HOME PAGE: January 4, 2017

Celebrating 8 Years Online

Website will renew January 11, 2017


Trust in God Alone

Alleluia. Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God while I live.

Put not your trust in princes, in man, in whom there is no salvation. When his spirit departs he returns to his earth; on that day his plans perish.

Happy he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord, his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets captives free; the Lord gives sight to the blind. The Lord raises up those that were bowed down; the Lord loves the just. The Lord protects strangers; the fatherless and the widow he sustains, but the way of the wicked he thwarts. The Lord shall reign forever; your God, O Sion, through all generations. Alleluia.

Psalm 145 (146)


Did You Know?

THAT, the Magi left on their journey to find the Christ Child (the Magi had studied Jewish prophecy) when they saw His star rise in the night time heavens?

This bright heavenly “object” that stood out among all that was familiar to the Magi was a cosmic herald that the Great King, the God-Man had indeed been born.

The position of a fixed star in the heavens varies at most one degree each day. No fixed star could have so moved before the Magi as to lead them to Bethlehem; neither fixed star nor comet nor meteor, nor moon, could have disappeared, and reappeared, and stood still. Only a miraculous phenomenon could have been the explanation of the Star of Bethlehem. It was like the miraculous pillar of fire which stood in the Israelite’s camp by day and night during the great Jewish Exodus from Egypt, or to the “brightness of God” which shone round about the shepherds at the birth of Christ. All three incredible and miraculous occurrences.

From Persia, whence the Magi are supposed to have journeyed, to Jerusalem was a distance of between 1000 and 1200 miles. Such a distance may have taken anywhere between three and twelve months by camel. The three Magi would have each had a caravan of servants, animals, food, and tents to make the long journey. That total could well have exceeded several hundred people, not counting the animals. Besides the time of travel, there were probably many weeks of preparation. The Magi could scarcely have reached Jerusalem until after a year or more after having seen the appearance of the Star of Bethlehem.

Their joint caravan would have been an amazing sight coming into Jerusalem, very possibly a legion of 1000+ humans and animals, stirring an excitement as to why they were there. Everyone, in the city would have been very curious as to their presence. It would have been to King Herod that they would have shared their quest. King Herod and his priests should have been gladdened at the news; instead they were saddened. It is a striking fact that the Jewish priests in Jerusalem would have shown the Magi the way to Bethlehem, but would not go that way themselves.

The Magi continued to follow the Bethlehem Star, still shining well over a year since its rising, some six miles southward to Bethlehem where the star’s radiance came to a standstill, and entering into the house they found the child, who is shown in sacred art as being seated on His Mother’s knee. Theologians agree that Jesus would have been close to two years of age by the time that the Magi arrived in Bethlehem, where Joseph and Mary had secured a home. There is no reason to suppose that the Child was still in the stable

The Magi adored the Child as God, and offered Him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The giving of gifts was in keeping with Oriental custom.

Good News

Therapy Donkeys

A miniature donkey can change your life. Ten of them can change it a lot.

Steve Stiert was explaining this the other day to two dozen people who had gathered at Donkey Park, otherwise known as his backyard, in Ulster Park, N.Y., two hours north of New York City.

“Donkeys in my opinion are the most misunderstood and underappreciated of man’s domesticated animals,” Mr. Stiert said. “They’re very kind animals, sweet, thoughtful. Their nature helps us get more back in touch with a calm state of mind and a simple way of life.”


In the News

Best Animal News Stories of 2016

There has been plenty of fun and uplifting news in the animal world in 2016. Care to end your year on a high note by reading some of it? If so, here’s a selection. It’s focused on news that’s good for groups of animals, as opposed to individual animals, and — fair warning — some of the pieces do include some sad elements. But not many — so enjoy!


Picture of the Week

Jumping Cow

Hannah Simpson and her seven-year-old Swiss Brown “best friend” Lilac have become a regular sight on their daily rides on the outskirts of the South Island town of Invercargill, in New Zealand’s deep south.  Simpson has no plans to ride her professionally, or compete in show-jumping events with her faithful steed. “I don’t think she would behave if we took her anywhere but home. And I don’t need to compete. She is more special than a horse, more rare.”

Ask Susi

Q: My parish priest told me that “we (meaning the Catholic Church) do not believe that animals go to heaven, because they have no souls.” But, my heart and faith in Jesus tells me otherwise. Is what he said true?

A: This is perhaps the most epic question I am asked, in numerous and varying contexts. Countless books and articles have been given over to the question of animals in heaven and there is the long and short of it, depending on where you really want to go. So, I will answer the initial question, and follow it with an abridged explanation for the positive.


