The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

An atheist was taking a walk through the woods.

What majestic trees!
What powerful rivers!
What beautiful animals!" he said to himself.

As he was walking alongside the river he heard a rustling in the bushes
behind him. He turned to look. He saw a 7 foot grizzly charge towards him.

He ran as fast as he could up the path. He looked over his shoulder and saw
that the bear was closing in on him. He looked over his shoulder again, and
the bear was even closer.

He tripped and fell on the ground. He rolled over to pick himself up but saw
the bear right on top of him, reaching for him with his left paw and raising
his right paw to strike him.

At that instant the Atheist cried out: "Oh my God!..."

Time stopped.

The bear froze.

The forest was silent.

As a bright light shone upon the man, a voice came out of the sky:

"You deny my existence for all of these years, teach others I don't exist,
and even credit creation to a cosmic accident.

Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament?

Am I to count you as a believer?"

The atheist looked directly into the light, "It would be hypocritical of me
to suddenly ask You to treat me as a Christian now, but perhaps could you
make the BEAR a Christian?"

"Very well," said the voice.

The light went out.

The sounds of the forest resumed.

And then the bear dropped his right paw, brought both paws together and
bowed his head and spoke:

"Lord, bless this food, which I am about to receive from thy bounty through
Christ our Lord Amen."

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 22, 2004 ( Last year saw the lives of 35 Catholic missionaries -- bishops, priests, religious and lay people -- ended violently.

So says the news agency Fides of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples which published the names of the dead, on the occasion of the Day of Prayer and Fasting in Memory of Martyred Missionaries, to be observed on Wednesday.

In 2003 the greatest number of victims was recorded in Africa, particularly in Sudan and Uganda, where rebels continue to combat the established government, and in war-torn Congo. Notable in Burundi was the killing of Archbishop Michael Courtney, apostolic nuncio.

The list of missionaries killed, updated only in Italian, is published by Fides at

Israel Zoller Reported a "Peaceful Conscience"

ROME, FEB. 16, 2004 ( The autobiography of Israel Zoller, a wartime rabbi of Rome who converted to Christianity in 1945, has just been published in Italy -- a half-century after it was written.

In "Before the Dawn" ("Prima dell'Alba," St. Paul Publishers), Zoller says that at his baptism he took the name Eugene, in honor of the wartime help his community received from Pope Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli).

Zoller led the Jewish community in Rome from 1938 to July 1944. On Aug. 15 of that year, he revealed to Father Paolo Dezza, then rector of the Gregorian University and eventually a cardinal, his intention to become a Catholic.

The former rabbi was baptized, together with his wife -- who added "Mary" to her given name Emma -- on Feb. 13, 1945, in the chapel of St. Mary of the Angels Church. The author wrote the book in 1954. He died in 1956.

Israel Zoller was of Polish origin. His mother belonged to a family of rabbinical tradition, which could trace its origins back four centuries. Israel studied at the University of Vienna and later at the University of Florence, where he received a licentiate in philosophy, while at the same time studying at the Rabbinical College.

In 1920, Zoller became chief rabbi of Trieste. Thirteen years later he was granted Italian citizenship. Because of the Fascist laws, he had to Italianize his surname from Zoller to Zolli.

Eventually he became professor of arts and Jewish literature at the University of Padua, but was forced to leave the field of teaching because of the racial laws of Benito Mussolini's government. He was appointed chief rabbi of Rome in 1938.

In his book, Zolli recounts how after the arrival of the Nazis in Rome he dedicated himself to hiding Jews and saving their lives, thanks to the collaboration of Vatican institutions, and in particular, that of Pius XII.

According to the book, Ugo Foa, president of the Jewish community at the time, did not share the rabbi's fears, and believed that Zolli's warnings about the Nazis were alarmist.

To those who accused him of being a traitor for having been baptized, Zolli answered: "I haven't denied anything; I have a peaceful conscience. Is not the God of Jesus Christ, of Paul, the same God as that of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Paul was a convert. Did he, by any chance, abandon the God of Israel? Did he cease to love Israel? Just to think something like this is absurd."