Thursday, February 29, 2024

Black History Month

Black History Month and Why It Is Important

Black History Month is a time to celebrate and honor the achievements, and contributions, and recollect the struggles of Black people throughout history. It is also a time to reflect on the ongoing fight for racial justice and equality and to learn from the past to shape a better future. In this blog post, I will explain what Black History Month is, how it started, why it is important, and how you can participate in it.

What is Black History Month?

Black History Month is an annual observance that takes place in February in the United States and Canada, and in October in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Germany. It is dedicated to recognizing and appreciating the rich and diverse history of people of African descent, who have often been marginalized, oppressed, and erased from mainstream narratives. Black History Month aims to highlight the achievements and contributions of Black people in various fields, such as arts, science, politics, sports, literature, music, and more. It also seeks to educate people about the history of slavery, colonialism, racism, civil rights movements, and other aspects of the Black experience that have shaped the world we live in today.

How did Black History Month start?

Black History Month has its roots in the work of Carter G. Woodson, an African American historian who founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) in 1915. Woodson wanted to promote the study and appreciation of Black history, which he felt was neglected and distorted by mainstream education and media. In 1926, he launched Negro History Week, which was set in February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two prominent figures who fought against slavery. Woodson hoped that by celebrating Black history for one week every year, it would eventually become an integral part of American history.

Negro History Week gradually gained popularity and support from various organizations, schools, churches, and communities across the country. In 1976, as part of the bicentennial celebration of the United States, it was expanded to a month-long observance and renamed as Black History Month. Since then, every U.S. president has issued a proclamation to recognize February as Black History Month. Other countries have also adopted the idea of celebrating Black history in different months. For example, in the UK, Black History Month was first observed in 1987 as part of the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the British Empire.

Why is Black History Month important?

Black History Month is important because it provides an opportunity to celebrate, honor, and learn from the lives and stories of Black people who have made significant contributions to society and culture. It also helps to challenge stereotypes, myths, and prejudices that have been used to justify discrimination and oppression against Black people. By acknowledging and respecting the diversity and complexity of Black history, we can gain a better understanding of ourselves and others, and foster a more inclusive and equitable society.

Black History Month is also important because it reminds us that Black history is not only about the past but also about the present and the future. It encourages us to recognize the ongoing challenges and struggles that Black people face today, such as systemic racism, police brutality, mass incarceration, health disparities, economic inequality, and environmental injustice. It also inspires us to support the movements and organizations that are working to create positive change and advance social justice for Black people and other marginalized groups.

How can you participate in Black History Month?

There are many ways that you can participate in Black History Month, whether you are Black or not. Here are some suggestions:

- Read books by Black authors or about Black history and culture. You can find many recommendations online or at your local library or bookstore.

- Watch movies or documentaries that feature Black stories or perspectives. You can also check out online platforms that showcase Black films or filmmakers.

- Listen to music by Black artists or genres that originated from Black culture. You can also explore podcasts or radio shows that focus on Black issues or voices.

- Visit museums or exhibitions that display Black art or artifacts. You can also attend online events or webinars that offer virtual tours or lectures on Black history or culture.

- Support Black-owned businesses or organizations that serve or advocate for Black communities. You can also donate money or time to causes that align with your values or interests. Some examples of Black-owned businesses are: World Wide Technology (a global tech consulting firm), Salamander Resort & Spa (a luxury hotel owned by Sheila C. Johnson), ActOne Group (a workforce management company), Beauty Bakerie (a vegan cosmetics brand), Brown Capital Management (an investment firm), The Lip Bar (a cruelty-free makeup line), Blavity (a media platform for millennials of color), Mented Cosmetics (a nude lipstick brand), McBride Sisters Collection (a wine company), Partake Foods (an allergy-friendly snack brand) and many more.

- Learn more about your own ancestry or heritage. You can use online tools or services that help you trace your family tree or DNA origins.

- Engage in conversations or discussions with your friends, family or colleagues about Black history or current events. You can also join online forums or groups that facilitate dialogue or debate on these topics.

- Educate yourself or others about the issues that affect Black people today. You can use online resources or courses that provide information or analysis on these topics. Some of the issues that you can learn more about are systemic racism, which is the structural and institutional discrimination and oppression of people of color based on their race; police brutality, which is the excessive and often lethal use of force by law enforcement officers against civilians, especially people of color; and racial justice, which is the fair and equal treatment of all people regardless of their race, and the elimination of racial disparities and discrimination in all aspects of society.

- Take action or get involved in campaigns or movements that promote racial justice and equality. You can sign petitions, contact your representatives, attend protests or rallies, or volunteer for organizations that work on these issues. Some of the organizations that you can support are: Black Lives Matter, which is a global movement that campaigns against violence and systemic racism towards Black people; NAACP, which is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization that advocates for political, educational, social and economic equality for people of color; ACLU, which is a nonpartisan organization that defends and preserves the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States; The Bail Project, which is a national nonprofit organization that provides free bail assistance to low-income individuals who are legally presumed innocent, and who are disproportionately impacted by the bail system; and YMCA, which is a community-based organization that provides programs and services that promote youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.

Black Saints: A History of Faith and Resistance

The history of black saints is a history of faith and resistance. Black saints are those who, despite facing racism, slavery, oppression, and persecution, lived out their Christian vocation with courage, love, and holiness. They are models of discipleship for all Catholics, especially those who share their African heritage and culture.

Some of the earliest black saints were from Africa, where Christianity spread since the first century. St. Simon of Cyrene, who helped Jesus carry the cross, was from present-day Libya. Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, who were martyred for their faith in 203 AD, were from Carthage, Tunisia. St. Augustine, one of the greatest theologians and doctors of the Church, was born in Thagaste, Algeria. His mother, St. Monica, was also a saint and a model of prayer and patience.

