Saturday, March 19, 2005
TODAY IS THE FEAST OF ST. JOSEPH WHO IS PATRON SAINT OF THE DYING
O Blessed Joseph, you gave your last breath in the loving embrace of Jesus and Mary. If the seal of death must hover over Terri Shiavo, come with Jesus and Mary to aid her. Obtain for her this solace for her many hours of suffering, and if death is to be her fate, grant that she may die with their holy arms around her. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I commend Terri's soul, living and dying, into your sacred arms.
Friday, March 18, 2005
TERRI'S FEEDING TUBE HAS BEEN REMOVED
Read the details at LifeSite
For those of you who, like me, don't have cable, check out the coverage on CNN's website for up to the minute developments.
From my Email box:
MARCH 18. 2005
2:00 PM EASTERN TIME
ATTORNEY BARBARA WELLER TOLD TERRI THAT THEY WERE GOING TO REMOVE HER FEEDING TUBE , TERRI BEGAN TO CRY AND TRIED TO SAY "I WANT TO LIVE" ATTORNEY WELLER SAID SHE HAD A DIFFICULT TIME CALMING TERRI DOWN.
WE NEED PEOPLE TO SURROUND HOSPICE IN PROTEST TO JUDGE GREER'S RULING STATING HE WILL OVER RIDE FEDERAL SUBPOENA AND WILL REMOVE TERRI'S FEEDING TUBE IMMEDIATELY.
FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT COME TO FLORIDA...PLEASE CALL YOUR SENATORS. PLEASE DO NOT STOP YOUR CALLS.
ACTION BY THE PEOPLE MUST TAKE PLACE TO SAVE TERRI FROM JUDICIAL HOMICIDE.
JUDGE GREER IS WRONG AND IS NOT LISTENING TO CONGRESS.
Visit Terri's site: www.terrisfight.org
Cheryl Ford, RN (Fight4Terri@aol.com) is not affiliated with any other group and works as an independent volunteer promoting the protection of Florida's disabled community.
"SLAIN IN THE SPIRIT": AUTHENTIC RENEWAL OR PRELEST ?
The phrase turns up in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles as Vinson Synan, historian of the Pentecostal movement, documents:
By 1990, Pentecostals and their charismatic brothers and sisters in the mainline Protestant and Catholic churches were turning their attention toward world evangelization. During the following decade, Pentecostals and charismatics were reinvigorated by new waves of revival that featured such Pentecostal spiritual manifestations as "holy laughter," being "slain n the Spirit," and other "exotic" manifestations. (THE CENTURY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, p. 12)
At a healing service conducted by Fr. Patenaude at the La Salette Shrine, the following took place:
After a lengthy Mass and much clapping and singing, people proceed to the altar to be anointed with holy oil. About a dozen participants fall over at the singing priest’s touch; a phenomenon that people in the Charismatic Renewal refer to as being "Slain in the Spirit".
It is generally assumed that this phenomenon is a sign of the movement of the Holy Spirit—evidence of the approval of God—a second Pentecost. Catholic News reports on Nigerian priest Fr. Anthony Mario Ozele’s healing service which enjoyed the presence of the bishop:
After his talk, Fr Ozele conducted a two-hour long healing service. Many stepped forward to be prayed over and were soon slain in the Spirit. Fr Ozele invited all to touch the ground where they stood as he offered prayers for the nation, Grenada , the Caribbean and its peoples.
The conference began Friday, January 7 with a concelebrated Holy Mass with Archbishop Gilbert being the chief celebrant. After a praise and worship session led by the CCR choir and music ministry, Fr Ozele delivered the opening talk, "A New Pentecost".
Professor David J. Engelsma, of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America defines the theology behind the phenomenon:
According to Pentecostalism, the second work of grace--the BHS--is for all Christians. God wants all to have it. It is available to all, but we must seek it and fulfill certain conditions in order to obtain it.
Only the teaching of a first and second baptism is the 'full gospel." Whatever message omits the BHS as Pentecostalism conceives it is less than a "full gospel." Only Pentecostalism has the "full gospel."
Third. the BHS is a mysterious, wonderful event in one's own experience. Often, there are physical effects and manifestations, such as a feeling of tingling all over the body, or falling down "slain in the Spirit," or laughing uncontrollably (the "holy laughter" of the Toronto blessing), or making noises like an animal.
