22 June 2008

Flash Review: When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions

"When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions" is a six part documentary of the United States' manned spaceflight program. Billed as the definitive High Definition chronicle of the space program, the program doesn't even come close to living up to the billing.

Far from being an authoritative review of the space program, "When We Left Earth" is little more than NASA-porn: quite pretty, but lacking in depth and substance, and - at times - featuring some glaring errors or omissions.

Part of the problem is due to the fact that the series is attempting to chronicle over forty-five years of history in six televised hours (less, in fact, when you count out the commercials). There is no real way to chronicle the space program in such a short period of time, but to make matters worse (at least for a nitpicker like me) footage is played fast and loose, and key events in the life of the space program are essentially ignored.

I was shocked when the overview of the maiden flight of the Columbia (STS-1) was dismissed in under two minutes with no mention of the fact that mission controllers were concerned about re-entry from the missing tiles on the ship. Other glaring omissions include the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, Sally Ride's first mission, and the first Return to Flight of the shuttle era.

Sound clips and video footage was also featured from wrong missions (for example, External Tank, SRB, and vehicle footage from the post-Columbia era of retrn to flight shown in the early days of the shuttle).

Far from being a substantial history of the space program, it is little more than a titillating sketchbook-type overview of the space program, "When We Left Earth" is easily overshadowed by even older (outdated) series such as PBS' "Spaceflight".

06 June 2008

Dorotheos of Tyre

Bishop and Martyr

Dorotheos was the bishop of Tyre in Lebanon during the reign of the Roman emperors Diocletian and Lichinos; he endured many various sufferings and was exiled from his cathedral to the city of Odisopolis in Trakia, because of his faith in Christ.

When Lichinos was killed in the year 324, and Constantine succeeded him on the throne of Rome, the Church was free again, and Dorotheos returned to his people in Tyre. He was a prudent intellectual person, knew Greek and Latin very well, and left some valuable writings that reflect his love for God and his Church and his vast knowledge. He was killed during the persecutions of Julian the apostate in the year 362, and thus ended his life with the crown of martyrdom.

Prayer of the Day
you call your people to stand fast in the faith
in spite of the hostility of the world.
As we recall the example of Dorotheos of Tyre,
grant your Church the strength of conviction
to always speak the truth,
live by the imperatives of the Gospel,
and advocate for justice and peace in the world.
We make our prayer through your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
now and ever,
and unto ages of ages.

05 June 2008

Boniface of Mainz

Bishop and Martyr

Boniface, whose name means ‘good deeds’, was born in Britain. He was a Benedictine monk who, at the age of thirty, was called to missionary work among the Vandal tribes of Germany. He led large numbers of his fellow Benedictines –men and women alike – in establishing churches, schools, and seminaries. Boniface was also a reformer. He was instrumental in calling two Synods that put an end to the practice of selling Church offices to the highest bidder. Following in the footsteps of Willibrord, he was preaching in the lands of the Frisians as his life drew to an end. While preparing a group of Frisians for confirmation on the eve of Pentecost in the year 754, he and his companions were killed by Vandal warriors.

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God,
you called your bishop Boniface
to be a witness among the Germans and the Frisians,
raising up though his life a people for your own possession,
and through his death an example of selfless service.
Pour forth your Holy Spirit upon the Church in every land,
that by the service and sacrifice of many
your holy Name may be glorified
and your kingdom enlarged.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
now and ever,
and unto ages of ages.

03 June 2008

Martyrs of Uganda

On 3 June 1886, thirty-two young men, pages of the court of King Mwanga of Buganda, were burned to death at Namugongo for their refusal to renounce Christianity. In the following months many other Christians throughout the country died by spear or fire for their faith.

These martyrdoms totally changed the dynamic of Christian growth in Uganda. Introduced by a handful of Anglican and Roman missionaries after 1877, the Christian faith had been preached only to the immediate members of the court, by order of King Mutesa. His successor, Mwanga, became increasingly angry as he realized that the first converts put loyalty to Christ above the traditional loyalty to the king. Martyrdoms began in 1885. Mwanga first forbade anyone to go near a Christian mission on pain of death, but finding himself unable to cool the ardor of the converts, resolved to wipe out Christianity.