In later centuries, black saints emerged from other regions of the world, such as Europe and South America. St. Benedict of Palermo, who was born to African slaves in Sicily, became a Franciscan friar and a miracle worker. St. Martin de Porres, who was of mixed race and faced discrimination in Peru, became a Dominican brother and a healer of the sick and the poor. St. Josephine Bakhita, who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Sudan, became a Canossian sister and an advocate for human dignity.

In the United States, there are currently six African American Catholics who have open causes for sainthood. They are:

- Venerable Pierre Toussaint (1766-1853), was born a slave in Haiti and became a philanthropist and a leader in the black community in New York City.

- Servant of God Mother Mary Lange (1794-1882), was born in Cuba and founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first American order for women of color.

- Venerable Henriette DeLille (1813-1862), founded the Sisters of the Holy Family, an order of black women who served the elderly, the sick, and the orphaned in Louisiana.

- Venerable Augustus Tolton (1854-1897), was born a slave in Missouri and became the first African American priest in the United States.

- Servant of God Julia Greeley (d. 1918), who was born a slave in Missouri and became a lay Franciscan and a servant of the poor in Denver.

- Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman (1937-1990), was born in Mississippi and became a Franciscan sister and a teacher, preacher, singer, and activist for racial justice.

These six men and women are examples of how black Catholics have contributed to the Church and society with their faith, service, and resistance. They inspire us to follow Christ in our own time and place, especially when we face challenges or hardships.

Black saints are not only part of our past, but also part of our present and future. They are intercessors for us in heaven and companions for us on earth. They remind us that we are all called to be saints, no matter our race or background. They show us that holiness is possible for everyone.

Black History Month is a time to celebrate and honor the achievements, contributions, and struggles of Black people throughout history. It is also a time to reflect on the ongoing fight for racial justice and equality and to learn from the past to shape a better future. 

I hope this blog post has given you some insight into what Black History Month is, how it started, why it is important, and how you can participate in it. Thank you for reading and happy Black History Month!


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References and links:

- https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2024/02/black-history-month-what-is-it-and-why-do-we-need-it/

- https://www.bbc.com/news/explainers-54522248

- https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2022/01/31/a-proclamation-on-national-black-history-month-2022/

- https://www.harpersbazaar.com/uk/culture/culture-news/a34222207/what-is-black-history-month/

- https://www.today.com/life/holidays/when-is-black-history-month-rcna68458

[1] https://aleteia.org/2020/02/01/6-saints-for-black-history-month/

[2] https://www.catholicmom.com/articles/saints-for-black-history-month

[3] https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/253759/meet-the-6-american-black-catholics-who-are-on-the-road-to-sainthood

[4] https://www.ncregister.com/features/african-black-catholic-and-canonized

[5] https://bci.archchicago.org/resources/black-catholic-saints

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

'Through my fault..My Most Grievous Fault' -Breast Striking

Let's explore the striking of the breast during the penitential rite of the Mass and the significance behind it. We will also focus on how it can help during Lent. 

The Striking of the Breast: A Liturgical Act

The practice of striking one's breast during specific moments in the Mass is a liturgical act prescribed in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It occurs at several points both as required by the rubric and in other places as local custom:

1. During the Confiteor: When we say, "Through my fault," we strike our breast three times.

The name "Confiteor" comes from the Latin word meaning "I confess." This prayer is an essential preparation for our participation in the Mass. While Catholics have the Sacrament of Reconciliation for mortal sins and venial sins, the Confiteor allows us to express contrition for our venial sins before receiving the Eucharist. 

Striking of the Breast: When reciting the Confiteor, we say, "Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault." At each mention of "through my fault," we strike our breast with our right hand each time we say fault (3). This gesture signifies sincere sorrow and admission of sinfulness.

2. At the Nobis Quoque Peccatoribus: Again, we strike our breast once.

This action though required by priests and concelebrants when using the Roman Canon is sometimes done by other lay people out of local custom.

3. At the Agnus Dei: We repeat this action three times.

Again, this may be done under local custom.

4. At the Domine, Non-Sum Dignus: Once more, we strike our breasts three times.

Also done by local custom or by religious orders such as the Franciscans or Carmelites. 

The celebrant (usually a priest) performs this action with a bowed head, moderately and without noise. The rubrics are silent on whether to use curved or fully extended fingers, but after the consecration, only the last three fingers should touch the breast (since the thumb and index finger must not come in contact with the chasuble).

These externals help us to pray physically. The Catholic liturgy is unique in that manner. We pray using not only our minds, and hearts, via words, semantically, with our lips, and voices, but also our bodies.  It conveys that our entire being is worshiping God and acting in totality to please God and ask for forgiveness.  

Jesus said to love God with our entire being (Matthew 22:37, Luke 10:27, Mark 12:28–31), so the Mass literally brings us all to do this.  Moreover, in the Bible numbers have meanings. This is called the Gematria.  The number 3 represents fullness, harmony, or completion.  We ask God for complete forgiveness and ask to be in harmony with the Blessed Trinity. 

We strike our breasts three times during the Confiteor not only because the word "fault" is said three times, but also in reparation for Simon Peter's denial of Christ (Luke 22:55–62; Matthew 26:69–75; Mark 14:66–72). God is Three Divine Persons in One God, so when we sin we offend all Three Persons. In light of this, we strike our breast three times to make reparation for the sins against the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as well.  

Biblical Roots and Symbolism

1. Biblical Repetition: The Catholic Mass is thoroughly biblical. In Hebrew, there is no way to express superlatives or emphasis by adding endings to words (such as "big, bigger, biggest"). Instead, repetition conveys emphasis. For example:

   - Isaiah's vision of angels crying out "Holy, Holy, Holy!" (which we repeat at every Mass).

   - Peter's threefold denial of Jesus.

   - Jesus asking Peter "do you love me?" three times (John 21).

Striking one's breast has biblical roots. In Jeremiah 31:19 (Old Testament), we find, "I turn in repentance; I have come to myself, I strike my breast; I blush with shame, I bear the disgrace of my youth." In Luke 18:13 (New Testament), Jesus tells the parable of the tax collector who stood afar off, beat his breast, and prayed for God's mercy. So we see the biblical roots and significance of striking one's breast out of repentance. 

