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Archive for February, 2008

David Archuleta (A.I.)

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The Finger of God…

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In biblical times, diseases and infirmities that we attribute to natural causes were often looked upon as the work of demons. In todays gospel Jesus cures a man who is unable to speak, “driving out a demon that was mute” Luke 11:14-23:

Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. But some of them said, “By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.” Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebub. Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.

“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils.

“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters…”

No  matter what the cause of his muteness, or of other maladies, Jesus went about healing them. This makes some in the crowds uneasy and suspicious, and they accuse him of casting out demons by the power of the devil. But Jesus declares that it is by “the finger of God” that he heals and frees the afflicted.

When we hear the phrase “finger of God,” one of the first images that comes to mind is that famous section of Michelangelo’s magnificent mural in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, God’s creation of Adam. In it divine energy pulses down God’s right arm, coursing through the index finger of God across a visually small divide (bridgeable only by divine power!) into the index finger of Adam’s left hand, bringing humanity into being out of the stuff of the earth.

Another echo that phrase evokes comes from the early Christian Latin hymn, Veni Creator Spiritus, “Come creator Spirit.” In it the Holy Spirit is called the “finger of God’s right hand.” The first line of the hymn emphasizes the creative power of the Spirit so splendidly depicted by Michelangelo. In a later verse the Spirit’s healing power is invoked to fill our hearts with love, and to fortify the weaknesses of our bodies with lasting strength.

The “finger of God’s hand,” the Holy Spirit, was at work in Jesus’ historical life, and continues to reach out and touch us and our world today. We can reach out in desire to welcome that transforming energy in our lives.

Lenten Reflections, February 28th…


After the Ohio Debate …

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And the winner is …

The end is nigh for some – it is just a matter of time now. There are just some people that you should not mock…


Waiting…

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It is cold outside and has been snowing for hours now. The snow is starting to pile up on the streets and sidewalks. My walk home took longer than I expected and I was a frozen popsicle when I came in the door from the meeting.

Tonight we spoke about forgiveness and resentments. Our reading comes from the daily reflections for Lent:

“Hanging on to anger and refusing to forgive will suck life out of us and increase the violence in our world. Forgiveness will bring us new life and peace. It is, however, rarely easy. Time is necessary for accepting and struggling with our anger and hatred. An essential part of the process is letting ourselves feel how deeply hurt we are. In that pain, with grace and time, relief can come.

Forgiveness does not require us to put ourselves in the way of continuing abuse or rejection, nor to deny or excuse the evil that has been done to us. It does not require that the offender(s) admit fault. Forgiveness is our choice.

With the help of grace we can let go of resentment. For our own peace of mind and well-being, and for the growth of peace in our world, it is important that we pray for that grace and are willing to struggle with our feelings and attitudes so that we can come to forgiveness.”

I guess the lesson that I have learned in sobriety to this date is that I don’t have to carry around resentments. That there are no Justified Resentments (BB). And I have learned now to let go and let God. I know how NOT to rent people space in my brain for free any longer. I choose my battles wisely. I know better than to entertain people, and situations that would be harmful to me or others. I can just BE with myself, and be ok with that.

Matt 18:21-35

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”


We Begin …

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He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

They tell us that it is going to snow, and SNOWING, they mean over 10 to 20 cm of snow over the next few days. February is going to go out with a bang. I woke up yesterday and I was not feeling myself. I slept a good portion of today away because I feel like someone has sucked the life out of me.

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I had to go to class tonight because another guest lecturer was coming in to talk about The Evangelical Tradition, Discovering the Word-Centered life. Tonight’s presentation was by a secular Franciscan man who talked to us about St. Francis and the ways of the Franciscan Order.  So we mention firstly the 3 Paths: Purgation, Illumination and Union…

I am reminded of my prayers to Anthony of Padua, and the connection that David Eskries and I had to the saint when we were in Seminary/Monastery back in the day. When I was in San Francisco I visited the Mission Churches, this was after David died. I walked through the church graveyard and there in the garden was a lifelike statue of St. Anthony, our patron saint.

I heard a voice tell me to walk further, so I followed. I was led into the Mission Sanctuary and I stepped up to the altar and I was standing at the lectern, thumbing through the lectionary when a voice called to me and he said look up and when I did, there was a stained glass window up in the back of the church. And there before the window stood David, he greeted me and smiled. That was the second time David had appeared to me after his death.