Fourth, the purpose of the BHS in modern Pentecostalism is three-fold: more wonderful experience of much closer union with God, more desire and ability to praise God, and power for witnessing. Emphasis falls on the feeling of union with God.
Papal Household preacher Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, too, encourages the Charismatic Renewal. From an interview at the Catholic Charismatic New York website:
Baptism in the Spirit makes the Catholic Charismatic Renewal a formidable means willed by God to revitalize Christian life, says the preacher of the Papal Household.
Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa made that point Thursday as a gathering of more than 1,000 delegates of Catholic Charismatic Renewal from 73 countries drew to a close.
The delegates had gathered for a spiritual retreat and to reflect on holiness in light of John Paul II's apostolic letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte." Father Cantalamessa was the retreat master.
One would conclude, then, that this is a purely Christian experience, since the Holy Spirit is intimately connected with Christianity.
Pentecost in the Early Church served the purpose of building up the Church. Pentecostal manifestations, therefore, must be directly associated with this same purpose today if they wish to claim to be of the same nature as the first Pentecostal event. For the Holy Spirit to promote an activity that builds up a non-Christian religion would be evidence of the Third Person of the Trinity acting as a traitor to the Second Person of the Trinity. That is an impossibility because the Trinity is three Persons in One God. All must be about the same purpose for unity in the Trinity to be possible. The Third Person of the Blessed Trinity can hardly be engaging in the promotion of the worship of some other god. To do so would undermine the basic dogma of the Holy Trinity. And if the Trinity falls, can anything else of Christianity remain standing? Every aspect of Christianity is grounded in the Trinity. Christ founded a religion. For the Holy Spirit to work against the religion Christ founded would be to introduce a division in the Trinity that is not a theological possibility.
Yet this phenomenon described as evidence of Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not exclusive to the Christian religion.
Consider the anecdotal evidence presented by Robert Walker, who was born in India and witnessed the invasion of Americans and Europeans into Indian culture in the 1960s, and the similarities between the practices of the Charismatics and the practices of the Hindus:
Many professing Christians are at the forefront of the search for supernatural experience and meaning. Few realise the similarities between practices they are being encouraged to adopt and the practices of mystical Hindu yoga. The practices, methods and manifestations of Siddha Yoga go back a long way in time. I will describe some of them using their Sanskrit names.
The meetings which mystic Hindu gurus hold are called 'Dharshan'. At these meetings devotees go forward to receive spiritual experience from a touch by the open palm of the hand, often to the forehead, by the guru in what is known as the Shakti Pat or divine touch. According to the teaching there are seven spiritually significant places on the body of a person called 'chakras'. Followers are initiated by the direct experience of the spirit of the goddess Shakti who is the consort of the god Shiva.
A fragment of the history of Shakti-Pat reveals something of its nature:
An historically important branch of Tantra which was particularly associated with sexual spirituality (vama marg) as well as the complementary philosophy of physical transformation (Siddhantha) is known as Agamanta Saivism which climaxed during the 11th century around the region of Mantra Kali on the Godavari river. …The initiation empowerment was referred to as shakti pat.
Who is Shakti? According to the Sanatan Society she is
the divine force, manifesting to destroy demonic forces and restore balance. Every God in Hinduism has his Shakti and without that energy they have to power. …Shakti is also called Devil or mahadevi, assuming different roles as Sati, Parvati, Durga and Kali.
Shakti is feminine. The Shakti-Pat is associated with sacred sex or Tantra.
The Shakti-Pat brings signs and wonders like the signs and wonders of the Charismatic movement that follow the laying on of hands and the Baptism in the Spirit. What sort of mysticism is being promoted in Charismatic Renewal? Are we all to be Hindus now? If the signs are the same, is the god the same as well? Obviously there is only one acceptable answer—"no"—but why then are the signs the same? Is the Trinity Shakti? If the Trinity and Shakti are not the same, are there two gods, Shakti and the Holy Spirit, who both manifest their presence in the same way? If both gods are the same, is either one real, since their attributes and the ways we are to worship them are decidedly different? No one in the Church seems to be addressing these difficulties and contradictions. Rather there is just a wholesale embrace of these signs and wonders without theological reflection. And we wonder why so many Catholics don't know their faith? Perhaps our shepherds are among them.
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!
TERRI TO TESTIFY ?