2. Emphasizing Our Faults: By returning to a threefold admission of our fault ("through my fault"), we emphasize that sin is not casual or inconsequential. It is grievous because God has given us everything, even sacrificing His only Son for us. Our love for God should be wholehearted.

3. Contrition and Change: When we fail to love God fully—whether through neglecting our duty or hurting others—we need contrition. Contrition leads not to despair but to change.


Early Christian Practice

The early Christians were familiar with striking their breasts during specific moments:

- When sensual sins were mentioned.

- At "Forgive us our trespasses" in the Pater Noster.

- In detestation of the crime of the Jews (in Jesus' time) when they said to Christ, "Thou hast a devil."

St. Augustine explained that striking our breasts reveals what is concealed in our hearts and helps cleanse hidden sins. St. Jerome also affirmed this practice as a way to purify our hearts. Augustine writes:

What is repentance, after all, but being angry with oneself? What’s the idea of beating your breast if you aren’t just pretending? Why beat it if you aren’t angry with it? So when you beat your breast you are being angry with your heart in order to make amends to your Lord. This is also how we can understand the text “Be angry and do not sin.” Be angry because you have sinned, and by punishing yourself to stop sinning. Give your heart a shaking by repentance, and this will be a sacrifice to God.

– St Augustine, 5th century: SERMON 19,2

St. Augustine noted that when we hear the word "Confiteor," we strike our breast to bring hidden sins to light and purify our hearts. We show that we are blaming ourselves for the sins against God and our neighbor. It points with our hands or fists to where they originate, the inner being, the heart.  It is "our fault," no one else's.  We sinned, no one else sinned for us or on our behalf.  We take full responsibility (remember: 3 means completion in the Bible gematria) for our sins so we strike 3 times. 

So when you strike your breast during Mass, remember that it symbolizes repentance and emphasizes that sin is serious—a matter deserving of contrition and change. This practice is a sign of penance and humility—a way to prepare our hearts before receiving Christ in the Eucharist.

Remember this during Lent and all throughout the year. These actions at Mass are not vain empty actions the Church added to embellish the Liturgy. No! They are physical actions that convey a deeper meaning a deeper action in regards to repenting, accepting responsibility for our sins, and asking God to forgive us and Our Lady, the saints, angels, and everyone else to pray for us to the Lord our God. These actions can help us immensely during this Lent and throughout the year as we focus on Jesus and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. 


What do you think? Post your comments below on Disqus.  Be sure to follow the rules so your comment can be allowed to be posted.  



Sources:

- [Catholic Answers Encyclopedia]

St. Augustine of Hippo, SERMON 19,2

Roman Missal -GIRM

https://www.ncregister.com/blog/catholic-calisthenics

https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02751a.htm

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=472126300770743

https://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2015/12/beat-your-own-breast.html

https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/breastbeating-during-the-confiteor-4607

https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/breastbeating-4796

https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=516

https://www.catholic.org/featured/headline.php?ID=1497

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/column/51771/my-most-grievous-fault

https://williedoyle.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/rubrics-of-the-mass.pdf

https://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/the-mass/general-instruction-of-the-roman-missal/girm-chapter-4


Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The Pandemic Lockdown and Lent

We all remember the pandemic lockdown on March 11, 2020. It was a surreal time. Never in my lifetime would I have thought to experience such a thing. The errieness of it all. The feel of a "The Walking Dead," "Fear The Walking Dead," or "Day/Dawn of the Dead" zombie apocalypse vibe was in the air.  Seeing the empty streets, and riding empty buses and subway cars was just mindboggling. The skies turning from an off-blue color to a vibrant sky blue with clean air in the Bronx was something unexpected.  

Just the silence in the Bronx, in NYC the "city that never sleeps" is a reflection in itself.  Again, never in my life have I ever experienced this. This change in ambiance scared many people. It literally felt like the end of times or a zombie apocalypse.  However, it also was a spiritual one as well. It aided me a lot in my spiritual and human growth despite Catholic Churches shutting down and all religions shutting down.  Watching Pope Francis' prayer at the Vatican all by himself with the miraculous cross and Our Lord in the Eucharist made many of us think deeply about our faith and why we only truly have God.     

The pandemic lockdown and Lent have created a unique intersection of circumstances, fostering both spiritual growth and challenges. The isolation, fasting, silence, and slowness of days during this time have led many to reflect on their faith and engage in practices that nourish their souls.

Lent, traditionally observed by Christians between Ash Wednesday and Easter, is often associated with repentance, fasting, and abstaining from certain pleasures. However, it's essential to recognize that Lent isn't solely about giving things up; it's also about taking things on. During this 40-day period, congregants reengage with their faith, returning to abandoned spiritual practices or cultivating new ones.

The 2020 pandemic lockdown and Lent have intersected in a unique way, creating an opportunity for spiritual growth. As we navigated Lent during the pandemic lockdown, we found ourselves in a season of prayer, sacrifice, and reflection. The isolation, fasting, and silence that characterize Lent have taken on new dimensions due to the pandemic's impact on our lives. We were all literally forced to be alone like Jesus in the desert. We were forced to set aside our tastes in food by not being able to dine out at restaurants or having limited access to supermarkets.  It was social Lent, if you will.  

In many ways, this Lent felt like Jesus' third fall on the road to Calvary. The weight of the pandemic has been heavy, and we've faced tremendous losses over the past two years. Yet, amidst this struggle, there is hope. COVID-19 cases are dropping in the U.S., and there's a sense of optimism as we approach Easter.

Mary DeTurris Poust, former communications director for the Diocese of Albany, New York, describes this moment as a "perfect storm." Lower coronavirus numbers coincide with Lent's arrival, providing an opportunity for a spiritual reset. It's a chance to recalculate our internal GPS—to reflect on where we're going individually and as communities of faith. For many Catholics, Lent's rituals—the "bells and smells"—are familiar and comforting. This season invites us to pull people back into the fold in meaningful ways.

