Universal Day of Prayer on Sunday, September 28
Synod “an important moment” for Church and families, Archbishop says
Recitation of Rosary encouraged during the Synod
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has joined Pope Francis and the office for the Synod of Bishops in encouraging a universal Day of Prayer on September 28, for the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops addressing The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization (Oct. 5-19).
“The Extraordinary Synod on the Family is an important moment for the Church and for families,” Archbishop Kurtz said. “I welcome whole-heartedly this day of prayer for the Synod fathers and for all who will participate. As the Church turns with special attention to the family, may God’s plan for marriage and the family be a source of hope and healing for all.”
For the universal Day of Prayer on Sunday, September 28, dioceses, parishes, religious communities, families and all the Catholic faithful are invited to pray for the Synod. Suggested prayers include a prayer to the Holy Family composed by Pope Francis and intercessory prayers which may be used during the Prayers of the Faithful at Mass, other liturgical settings, and in family or personal prayer, available at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/upload/September-28-2014-Day-of-Prayer-for-Synod.pdf . In addition, families and all Catholics are being encouraged to pray the Rosary during each day of the Synod.
Archbishop Kurtz is attending the Extraordinary Synod as part of a U.S. delegation of bishops including Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, and Archbishop William C. Skurla, Byzantine Metropolitan of Pittsburgh. More information about the Synod is available at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/2014-2015-synods-of-bishops-on-the-family.cfm.
Preparation for the sacrament of Holy Matrimony begins with family life in the home long before a couple has met, said Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Neb., and this fact cannot be overlooked in addressing the prevalence of divorce.
“I’ve learned in nearly 30 years of ministry, that no priest can adequately prepare a couple for marriage in the months he spends with them before the wedding,” he said in a Sept. 19 column for CNA. “Real preparation for marriage begins in the home – in the witness of loving and married parents who embrace the holy vocation of family life.”
Although the priest’s duty in counseling a couple seeking marriage in the Church is to help them “embrace the sacrificial call of marriage” and to “reject the lies of the world about false relationships” — namely, contraception, divorce, cohabitation and “trial marriage,” the priest only has a few months with them, whereas a person’s family has years with them.
Formation as a faithful spouse — and formation for any vocation — begins in the home where the child is “taught to believe in the merciful and trustworthy God.”
He noted that many people today come from broken homes where such love is not modeled, making it difficult for a priest to convey the importance and sanctity of marriage in a short amount of time before a couple is married.
“Broken families beget more broken families, broken marriages beget more broken marriage,” Bishop Conley said.
Next month’s Synod of Bishops in Rome will focus on matters of family life. Leading up to the event, much attention has been given in the media and commentaries to the situation of divorced and remarried Catholics.
Bishop Conley said that divorce is a “symptom of the culture of death” and that if we wish to prevent it, the Church needs to address both family life and marriage preparation.
“In short, if we want to overcome the culture of death, we must do it by attacking the problem at the root – by allowing Jesus Christ to heal families.”
Bishop Conley hopes that the upcoming synod will “help families encounter Jesus Christ” no matter what their situation and that it will encourage pastors to examine marriage and family life “as seriously as the church prepares young men for priesthood, or young men and women for consecrated life.”
“In the midst of broken families, it is the church who must shoulder much of the responsibility for preparing couples to embrace the cross of married life,” he said.
Closing with a quote from Pope Francis’ homily at the marriage of 20 couples at the Vatican last week, Bishop Conley reminded readers that families are the “bricks” that make up society.
San Diego’s late Bishop Cirilo Flores was “a man of the Beatitudes” with a deep affection for the people of his diocese, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said at the bishop’s Sept. 17 funeral Mass.
“We thank God today for the life of our brother and friend, Bishop Cirilo. What a beautiful example he was for all of us,” Archbishop Gomez said in his homily at Saint Therese of Carmel Church in San Diego.
“He showed us how to be a priest, how to be a bishop — and how to be a Christian,” the archbishop continued. “He tried to live with humility, simplicity and purity of heart. He tried to be a merciful man with a heart for the poor and vulnerable.”
Bishop Flores died Sept. 6 at the age of 66 at San Diego’s Nazareth House, a senior care facility. He had suffered a stroke in April and was still recovering from its effects. The diocese announced in August that he had also begun treatment for prostate cancer.
