Mary at Lourdes, Fatima and Medjugorje

In Lourdes, in 1858, Mary appeared to a young girl named Bernadette Soubirous eighteen times.  She gave Bernadette a number of messages.  In one of those visits she told Bernadette to go drink and wash her face in the spring.  There was no spring.  But one sprung up in the spot indicated and many miraculous cures have been attributed to those waters.  The Catholic Church has officially declared sixty five of these as genuine miracles.

At Fatima, she appeared to three shepherd children in 1917.  For months, many flocked to Fatima to hear what Mary had to say and, hopefully, to witness miracles.  Probably the best known miracle is known as the miracle of the sun.  During the last visit, the sun was seen by many to change colors, rotate, zigzag and fall toward the earth only to return back to it’s normal position.  Three visions were left with the children by Mary.

Another well known modern appearance of Mary is at Medjugorje, where she has been seen frequently since 1981.  Many messages have been given at Medjugorje, mainly warning that our time is almost up and we need to pray to get and work together for peace and to save the world.  Note: the visions at Medgugorje have not been approved as legitimate by the Catholic church.

There have been other appearances, but those are the major ones of the last two centuries.  I may delve into some of them more deeply at another time. I just wanted to bring them up at this time when the Pope has just reiterated that woman are second class persons  not qualified to serve as priests.  Although they are qualified to be saints and, in the words of the Catholic prayers, “Mother of God”.  In my opinion, saying that women cannot be priests is saying women are second class persons.


Electric Cars

    I briefly mentioned in a previous post that I had sent in my deposit for a Tango T100 electric car and why.  I decided to elaborate on it.  
    I think electric cars make more sense than a hybrid because even a hybrid that gets 50 or 60 miles to a gallon still need gas.  And if, in addition to gas prices going up twenty or twenty-five percent a year, we also have a gas shortage like we did two decades ago where we had to sit in line for three or four hours only to be told: “Sorry, our allotment for the day is gone.  Try again tomorrow”, then you don’t want to be driving a vehicle that needs gas.
    An electric car won’t sit in line waiting for gas.  It doesn’t use any gas.  Yes, the price of electricity will go up when the price of oil goes up, but usually not as much.  And the electric companies have many options on how they produce electricity: coal, oil, natural gas, wind, water, solar, hydrogen, and others.  But no matter what fuels the electric company uses, you still charge your electric car the same way.  And electric cars use that energy fr far more efficiently than gas cars do.
    Not that electric cars don’t have problems.  Many of the currently available models are very expensive and can only go thirty to fifty miles between charges.  But over the next two or three years, several models will become available that are much more reasonably priced, can travel at highway speeds, and will be able to go 80 to 150 miles between charges with the newer, more efficient batteries.  And as solar cells improve, I think it likely that in a few years you will be able to recharge the electric car with a solar cell array small enough to set on the roof when your parked.  Another problem for some is that electric cars are usually small and most are designed to be second cars, a commuter car for going to work and running short errands, but not for hauling loads or taking two big dogs to the vets, or a load of kids to a soccer game. 

    Now let’s look at some of the models currently being offered.

Tesla which looks good but sells for around $50,000

Th!nk which will soon be available

Tango, my favorite.  The T100 model planned for next year has a suggested price at this time of $18,700
which makes it one of the least expensive, but it can also go fast enough for highway driving.


Information, Communication and Aging

    Information and communication are big business.  With the internet, hundreds of television channels and various intellegence agencies, information is becoming vitally important.  It is also important for us individually.  
    To make good decisions about our jobs, homes, what clothes to buy, what to eat, etc, we need good information.  Many problems can be connected to poor or incomplete information.  This even include the aging process.  
    When we are young, our bodies replace dying cells with new ones with something like a 99.9999% accuracy, but as we get older, it drops to maybe 99% or 98%.  Now for a factory making plastic buckets, that is probably great, but for your body, it’s not.   After several generations of cells have been replaced with 98% or 99% accuracy, the cells have been seriously damaged, and that is what we call aging.  The reason for the loss of accuracy is information.  A small amount of the information in the DNA is lost with each new generation of cells.
    There are things we can do to improve this and live longer, healthier lives.  First, the obvious ones: don’t smoke, don’t use drugs, don’t drink unfiltered tap water.  Many would add “don’t drink alcohol” to the list, but some recent studies indicate that an occasional drink, particularly wine, may have health benefits that outweigh the negative.  The key is moderation.  Another is to watch what you eat, avoiding fried foods and highly processed foods.  Get adequate rest and take time off.  Too many Americans are not taking their vacation time, some because they think they can’t afford to go somewhere special, so why bother, others because they are afraid that their boss will discover he can do just fine without them.  To the first group I say take the time anyway.  Even if you only go to a local park, it helps you get rid of stress.  To the second group, Surprise!, your boss already knows she can do without you for a week or two.  No one is that irreplaceable.  The real question is can your boss do without you permanently without having to hire someone else to replace you.  If the answer is yes, you should already be looking for another job, because sooner or later, someone will discover it.  If the answer is no, take the vacation.  Regular exercise will also help your body stay healthy.
    Beyond the physical things, the mind has a lot to do with aging.  Worrying, negative thinking, thinking of yourself as a victim all the time has a very damaging effect on the body.  You need to learn to stop thinking your a victim and recognize that you are the one responsible for your life and if your not happy with it, you are the one who has to change.
    Good information is also important for spiritual development.  That will be the subject of a future entry.


Sacred Symbols: Altars

    Altars have been a part of religion for many thousands of years.  Most think that altars started as platforms to hold animal or human sacrifices.  That certainly is part of it, but not all.  In fact, an altar isn’t always a platform.
According to Wikipedia, in can also be just a place where religious ceremonies are held.
    The first altar recorded in the Bible was erected by Noah.  During the lifetime of Jesus, the famous altar of sacrifice at the temple was used to sacrifice hundreds of birds and animals daily and that is what Jesus was really objecting to when he chased the money changers and animal vendors out of the temple courtyard, and knocked over cages freeing the animals.  Alters can be made of earth, stone, metal or wood depending on what they will be used for.  The altar at the Temple of Solomon was said to be a stone or earthen structure completely covered with brass.  In Christian churches, altars are usually free standing but alters that take the form of a niche in the eastern wall of the church exist as well.  
    The Catholic church requires that the main altar be “fixed”, that is, attached to the floor so it is essentially part of the building.  In many older churches, the altar was build against a wall and the priest stood with his back to the congregation.  Since many of those altars cannot be moved, a portable altar or communion table was added when the mass was changed so the priest now faces the congregation.  A relic of a dead saint is often hidden within Catholic altars.
    The Anglican church had altars build against the east wall after the reformation, but many now have free standing altars.
    The Armenian Apostolic church still has it’s alters built against the east wall.
    Interestingly, in the Eastern Orthodox churches, the term “altar” refers not to the table itself, but to the area around it, what other churches would call the sanctuary.  The table in the Eastern church is usually made of wood.
    In Hinduism, altars are shrines to various gods and often have pictures or statues of gods as well as saints and gurus.  Small home altars are also common.
    In Buddhism, the altar, called a butsudan, is really a cabinet on a stand.   Inside are religious images or a sacred scroll.
    In summary, while the specifics vary, an altar is generally a place to sacrifice to God or gods.  Often this meant sacrificing animals or humans, but now is more about sacrificing ourselfs, our egos, to do the will of God.  While most Churches wouldn’t put it that way, essentially, that is what it is really about and that is really the one and only sacrifice God wants from us.

 A Coptic altar built into a wall.