Believers Jesus Movement Believers Sharing Their Faith Blessings from Jesus <![CDATA[ Recommended for all - religious or non-religious]]> For hundreds of years, mankind has used religion as a source of division and a justification for war (our God is better than your God). This book looks at the very deep similarities between the world's major religions.

Each of the thirty-three major points are illustrated with quotes from each religion's holy books. Along with the Talmud, Bible and Qu'ran, there are also quotes from the Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita (Hinduism), the Dhammapada (Buddhism), the Tao Te Ching (Taoism) and the Doctrine of the Mean (Confucianism).

Here are some of the areas in which the world's religions are similar. Life, with God, is Good, God gave us free will, so we are responsible for all we create. We are a part of God. There is One, All-Knowing, All-Powerful God, who created all good things. Maintain inner peace. Give praise and gratitude to God for all the blessings of life. God is Everywhere and Eternal. Live with moderation and balance in this world. Your body is God's temple, so keep it in good condition.

Always live by the Golden Rule. Help others and be charitable. Do no harm. Be patient. Respect others and don't judge them, unless their choices will harm the innocent. Be honest and merciful toward others. Acquire wisdom and knowledge to help you accomplish your goals. Use effort, persistence and discipline to help achieve your goals.

Step away from the religious radicals and hotheads, on all sides, and the world's religions are not so different, are they? This book can be opened to any page, and it will show that the different conceptions of God around the world are very similar. It is recommended for everyone, religious or non-religious.]]> Sat, 30 Nov 2013 17:46:27 +0000
<![CDATA[ Yes, it's really worth reading]]>
Set in present-day Southern California, the narrator, who calls himself "E," had a difficult home life. The youngest of eight children, there was lots of love in the house. There was also lots of alcohol, bikers and all-night parties. Mom did the best she could while battling cancer. Dad committed suicide before E was born. While growing up, E got inklings that there is something more to life, something that he calls "spiritual cashflow."

He barely graduated high school, and had zero interest in college. Mom moved to the desert for her health, and E was left on his own. Moving from one freind's couch to another, E got the entrepreneurial spirit. While living with Julian, in a used car lot run by Julian's father, the two would go club-hopping every night. They would "borrow" one of Dad's used cars, usually a Porsche, and go to clubs looking for women who were only interested in sex. The pair were young and handsome, so it was easy. Moving to a local motel, lots of wild sex would ensue. Afterwards, while the women were asleep, E and Julian would steal their wallets and leave. It became very lucrative, but, spiritually, E knew that something was wrong. One night, it all changed.

During another night of club hopping, E met an Asian woman who, spiritually, hit him like a ton of bricks. She reached the "good" part of him, hidden under all that fear and attitude. E was forced to do some heavy thinking. He began to realize that his life of sex and theft was not working any longer. He became interested in religion, and read the Bible cover to cover. He was upset by the dichotomy between the universal love message of Jesus, and the present-day assertion that the only way to be with God when you die is to believe in the Christian conception of God. Naturally, old habits die hard. Does E continue on his new path, or does he go back to being a misogynist thief?

This is a very inspirational book, but it is also not for the faint of heart. There is a lot of drugs, sex and swearing. Get past that, and this shows how anyone can change for the better. Yes, it's really worth reading.]]> Fri, 11 Jan 2013 23:45:13 +0000
<![CDATA[ What It Is Like Growing Up Italian In America]]> Joanna Clapps Herman tells it like it was for so many Italians growing up in America in the twentieth century.  Every story becomes more telling than the next—what a grounding read. Here, Herman feeds and waters memories now that those who made those memories are nearly all gone and all the important old ones are gone. For me, that means two aunts by marriage and one 90-year old half-blood cousin are all who are left of my parents brothers and sisters.

Of course, a great deal of the charm of Herman’s stories is that they are true originals that are fantastically entertaining.

For me, this book hooked me from the start and reading it to completion became a priority I read every spare minute until I finished. And when I finished it, I wanted more stories.

]]> Fri, 13 Jan 2012 20:30:50 +0000
<![CDATA[ Fascinating and eye-opening]]>
When the first Harry Potter book was released, does anyone remember the uproar from the religious community? The lawsuits and book burnings came about because the book supposedly promoted witchcraft. By the time the last book was released, the attitude was very different because of the Christ-like images and things that happened to Harry. Many people considered Harry as a Christ-like figure (which J.K. Rowling freely acknowledges).

The assertion that Jesus, as a historical figure, never existed is hardly new; the claim has been made all through out history. A central question to ask is: Which Jesus are we seeking? Are we looking for someone who was born of a virgin, died, rose again and ascended to Heaven? Are we looking for a rebel leader during a time of occupation?

From time to time, an archaeological discovery is made which references a person or place mentioned in the Bible. That would seem to increase the possibility that the Bible is true, since there is now independent evidence that the person or place referenced really existed. Right? Using that line of reasoning, books like The DaVinci Code or the Harry Potter books are just as real as the Bible, because they also mention places that really exist. Another assertion is that Jesus invented ethics and morality; before Him, there was nothing. Really? The various civilizations that existed before Christianity, ranging from Sumeria to Egypt to China, might have something to say about that.