The Chicago Tribune reports:
In a last-ditch effort to save Terri Schiavo's life, a House committee plans to issue subpoenas Friday to stop doctors from removing the severely brain-damaged woman's feeding tube.
The extraordinary maneuver comes after the House and Senate failed to agree on legislation to keep the woman alive before leaving Washington for their spring break. House officials hope the subpoenas will stop doctors from removing Schiavo's feeding tube at 1 p.m. Friday in Florida.
"We will issue a subpoena which will require hospice administrators and attending physicians to preserve nutrition and hydration for Terri Schiavo to allow Congress to fully understand the procedures and practices that are currently keeping her alive," House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), and Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis (R-Va.) said in a statement. "The subpoena will be joined by a Senate investigation as well."
An interesting development in the case is that the last ditch efforts applied in a death sentence conviction are being applied to Terri's case:
In another 11th-hour move, the attorney representing Schiavo's parents said late Thursday that he would ask a federal judge in a habeas corpus filing Friday in Tampa to block the removal and review the actions of state courts. Such appeals are used most commonly in death penalty cases when legal appeals have been exhausted; they require the government to justify its actions.
It would seem that this implies the legal system is officially recognizing that Terri has been given a sentence of execution, which indeed she has, and for what crime? The crime of being injured? It does seem that all sorts of legal precedents are being set in this case, not the least of which is the precedent that a death sentence can be imposed on innocent life, though perhaps it would be fair to conclude that precedent has already been set in abortion case law. Justin, could you clarify?
Thursday, March 17, 2005
SENATE PASSED LEGISLATION FOR TERRI
Renew America reports:
At 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time, the U.S. Senate passed legislation designed to save the life of Terri Schiavo. ...
The bill authorizes federal courts to review de facto "death sentences" imposed by state courts upon the disabled, to ensure that the constitutional rights of disabled persons are properly protected. ...
The bill now returns to the House, since it was amended by the Senate. President Bush is expected to sign the final legislation.
CHECK OUT THE STORY ON BISHOP GUMBLETON
and a liberal judge at Dom's blog.
A Temple University student who protests the staging of a play which depicts Christ as homosexual and having sex with His apostles is manhandled, arrested, and taken to a mental hospital.
TERRI'S LAW PASSES HOUSE
The Christian Coalition reports:
WASHINGTON, March 17 /Christian Wire Service/ -- Christian Coalition of America commends the United States House of Representatives for unanimously passing "Terri's Law II" late Wednesday night which will effectively save the life of Terri Schiavo in Florida where she was scheduled to be starved to death on Friday.
Christian Coalition especially commends the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Jim Sensenbrenner, (R-WI) and Congressman Dave Weldon, (R-FL), both authors of "Terri's Law II" and House leaders, Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom DeLay, (R-TX) for fast-tracking this critically important bill. Chairman Sensenbrenner teamed up with Congressman Weldon to sponsor "The Protection of Incapacitated Persons Act of 2005" (which replaced the "Incapacitated Persons Legal Protection Act of 2005" sponsored by Congressman Weldon).
One down, one to go. It's up to the Senate today.
HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY !
A little music for the celebration.
A quick refresher on the details of his life. Get the longer version here.
If you have the time and are so inclined, take a Downpatrick Town quest at the St. Patrick Centre. Quest 1 includes St. Patrick's grave.
Some games for the young and young at heart.
Send a greeting card.
Having trouble coming up with a dinner menu? Not to worry.
Being Irish in Chicago is more fun than being Irish in Akron.
St. Patrick Rose
Music to go with the stuff in the cup.
But before the celebration gets too rowdy, be sure to say a prayer to St. Patrick for firm faith and a light heart.
And that’s enough blarney for today!
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
CHECK OUT THE PARISH MISSION
At St. Francis of Assisi parish. If you click the video link, you will get this Sr. Teresita video. This is her order.
Blogger credit to Fr. Sibley's Eucharist and Chakras thread.
Try to picture yourself sitting through this with a straight face.
THE HEADLINE READS
"Orthodox Muscovites Protest Against 1917 Masonic Conspiracy" on this story linked at Crux News. I get the words "Masonic" and "Russian", but I'm clueless about "Orthodox Gonfalon Holders Unity". In any case, they seem to be calling for a restoration of the monarchy.
WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE OF AVIAN FLU
Crux News links this story about Avian Flu, vaccines, and Maurice Strong, whom the story claims is "The" U.N. It's coming from a Cambridge scholar or I'd dismiss it. Still, I think I'll postpone worry over this for the time being. Not much I can do about it anyway.