More than 1,000 people attended the bishop’s funeral Mass, including about 400 priests and 50 bishops.
Archbishop Gomez told the congregation that Bishop Flores helped teach Christians “the newness of life” even in his suffering and death.
“I think he was surprised by his illness but he took it well. His first trial came when he had the stroke during Holy Week and then, just recently when he learned that he had cancer,” the archbishop said.
“He was at peace when he learned that the cancer was terminal and could not be treated. He put himself in the hands of God,” he continued. “What a beautiful way to live and to die!”
Archbishop Gomez voiced sadness at the bishop’s death.
“We are going to miss him a lot. His smile, his peaceful way,” the archbishop said. “But we are happy for him, too. Because he has reached his goal! The goal that we are all striving for. The goal of Heaven, eternal life.”
“He wanted Jesus Christ to always be present to his people. So he went out to be with you, as often as he could.”
Bishop Flores was born in 1948 in Corona, Calif., 22 miles northeast of Orange, the child of Cirilo and Armida Flores. He has three brothers and two sisters, all of whom live in California.
He studied law at Stanford University and practiced law in Riverside and Los Angeles counties prior to entering St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo in 1986.
Bishop Flores was ordained a priest of the Orange diocese in 1991, at the age of 43. He served in several parishes of the diocese. He was then consecrated as an auxiliary bishop for the diocese in 2009.
In 2012, Bishop Flores was appointed coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of San Diego, becoming its head in September 2013 upon the retirement of Bishop Robert Brom.
Archbishop Gomez said that Bishop Flores’ last weeks “taught me to want to center my life more on loving God and loving others.”
He encouraged the congregation to focus on “bringing the joy of Jesus to others” and “getting to heaven and helping people to be with God — now and forever.”
“We entrust Bishop Cirilo to the welcoming arms of our Blessed Mother Mary. And we ask her to pray for all of us, that we might have the grace to follow his example and to always walk in the newness of life!” Archbishop Gomez said
At daily Mass, Pope Francis drew from the Gospel reading of the woman who washed Christ’s feet with her tears – noting God’s tender response to those who have the humility to acknowledge their sin.
“…the ability to acknowledge our own sins, to acknowledge our misery, to acknowledge what we are and what we are capable of doing or have done is the very door that opens us to the Lord’s caress, His forgiveness,” the pope said during his homily the morning of Sept. 18.
He reflected on the Gospel passage from the seventh chapter of Luke, recalling how Jesus was visiting the house of a prominent Pharisee — “a person of a certain level of culture.”
Although the Pharisee “wanted to listen to Jesus” on an intellectual level, he is baffled by the contrite woman who approaches Christ and washes his feet with her tears.
“He cannot understand the simple gesture: the simple gestures of the people. Perhaps this man had forgotten how to caress a baby, how to console a grandmother.”
“In his theories, his thoughts, his life of government – because perhaps he was a councilor of the Pharisees — he had forgotten the simple gestures of life, the very first things that we all, as newborns, received from our parents.”
The Pharisee “is not a bad man,” Pope Francis emphasized, but he simply “cannot understand the woman’s actions.”
Far from shaming the Pharisee, however, Jesus responds to him “with humility and tenderness,” as “his patience, his love, the desire to save everyone” compels him to explain the woman’s action.
Amid the surprise of the surrounding guests, Christ says to the woman: “Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace, your faith has saved you!”
“He only says the word salvation — ‘Your faith has saved you’ – to the woman, who is a sinner. And he says it because she was able to weep for her sins, to confess her sins, to say ‘I am a sinner,’ and admit it to herself.”
“He doesn’t say the same to those people, who were not bad people: they simply did not believe themselves to be sinners. Other people were sinners: the tax collectors, prostitutes … These were the sinners,” Pope Francis said in a Catholic News Agency report.
“Jesus says this word — ‘You are saved, you are safe — only to those who open their hearts and acknowledge that they are sinners,” he emphasized.
“Salvation only enters our hearts when we open them to the truth of our sins.”
A pair of Catholic authors has found a new way to give mothers some time off while helping break the social isolation that can sometimes come with modern parenting: throw a weekend-long party just for moms.
“We just felt a need to bring all these women together and just let them relax and be pampered and put their feet up and just be rejuvenated through relaxation,” conference co-founder and author Hallie Lord told CNA.
