Is a Blessing from God

wake upWe’re granted many blessings in life: love, family, abundance, health. We’re often sometimes challenged by God, too. But what most of us fail to realize is that our Lord has provided us with a blessing that helps us overcome many of these challenges: sleep.

As you go about your day you’re faced with numerous obstacles, difficulties, and challenges. At the end of the day you say your prayers, lay your head on your pillow, and drift off to slumber. God has designed you in a way that your brain will begin to work on your problems, sorting them out and uncovering solutions. Those who have found themselves suffering through sleepless nights understand what a blessing it truly is.

It is important that we don’t take this blessing for granted and utilise it in the most effective way. Follow these tips to get a good night’s sleep:

  1. Be sure you have a good mattress. While you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a luxurious bed, being sure to have a mattress that supports and comforts your body will allow you to sleep better and take full advantage of its blessing. Research has shown memory foam to be good for your health but to find the best memory foam mattress you need do some research first.
  2. Avoid the television and computer before bed. It’s best to sit in a dimly lit room and read just before you go to sleep.
  3. Go to bed at the same time every night. It will help your body stay in touch with your circadian rhythms.
  4. Say your prayers. Just because you are drifting off to sleep doesn’t mean that you can abandon your faith. Praying just before bed will provide a peace of mind that enables more effective sleep.

Something Old Meets Something New

Happy couple on wedding dayIf the Archdiocese of Washington can do it, so can you. The Roman Catholic Church has now employed the use of drones for major public events, which leaves it generally open ended for world wide couples who are planning on tying the knot to consider flying one at their nuptials in order to photograph their wedding. It’s a God’s-eye view looking down on the day of your marriage, well as long as your pastor or local bishop is okay with it and you don’t take out a stained glass window. If you’re not sure what a drone really is then take a look over at DroneJedi where they talk about the best drones and quadcopters.

There is nothing stopping this new trend from having more than just a person on the ground with a long lens in one hand and a camera in the other. Depending on the rate of your human shutter bug, your matrimonial ceremony drone may be a comparable videographer at about $1000, if you shop around. Or perhaps you might hire a photobooth like those at Fototastic. With a drone, your wedding video will reach new heights on social media, and be the envy of all those friends who didn’t think of it before you.

What are the Rules?

Over the pond in America what’s the word from the Federal Aviation Administration? You need permission from your Uncle Sam. Nothing over 400 feet, no drones in populated areas (how big is your wedding?) and officially, drones cannot be operated for commercial purposes. Your drone photographer gets to figure all of that out. While the FAA is still arm wrestling local law on city and state levels, those principalities are battling over whose air it is anyway, whose rights are being exercised and-or violated, depending upon the arguer, and consequently, fines for flying a drone against regulation are up in the air as well. Just remember what Grandma always said: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or two and a half pounds of drone weight.

Some couples may go for the drone, instead of having the photographer darting in and out of aisles and people, standing between you and your family and friends as the big moments happen, but most couples who are linking up to this new technology are doing both; getting the stills with the original pro and the aerial acrobatic footage from the hovering machine.

What Kind of Views can you get?

You’ll get the tops of heads and the low down views, you’ll get mass perspective and instead of Aunt Marge’s big gaudy hat in the way, you’ll catch every moment with nothing between the lens and you but air and altitude. Add a little music and you’ll have a high flying time to recount the blessed event later on, from an angle that no one saw your vows from.

Just make sure your drone operator doesn’t hit one of those suspended chandeliers hanging solemnly from the rafters of the cathedral. Trends come and go, but considering the wave of the future, because this isn’t just A Thing, it’s a Drone Thing, and it looks like it will become the norm. Something Old, Something New, Something With a Birdseye View.

To finish off, check out this cool video from a wedding in Italy:

Resisting Life’s Little Temptations

coffeedrinkingOscar Wilde once famously wrote, “I can resist everything but temptation.” As a person of faith, this especially rings true. Sure, I wake up each morning and say to myself, “Today I will make all the right choices.” Easier said than done.

I’m born and raised Roman Catholic. I have always adhered rigorously to the tenants of my religion since I was little. As a young boy, I experienced first hand the divide of moral versus immoral when I saw a classmate steal from the backpack of another student. I told the teacher what had happened. She took care of it. I figured life’s ethical dilemmas would always be so black and white.

As I grew up, I realized, like we all do, that the world exists in murky shades of grey. My faith instilled in me, though, that as long as I live up to the ethical standards my religion and I set for myself, I could enjoy a satisfied life. And hey, Jesus is always there if I need to clear my conscience and ask for forgiveness.

