Monday, March 31, 2014

A reformer and Bishop from France; our 1st Saint for April

St. Hugh of Grenoble


Today’s saint could be a patron for those of us who feel so overwhelmed by all the problems in the world that we don’t know where to begin.
Hugh, who served as a bishop in France for 52 years, had his work cut out for him from the start. Corruption seemed to loom in every direction: the buying and selling of Church offices, violations of clerical celibacy, lay control of Church property, religious indifference and/or ignorance. After serving as bishop for two years, he’d had his fill. He tried disappearing to a monastery, but the pope called him back to continue the work of reform.

Ironically, Hugh was reasonably effective in the role of reformer—surely because of his devotion to the Church but also because of his strong character. In conflicts between Church and state he was an unflinching defender of the Church. He fearlessly supported the papacy. He was eloquent as a preacher. He restored his own cathedral, made civic improvements in the town and weathered a brief exile.

Hugh may be best known as patron and benefactor of St. Bruno, founder of the Carthusian Order.

Hugh died in 1132. He was canonized only two years later.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Here comes April and time to pray with the Pope

Pope Francis’ prayer intentions for April

Pope Francis’ universal prayer intention for April is: “That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.”

His intention for evangelization is: “That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.”

Louisiana House of Representatives enacts more abortion restrictions; pro-life Lousiana

House backs new restrictions on abortion clinics

  Mar 31, 2014                           

BATON ROUGE, La. —With no debate, the Louisiana House has backed new abortion regulations to require doctors performing the procedure to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.           
Critics say that would shut down three of Louisiana's five abortion clinics, leaving two in the Shreveport area.
The bill sailed through the House with an 85-6 vote Monday and little discussion. It heads next to the Senate for debate.
Monroe Rep. Katrina Jackson, a Democrat, described her proposal as ensuring women have access to proper care if they have complications during an abortion.
Abortion rights supporters say the bill would add burdensome and medically unnecessary requirements.
Texas recently enacted a similar regulation, which was upheld by the federal appeals court in New Orleans.

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As major league baseball begins, one player is firmly rooted in his Catholic faith

San Diego Padres’ Pitcher Practices Patience  

Joe Wieland looks to recover from arm injury and have a healthy second half of the 2014 season.

03/28/2014 Comment
San Diego Padres
Joe Wieland
– San Diego Padres

Heading into spring training in February, San Diego Padres’ pitcher Joe Wieland was feeling great. He thought his previous arm injuries were behind him, and he was hoping, by this time, to have earned a spot on the team’s major-league roster.
Things turned out differently, however. After re-aggravating a tenacious right arm injury, the 24-year-old Reno, Nev., native is now focusing his attention on a successful surgery and recovery. After a March 26 arthroscopic operation, he’ll have to spend three months rehabbing his arm before he has the opportunity to return to the big-league roster.
As the Padres looked to open their season against the Los Angeles Dodgers on March 30, Wieland spoke of accepting his recent injury as part of God’s plan.

How has spring training gone, and what are you looking forward to now that the regular season is upon us?
I started last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, where a ligament in my elbow was replaced. Throughout the 2013 season, I endured quite a few setbacks as I tried to get my arm back into pitching shape. We never did find out what was wrong with the arm last year. That was no fun, so coming into spring training this year, my big goal was to stay healthy.
Things turned out differently than I had hoped, though. My first three outings were great, but in the fourth outing, the pain started up again. An MRI last week showed that there was a bone spur, cartilage or scar tissue that has been giving me problems. Being injured is never fun, but it’s a great relief to finally know what the cause of the pain is.
On Wednesday of this week [March 26], I’ll go in for arthroscopic surgery, which is supposed to be quick and easy, as far as surgeries go. Then I’ll have three months of rehab, and I should be back in “game shape” by the All-Star break in July.
It will take some patience, but I just have to accept it as part of God’s plan and try to make small improvements every day. It’s important not to get too caught up in what you’d like to happen in the future, all the while ignoring the good things you already do have. So many people are much worse off than I am. I can walk, talk and do everything else that a healthy person can do; the only thing I can’t do right now is play baseball.

