Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wonder and Knowledge

Below is a description of a lecture I attended last night at the John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. It was excellent.

Wonder and Knowledge

A conference on the origin of the universe in science and philosophy and the role of wonder in scientific discovery.

Speakers: Marco BERSANELLI, Professor of Astrophysics, University of Milan, and author of From Galileo to Gell-Mann: The Wonder that Inspired the Greatest Scientists of All Time: In Their Own Words by Templeton Press, and Michael HELLER, Professor of Philosophy, Pontifical Academy of Theology, Krakow - 2008 Templeton Prize winner

Presented by Crossroads Cultural Center

Prof. Marco Bersanelli and Prof. Michael Heller are both accomplished scientists and deep thinkers about the meaning and value of the scientific enterprise.

If we must try and point out a common feature of their work, we will notice that both of them view science as a deeply human activity. To them, science does not stand in isolation, separate from the rest of human experience, but rather is deeply rooted in it. For one thing, science rests on deep philosophical and even theological assumptions which are often taken for granted. But more fundamentally, as is well illustrated by both Prof. Bersanelli's new book and the numerous publications by Prof Heller, science requires men and women who face reality full of wonder and curiosity. There is a common misconception that science is all about objectivity and detachment, like some kind of mechanical process. But history shows again and again that the greatest scientists were those who were most passionate about knowledge, those most fascinated by nature. Only interest in the mystery of the universe, and the desire to know it, have made them able to look with open eyes and to go beyond the preconceptions of their time.

However, science does not give itself this interest and this desire. It must receive it from outside, from a human and cultural context. So much so that when this context is denied, when it is claimed that science is the only self-sufficient, all-encompassing form of human knowledge, science itself suffers. Scientistic ideology is an enemy of real science, precisely because by denying the fundamental human experience of what Einstein called "the Mystery," it cuts off scientific research from its deepest sources.

Professor Bersanelli will help us to explore what lies at the root of true science, while Professor Heller will develop the theme of the role of wonder in the process of knowledge, by facing one of the most fascinating topics that has always captivated humankind’s attention—the origin of the universe.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Prayers to the Holy Spirit

Oh Holy Spirit, Soul of my soul, I adore you. Enlighten, guide, strengthen and console me. Tell me what I ought to do and command me to do it. I promise to be submissive in everything that You ask of me and to accept all that You permit to happen to me, only show me what is Your will. Amen.

Forgive me my sins O Lord, forgive me my sins. The sins of my youth, the sins of my age, the sins of my soul, the sins of my body. My idle sins, my serious, voluntary sins, the sins I know, the sins I have concealed so long and which are now hidden from my memory. I am truly sorry for every sin, mortal and venial. For all the sins of my childhood up to the present hour. Dear Jesus, forget and forgive what I have been. Amen.

Divine Spirit of light and love, I consecrate my mind and heart and will to you for time and for eternity. May my mind be open to your divine inspirations and to the teachings of the Church whose infallible guide you are. May my heart be filled with love of God and of my neighbor, and my will conformed to the will of God. May my whole life be a faithful imitation of the life and virtues of Christ our Lord, to whom, with the Father and You, be honor and glory forever. Amen.

These prayers were personally given to me by Babsie Bleasdell in 2003 at the Southern California Renewal Conference. It was after that conference that I received a hunger for God's word in the Scriptures and began to read.

Say these prayers every day for peace and serenity.

On Being Spiritually "Fit"

This is a brief article I wrote on being Spiritually "Fit" a long (long) time ago. Maybe I will use it for my Youth Group.

Becoming spiritually fit demands much time, effort, and exertion. Think about the person who wants to be physically fit. He or she will start with his or her first trip to the gym. For anyone who’s ever vowed to “get in shape,” the first workout is definitely not an easy one. Especially if one’s life beforehand consisted of little or no exercise and plenty of junk food. The first workout can be compared to the first time a person begins his prayer “workout,” the beginning of a new spiritual life. Just like the physical workout, the spiritual workout is not an easy one. It may feel awkward, especially if those spiritual muscles have been dormant for a while. The words may seem stilted and unnatural. Don’t despair. One doesn’t expect to run a marathon after one workout, neither should you expect yourself to be a pro-pray-er. Praying will feel uncomfortable at first, but over time you will improve your prayer skills and you no longer will be trying to control your prayer but the Holy Spirit will be guiding you in prayer. Just like your body adjusts to the workouts, your soul will adjust to the increased spiritually you hope to gain by avid praying. After a while your body needs a workout everyday, and your soul will need to pray. It will become a non-negotiable fact. MTV and other spiritual junk food will no longer be acceptable to your soul, it will reject it. But be careful, just like the body can revert back to its unhealthy shape, so can the soul.

