Saturday, July 15, 2017


Attending church is good for your health. Now what? 
Yonat Shimron
Religion News Service 
July 07, 2017

The latest in a long line of studies, now numbering in the hundreds, if not thousands, shows that church attendance is good for your health.

Published in May by researchers from Vanderbilt University, the study found that middle-aged adults who attended religious services at least once in the past year were half as likely to die prematurely as those who didn’t.

Using data from a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the study’s researchers examined 10 biological stress markers among 5,449 men and women aged 46 to 65. They then compared those markers with respondents' self-reported religious service attendance and found a correlation between religious service attendance, lower stress and longevity. Researchers from Vanderbilt University, the study found that middle-aged adults who attended religious services at least once in the past year were half as likely to die prematurely as those who didn’t.

The study adds to mounting scientific findings on the subject. A far larger study, of 74,534 women, published last year found that attending a religious service more than once per week was associated with 33 percent lower mortality compared with women who never attended religious services.

A documentary probing recent findings similar to these airs on on many PBS stations Friday and Saturday (July 7 and 8) — another sign of growing awareness of these studies' significance, especially for older adults.

But even as the studies pile up and the literature appears close to conclusive, many questions about the association between religious service attendance and health have yet to be answered.

For one, people attend religious services for all kinds of reasons. What is it about services that might impart better health? The prayers? The social connections? The coffee and cookies?

And does religious attendance account for longevity, or something else? Could it be that people who attend church, synagogue or mosque happen to lead healthier lifestyles? Maybe they are on the whole predisposed to eat well, exercise regularly, engage in safe sex and drink alcohol in moderation?

How about people who bond over shared interests—say, knitting or poker, or devoted volunteers in literacy centers, or animal rescues? Has anyone studied whether these group members have lower mortality rates?

And finally, if, as so much evidence suggests, religious attendance is correlated with positive health outcomes, does that mean doctors should prescribe a weekly service to their patients?

“Religion is incredibly complex,” said Neal Krause, a retired professor of public health at the University of Michigan who is the lead investigator in a Landmark Spirituality and Health Survey. “To say ‘Church attendance is good for your health’ does everything and nothing at the same time. The question is, ‘What exactly is going on here?’"

Krause points out that not all religion is good. Religious devotion can also lead to negative health outcomes if people are motivated to attend church out of guilt, for example, or feel God is punishing them through their illness. Indeed, studies have shown that negative religious coping can cause spiritual distress that may lead to depression or early death.

But overall, researchers say the field of spirituality and health — spanning numerous academic disciplines, including public health, nursing, social work, sociology, psychology and medicine — is improving as investigators dig deeper and try to ferret out causal relationships and eliminate other factors that may account for improved health outcomes.

One thing many researchers agree on: Studies analyzing whether prayer can heal illness have been shown to be methodologically, ethically and theologically flawed. Besides the question of whether prayer is an appropriate subject for scientific study and the fact that it’s impossible to quantify the amount of prayer offered at a set time, there were a host of ethical considerations (Is it ethical not to pray for someone, and does God heal some but not others?).

The best of these studies showed that prayers offered by strangers—sometimes called intercessory prayer—had no effect on the recovery of people undergoing surgery.

Religious attendance, however, is a subject researchers keep returning to. The question remains: What practical implications can be gleaned from these studies?

Many researchers agree that even if religious attendance does promote better health, it’s not appropriate for a physician to tell patients to go to church if they want to live longer—just as it wouldn’t be appropriate to tell patients they should get married because research shows married couples live longer.

But that doesn’t mean doctors shouldn’t inquire about patients’ spiritual needs.

“Physicians should know everything that has the potential to impact a patient’s well-being, whether it's diet, social engagement, gun ownership or texting while driving,” said Richard Sloan, a biomedical researcher at Columbia University Medical Center. “My objection is when physicians try to persuade patients to engage in religious practices that are potentially coercive.”

For example, he said, it would be unethical for a doctor to try to convert patients to a particular faith or to initiate prayer with a patient.

