Kathleen Gilbert

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Virginia winery a delicate blend of faith, family, and love of the land

Kathleen Gilbert
Kathleen Gilbert
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HUNTLY, VIRGINIA, July 6, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) - The view at Rappahannock Cellars is breathtaking. An afternoon in late June brings a cooling mist that hovers just above quiet hills blanketed in bright green vines. The remote locale, with quiet, homey rooms and giant windows overlooking the countryside, seem to breathe: peace.

Inside, after popping open a bottle of Merlot, owner John Delmare tells of how he once described the somewhat grim reality behind it all to an audience of prospective vineyard owners whose ideas were still a little too romantic.

“I just got done processing 80 tons of fruit almost by myself this year,” he told them, “I work 12-14 hour days, dripping wet. I’ve still got this massive cold. I haven’t got a haircut in six months - and I got a bump on my head because I was trying to get some wine down and a bottle fell off, and I figured the best way to catch it was with my head.”

Rappahannock isn’t nearly the size of many of its neighbors in the highly competitive Virginia winery market, certainly not big enough to take the bulk of work off the shoulders of Delmare and his family. Yet it is one of the most successful, with careful, sustainable growing practices, producing 6,000 barrels a year from its 20 acres.

Although clearly passionate about the vintner’s art, even optimizing different grape varieties within the property’s many “micro-climates,” Delmare said the key to success has been his homeschooled family of 12 children - which brings its own unique bragging rights.

“Most wineries brag about being family owned and run, but not many can brag about their young children (ages 9 to 14 at the time,) working joyfully on their hands and knees, planting our original 15 acres of Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Viognier, and Cabernet Sauvignon,” states the vineyard’s website.

Business is booming at Rappahannock despite a difficult location - the winery is a 1.5 hour trek from D.C. - and even less glitz: Delmare noted that the rustic Rappahannock lacks the “Taj Mahal kind of building that others do.” Meanwhile, the winery boasts 1,100 members, including some who have been with Rappahannock since its beginning 10 years ago - something “unheard of,” according to Delmare.

“Why are we more successful than most out there? We make really good wines, and I think we provide an atmosphere that people don’t get anywhere else,” he said.

While other wineries are often implicitly adults-only, the family orientation at Rappahanock is noticeable from the first: a corner full of toys immediately greets visitors with children. Although most of Delmare’s children are now grown, he started out, he says, as “the guy in the tasting room [with] my younger kids” keeping him company.

Maintaining a family life at Rappahannock is no easy task:. The winery is open 360 days a year, leaving only five days each year for everyone to relax together. But the work means more than just a business to Delmare, who says his journey of faith was what cemented Rappahannock’s foundation.

“God has blessed us here,” he said, “so we’re trying to give back, first and foremost.”

The couple originally hails from California, where John Delmare first fell in love with the winemaking industry, but as an unbeliever: “I didn’t come into the Church until my fifth child was in the oven. Here I was, an agnostic at best in California with a fifth child on the way.”

Although his wife Lisa was raised Catholic, Demare said she was “was voted in high school the least likely ever to get married or have children.” It was his wife’s reversion to her Catholic faith that sparked Delmare’s own conversion, and the family suddenly found themselves seeking richer spiritual soil. Although the California climate is far more favorable to grapes, they settled down to begin again near the Catholic homeschooling hub of Front Royal.

“Tending a vineyard, you can really understand why Our Lord chose it for so many parables,” said Delmare. While “not all crops are beautiful,” the vineyard is a very different story. “When you’re up [working] at six o’clock in the morning…you can’t help but raise your eyes to Heaven and praise God.”

“It was so clear that God just opened door after door…there’s no question in our mind that God put us here.”

The Delmares have made their vineyard home a site of gentle evangelizing. Above one large window framing a view of vine-covered hills is written, “Introibo ad vineam Dei, ubi copia faetitiae est”: “I shall go into the vineyard of God, where there is great rejoicing.” Crosses here and there, and a Sacred Heart statue on the far side of the barn, also give clues to Rappahannock’s religious roots.

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“We really don’t cram our family or our faith down people’s throats, but we don’t hide it either,” Delmare said. “Every once in a while you get that one person who will never come back as a result.” But for the most part, regarding their faith, “people I think have a certain warmness in their heart, whether they’re believers or not believers.”

Perhaps Rappahannock’s staying power comes from the fact that, unlike other destination spots in the D.C. area, what it offers is truly exotic to an isolated modern society.