Still to this day, I never leave the house without wearing my Miraculous Mary medallion that David’s mother gave me when he died. Blessed Be my friend and angel…

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I got a letter from an old friend today, the man who was the Youth Minister from the parish that I belonged to when I was in High School. After so many years, we have been reconnected due to the illness that has impacted my circle of friends today.

I want to Quote what John wrote:

Your email and your blog brought tears to my eyes.  I had no idea what you have had to go through!  It’s obvious to me that your inner strength comes from your struggle.  It seems that at my age (turned 50 in November), reconnecting with folks usually means some sort of tragedy has occurred.  I always wonder if we can pray our way out of another one! 

I remember our days in “New Life” with great fondness.  I continue to see that time in my life as an anointed time.  It’s still a rare thing when you can see and feel such a strong presence of the Spirit… the letter continues… 

Now you can see why your story has touched me so much.  I will continue to read through your blog – and hopefully to stay in touch with you as you pursue the next big thing in your life.  I, too, believe that you are called to share your struggles and your faith with others.  You are in my thoughts and prayers, my friend.

John mentions strength and struggle. Two things I am vividly aware of because they are two of the most important words in my vernacular. I was to talk about the sick and suffering, because I believe in the salvific value in suffering. The Late Pontiff, John Paul II speaks about this topic:

 

“I have always been very conscious of the fundamental importance of what the suffering contribute to the life of the church. I remember that at the beginning the sick initiated me. I needed a lot of courage to stand before a sick person and enter, so to speak, into his physical and spiritual pain, not to betray discomfort, and to show at least a little loving compassion.

Only later did I begin to grasp the profound meaning of the mystery of human suffering. In the weakness of the sick, I saw emerging every more clearly a new strength — the strength of mercy. In a sense, the sick provoke mercy. Through their prayers and sacrifices, they not only ask for mercy but create a “space for mercy,” or better, open up spaces for mercy.

By their illness and suffering they call forth acts of mercy and create the possibility for accomplishing them. I used to entrust the needs of the church to the prayers of the sick, and the results were always positive.”

Rise Let us be on our Way, pgs. 75-76

There are many topics that I am a student of. But today I can confidently speak about and know what true suffering is. I can write about it because I have walked that road. I can identify with you and I can know for sure that God sees all and knows all. The one thing that blossoms from the garden of suffering is the act of compassion. Because only through true suffering can one really grasp, understand and know what true compassion is.

Inner Strength that is borne out of suffering is something that I know very well. And I write about this issue many times. It came to pass that one Sunday my friends brought me to mass, I was really sick, during these years.  I stood in my pew and waited on the procession to begin and low and behold a new priest was saying mass, he had crutches and his name was Fr. Jeff.

He made his way into the church and up the stairs and I stood there amazed. He said mass and it was as if God spoke to me that Sunday. I watched this man get around with his crutches like a hot knife runs through butter. I swore on that day that I would never ever complain about my suffering again, and I have kept that promise to this day. Fr. Jeff had M.S. and I came to know this holy man of God, he became my spiritual director at St. Louis Catholic Church. He took me on a journey that changed my life. And I will forever be grateful to him for that.

In the Pinball Game we call life, I was not insulated from suffering. My ball has been in play for decades, and it seems that I remain in play today. Aids, depression, abuse, near death experiences, addiction, alcoholism, mental health issues, I have seen it all. And so with what I know, I can minister to you. I can tell you [Evan] that there is light at the end of the tunnel. You just got to keep walking and know that I am walking with you.

There is No TRY – Only DO!!!

I speak to my friends every week. I check in with them because I need to hear their voices. I need their encouragement and support, like I need air in my lungs. I have never felt such grace, as I have felt it as of late for many a year. Prayer and silence gives rise to grace and peace. We must continue to pray and believe that miracles are still possible in the 21st century and that God can move heaven and earth for us. I have faith that God will do what God will do, In His time, and on his timeframe.

We start with simple prayers once again…

The Gathering:

Almighty God,
to you all heart are open,
all desires known,
And from you no secrets are hidden.
Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
Through Christ our Lord, Amen…

 


For Evan – A Perfect Day …


Dear Evan…

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When it comes to finances, I can’t say we have mastered that area of our lives yet. But we manage. Trying to find financial balance while trying to manage food, medications and bills seems a daunting task. But it can be done.

I imagine that by now, you and your wife have figured out the cycles that pass with Bi-polar disorder and I hope that you have been paying attention to the list of observations that I published for you to look at and use.

The first rule of thumb is to not loose hope or give up because of things that are outside your control. This darkness that comes with depression affects you and not only you but the people around you, so like I said last night, you have to stay above the water and fight.

