July 05, 2008

Benedictine missionary monk who wore disguises to evangelize Indian state dies

From Catholic News Agency, July 5, 2008

Brother Prem Bhai, a Benedictine missionary who endured repeated arrest, imprisonment, beatings and wore disguises to evangelize in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, died on June 28 in Colombo, Sri Lanka after suffering a heart attack the previous day.

For almost 25 years Brother Prem’s missionary work in Arunachal Pradesh continued despite government laws that subjected those caught to fines of 10,000 rupees and two years imprisonment.

“Police always used to follow me. I was arrested eight times and imprisoned five times for preaching. I never stayed in jail for more than a day though— the Christian people always managed to get me released,” Brother Prem said in a 2006 interview with the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). ACN supported Brother Prem’s work by building a prayer center.

On three occasions the missionary was beaten by locals for preaching and baptizing.

He and his fellow missionaries would sometimes disguise themselves to enter Arunachal Pradesh.

“We would enter the province dressed as a carpenter, a farmer, a butcher. Often we would walk more than 100 kilometers to a village, through the mountains and the snow. We gathered the people in the villages at night. We would preach to them and then quickly move on,” he told ACN.

The work of Brother Prem and other missionaries bore such fruit that Christians now make up more than 55 percent of the people in Arunachal Pradesh, with many being doctors, lawyers, engineers, or members of the local government. Fifty priests in the state serve about 210,000 faithful, who are very active in the Church.

The state law prohibiting the preaching of Christianity still exists, but the spread of Christianity has rendered it obsolete.

Many have eulogized the Benedictine brother.

A priest in India, Father Ivan Vas, SVD, said Brother Prem was a “great missionary.”

Marie-Ange Siebrecht, Aid to the Church in Need’s India projects co-coordinator said: “He was a very special person. All his life was dedicated to spreading the Gospel in Arunachal Pradesh.”

The missionary’s Requiem Mass was planned to be celebrated by Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati, while Bishop Michael Akasius of Tezpur was to say the final rites over Brother Prem’s remains.

July 04, 2008

Male Spirituality, Male Chastity

I have dug out two "compilation" posts on those topics to provide some support for a man seeking guidance in those areas.

They're available here.
Click HERE for it.

Blessed Damien of Moloka'i

In recent days, the Holy See has published its official recognition of a miraculous healing attributed to the intercession of Blessed Damien.

I have followed the process of Blessed Damien with interest over the years, but especially since one of our newest monks who made vows last year received the name "Damien" as his monastic name.

Over time I've done several blogposts about Blessed Damien or mentioning him.

Here's a compilation.
Click HERE for it.

July 03, 2008

Living together? It sets up a couple for hardship and failure in relationship and marriage.

Those who live together before marriage break up five times more than those who do not live together before marriage.

Study Reveals Perils of Cohabitation
(From Zenit.org, Rome, June 30, 2008)

Living together before marriage is a very common practice for couples in many countries. Many defend it on the basis that it enables the future husband and wife to get to know each other better.

Abundant evidence exists, however, that cohabitation is more of an obstacle rather than an advantage in preparing for marriage. Michael and Harriet McManus recently published "Living Together: Myths, Risks and Answers (Howard Books), which documents their research on the topic.

The authors, founders of the organization Marriage Savers, warn that couples who cohabit before marriage are much more likely to divorce afterward. There is a big difference, they say, between a permanent bond such as marriage and just living together in a conditional relationship.

Typically in cohabitation the two individuals are more concerned on obtaining satisfaction from the other person, they write. In marriage, by contrast, spouses tend to focus more on giving satisfaction to the other person.

One major problem with cohabitation, the book explains, is that the two partners often start living together for very different motives. While many women look upon it as a stepping-stone to marriage, men often look at it for convenience, and not as a firm commitment.


Furthermore, the authors cite studies showing that typically cohabitation is not a fifty-fifty division of expenses and burdens. Women tend to contribute more, both in terms of money and in domestic work.

Numerous recent studies also demonstrate that physical attacks against women are much more common among cohabiting couples than among married couples. Serious violence and murder are also more prevalent among couples who are not married.

Another concern is the welfare of children. Michael and Harriet McManus point out that 41% of cohabiting U.S. couples in 2003 had children under 18 years of age living with them.

