Friday, March 31, 2006

Prayer Still Works

There's widespread media coverage of a study that shows prayer had no effect on the recovery of heart patients. So, I guess it's settled, don't bother praying for your sick friends and relatives. The truth is this is only the most recent of many studies that have looked at the effect of prayer on healing. Here are some scientific studies that say prayer does work:

A randomized, controlled trial of the effects of remote, intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients admitted to the coronary care unit. (WS Harris, Abstract)
News Article Description of Harris Study
Positive Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer in a Coronary Care Unit Population (Randolph Byrd) (PDF File)
Spirituality and Prayer - Effect on Cancer
Internet Health Library - Overview of studies relating to Alcohol and Depression
IntelliHealth - Overview of effects of prayer on numerous conditions

I'm not a doctor, but I expect that given the impossibility of knowing if people being studied are being prayed for by others the results of any study will always be suspect. All I'm saying about the above list is that this topic will keep on being debated.

I do know that I've seen powerful examples of the effectiveness of prayer first hand. I've seen concrete answers to prayers for needs both small and great. On the health front, one of our friends was sick with lung cancer, the prognosis was very poor and he needed assited breathing and a feeding tube. We prayed together asking God specifically for a miracle, two months ago I saw him looking as good as ever at a fundraising dinner.

Of course, I've also lost people I've loved despite earnest prayer to the contrary. It's difficult, but even in those times, I've seen God working to bring spiritual healing.

One final note on praying for the sick. The bible is very clear that we should pray for those who are sick:
Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over
him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in
faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has
sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray
for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is
powerful and effective. (James 5:14-16)

My advice stick with prayer, it truly is effective even if the scientists can't figure it out. It's just as well, if they could explain it, there would be some in the medical community that would want to turn it into a clinical excercise to remove God from the equation all together.

Stephen's Fashion Faux Pas

Leah McLaren makes a really good point here.

I can't always dress myself in the morning but, there's no arguing the fact that one of these 3 is not like the others.

Oh well, he's doing a better job leading the country than choosing his wardrobe.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Featuring - Peter Mackay

Peter MacKay, Minister of Foreign Affairs

+ Peter MacKay was leader of the old progressive conservative party before it merged with the Canadian Alliance to form the Conservative Party. The Conservative Party would not exist in its current state without his agreement to merge the parties.

- In order to become leader Peter MacKay signed a deal with David Orchard promising not to merge with the Canadian Alliance. Combined with his later decision to proceed with the merger this move seriously undermined his future credibility.

- When delegates at the Conservative Party policy conference were debating changing the criteria for electing a leader, Peter publicly complained to the major media before the matter had even been decided. This was a serious breach of protocol.

- Peter was publicly infatuated with Belinda Stronach, proving that he has very poor taste in women.

+ Peter moved on from Belinda.

- In his first statement as minister of foreign affairs, he missed the opportunity to defend freedom of speech and instead issued a weak release that placed more emphasis on being culturally sensitive than on condemning the actions of those that incited riots and murder as a reaction to political cartoons.

+ In his statement on March 29, he declared that Canada will not fund HAMAS, the terrorist organization that has assumed control of the Palestinian Authority. This is a prinicipled stand that will put pressure on HAMAS to renounce violence and become committed to the peace process.

Overall Score -1, not bad for a Red Tory

My Advice to Minister MacKay: 1) Remember your role is to represent Canada's interests to the world. 2) Take a principled stand against terrorism and incitement to terror. 3) Align our policies as closely as possible with our known allies. 4) Renounce Canada's role as chief enemy of the family in the United Nations.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

1 Man Saved, 30 million in bondage

News that Abdul Rahman has been released from prison is excellent. His case has been dismissed and it looks like he will be kept safe from the radicals who would like to see him dead. Italy has reportedly offered him asylum, so that his long term safety is assured.

The heavy international pressure worked to save Mr. Rahman. Unfortunately there will certainly be a strong temptation for world leaders to declare victory and move on. BUT Mr Rahman was saved by a legal technicality. Afghanistan remains a country where it's illegal to convert from Islam, in effect the 30 million people living in Afghanistan have absolutely no choice, but to conform or face the dire consequences. Considering that our soldiers have fought to liberate Afghanistan, we have a duty to demand that Afghani's have the basic freedom to choose their own religion.