Paying for medications it seems for many is a real issue. I know that they can be costly. That is one gift of living in Canada, we don’t pay those extreme prices for medications that you do in the United States.

You can’t allow or you should try not to allow the depression to overwhelm you because if it does, you will end up in the pit of despair. I can’t encourage you enough to observe these places you find yourself in and then report them to your physician so that they can moderate your medication to help keep you out of the pit and not bounce into the stratosphere getting too high. The goal here is to find the even middle ground to be operable and functional, and not so upset and depressed.

That will come in time if you are working diligently to find a solution, even if things around you seem to be falling apart. You have to remember to stay in your day and live one day at a time – that will lessen your worries about what is to come and keep you pointed in the right direction. I know this is hard. But you must fight.

Crawling back under the covers and ignoring the world around you is not going to help you or your wife, you have to fight the urge to bury and hide, even if that means forcing yourself every day to do something like get out of the house, go for a walk, go to the store and such and so forth. Take time every day to be good to yourself to keep from entertaining the darkness. Find things to do that keep you going. Find projects to keep your mind focused. Do things together.

Find your Passion – DO IT – Money will Follow

If your dreams are freaky, then that is another sign to look at, your sleep and dream cycles, because if you are not resting well or not sleeping well at night, that affects your daily life and cycles. I know when hubby is not sleeping well and is agitated so make sure you pay attention to those cycles as well. Good sleep cycles will help your awake cycles.

All of these factors will play into proper management of your bi-polar disorder. I know that this is a lot of information to swallow, and that is why a bi-polar person needs a second person involved to help see the ruts, to observe the cycles and be able to, with a little certainty, help you and your physician along.

Stay above the wave my friend, there are always solutions, if you know where to look for them, be they in a church community, social services, and medical assistance programs. I would investigate your community to see if there are any services that you can attach yourselves to to help get by.

Pray… and know that we pray for you and that we support you and we are hopeful that you will become victorious, you just have to believe that that is possible. And do not loose hope … There is light at the end of the tunnel. Keep walking, and know that eventually, you will find the mix that works for you and one day it will just happen, the lights will come on and you will have figured it out. And there salvation will be waiting. And life will continue.


Jerome and the Snow…

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It snowed again today. This is a view of the street I live on here in Montreal. The building farthest back on the left is mine, as we look towards where this photo was taken. I take some time each day to sit on my balcony and take part in my yearly meditation with the silence.

For a few more weeks this silence will remain over the city, as it has in many places in North America. By now many people are fed up with Winter and I know many are wishing now that it be over with. But come Summer, we will be complaining that it is too hot and that we wished it was cooler.

I stand on my balcony as the snow falls and it always amazes me how silent it is during a snow event. The trees below are dusted and cars are covered. It is just beautiful.

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Jerome woke one night from his sleep the branches of the trees slapping up against the windows of his room. The rain was falling, the wind was blowing, so he got out of his bed and ventured over to his window because he heard the voice call out to him “Jerome, it’s me come and let’s go.” He had heard this voice call to him before – it had visited him several times and was unique.

Jerome stood at the windows and reached out with his arms and closed his eyes, as he rose from where he stood, out of the room, out of the house, up, up, up into the firmament that is the heavens above. There his friend was, like Jerome had always known, the face of an angel the voice of peace and eternity, “come let’s fly like the wind the night is young and there are miles to travel before we reach the daylight.”

Intertwining their hands Jerome resting behind him, they took off like a bird for places yet still unknown. From place to place they traveled on the wings of gossamer, their hair blowing behind them the song of the breeze in their ears. They covered much ground in those first late night hours, above the clouds surveying the land.

Jerome was astounded at the sense of calm and peace he felt when he took to the air. It was flight that set him free from the world he lived in by day. They spent many nights flying together, no words needed to be spoken, but the love between them was something Jerome had never felt. He did not know why he was gifted to travel so far and so wide with someone who loved him more than he ever knew before, “why him?”

Around the world they flew by night, visiting great cities and places. He showed Jerome all the secrets of the astral plane and told him of the path he must follow. Jerome knew this as to be the one chance he had to break the chain of life he had been stuck with for so very long. He longed to be free to soar above the clouds and be free from the world that held him so tightly in one place.

Jerome had loved once, with the most pure love he had ever known, he knew the touch that would calm his fears, he knew the love that dare not speak its name, alas, never would they see each other again, and the world saw fit to tear them apart. Sadness and loneliness became Jerome’s constant companion, until the flights began many years after they parted ways.