Along with fellow mom and author, Jennifer Fulwiler, Lord decided that mothers needed some way to connect with each other and have a refreshing weekend away from their daily responsibilities which are admittedly difficult, but also “so beautiful.”
Their solution was the Edel Gathering — a weekend full of fellowship, relaxation and pampering for moms that would help renew them to go back and fully live out their vocations as wives and mothers knowing that they are not alone in their struggles.
The Edel Gathering, held in Austin from July 25-27, featured talks from Catholic speakers, a karaoke dance party and plenty of downtime to socialize or relax. More than 200 women from around the country came to the inaugural event.
“I think when you take all the wonderful retreats and you put it together with a party for Catholic moms, then you’re really getting to the point where Catholic moms can put that together and have this great package of things that they need and maybe are missing in their day-to-day life,” Lord said.
Named after an Irish laywoman, Venerable Edel Quinn, the conference focused on helping mothers realize that they are not alone in their daily struggles. Many miraculous healings and interventions have been credited to the woman, but one in particular stood out to the organizers.
One night, a woman with several young children — who was friends with Edel -=- was walking across a bridge in Dublin in a state of deep depression and despair. She was tempted to end her life by throwing herself into the water below, but was distracted when she saw her friend Edel walking by in a crowd.
The woman was happy to see her friend back in Dublin, but when she tried to find her in the crowd, Edel was gone. The woman later read that Edel had actually died doing mission work in Nairobi shortly before she saw her on the bridge.
“As I said at (the conference), it is my fervent hope that none of the women there faced that kind of crisis, but … I think every mother out there has those moments where they look heavenward and say ‘I don’t think I can do this for another day. I don’t even know if I can get through this day. This is so hard and I am so ill-equipped’,” Lord reflected.
“We just wanted to feel like we could come together and petition Edel Quinn to become a part of our lives and be with us in those moments and strengthen us and reassure us that yes, you can get through this.”
Lord and Fulwiler wanted to make sure that no attendee felt left out, so they included ample time for socializing as part of the scheduled events.
“It really worked out wonderfully. I don’t feel like there were any cliques or that anyone felt excluded,” Lord said.
On Friday night, guests were welcomed by a Crazy Shoes and Cocktails party to help women get to know each other before the event began. On Saturday, attendees listened to a talk by award-winning journalist Marion Fernández-Cueto, and were then given a few hours to check out vendor tables or have some quiet time in the mother’s nursing room before another talk by Catholic mom Haley Stewart of the blog Carrots for Michaelmas.
In the evening, guests sat down to dinner and a talk from Jennifer Fulwiler. After that, moms were encouraged to hit the dance floor with a karaoke dance party.
“Everyone felt so uninhibited and so confident. All of those fears and insecurities that we usually carry around as women, somehow they all dissipated,” Lord said.
She and Fulwiler are already hard at work planning next year’s conference to be held in Charleston, S.C., July 10-11.
As Pope Francis’ council of cardinals for curia reform gather this week in Rome, the newly-created Pontifical Commission for Protection for minors will soon meet to finish creating its statutes.
Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican’s press office, announced in a briefing with journalists Sep. 17 that the commission will hold its next meeting Oct. 4-5.
Msgr. Robert W. Oliver was appointed secretary of the commission Sep. 10, and that same day Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston was confirmed president of the commission.
As the commission takes shape, Father Lombardi underscored that “in the next few weeks other very important aspects will be specified regarding the statutes and further members of the commission.”
Msgr. Oliver immediately stressed that his first effort will be that of identifying new members for the commission, in order to include Asia, Africa and South America and thus represent all the world geographical areas.
The new secretary will also work on the statutes, harmonizing with the work of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Speaking on the sixth overall gathering of the cardinals’ council which took place this time around from Sep. 15-17, Father Lombardi said that a draft introduction of the new constitution for general curia reform “was also drawn up and distributed.”
The council was chosen by Pope Francis shortly after his election in 2013 to advise him on matters of Church governance and curia reform. As part of this effort, the minors’ protection committee was launched within the year. It aims to provide a model for practices which provide an adequate and pastoral response to situations of abuse.
Father Lombardi said that Cardinal Oscar Andrés Maradiaga, coordinator of the council, “has prepared an overall plan to facilitate the organization of the contributions and reflections already offered during the previous meetings and the integration of new ones.”