The life of Jesus has supposedly been thoroughly discussed and analyzed in the writings of other historians, including Pliny, Tacitus, and especially Flavius Josephus. The problem is that the total analysis of Jesus amounts to just a couple of paragraphs per author. There has been much controversy over the centuries as to whether or not those paragraphs are real or fakes. The similarities between the life of Jesus and those of people like Dionysus, Asclepius, Mithras and Pythagoras (who was known for a lot more than just his mathematical Theorem) are more than just coincidence.

Large parts of the Bible were taken, or otherwise re-interpreted, from ancient pagan myths and stories. The Great Flood, for instance, came from the Epic of Gilgamesh. The idea of a flood that covered the whole world will mean a lot more to a people who live between two great rivers, like the Tigris and Euphrates, than to residents of an arid place like Palestine.

Why did all the ancient religions, including Christianity, seem to use the same images and shapes? Observations of the constellations in the sky led people to construct myths about them, which truned into stories and eventually became religion.

 This is a very fascinating and eye-opening book. It is full of footnotes, so this is more than just some anti-Catholic rant. Those who treat the Bible as a group of stories and parables about the right way to live should not have their faith damaged by this book. It is very much worth the reader's time. ]]> Sat, 24 Sep 2011 00:51:46 +0000
<![CDATA[ Interesting Bible background information & nice footage of Israel]]> Birth & Ministry is the first DVD of the "On the Road With Jesus" series. If you've never had a chance to travel around Israel and you can rent or borrow this DVD, then I'd highly recommend you do. It had some nice footage from a variety of places in Israel. Seeing this will help "bring the Bible alive," and the information discussed will help you better understand the gospels.

The host, Ben Witherington III, mainly focused on "Bible background" historical information relating to Jesus' birth and baptism, the Sea of Galilee, the wedding at Cana, and Nazereth. It was good, interesting information. Some of the information is fairly well-known, but some was less so. It was a nice balance. The host gave some of the same information as in the book by the same title, but there was a lot of different information on the DVD as well.

I was impressed with the smooth camerawork. The camera would slowly pan over what the host was talking about or pointing out so you could see the whole thing. It had a sort of "show and tell" format.

Session 1 - 11 minutes 2 seconds long - Talked about Jesus birth. We saw views of a farm field in Nazareth, Herodium from afar, the Judean wilderness, the Church of the Nativity, a shepherds field and sheep pen near Bethlehem, and a first century house.

Session 2 - 16 minutes 9 seconds long - Talked about John the Baptizer and Jesus' baptism. Views of the Dead Sea Scrolls cave, the Qumran community (ruins), the Jordan River, the Judean Wilderness, the Mount of Temptation and the Monastery of St. George.

Session 3 - 13 minutes 29 second long - Talked about Jesus calling his disciples, the Sea of Galilee, and some events in Jesus' ministry that took place around the Sea of Galilee. Views of the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum (statue of Peter, the ruins of Peter's mother-in-law's house, and a synagogue), and water jars that were used for purification.

Session 4 - 10 minutes 34 seconds long - Talked about Sepphoris, synagogues, and Jesus' visit to Nazereth after his ministry started. Views of Sepphoris' synagogue, a first century synagogue in Nazereth, and the Mt. of Beattitudes.

I received this DVD as a review copy from the publisher.]]> Wed, 13 Jul 2011 17:22:36 +0000
<![CDATA[ Journey with C.G. Jung for Nearly 20 of His Early Years Introspectively Searching His Psyche]]>

Liber Novus (New Book) (The Red Book) C.G. Jung, introduced by Sonu Shamdasani

 Liber Novus, written before 1930 and never published until 2009 spans several years and provides an understanding of the foundational beginnings of the personality analysis and other scholarly work, especially the individuation process. If that were all that would be plenty. But Jung also speaks out loud of his own personal psychoanalysis process, his own hard-scrabble individuation process and shares wonderful paintings of his fantasies.

 Take a walk inside the inquiring mind of Carl Jung. For me the same INTJ Myers-Briggs type as Jung and Jungian scholar, this proved so enlightening, took me inside my own mind in an eerily correct mirror. So many people, known concepts and familiar understanding for me, like a walk on a pre-prepared path. Delicious, like St. Paul’s Philemon somehow connected to Elijah from Jesus’ transfiguration.

 Throughout Liber Novus you will see the emergence of Jung’s beginnings of his psychological types and archetypes. Jung came from a Christian family, father a pastor. So do you have to understand the Bible to read the book? It helps. For example, in one Jung fantasy, he has Salome blind and with Elijah, when in reality Salome, who danced for Herod and requested the head of John the Baptist be brought to her on a plate when Herod told her she could ask for anything, because he enjoyed her dancing so, was actually the daughter of Herodotus.  In Jung’s fantasy, a cross had Elijah at the top representing rational thinking and Salome at the bottom representing feeling. The left cross beam represented Superior the irrational interior and the right cross beam represented the Serpent thinking sensation (inferior).