HACKERS INTERRUPT COVERAGE OF "SHIAVOGATE"
Spirit Daily links this story about the webzine coverage of investigation into dirty tricks in the Shiavo case and some hackers who were successful in removing the story from the website:
June Maxam and Ginger Berlin, co-publishers of The Empire Journal, said the newspaper site was first hacked last week when a threatening message was placed on the site, directed at their coverage of the Schiavo case.
On Sunday, virtually as soon as ‘Schiavogate: The Big Cover-Up” was published, a story revealing the alleged guardianship law violations by Greer in the Schiavo case, a hacker removed the article from the site. Security measures were tightened and the article republished.
However, that didn’t stop the attacks.
On Tuesday, with the publication of several new articles relating to the Schiavo case, including an article regarding an appeal of Greer’s refusal to allow the state’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) to intervene in the Schiavo case to investigate 30 allegations of abuse, the hacker removed several Schiavo articles from the website including the Schiavogate article. A number of links to various past articles in the Schiavo archive where also removed.
The publishers are currently working with their server to restore the service and will be filing a formal complaint with law enforcement officials.
MORE CATHOLIC SUPPORT FOR "A COURSE IN MIRACLES"
At Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Mankato, MN the Sunday bulletin for January 30 had an inset signed by "Father Don" titled "The gift of the cross!" It begins: "It is said in A Course in Miracles that God has a plan to every problem the moment it occurs. And what, I have asked myself, was God's plan at the moment the tsunami hit?" The essay ends with these words: "And thus the miracle, if we choose it: that death itself can bring forth a greater life. Marianne Williamson"
Then there is the Spirituality Centre of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Peterborough, Ontario, where a course titled "A Book That Changed My Life" was scheduled on Wednesdays from September to December, 2004. Under the description these words appear:
Join 15 devoted book-lovers who will share their enthusiasm for a book that changed their lives - personally and spiritually. Books include: Creation Spirituality by Matthew Fox, Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh, The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann, A Course in Miracles by Helen Schucman & Bill Thetford, Trauma & Recovery by Judith Lewis, and many others.They also have a course that features John Shelby Spong, but that's another story.
Check out part one of a two part story at San Diego News Notes titled "Ransomed From the Darkness" by Moira Noonan as told to Donna Steichen. Actually, according to the endnote, it's a portion of Steichen's book Prodigal Daughters (Ignatius Press). In this article Noonan describes her involvement in various New Thought groups. She practiced Reiki which she says "calls on spirit guides of fallen angels (demons) to transmit healing energy through touch or by directed thought." She speaks of the seances at the Teachings of the Inner Christ church where spirits of the dead were called up.
She indicates that A Course in Miracles was invented by Marianne Williamson at the West Hollywood Church of Religious Science, a New Thought center, and that Williamson claimed to be channeling Jesus Christ who was "bringing a new Revelation to 'purify' the teachings of Christianity that are 'His old Revelation'. The 'miracles' referred to in the title are not supernatural interventions in the natural order, but products of corrected thinking, as in other New Thought systems." Williamson had Hillary Clinton, Shirley MacLaine and Elizabeth Taylor for clients.
The shocker, though, was this discovery: Miracles Circle of Pittsburgh, an organized group of study circles in Pittsburgh, dedicated to A Course in Miracles. Notice the address - 5246 Clarwin Ave., Pittsburgh, PA. The website makes it clear that this is not a Catholic organization. This is why it was a shocker: 5246 Clarwin Ave. is the home of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit. One of them is pictured at the website with Bishop David Zubik. I wonder if the good bishop helped this white-haired nun call up a spirit of the dead, or worse?
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
EFFORTS ON TERRI'S BEHALF
Christian News Today reports:
Elected representatives are being called upon to support H.B. 701 and S.B. 804, which are scheduled for hearings in their final committees today and may potentially come up for a vote on the floors of both chambers by Thursday.
On 03-14-05 the House and Senate reached an agreement on the proposed bill. The legislation would prohibit a guardian from allowing a person in a "persistent vegetative state" to die by withholding food and water, unless that person had written instructions asking not to be kept alive with artificial feedings. In the absence of written instructions, a guardian could withhold food and water, but only if there was "clear and convincing evidence" that the incapacitated person clearly expressed his or her wishes. Rep. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, said that "clear and convincing" is a tough standard. A casual conversation "sitting around the dinner table, that's not going to rise to the level that will permit the denial of sustenance and hydration," Simmons said, as reported in The Orlando Sentinel.
