Monday, April 30, 2012

The cancer Saint

St. Peregrine Laziosi

St. Peregrine Laziosi
St. Peregrine Laziosi
Feastday: May 1
Patron of Cancer Victims
1260 - 1345

Peregrine Laziosi was born of a wealthy family at Forli, Italy, in 1260. As a youth he was active in politics as a member of the anti-papal party. During one uprising, which the Pope sent St. Philip Benizi to mediate, Philip was struck in the face by Peregrine. When Philip offered the other cheek, Peregrine was so overcome that he repented and converted to Catholicism. Following the instructions of the Virgin Mary received in a vision, Peregrine went to Siena and joined the Servites. It is believed that he never allowed himself to sit down for thirty years, while as far as possible, observing silence and solitude. Sometime later, Peregrine was sent to Forli to found a new house of the Servite Order. An ideal priest, he had a reputation for fervent preaching and being a good confessor. When he was afflicted with cancer of the foot and amputation had been decided upon, he spent the night before the operation, in prayer. The following morning he was completely cured. This miracle caused his reputation to become widespread. He died in 1345 at the age of eighty-five, and he was canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726. St. Peregrine, like St. Paul, was in open defiance of the Church as a youth. Once given the grace of conversion he became one of the great saints of his time. His great fervor and qualities as a confessor brought many back to the true Faith. Afflicted with cancer, Peregrine turned to God and was richly rewarded for his Faith, enabling him over many years to lead others to the truth. He is the patron of cancer patients.



Vatican City, 30 April 2012 (VIS) - Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for May is: "That initiatives which defend and uphold the role of the family may be promoted within society".

His mission intention is: "That Mary, Queen of the World and Star of Evangelisation, may accompany all missionaries in proclaiming her Son Jesus".

The current challenge in Catholic schools in New Orleans

New Orleans area Catholic elementary schools could see sweeping changes

Published: Monday, April 30, 2012
Planners trying to stabilize the finances of Catholic elementary schools around the region are proposing sweeping changes that include asking all Catholics to substantially increase giving in the pews; raising tuition; and creating a financial aid process to help families who can't afford the increased cost. The recommendations represent a substantial redesign of financing for 54 Catholic elementary schools around metro New Orleans that enroll about 22,000 students.
catholic-students-dragon.jpgView full sizeSt. Andrew the Apostle students scream and laugh as the lion from the Rising Dragon Lion Dance Team based at St. Agnes Le Thi Thanh Catholic Church in Marrero entertains the school during activities for an Asian Mass in October, 2011.
The recommendations, by consultants John Convey and Leonard DeFiore of Catholic University of America, so far are only that.
They are being digested by a committee of 18 local pastors, educators and laypeople, which in June will send the plan, along with their recommendations, to Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who will make the final decisions.
The new financing proposals are part of a study Aymond commissioned on the future of elementary schools in light of steady enrollment declines. While high schools are affected by parts of the study, which, for instance, recommends that elementary schools stop at seventh grade, the study makes no recommendations about high school tuition or finances.
The enrollment decline is due in part to depopulation after Hurricane Katrina, neighborhood demographic changes, and in New Orleans, improvements to public education introduced through the charter school movement. Since 2000, enrollment in area Catholic schools from pre-K through eighth grade has fallen 23 percent, according to archdiocesan figures.
And that has imposed increasing financial stress on the remaining families who are forced to bear schools' fixed costs, leading additional families to drop out.
The financing proposals were unveiled during the past month in a series of six town meetings, where they met significant skepticism from parents -- especially the idea of increasing tuition and buffering that with subsidies.
"I find it interesting that (in studies done by focus groups) one of the main concerns from parents is the cost of tuition, and the first solution you present is to raise tuition," Tab Shepherd, a mother of two Catholic school students, said at a meeting in Covington last month.
What effect that popular resistance will have remains to be seen.
catholic-students-friends.jpgView full sizeSt. Ann Catholic School classmates Olivia Edler, left, and Sophie Stubbs say goodbye on the last day of school in May, 2011.
The 18-member committee must weigh the package of ideas before making its recommendation to Aymond. Generally, however, "The last thing the archdiocese wants to do is say there's resistance to this, but we're going to do it anyway," DeFiore said.
Still, there is little doubt that elementary school finances "have to be made more affordable for any family that wants a Catholic education," said Superintendent Jan Lancaster.
To soften the effect of the tuition increases, the consultants are recommending that the archdiocese ask all Catholics in its 109 parishes to increase their personal giving in the pews by 25 percent over three years, creating a new subsidy pool to aid Catholic school parents.
Church-going Americans generally give about 2.4 percent of their income to their churches, according to empty tomb inc., a non-profit that tracks church giving. Another study called the U.S. Congregational Life Survey recently found that Catholics give the least among major denominations.
Parishes with schools and $300,000 in annual income -- 60 percent meet that wealth requirement -- would pay 20 percent of their collection plate income in school subsidies. Across the archdiocese that figure now averages about 19 percent, but there is a wide variance among parishes. Some give as little as 6 percent while others bear nearly 50 percent, Convey said.
Parishes without schools would be asked for the first time to pay 10 percent of their income to the proposed subsidy pool, the consultants said. Currently, those parishes pay $300 each to subsidize individual children from their parishes at other schools. But they pay no general school tax into the system.
The consultants also recommend that over three to five years, tuition be raised to a level that nearly matches actual costs. Local schools are free to determine their own budgets on a parish-by-parish basis, using market forces, not archdiocesan schedules, to set tuition, teacher salaries and other matters, they said.
Generally, however, Catholic elementary school tuition averages about $4,200 for a first child in school, against an education cost of about $5,000, according to archdiocesan figures.
To soften the blow of higher tuitions, the plan recommends distributing subsidies out of the pool formed by increased collections. Parents would apply to an independent company which would vet families' finances and determine how much they could afford to pay, and how much subsidy they would qualify for.
The system, new to the elementary school scene, is similar to that used by many private schools and all colleges and universities.
Although there are no numbers with which to run detailed analyses, DeFiore estimated that "about a third" of families would be required to pay the full cost of their own pockets.
"Your wealthiest people would be asked not to take a subsidy, pay the full freight and the school would have that available to provide to needy families who want to come, but now can't," DeFiore said.
Convey said the rest would qualify for some subsidy coming out of the pockets of all Catholic church-goers "so that the actual tuition they pay will be less than the tuition sticker price, and in some cases, less than they are paying now."

