Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Only by adoring this presence do we learn how to receive Him properly. ...


Only by adoring this presence do we learn how to receive Him properly. ... Let us love being with the Lord! There we can speak with Him about everything. We can offer Him our petitions, our concerns, our troubles. Our joys. Our gratitude, our disappointments, our needs and our aspirations. There we can also constantly ask Him: 'Lord send laborers into Your harvest! Help me to be a good worker in Your vineyard!


Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI

St Pope Pius IV

In December of 1565, Pope Pius IV died. His one monumental achievement was the resumption and successful conclusion of the Council of Trent. The man chosen to succeed Pius IV and upon whose shoulders rested the responsibility for carrying out the decrees of the council was Michael Ghislieri, a Dominican friar. It was the late pontiff's nephew St. Charles Borromeo who had been the driving force in the election of the new pope, for he recognized that a remarkable leader would be needed if the decrees of the council were to bear fruit.

Michael Ghislieri was a poor shepherd boy who entered the Dominicans at the age of fourteen, became a lecturer in philosophy and theology at Pavia, and very early became involved in the reform movement in the Church. His reforming labors brought him to the attention of other members of the reform movement, and he was given important positions in Como, Bergamo, and Rome. In 1556, he was consecrated bishop of Sutri and Nepi, and then to the diocese of Mondevi, lately ravaged by war. In a very short time, the diocese was flourishing and prosperous. His views on reform were often asked by the Holy Father, and he was noted for his boldness in expressing his views.

His holiness and austerity of life were notable, and he succeeded in bringing simplicity even into the papal household. He refused to wear the flowing garments of previous popes and insisted upon wearing his white Dominican habit even as head of the Church. To this day, the pope wears white, a custom begun by this Dominican pontiff.

The announced intention of St. Pius V was the carrying out of the decrees of the Council of Trent. He insisted that bishops reside in their diocese under pain of losing their revenues; he made a systematic reform of religious orders, established seminaries, held diocesan synods, and reformed the Breviary and Missal. He brought unity into divine worship, published catechisms, ordered a revision of the Latin Vulgate and revitalized the study of theology and canon law. During his pontificate, the Turks were definitively defeated at the battle of Lepanto, due, it was said, to the prayers of the pope.

Pius V died in 1572, at the age of sixty-eight, deeply grieved by the troubles besieging the whole Church. He was canonized by Pope Clement XI in 1712.


Monday, April 29, 2013

In Pictures - Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square April 24


Pope Francis kisses a young girl as he leaves his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 24. The girl broke through security and ran toward the popemobile at the end of the audience. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (April 24, 2013)


Pope Francis looks on during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (April 24, 2013)


Pope Francis blesses a child as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)


Pope Francis blesses a child as he leaves his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (April 24, 2013)

Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (April 24, 2013)

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (April 24, 2013)

Pope Francis kisses a baby as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (April 24, 2013).







Pope: Shame is a true Christian virtue

(Vatican Radio) The Confessional is not a ‘dry cleaners’ where our sins are automatically washed away and Jesus is not waiting there to ‘beat us up’, but to forgive us with the tenderness of a father for our sins. Moreover, being ashamed of our sins is not only natural, it’s a virtue that helps prepare us for God's forgiveness. This was the central message of Pope Francis’ homily Monday morning during Mass celebrated with staff from the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) and religious present in Casa Santa Marta. Emer McCarthy reports: 

Commenting on the First Letter of St. John, which states " God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all," Francis Pope pointed out that "we all have darkness in our lives," moments "where everything, even our consciousness, is in the dark”, but this - he pointed out - does not mean we walk in darkness:

"Walking in darkness means being overly pleased with ourselves, believing that we do not need salvation. That is darkness! When we continue on this road of darkness, it is not easy to turn back. Therefore, John continues, because this way of thinking made him reflect: 'If we say we are without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us'. Look to your sins, to our sins, we are all sinners, all of us ... This is the starting point. But if we confess our sins, He is faithful, He is so just He forgives us our sins, cleansing us from all unrighteousness…The Lord who is so good, so faithful, so just that He forgives. "

