Thursday, 23 December 2010

The Great Indian Onion Crisis

After the great  European Freeze, read on the great Indian onion crisis.
This is a re-post from BBC India's Soutik Biswas' blog.

Stink over onion crisis is enough to make you cry 
Soutik Biswas | 12:35 UK time, Wednesday, 22 December 2010

A spectre is haunting India - the spectre of an onion-less life.

Onion prices have shot through the roof this week, climbing to an eye-watering 85 rupees ($1.87; £1.20) a kilo from 35 rupees only last week. Crop damage due to unseasonal rains has apparently led to a shortage. Traders have been hoarding stockpiles of the staple food to make a killing, despite official threats to punish them.

A fretful government has banned exports till mid-January to bring prices down, and cut import duties on the vegetable. The prime minister, we are told, is busy writing letters imploring his farm and consumer affairs ministries to bring down prices quickly. The opposition is breathing fire.

Onions have stormed their way to the front pages of newspapers and the top of TV news bulletins. I counted two dozen stories on onions in a dozen-odd English papers today. One editorial chides the government for the price rise and asks it to "know your onions". "UPA [United Progressive Alliance, another name for the ruling Congress-led government] lands in onion soup", is a particularly colourful banner headline in another paper. "Onions: Weep till March", bemoans yet another headline, alluding to a minister's deadline to fix the crisis. And a tabloid's onion edit - teasingly called "More at work than onions" - is strategically placed between one on a corruption scandal besieging the government and another on the sizzling alleged affair between the British actress Liz Hurley and the Australian cricketer Shane Warne.

Chefs and cookbook writers have come out in droves giving out free tips on how to cope without onions. "My advice, especially to those who want to eat out," says one chef, "would be to shift to different cuisines for a while as onions are primarily used in Indian cooking." So try European and other Asian foods, he advises. At home, he says, substitute onions with tomatoes and curds. Onion lovers may not find that a very convincing answer.

Everyone is concerned about the prospect of life without onions in India. Most worried of all are the politicians. In 1998, onion inflation was partly blamed for the unseating of the Hindu nationalist BJP government in Delhi's state polls. Political pundits insist that steep onion prices also contributed to the now-defunct Janata Party's debacle in the 1980 general elections.

So why do high onion prices drive Indians up the wall and unseat governments? One onion exporter said to a paper: "Why does the consumer never compare prices of onions with those of other vegetables? No vegetable is available at less than 40 rupees a kg in the retail market."

It's simple. Onion is a vegetable that no Indian kitchen can do without. It is also the most egalitarian of vegetables. A poor peasant or worker's sparse meal is incomplete without a bite of the pungent bulb. The onion is pureed, satueed, fried and garnished in the rich man's feast as well. It also occupies a unique culinary space in Indian cooking.

It is a must for adding taste and crunch to many vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. It is eaten raw as a salad, pureed for flavouring and sauce for meats and garden vegetables; used as a dip; fried as fritters and crisps. Rustic medicinal beliefs have it that it has healing properties and reduces acidity. Indians believe onions cool the body in the searingly hot summers and keep fungal infections away during muggy monsoons. In the old days Hindu widows kept away from onions after their husbands' deaths as the humble bulb was believed to have aphrodisiac qualities. How can you possibly compare such an exalted vegetable with any other?

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Manorama IPAD APP is coming!

This is official:  Manorama IPAD APP is coming!
this is a re-post from on kerala by Dr. Mario R. Garcia. 

Kerala: an enchanted land with millions of newspaper readers! 

TAKEAWAY: This is an industry that needs good, encouraging news, right? Well, take a detour to Kerala, in the scenic cone of southern India, a sort of Land of Oz for newspaper readers.

Recent front page of Malayala Manorama

It has been an intense two days here at Malayala Manorama, the newspaper that is read by approximately 10 million readers daily.

Yes, it takes your breath away just to mention that number in connection with a printed newspaper—-or in any platform for that matter.

My visit here this time has nothing to do with print. We at Garcia Media did a full redesign of Malayala Manorama (in Malayalan) and its sister weekly magazine The Week (in English) in 2004.

Figures just released today, tell us the happy story: Malayala Manorama retains the number 1 position among regional language dailies in India with 99.27 lacs readers (approximately 10 million). With this reanking, Malayala Manorama becomes the 4th largest read newspaper in the country, and the only non-Hindi publication in the top 5 list.

The honor of being number one, the most widely read newspaper in India is Dainik Jagran (Hindi) with close to 16 million readers, followed by Dainik Bhaskar (Hindi), 14 million; Hindustan——a current Garcia Media project—-with almost 11 million. The Times of India (English) is #7 on the list and the most widely read English language daily, with over 7 million daily readers.

By the way, another one of our Indian regional newspaper projects, Sakshi (in Telugu), published in Hyderabad, and which we created as a newspaper in March 2008, ranks #15 on the list with close to 5 million daily readers.

Indian readers take their newspapers seriously, and although the use of mobile telephones is widespread, they are used for conversation more than to read newspapers in them, obviously. As I have travelled through the rural stretch that connects the city of Cochin with Kottayam in scenic Kerala, I was impressed by the number of men and women sitting outdoors, or on the floor, with a newspaper open in front of them.

Are you listening, Ross Dawson?

Dawson, as readers of this blog may know, is the author of a much discussed Newspaper Extinction Deadline. In it, India truly got the honors of being the last country to say goodbye to printed newspapers as we know them.

According to Dawson, it will be India that will pull the plug, sell the old printing presses, turn off the light and hang a sign that reads: Gone apping!

Dawson’s website is about “opportunities for business and society in a hyper-connected world.

I am surprised that so many Indian publishers had no idea they were so honored. Twice this month, while conducting sessions, I have joked that I expect to be working in India till the very end of my career. Heck, I will be 93 in 2040 if I make it that far. But I don’t think I, or anyone, will be helping the Indians to hang that sign outside the door. However, I see surprise in the Indians’ faces when I tell them they have been given the honor of being the last country to still have printed newspapers.

“Nonsense,“ a publisher told me here. “Pure nonsense, this prediction.“ (I have heard the same reaction from others outside of India)

Not even an hour after this discussion came the report with those incredible, but true, numbers about Indian newspaper readership: 15 million readers here and 10 million there. The newspaper that was #33 on the list , Punya Nagari (in Marathi) even gets two million readers.

“We at Malayala Manorama see various platforms, and we are going to be represented in all of them,“ says Mammen Mathew, Editor

And, of course, Mr. Mathew made this statement as he joined us in the kick off of the Malayala Manorama iPad app workshop.

Six years after my first visit here to redesign Malayala Manorama, my visit this time is to help Malayala Manorama as it looks to the future in a new platform—-the tablet.
The iPad workshop

Many ask me what my IPad workshop involves. As I have just completed today here in Kerala, let me share the information with you:

Two days, that is what it takes to get a group of devoted members of the iPad project team ready to understand how the tablet works, how print and online relate to the tablet, how to create a model.

First, the workshop is scheduled as Phase One of the iPad project, once the management has decided to go iPad—-or at least to explore its grand possibilities.

The two-day workshop involves the following:

--Introduction: a presentation of about 90 minutes outlining all that we know about the iPad and how to get started in the creation of a news app.
-Exploring the existing publiation’s DNA: a discussion of the strenghs of the newspaper or magazine and how to enhance them and give them longer legs on the app.
Sketching: first basic aspects of sketching. I am a firm believer that the discussion of what will be cannot go too far without screens showing it.
Information architecture: a key part of the workshop, involving the entire team, but especially the technical ones, how navigation will be carried out; how do we move from here to there; the maps that lead us to our destinations inside the app. Perhaps the most important point of the workshop.
A final working sketch: at the end of the two days, we have a full working sketch with the main parts of the architecture, content flow, visual details (tyography, color palette) and the basics of storytelling.