Children of couples living together without being married are at a serious disadvantage. Compared to children of married couples, they have higher rates of delinquency, they do worse at school, and suffer psychologically from the unstable home environment.

Further detailed information on the perils of cohabitation came in a report published in June by the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University. Authored by family and marriage expert David Popenoe, the study titled "Cohabitation, Marriage and child Wellbeing: A Cross-National Perspective" starts by stating: "No family change has come to the fore in modern times more dramatically, and with such rapidity, as heterosexual cohabitation outside of marriage."

Popenoe cited data showing that in the United States figures from 2002 show that over 50% of women aged 19 to 44 had cohabited for a portion of their lives. As cohabitation rates have skyrocketed, marriage rates have plummeted, he added.

Social concern

"Yet cohabitation in place of marriage should be considered a major societal concern," Popenoe warned. He explained that an abundance of research shows clear benefits for married couples, who are normally happier, healthier and economically better off.

Research also points to a significant reduction in these benefits if a couple is only living together and are not married.

Popenoe agreed with the McManus book concerning the disadvantages of cohabitation for children. Given that cohabiting couples break up at a higher rate compared to married couples, this brings with it more stress and disruption for children. Higher rates of child abuse and family violence also bring problems for kids.

This disadvantage for children, Popenoe commented, also has a lot to do with the major trend in family patterns in past years with the shift of child rearing from married parents to single parents, mostly mothers. In a number of countries the chances are now better than fifty-fifty that a child will spend some time living with just one parent before reaching adulthood.

Single parenthood stems both from unwed births and from parental breakup after birth. Cohabitation is a factor in spurring higher parenthood due to births to couples not married. It is also responsible due to the higher breakup rate for cohabiting couples who have children— which is more than twice what it is for married couples with children.

Popenoe tied in the higher break-up rate to the lack of commitment in cohabiting couples, a point also mentioned in the McManus book. Cohabiting partners, he said, "tend to have a weaker sense of couple identity, less willingness to sacrifice for the other, and a lower desire to see the relationship go long term."

He cited one study carried out in the United States that calculated cohabiting couples break up at a rate five times higher than for married couples.


Popenoe also looked at the situation in Europe, where cohabitation is even more prevalent than in the United States. In Northern and Central Europe, plus the United Kingdom, more than 90% of couples live together before marriage.

In general, Popenoe commented, just about all these countries, plus others such as Australia and New Zealand, are heading in the direction of the high cohabitation rates found in Scandinavia.

In response to these changes many governments have introduced varying forms of legislation to recognize partnerships that give a series of legal benefits to couples who register their relationship.

It is still not clear, he observed, whether legislation is merely following social changes, or if it has itself also fostered the growth of cohabitation. It is likely, however, Popenoe opined, that giving legal recognition to cohabitation will weaken the status of marriage.

"There can be no doubt that the rise of non-marital cohabitation in modern nations has seriously weakened the institution of marriage, and strongly contributed to substantial and continuing increases in unwed births and lone-parent families," Popenoe concluded at the end of his analysis.

From the point of view of the welfare of society and of children cohabitation is of little benefit, he argued. Even in some European countries with very well-financed welfare systems that support children there is still a substantial gap in child well-being between children who grow up in intact families and those who do not.

Lifelong commitment

Marriage and the family were one of the topics examined by Benedict XVI in his recent visit to the United States. During the celebration of vespers with bishops on April 16 the Pope noted his "deep concern" over the state of the family.

The Pontiff commented that family life makes is not only where we can live the experience of justice and love, but that it is also the primary place for evangelization and passing on the faith.

He noted that in addition to an increase in divorce, many young men and women are choosing to postpone marriage or forego it.

"To some young Catholics, the sacramental bond of marriage seems scarcely distinguishable from a civil bond, or even a purely informal and open-ended arrangement to live with another person," the Holy Father observed.

"[T]he Christ-like mutual self-giving of spouses, sealed by a public promise to live out the demands of an indissoluble lifelong commitment," is lacking in cohabitation, he added.

"In such circumstances, children are denied the secure environment that they need in order truly to flourish as human beings, and society is denied the stable building blocks which it requires if the cohesion and moral focus of the community are to be maintained," Benedict XVI concluded. Problems that many countries around the world are struggling to deal with.