"When the Lord forgives us, He does justice" - continued the Pope - first to himself, "because He came to save and forgive", welcoming us with the tenderness of a Father for his children: "The Lord is tender towards those who fear, to those who come to Him "and with tenderness," He always understand us”. He wants to gift us the peace that only He gives. " "This is what happens in the Sacrament of Reconciliation" even though "many times we think that going to confession is like going to the dry cleaner" to clean the dirt from our clothes:

"But Jesus in the confessional is not a dry cleaner: it is an encounter with Jesus, but with this Jesus who waits for us, who waits for us just as we are. “But, Lord, look ... this is how I am”, we are often ashamed to tell the truth: 'I did this, I thought this'. But shame is a true Christian virtue, and even human ... the ability to be ashamed: I do not know if there is a similar saying in Italian, but in our country to those who are never ashamed are called “sin vergüenza’: this means ‘the unashamed ', because they are people who do not have the ability to be ashamed and to be ashamed is a virtue of the humble, of the man and the woman who are humble. "

Pope Francis continued: “ we must have trust, because when we sin we have an advocate with the Father, "Jesus Christ the righteous." And He "supports us before the Father" and defends us in front of our weaknesses. But you need to stand in front of the Lord "with our truth of sinners", "with confidence, even with joy, without masquerading... We must never masquerade before God." And shame is a virtue: "blessed shame." "This is the virtue that Jesus asks of us: humility and meekness".

"Humility and meekness are like the frame of a Christian life. A Christian must always be so, humble and meek. And Jesus waits for us to forgive us. We can ask Him a question: Is going to confession like to a torture session? No! It is going to praise God, because I, a sinner , have been saved by Him. And is He waiting for me to beat me? No, with tenderness to forgive me. And if tomorrow I do the same? Go again, and go and go and go .... He always waits for us. This tenderness of the Lord, this humility, this meekness .... 

This confidence, concluded Pope Francis "gives us room to breathe." "The Lord give us this grace, the courage to always go to Him with the truth, because the truth is light and not the darkness of half-truths or lies before God. It give us this grace! So be it. "

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Blessed John Paul II could be canonised in October

"A saint now!" The canonisation of Wojtyla is getting closer quickly and it could be celebrated next October. In fact, in the past few days, the medical council of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has recognized as inexplicable one healing attributed to the blessed John Paul II. A supposed "miracle" that, if it is also approved by theologians and the cardinals (as it is very likely), will bring the Polish Pope, who died in 2005, the halo of sainthood in record time, just eight years after his death.

It all happened in great secrecy, with maximum confidentiality. In January, the postulator of the cause, Mgr. Slawomir Oder, submitted a presumed miraculous healing to the Vatican Congregation for the Saints for a preliminary opinion. As it is known, after the approval of a miracle for the proclamation of a blessed, the canonical procedures include the recognition of a second miracle that must have occurred after the beatification ceremony.

Two doctors of the Vatican council had previously examined this new case, and both gave a favourable opinion. The dossier with the medical records and the testimonies was then officially presented to the Congregation, which immediately included the examination in its agenda. In the past few days it was discussed by a committee of seven doctors, the council (presided over by Dr. Patrick Polisca, Pope John Paul II's cardiologist), Pope Benedict XVI's personal physicians and now Pope Francis's. The medical council also gave a favourable opinion, the first official go-ahead by the Vatican, by defining as inexplicable the healing attributed to the intercession of the blessed Karol Wojtyla.

This is the overcoming of the first fundamental hurdle, given that the alleged miracle must now be approved by theologians and then by the cardinals and bishops of the Congregation, before being subjected to the Pope for the definitive "yes". In any case, the approval of the council is considered the most important step; in fact, neither the theologians nor the cardinals are involved in the clinical evaluations concerning the case.

