Thursday, February 19, 2009

I must go. Enjoy!

Dear Readers,

I started this blog over one year ago to try to spotlight some of the peacemaking, acts of love, charity, and positivity that often go unnoticed - with a religious twist. It has since evolved to also include random thoughts or cool things I've read. Unfortunately, the time has come for me to focus on other work.

My friend Adam-Who-I-Still-Think-Should-Become-A-Rabbi joined this blog a couple of months ago and posted a few times. That led to our new adventure, Worship, Gotham!

I am leaving Children of God, in part, to focus on our work on Worship, Gotham! (and, as you can see by the lack of posts, we've got some serious work to do).

But, I am also looking forward to my own writing. Earlier this year my wife and I went to dinner with our friend Mary. She asked us if there was anything we wanted to accomplish before we turned 30. I've never put an age-goal for accomplishments or activities but it did get me thinking. I want to write a book!

I will use the handful of minutes that it took me to blog here to write (books?) instead. I don't know yet the format that this writing will take. There's a children's book I wrote that I once submitted to a publisher and was rejected - perhaps I should go back, rework it, and forward it to other publishers. Maybe I'll write the great Latino American novel I've always wanted to write.

Whatever the case, you can rest assured that in all that I do, in all that I write, there will be hope, there will be love, and there will be God.

I highly recommend the following blogs in the meantime (I check these daily):
Between the 'Burgh and the City - an old NYU friend, Paul Snatchko, blogs about faith, politics, and more.
The Deacon's Bench - Deacon Greg Kandra ponders the world with great insight.
Vision-Mission-Passion - Dr. Barry Kolb, Wendy's uncle and LCMS pastor in Texarkana, writes about church life and sports.
Magdalene's Egg - an ELCA pastor talks sex, religion, and politics.
The American Muslim - Robert Salaam writes about religion, politics, and social issues from the American Muslim perspective.

Do you see a trend?

So, with a heavy heart and excitement for the future, I take leave.


Christian Alberto Ledesma

Monday, February 9, 2009

One of things I can't quite grasp

Indulgences. They're back!

Yes, one of the most confusing teachings of the Roman Catholic Church are making a comeback. And, no they're not getting any less confusing.

Thanks to Deacon Greg for pointing out this terribly simplified piece about indulgences. To his credit, Paul Vitello does his best to make a piece about indulgences readable. However, this topic should really get more in-depth analysis.

Read the article here.

My favorite quote from the article:
The good news is we’re not selling them anymore.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Happy Birthday to us!

I'm 29 today. My wife, Wendy, turns 28 today. We seem to be getting better looking and wiser every year.

Yes, my wife and I share a birthday. We're special like that.

Happy Birthday to us!

We give thanks to God for giving us this much and pray that he allows us to hang around for quite a bit longer.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

a little kiss

I've had trouble posting anything recently because my focus is on my running. As most of you may know, I am running the NJ Marathon and raising money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. I've been so focused on my running and health - and so far, knock on wood, doing really well - that blogging is down a few steps on the list. In all, my running is taking an hour or two or three out of my day.

But, I'm still surfing the web and finding inspiration. This one comes via Deacon Greg Kandra and tells a great story:

A woman who doctors believed could remain comatose indefinitely recently
revived after her husband asked her for a kiss.

Just ten days after giving birth to her son, Telford, Shropshire resident
Emma Ray suffered a heart attack and collapsed while shopping with her husband,
Andrew. Andrew performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on her, after which she
was taken to a hospital where doctors were able to restart her heart.

“She could wake up the following day, she could wake up in a month, or you
may be left with a sleeping beauty,” Andrew Ray said a doctor told him,
according to the Daily Mail.

Andrew went to great lengths to try and rouse his 34 year-old wife from her
comatose state, playing recordings of their baby son Alexander and of their
daughter Ella and songs from their wedding reception.

“I would speak softly to her, clasp her hand, pinch her fingers, all the
time telling her I loved her or begging her to wake up. By the time I asked her
to kiss me I was approaching my wits' end,” he told the Daily Mail.

He bent over his wife’s hospital bed and said “Emma, if you can hear me,
please just give me a kiss.”“'What happened next was beyond my wildest dreams,”
he told the Daily Mail. “She turned her head towards mine, puckered up her lips
and gave me a little kiss.”

“I couldn't believe it. My heart felt like it was going to leap from my
chest –it suddenly felt like a huge weight had been lifted.”

Doctors who witnessed the kiss were astonished by her response.Emma ray
continued to drift in an out of consciousness. Her brain had been oxygen-starved
after her heart attack, resulting in short-term memory loss.

She was eventually allowed home but requires ongoing rehabilitation for the
brain damage.

“The recovery is awful because I have so little memory,” Emma told the
Daily Mail.Her husband said he was grateful his wife had survived.