I’ve found it’s (usually) easy to resist the temptations of really bad stuff. You know, the biggies: adultery, greed, laziness, envy, pride, hatred. And here’s what I am reluctant to admit: I’m a bit of a glutton.

Many fellow Roman Catholics don’t imbibe alcohol. I’ve never really had an issue with that one (at least, beyond a few instances in college). Many of us fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. It’s two days a year; it’s no big deal. And many of us refrain from eating meat on Fridays. I just save the BBQ chicken (my favorite) for Saturdays.

My Temptation is….

There’s one thing, though, that I’ve struggled to give up. For years.

It’s the most popular drug in the entire world.

Your friend and mine: caffeine.

It’s not just the way it keeps me alert and, well, happy. It’s coffee’s aromatic, nutty, nostalgic warmth. The bubbly sound the coffee maker emits, releasing with it a promise of hope and newness as I wipe the sleep from my eyes.

Quitting caffeine is not required by my faith, but I’ve come to require it for myself. Addiction in any form is wrong, at least in my own life. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve created new habits for myself so my temptation to drink caffeinated beverages has waned significantly over the past six months.

At Starbucks, I order a passion tea lemonade. Herbal teas are great because they are usually caffeine-free and are delicious served either hot or over ice. I’ve also invested in a good, sturdy water bottle which is by my side at all times. If I was a cowboy, it’d be the gun in my holster. As a result, I’ve found my sleeping patterns become increasingly steady and my mood more even-tempered.

As with all things, moderation is key. Moderating my gluttony for caffeine hasn’t been easy. But the ability to sleep through the night, and to know God is proud of my steadfastness, is reward enough for me.

A Hike to the Heavens

hikingI was out with a group of friends doing a hike up into the Colorado Rockies for a Roman Catholic charity event benefiting the homeless, and maybe it was the lack of oxygen at the elevations we hit, but the whole hike turned into a giant metaphor. Walk with me.

The Mountain

Symbolic of our lives and our journey. The path is not always clear cut or obvious, sometimes we have to make our own way, sometimes we can see the passage ahead of us as clear as day, and sometimes it looks like the path goes one way, when it really has some major twists, turns, ups and downs that we never saw coming. The important thing is to keep going, no matter what, and to remember that with innovation, faith and determination, there is always a way ahead, just not always in the direction we intended to go. When barriers fall across our road, we can move them or we can go over and around them; the choice isn’t in turning back, but in finding a way to the other side. Sometimes the best blessings come into our lives right when we need them most, like discovering fresh berries, a clean clear stream or a lake full of fish along the hike.

The Resources

With some preparation, we’ve got what we need to get where we want to go. Secondly, I purchased my hiking shoes, they kept my feet safe and without them, the journey would have been really rough. There was water to keep me hydrated, the backpack to carry what I absolutely needed, my hat kept the sun off my face, and the bug repellant helped me to keep my sanity. Not all of my best resources were brought with me. I picked up a walking stick along the way; it gave me balance and helped me climb or rest, as needed. Wood and brush kept me warm through the cold night and gave me heat, protection from wild animals, and the ability to cook the fish I caught from the stream I stopped to drink from. All of those are resources that I did not bring, but which were waiting for me as I went along, and in life, our resources are oftentimes waiting just ahead. While we may need to work to get or use them, they are available to us if we apply ourselves.

The Conditions

I accepted the challenge and I went, but I went with friends, because there is power in numbers and work is easier when divided among many, and they are good company, which kept me in high spirits and a healthy frame of mind. Life isn’t meant to be lived alone; we are naturally tribes of friends and families so that we can all get through it together. When you see people struggling on their own, no matter their age or position, bring them into the group and know that when you lighten their load and ease their way, they’ll be doing the same for everyone else just by being present.

The weather changed as we went; sometimes hot and sunny, sometimes shaded by a passing cloud, and there was the wild summer rain storm that sent us seeking shelter, but like any adversity, it passed, and we kept going. Life can change on a dime, and though some of it is welcome and comforting, other parts are a test of courage and tenacity; if we pass the test, we go on. Let a temporary circumstance teach you, but never let it stop you from reaching your goals.

Religious Freedom Report from the US State Department

reportTurkmenistan has been placed on the list of religious freedom offenders to be considered the world’s worst by the State Department. The department calls the list, Countries of Particular Concern or CPC. Since 2006, a static eight countries have been on the list. They include Uzbekistan, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Iran, Eritrea, China, and Burma.

Turkmenistan has been added to the list because the country has detained peopled because of their beliefs. These people have been beaten and tortured. They are not allowed to wear religious attire. Distributing religious material is punishable by assessing fines.

The predominate religion in the Central Asian country of Turkmenistan, which was once a portion of the Soviet Union, is Sunni Muslim. Private worship is forbidden. Travel for religious education and pilgrimages is greatly restricted.