Susi’s Weekly Column


~by Susi Pittman

If someone gave YOU just one sentence to remember, to keep intact, remembered and perfectly preserved for 800 years (considering that you were allowed to live 800 years and you dealt with day to day living, aging and memory flaws)…could you do it?


Catholic Journeyman

A Greyhound Christmas

~by Louis Templeman

Lou’s short story received first place in the 2011 Times Union Holiday Short Story Contest. A Greyhound Christmas lends itself to the season of miracles.


Meandering Along the River’s Edge

America’s First Conservationists

~by Virginia Rhys Anson, OFS

Conservation of the vast lands in America started long before the first Europeans arrived. These conservationist were indeed good stewards of their surroundings. Virginia takes you on a delightful historical journey of our first American conservationists.


Weekly Commentary


~by Monsignor Charles Pope

In this meditation I would like to follow these Magi in their journey of faith to become “Wise Men.” As magi, they followed the faint stars, distant points of light; as wise men they follow Jesus, who is the ever glorious Light from Light, true God from true God.

We can observe how they journey in stages from the light of a star to the bright and glorious Light of Jesus Christ. And, of course, to authentically encounter the Lord is to experience conversion. All the elements of this story ultimately serve to cause them to “return to their country by another route.” Let’s look at the stages of their journey from being mere magi to becoming, by God’s grace, wise men.


Discovering Catholic Writers

Father William A. Barry, S.J.

William (Bill) Barry, a distinguished spiritual director and author, was born in Worchester, MA. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1950, studied philosophy in Germany from 1953 until 1956, and was at Weston College for theology studies from 1959 until 1963. Ordained a priest in 1962, Barry went on to earn a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan in 1968.

In 1969, he began teaching psychology at Weston School of Theology, Cambridge, MA, and in 1971 was named director for the Center for Religious Development. He served in both capacities until 1978, when he was put in charge of formation for the New England Jesuit Province. Barry was the Assistant Director of Novices for the Province (1985-88) when he was named Rector of Boston College.

From 1991 to 1997, he served as Provincial of the New England Jesuits. Following that, he was named co-director of the Jesuit Tertianship Program. Barry directs retreats at Campion Center in Weston, MA.

Despite such a busy and committed life, Barry found the time to write 15 books, including The Practice of Spiritual Direction, God and You, Finding God in All Things, Spiritual Direction and the Encounter with God, Who Do You Say I Am?, With an Everlasting Love, and A Friendship Like No Other.

Barry has the rare ability to present complex spiritual issues in clear, well-written prose. He is one of the most influential Ignatian commentators at work today.

(Credit: Ignatianspirituality.com)

A Recommended Read

Who Do You Say I Am?

Meeting the Historical Jesus in Prayer

~by Father William A. Barry, S.J.

Father William A. Barry, S.J. shares what we can know with historical certainty about Jesus, and leads us to an encounter with the risen Jesus. He guides us through prayer to bridge the gap between the Jesus of history and the Jesus we experience in faith.


Quote of the Week

The greatest proof of Christianity for others is not how far a man can logically analyze his reasons for believing, but how far in practice he will stake his life on his belief.

~ T.S. Eliot ~

Discovering Catholic Saints

Saint John Neumann

Geology & Archaeology

The Magi and St. Helena

During the 4th century AD, St. Helena, the mother of the Roman emperor Constantine, embarked on a quest to locate the sacred relics of the Christian faith.

It is said that St. Helena succeeded in finding the remains of the Magi, reportedly discovered in Persia, and then brought them back to Constantinople. During the 5th century AD, the relics of the Magi were brought to Milan.

When the city was conquered by Frederick Barbarossa, the Holy Roman Emperor in 1164, the relics were given to Rainald von Dassel, the Archbishop of Cologne. The remains of the Magi were then transferred to Cologne Cathedral, where they have remained, behind the high altar, ever since.

A large gilded sarcophagus was built to house these remains. This reliquary, known as the Shrine of the Three Kings, is the largest reliquary in the Western world, and has drawn pilgrims to Cologne Cathedral since the supposed remains of the Magi arrived in the city during the 12th century.

Global Weather

Mount Washington New Hampshire

Mount Washington, called Agiocochook by some Native American tribes, is the highest peak in the Northeastern United States at 6,288 ft and the most prominent mountain east of the Mississippi River.