“She can walk quite well holding hands now, and at least our kids still
have a mother and I still have a wife,” he said, according to the Daily

Monday, January 26, 2009

Holocaust denier re-communed

I haven't written for almost a week due to work, a high volume of running, followed by extensive exhaustion, traveling, and more running. This has been going around for a day or two. I'm disappointed:

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Jewish officials in Israel and abroad are outraged that Pope Benedict XVI has decided to lift the excommunication of a British bishop who denies that Jews were killed in Nazi gas chambers.

The pope's decree, issued Saturday, brings back into the Catholic Church's fold Bishop Richard Williamson and three other bishops who belong to the Society of Saint Pius X.

The liaison for Vatican-Jewish relations -- Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity -- said he was not consulted.

"It was a pope decision" he told CNN in a phone interview. "I have my opinions about it, but I do not wish to comment on a decision made by the pope."

The Society of Saint Pius X was founded by Archbishop Lefebrve, who rebelled against the Vatican's modernizing reforms in the 1960s, and who consecrated the men in unsanctioned ceremonies. As a result, Pope John Paul II excommunicated the four in 1988.

Within the Catholic Church, many Vatican analysts suggests that in an attempt to heal one rift with ultra-conservative church members, the pope is risking creating a wider gap with those more liberal groups that have fully embraced the changes and reforms.

The church's decision to lift the excommunication comes a few days after a Swedish television aired an interview with Williamson in which the 68-year-old claimed the Nazis did not use gas chambers.

"I believe that the historical evidence is strongly against -- is hugely against -- 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler," he said in the interview, which appeared on various Web sites since its broadcast. What do you think?

"I believe there were no gas chambers," he added.

He added: "I think that 200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, but none of them by gas chambers."

Prosecutors in Regensburg, Germany, where the interview took place -- and where the pope once taught -- are investigating Williamson's comments on suspicion of inciting racial hatred. Holocaust denial is treated as a crime in Germany.

Bishop Bernard Fellay, who now heads the society, distanced himself from Williamson's position. He told the Italian newspaper La Stampa that Williamson was responsible for his own opinions.

Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee called the move by the Roman Catholic Church "shameful."

By "welcoming an open holocaust denier into the Catholic Church without any recantation on his part, the Vatican has made a mockery of John Paul II's moving and impressive repudiation and condemnation of anti-Semitism," he said.

Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, also expressed disappointment at the pope's decision.

"The decree sends a terrible message to Catholics around the world that there is room in the church for those who would undermine the church's teaching and would foster disdain and contempt for other religions, particularly Judaism," he said. "Given the centuries-long history of anti-Semitism in the church, this is a most troubling setback."

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi called Williamson's remarks "absolutely indefensible."

He said the Vatican's decision to accept Williamson was part of its desire to normalize relations with the ultra-conservative group, and had nothing to do with the bishop's personal views.

But Rabbi Rosen dismissed as meaningless the Vatican's claim that the decision to welcome back Williamson did not mean the pope shared his views.

That explanation "does not resolve the question of how can the pope or the Vatican -- committed to fighting anti-Semitism which the late Pope John Paul II called "a sin against God and man" -- embrace someone who denies or at least minimalizes the Holocaust.

The move has the potential to set back Jewish-Catholic relations, which was strained by Pope Pius XII. The Pontiff during World War II, he is accused by some historians of failing to speak out against the Holocaust.

"While there are still hundreds of thousands of living Holocaust survivors amongst us who carry the scars of the Holocaust in them, to accept back a Holocaust-denying bishop raises questions if the Vatican under Pope XVI has learned the lesson of the Holocaust," said Amos Hermon, who heads the Task Force Against Anti-Semitism at Israel's Jewish Agency.

Some theologians say the decision by the pope -- who said he wanted to unite the Catholic church -- could be counter-productive. "This is not so much an act of grace as a surrender," Vatican analyst Marco Politi told The Times of London.

Pope Benedict was seeking reconciliation, "but the new era has begun with a lie. The pope has made a openly declared and unshakeable anti-Semite a legitimate bishop," Politi added.

The pope has twice visited synagogues, in the U.S. and his home country Germany, but recently stated, according to The Times, that dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims "in the strict sense of the word" was "not possible."

After his 14th birthday in 1941, Benedict -- then called Joseph Ratzinger -- was forced along with the rest of his class in Bavaria, southern Germany, to join the Hitler Youth. However his biographer John Allen Jr., said Ratzinger's family was strongly anti-Nazi.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's a New Day

Martin wasn't dreaming for nothing:

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy Birthday, Martin! and, thank you

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King, Jr.!

May each year that we celebrate, bring us closer to your dream.

My friend, Paul, posted King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail. A great read.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

World Religion Day?

I never knew there was one, but apparently this Sunday is World Religion Day. And the Baha'is are going to celebrate:

Baha'i faith celebrates 'oneness' of religions

Milwaukie woman is a national leader in the Baha'i faith

(news photo)

World Religion Day is coming up this Sunday and if you have ever wondered what that is all about, Erica Toussaint can tell you.