From the steps taken, the desire of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to work quickly is evident, as it had already happened for the beatification of Pope John Paul II, celebrated by his successor Benedict XVI the 1st of May, 2011. This fast lane that continues to be open for Wojtyla indicates that even Pope Francis is in favour of the canonisation of the Polish Pope.

It is still premature to talk about dates for the canonization, but the rapidity with which the examination of the miracle process is happening still leaves open the possibility of celebrating it on Sunday October 20th, very close to the liturgical holiday assigned to the blessed Wojtyla, which is on October 22nd.

Via Vatican expert Andrea Tornielli

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Kuwait's princess greets Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square


Princess Hussa Al-Sabah, of Kuwait, attended the Pope's weekly general audience. The princess, who sat in one of the front rows in St. Peter's Square, briefly spoke to the Pope, with the help of an interpreter.

Worth a thousand words - Beautiful evening at the river

photo by Remo Savisaar

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Pope's General Audience: Understanding the Ascension of the Lord


Dear brothers and sisters,

in the Creed, we find the affirmation that Jesus "ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father." The earthly life of Jesus culminates in the event of the Ascension, that is, when he passes from this world to the Father, and is lifted up to His right hand side. What is the significance of this event? What are the consequences for our lives? What does it mean to contemplate Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father? Let us be guided by the Evangelist Luke.

We begin from the moment Jesus decides to embark on his last pilgrimage to Jerusalem. St. Luke notes: " When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem" (Lk 9:51). While he "ascends" to the Holy City, where his "exodus" from this life will be accomplished, Jesus already sees the goal, Heaven, but he knows that the path that brings him back to the glory of God passes through the Cross, through obedience to the divine plan of love for humanity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that " the lifting up of Jesus on the cross signifies and announces his lifting up by his Ascension into heaven, and indeed begins it" (n. 661). We too must be clear in our Christian life, that to enter into the glory of God requires daily fidelity to His will, even when it requires sacrifice, when at times it requires us to change our plans. The Ascension of Jesus actually happened on the Mount of Olives, near the place where he had retired in prayer before his passion to be in profound union with the Father; once again we see that prayer gives us the grace to faithfully live out God's project for us.

At the end of his Gospel, St. Luke narrates the event of the Ascension in a very synthetic way. Jesus led the disciples "[out] as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God "(24.50 to 53). I would like to note two elements of the passage. First, during the Ascension Jesus fulfilled the priestly gesture of blessing and certainly the disciples express their faith with prostration, they kneel and bow their heads. This is a first important point: Jesus is the only and eternal Priest, who with his passed through death and the tomb and rose again and ascended into Heaven; He is with God the Father, where he always intercedes in our favor (cf. Heb 9:24). As St John writes in his First Letter, He is our advocate, our advocate with the Father (cf. 2:1-2). It’s nice to hear this. The first thing we do when we are called by a judge or are called to trial, the first thing we do is look for an advocate to defend us. We have One who always defends us. He defends us from the insidiousness of the Devil, He defends us from ourselves, from our sins. But, dear brothers and sisters, we have this advocate. We must not be afraid to turn to Him, to turn to him with our fears, to ask for his blessing and mercy. He always forgives us, He is our advocate, He always defends us. We must never forget this. The Ascension of Jesus into heaven then reveals to us this reality that is so comforting for our journey: in Christ, true God and true man, our humanity was brought to God; He has opened the passage up for us, He is like a leader at the head of the rope when you scale a mountain, who has reached the summit and draws us up to him leading us to God . If we entrust our lives to Him, if we let ourselves be guided by Him we are sure to be in safe hands. In the hands of our Savoir, our advocate.