Of special interest

The Great Murdoch iPad Debate | The New York Observer

Why the iPad should rival the web

USA: Wall Street Journal Magazine, New York Section Profitable, CEO Hinton Says

TheMarioBlog post #684

Posted by Dr. Mario R. Garcia on December 02, 2010

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Thursday, 2 December 2010

WikiLeaks Cable Gate and the phophesy of Simon in the temple

WikiLeaks Cable Gate:
 "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, 
and to be a sign that will be spoken against,so that the thoughts of many 
hearts will be revealed...."( Luke 2:33-35)
The Guardian - "Where are the Wikileaks Cables From?

Wikileaks cablegate is an important event in our recent history.
It is important not because of its content alone, but also because  of the reactions it generates, short-term as well as long-term.
It reveals the thoughts of many hearts, to the grand public. This is a way of viewing the world in all its colors possible...the fears, the doubts, the silences, the silent wishes...
anyway, Hello world, have a  great cablegate journey!

a re-post from THE ECONOMIST

point of WikiLeaks Dec 1st 2010, 22:54 by W.W. | IOWA CITY

DAVID BROOK's recent column and Ross Douthat's reply to my defence of WikiLeaks have helped me to pin down and articulate the source of a nagging but previously inchoate sense that somehow we're all missing the bigger picture.

Let me start by suggesting that the politicians and pundits calling for Julian Assange's head are playing into his hands. As all eyes track the international albino of mystery, the human and physical infrastructure of a much larger, more distributed movement continues to expand and consolidate far beyond the spotlight. If Mr Assange is murdered tomorrow, if WikiLeaks' servers are cut off for a few hours, or a few days, or forever, nothing fundamental is really changed. With or without WikiLeaks, the technology exists to allow whistleblowers to leak data and documents while maintaining anonymity. With or without WikiLeaks, the personel, technical know-how, and ideological will exists to enable anonymous leaking and to make this information available to the public. Jailing Thomas Edison in 1890 would not have darkened the night.

Yet the debate over WikiLeaks has proceeded as if the matter might conclude with the eradication of these kinds of data dumps—as if this is a temporary glitch in the system that can be fixed; as if this is a nuisance that can be made to go away with the application of sufficient government gusto. But I don't think the matter can end this way. Just as technology has made it easier for governments and corporations to snoop ever more invasively into the private lives of individuals, it has also made it easier for individuals, working alone or together, to root through and make off with the secret files of governments and corporations. WikiLeaks is simply an early manifestation of what I predict will be a more-or-less permanent feature of contemporary life, and a more-or-less permanent constraint on strategies of secret-keeping.

Consider what young Bradley Manning is alleged to have accomplished with a USB key on a military network. It was impossible 30 years ago to just waltz out of an office building with hundreds of thousands of sensitive files. The mountain of boxes would have weighed tons. Today, there are millions upon millions of government and corporate employees capable of downloading massive amounts of data onto tiny devices. The only way WikiLeaks-like exposés will stop is if those with the permissions necessary to access and copy sensitive data refuse to do so. But as long as some of those people retain a sense of right and wrong—even if it is only a tiny minority—these leaks and these scandals will continue.

The basic question is not whether we think Julian Assange is a terrorist or a hero. The basic question certainly is not whether we think exposing the chatter of the diplomatic corps helps or hinders their efforts, and whether this is a good or bad thing. To continue to focus on these questions is to miss the forest for the texture of the bark on a single elm. If we take the inevitability of future large leaks for granted, then I think the debate must eventually centre on the things that will determine the supply of leakers and leaks. Some of us wish to encourage in individuals the sense of justice which would embolden them to challenge the institutions that control our fate by bringing their secrets to light. Some of us wish to encourage in individuals ever greater fealty and submission to corporations and the state in order to protect the privileges and prerogatives of the powerful, lest their erosion threaten what David Brooks calls "the fragile community"—our current, comfortable dispensation.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Mother Teresa : some people are never OUT

Here is a blog-post from the net ( ©

Mother Teresa habit: From one stripe sari to 3 stripes

KOLKATA – On the evening of 16 August 1948, Mother Teresa removed her Loreto Sisters (IBVM) religious habit (dress) and wore a cheap new habit of her future ‘Missionary of Charity’ Order. Her new dress consisted of a simple, cotton, white sari with blue stripe (blue is the color of Virgin Mary) along with white habits to be worn under the sari. (Please see right side photo and notice the single striped sari). For over ten years Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity Sisters used the single border sari until few pious parents of some Bengali MC Sister protested at the lack of decorum of their daughter’s religious habit. In those days, the single blue border white sari was worn by poor sweeper women working for Calcutta corporation.

Mother Teresa ( single stripe sari) with Bishop Morrow and Miss Eileen Egan of CRS in Calcutta, May 1960.

It was at this time that the American born Salesian Bishop Louis Morrow (1939-1969) of neighbouring Krishnagar diocese founded the Sisters of Mary Immaculate (SMI) on 12 December 1948. It was Bishop Morrow who developed three striped blue border white cotton sari for his Sisters, after more than two years of study, consultation and trials. The SMI Sisters had their first solemn clothing ceremony in April 1952 when they wore their current sari with three blue stripes for the first time.
It was in May 1960 that Mother Teresa approached Bishop Morrow, to seek his permission to adopt the SMI sari design for the MCs.
“More the merrier,” the delighted Bishop was reported to have told Mother Teresa encouraging her to use the SMI style sari! Since then the MC Sisters use the SMI design sari but wear it in the rural Bengali women’s style. Today the MC Sisters sari is produced at the MC run leper colony in Titagarh, outside Kolkata.
Novices wear white saris without the blue stripe. They also receive the blue striped sari when they profess. A Sister’s possessions include: three saris (one to wear, one to wash, one to mend), a pair of sandals, flour sack underclothes (used to be), a crucifix and rosary. They also have a plate and metal spoon, a canvas bag, and prayer book. In cold countries, possessions also include a cardigan. They never wear anything but sandals on their feet.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Cholera death toll jumps in Haiti

  The death toll from a cholera outbreak in Haiti has leapt past 250, officials say.

More than 3,000 people were infected, said Gabriel Thimote, director general of Haiti's health department.

Five cases of cholera were detected in the capital Port-au-Prince but UN officials said the patients had been quickly diagnosed and isolated.

Around a million survivors of January's quake are living in tents near the city with poor sanitary conditions.

Health officials have been trying to contain the outbreak in areas north of the capital.

The five victims isolated in Port-au-Prince had become infected in the Artibonite region - the main outbreak zone - and then travelled to the capital where they developed symptoms, the UN's humanitarian affairs agency said.

This meant Port-au-Prince was "not a new location of infection", it added.

Aid officials have described the prospect of a cholera outbreak in the city as "awful".

Those in the camps are highly vulnerable to the intestinal infection, which is caused by bacteria transmitted through contaminated water or food.

Cholera causes diarrhoea and vomiting leading to severe dehydration, and can kill quickly if left untreated through rehydration and antibiotics.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Les médias doivent savoir informer et former: Benoît XVI

07/10/2010 (1:12)
La foi chrétienne et la communication ont en commun une structure fondamentale : le fait que message et moyen coïncident ; en effet le Fils de Dieu, le Verbe incarné, est à la fois le message de salut et le moyen par lequel le salut se réalise. Ceci n’est pas un simple concept mais une réalité accessible pour tous. Il constitue un moyen pour contraster l’indifférence face au Vrai, la spectacularisation à tout prix. Benoît XVI l’a réaffirmé dans son discours aux participants du congrès international de la presse catholique organisé par le Conseil pontifical pour les Communications sociales. L’Eglise, a-t-il dit, alimente la capacité à nouer des relations plus fraternelles et plus humaines, s’offrant comme lieu de communion entre les croyants mais aussi comme signe et instrument, pour tous, de vocation à la communion. Face à la crise religieuse actuelle, le monde de la communication catholique doit s’engager davantage car, a dit le Pape, même s’il n’a pas de force pour y croire, le monde a besoin de vivre comme si Dieu existait, autrement il risque de ne produire qu’un humanisme inhumain. C’est pour cela qu’il faut des communicateurs crédibles, efficaces, qui croient de façon authentique. 