Kenneth L. Lewis, Founder of ChristianNewsToday.com Christian International News has asked Christians to contact their Representatives and call upon them to support H.B. 701 and S.B. 804. Mr. Lewis in a brief statement said today, he was pleased that the House and the Senate is working so hard to pass a bill in a timely manner that would save Terri's life. " It would make a terrible decision...right. "We are praying for Terri and her parents. We put our faith in God and we know and trust that God will do what's right for Terri in this matter..."
MOIRA NOONAN AND "A COURSE IN MIRACLES"
Spirit Daily’s Dan Brown has an article up on his website describing the book by Moira Noonan titled Ransomed from Darkness: The New Age, Christian Faith, and the Battle for Souls..
Noonan spent many years immersed in occultism, then came back to the Catholic Church, and was shocked to discover how much occultism has entered the Church. She is attempting to warn Catholics about its dangers.
An article at EWTN which discusses the theological errors of A Course in Miracles cites Noonan as an authority on the topic.
St. Joseph Radio offers a taped radio program featuring Noonan discussing the New Age.
The USCCB website offers a radio program, part of the Catholic Communication Campaign, on February 19-20 which features Noonan. It appears that the program can be heard at this website.
It was A Course in Miracles that led formerly Catholic James Twyman to take up Catharism according to his book Emissary of Light. He writes:
As the Course says, if you remain as God created you, then sin, guilt, sickness, and death are not real, but are illusions you have made up in your mind to avoid the truth. Forgiveness helps us look past these illusions to what is real. (p. 66)
Twyman not only studied this course, he also taught it. In fact, he taught it in Bosnia on his first visit there, prior to his visit to the "monastery" of the Emissaries of Light. He sees what the Emissaries teach as a continuation of A Course in Miracles.
Why is this important?
The Ursuline Sisters in Cleveland are offering a program of “A Course in Miracles” at their Sophia Center this Spring. From the website:
Gifts From A Course in MiraclesThis is located in the Diocese of Cleveland, specifically at 2600 Lander Road, Pepper Pike, Ohio.
The spirituality of a Course in Miracles is universal in nature, answering the deepest questions of human existence. In this introductory overview of the main ideas, we hope to experience its wisdom and love by reflecting on excerpts from the book, Gifts from a Course in Miracles. Each presentation is followed by a meditation and discussion.
Presenter: Mariella Marck, SFCC, MS Rel Ed, MA psych:
Cost: $35, plus book
Date/Time: Wed., April 13, 20, 27, 2005 (10:30 am - 12 noon)
Where is Bishop Pilla?
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!
Monday, March 14, 2005
WILL BISHOP SHEEN BRING US A MIRACLE ?
The Franciscan Friars are encouraging everyone to say the following prayer for Terri, requesting a miracle in the name of this Bishop whose television program had the title "Life Is Worth Living":
Eternal Father, You alone grant us every blessing in Heaven and on earth, through the redemptive mission of Your Divine Son, Jesus Christ, and by the working of the Holy Spirit. If it be according to Your Will, glorify Your servant, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, by granting the favor I now request through his powerful intercession. Lord, grant that Terri Shiavo’s life be spared and grant her a healing that the world may know the value of every life.
ECUMENISM ON THE MARCH
A new ecumenical organization will be launched in June here in the U.S. according to Catholic Citizens of Illinois. Called "pseudo-Masonic" in the headline,
Christian Churches Together in the United States of America (CCT-USA) will be launched June 1-3, 2005 at El Retiro, the Jesuit Retreat Center in Los Altos, California. ...
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently committed the Roman Catholic Church to membership, making CCT-USA the first national ecumenical organization in the US they have joined. In addition, full members now include the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Church of God, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), the United Methodist Church, several Orthodox bodies, the Salvation Army, the United Church of Christ, Open Bible Churches, International Pentecostal Holiness Church, Evangelicals for Social Action, World Vision, and a number of others.
One day all of the ecumenical organizations may decide to fuse. When that day comes, the church of anti-Christ will have a head start on becoming the world church.
Thanks to a reader for sending in the story.