Likewise, it’s not clear that going to church to improve the odds of survival is a good idea.

“I wouldn’t want a congregation of people there for health benefits,” said Daniel Sulmasy, a general internist and ethicist at Georgetown University and a former Franciscan friar. “In fact, we don’t know if people did it for that reason, rather than intrinsic reasons, that there would be a correlation.”

But some studies at the intersection of religion and health that might help clinicians do a better job of caring for patients.

For example, studies have shown that chaplain visits in hospital settings are associated with better health outcomes. This stands to reason, say researchers; when patients’ spiritual needs are met, they are more satisfied with their overall care. Another study suggested patients that take advantage of chaplain visits are more peaceful and feel more in control of their health.

More such research examining the efficacy of chaplaincy interventions are needed, said Christina Puchalski, professor of medicine and director of the George Washington University's Institute for Spirituality and Health.

“What can we do for the person that’s suffering?” Puchalski asked. “What are we doing so they aren’t alone? I try to accompany people in their suffering. That’s where we can all come together.”

And while researchers work to tease out the mediating factors in religious services that may hold the secret ingredient to health, there’s little question that religious groups have a lot going for them.

“Name a human institution that gives you a sense of community, hope, teaches you how to meditate, has all these kinds of disciplines associated with it,” said Sulmasy. “If it’s not a religion, it’s going to be close to a religion.”


Thursday, July 13, 2017



That's Father Jude Meril on the Bishop's left somewhat blocked.

Dear Father,

Hope this email finds you well. On May 20th I was assigned to minister at St. Xavier's Cathedral as an associate. We are working on the construction of the new Cathedral. I attached the pictures of the construction for you to have a look at it. 

My sister's wedding was beautiful. A bishop from a different diocese presided over the Mass and a few priests concelebrated. The interesting fact was the date (June 18, 2017) when my sister got married. It was the solemnity of THE BODY AND BLOOD OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. I was also ordained on the same feast a year ago on May 29, 2016. And I was glad I received the couple's vows which was my sister's desire too.I also attached the pictures with this email. I wish you have a great month of July.

Fr. Jude Meril

Tuesday, July 11, 2017



of the 
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines


I will be meeting up with some of these guys again next week!
July 17-26, 2017

In the meantime, pray for my safe trip and pray that our
gets there before I have to come home!

It's on a ship somewhere in the Caribbean right now, between Jamaica and Saint Vincent, full of life-giving medical supplies for the poor, items for our Pastoral Centre renovation project, lab equipment for a Catholic High School and 15 laptop computers for our (postponed) kids' computer camps.

It would be "icing on the cake" if I could be there when it arrives and is opened by Bishop County and the Minister of Health - even if it were on the very last day. This project has been over a year in the making. 

Any last minute gestures of generosity can still be accepted.

Remember, once we get the Pastoral Centre renovated (and we are getting closer each month), we can start inviting retired (or not) professional volunteers (Catholic or not) to come down and do some real missionary work with me. If you can't go personally, you can always support those of us who can, any way you can.

On this trip, I will check on renovation progress and make some important decisions about that progress. Watch this blog, especially over the next week or two, for photos of the progress.

It is truly amazing how far we have come this last two months after years of dreaming and planning.

Make your check out to:
St. Bartholomew Church - SVG Mission Fund.
Just call me at 502-303-4571 
I'll find a way to get it before I leave on Monday.

Sunday, July 9, 2017



designer - Tim Schoenbachler, Louisville, Kentucky

The present small dining room off the kitchen. Behind the camera is one of two old living areas.
It will be combined with the living room furniture in what is now the new chapel area to make one big living room, through the doors, to the left of this photo.

Tables can be pushed together to form a large banquet table.

Becoming a reality.


Come to me all you who are weary and
find life burdensome and I will give
you rest. For my yoke is easy and my
burden light.
Matthew 11

Religion! Can’t live with it and can’t live without it! Religion! Wears you out and gives you life! Religion! So complicated and yet so simple!