L'interactivité interpelle les médias catholiques

07/10/2010 (1:41)

Clôture à Rome du congrès mondial sur la presse catholique organisé par le Conseil Pontifical pour les communications sociales. Jesús Colina, président d’H20news et directeur de ZENIT donne un avis d’expert sur les réseaux sociaux, et sur leurs risques et avantages pour les catholiques.

Jesús Colina: “La production de contenus réalisés directement par les internautes a généré ces dernières années des services à gros succès come : Wikipedia, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter. Flicker, Google News... Même Open Source est une forme d’interactivité et de production partagée ».

Jesús Colina estime que le modèle web2.0 a une marge de risque pour ainsi dire « relativiste ». Il se demande alors de quelle façon les communicateurs catholiques devraient adopter le modèle de l’interactivité?

Jesús Colina: « L’objectif de toute l’initiative web 2.0 se base sur la mise en place d’une community”.
Sur Internet, la communication doit suivre le modèle de l’Eglise comme communion, auquel Benoît XVI consacre son pontificat.Quand une Eglise transmet par Internet le sens de la communion, c’est-à-dire de manière interactive, elle fait la communauté. Dans ce cas Internet cesse d’être un espace virtuel pour se transformer en une opportunité de rencontre»énements/224446509-linteractivite-interpelle-les-medias-catholiques.html

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Getting reacquainted with Satan (

A Carleton University professor throws new light on the Prince of Darkness, Jennifer Green reports

By Jennifer Green, The Ottawa Citizen September 25, 2010

The devil is not who we think he is. In fact, for much of ancient history, he wasn't even a "he," says Kimberly Stratton, who is teaching a new Carleton University course on the history of Satan.

The earliest Biblical references use "satan" as a verb, meaning to block or prevent something.

In the Book of Numbers, an angel blocks or "satans" Balaam from cursing the Israelites. "In the original Hebrew, the verb is to 'satan' him," says Stratton. "The angel himself was a normal angel of God." In the Book of Job, "satan" is a job title, something like a Crown prosecutor who seeks sinners and brings them to justice.

"He is still an angel in God's court. There is no indication that he is an opponent of God. He just seems to be an angel doing his job. If anything, he has a higher-ranking position in heaven." Even in the New Testament's Gospel of Matthew, the Devil tests Jesus in the desert, but then he disappears, and ministering angels come in. "So it's not clear there that he isn't still part of God's entourage. ... acting somehow as the Crown attorney." Stratton outlines in her course how man's ideas of God and goodness, evil and misfortune, are shaped by history.

In 586 BC, the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, the sole place of Jewish sacrifice, and dragged the nation into exile.

Once there, they tried to reconcile their misfortune with God's justice. They also started to believe there was only one God -- their own.

"If your god uses other nations to punish you, he must be in charge of those other nations and if he's in charge of those other nations, he must be more powerful than those other gods," says Stratton. "Eventually, you conclude there is just one god." The other gods became characterized as demons, traced back to the race of giants mentioned in Genesis, the offspring of "fallen angels" who came down from heaven and mated with human women. Stratton stresses that this is the only mention in the Bible of fallen angels, later stories notwithstanding.

The early church father Origen of Alexandria first suggested several hundred years after Christ's death that Satan fell because he refused to bow down to humans.

We also hear that he is the snake in the garden, trying to tempt Adam and Eve, but we are never told why, says Stratton.

"We're left with some guy who's evil for no reason. He is just an opponent of God, out to create havoc and ruin the world and ruin mankind, just because." In the Middle Ages, the devil becomes a useful tool for inflicting horrific measures against whoever might be in the way. If Jews or women or Knights Templar control too much of the economy, don't submit to their husbands, or own too much land, those in control could accuse them of worshipping Satan, making it perfectly acceptable to seize their goods, torture them, and burn them at the stake.

In the 16th century, as Protestants broke away from the Catholic Church, both competed to enforce moral reform, clamping down on women in particular.

"So there starts to be this association that women are running amok, striving to overthrow their husbands, and overturning domestic duties. They are so sexually insatiable they have to go to the devil to be satisfied." Once they have sold themselves to the devil purely for sexual reasons, they are in his thrall.

In preparation for the course, Stratton spent the better part of one summer looking at movies about Satan. Her favourite, Bedazzled, a 1967 movie with Dudley Moore, is surprisingly close to the Old Testament.

"(Satan's) job is to throw little things in (people's) way, to see how they react, and whether they roll with it and manage to keep their faith." Six years later, The Exorcist scorched the popular imagination. But, as creepy as it was, offers a surprisingly lazy devil. "This is the arch enemy of God and the worst he has to offer is a girl swearing and masturbating?" Al Pacino's Satan in The Devil's Advocate calls himself the first humanitarian, and offers this critique of religion: "God gives you all these desires and passions and then he gives you all these rules: look but don't touch, touch but don't taste, he's up there laughing." The devil in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ is so androgynous that Stratton figures the director was linking Satan with homosexuality, another vilified group.

One scholar on Stratton's recommended reading list argues that Satan is not really that important, not even in the Bible.

Nor is he all that evil, writes Henry Ansgar Kelly in Satan: A Biography.

Kelly, distinguished professor emeritus in UCLA's English department, calls for a return to the original biblical view of Satan as a sort of prosecuting attorney rather than an embodiment of evil bent on destroying humankind.

Kelly says the latter characterization of Satan tars God with the same dark brush: "The ... vilification of Satan as the great enemy of God, to whom God delivered the entire human race for punishment, casts God not as the merciful father of the gospels but as an inept and irrational tyrant." Christ's sacrifice redeems relatively few, leaving millions of others, conceived and born in the state of guilt without having committed any personal sin, to suffer in Hell forever.

He writes: "It's a miserable picture isn't it? And it is owing in the large part to the unjustifiably bad press given to Satan over the centuries." Moving away from the "Prince of Evil" nomenclature brightens our view of God and human nature, allowing us to focus "on the real causes of the evil actions that people actually commit." At the end of all this research, Stratton believes there is no devil out there. "But what we have is people who create devils by believing in devils." Her course, limited to 20 students in the third or fourth year of the bachelor of humanities program, meets once a week for three hours.
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Monday, 13 September 2010

media analysis: from LE DEVOIR

 Pasteur en délire - Les médias ont-ils joué avec l'autodafé du Coran ?
Jean-Claude Leclerc 13 septembre 2010 Éthique et religion

Le pasteur Terry Jones aura réussi à retenir l’attention des médias avec sa menace de brûler le Coran.
En faisant le jeu d'un pasteur en mal de brûler le Coran un 11 septembre 2010, les médias ont-ils failli provoquer un grave incident? Avant même que Terry Jones n'ait pu mettre son projet à exécution, plusieurs ont posé la question. Le président Barack Obama, ayant pressenti le danger, hésitait à donner trop d'importance au personnage. Mais comment un pareil type, hier inconnu, a-t-il pu retenir ainsi l'opinion mondiale?