Jen Sawyer, editor-in-chief of Busted Halo, observes that this is a Lent we're uniquely prepared for. We've sacrificed so much during these past two years, experiencing our own desert journey. Now, with exhaustion setting in, Lent offers new opportunities for peace, community, and faith. It's a time to find solace amidst uncertainty.

Paulist Father Larry Rice, campus chaplain for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, sees Lent as an antidote to the long-term trauma we've collectively endured. As Christians, we believe that our destination isn't Good Friday; it's Easter. This year's Lent carries additional hope—the possibility that by Easter, the pandemic will look different. Still, Father Rice reminds us that there are no guarantees; new coronavirus variants could emerge.

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the need for spiritual connection. As churches closed their doors and physical gatherings became impossible, people turned to alternative ways to maintain their faith. Here are some ways in which Lent has intersected with the pandemic:

1. Creative Adaptations: Churches worldwide have adapted creatively to minister to their congregations. Drive-through adoration, confession, live-streamed liturgies, and on-demand services have become common. These adaptations allow people to participate while maintaining social distancing.

2. Community Connection: Despite physical isolation, churches have found ways to foster community. Phone trees help check on vulnerable members of the parish, while initiatives like ringing church bells daily serve as reminders that people are not alone.

3. Spiritual Practices: Clergy emphasize two essential spiritual practices during confinement:

   - Spiritual Communion: A simple prayer expressing a deep desire to be in communion with Christ.

   - Perfect Act of Contrition: An examination of conscience, a desire for forgiveness, and an intention to confess when safe.

4. Lenten Challenges: Initiatives like the United Methodist Church’s Lent Photo-a-Day challenge encourage participants to post daily images illustrating themes related to Lent. These glimpses into each other’s lives offer respite from isolation and reinforce a sense of community.

5. Growth in Solitude: For some, the lockdown has transformed isolation into an opportunity for communal solitude. This solitude can be a seedbed for growth in holiness, communion, resistance, and renewal.

6. Reconnecting with Spirituality: Research shows that during crisis periods like the pandemic, people find solace by connecting or reconnecting with their spiritual beliefs and religious practices.

In summary, while the pandemic lockdown has brought challenges, it has also provided an opportunity for deeper spiritual reflection and growth during Lent. Whether through creative adaptations or personal practices, individuals continue to seek connection with God even amidst physical separation. Lent during the pandemic invites us to recalibrate our spiritual compasses—to find healing amidst loss and hope amidst uncertainty. The slowness of these days allows us to explore our faith more intentionally and discover deeper connections with God and one another. 

The lockdown helped to remind us of what we are told on Ash Wednesday. We are dust and to dust we shall return.  In response, we must repent and believe in the Gospel!  So many people died left and right. It felt never-ending. The lockdown reminded us of this and ironically during Lent of 2020.  We are finite creatures. We need to rely on God solely.  We are not in control of nature and its viruses, God is.  The pandemic lockdown and its silence helped us remember that we must stay still, calm down, and pray. 

While some claim they suffered psychologically from isolation, this is only because they lacked religion in their lives. They are mundane people who look to the mundane and not above.  Isolation when done correcting in terms of spirituality is extremely helpful just like in the case of fasting and abstinence.  Anything can cause harm if done incorrectly or if forced upon. That is a given, however, when done for God and correctly it can help the spiritual life immensely.

I may be in the minority to state that we should have "lockdowns" every year or a couple times a year for a good reason: human and spiritual growth.  Many workplaces and schools are allowing mental health days where students or employees take a day or two off to cool down and relax from the stresses of the job and school work.  It has been helpful to many.  Perhaps as a society, we need a lockdown here and there to stop, slow down, and mediate; to remind ourselves that we live for God and ourselves, not the social constructs of school, work, and social gatherings. 

In 2020, many Catholics were saying that "lent was lenting on," and they were correct!  That season of Lent was possibly the second most holy and spiritually nourishing Lent I have ever experienced.     

Let us embrace this unique season with open hearts and minds as we journey toward Easter.


References:

  1. American Psychological Association (APA):

  2. Statistics Canada:

  3. Wikipedia:

  4. Frontiers in Psychology:

  5. Spirituality for the Contemporary World:


Monday, February 26, 2024

Illegal immigrant Kills Georgia Nursing Student

Tragedy Strikes: Nursing Student Found Dead on UGA Campus

Introduction

In a heartbreaking turn of events, 22-year-old nursing student Laken Hope Riley was found dead near a lake on the University of Georgia (UGA) campus in Athens. The discovery has left the community in shock and mourning, as authorities investigate the circumstances surrounding her untimely demise.

The Discovery

On February 22, 2024, Riley's friend reported her missing after she failed to return from a morning run around the Intramural Fields on what is typically known as "East Campus." The UGA Police Department immediately launched a search operation. Tragically, Riley was found unconscious with visible injuries in a forested area near Lake Herrick. The evidence at the scene indicated foul play, prompting further investigation by law enforcement.

Cause of Death

The official police reports have now revealed that Laken Hope Riley died from "blunt force trauma." The details surrounding this tragedy remain under scrutiny as authorities work diligently to piece together what happened. Her cause and manner of death are still pending further examination.

Laken's Journey

Laken Hope Riley was an active and well-liked member of her community. She transferred to Augusta University's College of Nursing from UGA after the spring 2023 semester. Despite her busy schedule as a nursing student, she remained active in her sorority (Alpha Chi Omega at UGA) and participated in community activities. Riley had even made the dean's list at Augusta University College of Nursing last fall.

Her social media posts reflected her vibrant life—a smiling photo with friends just days before her death, and her participation in the Athens, Georgia Half-Marathon last October. She was pictured with her mother, Allyson Brown Phillips, who expressed excitement about having her daughter home for the weekend.

