December 6, 2012

" I seek in every way to show with my face a good humanity "

 Fr. Michel-Marie  Fr. Michel-Marie, a Cassock in Deep Marseille

The life, works, and miracles of a priest in a city of France. Who has made the faith blossom again where it had withered

A pastor whose Masses are crowded with people. Who hears confessions every evening until late at night. Who has baptized many converts. Who always wears the cassock so that everyone may recognize him as a priest even from far away.

Michel-Marie Zanotti-Sorkine was born in 1959 in Nice, to a family a bit Russian and a bit Corsican. As a young man he sang in the nightclubs in Paris, but then over the years there emerged the vocation to the priesthood he had had since his childhood.
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From the feature by Marina Corradi

But in reality the story is even more complicated: Michel-Marie Zanotti-Sorkine, 53, is descended from a Russian Jewish grandfather who immigrated into France and had his daughters baptized before the war. One of these daughters, who escaped from the Holocaust, brought into the world Fr. Michel-Marie, who on his father's side is half Corsican and half Italian. (What a bizarre mix, you think: and you look with amazement at his face, trying to understand what a man is like who has such a tangle of roots behind him). But if one Sunday you enter his packed church and listen to how he speaks of Christ with simple everyday words, and if you observe the religious slowness of the elevation of the host, in an absolute silence, you ask yourself who this priest is, and what it is in him that draws people, bringing back those who are far away.
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Why the cassock? "For me" – he smiles – "It is a work uniform. It is intended to be a sign for those who meet me, and above all for those who do not believe. In this way I am recognizable as a priest, always. In this way on the streets I take advantage of every opportunity to make friends. Father, someone asks me, where is the post office? Come on, I'll go with you, I reply, and meanwhile we talk, and I discover that the children of that man are not baptized. Bring them to me, I say in the end; and I often baptize them later. I seek in every way to show with my face a good humanity. Just the other day" – he laughs – "in a cafe an old man asked me which horses he should bet on. I gave him the horses. I asked the Blessed Mother for forgiveness: but you know, I said to her, it is to befriend this man. As a priest who was one of my teachers used to tell those who asked him how to convert the Marxists: 'One has to become their friend,' he would reply."
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And the new evangelization? "Look," he says as we say goodbye in his rectory, "the older I get, the more I understand what Benedict XVI says: everything truly starts afresh from Christ. We can only return to the source."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:20 PM | Permalink

Decadence and Darwin

More Babies, Please by Russ Douthat

Beneath these policy debates, though, lie cultural forces that no legislator can really hope to change. The retreat from child rearing is, at some level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion — a decadence that first arose in the West but now haunts rich societies around the globe. It’s a spirit that privileges the present over the future, chooses stagnation over innovation, prefers what already exists over what might be. It embraces the comforts and pleasures of modernity, while shrugging off the basic sacrifices that built our civilization in the first place.

Such decadence need not be permanent, but neither can it be undone by political willpower alone. It can only be reversed by the slow accumulation of individual choices, which is how all social and cultural recoveries are ultimately made.


Boy did that set off a storm.  What most bothered people was the term decadence.

Douthat responded to his critics, Don't Mention the Decadence 

Or to put it another way, if we have moral obligations to future, as-yet-unborn generations, as almost everyone seems to agree, surely those duties have to include some obligation for somebody to bring those generations into existence in the first place — to imitate the sacrifices that our parents made, and give another generation the chances that we’ve had? And if that basic obligation exists in some form, then surely there comes a point when a culture in which it’s crowded out by other goals, other pursuits and yes, other pleasures can be aptly described as … what’s the word I’m looking for … decadent?
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Is replacement-level fertility really so much to ask, morally speaking, of people graced with wealth and entertainments and diversions beyond the dreams of any previous generation? If conspicuous consumption is morally dubious when it substitutes for sacrifices on behalf of strangers, as most good progressives seem to think, why isn’t it morally dubious when it substitutes for the more intimate form of sacrifice that made all of our lives possible in the first place?
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Can it really be that having achieved so much independence and autonomy and professional success, today’s Western women have no moral interest in seeing that as many women are born into the possibility of similar opportunities tomorrow? Is the feminist revolution such a fragile thing that it requires outright population decline to fulfill its goals, and is female advancement really incompatible with the goal of a modestly above-replacement birthrate?
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And what Yglesias calls nuttiness still looks like moral common sense to me — a view of intergenerational obligation that human flourishing depends on, and whose disappearance threatens to sacrifice essential goods and relationships on the altar of more transient forms of satisfaction.