LENTEN OBSERVANCE OF THE ORTHODOX
Today is the beginning of Lent for Orthodox Christians. I've asked an Orthodox friend to describe his Lenten observance for all of you. This is what he wrote:
Today is the first day of Lent for us. We still follow the Julian Calendar for determining when Pascha (Easter) is. Also, we never celebrate Pascha until after the Jewish Passover, like the first Pascha. Our Easter this year is May 1, though sometimes it coincides with Western Easter. The evening before the first day of Great Fast (Lent) we celebrate Forgiveness Vespers, in which half-way through the lights are dimmed and the clergy's vestments are changed from gold to purple, as is the altar cloth and any other cloths in the church, all while the canter chants from the psalms "Turn not away thy face from they child, for I am afflicted. Hear me speedily, draw near to my soul, and deliver me." At the end of the vespers, the priest prostrates before the congregation and asks their forgiveness for any sins and failings against them. The congregation responds "God forgives". After this, each person goes to the priest and prostrates and asks his forgiveness, and then goes (usually in a line) and asks forgiveness of each person in the congregation--that way Lent begins having been forgiven by God and by every one else around you. It is also tradition that during the first week one asks forgiveness of anyone that might not have been there.
This begins Clean Week, in which fasting is especially severe. During this first week, meals are only eaten on Wednesday evening, Friday evening, and on Saturday and Sunday for lunch and dinner. At these meals, and for the rest of Lent, no animal products (meat, dairy, eggs, fish, etc. with the exception of shellfish) are eaten, and no alcohol or oil except on the weekends. The rule regarding number of meals is often mitigated for those of us in the world, but in most cases no food or drink is taken on Clean Monday.
Finally, it is common to greet fellow Orthodox throughout the Fast with the greeting "A blessed struggle to you!" or simply "Blessed struggle".
Obviously the Orthodox take fasting seriously, and obviously we Roman Catholics get off easy. Maybe too easy? Our Lenten fast used to be a lot stricter prior to Vatican II. We used to be allowed meat only once a day, and no between meal snacks. Only one of those meals could be what is still called a "full meal."
The similarity between what my friend describes and what I have read about the fast of Ramadan is noteworthy. Fasting is still a part of Catholic belief and practice--a neglected part in most Catholic circles today. Is it a Jewish practice as well?
For the practice to be so widespread, it must be spiritually beneficial. What, then, are we missing by neglecting it? Personally, when my turn comes to stand before the judgment seat, I'm going to be earnestly hoping that the person who went before me was a Roman Catholic, because I have no hope at all of measuring up to Orthodox ascetical practice.
EMISSARY OF LOVE: THE PSYCHIC CHILDREN SPEAK TO THE WORLD
by James F. Twyman with a Foreword by Neale Donald Walsch.
That was yesterday's reading material.
Actually it's a good story if "good" means a story that moves along at a comfortable pace and keeps your interest at a high level to the end of the tale.
In this book Twyman discovers the ability to bend spoons with his mind and read other people's thoughts when his vision of a child named Marco touches his finger and gives him "the Gift." It comes with baggage in the form of headaches that he wants to find a cure for, and so he makes yet another trip to Bulgaria in search of his visionsary child. Once there he must find the Orthodox monastery where the psychic children live while simultaneously avoiding the pursuit of the sinister character who wants Twyman to help him find them. Naturally Twyman is successful in both endeavors.
One gets the impression that Twyman would prefer that the reader believe the story is real. He tilts his hand, however, by having his Orthodox monk talk about "Mass" instead of "Divine Liturgy."
I was not moved by his "dream" of a priestless mass in which Twyman consecrates while wearing his altar boy attire. Twyman is an advocate of a priestless faith, and so he places this "mass" in a context where it gets approval in the story.
There was no vision of Maria on this trip into Bulgaria. Our Lady of the Universe was apparently a passing fancy easily replaced by the psychic child Marco. I guess this new apparition was developed in anticipation of the release of the movie "Indigo."
In any case, Neale Donald Walsch sums up the story in his foreword:
And now comes, from this special person [Twyman], a special story. It is a story right out of James Twyman's personal experience. Or is it? Has he made it all up? Is it a figment of his imagination? Has he stretched the truth here and there? Or is it his exact experience down to the last dotted i?
Like the age of a fascinating woman, that is a question one never asks a Master Storyteller. ...