The Namugongo martyrdoms produced a result entirely opposite to Mwanga's intentions. The example of these martyrs, who walked to their deaths singing hymns and praying for their enemies, so inspired many of the bystanders that they began to seek instruction from the remaining Christians. Within a few years the original handful of converts had multiplied many times and spread far beyond the court. The martyrs had left the indelible impression that Christianity was truly African, not simply a white man's religion. Most of the missionary work was carried out by Africans rather than by white missionaries, and Christianity spread steadily. Uganda now has the largest percentage of professed Christians of any nation in Africa.

One African clergyman, born of pagan parents, tell of his conversion. He said: “One afternoon I was bicycling along a road and met a young man about my own age bicycling in the opposite direction. He promptly turned about and began to ride beside me and to talk. He spoke with great enthusiasm about Jesus, whom I had never heard of before, and how He had destroyed the power of death and evil by dying and rising again, and how He was God become man to reconcile man with God. I heard what my companion had to say, and before we parted I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Now, the young man who preached the Good News of Jesus Christ to me that afternoon had himself heard of Jesus for the first time that morning.”

Renewed persecution of Christians in the 1970's by the military dictatorship of Idi Amin proved the vitality of the example of the Namugongo martyrs. Among the thousands of new martyrs, both Anglican and Roman, was Janani Luwum, Archbishop of the Church of Uganda

Prayer of the Day
Good and gracious God,
as we celebrate today the faith and sacrifice of the Martyrs of Uganda,
grant that we may,
at all times and in all places,
be constant in our witness to your Son,
regardless of the cost.
We make our prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
now and ever,
and unto ages of ages.

02 June 2008

Martyrs of Lyons

In Gaul, there were missionary centers which had drawn many Christians from Asia and Greece. Persecution began in 177.

At first, Christians were excluded from the public baths, the market place, and from social and public life. They were subject to attack when they appeared in public, and many Christian homes were vandalized. At this point the government became involved, and began to take Christians into custody for questioning. Some slaves from Christian households were tortured to obtain confessions, and were induced to say that Christians practiced cannibalism and incest. These charges were used to arouse the whole city against the Christians, particularly against Pothinus, the aged bishop of Lyons; Sanctus, a deacon; Attalus; Maturus, a recent convert; and Blandina, a slave. Pothinus was beaten and then released, to die of his wounds a few days later. Sanctus was tormented with red-hot irons. Blandina, tortured all day long, would say nothing except, "I am a Christian, and nothing vile is done among us." Finally, the survivors were put to death in the public arena.

Prayer of the Day
hear the prayers we offer today
on the feast of the martyrs of Lyons.
May we, like them,
be rooted and grounded in our love for you and one another,
so that we may endure the sufferings of this life
with confidence in the glory of the life to come.
We ask this through your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
now and ever,
and unto ages of ages.

01 June 2008

Justin and his Companions


Justin was the son of pagan parents. While living at Ephesus, he was touched by the stories of the Christian martyrs, and eventually came under the influence of an elderly Christian man he had met there. Justin described his conversion thusly: “Straightaway a flame was kindled in my soul and a love of the prophets and those who are friends of Christ possessed me.” Justin was a teacher of philosophy and engaged in debates about the truth of the Christian faith. He was arrested and jailed for practicing an unauthorized religion. When he refused to renounce his faith he was beheaded, together with six of his students.

Prayer of the Day
Almighty and everlasting God,
your servant Justin began his search for you
by wandering from teacher to teacher,
and through the faith of one of those teachers
you revealed to him the sublime wisdom of your eternal Word.
Not squandering the precious gift he had received,
he in turn shared it with a world in desperate need of your love,
and was, together with his students,
willing to die rather than deny you,
the source of true love and peace.
As we celebrate the martyrdom of Justin and his companions,
hear our prayers,
and grant that all who seek you,
or a deeper knowledge of you,
may find and be found by you.
We make our prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
now and ever,
and unto ages of ages.

All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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