“People don’t have families anymore,” said Delmare. “People come here and they feel like they’re a part of the family. And they connect with that.”

 


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Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

African researchers warn early sexual activity increases risk of cancers

Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus
By Thaddeus Baklinski

A report on rising cancer rates in Africa delivered at a conference in Namibia last week warned that oral contraceptives and engaging in sexual activity from a young age lead to an increased risk of breast and reproductive system cancers.

Researchers presented the "2014 Integrated Africa Cancer Fact Sheet & Summary Score Card" during the 8th Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer in Africa (SCCA) conference, held in Windhoek, Namibia from July 20 to 22, noted that cancer is a growing health problem in many developing countries and that breast and cervical cancer are the most common forms affecting African women.

The report said that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) play a major role in reproductive system cancers and that young girls who engage in sexual activity risk getting, among other STDs, the human papilloma virus (HPV), some strains of which are linked to cervical cancer.

The report said although HPV infections are common in healthy women, they are usually fought off by the body’s immune system, with no discernible symptoms or health consequences.

The Cancer Association of South Africa points out that of the scores of HPV types, 14 of the more than 40 sexually transmitted varieties are considered "high risk" for causing serious illness, while two, HPV-16 and HPV-18, are linked to cervical cancer.

“Long-term use of oral contraceptives is also associated with increased risk [of cancer], and women living with HIV-AIDS are at increased risk of cervical cancer,” the report said.

Dr. Thandeka Mazibuko, a South African oncologist, told the conference attendees that when an 18-year-old is diagnosed with cervical cancer, “this means sex is an important activity in her life and she indulged from a young age.”

Mazibuko said the standard treatment for cancer of the cervix is seven weeks of radiation therapy.

“After the treatment they cannot have sex with their husbands or partners. They cannot bear children because everything has been closed up. Some may still have the womb but radiation makes them infertile,” Mazibuko said, according to a report in The Namibian.

Statistics from the Cancer Association of Namibia show that cases of cervical cancer have risen from 129 in 2005 to 266 in 2012.

The SCCA Conference theme was, "Moving forward to end Cervical Cancer by 2030: Universal Access to Cervical Cancer Prevention."

In his keynote address, host and Namibian President Hifikepunye Lucas Pohamba urged African countries to help each other to expand and modernize health care delivery in the continent.

"Within the context of the post-2015 Development Agenda and sustainable development goals, the provision of adequate health care to African women and children must be re-emphasized," said the president, according to AllAfrica.

The Namibian leader urged mothers to breastfeed their children for at least six months as a measure to prevent breast cancer.


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Allow ‘lethal injection’ for poor to save on palliative care: Lithuanian health minister

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By Hilary White

Euthanasia is a solution for terminally ill poor people who cannot afford palliative care and who do not want to “see their families agonize” over their suffering, Lithuania’s health minister said last week.

In an interview on national television, Minister Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė added that the Belgian law on child euthanasia ought to be “taken into account” as well. 

Šalaševičiūtė told TV3 News that Lithuania, a country whose population is 77 percent Catholic, is not a welfare state and cannot guarantee quality palliative care for all those in need of it. The solution, therefore, would be “lethal injection.”

“It is time to think through euthanasia in these patients and allow them to make a decision: to live or die,” she said.

Direct euthanasia remains illegal in the Balkan state, but activists tried to bring it to the table in 2012. A motion to drop the planned bill was passed in the Parliament in March that year in a vote of 75 to 14. Since then the country has undergone a change in government in which the far-left Social Democrats have formed the largest voting bloc.

Šalaševičiūtė is a member of Parliament for the Social Democrats, the party originally established in the late 19th century – re-formed in the late 1980s – from Marxist principles and now affiliated with the international Party of European Socialists and Socialist International.

Fr. Andrius Narbekovas, a prominent priest, lecturer, physician, bioethicist, and member of the government’s bioethics committee, called the suggestion “satanic,” according to Delfi.lt. He issued a statement saying it is the purpose of the Ministry of Health to “protect the health and life, instead of looking for ways to take away life.”

“We understand that people who are sick are in need of funds. But a society that declares itself democratic, should very clearly understand that we have to take care of the sick, not kill them,” he said.


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Islamists in Mosul mark Christian homes with an Arabic "N" for Nazarene.
Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D.

We must open wide our doors to Iraq’s Christians

Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D.
By Gualberto Garcia Jones J.D.