No, no, the question is not, Could this really have happened? The question is, What can I learn from this?
Actually I did learn something...James Twyman, Irish by birth, has mastered that art said to come from kissing a certain stone; and he is making a living from it. He can actually be entertaining so long as he isn't taken seriously.
EMAIL FROM LEE PENN
First, this. from the Telegraph in the UK:
Telegraph News Scientists to make 'Stuart Little' mouse with the brain of a human
"It will look like any ordinary mouse, but for America's scientists a tiny animal threatens to ignite a profound ethical dilemma.
In one of the most controversial scientific projects ever conceived, a group of university researchers in California's Silicon Valley is preparing to create a mouse whose brain will be composed entirely of human cells.
Researchers at Stanford University have already succeeded in breeding mice with brains that are one per cent human cells.
In the next stage they plan to use stem cells from aborted foetuses to create an animal whose brain cells are 100 per cent human.
Prof Irving Weissman, who heads the university's Institute of Cancer/Stem Cell Biology, believes that the mice could produce a breakthrough in understanding how stem cells might lead to a cure for diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease."
But don't worry; if the mad scientists find that the mouse is "too human," they will kill it:
"At hearings in Washington last October, Prof Weissman argued strongly against a ban on "chimera mice". He believes that the mice would behave like any others, but said that he would monitor the experiment closely and destroy them at the slightest suggestion of human-like brain patterns."
There is a lot more. Go read it all.
and there is this, just in today:
Humanoids With Attitude (washingtonpost.com)
"Ms. Saya, a perky receptionist in a smart canary-yellow suit, beamed a smile from behind the "May I Help You?" sign on her desk, offering greetings and answering questions posed by visitors at a local university. But when she failed to welcome a workman who had just walked by, a professor stormed up to Saya and dished out a harsh reprimand.
"You're so stupid!" said the professor, Hiroshi Kobayashi, towering over her desk.
Eh?" she responded, her face wrinkling into a scowl. "I tell you, I am not stupid!"
Truth is, Saya isn't even human. But in a country where robots are changing the way people live, work, play and even love, that doesn't stop Saya the cyber-receptionist from defending herself from men who are out of line. With voice recognition technology allowing 700 verbal responses and an almost infinite number of facial expressions from joy to despair, surprise to rage, Saya may not be biological -- but she is nobody's fool.
"I almost feel like she's a real person," said Kobayashi, an associate professor at the Tokyo University of Science and Saya's inventor. Having worked at the university for almost two years now, she's an old hand at her job. "She has a temper . . . and she sometimes makes mistakes, especially when she has low energy," the professor said.
Saya's wrath is the latest sign of the rise of the robot. Analysts say Japan is leading the world in rolling out a new generation of consumer robots. Some scientists are calling the wave a technological force poised to change human lifestyles more radically than the advent of the computer or the cell phone."
"But the robotic rush in Japan is also being driven by unique societal needs. Confronting a major depopulation problem due to a record low birthrate and its status as the nation with the longest lifespan on Earth, Japanese are fretting about who will staff the factory floors of the world's second-largest economy in the years ahead. Toyota, Japan's biggest automaker, has come up with one answer in moving to create a line of worker robots with human-like hands able to perform multiple sophisticated tasks."
and a reminder of the impact of religion on science:
"In Western countries, humanoid robots are still not very accepted, but they are in Japan," said Norihiro Hagita, director of the ATR Intelligent Robotics and Communication Laboratories in Keihanna Science City near Kyoto. "One reason is religion. In Japanese [Shinto] religion, we believe that all things have gods within them. But in Western countries, most people believe in only one God. For us, however, a robot can have an energy all its own."
and this pathetic end to the story:
"A case in point is the Paro -- a robotic baby harp seal, developed with $10 million in government grants, that went on sale commercially this month for $3,500 each. All 200 units sold out in less than 50 hours.
The seal is meant to provide therapy for the elderly who are filling Japanese nursing homes at an alarming rate while often falling prey to depression and loneliness.
With 30 sensors, the seal begins over time to recognize its master's voice and hand gestures. It coos and flaps its furry white down in delight at gentle nuzzles, but squeals in anger when handled roughly.