He spoke to Jerome with a whisper that was music to Jerome’s ears. They dipped beneath the clouds are soaked by falling rain, but it did not matter as long as they were together.

They knew that they were meant to be together, even if the world fought against their union. So there in the air they would fly to places unseen by human eyes, and they knew truths that no one had ever known, they knew what “one love” meant and how they would maintain it.

That night Jerome knew that he was meant to soar, and to love and to explore the far reaches of himself and his thoughts. He would be there to travel with him whenever Jerome wished him to be. Jerome would hear the voice call to him, “Jerome, it’s me come and let’s go!” and once again his eyes would close and he would rise to the love that knew no name with the angel that had no name, it was grace that Jerome was accustomed to feel whenever they spent time together.

In time Jerome’s night flights would become far and few between because his own journey had begun, and so on the odd occasion Jerome sleeps at night, and hears that familiar voice, “Jerome, it’s me come and let’s go” and they would rise above the clouds and travel the world around them…


The Third Step…

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“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him…”

We are advised the AA program is simple, and we should keep it as simple as possible. Yet in Step Three we are confronted with the age-old mystery of humankinds relativity to God. Our natural inclination is to duck the issue entirely. Surely there must be some easier way out. There is. Given a chance, our alcoholic minds will find it. It leads back to drinking.

We know what should be done about this matter, but we are not being honest with ourselves when we refuse to seek and understanding of God or to draw upon His help and power. We still reason through alcoholic thinking. It is hard to surrender the rationalization and alibis of our alcoholic personalities. Also while seeking a tangible God we miss the service that leads to Him.

The Little Red Book, pg. 36, Step Three

I have, for the last few days, spent time in prayer, reading from the book, reciting prayers from the book, to help me find the words that I feel I should pray. I must say that praying on my own is not a difficult task day in and day out. It is quite another beast altogether when a community asks me to pray for some specific intention. Because I am not only praying for myself, but for you as well.

And that is a lot of pressure. Because I not only have to pray for myself, but I have to take your concerns and petitions to the Father as well, and I better have the right words to speak to God and I need to make sure that my prayers come from the right place in my heart and that my words are specific and just.

The Daily Reflection says today that: I cannot consider myself “Different” in AA. if I do, I isolate myself from the others and from contact with my Higher Power. If I feel isolated in AA, it is not something for which others are responsible. It is something I’ve created by feeling I’m different in some way. Today I practice being just another alcoholic in the worldwide fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The Daily Reflections, “I’m not Different,” February 19th…

My spiritual director told me to return to the written word to pray those prayers that I know so well, like rote. And so I have. I also return to the roots of where to begin my returning to the first three steps. I can’t, He can, So I will let Him…

I am powerless over the future. I am powerless over people, places and things. I cannot heal the sick or raise the dead. I am just one man in a network of prayer and support. All I can offer is all I have to give. And so today is Tuesday, my day of taking care of me. Of taking my prayers and concerns to the church where I chair my home group meeting this month and I share my thoughts with my friends and fellows and I listen to what they have to offer on the Third Step, on Powerlessness and of Turning it Over to a God of my understanding.

I know what to do, I know where to do it, and with guidance from the book, I know how to do it. Return to the roots where you started. Trust that the right words will come at the right time. Trusting that God hears us and takes every word we utter to him to his heart and in His goodness and in His time, Thy will be done…


Castro steps down as Cuba’s leader after 49 years

CBC News

Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who ruled the Caribbean island nation for nearly half a century, announced Tuesday that he is stepping down as president.

Cubans on their way to work pass by a huge poster depicting President Fidel Castro on Tuesday morning.Cubans on their way to work pass by a huge poster depicting President Fidel Castro on Tuesday morning.
(Adalberto Roque/AFP/Getty Images)

In a written statement, published on the official Communist party’s website Granma, Castro said he would not accept a new term as president when the newly elected parliament meets on Sunday.

His resignation effectively ends the longest rule in the world for a head of government and paves the way for his brother Raul to permanently take over.

“I will not aspire nor accept, I repeat, I will not aspire nor accept — the post of president of the council of state and commander in chief,” read the letter signed by the 81-year-old president.

Although there has been much speculation about his position as leader since he fell ill in July 2006, there had been no advance warning of Castro’s plan to permanently give up power.

The new National Assembly is meeting Sunday for the first time since January elections to pick the governing council of state, including the presidency Castro holds. Raul Castro, who is first vice-president of Cuba’s Council of State, is the constitutionally designated successor.