On July 18, the largest Christian community in Iraq, the Chaldean Catholics of Mosul, were given a grotesque ultimatum: leave your ancestral home, convert to Islam, or die.

All but forgotten by the 1.2 billion Catholics of the world, these last Christians who still speak Jesus’ native tongue of Aramaic and live in the land of Abraham and Jonah are being wiped out before our very eyes.

As a way of issuing a thinly-veiled threat, reminiscent of the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the Arabic letter “N” (for Nazarean) has been painted on the outside of the homes of all known Christians in Mosul.

These threats, issued by the fanatical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) known for its bloodthirsty rampage of executions, have been taken very seriously by the several hundred thousand Christians in Mosul who have left with little more than the clothes they were wearing. 

At least most of these Christians were able to flee and find temporary protection among the Kurds in their semi-autonomous region.  However the Kurds do not have the resources to defend or shelter the Chaldean Christians for much longer.

On Monday, during an interview on Fox News, Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, who recently joined with 54 other members of the House of Representatives in a letter to President Obama asking him to act to protect these communities, stated that while Iraqi President Maliki had sent military flights to Mosul to evacuate Shiite Muslims, the US has done nothing to protect the Chaldean Christians.  Rep. Wolf also stated emphatically that President Obama has done “almost nothing” about the genocide taking place.

The silence from the White House is deafening.  But the lack of leadership from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in America has been shocking as well.

Nevertheless, the plight of these Iraqi Christians is beginning to be taken seriously.   This is due in large part to the heroic efforts of local Iraqi religious leaders like Chaldean Patriarch Sako, who has gone on a whirlwind tour of the world to alert us all of the plight of these Iraqi Christians.  In a statement demonstrating his character, he told the Christians of Iraq last week, “We are your shepherds, and with our full responsibility towards you we will stay with you to the end, will not leave you, whatever the sacrifices.”

Before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was launched there were approximately 1.5 to 2 million Christians living in Iraq.  Today, there are believed to be less than 200,000.  The numbers speak for themselves.

Now that the world is beginning to be aware of the genocide in Northern Iraq, many of us ask ourselves: what can we do?  As citizens and as Christians blessed to live in nations with relative peace and security, what can we do?

The answer is quite simple and unexpected.  Demand that our government and church pull its head out of the sand and follow France. Yes, France.  

Yesterday, in a heroic gesture of Christian solidarity that would make Joan of Arc proud, the government of France opened wide its doors to the persecuted Iraqi Christians.  

”France is outraged by these abuses that it condemns with the utmost firmness," Laurent Fabius, France's foreign minister, and Bernard Cazeneuve, France's interior minister, said in a joint statement on Monday.

"The ultimatum given to these communities in Mosul by ISIS is the latest tragic example of the terrible threat that jihadist groups in Iraq, but also in Syria and elsewhere, pose to these populations that are historically an integral part of this region," they added. "We are ready, if they wish, to facilitate their asylum on our soil.  We are in constant contact with local and national authorities to ensure everything is done to protect them.”

The French statement drives home three crucial elements that every government, especially the United States, should communicate immediately:

  1. Recognize the genocide and name the perpetrators and victims.

  2. Officially condemn what is happening in the strongest terms.

  3. Offer a solution that includes cooperation with local authorities but which leads by making solid commitments such as offering asylum or other forms of protection.

With regard to the Church, we should look to the Chaldean Patriarch and the Iraqi bishops who shared their expectations explicitly in an open letter to “all people of conscience in Iraq and around the world” to take “practical actions to assure our people, not merely expressions of condemnation.”  Noticeably, the last section of the letter from the Iraqi bishops, before a final prayer to God, is an expression of thanks to the Kurdish government, which has welcomed them not just with “expressions” of goodwill but, like France, with a sacrificial hospitality.

On Friday, July 25, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did issue a statement, but unfortunately it lacked much in terms of leadership or solutions.  We should encourage our bishops to do better than that, be bolder and stronger for our persecuted brothers and sisters, name names and offer concrete sacrificial aid. In a word, be more like the French.

In 1553, Rome welcomed the Chaldean church into the fold of the Catholic Church.  Nearly 500 years later, Catholic Americans must find ways to welcome these persecuted people into our country, into our churches, and into our own homes if need be.

I say, I am with you St. Joan of Arc.   I am with you, France.  I am with you, Chaldeans!

Gualberto Garcia Jones is the Executive Director of the International Human Rights Group, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, that seeks to advance the fundamental rights to life, the natural family, and religious liberty through international law and international relations. 


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