Community Response

The tragedy has deeply affected both students and parents within the UGA community. Veronica Bennett, a concerned mother, emphasized that relying solely on safety apps is insufficient for campus security. She called for additional security improvements beyond existing measures to prevent such heartbreaking incidents in the future.

Conclusion

An arrest was made in the case of Laken Riley's murder.  A 26-year-old, Jose Antonio Ibarras, a resident of Athens Georgia was arrested. He was charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, hindering a 911 call, and concealing the death of  Riley. 

Ibarras is an illegal immigrant who crossed the border illegally in September of last year from El Paso.  He was arrested numerous times around the United States, particularly in New York though the NYPD denies this. His brother was arrested as well for Green Card fraud.  Jose's wife spoke about their relationship stating they got married to fool the American system into giving them asylum status.  This story is one of many regarding the criminal activities of illegal migrants entering our nation.  Something has to be done to vet these people. America failed Laken Hope Riley. Democrats failed her and led to her death with their lax justice systems. 

As we mourn Laken Hope Riley's passing, we must reflect on how to better protect our students and communities. Her memory will live on as we seek answers and strive for safer campuses across our educational institutions.


---


*Note: This blog post is based on official reports and information available at the time of writing.*


---


Sources:

1. [New York Post](https://nypost.com/2024/02/23/us-news/missing-nursing-student-found-dead-on-univ-of-georgia-campus-idd/)

https://www.newsnationnow.com/crime/uga-suspect-brother-fake-green-card/

https://nypost.com/2024/02/25/opinion/laken-riley-murder-suspect-jose-ibarra-was-free-because-the-system-is-broken/

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/jose-ibarra-suspect-murder-georgia-nursing-student-illegal-entry-venezuela/

https://www.foxnews.com/us/laken-riley-murder-suspect-jose-ibarra-lived-within-5-minute-walk-uga-crime-scene

https://www.the-sun.com/news/10487141/uga-suspect-jose-antonio-ibarras-arrest-laken-hope-riley/

https://www.onlineathens.com/story/news/local/2024/02/24/jose-antonio-ibarra-charged-with-laken-riley-murder-booked-into-jail/72725217007/

https://www.newsweek.com/jose-antonio-ibarras-wife-speaks-out-after-laken-rileys-death-1873146

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Reflection: 2nd Sunday of Lent 2024

The second Sunday of Lent readings cycle B invites us to reflect on the themes of faith, obedience, and sacrifice. In the first reading, we hear the story of Abraham, who was willing to offer his only son Isaac as a burnt offering to God. Abraham trusted God's promise that he would be the father of many nations, even when it seemed impossible. God rewarded Abraham's faith by sparing Isaac and renewing his covenant with him.

In the second reading, we hear from Paul, who reminds us that God did not spare his own Son, but handed him over for us all. Paul assures us that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. God's love is so great that he gave his only Son as a sacrifice for our sins so that we might have eternal life.

In the Gospel, we witness the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain. Jesus revealed his glory to Peter, James, and John, who saw him shining like the sun and talking with Moses and Elijah. A voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." The transfiguration was a glimpse of Jesus' resurrection and a confirmation of his identity as the Son of God.

These readings challenge us to ask ourselves: How strong is our faith in God? How obedient are we to his will? How willing are we to sacrifice for him? Lent is a time to deepen our relationship with God and to follow Jesus more closely. Let us pray for the grace to trust God's promises, to listen to his voice, and to offer our lives to him.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Appeals Court Knocks Down NY Non-Citizen Voting Rights

NYC’s Non-Citizen Voting Law Ruled Unconstitutional on Appeal

In a significant ruling, a state appeals court has declared that a New York City law allowing non-citizens to vote in local elections is unconstitutional. This decision marks a victory for Republican elected officials who had challenged the law in court.

The contested law, known as the "Our City, Our Vote" bill, was passed in 2022 with the aim of allowing green card holders and other individuals living in New York City with federal work authorization to participate in local elections for offices such as mayor and City Council. The law would have applied to approximately 800,000 new eligible voters in a city with a population of 8.5 million.

Championed by progressive Democrats, supporters argued that the bill would make politics more representative and create a more inclusive environment for immigrants. However, opponents—primarily Republicans—expressed concerns about potential logistical challenges leading to voter fraud. Some critics also suggested that Democrats were motivated by a desire to bolster their own numbers.

The lawsuit challenging the law was filed by several plaintiffs, including Council Republican leader Joe Borelli, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, and Borough President Vito Fossella. A Staten Island lower court judge initially struck down the law months after it was enacted in January 2022.

The recent appeals court ruling was based on two key points:

1. State Constitution: The court determined that the clause in the New York State Constitution stating that "every citizen shall be entitled to vote" refers exclusively to United States citizens. Therefore, non-citizens do not fall under this provision.

2. Municipal Home Rule Law: The court ruled that changes to elections must be passed by voter referendum rather than solely by a local legislature. Allowing non-citizens to vote would constitute a significant change, and the council and mayor failed to put this issue on the ballot for voters to decide.

Appellate Judge Paul Wooten wrote in the majority decision: "We determine that this local law was enacted in violation of the New York State Constitution and Municipal Home Rule Law, and thus, must be declared null and void."

While Mayor Eric Adams' administration had defended the law and appealed the lower court's ruling against it, this latest decision upholds Staten Island Supreme Court Justice Ralph Porzio's initial ruling from June 2022.

Judge Lilian Wan issued a dissenting opinion, arguing that invalidating the noncitizen voting law effectively prevents municipalities across the state from deciding who is entitled to participate in local elections. She emphasized that duly elected representatives had opted to enfranchise these residents.

In conclusion, this appeals court decision has settled an ongoing debate about non-citizen voting rights in New York City. While some may view it as disenfranchisement, others see it as upholding constitutional principles and maintaining clarity regarding eligibility for voting rights.