Castro had temporarily relinquished power to his 76-year-old brother Raul on July 31, 2006, when he announced that he had undergone intestinal surgery. Raul had long been his brother’s designated successor.

“My wishes have always been to discharge my duties to my last breath. That’s what I can offer,” Castro wrote. “It would be a betrayal to my conscience to accept a responsibility requiring more mobility and dedication than I am physically able to offer. This I say devoid of all drama.”

Castro has not been seen in public lately, appearing only sporadically in official photographs and videotapes.

Raul’s rule could bring economic, social change

Raul has hinted over the past 18 months that he wants to loosen the government’s control on economic and social issues, CBC’s Connie Watson reported. Raul has also acknowledged that government wages that average about $19 a month do not satisfy basic needs.

“They say the revolution will continue, but they have to ease up on some of the things that are making people frustrated,” Watson said.

Despite stepping down as president, Castro remains a member of parliament. He will also retain the post as first secretary of Cuba’s Communist Party.

U.S. President George W. Bush expressed hope Tuesday that the end of Fidel Castro’s presidency will launch a transition to democracy.

“What does this mean for the people in Cuba?” Bush asked rhetorically at a news conference in Rwanda during his trip to Africa. “They’re the ones who suffered under Fidel Castro. They’re the ones who were put in prison because of their beliefs. They’re the ones who have been denied their right to live in a free society.

“So I view this as a period of transition and it should be the beginning of the democratic transition in Cuba.”

10 U.S. Administrations tried to topple him 

Cuban rebel leader Fidel Castro poses with two unidentified women who joined the rebel forces as nurses in this Feb. 6, 1958, file photo. Cuban rebel leader Fidel Castro poses with two unidentified women who joined the rebel forces as nurses in this Feb. 6, 1958, file photo.
(Associated Press)

In 1959, Castro led a band of guerillas and toppled the Batista government. Although the United States was the first to recognize Castro, relations soon began to deteriorate as the new leader reshaped the country into a Communist state.

Castro’s government nationalized many American-owned businesses, and within a year Cuba and the Soviet Union began developing close ties. The U.S. would later impose a trade embargo on the island in an attempt to put pressure on Castro’s regime.

He was the target of CIA assassination plots, and 10 U.S. administrations tried to topple him, most notably the failed CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961.

The country became the focal point of a possible war between the U.S and the Soviet Union after it was discovered that nuclear missile bases were being established on the island. The weapons were eventually pulled out.

On Jan. 26, 1976, then prime minister Pierre Trudeau became the first Canadian leader to pay an official visit to Cuba. Trudeau and Castro developed a close personal relationship and remained friends for years. Castro was among the world leaders at Trudeau’s funeral in Montreal in 2000. But critics have condemned him as a totalitarian dictator, who ran a repressive regime that quashed individual rights and carried out political executions.

With files from the Associated Press

Castro’s move talk of the town in Miami

By ADRIAN SAINZ, Associated Press Writer

MIAMI – Cuban exiles in Little Havana welcomed Tuesday’s news that Cuban President Fidel Castro had officially resigned power, but most in the heart of the Cuban exile community weren’t optimistic the move would bring major changes or democracy to the communist nation.

As news of the resignation spread, motorists honked vigorously at police patrol cars and television reporters. Shouts of “Free Cuba!” echoed in the streets, and small groups gathered to chat in local eateries. But there was no widespread celebration, just caution.

“I hope this is the beginning of the end of the system, but we have to wait,” said 35-year-old chemist Omar Fernandez, who left Cuba for the U.S. six years ago.

Repeated rumors of Castro’s death over the years helped prepare residents and officials for a day that all knew would eventually come. The community’s reactions so far were calm, peaceful and not as boisterous as when thousands took to the streets after Castro temporarily handed power to his brother Raul in July 2006.

Most exiles view Castro as a ruthless dictator who forced them, their parents or grandparents from their home after he seized power in a revolution in 1959. Police said they were “keeping a sharp eye” on Little Havana, but residents weren’t gathering in large numbers to celebrate. Nothing indicated a need for increased patrols off Florida or that a mass migration was imminent, said Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Chris O’Neil.

Ulises Colina, a 65-year-old electrical technician, said he was not certain if the resignation would bring any change. “I think it was a foregone conclusion that his political career would be over soon,” Colina said.

Colina theorized that any change in Cuba would have to come from within the military.

“Changes? Well, he’s the leader of the gang but he has a bunch of auxiliary gang members who don’t want to see change,” Colina said.

At a popular Cuban restaurant farther from Little Havana, the sentiments were similar.