En juillet, à l'annonce de sa «Journée internationale pour brûler le Coran», le chef spirituel du Dove World Outreach Center n'avait guère capté l'attention des médias. Certes, un site «athée» avait noté la parution d'une page sur Facebook. Et aux États-Unis comme à l'extérieur, une vidéo placée sur YouTube le 17 juillet avait provoqué des réactions. Parmi les premiers à s'y intéresser, on relève le blogue d'un Michael Tomasky au Guardian de Grande-Bretagne.

Deux jours après, une association américaine d'Églises évangélistes diffusait, il est vrai, une déclaration pressant le groupe de Jones d'abandonner son idée de brûler des exemplaires du Coran. Mais, le 31 juillet, une entrevue du pasteur intégriste à CNN lui donnait une tribune internationale. Une agence de presse ayant relevé cette nouvelle affaire de Coran, plusieurs médias la mentionnèrent, dont le Times of India!

Au début d'août, le Sun de Gainesville — 115 000 habitants, et site de l'Université de Floride — interviewe le maire, Craig Lowe, qui réprouve le comportement du pasteur. Et les citoyens qui s'expriment semblent, pour la plupart, du même avis. Or, d'après une des analyses de cette étrange initiative, même si le débat se poursuit alors sur les réseaux sociaux ainsi qu'à la télévision et à la radio, l'histoire n'a pas encore pris une importance internationale.

Les uns attribuent l'escalade à la distribution de corans gratuits par le Conseil des relations américano-islamique. D'autres trouvent plutôt que David Petraeus, chef des forces de l'OTAN en Afghanistan, a mis le feu aux poudres en intimant à Jones de cesser de mettre en danger la vie de soldats et de civils à l'étranger. Des journalistes l'ayant interrogée, la secrétaire d'État, Hillary Clinton, a condamné, bien sûr, l'autodafé. Il ne restait plus au secrétaire à la Défense, Robert Gates, puis au président lui-même qu'à interpeller Jones pour que l'homme devienne un acteur mondial.

Qui est responsable alors de ce délire collectif, la presse ou la Maison-Blanche?

La presse a raté une bonne occasion d'examiner la source de cette «nouvelle». Quelle compétence théologique, en effet, permettait à Jones — qui n'a jamais étudié l'islam — de condamner le Coran ou de dicter aux musulmans où bâtir une mosquée? Quelle expérience à titre de «pasteur» l'autorisait à presser les adeptes de la vraie foi de «se tenir debout»? Aucune. Il aura fallu que son bûcher soit à la veille de flamber pour que des médias s'intéressent au passé du personnage.

Qui est-il ?

Cet ancien gérant d'hôtel a pris la direction, il y a 15 ans, d'une petite secte fondée par un homme d'affaires en 1986. Avec son épouse, il en habitait une grande propriété, mais surtout y gérait une entreprise de meubles, vendus sur eBay. Ses ouailles ne dépassaient pas la cinquantaine. Et dans une «académie» attenante, des pensionnaires s'occupaient aussi à travailler pour l'entreprise du pasteur.

D'après des rapports de presse en Allemagne, Jones y a été associé à une «communauté chrétienne» à Cologne, avant d'en être écarté. Son style de leadership était contesté, ainsi que son diplôme de théologie, obtenu d'une école biblique non reconnue. En Floride, sa petite Église s'était donné un mandat universel, comme son site le proclame, mais elle n'avait guère de succès.

Jones a certes publié un livre dont la page titre affirme que «l'islam vient du Diable». Mais ses affaires vivotaient. Les autorités locales de Gainesville mettaient en question son statut fiscal. Le moment pour le prophète de frapper un grand coup n'était-il pas venu? Avec tous ces musulmans osant implanter une mosquée à deux pas de Ground Zero, Dieu lui en aura, dit-on, donné l'inspiration.

L'Amérique s'éveillant au péril, le pasteur de Gainesville allait enfin fournir de quoi la galvaniser. Pourtant, rappellent des chroniqueurs, il n'aura pas été le premier à lancer l'idée d'un autodafé du Coran. Plus tôt, en 2008, un pasteur de la Westbobo Baptist Church de Topeka, au Kansas, en avait brûlé un exemplaire en pleine rue, et immortalisé la scène sur un film. Même illustré, l'événement, pourtant, ne fit pas le tour du monde. Les médias n'en avaient pas fait une nouvelle.

(Radio-Canada fit mention de cette Église de Topeka, — non reconnue par la confession baptiste — quand certains de ses membres, déjouant les gardes-frontières, vinrent au Manitoba, à l'occasion des funérailles d'une victime d'acte criminel. Ce crime était la punition de Dieu pour la tolérance de l'avortement, de l'homosexualité et autres plaies sévissant au Canada.)

Cette fois, les médias n'auraient probablement pas parlé de Jones si son projet, circulant sur les réseaux sociaux et sur les stations qui y prennent leur pâture, n'avait ameuté un plus grand public. Quand le public s'émeut, les médias s'agitent, et les politiciens également. C'est ainsi qu'un pasteur sans envergure, mais friand de notoriété, a réussi à kidnapper jusqu'au président des États-Unis.

Bref, ce «media event» spectaculaire mais débile n'aurait obtenu qu'une mention à la chronique des incidents loufoques, si les médias s'étaient le moindrement enquis du triste curriculum de Terry Jones. Par contre, en donnant une grande visibilité à une violence symbolique, ils risquaient de provoquer ailleurs des réactions extrêmes qui, elles, auraient été fort réelles.



Jean-Claude Leclerc enseigne le journalisme à l'Université de Montréal

Sunday, 12 September 2010

« Une réalité toute simple »: frère Roger de Taizé

Ouvrant l’Évangile, chacun peut se dire : ces paroles de Jésus sont un peu comme une lettre très ancienne qui me serait écrite dans une langue inconnue ; comme elle m’est adressée par quelqu’un qui m’aime, j’essaie d’en comprendre le sens, et je vais aussitôt mettre dans la pratique de ma vie le peu que j’en saisis…

Ce ne sont pas les vastes connaissances qui importent au début. Elles auront leur grande valeur. Mais c’est par le cœur, dans les profondeurs de soi-même, que l’être humain commence à saisir le Mystère de la Foi. Les connaissances viendront. Tout n’est pas donné d’un seul coup. Une vie intérieure s’élabore pas à pas. Aujourd’hui plus qu’hier, nous pénétrons dans la foi en avançant par étapes.

Au tréfonds de la condition humaine repose l’attente d’une présence, le silencieux désir d’une communion. Ne l’oublions jamais, ce simple désir de Dieu est déjà le commencement de la foi.

De plus, personne ne parvient à comprendre tout l’Évangile à lui seul. Chacun peut se dire : dans cette communion unique qu’est l’Église, ce que je ne comprends pas de la foi, d’autres comprennent et en vivent. Je ne m’appuie pas sur ma foi seulement mais sur la foi des chrétiens de tous les temps, ceux qui nous ont précédés, depuis la Vierge Marie et les apôtres jusqu’à ceux d’aujourd’hui. Et jour après jour je me dispose intérieurement à faire confiance au Mystère de la Foi.

Alors il apparaît que la foi, la confiance en Dieu, est une réalité toute simple, si simple que tous pourraient l’accueillir. Elle est comme un sursaut mille fois repris tout au long de l’existence et jusqu’au dernier souffle.

frère Roger, de Taizé

Bishop Kenneth Ulmer: The king still has one more move!

( post updated on 22 /06/2014, to include the original speech transcript at the end)

This week i heard Bishop Kenneth Ulmer  speaking about a chess-painting, most probably by Friedrich Moritz August Retzsch on Goethe´s Faust.