Christians face persecution around the world. Hopefully this case will raise awareness and encourage world leaders to continue to defend religious freedom.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Iraq Hostages and Afghani Christian Convert

First I have to say that it was great news that coalition forces in Iraq rescued the 3 remaining members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams who were being held hostage in Iraq. I believe it's a testament both to the effectiveness of prayer and the courageous action and effectiveness of the military personnel that carried out the rescue.

It's a little disappointing that Doug Pritchard of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Toronto would use the occasion to criticize the very forces that saved his colleagues saying, "We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by multinational forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping, and so much pain and suffering in Iraq. The occupation must end." The better reaction was from James Loney's family who celebrated mass in Sault St. Marie as a celebration of his rescue. Regardless of the reaction, the rescue is excellent news.

Second, there's disturbing news from Afghanistan that Abdur Rahman, may be executed in Afghanistan. His crime, converting to Christianity. Fortunately the response from the international community has been swift and effective. George Bush's Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Afghanistan's president and foreign minister driving home the message, "The freedom of religion is a fundamental principle of democracy."

Pope Benedict XVI has also acted quickly writing to Afghan President Hamid Karzai asking that the charges be dropped. Finally the most encouraging news has come from Stephen Harper who talked personally with President Karzai. Harper said that the President assured him that "we don't have to worry" about Abdur Rahman being killed. One thing I have to say is it's encouraging to see such strong action taken by a Canadian Prime Minister, and to see it carry credibility because of our military commitment to Afghanistan.

One final thought, although I have concerns about religious freedom in Canada, this story reminds me that we still have a lot to be thankful for.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

House Keeping

Just a note to say, I've been trying to experiment with the HTML code, and I've added a few more links to the side bar. I do intend to expand this more as there are a host of interesting web pages out there. I'm also open to joining more blog rolls if you have any suggestions.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to write a full fledged post and mess around in HTML. This is a fun, but time consuming hobby.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Featuring - Chuck Strahl

Chuck Strahl, Minister of Agriculture.

+ Chuck Strahl was first elected to parliament in 1993, the election that brought the demise of the Progressive Conservative Party and the rise Reform Party. As he has served continually since that point, he has rightly come to be regarded as one of the elder statesmen of the Conservative Party. He has even had an article published in the Canadian Parliamentary Review.

- I was personally very disappointed when Chuck abandonned the Canadian Alliance to form the Democratic Reform Caucus to try to force Stockwell Day from power. This was a sad display of disloyalty that tore the Canadian Alliance apart. Despite the sad chapter, Chuck is the easiest one of the group to forgive as he is generally very fair minded, and has served the country well since returning to the party.

+ Chuck Strahl demonstrated his commitment to his country by running again in last winter's election despite his public battle with Lung Cancer.

+ Chuck has performed well as minister of Agriculture and has shown a willingness to be flexible and reach consensus with his provincial counterparts, despite some of the fact that these interests differ with some of the Conservative Party campaign statements.

Overall Rating +2.

My Advice to Minister Strahl: 1- Support the right of farmers to organize collectively through democratic farm organizations, including supply managed groups and the Canadian Wheat Board. 2 - Work with the USDA to harmonize farm support programs. This includes reducing US farm payments and moving away from commodity specific programs. 3 - Support the CAIS program or a similar whole farm support system that is trade friendly and doesn't distort production decisions. 4 - Provide immediate support to Grain and Oilseed producers as a way to end the duties on imported corn. (These duties stand to hurt livestock farmers and other Canadian corn users.)

Monday, March 20, 2006

Some Sanity in Canada

It looks like there is at least some sanity in Canada. Canada's Ethics commissioner found that there was no basis for any further ethics investigation with respect to David Emmerson's decision to join the Conservatives. While this is definitely good news, the NDP still say that they'll push for a law against crossing the floor. I've written about this fairly recently so I won't rehash those arguments for a little while.

This maybe a good time to let you in on my current game plan. Since David Emmerson has quickly become one of the highest profile members of Stephen Harper's cabinet, I'm going to begin a series of mini-features on each of the new cabinet members. I'll write a short piece on each minister whenever time permits and there's not something else more interesting. I'm not promising thorough essays, just a few quick thoughts on each selected target. Now my next question is, who first?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Hope for Christian Unity

Before I converted to Catholicism I spent some time in Evangelical churches, and alhtough they were generally enjoyable places to worship, I was very surprised by the amount of hostility some Protestants had to the Catholic Church. It was during this time (while I was still in University) that I first came upon the passage in John 17 where Jesus prays for all believers.

Jesus prayed, "I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. . . . May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (John 17:20-23 NIV)

I believe this passage says a lot, but the most obvious messages to me right now are: 1 - That it's God's will that Christians be unified. 2 - That unity is part of our witness to the world, and therefore our disunity is a negative witness to the world.

There are many examples of our disunity; many evangelicals still produce anti-Catholic tracts, and until very recently, Christians were killing Christians in Northern Ireland. Another area of disunity that's not as visible has been the split between Catholic and Orthodox Christians, this split is seen particularly in places like Russia and the Ukraine.

Pope John Paul the Great wanted desperately to heal this rift with our Orthodox brothers, however, the rapid expansion of the Catholic Church especially in areas that had been traditionally Orthodox meant that his efforts were often diplomatically rebuffed by the Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II, and other Orthodox traditionalists.

This week there was an encouraging sign of goodwill between Pope Benedict XVI and Alexy II. The two exchanged gifts and letters signaling their intent to work together to promote a vision of peace and Christian values as an alternative to secularization. (FYI- the Pope gave the Patriarch a 'gold medal of the pontificate' and the Patriarch gave the Pope a pectoral cross.) There is of course, a great deal of hurtful history to overcome, but perhaps this is a sign that healing and reconciliation among Christians can continue.

It may be time to join with Christ in praying for the unity of all believers so that our witness can be strengthened.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Seminary Advertising

My wife picked up a copy of Christianity Today, an old fashoined print magazine. I was shocked by the amount of advertising for different seminaries. The magazine even had a 7 page section dedicated exclusively to seminaries offering various programs for Christian higher education. Most of the seminaries offered graduate programs such as a Master of Divinity.

I looked in vain for an advertisement for a Catholic Seminary. I have to ask why. I'm sure much of the magazine's readership is evangelical, but seminaries for mainline churches, Presbyterian, Episcopal etc were advertising along with all the rest. I'm not concerned about one particular publication, but I do wonder if its time to start reaching potential seminarians through the mass media. The growing availability of Christian TV, radio, and magazines will give the church a cost effective way to reach people who are already in tune with their faith.

Of course there is also the internet, so just in case you are male, single and Catholic (or would consider becoming Catholic), here are a few resources for you to consider.

St. Peter's Seminary, St Augustine's Seminary, Vocation Info, Companions of the Cross, London Diocese Vocations.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Did this blog Influence the Bank of Canada?

Did this blog influence the Bank of Canada? Probably not. I doubt that anyone from the Bank of Canada is among the handful of people that read this page each day.

Still, I think it's interesting to note that after the Bank of Canada's January rate announcement, I argued that it was time for the bank to stop raising interest rates. On the Bank's next interest rate announcement, the bank signalled that interest rates will not necessarily continue to increase. The effect was immediate and the Canadian Dollar fell after the announcement. This is good news for Canadian companies that compete internationally, and exactly what I argued for.

Just remember you read it here first. Hopefully the rest of the world will follow in the Bank's footsteps and act on my recommendations!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Did you Hear? Marshall Rothstein is on the Supreme Court

I was surprised by the near total lack of media coverage today about Marshall Rothstein being sworn in as Canada's newest member of the Supreme Court. The only article I found on the globe and mail or was from Broadcast news and was a total of 99 words.

It's such a sharp contrast to the amount of coverage given to American supreme court justices. Mr. Rothstein's swearing in is particularly newsworthy because of the way he was appointed and his judicial philosophy.

When Stephen Harper announced his nomination, Mr Rothstein agreed to sit before Canada's first ever confirmation hearing for a supreme court justice. Although it amounted to only one afternoon of being interviewed by an all party committee, the hearing was still a radical departure from the absolute authority previous Prime Ministers have exercised when appointed new judges.

Even more encouraging is our newest supreme court justice's judicial philosophy. He is joining one of the most activist courts in the world; a court that recently ruled that laws banning sex-orgy clubs are unconstitutional. But Mr Rothstein was clear in his nomination hearing that he is not a judicial activist, while he recognizes that his role will be to determine whether laws comply with Canada's Charter of rights and freedoms, he stated, "The important thing is that judges, when applying the charter, have to have recognition that the statute that they're dealing with was passed by a democratically elected legislature, and therefore, they have to approach the matter with some restraint."

There are many controversial issues that Canada is likely to face in the coming years. Challenging questions such as the sanctity of marriage, euthanasia, and the right to free speech will demand an open public debate. What a relief that at least one supreme court justice has the wisdom to leave social policy to government saying, "It seems to me that the social agenda is the agenda for Parliament and if Parliament wants to advance the law in social terms, that's their job."

I sincerely hope that Mr. Rothstein can bring the rest of his peers around to his way of thinking, so that order can be restored to Canada's public policy process.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The ETHICS of Crossing the Floor

Stephen Harper is right to challenge the bogus investigation by Canada's ethic's commissioner into David Emerson's defection to the conservatives. The commisioner is a Liberal appointment, who did nothing to investigate Belinda Stronach crossing the floor to the liberals. But the problem with the investigation is not the grossly partisan nature of the action, it's that there is absolutely nothing unethical about a member of parliament changing parties.

We must remember that Canada is a "REPRESENTATIVE democracy" each election we elect members of parliament to represent our interests, it is the candidate's name on the ballot and we trust them to make decisions on our behalf. Every member of parliament must make decisions on how best to serve Canada once they have been elected. David Emerson made the decsion that giving Vancouver a seat at the cabinet table, and making use of his experience to help end the softwood lumber dispute with the United States was worth changing his party affiliation. I can't say for certain that he made the right decision, he's lost credibility with many of the Liberal party workers who helped elect him. I can say that it was his decision to make, and there's nothing unethical about changing parties.

Two notable defections in the last parliament were Belinda Stronach who left the conservatives to join the Liberals, and Pat O'Brien, who left the Liberals to sit as an independant. I'm not a fan of Ms. Stronach, but when she left the Conservative party she made a rational decision that the best place to advance her extreme social liberal views was in the Liberal party. Pat O'Brien made the more noble choice, he left his party without any reward incentive but simply because he saw that as the best way to protect traditional marriage.

In the 1990's numerous members of the federal PC party left to sit with the newly formed Bloc Quebecois. Again, this defection was controversial at the time (and in my mind it was very detrimental to Canada), but it led to a new political movement that is still being felt today.

Most Members of Parliament will choose to work within their respective parties as the most effective way to influence policies. When members do choose to cross the floor they are making a dangerous move by damaging relationships with many of their colleagues. However, in many cases when some of the most serious policy issues are at stake, changing parties may be one of the most responsible decision a Member of Parliament can make.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

We're Building a New Church

This is an exciting time Fergus. St. Joseph's parish has selected a location for our new church building. The church will be built right beside the Catholic School in Fergus. This past September we added a 3rd Sunday morning mass because it was simply impossible for everyone to get a seat.

With the third mass everyone can usually have a seat, but the church still feels full.Our church has come together with more people volunteering to help with a new choir, new readers, new ushers, new eucharistic ministers, new sunday school teachers etc. There are many young couples and families at every service and in many ministries. The look and feel of this parish is young, strong and growing. This is a sharp contrast to what many people think of the church, as an old dying institution. If you hold that view, then go to any Catholic mass and take note of the number of young people and the number of people helping with the service. It will be more than you think.

On a side note, today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent and a great time to reflect on our need for God's healing and to come back to church (which ever church it is) if you've found yourself slipping away.