“Even though this is great news for Cubans and for me personally, but I don’t think anything is going to change,” said Jose Miranda, 46. “Last time I was here was when the news said that he was really sick and we thought that he was dead. And look what has happened. Nothing.”

About 1.5 million Cubans and Cuban-Americans live in the U.S., two-thirds of them in Florida, and the majority in Miami-Dade County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Since they began arriving, the Miami area has become a mostly Hispanic, bustling city that is a hub for international trade and finance, but also deals with poverty. What was once a city marked by Southern drawls in English transformed into a place where Spanish is spoken everywhere.

The first wave of Cubans who fled the island immediately after Castro took power, often sending their children ahead of them on so-called “Peter Pan” flights, generally support the most hardline U.S. policies toward the island. With waning family ties to the island, they are among the most vocal backers of the U.S. embargo.

The views of the successive waves of Cuban immigrants are more complicated. Those who came over since 1980 are more likely to have grown up under the Castro government and still have family on the island. They chafe under the Bush administration’s 2004 restrictions, which limit the money that can be sent home as well restrict island visits to once every three years for immediate relatives only.

Cuba experts in the U.S. didn’t expect any immediate changes, or for Castro to completely disappear from view.

“For Cuban-Americans it doesn’t mean a whole big deal. It’s the continuation with a different face,” said Andy Gomez of the University of Miami‘s Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies.

Joe Garcia, former executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation and now a Democratic candidate for Congress, cautioned that it was unlikely there would be any immediate political openings in Cuba.

“Today Castro announces the end of the revolution. That doesn’t mean it’s all over, but that means it allows people to finally begin to move beyond,” he said.

___

Associated Press writers Matt Sedensky and Laura Wides-Munoz contributed to this report.


Castro steps down as Cuba's leader after 49 years

CBC News

Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who ruled the Caribbean island nation for nearly half a century, announced Tuesday that he is stepping down as president.

Cubans on their way to work pass by a huge poster depicting President Fidel Castro on Tuesday morning.Cubans on their way to work pass by a huge poster depicting President Fidel Castro on Tuesday morning.
(Adalberto Roque/AFP/Getty Images)

In a written statement, published on the official Communist party’s website Granma, Castro said he would not accept a new term as president when the newly elected parliament meets on Sunday.

His resignation effectively ends the longest rule in the world for a head of government and paves the way for his brother Raul to permanently take over.

“I will not aspire nor accept, I repeat, I will not aspire nor accept — the post of president of the council of state and commander in chief,” read the letter signed by the 81-year-old president.

Although there has been much speculation about his position as leader since he fell ill in July 2006, there had been no advance warning of Castro’s plan to permanently give up power.

The new National Assembly is meeting Sunday for the first time since January elections to pick the governing council of state, including the presidency Castro holds. Raul Castro, who is first vice-president of Cuba’s Council of State, is the constitutionally designated successor.

Castro had temporarily relinquished power to his 76-year-old brother Raul on July 31, 2006, when he announced that he had undergone intestinal surgery. Raul had long been his brother’s designated successor.

“My wishes have always been to discharge my duties to my last breath. That’s what I can offer,” Castro wrote. “It would be a betrayal to my conscience to accept a responsibility requiring more mobility and dedication than I am physically able to offer. This I say devoid of all drama.”

Castro has not been seen in public lately, appearing only sporadically in official photographs and videotapes.

Raul’s rule could bring economic, social change

Raul has hinted over the past 18 months that he wants to loosen the government’s control on economic and social issues, CBC’s Connie Watson reported. Raul has also acknowledged that government wages that average about $19 a month do not satisfy basic needs.

“They say the revolution will continue, but they have to ease up on some of the things that are making people frustrated,” Watson said.

Despite stepping down as president, Castro remains a member of parliament. He will also retain the post as first secretary of Cuba’s Communist Party.

U.S. President George W. Bush expressed hope Tuesday that the end of Fidel Castro’s presidency will launch a transition to democracy.

“What does this mean for the people in Cuba?” Bush asked rhetorically at a news conference in Rwanda during his trip to Africa. “They’re the ones who suffered under Fidel Castro. They’re the ones who were put in prison because of their beliefs. They’re the ones who have been denied their right to live in a free society.

“So I view this as a period of transition and it should be the beginning of the democratic transition in Cuba.”