 Still, the dictionary, and I used it many times, especially words no longer in common usage, can enable you to read the book without worry, if you are willing to go the extra step of looking things up.

Imagine traveling with Jung as he actively tries to reconnect with his soul and gain wisdom stored in the unconscious.

 Jung speaks of Logos, the spiritual principal and an old man who represents understanding, insight, foresight, legislation and wisdom and Eros as a maiden, the unspiritual principal of feeling.

 Within this purposely unscholarly volume, you will find dialogs about Jung’s inner state/s. St. Ignatius of Loyola’s fifth spiritual exercise instructs one to see with the eyes of the imagination the length, depth and breadth of hell. Instructions: empty the consciousness, go under it. Beneath the threshold of consciousness, everything is animated in what Jung eventually named the collective unconscious.

Want to do your own paintings?

 Get into this huge Red Book bound in red leather, hence the nickname that stuck, and first look at the interior disclosure paintings. These alone, especially for this artist, occupied hours. Jung, although he never seemed to consider himself such, was a wonderful artist, abstract images, for the most part, with phenomenal detail, pure originality, drawing and color skills—delightful to experience!

 Let me call your attention to Jung’s artwork on pages 79, 88-89, 105, the mandala on page 107, pages 115, 119, the gemstone on page 121, the mandala of Christ on page 127, defiant snake on page 129, the mosaic head on page 133, the most amazing page 135…. Jung says next to the painting on page 154, The Bhagavad-Gita says: “whenever there is a decline of the laws and an increase of iniquity/then I put forth myself: for the resource of the powers and for the destruction of the evildoers/for the establishment of the law I am born in every age.”  I see Jesus preaching on page 155. What will you see?

 Jung’s painting shows highly developed technical skills and proficiency, painting in both oil and watercolor. These paintings represent Jung’s fantasies—the myth-creating function of the mind.

 Here is Jung’s way to move into active imagination, a far superior introspective tool than passive dreaming, a conscious way of entering the unconscious realms more purposefully, targeted and elucidating than dreams.

 1.   1. Empty the mind to produce a vacuum in the consciousness

2.   2. Concentrate on a particular mood

3.   3. Attempt to become as conscious as possible of all fantasies and associations that come up in connection with it

4.   4. Allow whatever fantasy free play without departing from the initial affect in a free association process

5.   Should lead to a concrete or symbolic expression of the targeted mood nearer to consciousness, making it more understandable

6.   Draw, paint or sculpt the fantasy

a)    Visuals will see the inner image

b)   Auditories will hear inner words

c)    Kinestetics can access through automatic writing or with a planchette (used with or without a Ouija board) to facilitate automatic writing

7.    Experience an inner dialog to widen consciousness

 Clearly, these images take place outside of the rational, conscious mind. Soul gives rise to images that were assumed to be worthless from the rational perspective and there are five ways of using them—

 1.   1. Make use of them artistically if that is your gift

2.   2. Make use of them in philosophical speculation

3.   3. Make use of them in a quasi-religious way (this could lead to heresy and the founding of sects)

4.   4. Empty the dynamics of these images and squander it in every form of licentiousness

5.   5. Make use of them psychologically that distinguishes itself from art, philosophy and religion

 Of course, writing this book over nearly two decades, Jung also worked. For example, in1913-14, Jung saw about 5-7 clients a day, five days a week.

 Certainly the connection and disconnection with Freud was mentioned. Freud’s analytic reductive method was based on causality and Jung felt showed only half of the picture. Jung used the constructive method of the Zurich school which showed the whole of it. Life is lived new so cannot be understood merely retrospectively. KEY: How out of this present psyche, a bridge can be built into its own future.

 Imagine, after the assassination on June 28th of Archduke Franz Ferdinand until the outbreak of war on August 1, 1914, Jung described having the feeling that he was an over-compensated psychosis—33 days!

 There are personal dream and what Jung called “big” dreams that relate to the world at large. Also private fantasies and public event fantasies, which Jung called “active imagination.” Psychotics experience these but are unable to integrate them and get swallowed up by them.

 Imagine also a being part God, part human, part animal land consider which one rules at any given time. (Appendix C of the Red Book) Below you serpent, within you man and above you God.

 Jung says of the afterlife—to him for whom solitude is Heaven, he goes to Heaven; to him for whom it is Hell, he goes to Hell. (Appendix C)

 Here, you get to look at the personal unconscious together with other conscious elements, the impersonal unconscious or collective psyche. So Jung presents people with three parts of knowing, the self, the conscious and personal unconscious acquired during a lifetime (the I) and the impersonal unconscious or the collective psyche inherited (the non-I). This can explain twins separated at birth meeting decades later wearing similar clothes and liking similar foods, things and preferences. We stand between two worlds-external perception (rational) and perception of the unconscious (irrational). Symbolic art can contain the rational and irrational.