Eric S. Ritz writes this note about this picture :

On display in the magnificent Louvre Museum in Paris, France, is that dramatic painting of Goethe's Faust. Faust is seated at a table engaged in a competitive game of chess. And at first glance, it looks like Faust is losing. His opponent in the chess game is Satan. The devil sits there grinning smugly. He thinks he has the victory in hand. He is pointing at the chessboard with an evil leer and he is gloating.

As you look at the painting, you can almost hear the devil shouting: "Checkmate! Game’s over! I win!"

However, a person with a keen eye who knows the game of chess can see that the match is not over at all. As a matter of fact, just a few years ago, an internationally famous chess player was admiring the painting when all of a sudden he lunged forward and exclaimed:
"Wait a minute! Look! Faust has another move and that move will give him the victory!" 

original speech transcript :

The Champion in You

Written by: Bishop Kenneth Ulmer

2119 09/12/10

I want to thank my friend and my brother, Dr. Schuller, for he is a true champion and God has used him to bless men and women, literally, around the world.
The world loves champions. But I want to suggest to you that there is a champion even in you. The person sitting next to you, the person in front of you or behind you, there is a champion in you. If you get nothing else out of what I say, today, let the Lord put that in your spirit. Someone is watching from the other side of the world and God has brought you to this broadcast today to deposit into your spirit a truth that there is a champion in you.
That's what Paul was saying when he wrote to the young church of believers at Rome. And in that eighth chapter, he said in verse thirty-seven (of Romans), "Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." And in all these things we are more, Paul says, than conquerors. We're champions. There is a champion in you.
At the end of the game, at the sound of the last bell, across the last finish goal, when all the goals have been scored, and all the baskets have been counted, the champions will stand. The world loves a champion and there is a champion even in you.
Paul says we are more than conquerors. We not only win, but we win big. There is a champion in you. Why is that so? How can Paul make such a profound proclamation? What he speaks in this chapter seems to be kind of a hinge between the preceding part of this letter and the remaining part where he spends about eight chapters talking about doctrine and then the remaining chapters he talks about duty. And it is this section on conquerors, that seems to hold together or place a hinge between what he's already said and what he is about to say. It is in this section that he says we are more than conquerors. Why is that so?
First of all, because of God's presence in you, there's a champion in you. Paul says, and we know, that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord. Paul says all things work together. There is a grammatical problem in this phrase because after suggesting that all things work together, he then raises issues that give us another nuance and another implication of this text. He says all things work together. Therein lies the problem because "things" is the subject and "work" is the verb. Things don't work. Things have no volition. Things make no choices. Things have no mind. Things have no consciences, things have no will, and things cannot work.
A more accurate translation of this verse, I believe, is found in the New International Version that does not say that all things work, but rather that in all things God is at work. Ah, a significant difference. In all things, God is at work. God is working all things together to release the champion that's in you. He's able to blend and to work and to mix and to match all the elements of our lives to release the champion, the conqueror in you.
Few people in this room have ever had the pleasure of eating three or four cups of flour. Few people in this room have ever had the pleasure of drinking maybe a bottle of vanilla extract or a couple gallons of water or milk or, or various ingredients that come together to make a cake. My Momma had a way of mixing eggs and mixing flour and mixing ingredients and, when she put them all together, she had a pound cake. You don't know about a pound cake here in Orange County, but Momma could make a pound cake by mixing ingredients that, in and of themselves, were not very tasty. Paul says God is at work mixing together elements of our lives that, in and of themselves, are not always pleasant. In and of themselves, are challenging and painful and sorrowful and often discourage us. And yet God says we know that in all of these things, he is at work mixing and matching and blending and working together on our behalf so that he might release the champion that's in you.
Because of God's presence, also because of God's power, he says, "If God be for us who can be against us?" The power of God, the presence of God in your life, is there to release this champion that's in you. Paul says, but God is at work conforming us to his image. He's doing a work in your life right now, conforming you to his image. God did not save you to bring you to heaven to be with him; he's not lonely. But, rather, that on your way to heaven, you might become more and more like Jesus the Christ. And so the Bible says that he is at work conforming us shaping us.
We just sang a song that says, "Melt me, mold me, shape me." He's conforming us to the image of his Son, so that he might release this champion that's in you.
There was a very famous sculptor who one day instructed his servant to bring into his workroom this huge mass of unfinished marble covered with dust - a rugged looking piece of marble. He pulled it in and pulled it in and finally the servant said, "Master, what will you make of this unattractive mud- and dust-covered mass of marble?"
The sculptor backed up and looked at it this way and looked at it that way and looked at it this way again and looked at it that way again, and then he said, "I see a magnificent stallion. I see a stallion with glaring eyes and flared nostrils and flowing mane. I see encased in this mass of unattractive marble, a magnificent stallion.
The servant said, "Well master, how will you get such a masterpiece out of this unattractive dust- and mud-covered mass of marble?"
The sculptor said, "Well, I'm going to take my hammer and I'm going to take my chisel and I'm going to begin to chip away and chip and away and chip away and chip away and I'll chip away everything that does not look like a horse. There's a horse in there and when I get rid of everything that does not look like a horse, I'll have a masterpiece."
God says he wants to conform you into the image of his Son to release the champion in you. And those times when it seems as though life is battering you, and your experiencing pain and sorrow and confusion and disappointment and discouragement and even failure,. God says, "I'm going to chip away everything in your life that does not look like a champion so that when I finish, the champion in you will come forth. There is a champion in you."
God says he has the power to conform you to the image of the Christ in you who was the champion. Because of God's presence, because of God's power, because of God's protection, he says, "Who can separate us from the love of God?" And then he says, "I'm persuaded that nothing can separate us from the love of God." He sets up two bookends - he says who can separate us and then he says I'm persuaded that nothing can separate us. And in between these two book ends, he says now, we are more than conquerors; who can separate us from the love of God" I'm persuaded nothing can separate us from the love God, why? Because we are more than conquerors.
Paul says I'm persuaded I'm persuaded that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Who can separate us? But there's another grammatical problem in this text. Because he asks the question, who can separate us? But then he goes to give a list of things. He says "who" and then he talks about "what." A grammatical problem. He says who can separate us and then he goes to give us a list of things. Therein lies the issue. Paul says, "Recognize that we wrestle not against flesh and blood." We don't wrestle against the stuff and the things, but there's always a "who" behind the "what." That who can never separate us; the word means to pull apart. Who or what can pull me apart from God's love? The word means to bring distance between. Who or what can put distance between me and the love of God? The word means to separate, to put distance, to bring apart. Who or what can ever separate me from the love of God?
Paul says, I'm persuaded, I'm persuaded. The word means I've been moved. It suggests that I was once in this position and I've now been repositioned to a position of possibility and positivity. I've been moved. I've now shifted. I'm now convinced. I've had my mind changed. I've had a shift in my thinking. And what I thought might have been possible, I now realize nothing can separate me from the love of God. He says neither things present nor things to come.
The summary is that nothing now and nothing later can separate me from the love of God. The phrase "things present" means the things that are set before me now. The phrase "things present" means things that I'm dealing with now, things that are eminent now, things that are attacking me now, things that are challenging me now, things that are discouraging me now. Paul says none of the things I'm dealing with now can separate me from the love of God. His love is that strong that none of the stuff that would seek to separate me would be successful. Weapons will be formed against you, but no weapon that is formed will prosper because nothing shall separate you from the love of God.
Now in order for there to be a separation, someone must move. God says, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." If you turn around and God is not there, guess who moved? God says, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." The word "leave" means "to stay behind." God says I will never let you go into this challenge and I will stay behind. I'll never leave you. I'll never let you face this problem, this trial, this pain, this affliction, while I stay behind. I'll never leave you.
Then he says, "I'll never forsake you." The reverse of "forsake" means to "go ahead of." God says I'll never go ahead of you and let you handle the problem. I'll never do it. God says I protect you with my presence. I'll never leave you, nor will I forsake you. In order for there to be separation, one of the parties has to move, but what if I am moved? What if the challenge, the problem that I face, shakes me loose? What if the struggle that I'm facing dislodges me from the presence of God and I sense I feel that I'm out there all by myself?
Champions feel alone sometimes. Champions feel abandoned sometimes. Champions feel like giving up sometimes. But what happens when I find myself off course? He says, "I'm persuaded that nothing can separate us from the love of God." The love of God. We are conquerors through the love of God. This love of God - listen now - God's love is not linear; it is not straight line. God doesn't only love me when I'm on this straight and narrow path. Not so. God loves is not linear. God's love is angular. So that, even when the trials of life blow me off path, even when the struggles that I face, the failures that I experience, the bad decisions that I make, the bad choices that I make get me off course, his love, because it is angular and not linear, loves me back to himself. Paul says, I'm persuaded. Paul says, I've been moved, I've been repositioned, I've been shifted, I've been brought back in a relationship with him. He loves me back to him. He moves me closer to himself because God always has the last move.
There was a man, an international chess champion, walking with a friend through a museum. He came by this one particular picture that caught his eye and he stopped and looked at it. He said to his friend, "There's something wrong with this picture." The man continued to study and ponder this picture, scratch his head, and he said, "Man, there something wrong with this picture." Because the picture was of a scene of two men sitting on opposite sides of a table and in the midst of this table there was a chessboard and the title of this picture was "Check Mate." It was a picture of two men sitting opposite sides of a table, one obviously portrayed as the devil, and the other as a bewildered perplexed man. The picture suggested that the game was over because there were no more moves on the board. This man looked at it and studied it and looked at it and studied it and said, "There's something wrong with this picture. Because I am an international chess champion and as I studied this board, something is wrong." He began to look at the board and look at the picture and move his hand and look at it and move his hands and look at it and move his hands. He said, "Ah! I've figured it out. We must contact the man who painted this picture because he must either change the name or change the picture because the picture is named Check Mate, which suggests that the game is over, but the King chess piece still has one more move."
This game is not over yet because the King still has one more move. It does not matter how life tries to dislodge you. Does not matter how struggles try to pull you away from God, how your faith begins to weaken, God always has the last move because the King still has one more move. Does not matter what happens on the stock market, does not matter what happens in the economy with the falling real estate and the challenges of the corporate world, God always has the next move because there's a champion in you and you will come through this. You will make some adjustments. You'll make some changes, but by the champion that's in you, you shall come forth. Success is on you. Favor is on you. The power of God holds you up and pulls you through because there is a champion in you and God will always reposition you to get that position of glory because the King still has one more move.
You remember Moses, don't you? Moses was down at the Red Sea leading the people out of Egypt when he came to a cul de sac with the Red Sea in front of him, mountains on both sides, and Pharaoh's army behind him. It looked as though the game was over. God told Moses, "Raise your rod!" God did a karate chop on the Red Sea, parted the waters on both sides, and the people of God walked through on dry land. Why? Because the King still has one more move.
You remember Paul and Silas, don't you? Paul and Silas were in a Philippian jail with shackles on their hands and shackles on their feet and they were doomed and they were struggling and Paul said, "Long about midnight, let's have a prayer meeting. My name begins with P; I'll do the praying. Silas your name starts with S; you do the singing." Long about midnight, they began singing and praying and singing and praying and singing and praying. God called an earthquake and said, "Go down and release my children." God said to the earthquake, "Go down and shake the place up."
Earthquake said, "Do you want me to level it?
He said, "No. Just do a whole lot of shaking going on." He shook the place and they walked out because God is the King and the King still has one more move.
You remember Jesus, don't you? They put Jesus on an old rugged cross. They put nails in his hands and rivets in his feet. They put a spear in his side and crown of thorns on his head. It was looking like the game was over and it was checkmate. They took him down from the cross, put him in the borrowed tomb - all night Friday night, all day Saturday, all night Saturday night. Here comes my Baptist, y'all. But early Sunday morning, he got up with all power and heaven and earth in his hand because the King still has one more move.
I came to tell somebody, today, somebody watching by television, don't throw in the towel. Don't throw up your hands, don't walk off the court, because the King still has one more move and there is a champion in you. Give yourselves a hand - for the champion that God wants to release in your life. You are victorious, you are successful, you've got the power of God and the favor of God, and the King still has one more move.
Come on and give God glory in this house. Come on and bless him. There is a champion in you. It does not matter what you are wrestling with today, does not matter what kind of attack you are under today, does not matter how discouraged you might be today, there is a champion that God wants to release in you. There is a champion in you that God wants to release and come forth in success and in victory. You are more than a conqueror. You don't just win, you win big. Because the King still has one more move.
Father, we bless you in this house today. We thank you for your word, Father. Now I ask that you would encourage your children with your strength. Oh God, bring us through every challenge that we face physically, financially, mentally, relationally. Release the champion in us and then you take all the glory. You are the King and you always have one more move. In Jesus name, Amen.
© 2010 Crystal Cathedral Ministries. This message was delivered by Bishop Kenneth Ulmer from the pulpit of the Crystal Cathedral and aired on the Hour of Power, September 12, 2010.