Religious organizations are required to undergo government registration. In recent years, Jehovah Witnesses, Protestant groups, and Shiite Muslins have been denied registration. Because Jehovah Witness beliefs prevent mandatory military enlistment, they face particular harassment.

This Year’s Report

This year’s edition of the State Department annual report focused on religious minorities displacement, impunity, and discrimination. John Kerry has said the CPCs were not the only religious freedom offenders. Europe sentiments are anti-Muslim and Jewish populations are considering emigration to escape anti-Semitism in some European countries.

Nigeria, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Syria have failed to protect religious communities that face violence, harassment, and discrimination. An independent panel, created by Congress to serve as watchdogs and review conditions of international religious freedom, has recommended that most of these countries be added to the CPC list. Kerry feels the report shines a light on countries that make them uncomfortable. Some of the countries are our allies. He calls for action to change the reality that exists.

No report is complete without citing the positive and negative. There are some positive developments. Pakistani Muslins protected Christian worshippers by forming human chains when a church was bombed in Peshawar. A watch team from a Jewish neighborhood ensured safe access for Muslim leaders to mosques in London after they were subjected to a series of attacks.

Pressure on Turkmenistan

Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican Representative, is among staunch advocates for religious freedom foreign policy. He not only wants Turkmenistan on the CPC list, he wants it backed by a plan that addresses the persecution that is taking place. He is concerned about activity in Vietnam and China also. He noted that Liu Xiabo has been detained in China since 2010. Xiabo is a human rights campaigner and Nobel laureate.

From a Catholic standpoint, this puts John Kerry in both a good and bad light. No Catholic is going to deny the religious freedom taken from so many around the world needs to be addressed. Kerry stands for issues that the Catholic Church condemns and sees as human rights and religious freedom issues.

Kerry is a legalized abortion supporter. Bishops of the Church have stated that Kerry’s beliefs on the issue of abortion should keep him from receiving communion. The Democratic party is also in favor of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

Kerry’s position on the legislation, when he ran for president, was somewhat different than the plan that has been developed and placed into law today. He would have made buying health care voluntary and wanted families to be able to purchase health insurance that members of Congress enjoy.

The current legislation is criticized by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. It is the group’s belief the government is trying to define religion and violating civil rights. Defining faith communities is an affront to religious freedom. Mandating the payment of abortifacients and contraceptives through health care plans is an issue that not only the Catholic Church but some for-profit businesses are planning to fight.

The administration that Kerry represents has complaints lodged against a promise to sign an Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which prohibits refusing to hire based on sexual orientation. Deep religious beliefs are being challenged. If the erosion of religious freedom cannot be stopped in the US, how successful is the attempt going to be internationally?

How a Recent Wedding was a Big Success

massIn case you’re interested, I went to a Catholic wedding in England last week. Well, you might say, what’s so special about that since you live in England? Well, the thing is that, as lovely as the wedding was (yes, the bride did look lovely) that’s not what I’m trying to tell you about. You see, as anyone who knows me will know, I am a very big music-lover. In fact, not a day goes by when I’m not dancing to music, any music. Despite the beautiful bride and the open bar, the real highlight of this wedding was the music played by the DJ at the after party. After all, the after party either makes or breaks a wedding.

It’s Time to Shatter the Illusion

When people think of a Catholic wedding in England, they seem to think of a bunch of fuddy-duddies bopping away to Mozart. I apologise for shattering this illusion, my friends, but most English weddings are anything but boring. You see, we Brits are rather fond of music (come on, we gave the world The Beatles) as well as a good old open bar so, the second the lovely bride and groom finally depart (hopefully taking the blubbering mother-in-laws with them) the hair is let down from its chignons and the real party starts.

Breaking the Mould

Whilst we were dancing to a very upbeat song which I can’t remember the name of, I glanced over the shoulder of the man who I was dancing with and looked at the DJ’s equipment. I can hear the horrified cries of women everywhere asking me why, when I was dancing with a very attractive gentleman, I was looking at the DJ’s equipment or rather, lack of it (no euphemism intended). You see, I still remember the DJ’s of my youth. You know, the creepy middle-aged blokes at the school discos who played dodgy music at full volume from a clumpy set of speakers? Well, this DJ had a laptop. Yes, all he had to play to a large crowd was a laptop, and some DJ Software. But did he disappoint? No, sir, he did not. When I requested that he played some of my favourite soul and house tracks he happily obliged. It was like going back to the 70s and 80s with some everything from Northern Soul to early house classics.

Well, if you’re still with me, I have a little bit of advice to pass onto you; always go to English Catholic weddings- it will be a great occasion and a lot of fun too.