10 U.S. Administrations tried to topple him 

Cuban rebel leader Fidel Castro poses with two unidentified women who joined the rebel forces as nurses in this Feb. 6, 1958, file photo. Cuban rebel leader Fidel Castro poses with two unidentified women who joined the rebel forces as nurses in this Feb. 6, 1958, file photo.
(Associated Press)

In 1959, Castro led a band of guerillas and toppled the Batista government. Although the United States was the first to recognize Castro, relations soon began to deteriorate as the new leader reshaped the country into a Communist state.

Castro’s government nationalized many American-owned businesses, and within a year Cuba and the Soviet Union began developing close ties. The U.S. would later impose a trade embargo on the island in an attempt to put pressure on Castro’s regime.

He was the target of CIA assassination plots, and 10 U.S. administrations tried to topple him, most notably the failed CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961.

The country became the focal point of a possible war between the U.S and the Soviet Union after it was discovered that nuclear missile bases were being established on the island. The weapons were eventually pulled out.

On Jan. 26, 1976, then prime minister Pierre Trudeau became the first Canadian leader to pay an official visit to Cuba. Trudeau and Castro developed a close personal relationship and remained friends for years. Castro was among the world leaders at Trudeau’s funeral in Montreal in 2000. But critics have condemned him as a totalitarian dictator, who ran a repressive regime that quashed individual rights and carried out political executions.

With files from the Associated Press

Castro’s move talk of the town in Miami

By ADRIAN SAINZ, Associated Press Writer

MIAMI – Cuban exiles in Little Havana welcomed Tuesday’s news that Cuban President Fidel Castro had officially resigned power, but most in the heart of the Cuban exile community weren’t optimistic the move would bring major changes or democracy to the communist nation.

As news of the resignation spread, motorists honked vigorously at police patrol cars and television reporters. Shouts of “Free Cuba!” echoed in the streets, and small groups gathered to chat in local eateries. But there was no widespread celebration, just caution.

“I hope this is the beginning of the end of the system, but we have to wait,” said 35-year-old chemist Omar Fernandez, who left Cuba for the U.S. six years ago.

Repeated rumors of Castro’s death over the years helped prepare residents and officials for a day that all knew would eventually come. The community’s reactions so far were calm, peaceful and not as boisterous as when thousands took to the streets after Castro temporarily handed power to his brother Raul in July 2006.

Most exiles view Castro as a ruthless dictator who forced them, their parents or grandparents from their home after he seized power in a revolution in 1959. Police said they were “keeping a sharp eye” on Little Havana, but residents weren’t gathering in large numbers to celebrate. Nothing indicated a need for increased patrols off Florida or that a mass migration was imminent, said Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Chris O’Neil.

Ulises Colina, a 65-year-old electrical technician, said he was not certain if the resignation would bring any change. “I think it was a foregone conclusion that his political career would be over soon,” Colina said.

Colina theorized that any change in Cuba would have to come from within the military.

“Changes? Well, he’s the leader of the gang but he has a bunch of auxiliary gang members who don’t want to see change,” Colina said.

At a popular Cuban restaurant farther from Little Havana, the sentiments were similar.

“Even though this is great news for Cubans and for me personally, but I don’t think anything is going to change,” said Jose Miranda, 46. “Last time I was here was when the news said that he was really sick and we thought that he was dead. And look what has happened. Nothing.”

About 1.5 million Cubans and Cuban-Americans live in the U.S., two-thirds of them in Florida, and the majority in Miami-Dade County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Since they began arriving, the Miami area has become a mostly Hispanic, bustling city that is a hub for international trade and finance, but also deals with poverty. What was once a city marked by Southern drawls in English transformed into a place where Spanish is spoken everywhere.

The first wave of Cubans who fled the island immediately after Castro took power, often sending their children ahead of them on so-called “Peter Pan” flights, generally support the most hardline U.S. policies toward the island. With waning family ties to the island, they are among the most vocal backers of the U.S. embargo.

The views of the successive waves of Cuban immigrants are more complicated. Those who came over since 1980 are more likely to have grown up under the Castro government and still have family on the island. They chafe under the Bush administration’s 2004 restrictions, which limit the money that can be sent home as well restrict island visits to once every three years for immediate relatives only.

Cuba experts in the U.S. didn’t expect any immediate changes, or for Castro to completely disappear from view.

“For Cuban-Americans it doesn’t mean a whole big deal. It’s the continuation with a different face,” said Andy Gomez of the University of Miami‘s Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies.

Joe Garcia, former executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation and now a Democratic candidate for Congress, cautioned that it was unlikely there would be any immediate political openings in Cuba.

“Today Castro announces the end of the revolution. That doesn’t mean it’s all over, but that means it allows people to finally begin to move beyond,” he said.