 One more part of our personal self is the persona or the person we create and choose to present to others, our mask or chosen role on the stage or our life that somehow arises out of the collective psyche.

 Individuation is achieved through synthesis of the individual with the collective psyche to reveal the individual lifeline.

 Jung called the anima (how the subject is seen by the collective unconscious) a counterpart to the persona. Anima-male’s female soul. Animus-female’s masculine soul.

 Jung’s fantasies he claimed came out of his inherited collective psyche. I-center of the field of consciousness a complex among other complexes, different from the self. Self-subject of a person’s totality and includes the unconscious psyche, so the I is included in the self. Jung equated Hindu Brahman/Atman with the Self.

 One goal is to come to an acceptance of the irrational.

]]> Thu, 7 Apr 2011 20:50:23 +0000
<![CDATA[ She's One of 80 Roman Catholic Woman Priests/Bishops in the USA]]>
Bridget Mary Meehan, Roman Catholic Woman Bishop, writes a page-turner biography of how this Celtic lass has lived her life for the glory of God through taking risks and embarking on a most unusual journey. Meehan's story opens one's eyes and ears to a new glory of God openness that both men and women are drawn to in the hundreds around America, where there are dozens of House Churches where Mass is celebrated in all its glory.  Her dad plays the music when she presides.

Meehan speaks of her childhood in Ireland, her parents and sibblings, her life as a Roman Catholic nun and her burning desire to serve God as a priest.

Do understand the Roman Catholic woman priest and now bishop has been excommunicated officially from the Roman Catholic Church. While the Vatican may have taken Bishop Meehan out of its ranks, no authority has the power to take bishop Meehan's Roman Catholic faith out of her heart and soul.

I am personally grateful for my journey with Meehan. I learned that up to 600, there were woman priests, deacons legitimately in the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, Irish St. Brigit was ordained a Roman Catholic Bishop by St. Patrick's nephew around the mid-400s and she built a monastery in Kildare in 480 AD.

Meehan shares the journey of a woman who in peace and love went where she wanted to go and did what she wanted to do. She tells a straight story of her challenges without a bitter soundbite in the whole book. She is clear. She works for God.

You don't have to be any special religion to enjoy the empowerment of a women who took the risks, faced the battles, and rode the victorious horse more than most.

While I have no desire to become an excommunicated priest, through my new book From Jesus to Heaven with Love: A Parable Pilgrimage, I have begun to go to the homes of believers where participants can learn as I have through study to make the Holy Bible as familiar in usage as the common dictionary to discover meaning.

PS  It was exciting to learn how she met  Roman Catholic priest, John Weyand, a mutual friend, early in her journey, one of the first to believe in her mission here.]]> Sun, 20 Mar 2011 23:35:57 +0000
<![CDATA[ Be a Fly on the Wall While Pearl London Interviews Contemporary Poets in Her Classes]]>
You are there while contemporary poets get examined, dissected, valued and exposed before Pearl London's class. Yes, the students get to participate. Like me, London seeks the heart of the poet, probes to discover how the poet's poem reflects the poet's central concerns. Yes, each poet's discussion revolves around one poem. What is going on? Form or meaning? Rhythm or rhyme? Lyric or narrative? Protect or confession? Out of experience or not?

A couple of poets came from rich and famous families. For example, James Merrill's father co-founded Merrill Lynch.

You will get to hear what Philip Levine has to say about his poem You Can Have It. Good poem, speaks of life in verses. Will you understand its secret? If not, ask me at

W.H. Auden said, Poets who want to change the world tend to be unreadable. Do you agree with that?

Here's what Galway Kinnell said about nature poems, the real nature poem will not exclude Man and deal only with animals and plants and stones. It will be a poem...we re-feel ourselves, our own animal and plant and stone life. Our own deep connections with all other beings.

Muriel Rukeyser said, Poems flower from the bone. Ezra Pound said, The contemporary poet must write nearer to the bone. But Amy Clampitt, who was 63 when her first book The Kingfisher came out, said, I think poetry is in some way akin to music.

Then there's this whole conversation snaking through the book--

Lucille Clifton said, not about sentences, it's about lines. Charles Simic said, For me, the feel for the line is the most mysterious aspect of the entire process. It took me years to realize that the line is what matters, and not the sentence. He also said, A poem is a moment of lucidity. C.K. Williams said, The history of poetry is the tension between the line and the sentence, that's how it differs from conversation and speech; it organizes language artificially. He also said, ...a poem is a singing, it's an enactment of the human voice singing. By the time you get to Whitman, the subject of the work becomes enormous and that Whitman can sing it is what makes him a uniquely great poet. Poet Barbara Garro says, Lines are like stand-up comedy; on their own they better contain both the setup and the punch.

Frank Bidart said, The aim of art is to make life show itself.