A second element: St Luke mentions that the apostles, after seeing Jesus ascending to heaven, returned to Jerusalem "with great joy." This seems a bit strange. Typically when we are separated from our families, our friends, in a lasting separation, above all because of death, we are naturally sad, because we will no longer see their face, or hear their voice, we will no longer be able to enjoy their affection, their presence. Instead, the evangelist emphasizes the profound joy of the Apostles. How come? Because, with the eyes of faith, they understand that although subtracted from their eyes, Jesus remains with them forever, He is not abandoning them, and in the glory of the Father, supports them, guides them and intercedes for them.

St. Luke narrates the fact of the Ascension in the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, to emphasize that this event is like the ring that engages and connects the earthly life of Jesus to that of the Church. Here St. Luke also mentions the cloud that took Jesus out of sight of the disciples, who remain to contemplate Christ ascending to God (cf. Acts 1:9-10). Then two men in white robes intervene, urging them not to remain looking at the sky, but to nourish their lives and their witness from the certainty that Jesus will return in the same way they saw him ascend into heaven (Acts 1: 10-11). It is an invitation to begin from the contemplation of the Lordship of Jesus, to receive from him the strength to carry and bear witness to the Gospel in everyday life: contemplation and action, ora et labora St. Benedict teaches, are both necessary in our lives as Christians

Dear brothers and sisters, the Ascension does not indicate the absence of Jesus, but tells us that He is alive among us in a new way; He is no longer in a definite place in the world as He was before the Ascension; He is now in the lordship of God, present in all space and time, next to each of us. We are never alone in our lives: We have this advocate who waits for us, we are never alone, ​​the Crucified and Risen Lord guides us, and with us there are many brothers and sisters who in silence and obscurity, in their family life and work, in their problems and difficulties, their joys and hopes, live their faith every day and, together with us, bring to the world the lordship of God's love. 

I offer a cordial welcome to the members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and I assure them of my prayers for their episcopal ministry. I also greet the priests of the Institute for Continuing Theological Education at the Pontifical North American College. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Denmark, Sweden, Australia, India, Singapore, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Canada and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Lord.

Worth a thousand words - Ode to spring

Herring Gulls
taken by Remo Savisaar be sure to visit his site

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

St. Bernadette

Marie Bernarde ('Bernadette') Soubirous was the eldest child of an impoverished miller. At the age of fourteen she was ailing and undersized, sensitive and of pleasant disposition but accounted backward and slow. Between 11 February and 16 July 1858, in a shallow cave on the bank of the river Gave, she had a series of remarkable experiences. On eighteen occasions she saw a very young and beautiful lady, who made various requests and communications to her, pointing out a forgotten spring of water and enjoining prayer and penitence. The lady eventually identified herself as the Virgin Mary, under the title of 'the Immaculate Conception'. Some of these happenings took place in the presence of many people, but no one besides Bernadette claimed to see or hear 'the Lady', and there was no disorder or emotional extravagance. After the appearances ceased, however, there was an epidemic of false visionaries and morbid religiosity in the district, which increased the reserved attitude of the church authorities towards Bernadette's experiences.

For some years she suffered greatly from the suspicious disbelief of some and the tactless enthusiasm and insensitive attentions of others; these trials she bore with impressive patience and dignity. In 1866 she was admitted to the convent of the Sisters of Charity at Nevers. Here she was more sheltered from trying publicity, but not from the 'stuffiness' of the convent superiors nor from the tightening grip of asthma. 'I am getting on with my job,' she would say. 'What is that?' someone asked. 'Being ill,' was the reply. Thus she lived out her self-effacing life, dying at the age of thirty-five. The events of 1858 resulted in Lourdes becoming one of the greatest pilgrim shrines in the history of Christendom. But St Bernadette took no part in these developments; nor was it for her visions that she was canonized, but for the humble simplicity and religious trustngness that characterized her whole life. Patron: Bodily ills; illness; Lourdes, France; people ridiculed for their piety; poverty; shepherdesses; shepherds; sick people; sickness. Symbols: Young girl kneeling in front of a grotto, before the Blessed Virgin ("The Immaculate Conception") who wears a white dress, blue belt, and a rose on each foot. Bernadette is sometimes pictured after she received the habit.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Benedict XVI turns 86 years old, first birthday as Pope emeritus

One more candle on the birthday cake for Benedict XVI, and for the first time as Pope emeritus. He celebrates his 86th birthday in the intimacy of Castel Gandolfo. Eight years ago, on April 16, 2005, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger turned 78 just two days before the start of of the conclave where he was elected Pope. 