Mollie Hemingway ways in Admit It: We're a Decadent People

How denigrating the practice of childrearing is viewed as a feminist triumph is beyond me.

But why can't we admit that our lack of childbearing is due to luxurious self-indulgence? Seems to me that even for those who support our current self-centered way of life, this is viewed as a feature rather than a bug of our birth control culture. Why do we have to pretend otherwise?

Megan McArdle has this to say about Our Demographic Decline

Our whole economy and social system are designed for a growing economy, and a growing population.  Without future growth, savings and investment become more necessary, but less attractive.  Without growth, people become less generous towards strangers and more unhappy about their own circumstances. And without the growth around which all of our modern welfare states have been structured, the modern safety nets that governments have spent the last century establishing may not be politically or economically sustainable. 

In a less decadent age, Darwin foreswore the self-indulgence we've come to take for granted.  The private life of Charles Darwin

In the notes – made in April and July 1938 when he was 29 years old – Darwin weighs the options, listing the positive and negative points for matrimony with a pragmatic and analytical detachment that doubtless served him well in his scientific inquiries. When choosing a soulmate though, Darwin's approach comes across as – how can I put it – a little less than romantic.

On the plus side of the ledger he cites "Children (if it Please God)" and companionship, "[an] object to be beloved and played with – better than a dog anyhow". He also approves of the health-giving benefits of the "charms of music & female chit-chat".

But he then turns to the many freedoms he worries he will miss out on – "Conversation of clever men at clubs"; "cannot read in the evenings"; "less money for books". There will also be the anxiety and responsibility of fatherhood, "fatness and idleness" and above all, "loss of time"……"How should I manage all my business if I were obliged to go every day walking with my wife.  Eheu!! I never should know French, – or see the Continent – or go to America, or go up in a Balloon, or take solitary trip in Wales – poor slave."

In the end, he decided he would be happier married.

"It is intolerable to think of spending one's whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working, and nothing after all.  No, no won't do – Imagine living all one's day solitarily in smoky dirty London."

He later married and described his wedding day as "the day of days" 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:00 PM | Permalink

Picture of the week

 1 Dog Or Two Carrying Gift

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:59 PM | Permalink

"Fixing the health care system by government fiat is like neurosurgery with a hammer"

Obamacare Jumps the Shark in its Premiere.  Walter Russell Mead explains

One of the reasons blue programs jump the shark is that over time more and more special interests lobby politicians to get special features added. The small add-ons and tweaks make programs more expensive and complicated to administer—and much, much harder to reform. This process begins when the laws are written; the lobbyists are there to tuck special little surprises between the pages of the bill. It continues as the regulations necessary to implement the new laws are written; once again, lobbyists are on hand to mold the regs to their liking. And it persists year after year after year, as lobbyists look for ways to amend the existing laws or add new requirements by inserting language into other bills.

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The law is a blunt instrument; fixing the health care system by government fiat is like neurosurgery with a hammer. It’s going to hurt more than you think, and will harm more than it helps. Let’s hope politicians figure that out before too much damage is done.

A Physician's New Reality: Patients Ask Me to Break the Law

I have now posted a notice in my office and each exam room stating exactly what Obamacare will cover for those yearly visits. Remember Obama promised this as a free exam — no co-pay, no deductible, no charge. That’s fine and dandy if you are healthy and have no complaints. However, we are obligated by law to code specifically for the reason of the visit.  An annual exam is one specific code; you can not mix this with another code, say, for rectal bleeding. This annual visit covers the exam and “discussion about the status of previously diagnosed stable conditions.” That’s the exact wording under that code — insurance will not cover any new ailment under that code.
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Private doctors are becoming a thing of the past. By 2014, less than 25% of physicians will be in private medicine. Obama was right in stating you can keep your doctor if you want to — the problem is he or she will rarely be available.