The mountain is notorious for its erratic weather. On the afternoon of April 12, 1934, the Mount Washington Observatory recorded a wind speed of 231 miles per hour at the summit, the world record for most of the 20th century, and still a record for measured wind speeds not involved with a tropical cyclone.

Observe current weather conditions HERE


China named #1 for deadly outdoor pollution

China is the world’s deadliest country for outdoor air pollution, according to analysis by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

For the first time the WHO has broken down that figure to a country-by-country level. It reveals that of the worst three nations, more than 1 million people died from dirty air in China in 2012, at least 600,000 in India and more than 140,000 in Russia. At 25th out of 184 countries with data, the UK ranks worse than France, with 16,355 deaths in 2012 versus 10,954, but not as poorly as Germany at 26,160, which has more industry and 16 million more people. Australia had 94 deaths and 38,043 died in the US that year from particulate pollution.



Re-establishing Ancient Agricultural Practices

The study of ancient agricultural practices can provide valuable data to modern-day farmers, crop scientists and policy makers. Some agronomists have advocated that participatory development that uses sustainable practices is the answer. These practices encourage people to be self-sufficient in their means of food production, and ensure local control over resources and techniques used to raise crops. An added benefit is the ability to apply a uniquely local perspective to management strategies that mitigate risks



Taking Stock of the World’s Lakes

The total shoreline of the world’s lakes is more than four times longer than the global ocean coastline. And if all the water in those lakes were spread over the Earth’s landmass, it would form a layer some four feet (1.3 metres) deep.


God’s Green Earth

Winters Wonderland

Farm News

Winter on the Farm

Ever wonder what a farmer does during the wintertime? Think they use this time to catch up on sleep and binge-watch Netflix? We asked five famers, located in different regions of the U.S., their winter plans — as well as their favorite wintertime dish, travel itineraries and what’s inspiring about the coldest season. You might be surprised at their answers.


Steward Alerts

Liberating A Continent:John Paul II & the Fall of Communism

The generations of young people who grew up during the papacies of Benedict XVI and Pope Francis might only know St. John Paul II for his canonization, which took place April 27, 2014. The recent documentary Liberating a Continent: John Paul II and the Fall of Communism hopes to educate these younger generations on the heroic life of the Roman Pontiff – telling the stories they cannot find in their textbooks.

Like a real life super-hero movie, the 90-minute film focuses on the saint’s role as an integral part in the fall of communism in central and eastern Europe – except St. John Paul II did not use destructive weapons to take down some of the world’s toughest leaders.

Rather, he used prayer and solidarity to encourage those oppressed by communism in Poland to keep their hope and will alive.

Steward Activities

Instantly Download NEW ADVENT

The full contents of the New Advent website are available as a digital download. It includes the Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Fathers, Summa, Bible and more — and it’s only $19.99…


A Song Before The Lord

The Lord Has Done Great Things For Us


How to succeed in vegetable gardening in drought

Heirloom vegetables come from seed that has been handed down for generations in a particular region or area, hand-selected by farmers for a special trait. They are open pollinated, which means they’re pollinated by insects or wind without human intervention. My efforts to grow food here deep in the Sonoran Desert led me to make changes to better adapt to the harsh climate here. These old and new techniques are equally useful for those hit with water conservation regulations. I want everyone to learn what a row cover is and why it’s so valuable to feed families in the midst of an epic drought or enhance water conservation anywhere else. Row covers also solve some of our most vexing insect pest problems naturally to make growing clean, undamaged greens a snap.


Wellness & Nutrition

Recognizing frostbite in dogs

Frostbite or congelatio in medical terminology [next step] is the damage that is caused to skin and other tissues due to extreme cold. When the environmental temperature drops below 32°F (0°C), blood vessels close to the skin start to narrow or constrict. In extreme cold or when the body is exposed to cold for long periods, this protective mechanism can reduce blood flow in some areas of the body, especially the extremities, to critically low levels. The combination of cold temperature and reduced blood flow can allow the tissues to freeze, causing severe tissue injury. Frostbite is most likely to happen in body parts farthest from the heart and in tissues with a lot of exposed surface area.



The Star of Bethlehem

It’s an astronomical mystery. A strange star is claimed to have appeared at the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. This site is an investigation of the story found in the Biblical Gospel of Matthew, a story often called the ‘Star of Bethlehem.’ It brings the words of Roman and Jewish historians alongside the visions of ancient prophets. It mixes “modern” mathematicians with murderous turmoil in the Roman imperial court. It combines all these with astronomical facts which no one disputes. And it concludes that the star was a real event.





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