This decision was a no-brainer. How can non-citizens vote in a nation where they are not citizens?  This goes to show us that the council men and women voted into the City Council are not well educated folks. Any educated American or even a national from another nations knows that only citizens can vote in any particular nation, not just the United States of America. Think about it. What if I were to go to Canada, England, Spain or Japan and vote? I would steer those nations in a different manner. First, I would not know their laws. Second, I would not know their current events in the political field. Third, I would not know the details surrouding day to day living in those nations. This is because I am not a citizen! I am just visting! It would make absolutely no sense to have the power to vote in a nation that is not mine from conception and birth where I am not naturalized.  

Kudos to the Republicans for appealing this stupid law passed by the City Council. It makes no sense and was dead on arrival, so to speak. Perhaps the Democrat majority in the City Council wanted to skew the voting in their favor by getting more voters? 


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Sources:

1. [NYC’s non-citizen voting law ruled unconstitutional on appeal - POLITICO New York](https://www.politico.com/news/2024/02/21/nyc-non-citizen-voting-law-unconstitutional-00142525)

2. [NYC non-citizen voting law struck down as unconstitutional - New York Post](https://nypost.com/2024/02/21/us-news

Appeals court rules NYC law allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections violates state constitution  | The Hill

NYC non-citizen voting law struck down as unconstitutional (nypost.com)

NYC non-citizen voting law struck down | Fox News

NYC’s non-citizen voting law ruled unconstitutional on appeal - POLITICO

Friday, February 23, 2024

Illegal Migrants Attack Cops Again But at Randall's Island

In a chaotic scene that unfolded at the increasingly lawless Randall’s Island tent city, one person was arrested after a dramatic caught-on-video confrontation between NYPD officers and migrants. The incident occurred when an unnamed individual, who was not supposed to be at the facility, was asked to leave by officials. The exact reason for their presence or what led up to the scuffle remains unclear.

The situation escalated rapidly, with separate cameras capturing different angles of the violent clash. On the video, we can see a group of cops attempting to restrain and arrest a male individual as illegal migrants shout at cops and throw objects. They threw what looked like cooler bags, cups, and other dinnerware. Cots and other furniture were thrown about in the scuffle.  Security from the tent were heard shouting to surround the cops to shield them from the violent and angry mob of illegal migrants. 

This incident just came weeks after an incident in Timeswas Square where illegal migrants attacked two cops (see:Sacerdotus: Attack on NYPD Officers in Times Square: No Bail for Suspects Sparks Controversy).  In this situation,  police officers initially demanded that the group disperse on the night of January 27. However, one uniformed officer suddenly grabbed migrant Yohenry Brito as he pushed a baby stroller carrying his belongings. In an audio recording, Brito can be heard referring to the officers in Spanish, saying, “They look like Ugly Betty.” The officer then led Brito against a building wall as other migrants who had been walking away made a U-turn and appeared to inquire about Brito's actions.

As a second cop spoke to the rest of the group, Brito, 24, flailed in an attempt to evade the first officer. Chaos ensued as both cops struggled to detain Brito across a stretch of sidewalk near 42nd Street and 7th Avenue. Other migrants joined the scuffle, attempting to help Brito break free. Some took turns kicking at the officers while they wrestled on the ground with Brito. In one instance, a migrant wiped out when attempting a kick but missed everything and struck only air. Another migrant dressed in all white—identified as Yorman Reveron—pulled and pushed police off of Brito, who had lost his jacket and shirt during the struggle. Reveron then helped Brito to his feet, and they both fled from the scene.

The bodycam footage also revealed the immense struggle between Brito and the two officers as other migrants assaulted police. The incident has sparked outrage and calls for deploying the National Guard. At least 12 suspects were allegedly involved in this attack; six have been arrested, while five were released on bail, leaving some still at large.


This highly publicized case has drawn attention during an election year, with political debates surrounding law enforcement responses and migrant rights. As prosecutors announced seven indictments related to this incident, tensions remain high in New York City.  There is no word about any charges regarding the new incident at Randall's Island.  

In any event, American citizens need to wake up and stop voting in officials who are facilitating this invasion of illegal migrants.  The borders need to be closed and these individuals sent back to their countries of origin until a vetting process is set up that will allow legitimate asylum seekers to enter our nation and who are tracked so they will not try to remain here illegally. 


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*Sources:*

1. [New York Post](https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/dramatic-confrontation-between-migrants-nyc-cops-ends-with-one-booted-from-r

VIDEO: NYPD cops attacked making arrest at Randall's Island migrant shelter (nydailynews.com)VIDEO: NYPD cops attacked making arrest at Randall's Island migrant shelter (nydailynews.com)

NYPD pelted with backpacks, bottles making arrest at NYC migrant shelter | Fox News

NYPD cops attacked making arrest at Randall’s Island migrant shelter (yahoo.com)


Thursday, February 22, 2024

Trans Funeral Organizer: 'We Want An Apology from Catholic Church'

In an ironic turn of events, LGBT activists are demanding a public apology from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and the Catholic Church after the funeral of a male using the pseudonym "Cecilia Gentili," a transgender activist, and actor, was allegedly cut short by the Cathedral during the service. 

The organization Gays & Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society (GLITS) has called for an explanation from the Cathedral regarding what they describe as "painfully dismissive and exclusionary language" used in a statement after the incident. 

During the funeral, participants, many of them wearing extravagant drag, repeatedly interrupted the priest and broke into loud chants. One reveler even took to the podium to pray for "access" to "gender-affirming healthcare," a cause that the Catholic Church opposes. 

The founder of GLITS, a man who calls himself "Ceyenne Doroshow," organized the event and later admitted to deceiving the Cathedral by keeping details about Gentili "under wraps" before the gathering. In response, St. Patrick’s Cathedral expressed "outrage" at having been deceived and assured concerned Catholics that a Mass of reparation had been said at the Cathedral since the incident.