Christmas Letter 2007

(This is the first and only Christmas Letter I have sent out from 2007. Obviously, a lot has changed! Maybe I'll do another one this year.)

We would like to wish you a very blessed Advent and Christmas season!

Dearest Friends,

2007 was quite a year for us! The four of us traveled to Egypt for five weeks in the summer. It was my parents’ first time back in 30 years and the first time for my sister and I. If you want more details, I have ample stories and pictures to share. My parents were able to visit their friends and we were able to meet them and visit our family. The trip had its ups and downs, but it was good to visit despite the hardships we witnessed. The trip gave us stronger sense of gratitude for the good life we live in the United States, truly the land of the free.

My dad is still enjoying his medical practice and we still get to see him every weekend. At work, he is in charge of the Depression Championship, designed to help people gain more insight into the roots of their psychological issues. He finds comfort in being able to share his Christian spirituality with his patients. Lastly, my dad is gathering a group of friends and acquaintances to help an Italian priest. The priest is living in Cairo and is dedicated to helping the poorest Christians in Egypt living in the Haret el Zabaleen (the trash district).

My mother is still hopping back and forth from Bakersfield to Simi Valley! She’s a very busy lady what with her daughters traveling all over the country, trying to keep track of us is a lot of work. She is also still active in our home parish, St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in Simi Valley, Ca. She is part of two Bible studies and an active member of the Bereavement team. I am always very impressed by the fact that she is able to attend so many funerals during the year and be a source of comfort and grace for those who have lost their loved ones.

Nicole left her life in beautiful Costa Mesa, CA and a great business-consulting job to pursue a master’s degree in Liberal Arts/Philosophy at St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD. It is a Western Classics program; a cross-section of philosophy, theology, and political science. The classes are Socratic method (no lecturing) and only primary sources are read. While living on the East Coast, she is able to participate in the John Witherspoon Society, which both she and I are members, since our knighting as fellows under the Order of St. George in the fall of 2005 and 2004, respectively.

As for myself, I still fly around all over the country for my job. Thanks to my fabulous mother and friends Jasmin and Rebekah, I made some nice holiday weekends out of them. I was able to visit a lot of our family and friends. I also started taking theology classes at the Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, via their Distance Learning program. Maybe in 10 years, I’ll have a master’s degree. I have also gotten involved in a Catholic charismatic community called City of the Lord. I have been hoping and praying for such a group. Lastly, I moved into an apartment in Simi Valley with my good friend Rebekah. I’m loving my closet space, and being only 10 minutes from my parents.

With love, affection, and gratitude for you,

Simone & The Rizkallah Family

May the Lord bless each and every one of you in 2008!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

En Route to Wilmington

On the way to Wilmington
Sat next to me the most delightful gentleman
Hair gray, deep blue eyes and wrinkles but a few
He could not be more than sixty-two!

Compared to men of my age
Who bore me as I waste away
This man had interesting things to say
Oh, and he's good-looking too
What's a woman like me to do?

Nothing much but sit and write:
Young men, listen, and take heed
This man can teach you what you need
(At the very least)
A hint of Old Spice cologne and smooth conversation
For a perchance encounter at the train station.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bedtime poem

It is late and I am (of course!) awake
Perhaps the same is true for you
Of these late hours, what is to be?
It's almost morning, it's actually three!
I cannot read, but maybe write
Oh, you want a story tonight?

It is late and I am (of course!) awake
Perhaps the same is true for you
This bedtime story you request
I'll briefly tell, I'll do my best
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary...
Sound familiar? Don't blame me!
Edgar Allen Poe is a better poet you know!

It is late and I am (of course!) awake
Perhaps the same is true for you
Be not upset, your bedtime tale again I'll try
Wish me luck, my brain is dry!
Once upon an early morning, I could not write
So down went my pen, and off went the light!



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