For me, an exciting part of the book was first seeing the faces of the poets, as if I were sitting across from them while they spoke with teacher, Pearl London, of the New York School and her class about their poetry.  And, I learned how much alike London and I were in critiquing poetry and in our dramatic dress with large necklaces and a particular style of dressing we liked.

I felt this book so important, I gave it President's Day, yes a whole day, from morning to night, one of the best days I ever spent with a gifted teacher and dozens of really good poets.]]> Tue, 22 Feb 2011 22:09:02 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast By K. Feola]]>

Many of us are always looking for ways to lose weight and make ourselves more fit. There are many different diet books out there. I have always thought of a fast as starving yourself but that is not true. In the Daniel Fast, you will learn how to eat healthier and develop you relationship with God more fully.

My Thoughts-

The book was very informative and easy to read. The fast is a partial fast and is basically a Vegan diet. You are not allowed to eat dairy, sweeteners (any type), meat, processed foods, yeast, fried foods (etc). There is a complete list of foods that you can eat and not eat in the book. The first part of the book describes the Daniel Fast, its background and how we can use it today. The second part gives us some prayers and devotions that we can read to help us through the 21 days of fasting. The final part is a cookbook. She has many great looking recipes that look easy to make and a 21 day meal plan that you can follow. My family tried the marinated zucchini on page 150 that was very tasty. I found the devotions uplifting and inspiring. I recommend this book to everyone who wants to live a healthy life.]]> Fri, 18 Feb 2011 15:45:25 +0000
<![CDATA[ Read What Pilot, Joseph, the Two Shepherds, the Roman Guards Said About Jesus]]> Imagine reading the letter of Melker who was a priest at Bethlehem at the time Jesus was born in respect to the prophecy concerning the birth of Jesus.

Imagine reading the report of Gamaliel who was the Sanhendrim sent to interrogate Joseph and Mary concerning the child Jesus, in 27 AD. Find out what Joseph said about Jesus. Find out what Joseph, Mary and Jesus really looked like. Yes, Jesus was really light haired and blue-eyed, for example.

Imagine coming to truly believe that the writings in the Bibles come directly from the Four Evangelists. Matthew was with Jesus from the beginning, present at Jesus’ crucifixion, ate and drank with Jesus after He rose from the dead and spent his life propagating Jesus’ religion. John, disciple of John, wrote from what he heard from the Apostle who saw the transfiguration, learned and shared a most intimate friendship with Jesus and to whom Jesus asked to take care of His mother, Mary, from the cross. Luke and Mark, companions of the Apostles, who heard them tell over and over the story of the teachings and miracles of Jesus.

Why is this Important? Over thousands of years, many have tried hard to erase Jesus from the lives of contemporary people. First, the Jews, who were the scribes at the time of Jesus, in their hate of Him, refused to say anything much about Him in the histories of the times they scribed. Not acknowledging this fact, many said, history does not support the story of Jesus, the Christ. So, people like Constanin Tischendorf who discovered The Codex Siniaticus, W.D. Mahan who wrote this book, and Barbara Garro who wrote From Jesus to Heaven with Love: A Parable Pilgrimage and is working on a new book on prayer and meditation, refused to believe that there were no secular historical records of Jesus. The Acts of Pilot is one of those secular recordings, because Pilot wrote the account for Caesar. Tischendorf and Mahan traveled extensively to locate the original manuscripts and Tischendorf actually saved The Codex Siniaticus from being used for fire fuel.

Why else is this Important? Much that has been written about Jesus did not make into the Canon of the New Testament of the Bible. Literally, there are more books that exist that did not make it than there are books that did. This Acts of Pilot is one of those book rejected for the Canon of the Bible.

Here is this book's history--The origin of this volume is in the Vatican in Rome itself. These are the records of Pilate made to Caesar. The Acts of Pilate and Ancient Records Recorded by Contemporaries of Jesus Christ Regarding the Facts Concerning His Birth, Death, Resurrection, originally titled The Archko Volume 1887 or The Archeological Writings of the Sanhedrim and Talmuds of the Jews, Translated by Drs. McIntosh and Twyman, Compiled and Edited by Rev. W.D. Mahan, 1997, Impact Christian Books, Inc., Kirkwood, MO

First published in 1887, this little gem of a book has remained a hidden treasure. Like the publisher and the author, I attempt to serve the Lord as an evangelist and devoted ten years to researching “lost topics” recorded in secular history, which were confirmations of Christianity’s history. When I read the Foreword by Joan Gieson, I knew my finding this volume was also a gift to me from God as an answer to decades of prayers to understand my faith. Urantius was the first gift.

Any believer will be enriched by these first person accounts. I highly recommend The Acts of Pilot.