© 2010 Crystal Cathedral Ministries. P.O. Box 1, Garden Grove, CA 92840. Phone: 1-714-971-4000. Website: Email:

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Stephen Hawking: God did not create Universe

There is no place for God in theories on the creation of the Universe, Professor Stephen Hawking has said.

He had previously argued belief in a creator was not incompatible with science but in a new book, he concludes the Big Bang was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics.

The Grand Design, part serialised in the Times, says there is no need to invoke God to set the Universe going.

"Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something," he concluded.

'Planetary conditions'

In his new book, an extract of which appears in the Times, Britain's most famous physicist sets out to contest Sir Isaac Newton's belief that the universe must have been designed by God as it could not have sprung out of chaos.
Continue reading the main story

Citing the 1992 discovery of a planet orbiting a star other than our Sun, he said: "That makes the coincidences of our planetary conditions - the single Sun, the lucky combination of Earth-Sun distance and solar mass - far less remarkable, and far less compelling as evidence that the Earth was carefully designed just to please us human beings."

He adds: "Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.

"Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.

"It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."

The book was co-written by US physicist Leonard Mlodinow and is published on 9 September.

In his 1988 bestseller, A Brief History of Time, Prof Hawking appeared to accept the role of God in the creation of the Universe.

"If we discover a complete theory, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason - for then we should know the mind of God," he said. 

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Kerala, Asia's best travel destination

read this MSN article:

Even as Kerala is named the best travel destination in Asia, we bring you 25 reasons to visit God's Own Country. That is, if you haven't already.

Kerala Tourism got a boost when the million-plus readers of the acclaimed travel portal,, placed the state as the best Asian holiday destination ahead of Bali, Phuket and the Maldives in a poll conducted over 3 months across Asia (India, Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, and the Middle East), Europe and North America.

"This is a phenomenal recognition for Kerala and the people who are working in the tourism sector," said V. Venu, secretary, Kerala Tourism.

The only other Indian destinations to be listed in the top 10 were Rajasthan and Goa - at eighth and 10th spot respectively.

So, here's why you should pack your bags and get those tickets for Kerala.

read this MSN article:

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Transformed into the Likeness of Christ

The Conversion of St. Francis of Assisi
By: Jeanne Kun

How did the son of a wealthy merchant become the town beggar? What would prompt a popular young bachelor to start talking dreamily about “Lady Poverty”? What would cause a carefree “King of Feasts” to abandon the party scene and spend his time rebuilding a ramshackle old chapel stone by stone?