Each cardinal of the council has been entrusted with a specific area he has to deal with, and each of them has presented several proposals.
During the last meeting, the council focused on two principal topics, Father Lombardi said in a Catholic News Agency report.
The first “includes the themes of the laity and the family,” a “very broad area, encompassing many issues, including for instance the role of women in society and in the Church, youth, childhood or matters related to lay associations.”
The second dealt with “themes linked to justice and peace, charity, migrants and refugees, health and the protection of life and ecology, especially human ecology,” he recounted.
Both of this discussion dealt about how “these topics may be included in the Curia reform,” Father Lombardi said.
It has been widely speculated that the curia reform will streamline its offices by creating two super-congregations: one for Justice and Peace, which would include the Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace, Migrants and Cor Unum; and another Congregation for Laity, including competences and offices of the Pontifical Councils for Laity, Family and Pastoral Health Care.
The next meetings of cardinals are scheduled for Dec. 9-11 of this year and Feb. 9-11, 2015.
Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines in January will be an opportunity to lead the church in the country down “new roads in the faith and in the mission,” said Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila.
“Pope Francis’ pastoral visit, centered on mercy and compassion, will undoubtedly offer great opportunities to experience grace, to hear a call, to question our comfortable surroundings, to value the poor, renew society, care for creation and live honorably,” the cardinal said in a letter to Catholics of the Philippines.
The Philippines will host Pope Francis early next year, January 15-19. The country hosted visits by Pope Paul VI in 1970 and St. John Paul II in 1981 and 1995.
In his letter to the Filipino faithful, the cardinal recalled Paul VI’s visit to the Philippines. Cardinal Tagle was 13 years old at the time of the visit. At one point, seeking to see the Pope, he was surrounded by thronging crowds of faithful.
“I stretched my neck and focused my eyes in order to see him as the car in which he was riding passed in front of us. The Pope’s serene gaze and attitude amazed me. That image never left my mind,” Cardinal Tagle reflected.
“Eighteen years later in 1985, I registered at the Catholic University of America to study theology,” he said.
Because of his interest in the Second Vatican Council, he wrote about Paul VI’s plans for the council when the future Pope was still a cardinal.
“I never imagined in 1970 that one day I would ‘travel’ inside the mind, heart and soul of this great Pope, who led the renewal of the Church in the modern world!”
According to a Catholic News Agency report, Cardinal Tagle said his studies of Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council led him later on to “serve and collaborate with Popes St. John Paul II, Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis.”
“The Pope’s visit in 1970 mysteriously opened for me a door into the mystery and mission of the church,” he said.
“At the end of the papal visit,” Cardinal Tagle concluded, “we will surely share other stories of how Pope Francis’ trip led us down new roads in the faith and in the mission.”
Blessed Joseph Vaz will soon become Sri Lanka’s first saint after Pope Francis Sept. 17 advanced his cause for canonization by waiving the requirement for a second miracle.
The canonization of the 16th century cleric is expected to take place during the Holy Father’s visit to Sri Lanka in January, 2015.
An Indian-born priest of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, Blessed Joseph Vaz (1651-1711) he became an “apostle” for Sri Lanka at a time when Catholics were suffering persecution at the hands of Calvinist Dutch rulers.
The soon-to-be declared saint was also also the founder of the Oratory of the Holy Cross of Miracles in Goa.
Typically, two miracles attributed to a Blessed are required before he or she can be declared a saint.
Donald Prudlo, an associate professor of ancient and medieval history for Jacksonville State University, told CNA that it’s within the realm of the Pope’s authority to dispense with this second miracle.
He stressed, however, that the presence of at least one miracle is essential. Without this, “it would be difficult to call it a canonization in the strict sense…since at the very heart of public sanctity in the Church is holiness of life, confirmed by the testimony of God in miracles.”
An example of such a decision by a pontiff was evidenced earlier this year when Pope Francis canonized John XXIII without the presence of a second miracle.
“The pope clearly wants to provide an example of holiness that is relatable to the people of Sri Lanka,” Prudlo said.
National Vocation Awareness Week, Nov. 2-8, calls Catholics to greater prayer, awareness in how they support vocations
‘Culture of vocations’ driven by communities that encourage young people
Data shows people asked about their vocation more likely to pursue religious life
Special focus needed on underrepresented communities
The Catholic Church in the United States will celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week, November 2-8. This observance, sponsored by the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, is a special time for parishes in the U.S. to foster a culture of vocations for the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life.