]]> Wed, 16 Feb 2011 23:01:42 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Catholic Church ventures into the 21st century.]]> In his World Communications Day address in January 2010 Pope Benedict XVI encouraged Roman Catholics to "make good use of their presence in the digital world."  In direct reponse to our Holy Father's invitation a tiny South Bend, IN based company called Little iApps, in partnership with two Catholic priests, has created an innovative new program for Apple's iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch they have dubbed "Confession:  A Roman Catholic App". I heard about this exciting new app for the first time just a few days ago on a local radio talk show.  After hearing positive feedback from a number of callers to the show I wanted to learn more.  What I have discovered in just the past couple of days gives me great hope that this application may be just what is needed to return the Sacrament of Reconcilation to the prominence it once held within the Catholic Church

Fifty or one hundred years ago going to confession was an integral part of the life of every good Catholic.  Most practicing Catholics availed themselves of the Sacrament several times each year.  But amid the turmoil following the Second Vatican Council which took place in the mid 1960s it seems that less and less emphasis was being placed on going to confession.  Many good Catholics, myself included, fell away from the practice.  And I can attest from personal experience that the longer you are away from the Sacrament the more difficult it is to return.  That is why a tool like "Confession:  A Roman Catholic App" can be so important. The application is a very user friendly, step-by-step guide to the sacrament.  One of the key components of making a good confession is a careful examination of conscience. At the beginning of the process the user is asked to create a profile listing such personal attributes as age, marital status and gender. Next comes a careful and thorough examination of conscience which is comprised of a series of questions based on the person's age and state of life.  Thus the questions asked would be quite different for a young mother and a 60 year old man.  Finally,  there are 7 different Acts of Contrition listed.  I suppose that the idea is to choose the one that is most apropos to your own situation.  Now according to the developers of the program who were recently interviewed by Diane Freeby of Catholic News Service "The app is really for two kinds of people.  For Catholics who go to confession regularly it gives the user information. After entering their vital information including age, sex,  vocation and last confession date it generates an examination of conscience based on that information".  But perhaps more significantly, this new app is assisting another group of people.  "It's also for people who have been away from the church and want the opportunity to go to confession.  You go to the examination of conscience and it literally walks you through, step by step, your confession as you are in the confessional. Individuals who have been away for the sacrament for some time will find "Confession:  A Roman Catholic App" to be a useful and inviting tool."   I can certainly appreciate how such a program can be a huge help to those who have literally forgotten how to make a good confession.

In his 2003 book "Lord, Have Mercy:  The Healing Power of Confession" the noted Catholic author and theologian Scott Hahn makes a compelling case for every Catholic to make confession an important  of his/ her spiritual life.  I could not agree more.  I truly believe that "Confession:  A Roman Catholic App" can be a tool that can help make that happen for a great many Catholics in this country and around the world.  But apparently there are some misconceptions about this program that need to be cleared up.  The Catholic League wants to make it abundantly clear that "This application was never designed as a substitute for Confession:  on the contrary, it makes it clear that only absolution by a priest in the confessional constitutes the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Even though most Internet stories mention this, many of the headlines are misleading."   I will close with an observation by the Rev. Edward Beck, ABC News religion correspondent who recalls "Some of my most poignant and transformative moments as a priest have occured in a confessional, on both sides of the screen.  I'm all for whatever makes it easier for others to take that cleansing plunge."  I completely concur. The average Catholic must come to a more mature understanding of this sacrament and needs to make frequent confession an important part of his/her spiritual life. Otherwise, we are sure to fall into the trap of blaming everyone else--our victims, our parents, our boss or perhaps even the government--for our own shortcomings and failures. "Confession:  A Roman Catholic App" should help to make the experience much more meaningful for all of us.

]]> Sun, 13 Feb 2011 19:32:43 +0000
<![CDATA[ A very thoughtful book]]> Rabbi Spitz bases his conviction that life continues after death upon nine phenomena; (1) his belief that there is a soul; (2) mental telepathy; people sensing what they can't hear or see, such as a person sensing that a relative thousands of miles away suddenly became ill; (3) communications from dead relatives, as when a father appears in a son's dream and tells him that he just died; (4) biblical statements that other people see as metaphors, but which the rabbi takes literally, such as "he was gathered to his people," which he understands as a departure to "the world to come"; (5) reincarnation, as when a person said that he would like to return to earth as a butterfly, and a butterfly is seen flying around the rabbi's head at the man's funeral; (6) mediums delivering communications from the dead; (7) the ability of people under hypnosis to recall past lives that they say they lived; (8) the existence of many mystics who insisted that there is life after death and who say that they went through some of the above-mentioned experiences; and most of all (9) "near death experiences." The book is written well, is interesting, and worth reading, but not everyone will find it persuasive. The following are some thoughts on each of his proofs.

The belief in the existence of a soul is very widespread, but science has been unable to prove that a soul exists. Philosophers have questioned how it is possible for an inanimate soul to control a body when the two have no physical connection. While ancient post-biblical Greeks mention the soul, many, such as Aristotle (384-322 BCE) understood soul as a synonym for life forces. Thus Aristotle included the digestive and respiratory systems and intelligence in the term soul. He wrote that only the intellect exists after death, not the person's personality. Furthermore, the notion of the existence of a soul is not in the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew term used today for soul, nefesh, means "life" or "person" in the Torah, such as when it states "When a nefesh offers a sacrifice." Rabbi Spitz admits that "any attempt to define soul in clear, unequivocal terms results either in distortion of glibness,"

True, people claim that telepathy works. However, many scientists say that these are coincidences. Additionally, even if telepathy works, such as being able to identify what number is written on a covered card, this ability really has nothing to do with life after death.