The story of Francis of Assisi’s conversion is the story of how deeply God can change a human heart. And it is the story of one man’s response to God’s call—a response that was at times uncertain and searching, at times anguished, yet always wholehearted.

Seeking Adventure and Fame

Born in Assisi in central Italy sometime during 1181 or 1182, Francis was the son of Pietro de Bernardone, and his wife, Pica. As heir to Pietro’s prosperous cloth business, Francis enjoyed wearing fashionable clothes made from his father’s inventory and entertaining his friends with lavish meals. He was captivated by stories of knights in shining armor and longed for the day when he would ride gloriously into battle. High-spirited and generous, Francis was a favorite among his peers. But when he was about twenty years old, his life took a turn that began to reveal to him its emptiness.

In 1202, Francis joined his townsmen in a petty war against the neighboring city of Perugia. It was his “big chance” as a knight, but the adventure ended in defeat. He spent a year in captivity, where he kept up the spirits of his fellow inmates with his good-natured patience and cheerful songs. After his release, Francis suffered a prolonged fever. During his convalescence, he had time to think about his life and the things of eternity. But his desire for adventure was still strong. When he did recover, he joined a company of knights serving the Pope.

Francis set off for battle again in 1205, but another illness dashed his hopes. In a feverish dream, he heard a voice asking, “Who do you think can best reward you, the master or the servant?” “The master,” Francis answered. The voice then replied, “Then why do you leave the master for the servant, the rich Lord for the poor man?” Francis returned home, uncertain what the dream meant, but convinced that God was speaking to him.

Won by Lady Poverty

Back in Assisi, Francis took up his familiar pastimes, but his heart was no longer in them. He began to disdain the old ways and believed that he had wasted his life on trivial and transitory things. Wrestling with himself and searching for his way, he spent hours in intense prayer out in the countryside or in dark caves, all the time seeking to understand God’s will. Slowly, he began to feel a desire to live like Jesus, whom he called the “poor Christ.”

One evening after partying with his friends, Francis experienced a sense of God’s love that was so profound that he felt enraptured. When his friends jested that he had fallen in love, he replied, “Yes, I am thinking of marrying. But the bride I am going to woo is nobler, richer, and fairer than any woman you know.” Francis pledged himself to “Lady Poverty” and chose to live simply, in imitation of the poor Christ who was capturing his heart.

Inspired to go on a pilgrimage to Rome, Francis came face to face with the poverty to which he had pledged himself. In Rome, he exchanged his costly clothes for rags and begged for his bread. Finally, the idealistic troubadour had the chance to put into practice the ideals that had filled his imagination.

Mastered by Love

Francis’ experiment in poverty proved liberating, and, when he returned home, he no longer feared living on the edge of necessity. Still, he knew that more steps lay ahead of him. The final test came a few years later when he caught sight of a man afflicted with leprosy on the road before him. Francis was repulsed by the terrible sight and instinctively retreated. But then he stopped. He felt the time had come to deal with the pride and lack of love inside of him.

Francis turned back and embraced the leper. He kissed the man’s diseased hand and pressed a few coins into it. In this simple act of love, Francis felt his natural aversion to the sick and outcast disappear. Instead, he was filled with such compassion that the next day he gave away money to all the lepers at the local hospital and begged their pardon for having so often despised them.

Francis began to care for the sick, but he also continued to ask God to show him a fuller purpose for his life. One day in 1207, while praying in the ruined church of San Damiano, he heard Jesus speaking to him from the crucifix: “Francis, go and repair my house, which you see is falling down.”

In his eagerness to respond to God, Francis took these words literally and set about repairing the dilapidated chapel. Impulsively, he sold some of his father’s cloth to get money for stones. Pietro, however, wasn’t as thrilled over the liberality with which he treated his father’s stock. Indignant and angry, he hauled Francis before the episcopal court.

On trial before the bishop, Francis performed a dramatic gesture that marked a final break with his old life: He returned even the clothes on his back to his father. “Hitherto I have called Pietro de Bernardone my father on earth,” he declared. “Henceforth I desire to say only ‘Our Father who art in heaven.’ ” Bishop Guido recognized that somehow the Spirit was at work in Francis, so he took the naked man under his cloak to signify the protection of the church. From that time on, Francis dressed in a rough tunic and lived “according to the gospel.”

A Brotherhood Is Born

Francis went about Assisi proclaiming God’s love to all and singing his praises. Soon, other young men felt attracted to his way of life and began to follow him. But they were uncertain how they should proceed, so they decided to ask God for guidance.

With the simplicity that characterized all of Francis’ decisions, he and his new brothers randomly opened a book of the gospels three times. The first passage read, “If you will be perfect, go and sell what you have and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; come, follow me.” Then, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money.” And finally, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself.” “Brothers,” Francis said, “this is our life and our rule. Let us fulfill all that we have heard.”

Later Francis described these early days in his Testament: “When the Lord gave me some brothers, no one showed me what I ought to do, but the Most High himself revealed to me that I ought to live according to the model of the holy Gospel.” In 1210, the new brotherhood obtained the approval of Pope Innocent III.

Calling themselves Friars Minor—the “lesser” people of society—the brothers went about preaching not only in Italy, but in Germany, Spain, France, Morocco, and the Orient. Like troubadours, they sang of God’s love and called the people of the towns and villages to repent of their sins and receive forgiveness through the cross of Jesus Christ. The brothers lived simply: They worked for their food and begged when they found no work. They freely gave to anyone who asked anything of them and kept nothing for themselves.

Crucified with Christ

The gospel that Francis and his brothers preached—along with the witness of their lives—had a profound effect. Not only did countless people give their lives to the Lord, but the brotherhood itself grew at a pace that soon challenged Francis’ ability to guide it. Over time, many of the newer brothers found the heroic poverty that Francis and the first friars practiced too difficult. The more learned brothers criticized their founder’s carefree spirit and accused him of being improvident and naïve. They wanted more material security and clearer organization and pressed Francis into writing a new rule.

Francis complied, but many still thought that even his modified rule was too hard. Consequently, Cardinal Ugolino—the advisor of the order—amended it further and won its approval by Pope Honorius in 1223. Deeply hurt by the changes to his “gospel ideal,” Francis sought consolation by frequently secluding himself with God in prayer.

Francis spent September 1224 praying and fasting in a hermitage on the rugged mountain of Alverno. There, during a blazing vision of the wounded Christ, he was imprinted in his hands and feet and side with marks of the crucified Lord. Francis had become so completely converted to Jesus Christ that he resembled his Lord even in physical appearance.

“I Have Done What Was Mine to Do”

In the remaining two years of his life, Francis suffered from pleurisy, stomach ulcers, and blindness, in addition to the wound-marks. Yet as death approached, he was content—confident that, through all his struggles and attempts to understand how to respond to God, he had obeyed God’s call to him as he best understood it. “I have done what was mine to do,” he told his brothers. “May Christ teach you what you are to do.”

On the evening of October 3, 1226, in the forty-fifth year of his life, Francis asked to be laid on the bare ground in the chapel where he had prayed so often with his companions. After the passion was read to him, Francis sang the Evening Office with his brothers. His frail voice intoned Psalm 142: “Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise your name; the just wait for me, until you reward me.” Then, he fell silent.

Francis once encouraged his beloved Brother Leo, “In whatever way you think you will best please our Lord, take that way.” Even when, time and again, he had been unsure what to do, Francis always tried to “best please our Lord.” Each step he took had opened his heart more widely to God’s transforming grace until he was fully conformed to Christ. May we, too, like Francis, always seek “that way” which makes us pleasing to Christ. 