During his pontificate, he celebrated seven birthdays with two concerts and Bavarian folk dances, but always working. In fact, in 2006, his first year as Pope, his birthday coincided with the Easter Sunday, where he asked for peace in Africa, Iraq, Israel and Palestine.

In 2007, Benedict XVI celebrated his 80 years at the tune of classical music. The Stuttgart Radio Symphonic Orchestra from Germany performed a concert for him at Paul VI Hall.

BENEDICT XVI
“At the end of this stupendous concert, which the Radio Symphonic Orchestra of Stuttgart gave us and elevated our spirits, I wish above all to greet all of you very cordially.”

One year later, in 2008 he packed his bags for the United States. In the morning of his birthday he met with President George W. Bush at the White House, and in the afternoon, with American bishops at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

In 2009, Benedict XVI was able to celebrate with family. He was joined by his brother Georg, as both enjoyed a concert at the Apostolic Palace at Castel Gandolfo.

But no birthday celebration is complete without cake. In 2010, the Papal Foundation gave Benedict XVI this confection which read “Happy Birthday Holy Father.” Well-wishers also congratulated him during the individual greetings.

“God bless you, thank you and Happy Birthday.”

That moment was immortalized in this group photo.

Before traveling to the United Kingdom in September 2011, British Catholic bishops created a Facebook page and email where anyone could send well-wishes to the Pope for his 84th birthday.

His last celebration as Pope was in 2012, and it came with a German touch. Once again joined by his brother Georg, the two enjoyed traditional folk dances from his native Bavaria.

The young dancers congratulated the Pope individually. It was with this Bavarian delegation that Benedict XVI marked his 85th birthday, his last one as Pope.

Pope Francis: Calumny destroys the work of God in people

(Vatican Radio) The destructive force of calumny was the focus of Pope Francis’ homily for Mass this Monday morning celebrated with staff from the Vatican’s telecommunications office and internet services. Emer McCarthy reports: 

The Pope drew inspiration from the daily readings, in particular the first reading that recounts the episode of Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, being dragged before the Sanhedrin because of his witness to the Gospel. Pope Francis noted that Stephen was a victim of calumny. He is accused of “false witness” but it is not a “fair fight, a fight between good men”, noted Pope Francis, because Stephen’s enemies chose the path of a dirty fight, “the path of calumny”. Calumny he continued is worse than sin - it is the direct expression of Satan.

"We are all sinners; all of us. We all commit sins. But calumny is something else. It is of course a sin, too, but it is something more. Calumny aims to destroy the work of God, and calumny comes from a very evil thing: it is born of hatred. And hate is the work of Satan. Calumny destroys the work of God in people, in their souls. Calumny uses lies to get ahead. And let us be in no doubt, eh?: Where there is calumny, there is Satan himself. "

From the behaviour of the accusers, Pope Francis then turned his attention to the accused. Stephan, he noted, does not return falsehood with falsehood: "He does not want to go that way to save himself. He looks to the Lord and obeys the law", being in the peace and truth of Christ. And that Pope Francis said “is what happens in the history of the Church", because from the first martyr until today there have been numerous examples of those who have witnessed to the Gospel with great courage:

"But the age of martyrs is not yet over, even today we can say, in truth, that the Church has more martyrs now than during the first centuries. The Church has many men and women who are maligned through calumny, who are persecuted, who are killed in hatred of Jesus, in hatred of the faith: some are killed because they teach the catechism, others are killed because they wear the cross ... Today, in many countries, they are maligned, they are persecuted ... they are our brothers and sisters who are suffering today, in this age of the martyrs".