Similarly, scientist call claims of having had communications with a dead person, such as in a dream, coincidences. We also know that dreams are prompted by thoughts during the day, and the dreamer may have been thinking during the day about the physical condition of the person who appeared in his or her dream.

Just as the Torah does not mention "soul," it does not speak of life after death. However, the rabbi reads it into metaphors such as "gathered to his people." He is most likely the first person who read these words in this literal manner. The words have always been understood as a poetic way of saying "he died." It is similar to the English phrase "he passed on."

There is no proof that resurrection occurs. The rabbi rejects the notion that the soul returns to the individual's dead body since the body has deteriorated. It seems equally illogical to imagine that the soul would enter another body. Even people who believe that it occurs say that it is a miracle and science has never proven that miracles occur.

Mediums are frequently frauds. The rabbi reads the biblical story of King Saul visiting a medium who brought up Samuel from the dead to allow Saul an opportunity to discuss his impending battle with the dead prophet. True, many fundamentalists accept the story as a true occurrence. But rationalists such as the great Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides (1138-1204) recognized that the tale is impossible and explained it as a dream by an agitated king.

Rabbi Spitz recognizes that the recollections of people under hypnosis of past lives are questionable. The recollections are usually the result of statements made by the hypnotist. Spitz underwent such an experience. Prior to being hypnotized, the hypnotist asked him what he thought about as a youngster and he mentioned Indians, and when he was hypnotized he saw himself as an Indian.

True, there are many statements by mystics, Jewish and non-Jewish, claiming that there is life after death and speaking about reincarnation and similar notions. These include statements by famous Jewish sages that they received instructions from angels and that they were resurrected from earlier Jewish heroes. However, these are the same people who claim that God was composed of ten parts, became separated, and needs human help to be put together again.

No doubt many people believe in near death experiences. However, this is a rather recent phenomenon and may be the result of the recent popularity of the subject and many people being led to expect it. Hardly any ancients spoke about it. The rabbi states that it seems to be true because all of the experiences are remarkably the same. Yet in another section of his book, he admits that there are sticking differences between the experiences of various people. For example, he tells the tale of a soldier who had a near death experience, but there was no white light and no dead relative greeting him, as others claimed. Instead, he was greeted by God who asked him if he wanted to return to life. When he answered "yes," he recovered. Similarly, many Christians said they saw Jesus, but no Jew made this claim. If Rabbi Spitz truly believes the near death stories are true, why doesn't he believe in Jesus who allegedly appeared to the Christians?

In summary, none of my comments should be read to suggest that there is no life after death, only that there is no proof that it exists. Whether readers accept Rabbi Spitz's view about life after death, reject it completely, or remain an agnostic regarding it, readers will enjoy the rabbi's analyses and the many stories that he tells to support his view, and will be stimulated by the discussions to think more deeply about this and related subjects.]]> Fri, 31 Dec 2010 16:20:24 +0000
<![CDATA[ What they said on their way out!]]>
Philipi Quinault said, "No one dying is presumed to lie!" Imagine the power of their last statements in light of this truth! "He who has only a moment to live has no longer anything to hide." And, of course, Shakespeare has a word on last words, "Last words are seldom spent in vain, because they breathe truth that breathe their words in pain," which he said in Richard II.

Thigpen tells why last words are powerful proclamations--

1.  Clarity of vision often comes by death at one's door
2.  the words of the dying carry compelling authority
3.  Last words gain value depending on the cost to those who speak them
4.  Final, irrevocable words spoken forever

Saint Chi Zhuze, Chinese, amidst the brutality of the cutting off of his arm, "Cut me in as many pieces as you wish and you will see that every piece is a Catholic!"

As he was dying, Mozart told his friends that he had written "Requiem" for himself.

Short thought after short thought of so many famous people. Some I found profound. Others had me laughing out loud, as in the ones who croaked with a last chuckle.

If you are not thoroughly entertained and enlightened by this book, you may just want to check your pulse!]]> Thu, 30 Dec 2010 01:52:09 +0000
<![CDATA[ This book contains a solution to a very divisive problem]]> The Relationship of Orthodox Jews with Believing Jews

Of Other Religious Ideologies and Non-Believing Jews

Edited by Adam Mintz

Yeshiva University Press, 2010, 401 pages

ISBN 978-1-60280-140-0


            What causes the lack of a positive relationship between Orthodox Jews and their non-Orthodox co-religionists and is there a solution to this problem? Thirteen writers, sponsored by Yeshiva University’s Orthodox Forum - rabbis, professors, heads of schools, a teacher with a Ph.D., and a lawyer - offer their opinions about the divisive gap between Orthodox and other Jews. The writers describe the problem, its history and the halakhah, and how the problem is manifested in the workplace, the Israeli army, schools, trans-denominational activities, communal agencies, and intermarriage between Orthodox and non-Orthodox partners.  