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Northern Spain's Camino de Santiago 2010

By Andy Symington, Lonely Planet

Santiago Cathedral – the final destination for pilgrims on the Camino. (Wayne Walton/LPI)

These days do people really believe that the apostle James, a fisherman from the Holy Land, was buried at Santiago? Get the polygraph out and not many will pass. But this rainy, glorious, granite town in Spain’s northwest is today a bigger draw than ever. The medieval pilgrim trail, the Camino de Santiago, has been revitalized by a new generation of voyagers – on foot, bike, or horseback – who, for as many reasons as you care to count, are taking on what is a substantial physical challenge.

Why the pilgrimage?
The devout and the atheist march abreast here. Time to think is often cited as a motivating factor. And time there is: although many opt for shorter sections, the full path from the French border is a good five week walk or a fortnight by bike. Friendships forged along the way are another life-enhancing aspect of the journey.

Yet it is the interaction with Spain itself that draws many. Interaction of a slow-paced kind: if you really wish to know a country, walk it. The principal route across Northern Spain, the camino francés, is the most popular, and tracks through the noble cathedral cities of Burgos and León, as well as a slice of the Pyrenees and Rioja wine country. It is an inspiring route, but it is far from the only path. There are several waymarked caminos to Santiago across Spain - and indeed from all over Europe - allowing you to choose the path that most interests you. Cider and green hillscapes, for example, are features of the camino del norte along the verdant northern coast, as are handsome beaches whose bracing waters are sweet relief between hill trudges.

Santiago cathedral
After any stirring journey, the destination, when reached, can often be a disappointment. While in some ways the Camino is merely an excuse for testing yourself on a damn long walk or ride, Santiago itself is a place to make the soul sing. Its cathedral, whose fittingly-named Portico of Glory is covered by a soaring, mossy Baroque façade, is an icon of Galicia and the pilgrim's reward on arrival.

Xacobeo 2010 - a holy year
The high point of Santiago's year is the feast day of St James, the 25th of July. This is Galicia's national day and a bouncing fiesta at any time, but when it falls on a Sunday it is designated a Holy Year. In the cathedral, the midday mass features the alarming botafumeiro, a chunky incense burner swung in a long arc above the heads of the faithful, gathering seemingly suicidal speed as it dispenses its holy perfumes. This year, 2010, is a Holy Year - the next will not be until 2021 - and things are gearing up. Xacobeo 2010 ( is a full cultural program that includes a high-profile series of concerts scheduled across the region all summer long, from high priests and priestesses of world rock and jazz to homegrown Galician folk music. Celtic heritage predominates in the latter, which features bagpipes and mournful tones suggestive of a tribe with backs to land and a searching gaze into the misty northern seas.

Seafood and Albariño: The walker's reward
Traditionally, after the long slog across the agricultural heartlands of northern Spain with bread, soup and stews all the way, the pilgrim munched local scallops once they arrived in Santiago. Not only is it the symbol of St James - possession of a shell was once proof of having completed the pilgrimage - but Galicia lives and breathes seafood. Boiled octopus, salty barnacles and razor clams: succulent walkers' rewards available in any of Santiago's numerous taverns. Northern European monks spread new architectural ideas along the length of the Camino de Santiago, but hats off too to the order that brought Alsatian grapes to plant on the Galician coast. A happy coincidence, Albariño is one of the world's great seafood wines.

Journey's end
In the Obradoiro square in Santiago, walkers lean against the pillars, blistered feet bared and sunbrowned faces gazing up at the cathedral's majesty. Now at the journey's end some will yearn to do it all over again, but for now they have one major advantage over their medieval forebears: they do not have to turn around and walk back home again.

How to
Numerous websites have route information: is a great starting point. Iberia (, Spanish trains ( and buses ( serve Santiago, as does Ryanair ( from London.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Soup kitchen patrons turned Ph.D. candidates marry at St. John's in Newark

Published: Monday, August 09, 2010, 6:22 AM Updated: Tuesday, August 10, 2010, 7:16 AM Mark Di Ionno/Star-Ledger Columnis

when you extend a hand,
you never know who will grab it.

This is a love story. A success story. A story for those who say there are no good stories in the newspaper. This is a good one. So good, it is too good to be true. But it is.
Manu Sebastian Mannoor and Teena James

Manu and Teena got married Saturday at St. John’s in Newark, surrounded by friends who came up from Princeton, where Manu is working on a Ph.D in medical-related engineering, and Johns Hopkins, where Teena is doing the same.

But some only came up from the church basement, where just hours before they worked the daily soup kitchen line.

"We changed from our work aprons into tuxedos," said Vincent Smith, the parish manager, who gave away the bride.

Those friends had once served Manu and Teena. They fed the couple, gave them clothing, found them housing and embraced them into St. John’s family.

"When they came here, they were so desperate they were boiling the leaves off trees to make tea," Smith said.

That was four years ago. Saturday, Teena James wore an elegant white gown with a simple wine-colored sash and held a bouquet of white roses. Manu Sebastion-Manoor wore a classic three-piece charcoal tuxedo, with a wine tie. The church was filled with people who once fed the couple, then worked beside them to feed others.

"Their American dream was fulfilled by the people at St. John’s," said the Rev. Rijo Johnson, who performed the ring portion of the wedding Mass.

St. John’s is the oldest Catholic Church in Newark, built in 1826 from ship ballast stones by Irish immigrants. In 1967, after the riots, a rectory housekeeper made sandwiches for a few street people. From that simple act, the St. John’s soup kitchen has blossomed to feed between 500 and 700 people a day. All food, clothing and personal care items are donated and distributed by volunteers. There are health and housing referrals, and a special center for women and children.

Manu and Teena showed up on the line in the fall of 2006.

"These are two of the most brilliant people you’ll ever meet," Smith said. "But they didn’t have the street smarts to survive in a city like Newark."

Their story begins in the Indian state of Kerala, where Manu and Teena studied at the Government Engineering College in Thrissur. They fell in love but it was complicated. Caste systems and traditions got in the way.

"In this part of India, marriages are usually arranged," Manu said. "It is very bad to choose your own spouse, especially for the woman."

But love is love, and Manu and Teena were in it. They decided to come to America. Both were accepted into the master’s programs at New Jersey Institute of Technology, which had a "bio-MEMS lab," Manu explained. "This stands for bio micro electro mechanical systems, and this is what we were most interested in."

That, and being together.

The next part of the story is where the street smarts comes in. They came with partial scholarships, a month’s worth of rice and $1,500. The plan was to get jobs right away.

"We didn’t do a good job researching, I admit," Manu said. "We didn’t even know what the weather here was like, so we didn’t have proper clothing."

The basement apartment they found cost $450 a month. Just to move in — one month rent, one month security — left them with $600. And work was not easy to find. By the end of September, their rice and money was gone.

"The night Teena said ‘this is the last cup of rice’ we prayed. But I thought, ‘This is the end. We have to return to India.’ It would have been a disaster. Teena would have been disowned. Worse."

The next day, they walked a different way through town, and saw the line at St. John’s on McCarter Highway, a block from NJPAC. They joined the line.
Patti Sapone/The Star-Ledger
Teena James, left, and her husband, Manu Sebastian Mannoor walk down the aisle after their wedding at St. John's Church in Newark.

Smith saw them, and asked them their story.

"I know our regulars," he said. "When I see new people, I ask what we can do. They stood out, frankly, because we don’t see many Indian couples."

Smith arranged housing for them in exchange for work, and the people at St. John’s rallied around this young couple with so much promise.

And they delivered, as Msgr. Neil Mahoney said during the wedding.

"God brought you to us, and you lifted us with the generosity of your spirit and sensitivity to people," he said. "We know the good you received here will be spread to humanity through your contributions to medical technology. Your gifts will touch so many people."

Mahoney called the wedding a new "chapter in Manu and Teena’s love story." And the moral of the story of this: when you extend a hand, you never know who will grab it.