OSV Daily Take Blog: Shaw: Lent, Ash Wednesday and getting ‘real’

OSV Daily Take Blog: Shaw: Lent, Ash Wednesday and getting ‘real’.

Why is it that Ash Wednesday and Lent remain relatively popular even in highly secularized times like these? It’s a serious question that touches on matters deeper than might at first be supposed.The popularity I speak of can be seen year after year on Ash Wednesday, when people – some of them perhaps not all that often in church – stream up the aisle to get their ashes. Not a few then return for Mass or Stations of the Cross on weekdays during Lent. How come? Read more


English: Ashes imposed on the forehead of a Ch...

English: Ashes imposed on the forehead of a Christian on Ash Wednesday. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

‘Driving’ a new pair of arms: Neurology, recovery and rehabilitation

‘Driving’ a new pair of arms: Neurology, recovery and rehabilitation.

Brendan Mar­rocco, an Iraq War vet­eran who lost all four limbs in a road­side bomb attack, was recently released from a Bal­ti­more hos­pital after receiving a double-​​arm trans­plant. Northeastern University news office asked Christo­pher Hasson, a sen­so­ri­motor con­trol expert and a newly appointed assis­tant pro­fessor in the Depart­ment of Phys­ical Therapy, to explain the brain’s role in the long recovery and reha­bil­i­ta­tion process.

Marrocco received the double-arm transplant six weeks ago and has already reported movement in the elbow of his left arm. What is the brain’s role in learning how to control a novel object, which in this case is a new pair of arms? A human arm is mar­velously complex—and presents a for­mi­dable con­trol problem for the brain. The scale of this problem is best illus­trated by com­par­ison with dri­ving a car. With an auto­matic trans­mis­sion you have three things to con­trol: The steering wheel turns the car left or right, the gas pedal speeds up the car, and the brake slows it down. Healthy adults learn the basics of dri­ving rel­a­tively quickly, but fine-​​tuning takes much longer and can only be achieved through many hours of prac­tice. During this fine-​​tuning process the brain refines its knowl­edge of how the car responds to con­trol actions. In Marrocco’s case, he must learn to “drive” his new arms; how­ever, the con­trol problem explodes in com­plexity. For each arm he must learn to con­trol motions at three joints with 12 mus­cles; if you include the hand that adds at least 14 more joints and more than 20 more mus­cles. Imagine trying to learn to drive a car with more than 30 dif­ferent con­trols! For­tu­nately, Mar­rocco has a head start, as he has had prior expe­ri­ence con­trol­ling arms. This may explain why he learned to per­form basic move­ments rel­a­tively quickly. How­ever, fine-​​tuning his con­trol will take much longer. You are the principal investigator of Northeastern’s Neuromotor Systems Laboratory, in which you study how movement control in older adults is affected by age-related changes in the neuromuscular system. How will Marrocco’s relative youth—he is only 26 years old—contribute to the recovery and rehabilitation process? Although it’s nat­ural to think that a rel­a­tively young adult such as Mar­rocco would have a clear advan­tage over someone who is older, age may not be a crit­ical factor in terms of the motor learning aspects of recovery. It was once widely thought that after you reach adult­hood the struc­ture of your brain sta­bi­lizes and becomes fixed, and there­fore older adults would have dif­fi­culty learning new skills as their brains are more resis­tant to change.

Read more at: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-02-pair-arms-neurology-recovery.html#jCp

Read more at: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-02-pair-arms-neurology-recovery.html#jCp

St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs – Memorial

St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs


St. Paul Miki was born in 1580 in Japan. After the early missionary efforts of Bishop John of Albuquerque and St. Francis Xavier in 1548-1549, Christianity was on the rise in Japan. In 1587, when approximately 200,000 Christians were identified, Japan issued an edict of persecution towards Christians.

St. Paul and his Companions were a group of Franciscans, Jesuits, and Japanese Christians identified through the edict. The 26 individuals were arrested, mutilated, and martyred at the hill of Nagasaki. They are remembered for their courage, dedication, and joy despite the religious persecution they endured.
From an account of the martyrdom of Saint Paul Miki and his companions, by a contemporary writer.
You shall be my witnesses

The crosses were set in place. Father Pasio and Father Rodriguez took turns encouraging the victims. Their steadfast behavior was wonderful to see. The Father Bursar stood motionless, his eyes turned heavenward. Brother Martin gave thanks to God’s goodness by singing psalms. Again and again he repeated: “Into your hands, Lord, I entrust my life.” Brother Francis Branco also thanked God in a loud voice. Brother Gonsalvo in a very loud voice kept saying the Our Father and Hail Mary.

Our brother, Paul Miki, saw himself standing now in the noblest pulpit he had ever filled. To his “congregation” he began by proclaiming himself a Japanese and a Jesuit. He was dying for the Gospel he preached. He gave thanks to God for this wonderful blessing and he ended his “sermon” with these words: “As I come to this supreme moment of my life, I am sure none of you would suppose I want to deceive you. And so I tell you plainly: there is no way to be saved except the Christian way. My religion teaches me to pardon my enemies and all who have offended me. I do gladly pardon the Emperor and all who have sought my death. I beg them to seek baptism and be Christians themselves.”

Then he looked at his comrades and began to encourage them in their final struggle. Joy glowed in all their faces, and in Louis’ most of all. When a Christian in the crowd cried out to him that he would soon be in heaven, his hands, his whole body strained upward with such joy that every eye was fixed on him.

Anthony, hanging at Louis’ side, looked toward heaven and called upon the holy names — “Jesus, Mary!” He began to sing a psalm: “Praise the Lord, you children!” (He learned it in catechism class in Nagasaki. They take care there to teach the children some psalms to help them learn their catechism.)

Others kept repeating “Jesus, Mary!” Their faces were serene. Some of them even took to urging the people standing by to live worthy Christian lives. In these and other ways they showed their readiness to die.

Then, according to Japanese custom, the four executioners began to unsheathe their spears. At this dreadful sight, all the Christians cried out, “Jesus, Mary!” And the storm of anguished weeping then rose to batter the very skies. The executioners killed them one by one. One thrust of the spear, then a second blow. It was over in a very short time.