And again Pope Francis repeated “The age of martyrs is not yet over, the Church has more martyrs now than during the first centuries". This age of “such great spiritual turmoil” reminded the Pope of an ancient Russian icon that depicts Our Lady covering the people of God with her mantle:

"We pray to Our Lady to protect us, and in times of spiritual turbulence the safest place is under the mantle of Our Lady. She is the mother who takes care of the Church. And in this time of martyrs, she is the protagonist, the protagonist of protection: She is the Mother. (...) Let us state with faith: Mother, the Church is under your protection: Care for the Church. '"

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Pope gives 'papal hat' to American Couple

On Thursday afternoon, Pope Francis met with members of the 'Papal Foundation,' at the Vatican's Clementine Hall. 

After giving a speech to the group, the Pope individually greeted each family member. 

As a gift, an American couple brought a white papal hat, known as a 'zucchetto' for the Pope. The couple asked the Pope if he could try it on. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, who introduced the couple to the Pope, politely said 'No, no he can't do that.'

But a few seconds later, Pope Francis put on the new 'zucchetto,' and gave his other papal hat to the couple. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Wonderful Interview with the Pope's Sister

Though there aren’t yet hard numbers to back it up, it’s a good bet that the single most interviewed human being on the planet since March 13, 2013, has been a simple 64-year-old housewife in the Argentine city of Ituzaingó, about an hour outside Buenos Aires.

The woman is Maria Elena Bergoglio, and her older brother Jorge today is known to the world as Pope Francis. They’re the last surviving siblings of five children, and since the moment Francis stepped out onto the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Maria Elena become the go-to point of reference for insight on the new pope.

Listening to her, she seems cut from the same cloth as her now-famous sibling: Humble and unpretentious, and also completely unafraid to speak her mind.

For instance, when stories began to make the rounds about Francis having become a priest only because a young love rejected his marriage proposal, Maria Elena was there to bat it down. She insisted that her brother was only a kid at the time, and the idea of getting married was never serious. More ominously, when critics suggested that her brother had been complicit in Argentina’s military junta, Maria Elena testily pointed out that her family emigrated from Italy because their father was opposed to fascism … the clear suggestion being that Jorge Mario Bergoglio would never betray his father’s memory by cozying up to dictators.

Over the last three weeks, Maria Elena’s modest one-story home on an obscure street has become a sort of impromptu journalistic pilgrimage destination. She says that from the morning of March 14 all the way through Holy Week, her phone started ringing at 5 am and people started knocking on her door at 6, every day, until well after dark every night. Read Full Interview Here

Villas of misery

Buenos Aires, Argentina – In Argentina, they say that if you want to understand the priestly soul of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, then you have to know the villas miserias, literally “villas of misery,” meaning the slums in Buenos Aires where the poorest of the poor are found.

According to Fr. Juan Isasmendi, who lives and works in one of the villas, this is where the future Pope Francis filled his lungs with the “oxygen” he needed to think about what the church ought to be.

There are roughly twenty of these slums in Buenos Aires, often just a block or so away from gleaming high-rise office towers and luxury apartment buildings. Bergoglio’s pastoral revolution was to hand-pick a cadre of especially strong, dedicated priests not just to visit the villas but to live and work here, sharing the lives of the people down to the last detail.

The aim was to make the faith come alive, preaching and celebrating the sacraments while also turning the parish into a comprehensive social service center – fighting drugs and violence, educating the young and taking care of the old, providing job training and even community radio to give the people a voice.

Those who know his mind best say Bergoglio wanted to send a message to the villas: Even if politics and the economy have forgotten about you, the church hasn’t.

If that sounds abstract, here’s a piece of what it means in practice.