On top of all of that, doctors will be obligated — that’s right, obligated — to talk to you about things you may have no interest or need to talk about.  You may just want to have a pap smear or check your cholesterol. However, I am now mandated by the government to talk to you about your weight, exercise, family life, smoking, sexual abuse(!), and even to ask if you wear seat belts. And I am mandated to record your answers.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:41 AM | Permalink

The "Pinocchio Effect" illustrated

Researchers Confirm the “Pinocchio Effect”: When you Lie, your Nose Temperature Raises

  Red Nose Pinocchio Effect

Using thermography,researchers at the University of Granada, Department of Experimental Psychology report:

When you lie, your nose temperature rises.
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When a mental effort is made (performing difficult tasks, being interrogated on a specific event or lying) face temperature changes.
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When we lie on our feelings, the temperature around our nose raises and a brain element called “insula” is activate.
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When a person is dancing flamenco the temperature in their buttocks drops and increases in their forearms.  Each dance modality has a specific thermal footprint.
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When a highly empathic person sees another person having an electric discharge in their forearm, they become infected by their suffering and temperature in their forearm increases.
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Sexual excitement and desire can be identified in men and women using thermography, since they induce an increase in chest and genital temperature.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:40 AM | Permalink

Christianphobia when 200 million Christians suffer oppression even to the point of death

A Church Besieged

As anxious as many Christians are about religious freedom in America, nothing we’ve experienced—and God willing, never will—comes close to the brutal persecution of Christians abroad. The stunning extent of this persecution is documented in Times Literary Supplement religion editor Rupert Shortt’s evenhanded and unsettling new book, Christianophobia: A Faith Under Attack.

Some 200 million Christians—two-thirds of the entire population of the United States—are now suffering oppression, even to the point of death, on account of their faith. Yet, if you ask the average person about it, they probably wouldn’t know anything about Christianity’s modern martyrdom, much less know where and why it’s occurring.
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Speaking to Shortt last week, we discussed the crisis, and he underscored the complexities and difficulties involved in overcoming it.

This story is being downplayed, he said, because of subliminal reasons, both secular and religious. On the secular side, much of the media has disdain for Christianity, and considers it not only regressive, but dangerous—an attitude broadly shared by intellectuals, academics, and celebrities. Christianity is mistakenly seen as an exclusively “Western” religion, and part of the West’s assumed imperialism.

Given that perspective, who wants to be seen openly sympathizing with such an unfashionable lot as practicing Christians? Shortt calls this “the blind spots that can affect bien-pensant opinion-formers.” Add to this the latter’s reluctance to question any aspect of Islamic culture (even though many reform-minded Muslims do); and the idea that Islamophobia is more intense and widespread than Christianophobia (even as human rights organizations document just the reverse), and you begin to understand the depths of the problem.

And yet, paradoxically, it is Christian theology itself that also explains the current situation. Christianity’s teachings on love, humility, forbearance, and forgiveness create a non-confrontational ethos—which is a genuine strength of persecuted Christians—but also makes it more challenging to communicate their plight.

Here is Rupert Shortt in the Telegraph: The problems faced by Christians are not by any means restricted to the Muslim world.

Take India, where minorities – Muslims included – are menaced by Hindu extremists who consider the monotheistic traditions to be unwelcome imports.
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Elsewhere, the culprits include not only Communists, but also Buddhist nationalists in countries such as Burma and Sri Lanka. The scale of Communist intolerance is a matter of record. Curbs on freedom of worship in countries including China, Vietnam and Cuba are draconian and sometimes exceptionally sadistic.