Pope Francis, in his November 2013 apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, underlined the continued need to build a culture of vocations. “The fraternal life and fervor of the community can awaken in the young a desire to consecrate themselves completely to God and to preaching of the Gospel. This is particularly true if such a living community prays insistently for vocations and courageously proposes to its young people the path of special consecration,” Pope Francis wrote.
“A culture of vocations is one that provides the necessary support for others to hear and respond to God’s call in their lives,” said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, N.C., chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. “With God’s grace, we help build that culture through fervent prayer, the witness of our lives and the encouragement we extend to those discerning a vocation to priesthood or consecrated life.”
A 2012 study, “Consideration of Priesthood and Religious Life Among Never-Married U.S. Catholics,” conducted by the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), highlighted the role community encouragement plays in the discernment process. (Full study: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/survey-of-youth-and-young-adults-on-vocations.cfm)
“The number three seems to be critical in making a difference in the life of someone contemplating a vocation,” said Father Shawn McKnight, USCCB’s executive director of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. “When three or more people encourage someone to consider a religious vocation, he or she is far more likely to take serious steps toward answering that call.”
Father John Guthrie, associate director of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, adds that National Vocation Awareness Week should also focus on communities that are underrepresented among religious vocations today, especially Hispanics.
“While numbers of U.S. Hispanics pursuing religious vocations are picking up, they still lag behind the overall demographic trends,” said Father Guthrie. “Fifty-four percent of U.S. Catholics under the age of 25 are Hispanic, yet only 15 percent of students in major seminaries are Hispanic, and many of these were born in other countries. To reach this untapped potential, the Church must do far more to engage and support young people in these communities.”
Observance of Vocation Awareness Week began in 1976 when the U.S. bishops designated the 28th Sunday of the year for the celebration. It was later moved to Feast of the Baptism of the Lord in January. Last year, after extensive consultation, the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations moved the observance of National Vocation Awareness Week to November to engage Catholic schools and colleges more effectively in this effort. This will be the first year it will be held in November.
More information and resources for National Vocations Awareness Week, including a prayer card, suggested prayers of the faithful and bulletin-ready quotes are available online at http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/national-vocation-awareness-week.cfm
Pro-Life chairman calls for ‘community and solidarity’ in face of threats to life
Respect Life Program theme for 2014-15: “Each of Us is a Masterpiece of God’s Creation”
Calls for the protection of the unborn, the elderly
In a statement to mark Respect Life Month, October 2014, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap., of Boston called for “community and solidarity” as an antidote to threats against life. Cardinal O’Malley chairs the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
The cardinal’s statement launches this year’s Respect Life Program, with the theme, “Each of Us is a Masterpiece of God’s Creation.” This year’s theme echoes Pope Francis’ message during his 2013 Day for Life greeting. “Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect,” Pope Francis said.
“We want to be part of a society that makes affirmation and protection of human rights its primary objective and its boast,” Cardinal O’Malley said in his statement. “Yet to women faced with an unexpected pregnancy, abortion is often presented as their only ‘choice.’ A large percentage of children pre-diagnosed as having Down syndrome are never given the chance to live outside their mothers’ wombs. Elderly members of our families fear they will become burdensome and seek physician-assisted suicide. We see these and many more of our brothers and sisters pushed to the periphery.”
Cardinal O’Malley called for “community and solidarity” as an antidote to the individualism behind these and other such threats. “We must ask the Lord for the grace to see ourselves and others as he sees us — as masterpieces of his creation,” he said.
Begun in 1972, the Respect Life Program stresses the value and dignity of human life. It is observed in Catholic dioceses throughout the United States. In addition to new prayers and other resources, the 2014-15 Respect Life Program features six articles highlighting the respect due to each person as a “masterpiece of God’s creation.” A variety of topics is treated: adoption, miscarriage, healing within marriage after an abortion, advance medical directives, the treatment of children as commodities, and the connection between poverty and abortion.
The full statement is available in English and Spanish along with many other program resources at http://www.usccb.org/respectlife. A short video featuring Pope Francis’ warm gestures to the “weakest and most vulnerable” is on YouTube: http://youtu.be/h62l-4OddI0?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DBsXu19BJ8EbwTF5Xi7Vyt7