Argentina is currently being ravaged by a wave of addiction to what’s known as paco, a cheap drug made from the residue left behind after cocaine has been processed for sale in the United States and Europe. Paco is low-grade, toxic, and often mixed with junk such as sulphuric acid, kerosene, rat poison, even crushed glass. It’s incredibly addictive and destructive of the user’s personality; one doctor here says it turns people into “Neanderthals,” another the “living dead.”

Because it’s cheap and readily available, poor youth with no job and no future are easily tempted. In general, parishes are the only places where a real alternative seems to be on offer.

Melchora Lescano, a mother and grandmother who lives in the villas, put it this way: “For our kids, it’s either the parish or it’s paco … that’s it.”

On Saturday, I spent the morning in what’s called “Villa 21”, the largest slum in Buenos Aires with a population of almost 50,000 people. (It’s perhaps appropriate, given how anonymous the people who live here can sometimes seem, that most of the villas have numbers rather than real names.)

The beating heart of Villa 21 is the parish of the Virgin of Caacupé, named for Mary as the patroness of Paraguay, because most of the people living here are poor immigrants from that country. Read More

Friday, April 5, 2013

St. Vincent Ferrer

Roman Catholics celebrate the missionary efforts of St. Vincent Ferrer on April 5. The Dominican preacher brought thousands of Europeans into the Catholic Church during a period of political and spiritual crisis in Western Europe.

Vincent Ferrer was born in Valencia, Spain, during 1357. His parents raised him to care deeply about his religious duties, without neglecting his education or concern for the poor. One of his siblings, Boniface, later joined the Carthusian order and became its superior general. Vincent, however, would become a Dominican, and preach the Gospel throughout Europe. He joined at age 18 in 1374.

As a member of the Dominican Order of Preachers, Vincent committed much of the Bible to memory while also studying the Church Fathers and philosophy. By age 28, he was renowned for his preaching, and also known to have a gift of prophecy. Five years later, a representative of Pope Clement VII chose Vincent to accompany him to France, where he preached extensively.

While Vincent sought to live out his order's commitment to the preaching of the Gospel, he could not escape becoming involved in the political intrigues of the day. Two rival claimants to the papacy emerged during the late 1300s, one in Rome and another in the French city of Avignon. Each claimed the allegiance of roughly half of Western Europe.

Caught between the rival claimants, Vincent attempted to persuade the Avignon Pope Benedict XIII to negotiate an end to the schism. Benedict, who was regarded as Pope in both Spain and France, sought to honor Vincent by consecrating him as a bishop. But the Dominican friar had no interest in advancing within the Church, and regarded many bishops of his time as negligent leaders distracted by luxury.

“I blush and tremble,” he wrote in a letter, “when I consider the terrible judgment impending on ecclesiastical superiors who live at their ease in rich palaces, while so many souls redeemed by the blood of Christ are perishing. I pray without ceasing, to the Lord of the harvest, that he send good workmen into his harvest.”

Vincent not only prayed, but acted, committing himself to missionary work and resolving to preach in every town between Avignon and his hometown in Spain. In a commanding style, he denounced greed, blasphemy, sexual immorality, and popular disregard for the truths of faith. His sermons often drew crowds of thousands and prompted dramatic conversions.

Popular acclaim, however, did not distract him from a life of asceticism and poverty. He abstained completely from meat, slept on a straw mat, consumed only bread and water on Wednesdays and Fridays, and accepted no donations for himself beyond what he needed to survive. He traveled with five other Dominican friars at all times, and the men would spend hours hearing confessions.

For two decades, Vincent and his group of friars undertook preaching missions in Spain, Italy, and France. When he traveled outside these regions, into Germany and other parts of the Mediterranean, those who did not know the languages in which he preached would testify that they had understood every word he said, in the same manner as the apostles experienced at Pentecost.

Although he did not heal the temporary divisions within the Church, Vincent succeeded in strengthening large numbers of Europeans in their Catholic faith. He wrote little, although some of his works have survived, and exist in modern English translations.