Researchers have been testing the robot's effect on the elderly at a nursing home in Tsukuba, about 40 miles northeast of Tokyo. During a recent visit by a reporter, the sad eyes of elderly residents lit up as the two resident robot seals were brought out. Tests have shown that the cute newcomers indeed reduce stress and depression among the elderly. Just ask Sumi Kasuya, 89, who cradled a seal robot while singing it a lullaby on a recent afternoon.
"I have no grandchildren and my family does not come to see me very often," said Kasuya, clutching fast to the baby seal robot wiggling in her arms. "So I have her," she said, pointing to the seal. "She is so cute, and is always happy to see me."
My reply to these stories is this:
-- Fundamental distinctions are being lost here: between man and beast, and between man and machine.
-- We've sunk to the point that we'll create "human" mice to cure our diseases, and kill the mice if their human brain cells make them too ... human. And we'll give the neglected elderly fancy toys, rather than human companionship and the knowledge and love of God.
-- These are not Islamic fanatics, nor ghetto gangsters, nor gay bathhouse denizens nor androgynous cartoon characters nor liberal activists who are advancing these anti-human technologies. They are the "best and the brightest" that the developed nations have ... the scientific and technical elites.
I end with this quote from CS Lewis:
"Although the 'right to happiness' is chiefly claimed for the sexual impulse, it seems to me impossible that the matter should stay there. The fatal principle, once allowed in that department, must sooner or later seep through our whole lives. We thus advance toward a state of society in which not only each man but each impulse in each man claims carte blanche. And then, though our technological skill may help us survive a little longer, our civilization will have died at heart and will -- one dare not even add 'unfortunately' - be swept away." (CS Lewis, "We Have No 'Right to Happiness'," in God in the Dock, p. 322.)
I think I understand what Lee is saying, but I'm not convinced this is a new phenomena and also perhaps my perspective is different.
We have been interacting with a sort of artificial intelligence for quite a while already. I remember vaguely when my parents got their first television in the early 50s. My grandmother was living with us and was in her 80s. She did not understand that the announcer giving the news was not physically present. When he posed a question, she answered him. When she didn't like what he said, she argued with him. My parents were amused but didn't correct her.
One of the reasons older people lose touch with others has to do with a natural deterioration in the ability to think and reason that many people experience with increasing age. Alzheimers is the ultimate expression of it, of course, but to a lesser degree many older people experience it. They simply don't fully understand what the younger person's world is really like, and so it becomes more difficult to communicate.
My own mother died of Alzheimers. Her last few years were spent in a nursing home not far from my house, so I was able to visit. One year on her birthday, my daughter and I took a McDonalds lunch, a birthday cake, and presents to the nursing home to be with her during her main meal of the day--her good time. It wasn't clear whether she cared one way or the other about the fact that we were there or what we had brought. That was until she opened her birthday present--a Furby. The Furby she understood. The Furby said funny things that made her laugh. It acted silly. Sometimes it didn't respond until we gave it a smack.
We must have played with that Furby for an hour. Suddenly the birthday celebration was a success thanks to artificial intelligence. It was not the only one that she was attached to. There was Big Bird. There was another small bird that talked. There was a vulture that said a few phrases when she squeezed it. The vulture was attached to her bulletin board so that she could squeeze it every time she left or entered her room. There was the talking pumpkin, the talking turkey and the talking rabbit. The staff at the nursing home had something to talk with her about when they came into her room. Something on her level that she could understand and relate to. Something that didn't confuse her.
If she were alive still, I would have been in line for one of those seals, knowing that it would have been the light of her life. As the Furby was. To see her able to relate to something--to see her eyes light up in recognition--would have been worth $3,500.
There are moments in my life when the last thing I want to see is another human being. Give me the neighbor's cat, or let me watch the squirrels run around the backyard for a while. These creature are predictable. We can easily figure out what is motivating them. They are not complicated. They never lie. They don't make demands. They don't bring us nasty surprises we must struggle to deal with. There is a place for the beast in our life. God put the beasts here for a reason. Maybe He is putting the artificial intelligence here for a reason as well. As we advance in intelligence and technology, there are those we will inevitably leave behind. If a by-product of advances can brighten up their life, who are we with more sophisticated thought patterns to say they should be denied?
During my visits to the nursing home I saw a lot of older people with dolls and stuffed animals in their rooms. Some of them carried their dolls around. The innocence that gives life to these inanimate objects comes to us twice. When we are children, it is considered charming to love them. Perhaps we must also find the compassion to see the charm in our older relatives and friends finding similar comfort in them as well.