When did you start playing baseball?
I played baseball almost from the get-go. My first toys were a ball and a bat, and I’m told my first word was “ball.” Baseball seems to have always been a part of my life. I remember my dad coaching me in Little League, even though he hadn’t played baseball as a kid himself. Yet he knew what he was doing, and he helped me to become a better player.
I’m a pitcher now, but hitting used to be my favorite thing. I was drawn to any sport that involved hitting, like golf, ping-pong and tennis. I played soccer, basketball and football, as well, but I had always been most into sports that had bats, clubs or rackets.
I fully intended to be a shortstop, until my sophomore year of high school; but that’s when I had a great pitching season. The scouts took notice, and that’s when the transition to pitching started.

Were you able to connect sports and faith while growing up?
When I was really young, they were separate. I went to Catholic schools, so we would pray before games, but I remember wanting to get that part over with so I could run out onto the field and start playing. Yet, as I got older — say, around 13 or so — sports and faith started to come together.
I made the discovery that any talent I had for sports or anything else did not originate from me, but was ultimately due to God’s goodness and generosity. I could then see that sports were not some separate compartment of my life, isolated from God, but were an extension of God’s love for me. Without God, I’d have no ability to play sports; and even more to the point, without God, I’d be nothing.
My parents and grandparents were huge, as far as making right and wrong clear to me and my younger brother and sister. They were strict, but it was with a good goal in mind, not just for the sake of being strict. They wanted us to become responsible people who do the right thing.
Something else that really helped to shape me as a young Catholic was the availability of retreats. I was able to go on and even lead some retreats while at Bishop Manogue High School in Reno, Nev., so those experiences helped to solidify my connection with God. When I went to the 2012 Catholic Athletes for Christ retreat, I was able to learn even more than I had previously.
That 2012 retreat was where I met Justin De Fratus, a pitcher with the Philadelphia Phillies. We discovered that we had a lot in common, so we kind of stuck together that weekend.

You were also able to go on that retreat with Jeff Suppan, who played with you for a year while he was with the Padres in 2012, right?
Yes, Jeff is a great man who isn’t shy about laying out the faith with anyone at any time. There’s a story from the 2012 season, when we were doing pitcher fielding practice. It was after we had been to a Bible study with some other players and were discussing how Catholicism is very biblical.
While the other guys started to become quiet as they did the drills, Jeff kept talking about the Catholic faith. Even as he was going through his pitching motion and scooping up balls in the infield, he was still going on about one aspect or another of Catholicism. I was very impressed with his multitasking abilities, which made it possible to play baseball and evangelize at the same time.
Jeff is an awesome guy who has been a great example to me of how to carry myself as a baseball player and a man. The same is true with Mark Kotsay, whose house I got to stay at last season. Being around Mark and his family was one of the few bright spots from last year, as I was grinding along, recovering from surgery.

What are some of the things you like most about the Church?
You have to go with the Eucharist as No. 1. That’s the greatest thing, and you don’t get that anywhere else. The Church calls it the source and summit of the Christian life, and that’s just what it is. How else can you explain our Savior becoming truly present to us for our consumption? Words can’t adequately describe it.
At every Mass, a miracle takes place on the altar. We may not see it with our eyes, but bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus. That’s a true miracle, so I count myself privileged to be a part of it. Even now, as I’m talking about it, I’m getting goose bumps. It’s a totally amazing gift to have access to the Eucharist.
Another thing I like about the Church is [the sacrament of] reconciliation. We all fall short, so before we can receive the Eucharist, we need to be in a state of grace. That’s where reconciliation is so helpful. Many people are anxious before going, even to the point of skipping out on it, but we should pay attention — not to how we feel before going, but how we feel afterwards.
There’s no feeling like being told by Jesus, through the mouth of the priest, that your sins are forgiven. It’s a very humbling experience, to be honest about how you’ve messed up, but the grace you get in return is more than worth it. Even if you don’t have mortal sins to confess, getting rid of the venial ones that have accumulated is a relief.
Even though I’m one of the people who can get anxious about it beforehand, there’s such vitality to the whole thing. You get to see who you really are and who God really is, a reality check that is irreplaceable.

Since you share a name, do you have a devotion to St. Joseph?
Devotions are a relatively new thing for me. I’m learning more about the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet and the intercession of St. Joseph, whose feast day was March 19.
Jesus and Mary, rightfully, get a lot of attention, but St. Joseph can be passed over a lot. If you just take the time to reflect on his role in the Holy Family — that of protector and provider — it’s just mind-boggling: how holy he must have been. Here, you have the head of a family whose other members are the Son of God and the Mother of God. St. Joseph was given the amazing task of filling the role of father to Jesus as he grew up on earth.
If a short reflection on St. Joseph doesn’t inspire us to look more deeply into his life, I don’t know what will. You can’t pass over someone like him. He has more to teach me about being a true Christian man than I’ll ever understand, but it’s very enjoyable to start understanding it at least a little bit better.
Register correspondent Trent Beattie writes from Seattle.

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Deacon, Preacher, Martyr and Saint; early 5th century

St. Benjamin

Image of St. Benjamin


Feastday: March 31
Death: 424

St. Benjamin, Martyr (Feast Day - March 31) The Christians in Persia had enjoyed twelve years of peace during the reign of Isdegerd, son of Sapor III, when in 420 it was disturbed by the indiscreet zeal of Abdas, a Christian Bishop who burned the Temple of Fire, the great sanctuary of the Persians. King Isdegerd threatened to destroy all the churches of the Christians unless the Bishop would rebuild it.
As Abdas refused to comply, the threat was executed; the churches were demolished, Abdas himself was put to death, and a general persecution began which lasted forty years. Isdegerd died in 421, but his son and successor, Varanes, carried on the persecution with great fury. The Christians were submitted to the most cruel tortures.
Among those who suffered was St. Benjamin, a Deacon, who had been imprisoned a year for his Faith. At the end of this period, an ambassador of the Emperor of Constantinople obtained his release on condition that he would never speak to any of the courtiers about religion.
St. Benjamin, however, declared it was his duty to preach Christ and that he could not be silent. Although he had been liberated on the agreement made with the ambassador and the Persian authorities, he would not acquiesce in it, and neglected no opportunity of preaching. He was again apprehended and brought before the king. The tyrant ordered that reeds should be thrust in between his nails and his flesh and into all the tenderest parts of his body and then withdrawn. After this torture had been repeated several times, a knotted stake was inserted into his bowels to rend and tear him. The martyr expired in the most terrible agony about the year 424.

Pope Francis: Be open to light of Christ, avoid interior blindness

Be open to the light of Christ, encourages Pope
By Kerri Lenartowick

Pope Francis preaches during a Penitential service at St. Peter's Basilica, March 28, 2014. Credit: Lauren Cater / CNA.
Pope Francis preaches during a Penitential service at St. Peter's Basilica, March 28, 2014. Credit: Lauren Cater / CNA.
.- During his Sunday Angelus message, Pope Francis urged the faithful to open themselves to the light of Christ and not be hindered by pride or interior blindness.

“Sometimes unfortunately ... from the height of our pride we judge others, and even the Lord! Today, we are invited to open ourselves to the light of Christ to bear fruit in our lives, to get rid of the behaviors that are not Christian,” Pope Francis encouraged those gathered in St. Peter’s square on March 30.

The pontiff reflected on a passage from Sunday’s reading from the Gospel of John, which recounts the story of Jesus healing a man born blind. The scholars of the law seek to undermine Jesus’ work and words, sinking “deeper and deeper into their interior blindness.”

“Locked in their presumption, they believe they already have the light, and for this reason are not open to the truth of Jesus. They do everything they can to deny the obvious,” explained the Pope.

In contrast to the blind man who is healed by Jesus and “gradually approaches the light,” the scholars of the law show a “closure to the light” that “becomes aggressive” and leads to the expulsion of the healed man from the temple.

The path of the blind man is a “journey in stages, starting from the knowledge of the name of Jesus,” said Pope Francis.

After being healed by Jesus, the man considers him first a “prophet,” then a “man close to God.” Only after he is excluded from the temple and has a second encounter with Jesus does he recognize him as the Messiah.

This story demonstrates “the drama of interior blindness of many people, and ours also, because we have many moments of interior blindness,” reflected the Pontiff.

“All of us -- everyone, eh? -- have acted, sometimes, not like Christians, because we are sinners, no? And we have to repent of this in order to walk the path of sanctity decisively,” he urged.

This path begins in baptism when we are “illuminated” by Christ. Through our baptism, “we can carry ourselves as ‘sons of the light,’ with humility, patience, mercy.”

Pope Francis then suggested that those present should meditate on today’s gospel.

“When you return home, take the Gospel of John, read this passage from chapter nine, and do it well… we ask ourselves, how are our hearts? How is my heart? How is your heart? How are our hearts? Do I have a heart that is open or a heart that is closed? Open, or closed toward God? Open or closed toward my neighbor?”

Everyone has a certain element of being closed in his heart, which is “born of sin,” acknowledged the Holy Father. Yet this should not lead to discouragement.

“Don’t be afraid!” he exclaimed. “Let us open ourselves to the Lord. He always waits for us. He always waits for us, to make us better, to give us light, to forgive us. Don’t forget that! He’s always waiting for us.”

Pope Francis then led the faithful in the Angelus prayer and greeted the many groups of pilgrims present before wishing everyone a “good Sunday and a good lunch.”

Good info on Laetare Sunday; did your Priest & Deacon wear "rose" colored vestments today?

What Is Laetare Sunday?

Question: What Is Laetare Sunday?

Most Catholics today are used to the Mass being conducted in English, and they hardly ever think about the fact that Latin remains the official language of the Catholic Church. But occasionally, Latin reasserts itself, as it does in the case of Laetare Sunday.

Answer: Laetare Sunday is the popular name for the Fourth Sunday in Lent. (See When Is Laetare Sunday? for the date of Laetare Sunday in this and future years.) Laetare means "Rejoice" in Latin, and the Introit (entrance antiphon) in both the Traditional Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo is Isaiah 66:10-11, which begins "Laetare, Jerusalem" ("Rejoice, O Jerusalem"). Because the midpoint of Lent is the Thursday of the third week of Lent, Laetare Sunday has traditionally been viewed as a day of celebration, on which the austerity of Lent is briefly lessened. The passage from Isaiah continues, "rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow," and on Laetare Sunday, the purple vestments and altar cloths of Lent are set aside, and rose ones are used instead. Flowers, which are normally forbidden during Lent, may be placed on the altar. Traditionally, the organ was never played during Lent, except on Laetare Sunday.
Laetare Sunday is also known as Rose Sunday or Refreshment Sunday, and it has a counterpart in Advent: Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent, when purple vestments are exchanged for rose ones. The point of both days is to provide us encouragement as we progress toward the end of each respective penitential season.

A father reunited with his daughter, family; did Pope Francis play a role?


Immigrant released from Louisiana jail, after daughter speaks with Pope

Pope Immigrant~s Daug_Staf.jpg
In this March 26, 2014, photo provided by Catholic Coalition of Immigrant Rights, Pope Francis touches 10-year-old Jersey Vargas, who traveled to the Vatican from Los Angeles to plead with him to help spare her father from deportation, during a public audience at St. Peter's Square in Vatican City. Her father, Mario Vargas, in the United States illegally, had been in federal custody and faced possible deportation. After speaking with Francis, Mario Vargas was released on bond from immigration detention, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Friday, March 28, 2014. Jersey Vargas was part of a California delegation that sought to encourage the Vatican to prod President Obama on immigration reform. (AP Photo/Catholic Coalition of Immigrant Rights)
 The Associated Press By The Associated Press The Associated Press
on March 29, 2014 a

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- After a 10-year-old California girl traveled to the Vatican to plead with Pope Francis for help as her father faced deportation, the man was released Friday on bond from immigration detention.
Mario Vargas was freed from a detention facility in Louisiana after he posted $5,000 bond. A relative who saw the girl on television pleading with the pope during a public audience helped with the funding, said his wife, Lola Vargas.
"When she left, her wish was that her father would be home," she told The Associated Press in Spanish. "Thank God she is going to get her wish."
Mario Vargas' release came after his daughter Jersey, of Panorama City, Calif., addressed the pope this week as part of a California delegation that traveled to urge the Vatican to prod President Barack Obama on immigration reform. The girl and a teenager went as part of the 16-member group to represent the American children of immigrant parents who are afraid their families will be divided by deportation. The president and the pontiff met for the first time Thursday.
"I feel very happy and proud because I'm finally going to have my dad back and we're going to be reunited," Jersey told the AP late Friday before boarding a flight from Rome to Los Angeles.
She said her father was also heading to Los Angeles, and that she hoped he would get there before her arrival Saturday.
"I haven't seen him in two years," she said. "It's been very hard since my dad hasn't been home. My mom has had to be the provider for my family, she's been the mother and father for two years."
Mario Vargas was arrested last year in Tennessee and convicted of driving under the influence before he was taken into federal custody earlier this month, said Bryan Cox, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Authorities released him after he posted bond, and an immigration judge will determine the outcome of his deportation case, Cox said.
Lola Vargas said she had been gathering money to pay for her Mexican husband's bond but didn't have enough until one of his cousins called, surprised to see the girl on television, and offered to help. Her husband had gone to Tennessee to look for work in construction and had been sending money to his family in California, she said.
A message left for Vargas' immigration attorney, Alex Galvez, seeking comment was not immediately returned.
Juan Jose Gutierrez, an immigrant advocate who coordinated the trip to Italy, said the archdiocese of Los Angeles helped get the group a key spot so they could speak with Pope Francis amid the crowds.