St. Vincent Ferrer died on April 5, 1419 at age 62, in the city of Vannes in the French region of Brittany. He was canonized in 1455, and has more recently become the namesake of a traditional Catholic community approved by the Holy See, the Fraternity of Saint Vincent Ferrer.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Feasts for April


The month of April is dedicated to The Holy Spirit. The entire month falls during the Easter season . 

The feasts on the General Roman Calendar celebrated during the month of April are:

1. Easter Monday, Solemnity
2. Easter Tuesday, Solemnity
3. Easter Wednesday, Solemnity
4. Easter Thursday, Solemnity
5. Easter Friday, Solemnity
6. Easter Saturday, Solemnity
7. Divine Mercy Sunday, Sunday
8. Annunciation of the Lord, Solemnity
11. Stanislaus of Cracow, Opt. Mem.
14. Third Sunday of Easter, Sunday
21. Fourth Sunday of Easter, Sunday
23. George; Adalbert, Opt. Mem.
24. St. Fidelis, Opt. Mem.
25. St. Mark, Feast
28. Fifth Sunday of Easter, Sunday
29. Catherine of Siena, Memorial
30. Pius V; Bl. Marie de l'Incarnacion (Can), Memorial

THE POPE'S MONTHLY INTENTIONS APRIL 2013

General Intention - Liturgy, Source of Life
That the public, prayerful celebration of faith may give life to the faithful.

In 1963 the bishops at the Second Vatican Council wrote that “the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the fount from which all her power flows.” They went on to say that the “Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy.” The celebration of the Eucharist is a sacred event that should never be treated casually.

More recently, at the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Ireland, Pope Benedict said that the changes in the liturgy after the Council were “intended to make it easier to enter into the inner depth of the mystery.” Their “true purpose was to lead people to a personal encounter with the Lord.” “Yet,” he lamented, “not infrequently, the revision of liturgical forms has remained at an external level, and ‘active participation’ has been confused with external activity.”

Active participation in the Eucharist involves more than singing, making the responses, following the appropriate postures, or going up for Holy Communion. Those activities involve our bodies, but if our minds and hearts are not involved, they are empty activities.

Out of this concern, Pope Benedict asks us to pray for a renewal of our faith in the Eucharist that it is “the memorial of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross” and that the elements of bread and wine truly become the Body and Blood of Christ given to us for our transformation. Our celebrations must be prayerful so that they don’t become “merely a matter of habit,” but instead truly give life to us and to all the faithful.

Mission Intention - Mission Churches

That mission churches may be signs and instruments of hope and resurrection.

In a very real way the Catholic Church in every nation is a mission church. In the words of Pope Benedict’s 2012 Message for World Mission Day, “the number of those who do not know Christ has grown.” More people than at any other time have never heard the Good News of Jesus and more people than ever who have heard about him don’t care. This is the “crisis of faith” which led Pope Benedict to call for the Year of Faith which we are now celebrating.

As part of our celebration we are praying this month in particular for the Church in places where the Gospel has been newly planted or where Christians are a minority. In many cases these are places of great injustice and poverty, conflict and genocide, where our brothers and sisters are tempted by hopelessness. In these places the Church must proclaim the Gospel not only with its words but by its witness. It must be a sign of hope for people: so that justice and reconciliation are made possible. The Church must be the instrument that empowers people to work for order and the common good that can lead to peace. When Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection, his first words were “Peace be with you” (Luke 24:36 and John 20:20- 1).

On the cross Jesus took away the sins of the world and reconciled people with God and one another. Every celebration of the Eucharist makes this sacrifice present and empowers us to continue Jesus’ work of reconciliation. The Risen Lord promised: “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). His presence gives us hope and power.

In his letter announcing the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict wrote: “Through faith, we can recognize the face of the risen Lord in those who ask for our love.” We join the Holy Father in praying that through an increase in their faith the mission churches may be ever more effective signs and instruments of hope and resurrection.