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pope of the Catholic Reformation of Trent; Saint

St. Pius V, Pope

St. Pius V, Pope
St. Pius V, Pope
Feastday: April 30
1504 - 1572

Pope from 1566-1572 and one of the foremost leaders of the Catholic Reformation. Born Antonio Ghislieri in Bosco, Italy, to a poor family, he labored as a shepherd until the age of fourteen and then joined the Dominicans, being ordained in 1528. Called Brother Michele, he studied at Bologna and Genoa, and then taught theology and philosophy for sixteen years before holding the posts of master of novices and prior for several Dominican houses. Named inquisitor for Como and Bergamo, he was so capable in the fulfillment of his office that by 1551, and at the urging of the powerful Cardinal Carafa, he was named by Pope Julius III commissary general of the Inquisition. In 1555, Carafa was elected Pope Paul IV and was responsible for Ghislieri’s swift rise as a bishop of Nepi and Sutri in 1556, cardinal in 1557, and grand inquisitor in 1558. While out of favor for a time under Pope Pius IV who disliked his reputation for excessive zeal, Ghislieri was unanimously elected a pope in succession to Pius on January 7, 1566. As pope, Pius saw his main objective as the continuation of the massive program of reform for the Church, in particular the full implementation of the decrees of the Council of Trent. He published the Roman Catechism, the revised Roman Breviary, and the Roman Missal; he also declared Thomas Aquinas a Doctor of the Church, commanded a new edition of the works of Thomas Aquinas, and created a commission to revise the Vulgate. The decrees of Trent were published throughout all Catholic lands, including Europe, Asia, Africa, and the New World, and the pontiff insisted on their strict adherence. In 1571, Pius created the Congregation of the Index to give strength to the Church’s resistance to Protestant and heretical writings, and he used the Inquisition to prevent any Protestant ideas from gaining a foot hold in Italy. In dealing with the threat of the Ottoman Turks who were advancing steadily across the Mediterranean, Pius organized a formidable alliance between Venice and Spain, culminating in the Battle of Lepanto, which was a complete and shattering triumph over the Turks. The day of the victory was declared the Feast Day of Our Lady of Victory in recognition of Our Lady’s intercession in answer to the saying of the Rosary all over Catholic Europe. Pius also spurred the reforms of the Church by example. He insisted upon wearing his coarse Dominican robes, even beneath the magnificent vestments worn by the popes, and was wholeheartedly devoted to the religious life. His reign was blemished only by the continuing oppression of the Inquisition; the often brutal treatment of the Jews of Rome; and the ill advised decision to excommunicate Queen Elizabeth I of England  in February 1570, an act which also declared her deposed and which only worsened the plight of English Catholics. These were overshadowed in the view of later generations by his contributions to the Catholic Reformation. Pope Clement beatified him on May 1, 1672, and Pope Clement XI canonized him on May 22, 1712.

Of community, crawfish and vocation: Permanent Deacons enjoy a special day in New Orleans

A Community Crawfish Boil

Picture of Crawfish Boil Recipe Photo: Crawfish Boil Recipe

There is nothing more Louisiana than a crawfish boil.  These local favorites boiled up just right and supplemented by potatoes, corn on the cob, sausage, onions, garlic, you name it, are a crowd pleaser every year from mid December through late May, maybe early June.  We love a good crawfish boil!

Today the Community of Permanent Deacons of the Archdiocese of Louisiana celebrated our vocation with a traditional Louisiana Crawfish Boil!  What a success this event was, in part because the crawfish and all the fixins were delicious, but more so because the community came together in great numbers.  We had almost 300 Deacons, candidates, aspirants and family members all gathered together at our diaconate center on the westbank of New Orleans.

For my wife and I we were able to reunite with about a dozen members of my ordination class of 2008.  And I particularly enjoy meeting with the candidates and aspirants because I remember those deacons who showed me kindness and support when I was an aspirant and then a candidate.

Getting the whole community together is such a rare event this was an amazing turnout.  Of course many Deacons could not attend because of family events or because they were still attending to liturgcal responsibilities like baptisms and late Masses.  But it was so good to see such an overwhelming response from not just the Deacons, candidates and aspirants but also the wives, children, grandchildren, grandparents and other relatives and friends of so many of the individual deacons.

On this vocation Sunday, when so often the emphasis is on the Priesthood or the religious life for nuns, brothers, etc. (and that is how it should be) we must also remember that the restored Permanent Diaconate is indeed a vocation and the Deacon is ordained clergy.

I hope many of you get to eat crawfish someday if you have never experienced them.  And I hope, more importantly, you get to experience the important ministry of service by a dedicated Permanent Deacon in your church community.

Pope celebrates Vocations

This Sunday Is 'Pray for Vocations Day'

Papal Message Focuses on Vocation as Gift of God's Love

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 27, 2012 ( This Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, the Church will celebrate the 49th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, with the theme “Vocations: The Gift of the Love of God.”
In his message for this year's day of prayer, Benedict XVI affirms, "The source of every perfect gift is God who is Love," an original bond between God and humanity, which precedes creation itself.
He quotes Saint Paul, who states that God “chose us before the foundation of the world to be holy and irreproachable before Him in love.”
The Holy Father recalls that God was moved solely by his unconditional love to create us out of nothing, to lead us to full communion with Him.
The Pontiff adds that "every creature, and in particular every human person, is the fruit of God’s thought and an act of his love, a love that is boundless, faithful and everlasting."
"Dear brothers and sisters," he exhorts, "we need to open our lives to this love. It is to the perfection of the Father’s love (cf. Mt 5:48) that Jesus Christ calls us every day! [...] It is in this soil of self-offering and openness to the love of God, and as the fruit of that love, that all vocations are born and grow."
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On the Net:
Full text of the message:

>>>Did you hear a message today at your parish about vocations?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Mystic, Doctor, Saint

St. Catherine of Siena - Doctor of the Church

St. Catherine of Siena - Doctor of the Church
St. Catherine of Siena - Doctor of the Church
Feastday: April 29
Patron Fire prevention
1347 - 1380

The 25th child of a wool dyer in northern Italy, St. Catherine started having mystical experiences when she was only 6, seeing guardian angels as clearly as the people they protected. She became a Dominican tertiary when she was 16, and continued to have visions of Christ, Mary, and the saints. St. Catherine was one of the most brilliant theological minds of her day, although she never had any formal education. She persuaded the Pope to go back to Rome from Avignon, in 1377, and when she died she was endeavoring to heal the Great Western Schism. In 1375 Our Lord give her the Stigmata, which was visible only after her death. Her spiritual director was Blessed Raymond of Capua. St, Catherine's letters, and a treatise called "a dialogue" are considered among the most brilliant writings in the history of the Catholic Church. She died when she was only 33, and her body was found incorrupt in 1430.

U.S. Papal Nuncio with marching orders for U.S. Catholics

Pope Wants U.S. Catholics To Lead World Church into Renewal

Speaking on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI, U.S. papal nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano delivered a rousing speech at the Pontifical College Josephinum in which he called on American Catholics to “lead the entire Church in the world” into renewal.

The Catholic News Service is reporting that Archbishop Vigano made his remarks to seminarians and benefactors of the College at its annual rector’s dinner on April 23. While not specifically mentioning the tension between leaders of the Church in the U.S. and the Obama Administration’s recent encroachments of religious liberty, his remarks spoke to the current state of affairs with power and eloquence.
After calling upon the Church in the U.S. to lead the world in a revitalization effort, he added: “This is a great task, but you have the determination and the grace to do it. This I know is the vision of the Holy Father regarding the Church in the United States.”
Calling the current situation for the U.S. Church to be one of great challenge, he reassured the audience: “Where there are challenges, there also is a moment of grace. The challenge is that we are put in a situation where we have to overcome the difficulties, and we know that the grace is always overwhelming and amazing for us.”
He went on to note that the Church has experienced other eras in its history when it was challenged, and people thought it would disappear. This is nothing new, he said, noting the observations of the fourth century bishop, St. Ambrose, who compared the Church to the moon in the way it seems to become full, then almost slips from sight only to grow again.
“We are not to lose hope in a difficult moment, and at the same time, we have to be conscious that always we are challenged by the devil … who wants to destroy the Church,” he said.
However, the mission to evangelize should go beyond the borders of America, he said, and called upon the U.S. church “to be missionaries not only to the Third World, but especially to the countries of Europe.
“Christianity (in Europe) in some way has lost its strength and needs an example,” he said, noting “very positive signs of growth” in vocations to the priesthood and the religious life in the United States.
There are currently 180 seminarians from 29 U.S. dioceses studying for the priesthood at the Josephinum, the highest number in 25 years. 
“I’ve been taken by surprise since I arrived here … because everywhere that I’ve been, everything has been much beyond all of the imaginations and the expectations I had,” he said.
He ended his 10 minute address on an encouraging note.
“This is a moment in which we can form young people with a great enthusiasm to be witnesses to the Gospel … to give witness of the fact our Lord has died, is risen and is alive.”
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Preaching to children at 1st Holy Communion

Unexpectedly, I was invited to preach at 1st Holy Communion in my home parish, and former parish assignment, at St. Jane de Chantal Church in Abita Springs.  The invitation came just 16 hours before the celebration and from the pastor.  Even on short notice I was thrilled to say yes for several reasons, most notably, I love working with children.  My other considerations were that this was an opportunity to preach in my home church, I have never previously preached at a 1st Communion liturgy, and my wife is one of the teachers that begins preparation for the children in the 1st grade.

The Gospel is from the Eucharistic John Chapter 6 where Jesus very literally tells us to eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man.  The responsorial psalm was taste and see that the Lord is good. 

My preaching today was directed to the children first and then also to the parents/families.  I engaged the children and asked questions and they were wonderfully prepared.  We talked about the church tour that I do every year for the 1st graders, reminding them of the sanctuary lamp, the tabernacle and how we know that Jesus is present, in this special way in our beautiful Catholic Church.

I also reminded the children that today was a beautiful Sacrament and this would be the 3rd Sacrament they receive.  Most of them answered Baptism and Reconciliation as the two previously received Sacraments.  We talked about this being more than a meal but a sacrifice and I asked them if they ever had such a fuss made over them the 1st time they received pizza or coke or their favorite dessert.  But the fuss we make today is that they are receiving today the Risen Lord, body, blood, soul & divinity!

For the parents a gentle reminder that while today was their children's 1st Holy Communion, their 2nd Holy Communion was tomorrow, the 1st Sunday liturgy where they can receive Him!

What a wonderful gift to preach at this important event in their young lives.  But what a wonderful gift for these beautiful young children to receive Jesus today in Holy Communion!

Thanks to Fr. Robert Cavalier and the staff of St. Jane's along with my brother Deacons and long time mentors, Deacon Frans and Don, for today's beautiful liturgy!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Wife, mother, doctor; she gave her life for her child. Beatified and Canonized by Blessed JPII

St. Gianna Beretta Molla

St. Gianna Beretta Molla
St. Gianna Beretta Molla
Feastday: April 28
Patron mothers, physicians, preborn children
Died: 1962
Beatified By: Pope John Paul II

Gianna Francesca Beretta was born in Magenta in Italy. She was the tenth of thirteen children in her family, only nine of whom survived to adulthood. When she was three, her family moved to Bergamo, and she grew up in the Lombardy region of Italy.
In 1942, Gianna began her study of medicine in Milan. Outside of her schooling, she was active in Azione Cattolica. She received a medical diploma in 1949, and opened an office in Mesero, near her hometown of Magenta, where she specialized in pediatrics.
Gianna hoped to join her brother, a missionary priest in Brazil, where she intended to offer her medical expertise in gynecology to poor women. However, her chronic ill health made this impractical, and she continued her practice in Italy.
In December 1954, Gianna met Pietro Molla, an engineer who worked in her office, ten years older than she. They were officially engaged the following April, and they married in September 1955.
The couple had Pierluigi, born in 1956, Maria Zita, in 1957 and Laura, was born in 1959. Gianna suffered two miscarriages after this.
In 1961, Gianna was once again expecting. During the second month, Gianna developed a fibroma on her uterus. After examination, the doctors gave her three choices: an abortion, which would save her life and allow her to continue to have children; a complete hysterectomy, which would preserve her life, but take the unborn child's life, and prevent further pregnancy; or removal of only the fibroma, with the potential of further complications. Roman Catholic teaching would have allowed her to obtain a hysterectomy, but would forbid an abortion. Wanting to preserve her child's life, she opted for the removal of the fibroma.
After the operation, complications continued throughout her pregnancy. Gianna was quite clear about her wishes, expressing to her family, "This time it will be a difficult delivery, and they may have to save one or the other -- I want them to save my baby."
On April 21, 1962, Good Friday of that year, Gianna went to the hospital, where her fourth child, Gianna Emanuela, was successfully delivered via Caesarean section. However, Gianna continued to have severe pain, and died of septic peritonitis 7 days after the birth.
Gianna was beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 24, 1994, and officially canonized as a saint on May 16, 2004. Gianna's husband Pietro and their last child, Gianna, were present at the canonization ceremony.
The miracle recognized by the Roman Catholic Church to canonize Gianna Molla involved a mother, Elizabeth Comparini, who was 16 weeks pregnant in 2003 and sustained a tear in her placenta that drained her womb of all amniotic fluid. Because a normal term of pregnancy is 40 weeks, Comparini was told by her doctors the baby's chance of survival was "nil."
Through praying to Gianna Molla and asking for her intercession, Comparini delivered by Caesarean a healthy baby despite the lack of amniotic fluid for the remainder of her pregnancy.
In his homily at her canonization Mass, Pope John Paul II called Gianna "a simple, but more than ever, significant messenger of divine love."

Priest, Missionary, Martyr and Saint

St. Peter Chanel

St. Peter Chanel
St. Peter Chanel
Feastday: April 28
Patron of Oceania
1803 - 1841

In St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr (Feast day - April 28) The protomartyr of the South Seas, St. Peter Chanel was born in 1803 at Clet in the diocese of Belley, France. His intelligence and simple piety brought him to the attention of the local priest, Father Trompier, who saw to his elementary education. Entering the diocesan Seminary, Peter won the affection and the esteem of both students and professors. After his ordination he found himself in a rundown country parish and completely revitalized it in the three year span that he remained there. However, his mind was set on missionary work; so, in 1831, he joined the newly formed Society of Mary (Marists) which concentrated on missionary work at home and abroad. To his dismay, he was appointed to teach at the seminary at Belley and remained there for the next five years, diligently performing his duties.
In 1836, the Society was given the New Hebrides in the Pacific as a field for evangelization, and the jubilant St. Peter was appointed Superior of a little band of missionaries sent to proclaim the Faith to its inhabitants. On reaching their destination after an arduous ten month journey, the band split up and St. Peter went to the Island of Futuna accompanied by a laybrother and an English layman, Thomas Boog. They were at first well received by the pagans and their king Niuliki who had only recently forbidden canabalism. However, the kings jealousy and fear were aroused when the missionaries learned the language and gained the people's confidence; he realized the adoption of the Christian Faith would lead to the abolition of some of the prerogatives he enjoyed as both highpriest and sovereign.
Finally, when his own son expressed a desire to be baptized, the king's hatred erupted and he dispatched a group of his warriors to set upon the saintly head of the missionaries. Thus, on April 28, 1841, three years after his arrival, St. Peter was seized and clubbed to death by those he had come to save. And his death brought his work to completion - within five months the entire island was converted to Christianity.

Saint with special devotion to Mary, Rosary

St. Louis de Montfort

St. Louis de Montfort
St. Louis de Montfort
Feastday: April 28
1673 - 1716

Confessor, Marian devotee, and founder of the Sisters of Divine Wisdom He was born Louis Maie Grignon in Montfort, France, in 1673. Educated at Rennes, he was ordained there in 1700, becoming a chaplain in a hospital in Poitiers. His congregation, also called the Daughters of Divine Wisdom, started there. As his missions and sermons raised complaints, Louis went to Rome, where Pope Clement XI appointed him as a missionary apostolic. Louis is famous for fostering devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Rosary. In 1715, he also founded the Missionaries of the Company of Mary. His True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin remains popular. Louis died at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre. He was canonized in 1947.

Great story ahead of World Day of Prayer for Vocations

The Healing of a Football Player’s Wounded Heart

Former quarterback finds peace of soul in the Mass, priesthood and intercession of St. Joseph.

04/27/2012 Comments 
Norbert Kelsch
– Norbert Kelsch
The 49th World Day of Prayer for Vocations will be celebrated this Sunday, April 29, with the theme “Vocations, the Gift of the Love of God.” This theme is very close to the heart of Father Joseph Freedy, director of priestly vocations for the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
There was a time when such a concept was distant from his heart, which had been set on worldly goods. He was a standout quarterback in high school and at the University of Buffalo. Thousands cheered him on and looked up to him, but his heart remained restless. Despite his earnest attempts to the contrary, he could not find happiness in the noise of the world.
Happiness would be found where he had not expected it: in the Mass. After reading The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth by Scott Hahn, what was once seen as a burdensome routine was revealed to be just what Joseph Freedy’s heart was seeking. His understanding of the Mass was so changed that he went to the seminary. On June 21, 2008, he was ordained a priest.
Father Freedy spoke with Register correspondent Trent Beattie.

You recently got back from a silent retreat. Would you recommend such a retreat to others?
Absolutely. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta always said that prayer is “God speaking in the silence of our hearts and us listening.” With the amount of noise in our world today, it really is necessary at times to get away from it in order to be able to connect with God on a deeper level. His voice most often can be heard not in the noise of the world, but in the silence of the heart. In Psalm 46, the Lord says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Then in the New Testament we see that Jesus is frequently going away to a solitary place to pray.
Sometimes when I start my annual retreat, which is required for priests, it takes a couple days to settle down and get into it. It can be a struggle initially, but by the time it’s over, the feeling I have is often one of wanting to stay there forever.
There are many types of retreats out there, but I find that I am disposed best to receive the grace the Lord desires to give on a silent retreat. There’s a time for faith sharing and fellowship, but there’s also a time to be silent and allow the Lord to be the only voice speaking in our hearts.
It’s about getting closer to the Lord and allowing him to speak to your heart. A retreat is basically an extraordinary manifestation of what we should be doing daily in prayer.

Did you want to be a priest as a young boy?
I was raised in a solid Catholic home in which we regularly had incredible priest friends over for dinner. For us, priests weren’t just people you’d only see at Mass, but you’d also see them around the house with your family. As a young boy, I was fascinated by these men and impressed with their exciting lives. Unconsciously, I looked up to them as one would do with an uncle. The call was there from a young age, but it was latent.

Then football came into the picture.
In western Pennsylvania, football is a very big deal, so playing wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. My two older brothers played the game, so I followed suit.
However, I took football too seriously, building my whole identity around it and using it as a means to fill an interior void. I dealt with a lot of insecurity growing up. I had a great family, so I don’t know why that insecurity was there, but from seventh grade through high school and even into college I wanted, even needed, to be the kid I thought everyone wanted me to be.
Religion was put on the back burner, and I tried to overcome the insecurity with praise and acceptance from everyone around me. I was a standout player in high school and then played at the University of Buffalo. During high school and into the first couple of years in college, partying was common for me as well. That was another thing I used in an attempt to fill the void within me.
However, something that helped to lead me into growing up and becoming a man was taking on the responsibility of leading the football team in college. I was not the starting quarterback initially, but because of a series of injuries to the guys ahead of me, I assumed the starting position for the 1999 season. Being the leader of a football team in Buffalo, where the sport is also taken seriously, was a way to start looking beyond myself and become more serious about life.

What were the other things that enabled you to do that?
In college, I got caught up in the garbage of the party scene, but through becoming the starting quarterback and being in a serious relationship with a girl for a few years, the Lord helped to pull me out of some of that.
Then, a third thing that helped me grow up and really changed my life forever was reading a great book when I was home from college for Christmas break. My father would always have a Bible on the end table, along with another book. He would read from them before going to work each morning. Well, the book he happened to have there when I was on break was The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn.
The opening paragraph really caught my eye because of how it related to my own life. It basically said that, on the one hand, nothing is so familiar to Catholics as the Mass, yet most of us don’t know what is beyond the surface of the memorized prayers. That really described my experience. I had attended Mass all my life but had never really looked beyond the outward appearances. Once I did look beyond them, I was drawn in by what was there.
My heart began to be filled with peace, joy and love. It was similar to St. Augustine’s experience, in that he had looked all over for happiness, but, only years later, realized that it was right in front of him. It was right there all along. My heart’s deepest longing would be satisfied in the Mass like I had never thought possible.

What did you do next?
After reading The Lamb’s Supper, I went back to school and wanted to go deeper into my faith and share what I had learned. I went to a group called Fellowship of Christian Athletes, but, at the time, I found many of the ideas the group discussed to be in opposition to what I was taught as a Catholic.
Then I went before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and asked him what to do. I spent a lot of time with the Lord, wrestling with him as far as what his plan for me was. On the one hand, I was beginning to be so much happier than before, but, on the other hand, I was at first very reluctant to really let go of  my own designs on life and pursue the priesthood.
I met with a vocations director, and he gently encouraged me to surrender to God’s plan for my life. God knows what’s best for us infinitely better than we do, so the intelligent thing to do is let him guide us.

After you surrendered to this call, you studied at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. What was that like?
It was an incredible experience. My first year there (2005) was the year Blessed Pope John Paul II died. There was his enormous funeral, which attracted attention from around the world. Then we welcomed our new Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. What a blessing both men are to the Church.
During my time there, I got to see that the city of Rome is saturated with grace — so much history, so many saints, so many visible testaments to the Christian faith. It was a great faith-building experience I’m so grateful for.
I also got to travel outside of Rome, and it was really an eye-opening thing to witness the truly universal character of the Church. Regardless of where you are in the world, it is one Catholic Church we belong to.

What do you appreciate most about the priesthood?
I could talk for an hour about this. The thing that’s most amazing is acting in persona Christi — or “in the person of Christ.” This is what occurs in confession, when the priest says not “Jesus absolves you,” but “I absolve you.” It also occurs in the Mass, when the priest says not “This is Jesus’ body,” but “This is my body.”
The priest is the mediator between God and men, which is an unbelievably beautiful and profound thing: God is calling me to do this. It’s so great that it’s difficult not to cry when thinking about it. Sometimes I have cried even while acting in persona Christi because I’m struck with the love God has for his people. The humility of God to allow mere men to act in the person of the Only Begotten Son is an amazing thing.
To know that my hands have been anointed to bring the body and blood of Christ to the world and to forgive sins — what an indescribable blessing. The gift of the priesthood is overwhelming. I’ve been ordained for almost four years now and have never had an unhappy day as a priest. Praise God for that.

You’re currently the director of priestly vocations for the Diocese of Pittsburgh. What are some of the challenges you face in that position?
I’ve been doing this for two years now, and it’s an incredible joy. There are challenges, though, to building a culture of vocations. Perhaps the biggest one is convincing young people that God is alive and real and has a perfect plan for our lives. He has prepared a vocation for each and every one of us from all eternity.
It’s the concept expressed in Jeremiah 1:5: that before God formed us in the womb, he knew us. Our lives are not accidents, but perfectly prepared and provided for by God. I’m so content knowing that I’m doing what I was born to do, and I want others to know that contentment as well by helping them to realize their own calls.

What advice do you give to young men who are discerning a call to the priesthood?
There are three essential things I mention, and all of them lead us closer to God. The first is prayer. You simply have to pray every day; otherwise, you’re not going to have the grace to do God’s will. Praying as a child in need of his father’s help is what enables us to live our daily lives in peace.
What I tell young men regarding a possible priestly vocation is to pray over the calls recorded in the Bible. That is, meditate upon the call of Abraham, of David, of Jeremiah, of St. Peter, of St. Paul. Look into the history of how God calls men to his service and pray about whether this is something God is calling you to as well.
The second thing that is incredibly helpful is Eucharistic adoration, which can be seen as a specific form or occurrence of prayer. It’s talking with Jesus in his direct presence. The same Jesus who walked the earth 2,000 years ago is still with us today in the Eucharist. Prayer before the Lord is something very special.
The third essential thing is to stay close to Our Lady. John Paul II wrote that all vocations occur with a Marian disposition at the Annunciation. In other words, we may not have been planning on a specific calling, but when we know God is calling us, we have to be receptive to that and put it into action with love.
There is also a book I like to recommend to young men discerning a priestly vocation. It’s called To Save a Thousand Souls by Father Brett A. Brannen.

Do you have a patron saint?
St. Joseph is my patron. He was the most chaste spouse of Our Lady and the foster father of Jesus. How amazing is that? As the protector and head of the Holy Family, he is a prime example of what a man in general, and what a priest specifically, should be. This is explained in the book The Life and Glories of St. Joseph by Father Edward Healy Thompson.
St. Teresa of Avila had great admiration for St. Joseph and said that anyone who was having trouble praying should take him as a guide. She received many benefits from him and wanted to share his powerful intercession with everyone else. I understand her desire because, like the Holy Spirit, St. Joseph is often overlooked today. If we learned more about St. Joseph and became more devoted to him, we would come much closer to being the men God called us to be. We would be totally dedicated to Jesus and Mary.
Register correspondent Trent Beattie writes from Seattle.

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Happy Bicentennial Louisiana

This is my home state and she is in the midst of celebrating her 200th anniversary.  This weekend has plenty of events and I believe the big date is Monday, April 30th.

I have never lived anywhere but the great state of Louisiana.  Despite some of our oddities, political foolishness and being the occassional victim of the hurricanes, she ain't all bad!

If you look at the map to the right, above Lake Pontchartrain, I live north of Mandeville and east of Covington.  It is a great part of the state, now more than 1 hour to New Orleans and 1 hour and change to Baton Rouge!

Listed below is the official website for Louisiana's bicentennial:

The Pope and Permanent Deacons

Why does the pope rarely mention deacons? — UPDATED

A deacon reader writes:
How does the pope preach to a morning audience on diakonia and never say the word “deacon” in his speech?
Does this concern you that the pope has failed to mention the word “deacon” in any of his addresses in Mexico and Spain on his past trips?  He even started his homily’s and speeches with “My fellow bishops, brother priests, religious, and laity.”  I felt like he wasn’t even talking to me since I don’t fall into any of those categories.  Why does it seem so blatantly obvious that the diaconate is being repressed by Rome . . . and even in many places in the US?
With one of the pope’s goals being the unification with the SSPX and the SSPX’s thoughts on the restoration of the permanent diaconate being extremely negative, I think the stars are starting to line up.
Well, I tend to be less pessimistic than this deacon; I recall how the pope spoke warmly and approvingly of permanent deacons a few years ago.  But I agree: the absence of even a mention of one distinct level of Holy Orders in many of the Holy Father’s public speeches is conspicuous.  Could it be cultural, since an overwhelming number of permanent deacons (most, in fact) are here in the United States ?
Also, I’m wondering if anyone knows if the pope, as Bishop of Rome, has ever ordained permanent deacons.
UPDATE:  Deacon Bill Ditewig just sent me an email with his reaction:
There’s no plot to kill the diaconate by the Holy See or anyone else (well, except for those in SSPX who think Vatican II was a heretical council).   The diaconate, even here in the US, has yet to break into the popular imagination of most Catholics.  In church time, we’ve only been “back” for a very short time.  I mean, in 1998 the Holy See referred to the guys ordained between 1968 (the first permanent deacons ordained) and 1998 (30 years!) as experiments!  And, this is not due simply to numbers of deacons (the “we have more deacons than Rome” argument).  The simple fact is that for about a millennium “to be ordained” meant “to be a priest”.  You don’t break that paradigm in the popular imagination in just a few decades.  In a hundred years or so, this won’t be a problem (for any of us!).

>>>Interesting reading over at the Deacon Bench.  I understand the concern expressed by the "deacon author" of the original post.  Many times there appears to be a lack of understanding, support or concern about the Permanent Deacon by the hierarchial clergy.  How often do we hear of Permanent Deacons not allowed to do this or that by Father?  I do believe that this is the exception, rather than the rule.  Here in the Archdiocese of New Orleans I have experienced nothing but supportive words and actions from both Archbishop Hughes and our current leader, Archbishop Aymond.

I for one tend to agree with Deacon Bill; at least here in the US of A, the permanent diaconate will continue to grow and still has room for that growth.

As for me; I'll just prepare for my weekend of assisting at 1st Holy Communion, two Masses, work on 3 weddings and 3 baptisms and then fellowship with about 100 brother Deacons at a community crawfish boil!

Big Pro-Life news from Louisiana Senate

Louisiana Senate Backs Bill for Pre-Abortion Ultrasounds

by Steven Ertelt | Baton Rouge, LA |

Add Louisiana to the list of states seeking to allow pregnant women considering an abortion a chance to see an ultrasound and hear a heartbeat of their unborn child beforehand.
Late Tuesday afternoon, SB 708, the Hear the Heartbeat Act, authored by Senator Sharon Weston Broome (D-Baton Rouge), passed the Senate floor by a 34-4 margin. SB 708, supported by Louisiana Right to Life and drafted by the Bioethics Defense Fund, would require abortion facilities to make the unborn child’s heartbeat audible to the woman prior to an abortion (unless the woman requests and signs a separate “opt-out” form).
The bill also would require abortion facilities to place the ultrasound screen in view of the woman (she has the choice to look or not) instead of having the screen turned away from the woman and the abortion employee “offering” the woman the chance to see the display (current law). The measure would also require abortion facilities to perform the ultrasound 24 hours prior to an abortion instead of two hours prior (current law).
Shortly before final passage, an unfriendly amendment offered by Senator Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) that would have weakened the bill was defeated by a 30-7 measure.  Voting in favor of the weakening amendment were Senators Allain (R-Franklin), Claitor, Dorsey-Colomb (D-Baton Rouge), Heitmeier (D-New Orleans), Morrell (D-New Orleans), Murray (D-New Orleans), and Peterson (D-New Orleans).
“The Claitor amendment would have left the ultrasound provision as it stands in law now, which faces the screen away from the woman and requires the abortion facility employee to offer the woman the opportunity to see the ultrasound screen,” explained Louisiana Right to Life director Ben Clapper. “To fix this, SB 708 positions the screen in view of the woman, giving her the choice to look or not.  If SB 708 passes into law, the power would rest with the woman, not representatives of a business selling abortion.  Our goal is to ensure that the woman is as informed as possible before making the decision to have an abortion.”
Dorinda Bordlee, of the Bioethics Defense Fund, said the original 2010 ultrasound law the legislature approved has already saved lives.
“The BDF-drafted ultrasound law passed in 2010 required abortion providers to inform the woman that she had the right to ask for an ultrasound photograph of her unborn child,” she said. “Thanks to passage of that law, a woman recently walked into a pro-life pregnancy resource center carrying the printout that she had received at the abortion clinic which had helped her choose life and love for herself and her unborn child. Together, we really do make a difference in hearts changed, and lives saved.”
Meanwhile, SB 330, the Criminal Abortion Dismemberment Act authored by Senator Rick Ward (D-New Roads), sailed through the Senate Judiciary C committee. Clapper is excited about the progress of both pro-life measures.

“This BDF-drafted bill is a specific criminal statute that can be used to prosecute any person who performs an abortion without being licensed to practice medicine in Louisiana. Abortions that result in the intentional dismemberment of the unborn child (including the common methods of suction curettage and D&C) subject the abortionist to increased penalties,” Bordlee explained.
“While current civil law limits the performance of abortions to Louisiana licensed physicians, this criminal law would provide a District Attorney with an express statute to prosecute abortions illegally performed by nurses, physicians assistants, unlicensed or out of state physicians, or lay people (as in the Gosnell case),” she said.
Violators would face a penalty of one to five years imprisonment, a fine of $5,000 to $50,000, or a combination of both, under the measure Senator Rick Ward sponsored.
“It was a successful day at the legislature, but all of our life-affirming bills have plenty of work ahead of them,” Clapper said. “Please reach out and thank the Senators who stood for life and contact those who voted in favor of the Claitor amendment and against the bill as a whole.”

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Her work is part of her holiness

St. Zita

St. Zita
St. Zita

Feastday: April 27

St. Zita was born into a poor but holy Christian family. Her older sister became a Cistercian nun and her uncle Graziano was a hermit whom the local people regarded as a saint. Zita herself always tried to do God's will obediently whenever it was pointed out to her by her mother. At the age of twelve Zita became a housekeeper in the house of a rich weaver in Lucca, Italy, eight miles from her home at Monte Sagrati. As things turned out, she stayed with that family for the last forty-eight years of her life. She found time every day to attend Mass and to recite many prayers, as well as to carry out her household duties so perfectly that the other servants were jealous of her. Indeed, her work was part of her religion! She use to say: "a servant is not holy if she is not busy; lazy people of our position is fake holiness." At first, her employers were upset by her generous gifts of food to the poor, but in time, they were completely won over by her patience and goodness and she became a very close friend. St. Zita was given a free reign over her working schedule and busied herself with visits to the sick and those in prison. Word spread rapidly in Lucca of her good deeds and the heavenly visions that appeared to her. She was sought out by the important people, and at her death in 1278 the people acclaimed her as a saint. She is the patroness of domestic workers. Her feast day is April 27.

USCCB pleased with another state repealing death penalty


Bishops Welcome Repeal Of Death Penalty In Connecticut

April 26, 2012
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) congratulated the Connecticut bishops, the Connecticut Catholic Conference, Catholic Mobilizing Network, and all dedicated advocates against the death penalty for their work to bring about the repeal of the death penalty in Connecticut. Governor Dan Malloy enacted the legislation April 25, making Connecticut the 17th state to repeal the death penalty.
“As Catholics we are dedicated to promoting a consistent ethic of life, which values all human life as full of dignity and inherent worth – even those convicted of the worst crimes,” said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. “We welcome the courageous decision by the governor and the legislature to abolish the use of the death penalty in Connecticut. We stand in solidarity with all those who work for a just and safe society that protects its citizens and upholds the sanctity and dignity of all human life.”
Pope Benedict XVI, like his predecessor John Paul II, has called for the end of the use of the death penalty. In November 2011, Pope Benedict expressed support for efforts for “political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate the death penalty.”

USCCB calls Catholics to protest

Catholic Bishops Call For Two Weeks of Action Against Obama

>>>While a legitimate protest is indeed planned by the USCCB, the author of the headline decided to make it personal.  Lets set the protest right: action called against the HHS mandate and the attacks on religious liberty.

And the author must have a political bent; it does have a decided flavor to the article.  But let's focus on what unites us: this mandate is wrong, the administration is wrong and being pro-life is what every faithful Catholic is called to be and called to do by their witness!<<
  • Roman Catholic leaders are calling for two weeks of public protests against President Barack Obama's policies as they intensify their argument that the administration is engaged in a war on religion.

    The days between June 21 and July 4 have been set aside by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops which has sought to end the administration's contraception mandate, among other policies.

    The protests against the Obama administration’s policies could be “the game-changer” in the presidential election, one leading lay churchman told Newsmax on Tuesday.

    The protests, dubbed “A Fortnight for Freedom” will be an “unprecedented, aggressive attack” against policies that church leaders see as an assault on religious freedom, said Catholic Advocate chairman Deal Hudson.

    “The bishops are seeing – rightly – a pattern of emerging of hostility towards the Catholic faith for upholding protection of the life of the unborn and because of its position on contraception,” said Hudson.

    And Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League pointed out to Newsmax that the protests will come around the time the Supreme Court issues its judgment on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

    Unless the justices throw the act out completely, the protests could not be timed better, he said.

    “If the individual mandate falls and the rest stands it will be more important than ever for Catholics to step forward and get involved,” said Donohue. “We will have to make the point that we are not going anywhere.”

    Donohue said the mandate to make insurance companies cover not only contraceptives but abortion-inducing drugs is the key, he said. “It was done on purpose as a wedge to open the door. If we don’t fight it the next step is to force Catholic hospitals to provide abortion facilities,” he said.

    “The idea that I as a Catholic should have to pay for some woman’s abortion makes me want to reach for the vomit bag.”

    Donohue praised the bishops for their proactive stance “if for no other reason than to make the point that they are furious,” he said.

    “Over the years there have been times when the resolve of the bishops wasn’t quite what we wanted it to be. Today that resolve is extremely strong,” he said.

    The two weeks of protest has been called by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “That is not the type of body that goes out of its way to pick a fight,” Catholic Advocate’s Hudson pointed out.

    “That is precisely what makes this so unusual a moment. The bishops have been provoked to such a degree that they will go to this extreme. They would prefer quiet negotiations leading to a principled compromise, instead they are talking about the probability of civil disobedience.”

    Republicans are hoping the protests, planned for June and July will have a major bearing on the election which will follow four months later. They look forward to TV shots of robed priests and nuns being led away in handcuffs.

    “These would be devastating images for the Obama administration,” GOP strategist Ron Bonjean told The Hill. “You have a very important religious demographic coming out in protest of Obama’s policies and being arrested for their expression.”

    And Hudson agreed. When asked if the protests could be a game-changer come election time, he responded. “Potentially it could be the game-changer.

    “It is a mistake to prognosticate with certainty this far out from the election, but two weeks of protest in mid-summer will help put this before the conventions and make it a major issue in the campaign.”

    Hudson said Catholic Advocate has already been working in battleground states including Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania to get its message across and is about to start work in New Mexico.

    “At one meeting in Des Moines, we had about 80 people and one guy sat in the corner and at the end he raised his hand and said he had been a life-long social justice Catholic – so I was getting ready for the big smackdown on all the stuff we had been doing.

    “But he said, ‘I’ve just had it with Obama.’ That was a moment that really got my attention.”

    The bishops outlined their plan in an April 12 statement signed by Conference general secretary, Msgr. Ronny Jenkins. The statement entitled “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty” was drawn up by the ad hoc committee for religious liberty, which includes 11 bishop members including Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, one of Obama’s fiercest critics in the church.

    They called on fellow bishops to focus “all the energies the Catholic community can muster” to arrange special events to highlight the importance of defending religious liberty.

    The dates were picked to run from the feast day of martyrs St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More to Independence Day. “This special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action would emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty,” the bishops said.

    “Dioceses and parishes around the country could choose a date in that period for special events that would constitute a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty.”

    It referred to the mandate that church-affiliated organizations such as hospitals, schools and universities would have to provide contraceptive coverage in their employees’ insurance policies as well as state and local moves that the church says affects its freedom.

    “Religious liberty is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the Rosary at home,” the statement said. “It is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good of all Americans. Can we do the good works our faith calls us to do, without having to compromise that very same faith?

    “What is at stake is whether America will continue to have a free, creative, and robust civil society—or whether the state alone will determine who gets to contribute to the common good, and how they get to do it.”

    Hudson said that in many ways the statement itself is more important than the two weeks of action, but he accepted it would not get as much publicity.

    “This is not something to get giddy about,” he said. “It would be sad if it came to priests or lay people or bishops being led away in handcuffs. What could be a sadder moment in the history of our nation than to see Catholics arrested for simply refusing to compromise on a central moral principle of their faith?”

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