The Cathedral's actions have sparked controversy, with GLITS claiming that St. Patrick’s Cathedral was filled with over 1,400 mourners and community members for Cecilia Gentili's funeral. However, his service ended an hour earlier than scheduled, denying him the full funeral mass that had been agreed upon. GLITS also disputes the Cathedral's narrative that they were manipulated by funeral organizers regarding Gentili's identity, stating that they had advised Cathedral staff to look up Cecilia Gentili's work and community service.

Activist Ceyenne Doroshow gave a small press conference giving his narrative claiming that the Catholic Church knew Gentili was a transexual and about his life. Doroshow claimed the Archdiocese's statement was offensive, hateful, and contradicted Fiducia Supplicans stating Pope Francis okayed "Same-sex Marriage." This is of course not true. Doroshow continued claiming that it was none of the staff of St. Patrick's cathedral what was "in between Cecilia's legs" implying gender.  He claims the cathedral discriminated against the trans community after admitted he did deceive the cathedral about the deceased.  Moreover, he continued to tell a story about being raised Catholic and going to school only to be molested by another student and a security guard. 




The situation highlights tensions between LGBTQ activists and religious institutions, emphasizing the need for respectful dialogue and understanding across different perspectives.

Doroshow is right to a certain extent. The Archdiocese, particularly the staff at St. Patrick's Cathedral did botch things up.  Canon Law is clear:

§3. In the prudent judgment of the local ordinary, ecclesiastical funerals can be granted to baptized persons who are enrolled in a non-Catholic Church or ecclesial community unless their intention is evidently to the contrary and provided that their own minister is not available. 

Can. 1184 §1. Unless they gave some signs of repentance before death, the following must be deprived of ecclesiastical funerals: 1/ notorious apostates, heretics, and schismatics; 2/ those who chose the cremation of their bodies for reasons contrary to Christian faith; 3/ other manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful. §2. If any doubt occurs, the local ordinary is to be consulted, and his judgment must be followed. 

Can. 1185 Any funeral Mass must also be denied a person who is excluded from ecclesiastical funerals.

A baptism certificate should have been requested and produced. The situation should have been vetted. If Doroshow is being truthful that he told the staff that Gentili was an activist, then they should have done their research.  Moreover, once attendees entered the Cathedral, the staff should have known this event would be problematic.  They should have canceled right on the spot and not let it go on.  It seems the staff did not think and just took the donation.

However, Doroshow did admit to deceiving the staff so he has blame as well. He should have done his own research. If he claims Gentili battled the Catholic Church for decades then he should have known the Church's stance on homosexuality. He should have researched what Fiducia Supplicans is and what it really says. Doroshow is under the impression it is a license to bless so-called Same-Sex Unions.  As many Catholics showed concern about, the declaration would cause confusion and make people think that the Church changed its stance on marriage.  We are seeing the bad fruits of the wording and promotion of Fiducia Supplicans at play. 

Priests like James Martin of the Jesuit order are also not helping by playing word games and giving false hope to the LGBTQIA community thinking the Church is changing her teachings on homosexuality.  We can have bridges, but like with real ones, the linking destinations will always be the same.  The George Washington Bridge will always link the Bronx with New Jersey.  We can extend bridges to the LGBTQIA community, but our side will still have the same destination: Gospel Truth.  We cannot change this.  

It seems this drama or story is not over and will continue. As time moves on, it seems this funeral was a stunt and not a genuine goodbye to the trans community's "icon."  Time will tell.  I will update this post if new details come along.


What do you think? Post your comment below on Disqus.  Be sure to follow the rules so your comment can go through.  



Sources:



  

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Illegal Migrants to Received Pre-Paid Debit Cards

As American citizens in New York City struggle to pay the high rents, utilities, and inflation driven prices of food, gas and other necessities, illegal migrants will get free money. 

A family of four migrants with two children under age 17 could receive up to $15,200 a year under New York City's controversial new $53 million program that provides pre-paid credit cards to asylum seekers. The initiative, known as the Immediate Response Card, aims to assist migrants with food expenses while they await authorization to work from the federal government.

How It Works

- The pre-paid credit cards are not traditional credit cards; they are **pre-paid debit cards** specifically designated for purchasing food and baby supplies.

- Participants can use these cards at bodegas, grocery stores, supermarkets, and convenience stores.

- The program is designed to cut costs and replace the current food services offered in short-term hotel shelters.

- As part of a one-year pilot program, the city will initially roll out the pre-paid cards to 500 newly arrived families at the Roosevelt Hotel. If successful, it could expand to include a maximum of 6,500 families.


Amounts Received by Asylum Seeker Families

- A single migrant could receive $345 per month.

- A family of three could receive $932 per month.

- A family of four could net a $1,195 allowance per month for use at designated retailers.

- Monthly amounts increase for those with children: $100 per month for kids under 5 and $36 for children aged 5 to 17 years.

- Pregnant asylum seekers can also receive an additional $36 per month on their pre-paid cards.


Savings and Economic Stimulus

- New York City has allocated $53 million to this pilot program, which officials estimate will save $600,000 per month and $7.2 million annually.

- Beyond cost savings, officials hope that using these cards at local retailers will help stimulate the local economy.

In summary, while some social media posts have mischaracterized this program as providing credit cards to migrants, it is important to clarify that these are pre-paid debit cards specifically intended for essential goods like food and baby supplies. The goal is to support migrants while they await work authorization from the federal government.

While the need to care for strangers is biblical, we need to be smart about it. We have our own people who need help, particularly veterans who sacrificed their lives to serve our nation. Next we have the poor who are poor through no fault of their own and those bordering poverty who struggle to pay the exaggerated rents and bills in New York City. Let us not forget our schools which are often neglected. Students do not use textbooks anymore. They have outdated comptuers, I-Pads and tablets. The list goes on and on. We have our own problems and need to care for our own first before we can even attempt to help others. This is why the border needs to be closed and a vetting system installed so that those migrants can come legally and with genuine intentions to work in this nation and hopefully become a citizen. 