The Milwaukie resident, a member of the Baha'i Faith, said the Baha'is began World Religion Day in 1950 as one of the observance days to “heighten public awareness of the concept of one common faith,” a major component of the Baha'i Faith.

On Jan. 18, Toussaint will meet with her local Baha'i Faith group, and on that day their prayers will focus on “the oneness of religion with God.”

There are 600 Baha'i Faith members in the greater Portland area, she said, divided into 22 communities; Toussaint belongs to the NW Clackamas County Baha'i community, with about 25 members.

The Baha'i Faith takes its name from its founder, Baha’u’llah, an 18th century prophet born in Iran, Toussaint said.

Baha’u’llah “means glory of God in Arabic,” she added.

The basic tenets of the Baha'i Faith are a belief in “the equality of women and men and the essential oneness of all the world’s religions. Baha’u’llah believed that all [religious] founders, all messengers, were all great teachers, including Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus and Muhammad. [They were] all inspired by the same God to educate humanity to bring together the unity of mankind,” Toussaint said.

There are a few things that distinguish the Baha'i Faith from other religions, she said, the first being that there are no clergy, and there are few established churches.

“Everyone is responsible for his or her own service — this is an independent investment of faith, we have no congregational mentality,” she said, noting that Baha'is pray together in “devotional meetings that are neighborhood based,” usually in other members’ homes.

Fast growing religion

There are about 160,000 Baha'i Faith members in the United States, and that number is growing so quickly that the National Spiritual Assembly “took a step back to systematically figure out how to welcome new believers. We then embarked on a 25-year-devlopment program world-wide.”

That led to the training process that is currently underway to form children’s classes and classes for junior youth, ages 12 to 14.

Baha'i roots

Toussaint said her Baha'i roots go back to 1912, when her grandfather, then a Unitarian minister, heard the son of Baha’u’llah speak about the Baha'i Faith.

“He became a Baha'i and had one child, my grandmother, who became a Baha'i, and then my mother, who became a Baha'i. My mother made sure I had every opportunity to study every religion, so when I turned 15, I formally became a Baha'i,” she said.

Toussaint attended Milwaukie schools, and noted that she was the only Baha'i in high school, and “took pride in being different.”

She did not think when she was a teen that there would be so many of the Baha'i Faith in the area, she said.

Toussaint added, “I think people are looking for unity. I am a Baha'i, because these teachings are deeply spiritual, clearly moral and make so much sense. It is a practical way for all mankind to truly live as brother and sister. I practice these teachings in order to experience the commonality and richness of the human family.”

Baha'i Faith members elect nine-member councils locally, regionally and nationally to guide followers, Toussaint said, and communities meet once a month to “pray, consult and hear from the local council.”

She noted that founder Baha’u’llah used the number nine, the highest single digit, “symbolically, as a sign of unity.”

Toussaint is beginning her ninth year on the nine-member National Spiritual Assembly, to which she was elected in 2000.

“We all knew a long-serving member was retiring, but when my name was called I was overwhelmed. The Baha'is have a great deal of respect [for the National Spiritual Assembly board] because they govern with love and vision."

For more information about the Baha'i Faith visit the Website at

Monday, January 12, 2009

Oh, the things you'll do for Jesus

I found this in the NY Daily News this morning:
Taking a leap (and dive) of faith in Greek tradition

Monday, January 12th 2009, 5:21 AM

Now that's faith.

Paul Apostolakis braved the frigid, whitecapped Hudson River Sunday in his lifeguard trunks to retrieve a gold cross thrown in by the Rev. John Romas of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church.

The diving ceremony off Pier A in Battery Park was part of an annual church ritual that commemorates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.

Whoever retrieves the cross is thought to have good luck for the year.

"Like Father tells me, I do this for God, and he's going to be there for me," said Apostolakis, 20, of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

The deep-freeze dive has been a tradition since St. Nicholas was founded in 1916.

The church, which was located on Cedar St. in lower Manhattan, was destroyed on 9/11.

Its temporary home is at Sts. Constantine and Helen Cathedral in Brooklyn.

Three men who'd planned to participate in the cross dive backed out, leaving Apostolakis as the sole swimmer.

The Rider University student is a member of the school's diving team and has fished the cross out of the water at four previous celebrations.

"It wasn't as cold as the other years," he said modestly. The air temperature Sunday afternoon was 30 degrees, according to

His mother, Pauline Apostolakis, watched proudly from the shore.

"He likes to keep tradition," she said.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ein Keloheinu!

Last night, Adam and I went to Shabbat Services. You will be reading about our trip at Worship, Gotham! soon.

In the meantime, enjoy the Ein Keloheinu as done by a Harlem Gospel Choir from one of my favorite movies, Keeping the Faith: