Thursday, August 25, 2016

Monks take direct hit from Italian earthquake

Monks of Norcia Among Those Affected by the Quake
“it is very sad to see the many beautiful restorations we’ve made to St. Benedict’s birthplace reduced, in a moment, to disrepair”
Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 12.51.37 PM
The earthquake that struck Italy early this morning was centered in Norcia, where there is a Benedictine monastery at the birthplace of St. Benedict.
The monks have posted this message on their Facebook page:
Dear Friends,
Many of you have by now heard of the earthquake that struck us during the night. The quake was a powerful one with a magnitude of 6.2. We’ve taken the past few hours to assess the situation.
First: We are OK. We are alive, and the monks were not seriously injured. Sadly, there are many injuries to report among the people of the region, especially those in small mountain villages. Please pray for them. We monks will do what we can to contribute here on the ground, but we’ll need your spiritual support in a special way during this period.
Second: We, as many others in Norcia and surrounding areas, suffered a lot of damage to our buildings and especially to our basilica. It will take some time to assess the extent of the damage, but it is very sad to see the many beautiful restorations we’ve made to St. Benedict’s birthplace reduced, in a moment, to disrepair.
Third: What can you do? Please, pray for us, for those who have lost their lives, who have lost someone they love, who have lost their homes and livelihoods. We will need your help, as always but now in a special way, to start the project of rebuilding. Please consider making a gift to help us get started.
The Monks of Norcia

The web site of the monks, where donations can be made, is here:

Rertracing the early steps and life of Pope Bendict XVI

FEATURE: Retracing Early Life of Benedict XVI
Christmas Lists, Teddy Bears, and Miracles Have What in Common? Joseph Ratzinger .. Recent Pilgrimage Takes a Walk Through the Past
ZENIT Correspondent Deborah Castellano Lubov Meets Georg Ratzinger at Home in Regensburg - PHOTO of Michael Hesemann
ZENIT Correspondent Deborah Castellano Lubov Meets Georg Ratzinger at Home in Regensburg - PHOTO of Michael Hesemann
Ever wanted to have a better idea about what teddy bears, Christmas lists, and miracles meant to young Joseph Ratzinger? And if not before, are you curious now?
Special moments in the early life of Pope Benedict were the discoveries to find on an ‘Inside the Vatican’-run pilgrimage this summer that retraced the life of Benedict XVI throughout Bavaria and Rome, guided by well-known historian Michael Hesemann, the co-author with Georg Ratzinger of “My Brother, the Pope.”
Some of the meaningful places this intimate spiritual pilgrimage included were: the charming little town of Marktl am Inn, where little Joseph Ratzinger was born; Tittmoning, where he spent early years through about kindergarten; Freising, where he attended minor seminary and was ordained a priest 65 years ago; Traunstein, where he celebrated his first Holy Mass as priest; Munich, where he served as archbishop; Regensburg, where he taught; and Pentling, where he had designed a home where he believed he would eventually retire.
The group had priviledged moments they never could have expected, including a private encounter with Pope Benedict’s brother, Georg, in his home in Regensburg, and meeting the third priest ordained with the Ratzinger brothers, Rupert Berger, in his home in Traunstein.
An irony, that hit those participating, was how Joseph Ratzinger, for a long time, was just “the little brother of the famous choir leader, Georg Ratzinger.” When all three were ordained, the famous one was Father Berger, since he was the mayor’s son.
Until Joseph became cardinal and was called to Rome, even as archbishop of Munich and Freising, he still stood “in the shadow” of his world-famous brother.
Do you know where Pope Benedict’s favorite image of the Madonna is? The answer: in a Marian shrine, known as a place of miracles in the charming-beyond-words town of Altoetting where the Ratzinger family, including little Joseph, and his siblings Georg and Maria, would visit at least once a year.
In this place in 1489, two little boys who had been killed, one in a farm accident and another drowning, had been brought back to life after they were brought before the beautiful image of the Virgin Mary of Altoetting.
In fact, today, this place leaves an impression due to all the trinkets (ex-voto) left on the walls outside the shrine as signs of gratitude for miracles that occurred through Mary’s intercession. (Lighting candles is the gesture one does for obtaining miracles, while an ex-voto represents a sign of a miracle received.) Throughout and surrouding this shrine, there is not actually enough space on the walls to accommodate all the tributes. The wealthy gave items of silver to show their thanks, whereas the less well off and even very poor people, often drew little pictures to show their gratitude. One sees pictures of hospital beds, or even body parts to reflect recovery of the ill, as well as pictures of babies – even photographs from a few months ago — for babies who were delivered safely after complications or of parents who couldn’t have children, and then all of a sudden found themselves expecting. Moreover, there are painted images of people who were saved from torturous situations in times of war, struggle, or even recent tsunamis, whose survival was attributed to Mary’s intercession.
Teddy Bear
Home in Marktyl am Inn, Bavaria where Joseph Ratzinger was born - Photo by Michael Hesemann
Home in Marktyl am Inn, Bavaria where Joseph Ratzinger was born – Photo by Michael Hesemann

The home in Marktl am Inn is where Joseph spent his earliest years — he was two years old when he and his siblings crossed the street to look at the Christmas decorations of a small department store just opposite their parent’s home.  The apple of the little one’s eye: a teddy bear in the window. Every day, little Joseph would watch and admire. But then one day right before Christmas: tears. Why? The teddy bear was gone… . In Germany, litte ones get their presents after Holy Mass on December 24th. At this moment, little Joseph’s source of sorrow was removed, when instead he experienced great joy as the teddy bear was under the family’s Christmas tree.
Christmas List
“I promise I’ll be good” was written in his Christmas list at the age of seven. (A promise Joseph Ratzinger certainly kept.) In exchange for his good behavior, the three things he requested very articulately: a vestment for when he would play Mass with his brother Georg, the Mass missal translated into German so he could understand the Latin, and a specific image of the Sacred Heart.
Wonderland of My Childhood
Tittmoning, a small town on the Salzach River, on the Austrian border, where the Ratzinger family lived from 1929-1932, (until about the time that Joseph entered kindergarten), is the place Benedict described as the ‘Wonderland of His Childhood.’ Before going to school, he would stop and pray in church. Here, he began to appreciate the Mass more and more, especially as he observed his older brother serve and his parents sing in the choir.
Also, in this town, where young Joseph began to fall in love with the liturgy, is a Marian Shrine, where he, with his mother and siblings, daily used to go to pray the rosary. We pilgrims braved the steep way up, but it was more than worth it. On the way back, we passed the rapids of a small river running downhill through a forest, giving shade in the summer.
We also visited Auschau am Inn, at the foot of the Alps, where the family had to relocate in 1932, due to Mr Ratzinger’s outspoken criticism of Nazism. Benedict’s family, especially his father, a policeman, always did everything they could to resist the Nazis and keep the family as distant from them as possible. Even this move to Auschau was done so that if soon there would be war, the family could have a home that supplied them with natural resources and food to live on.
In this home, Joseph was often found in solitude reading, his passion, and was a regular reader of “Der gerade Weg”, the most outspoken Catholic Anti-Nazi publication. After Hitler rose to power, its editor, Fritz Michael Gerlach, was arrested and died in the Dachau concentration camp as a martyr; his beatification process started in 2009. Mr Ratzinger always said no to any Nazi offers. The only thing he allowed was his wife to be part of a women’s group which prayed the rosary.
Young Priesthood….
The priests on the pilgrimage had a beautiful moment concelebrating Mass in the Church in Traunstein where Benedict celebrated his first Mass, after having been ordained in Freising.
freising cathedral
Freising Cathedral – where Joseph was ordained a priest – Photo by Michael Hesemann
Freising Cathedral – where Joseph was ordained a priest – Photo by Michael Hesemann
It was an interesting story how we came to have this Special Mass on Sunday. While in Rome, during the Mass of Saints Peter and Paul, Robert Moynihan and Deborah Tomlinson of Inside the Vatican found themselves—completely by chance–seated next to the pastor of the parish in Traunstein. The Pastor of St. Osvald’s told them to come instead on Sunday to Traunstein, rather than Saturday, which was the original plan, so that after the Mass, he could show the group different sites—such as where Pope Benedict’s parents spent their last days–and we could have a nice Bavarian lunch together. At this restaurant, historian Michael Hesemann, who is close to the Ratzingers, shared yet another personal detail he knows well, a delicious one.
The German author ordered “Kaiserschmarrn,” a sweet dish he said is Pope Benedict’s favorite. Another gastronomic surprise was trying the white sausages, which apparently, even now, Benedict enjoys in the Vatican, often brought by his brother or by his personal friends from his time in Bavaria.
Another touching moment was learning about Joseph Ratzinger’s close relationship with his sister, Maria, who was at times like an assistant to him, not to mention also housekeeper and personal secretary. Despite being an accomplished professional, she was happy to instead dedicate her time to performing many tasks that would have taken away from his scholarly endeavors.
The small group participating also looked at the richness of the works and discourses of Ratzinger and later Pope Benedict, through interactive discussions led by Robert Moynihan, Vatican expert and Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Inside the Vatican magazine, to enrich their understanding of the Pope Emeritus.
Welcoming the unexpected
Those participating also enjoyed various other memorable Bavarian Moments, along with time for free exploration, eating well, and time of reflection. For instance, we visited the Weltenburg Monastery, on the beautiful Danube River, which brewed the first Bavarian beer a thousand years ago–and still continues the operation–and which served as a retreat for Professor Joseph Ratzinger and his doctoral students during the years when he was a professor in Regensburg.
There was also a very moving visit to Augsburg to see Mary, Untier of Knots, who is so important to Pope Francis that he has made sure she is in Santa Marta, as well as a fun stop at Neuschwanstein Castle, which was the inspiration for the castle in Disneyland.
All in all, this journey, retracing Joseph Ratzinger’s footsteps, and meeting many of those involved in Ratzinger’s journey from the past through the present, between Rome and Bavaria, has left—as the pilgrims all expressed—an impact for them, they will never forget….

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A King of France, Patron Saint of New Orleans LA, a Saint

St. Louis King of France

Image of St. Louis King of France


Feastday: August 25
Patron of Tertiaries
Death: 1270

St. Louis, King of France, patron of Tertiaries, was the ninth of his name. He was born at Poissy, France, in 1214. His father was Louis VIII, and his mother was Blanche, daughter of Alfonso VIII of Castille, surnamed the Conqueror. At the age of twelve he lost his father, and his mother became regent of the kingdom. From his tenderest infancy she had inspired him with a love for holy things.
In 1234, he married Margaret, the virtuous daughter of Raymond Berenger, Count of Provence, and two years later he took the reigns of government into his own hands. In 1238, he headed a crusade, in which he fell a prisoner among the Mohammedans, but a truce was concluded and he was set free and he returned to France. In 1267, he again set out for the East at the head of a crusade but he never again beheld his native land. In 1270, he was stricken by the pestilence at the siege of Tunis, and after receiving the Last Sacraments, he died. His feast day is August 25th.

Back to Prison

I was back at my main ministry tonight, ministering at Rayburn Prison!

I missed a couple of my weekly rotations due to this ongoing knee treatment and still I received a treatment today.  Despite the pain and the stiff knee from the medicine in the injection, I was concerned about the long walk to the chapel.  And then the rain fell.  I never have experienced rain upon arrival at Rayburn and on the subsequent walk to the back of the compound.  Imagine that; I've been going to Rayburn since 2009 and this had never happened before, until tonight!


I arrived to a chapel filled with almost 50 inmates ready to worship God.  A standard communion service with the day's readings and prayers, today in honor of St. Bartholomew.  I had several personal ministering opportunities tonight; one inmate told me his mother had passed away this week.  We prayed for mama Martha.  Another inmate, about to be released, found out his assigned half-way house was a victim of the flood.  For him, this means an indefinite delay of his release. So we prayed for a swift resolution to the situation.

Complete with songs and hymns from our ever growing choir, we offered pray, proclaimed the days readings, I preached on the Gospels, the men offered heartfelt prayers of the faithful, the majority of the men received Jesus in Holy Communion and we had silent reflection before prayer, blessing and dismissal.

No matter what; a tough week, painful knees, perhaps too many distractions and things on my mind, bad weather, no matter what; I always am lifted spiritually by these ministry visits to Rayburn Prison!

USCCB calls for special collection at all Catholic Churches across the nation for the Louisiana flood victims

USCCB President Calls for Emergency Collection to Assist Louisiana Flood Victims


August 24, 2016
WASHINGTON—U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) president, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, has called for an emergency collection to assist victims of the recent flooding in Louisiana. He also issued a statement of solidarity with the victims and invited Catholics to generously help those in need.

The collection funds will support the humanitarian efforts of Catholic Charities USA and will help provide support to Catholic dioceses also impacted. Donations can be made directly to Catholic Charities USA. More information is available at: . .

Archbishop Kurtz' full statement follows.

A Call to Support Our Brothers and Sisters in Louisiana

A Statement from Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville
President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

The recent storms in Louisiana may not have a name, but the names of those suffering in the wake of the worst flooding since Hurricane Katrina are our sisters and brothers. As a people of God, let us come to their aid. I encourage Catholics across the United States to respond generously. Our prayer and material support is urgently needed to help rebuild lives.

As many as 60,000 homes have been damaged, with nearly 20,000 people being rescued from the flood waters. More than 106,000 individuals and families have sought federal disaster aid. Immediate and long-term recovery needs place a tremendous burden on public and private resources. This is a burden we can help carry as the body of Christ. Faced with the loss of their worldly possessions and, in some cases, economic livelihood, the flood waters left thousands of families feeling isolated and fearful. Let us draw near to them.

As president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I have called for an emergency collection on or near September 18 to support the humanitarian efforts of Catholic Charities USA and to provide pastoral and rebuilding support to impacted Catholic dioceses. Join the Church in being a visible witness to the healing presence of Jesus alive in the world. Understandably, not every parish may be able to participate, but individuals can also donate directly to Catholic Charities USA. Whether your donation is large or small, let us also be sure those suffering feel the power of our prayer to sustain them in the difficult days ahead.

The last shot

Literally!  Today is my last of three shots to bring relief to my aching knees.  Hoping to avoid knee replacement, my specialist is injecting me with something called Synvest.  I have had 2 injections so far and I do feel some relief.  Of course the optimal time to experience relief is 2-3 weeks after the last injection.

Join me in praying for the success of this treatment as I hope to avoid knee replacement for the foreseeable future.

Is there a patton Saint for ailing knees???

No, No, No, No, No! Just go away

Pope Francis leads prayers for earthquake victime in Italy

Pope Postpones Catechesis at General Audience to Pray Rosary for Earthquake Victims in Central Italy
Francis Asks Faithful in St. Peter’s Square to Join Him in Praying Sorrowful Mysteries for All Affected, Including Children, and Those Engaged in Rescue Operations
@ Servizio Fotografico - L'Osservatore Romano
Pope Francis’ sorrow for the news of the Earthquake that hit Central Italy’s Lazio, Umbria, and Marche regions, was so great this morning that he decided to postpone this week’s catechesis, and instead invited the faithful present to join him in saying the rosary for those affected.

“I had prepared the Catechesis for today, as for all Wednesdays during this Year of Mercy, focusing on the closeness of Jesus,” Pope Francis announced during his General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, adding, “but upon hearing the news of the earthquake that hit central Italy, devastating entire areas and leaving several dead and wounded, I cannot help but express my great sorrow and my closeness to all people present in the places struck by shocks, to all who have lost loved ones, and to those still shaken by fear and terror.”
Continuing to express his heartbreak, the Holy Father noted, “To hear the mayor of Amatrice say: ‘The village is gone and I know that among the dead, are children,’ really struck me.”
“I want to assure all the people of Accumuli, Amatrice, the Diocese of Rieti, Ascoli Piceno, and all the people of Lazio, Umbria, and Le Marche, of my prayers, and wish to tell them to be assured of the caress and embrace of the whole Church at this time, who wants to embrace you with her maternal love, and even of our embrace, here, in the Square. “
Pope Francis went on to thank all the volunteers and those involved in civil protection that are currently working to offer relief.
“I ask you to join me in praying,” he said, “that the Lord Jesus, Who is always moved by compassion before human suffering, consoles these saddened hearts and gives them peace through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. With Jesus, let our hearts be moved with compassion. “
“Therefore,” Pope Francis said, “let us postpone this week’s catechesis to next week and I invite you to recite a portion of the Holy Rosary with me, the sorrowful mysteries.”
According to the BBC, a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck central Italy at 3:36 a.m. Wednesday morning, specifically 100 kilometers northeast of Rome, claiming at least 38 lives and leaving some 150 missing.
As the earthquake struck the regional border area of Umbria, Lazio and Le Marche, in Rome, some buildings shook for some 20 seconds. About 80 aftershocks have been reported since. People from as far north as Bologna and as far south as Napoli have reported feeling the quake and its effects.
Although local authorities are unsure of the full extent of casualties, the highest numbers were reported in the small village of Pescara del Tronto, where 10 people were reported dead, including children. Twenty people have been taken to hospital, but the number of casualties, local sources say, is expected to rise.
Some of the worst damage was in the town of Amatrice, where at least five  died, and has been reduced almost to rubble. Rescue efforts are underway to find survivors.
According to the Italian news agency ANSA, in the same town, two little boys, ages four and seven, were pulled alive from the rubble of the house they had been staying in, with their grandmother. According to rescuers, they had been sheltering under a bed.
In the nearby village of Accumoli, a family of four is also feared to be dead.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A feast day for one of the 12 Apostles

Image of St. Bartholomew


Feastday: August 24

St. Bartholomew, 1st. century, one of the 12.
All that is known of him with certainty is that he is mentioned in the synoptic gospels and Acts as one of the twelve apostles. His name, a patronymic, means "son of Tolomai" and scholars believe he is the same as Nathanael mentioned in John, who says he is from Cana and that Jesus called him an "Israelite...incapable of deceit." The Roman Martyrology says he preached in India and Greater Armenia, where he was flayed and beheaded by King Astyages. Tradition has the place as Abanopolis on the west coast of the Caspian Sea and that he also preached in Mesopotamia, Persia, and Egypt. The Gospel of Bartholomew is apochryphal and was condemned in the decree of Pseudo-Gelasius. Feast Day August 24.