Giving out pre-paid debit or credit cards is unfair to taxpayers who did not ask for their money to be spent in this way. Moreover, it will give illegal immigrants an incentive to come here even more. If you can go into another nation, get bussed to a city and given free food and housing and now money, what do you think will happen next?  We will see an influx of illegal immigrants flocking for this dream turned reality.  The desire to work will vanish as it often happens with Americans on the Welfare, SNAP, face-to-face system. They become complacent despite the hardships these programs give when applying and maintaining a case.  

Again, elections have consequences. If New Yorkers continue to vote for politicians who endorse an open border and favoring illegal immigrantion over American citizens, then this will continue. We are already seeing the crime wave being perpetuated by a good number of these illegal migrants.  It is an invasion and our taxpayers are paying for it.  Let us help those who truly need it but do it wisely. 


What do you think? Post your comment below on Disqus.  Be sure to follow the rules so your comment can go through.  


---


Sources:

1. [NYC migrant families could make up to $15K per year under controversial $53M pre-paid credit card program](https://nypost.com/2024/02/20/us-news/nyc-migrant-families-could-make-up-to-15k-per-year-under-controversial-53m-pre-paid-credit-card-program/)

2. [Migrants in New York City will receive prepaid debit cards, not credit cards, for designated goods](https://apnews.com/article/fact-check-nyc-migrants-credit-debit-cards-prepaid-240335300869)

3. [NYC to offer migrants $53M in pre-paid credit cards, report says](https://thenationaldesk.com/news/americ 

NYC migrant families could make up to $15K per year under controversial $53M pre-paid credit card program (nypost.com)


Child Removed from Catholic Parents after 'Improper Pronoun Usage'

In a recent legal battle that has drawn national attention, a Catholic couple from Indiana is asking the Supreme Court to hold the state accountable for removing their child from their home. The heart of the dispute lies in the parents' refusal to use their child's chosen name and pronouns, which they believe are inconsistent with his biological sex.

## The Case: M.C. and J.C. v. Indiana Department of Child Services

Mary and Jeremy Cox, devout Catholics, found themselves at odds with Indiana officials when their son expressed a desire to identify as the opposite sex. In 2019, their son informed them that he identified as a girl. However, due to their religious beliefs that God created human beings with an immutable sex—male or female—, the Coxes could not bring themselves to refer to him using pronouns and a name inconsistent with his biology.

Investigated by Indiana Officials

In 2021, Indiana officials began investigating the Coxes after receiving reports that they were not using their child's preferred gender identity. Despite unsubstantiated claims of abuse, the state removed the teen from their custody and placed him in a "gender-affirming" home. The Coxes believed that their son was struggling with underlying mental health conditions, including an eating disorder, so they sought therapeutic care for both issues.

State Courts' Decision

State courts allowed Indiana to keep the child away from his parents' home because of their disagreement with his gender identity—a disagreement rooted in their religious beliefs. The court restricted visitation time between the Coxes and their child, barring them from discussing their religious views on human sexuality and gender identity.

The Legal Battle

Becket, a legal organization representing the Coxes, argues that no parent should endure what Mary and Jeremy have faced. Lori Windham, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, emphasizes that "keeping a child away from loving parents because of their religious beliefs—even when the state admits there was no abuse or neglect—is wrong and it’s against the law." Windham hopes that the Supreme Court will take up this case to protect other parents from similar situations.

Conclusion

The case of M.C. and J.C. v. Indiana is a case every parent has to keep an eye on.  It deals with parental rights and the overreach of the state. It was at one time when kids had to obey their parents and follow their rules until their legal emancipation, usually around 18 years of age.  Logically and biologically speaking, a child never ceases to be the child of parents. Parents conceived them and they have their genetic makeup. No state, no religion, no organization or institution can undue this or magically pretend it does not exist at a set age.  Nevertheless, we see the latter take hold where the state feels it can infringe on the rights of parents. Granted, the state can and should intervene in cases where abuse is taking hold and the child does not know any better and cannot seek help or escape from the situation. 

However, this story is different. A male child was conceived and was born. He is still a minor and is not being abused in any fashion. The only "crime" here is two Catholic parents raising their male son in that manner just like it has been done since Adam and Eve. They do not use pronouns other than the ones that semantically and logically apply to a male person.  It is absurd that for simply using proper English and proper application of language their child was taken from them and they are being labeled as abusive parents.  It is like we are in the Twilight Zone where illogical scenarios take hold defying explanation.  

Many of them know how incompetent ACS or Child Services is.  They love to remove children for no reason and love to prolong cases by fabricating claims of abuse which eventually get dismissed in court for lack of evidence.  Minorities are disproportionately targeted by this institution in every state.  Now Catholics are being targeted. T

his is about imposing anti-Catholic rhetoric on Catholic families.  These parents are simply doing their jobs as parents raising their son in the manner they feel fit. No one has a say in this. Hopefully, the Supreme Court of the United States will right this huge error on the part of Indiana.  If not, then anything goes. There will be no reason to have children. Parents cannot parent.  They will just become baby factories for the state.  

What do you think? Post your comment below on Disqus.  Be sure to follow the rules so your comment can go through.  

    


Source:

:: Indiana parents warn nation after child is removed from home for improper pronoun usage: ‘Can happen anywhere’ (msn.com)

https://www.theindianalawyer.com/articles/citing-religious-parental-rights-hoosier-couple-asks-scotus-for-relief-after-trans-child-was-removed

https://www.osvnews.com/2024/02/20/catholic-parents-ask-high-court-to-correct-dangerous-precedent-on-parental-rights-trans-identity/

https://www.becketlaw.org/media/parents-turn-to-supreme-court-for-justice-after-child-is-removed-by-state/

https://www2.cbn.com/news/us/indiana-removes-gender-confused-teen-christian-home-parents-ask-supreme-court-help

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/2860444/indiana-parents-supreme-court-weigh-transgender-child-custody/

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