Those of us who bother with religion, at some time or another, no doubt feel like the great prophet, Jeremiah. Jeremiah tried his best to be faithful, tried to do what God had called him to do, but ended up so frustrated with all the trouble it caused him that he screamed out at God in frustration, “You suckered me into this stupid mess and I was dumb enough to fall for it!” If Jeremiah had been a country music writer, he would have surely written the famous song, “Take this job and shove it. I ain’t workin’ here no more!”

Thomas the Apostle doubted. In fact, he refused to believe until he could see Jesus with his own eyes and touch his wounds with his own hands. I have always liked Celie’s lines in the wonderful book The Color Purple, “It ain’t easy trying to do without God. Even if you know he ain’t there, trying to do without him is a strain.”  I also resonate with St. Theresa of Avila, patron saint of liberated women, when she was said to have let God have it with these words, “Listen, God, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you don’t have many!”

Over the years, many believers have worked through their doubts of faith and frustrations with religion, but remained faithful to the Church, in spite of their deep disappointment with its very human side. Many have stayed in to do the dirty work of reforming the Church and have gone on to become great saints in doing so – St Francis of Assisi, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Theresa of Avila and John XXIII. They all argued with God and criticized the Church. Arguing, fighting and fussing still goes on within the Church today.

Still others made decisions to leave, turning their reforms efforts into new denominations – people like Martin Luther, John Calvin and John Knox. One internet site lists 5,000 Protestant denominations alone.

Jesus, himself, was known for his frustration with the organized religion of his day because he loved it. The ancient Jewish religion that he knew and loved had become so tedious, complicated, twisted and burdensome that he actually went on a rampage outside the temple in Jerusalem, kicking over the tables of the money-changers and screaming in frustration.

In today’s gospel, looking at how worn-down the average God-loving person of his day was, Jesus cries out, “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome and I will refresh you. My yoke is easy and my burden light.” The “yoke and burden” he was talking about was the “yoke and burden” of an overly complicated religion that was crushing the people that it was supposed to be lifting up. “The ease and lightness” that Jesus offered, in contrast, was the “ease and lightness” of a heart given completely to God and simple service to one’s neighbor.

The Ten Commandments contained the essence of the Jewish faith. Our spiritual ancestors, the Jewish people of old, struggled to live by them. But, over time, living them in community led to an immensely complicated set of rule books, guidelines and ethical codes.  When Jesus was asked which of all those rules and regulations was most important, he cut through all the layers of complication and said, “love your God and your neighbor as yourself “ and you will fulfill the whole law.

Those of us who are on the front line of trying to reform the Church today sometimes feel like Jeremiah. We get discouraged. We sometimes feel like giving up and walking away. Like Jeremiah, we cannot walk away because God is like a fire burning in our hearts. We are like Peter, when so many disciples walked away from Jesus after he talked about the Eucharist, telling them to “feed on his body and blood.”  When Peter was asked whether he would walk away too, he said, “To whom else shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life.”

Those of us who choose to stay know that if we were to leave, we would lose our right to criticize. For us, taking cheap shots at the Church from the outside is easy and cowardly. We know that “armchair quarterbacks” and “back seat drivers” are a dime a dozen. 

Jesus did not come to destroy organized religion, but to reform it, one heart at a time. The “church” can never become an enemy for Christians because it is the Body of Christ in the world. Christianity will always be messy because it is a communal religion. Those who choose the “just me and Jesus” brand of religion really do not know much about Jesus. They are like Lucy in the comic strip who professed that she “loved humanity, but it was people she could not stand.” When he left this world, Jesus told his followers, as a group, not individually, “I will be with you always.” His church is still one (with many parts), holy (in spite of its many sins), catholic (universal and inclusive) and apostolic (lives on in an unbroken succession back to the original apostles). Because it is made up of human beings, it will always be in need of reform.  Real reform always calls us back to the basics, the only path to the true reform of its structures. Changed people can change things.