Just this week.  Suspected Islamists  kill 10 Christians in Nigeria with guns and machetes after burning down their houses.  Boko Haram the Salafist Islamist movement which literally means "Western education is sinful" continues on its rampage against Christians, killing over 450 in the first six months of 2012.

More details of persecution at the Bulletin of Christian persecution Oct 30-Nov 30, 2012 and Persecution.org and Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy Father.

Despite persecution, the Church is growing.  Theologian says China to have largest Christian population within the next two decades.

During a recent book launch in Rome, a noted theologian ( Harvey Cox, professor at the Harvard Divinity School) said that China will be home to the majority of the world's Christians within the next two decades.
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There are two world phenomena happening right now,” he added. “The first is that we can't recognize Christianity as a western religion anymore and the second is that countries with the fastest growing number of Christians don't have a Christian culture or traditions.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:31 AM | Permalink

Health roundup: Vitamin D, MS, HIV, Coffee, Asperger's, Anti-depressants for Stroke and Pace-maker for Brain

Low Vitamin D Level Tied to Type 1 Diabetes

"Type 1 diabetes “has all the hallmarks of the kinds of diseases — rickets, scurvy, pellagra — that we prevent with vitamin supplements.”


Multiple Sclerosis Linked to Vitamin D Levels, Study Says

People with high levels of vitamin D in their blood have shown a lower risk of developing multiple sclerosis, according to results of a Swedish study released Monday.  The new study adds to a growing body of research suggesting a link between vitamin D and MS, an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord that is believed to afflict more than a quarter-million Americans. The research will be published in Tuesday's edition of the medical journal Neurology.
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Researchers have speculated that low vitamin D levels increase risk for developing a number of chronic health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, various cancers—and MS.

Infected but oblivious: Young Americans with HIV often don't know

More than a quarter of new HIV infections in the U.S. occur among people ages 13 to 24, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What's more, about 60% of those young people with HIV don't know they have the virus.  ...According to the CDC, about 12,200 young Americans became infected with HIV in 2010, with African Americans representing more than half of those newly infected. Young gay and bisexual people were also hit particularly hard.

The Case for Drinking as Much Coffee as You Like

"What I tell patients is, if you like coffee, go ahead and drink as much as you want and can," says Dr. Peter Martin, director of the Institute for Coffee Studies at Vanderbilt University. He's even developed a metric for monitoring your dosage: If you are having trouble sleeping, cut back on your last cup of the day. From there, he says, "If you drink that much, it's not going to do you any harm, and it might actually help you. A lot."

Asperger's Gone and other Changes to the Bible of Psychiatric Disorders

1.Autistic disorder will become autism-spectrum disorder.
2. Binge-eating disorder moves from a category of … proposed conditions that require “further study” — to a full-blown illness .
3. The definition for depression expands by removing the exception for bereavement from the definition of depression will be removed, which means psychiatrists will be able to diagnose depressive disorder even among those who have just lost a loved one. For years, skeptics have criticized the APA for its expansive meaning of depression; now that definition is even broader.
4. Tantrums more than 3 times a week can be diagnosed as “disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD),”

Anti-depressants could help stroke patients recover more quickly by 'rebuilding' the brain

'The results of this meta-analysis are extremely promising. We do not yet fully understand how anti-depressants could boost recovery after stroke, but it may be because they promote the growth of new nerve cells in the brain, or protect cells damaged by stroke.' ….by preventing depression, the drugs may help patients to be more physically active which is known to aid overall recovery.

'We now need to carry out a number of much larger clinical trials in order to establish exactly if, how and to what extent antidepressants can help stroke survivors recover.'

The revolutionary new breath test to diagnose bowel cancer

The test, which works by identifying chemicals associated with cancer tumors, is said to be 76 per cent accurate.

The 'pacemaker' implanted in the brain to prevent Alzheimer's patients losing their memory

The device, which uses deep brain stimulation, has already been used in thousands of people with Parkinson’s disease as possible means of boosting memory and reversing cognitive decline.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:56 AM | Permalink