___

Associated Press writers Matt Sedensky and Laura Wides-Munoz contributed to this report.


Reading Week…

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This week is reading week, I am supposed to be reading for class. It is a good thing that I have kept up on my reading and for Christian Spirituality, I am ahead of the curve as I have read much farther in the text than required for next week. My other class, Theology 101, we come to find out that, we spent $40.00 on a text that is no longer used in the class, go figure. So now we are flying by the seat of our pants relying on class notes on the skool website for information. There is no rhyme or reason to the class any longer. So why bother???

I usually get to a point that I can’t fill my brain with any more religious writing, because I get to “religion overload” very easily. So I resorted to my bookcase in the bedroom to try and cure what ails me, and I picked up Memoirs of a Geisha again, and that has become my bedside companion. I loved the book and it has been a long time since I read it last so I enjoy it.

In my daily running of the blogs I came across several subjects that I thought were inspiring, such as February and the thought of spring. I woke up this morning and once again, the wind was howling outside, we live 17 stories us so when the wind is gusting at 30 clicks today, the windows buckle in their frames and the seal on the balcony door whistles. How I hate miserable gray days… I just want to stay in bed.

Spring has not yet been something that I think about until the beginning of March, because last year we got slammed with all that snow late in 2007, so we in Montreal hold our breaths through February waiting on the next big dump. Tomorrow there is snow in the forecast once again, then lows will hit the [-20c range] Ugh!!!

Living in the city does not lend itself to walking through the streets looking for clues as to the emergence of spring. The green spaces are still covered in a layer of snow, so that is a real bummer, I think Winter should end tomorrow. But that won’t happen now will it?

There was a strange fluke the other night here in the wordpress world. My stats spiked through the 800 hit mark from 350 the day prior, which was strange, because it totally blew my average daily hits and garnered me a new Highest hit mark on February 16th of 818 hits in one day, which gave me an endorphan rush because word press does not show us every hit but it does show us the most popular reads.

I find it funny that people are reading the same posts day after day, and I wonder, what is it that people are looking for in my historical writings? My Living with Aids, my Coming out Story and Hannibal Rising are the most popularposts over the last week. Weird…

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I’ve been spending an insane amount of time over on IMVU as of late, because I opened a club and now I have a dj’s list of music that I have collected and my friends all meet in the club and last night we were in the club until 3 a.m. in the morning. I am a nightowl person so I’d rather sleep all day and then play all night. IMVU brings together people of all ages and from all places and I find it incredibly fun!!! There is a discussion that I want to write about but not right now…

I put on Memoirs of a Geisha and I guess I can keep writing…

I had a strange dream about working in an office, that I worked in long ago. I was trying to arrange flights for someone and I was rushing about the office in a mad dash to get them done and I was all over the place. I saw the same people I worked with in the dream and it seemed to last a long time. I don’t know why I was transported back to this period of time, maybe it was because of new reconnections, I guess.

There is other stuff I can write about but for now, I am going to stop and think about the really deep stuff and get back to you later…


Keith Olbermann

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If you are like me and you enjoy watching the media take aim at the U.S. President, then this video is a must see. Well worth the 10 minutes to watch it.

MSNBC Commentary: Watch it Here


You Better Get to Livin…

Originally found on: Kickin Tina 


Anglican leader warns conservatives

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By CHARMAINE NORONHA, Associated Press Writer 

TORONTO – The head of the Anglican Church of Canada has warned members who split with the church over its decision to bless same-sex unions that they will lose their church buildings and funds.

“In our Anglican tradition, individuals who choose to leave the Church over contentious issues cannot take property and other assets with them,” Archbishop Fred Hiltz said in a letter released Friday.

The letter comes two days after St. John’s Shaughnessy, a large parish church in Vancouver, voted to leave the Anglican Church of Canada and affiliate itself with a South American Anglican church, which has a more conservative stance on homosexuality.

St. John’s is one of the first Canadian Anglican churches to vote to split since South America’s Province of the Southern Cone said in November it would accept Canadian churches who are at odds with their more liberal bishops or national church.

The issues of gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex marriages has divided members of the 700-year-old Anglican Church around the world.

In June, over 700 Anglican bishops from around the world voted 9-to-1 against the blessing of same-sex unions at the decennial Lambeth Conference, held in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

In the U.S., clergy and lay members of the Diocese of San Joaquin became the first full diocese to break from the U.S. wing of the 77 million-member worldwide Anglican family when they voted to secede Dec. 6.