Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Communion of saints

For many years, the Communion of saints is a Catholic concept that is probably one of the hardest things to understand for me, a convert. To me, from observing many cradle-Catholic friends of mine, the communion of saints means, roughly, praying to St Anthony for a certain kind of intention, St Jude to another kind of intention, going to novenas, visiting the shrines of our Lady for all sorts of special intentions, etc. What often came to my mind is a picture of old ladies clutching prayer cards and rosaries, and occasionally, physical penance carried out to 'bargain' with the saints for their intercession. Their piety amaze and move me, but really, is it necessary?

I suppose I did not much understand this because my life frankly, has not been one where much bargaining for divine intercession is needed. There were many ups and downs, but I trust that God knows better what's good for us than we do ourselves.

Fast forward to the present day, I share an apartment with a cradle Catholic from the Philippines, and made friends with many other cradle Catholics from traditionally Catholic countries. They expose me to these heretofore alien pious practices. And many intercessions, invocations, devotions, and Marian pilgrimages later, I realize that it has helped me form a habit to pray for other people's intentions and needs. I also realize that means I can ask many more people to pray for my intentions. It is strange for me today if there are nobody's intentions to pray for... and if friends ask me, a lowly member of the Church militant and a sinner, to pray for their intentions, why can't we turn to the saints and holy souls to intercede for us? For the petitions of the just surely carry more merit in heaven...

Through other means I have also 'discovered' the communion of saints. Since I started reading Catholic blogs, there have been so many new acquaintances made, and so many people and intentions to pray for. Two years ago, I found out that one of the twins (of Angry Twins) was about to enter the monastery and began praying for him. And the blogger formerly known as Moneybags, have also entered the seminary this fall. And the blogger who's praying for the safety of a baby in threat of being aborted. And the blogger who's praying that the San Diego fire may not harm a monastery nearby. There are many other examples through which I realize that the communion of saints is so REAL.

Today, for instance, I read a lovely story about Kate's grandfather who recently passed away and whom she remembered especially for his famous butter cinnamon toast. I don't know who Kate is, I don't know who her grandpa is, and I've never eaten cinnamon toast before... but from now on, I'll remember them in prayer whenever I eat cinnamon toast. Isn't the communion of saints beautiful?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Rosary Widget

For the month of October, my contribution to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary is this little widget (official link here). Similar to the earlier aspirations widget, it is a Yahoo! Widget (not to be confused with widgets for blogs). It was this earlier widget that started a few requests coming my way, one of them is a request for a rosary widget as a prayer aid.

A few months after the request, I finally took a few hours on a Friday night to do it. Actually the real reason was because I had been home-bound and desk-bound for the last few days and personally had trouble concentrating in the praying of the rosary, which I normally say whilst travelling. Also, I keep giving away my rosaries to people around me, that it's time to use an electronic aid...

To start, simply click on the red beads. It will scroll through the prayers (no going back though!) and display a counter of Hail Mary's said.

Some features:

- Option to turn ON/OFF the illustration images
- Option to say mystery of the day (default) or your choice of mystery
- Option to switch between English & Latin

I've submitted this widget for public download at Yahoo! Widgets Gallery and it's still now under review. (I will update this post and the link when it goes live.) In the meanwhile, if you trust that I'm not going to run some malicious code on your machine, you can also download it here (UPDATE: link refreshed). If it helps you to pray better, it's enough reward! Feedback welcome.

UPDATE: I found an article that talks about how powerful praying the rosary is. It's not the only example, but it's good to remember especially if we slip into remission. Spread the rosary!

UPDATE #2: The widget now is ready for download from Yahoo! site. The link is here

Monday, October 22, 2007

Formula One 2007 season concludes

One of my favorite sports (well, sports to watch) is Formula One motor racing, which I started watching since 1998. It's mesmerizing at a glance, and upon learning further about the sports, one gains respect for its intricacy. A hundredth of a second may tip the balance towards victory, or defeat. It's one of the sports that combines precision engineering, performance calibration, strategy, teamwork and individual (the racer's) gumption. What's not to like about the sports?

Well, for one, this year has been a scandal-ridden one for McLaren-Mercedes (now renamed "Vodafone McLaren Mercedes"), from accusation of corporate espionage, to multiple possibilities of rules infringement such as using two sets of wet tyres and running on fuel with temperature higher than allowed. The stars of this sports don't seem to be as colorful as those of, say, soccer. Not that they are above bickering, or sometimes, less than honorable deeds like blocking a rival. But still...

This year's Drivers' Championship is won by Kimi Räikkönen, one of my favorite drivers since his days at McLaren, by just one point! What a race Interlagos was... he started the race as a Championship contender in third position. In brief, Alonso and rookie McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton tied for 2nd and 3rd at 109 points each, with Kimi at 110. More about this year's season here.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Finding "God-spot" in our brains

This article amuses me to no end... some scientists are trying to 'map God' into regions of the human brain. What's amusing to me are: (1) how they try to see what's happening in the brains of several Buddhists as well as Carmelite and Franciscan nuns as they meditate / pray (or tried to pray, given that they are lying prone in an MRI scanner with electric caps attached to their heads), (2) how they explain 'away' the sensation of divine presence (and in the Buddhist cases, one-ness with the universe feeling), and then ironically, (3) how they would like to reproduce the apparent benefits associated with the practice of prayers in other (presumably non-praying) people by 'firing' on some regions of the brain to activate the 'God experience': "If you know how to electrically or neurochemically change functions in the brain, then you [might] in principle be able to help normal people, not mystics, achieve spiritual states using a device that stimulates the brain electromagnetically or using lights and sounds."

The conclusion seems a little disappointing to the scientists in this study, though not unexpected:

"There is no single God spot, localized uniquely in the temporal lobe of the human brain," Beauregard (ed: a neuroscientist) concludes. "These states are mediated by a neural network that is well distributed throughout the brain."

This is an interesting comment, although a little inconsistent, given that they did indeed volunteer themselves to this 'silly' study:

Although Beauregard had hoped the nuns would experience a mystical union while in the scanner, the best they could do, it turned out, was to conjure up an emotionally powerful memory of union with God. "God can’t be summoned at will," explained Sister Diane, the prioress of the Carmelite convent in Montreal.

To be fair, the article also mentioned that there are significant physical differences in certain areas of the brains amongst those who pray. The 'benefits' noted include alleviation of stress and sadness, as well as a slight reversal of the usual process of aging of the brain, which are still tangible benefits for anyone else who do not pray.

The reporter concludes thus:

[No] matter what neural correlates scientists may find, the results cannot prove or disprove the existence of God. Although atheists might argue that finding spirituality in the brain implies that religion is nothing more than divine delusion, the nuns were thrilled by their brain scans for precisely the opposite reason: they seemed to provide confirmation of God’s interactions with them. After all, finding a cerebral source for spiritual experiences could serve equally well to identify the medium through which God reaches out to humanity. Thus, the nuns’ forays into the tubular brain scanner did not undermine their faith. On the contrary, the science gave them an even greater reason to believe.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Uber Dorky Nerd Queen

One of those timesinks that I can't resist taking today... (h/t to Fr Erik) says I'm an Uber-Dorky Nerd Queen.  What are you?  Click here!

Looks like I need to work on the lit thingy and get a life..

PS: This is a 2.0 version of the earlier quiz