            The differences, disagreements, fears, and inability to interact and work together existed in America from the very beginning when “observant Jews” saw “non-observant” in this country. Their antagonism reflected European and Far Eastern attitudes. Associations were discouraged because of the fear that allowing meetings with non-observant might result in observant Jews dropping their observances, question their beliefs, and intermarry. This fear was so strong that some rabbis expressed their feelings with vitriolic language, using Hebrew words that describe non-observant Jews as apostates, epicureans, and blasphemers.


            This anxiety, one of the contributors writes, was one of the factors that prompted many rabbis of the nineteenth century to speak against Zionism, because it brought diverse elements of Jewry together. Yet, the contributor says, it was Zionism that lay the foundation for the reestablishment of the State of Israel.


            Judaism uses labels today. But Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch complained in his essay “Religion Allied with Progress,” that the term “Orthodox” was created by the Reform movement to differentiate itself from those it called Orthodox. This is unfortunate. It increases the problem. We need to stop using words that separate one Jew from another. Rabbi Yona Reiss, Dean of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, focuses on the Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 55a, in this book. The Talmud states that righteous people were punished with sinners. Reiss explains that they, even though otherwise righteous, “were punished because of their provincialism – their attitude that the other Jews who were not observant were not even within the realm of the universe.”


It is significant, another writer points out, that many Orthodox rabbis today encourage Sabbath violators to come to Synagogue Sabbath services and turn a blind eye to the fact that they are riding to the services. The rabbis also encourage their congregants to invite non-observant Jews for Shabbat meals. They recognize that even though many Jews violate Shabbat, they observe some Jewish practices, such as lighting Shabbat candles, Chanukah, Yom Kippur, and support Israel. Admittedly, the purpose of these invitations is to draw non-observant Jews to Orthodoxy. But if contact for such purposes is allowed, why not allow other meetings and cooperations as well?


Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Hesder Petach Tikva, offers a halakhic solution. He notes that the halakhah, Jewish law, in recent generations have found ways that allow participation with non-observant Jews. The halakhah sees non-Orthodox as unintentional sinners, or insufficiently educated people, or simply mistaken. Thus there is no reason for shunning them. Additionally, as a practical matter, we know that there are different levels of Judaism, even among Orthodox. So why separate from Jews who do not call themselves Orthodox?


            Cherlow suggests using the model of a mixed marriage, one partner is observant and the other secular. There is no halakhic ruling requiring the observant partner to obtain a divorce. He suggests that a rabbi can see that his responsibility must be to preserve the family unit and save the “woman from loneliness and distress and therefore go the extra mile in order to find a halakhic way to assist such a union.” He continues: “In the past, the answer to this question was simple: The Jew’s first and foremost obligation is the fulfillment of the commands of God.” But, he writes, there is a “more lenient position which is prevalent today.” It is “more complex but is possible. It is grounded in awarding paramount importance to the sanctity of the Jewish family. The solution is based upon the well-known Midrash: ‘The Torah says that in order to bring reconciliation between husband and wife, My holy name may be erased’ (Shabbat 116a).”


            Rabbi Cherlow suggests that, as in marriages, rabbis must be careful not to cause a rift between Orthodox and non-Orthodox because such a perilous rift would endanger the existence of the Jewish people, destroy Jewish unity, and would teach lack of respect to our children. He quotes the Midrash Bereishit Rabbah 38,6: “Rabbi said: ‘How great is peace, for even if Israel practice idolatry but manage to maintain peace among themselves, the Holy One, blessed be he, says, so to speak, ‘I have no dominion over them since peace is with them.’”


            In summary, the thirteen contributors to this volume recognized that there is a problem: many Orthodox Jews are isolating themselves from Jews who are not Orthodox. Reform Jews invented the term “Orthodox” to distinguish their view from those they considered unenlightened. Yet, the writers recognize that today Orthodox Jews are shunning other Jews. They identify that the problem is based on concerns that associations with non-Orthodox may lead to an adulteration of Orthodoxy. Halakhic decisions seem to support segregation. However, some rabbis have shown that the situation is changing and it is time to change it even more. Non-Orthodox are encouraged to attend synagogues for Shabbat services and Orthodox homes for Shabbat meals. Since rabbis encourage these associations, these rabbis ask, why not take the next step and encourage other affiliations? The solution can be based on halakhah, on seeing the relationship of Orthodox and non-Orthodox as a marriage between an observant and a secular Jew. Very few, if any, rabbis today would rule that the parties must divorce. Furthermore, the Midrash requires Jews to seek unity and peace among all Jews, and that this should be pursued even if one party worships idols.


Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of sixteen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, the latest being Maimonides: Reason Above All, published by Gefen Publishing House, The Orthodox Union (OU) publishes Wagner and Drazin’s latest book Let’s Study Onkelos on


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