Yep, they worship in Antarctica too!

Yes, they worship God in Antarctica too, including the Catholic Mass!

It is awesome to think that in every continent in the world, across every time zone, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated!!!

Pretty amazing stuff!

The ups and downs and the ups of a Permament Deacon

A snapshot of my ministry life, which is all of my life, can be filled with both ups and downs and, thankfully, even more ups!  After last weeks amazing schedule, which included an incredible wedding ceremony, I began the week at Sunday Mass.  Sunday also brought an incredible spring afternoon which resulted in my first grass cutting adventure for the spring season.  It would be my last as we experienced an incredibly wet week, which included a street flooding deluge on Friday.

The deacon schedule was light compared to most weeks.  I had an opportunity to meet with the Kairos executive committee as we planned several upcoming events inside Rayburn Prison from now and well into the 2015.  I spent more time at mid-week planning and scheduling for the fast and furious end of Lent, start of Easter liturgies which will soon be upon us.  On Thursday night I attended the parish mission at my assigned parish of Most Holy Trinity.  A Benedictine monk, and local pastor, Fr. Peter Hammet, led us in a scriptural reflection on the Gospel of the Prodigal Son.  He challenged us to place ourselves in the Gospel scene and to reflect on which character we would be.  Unfortunately, many may find that role of the older brother comes up often.  Of course the love of the Father is extended to all, the prodigal son and older brother in all of us!

Come Friday evening, after that long rainstorm, I so looked forward to presiding at Stations of the Cross.  When I left work I decided to take the most direct route; along I-12.  Just 15 minutes from the church, an accident involving an 18-wheeler crippled traffic.  I was doomed.  There would be no way to make the Stations of the Cross so I called and was able to reach someone at the church.  I understand the gathered crowd still prayed the Stations, without a clergy presider.  This made me feel terrible, until I realized that I demonstrated no concern for those involved in the accident.  It was not a good moment, a snap shot of one of the "downs" in diaconate ministry.  Then comes Saturday and a snapshot of one of the "ups".

I was asked to do a Baptism Saturday afternoon for a 2 week old little girl.  It seems this was a very unexpected pregnancy and the doctors were convinced this little girl would never be born alive.  At one point in the pregnancy the mother was told to abort by all the medical personnel.  Again, they shared with the parents that the little girl would never make it, and if somehow she did, she would be severely handicapped.  But God has the final say in all things life and this beautiful little girl was born full term, 6 lbs. 14 ozs. and doing well.  Mom and dad are doing fine and thrilled at the gift of their little girl, child # 5.  The Baptism was beautiful yesterday afternoon; as was the many siblings present to witness the baptism of their baby sister!  Like I said, this would be a snap shot of an incredible "up". 

Sundays are always "ups" too!  This morning I had the 9 and 11 morning masses and proclaimed the Gospel of the man born blind.  I also got to slip on the rose colored vestments for Latarae Sunday.  At the latter mass, we presented a vocations chalice for one family to bring home and pray for vocations for the week!  It's a beautiful tradition in our parish.  So my Sunday ministry time was over and home I came for a wonderful Skype session with #1 grandson Calvin.  And tonight, I rest!

In the days ahead I indeed will be busy again and will experience the ups and downs and the ups again of ministry as a Permanent Deacon!

NBC Meet the Press, Rick Santorum discuss Pope Francis; seems to be they still frame the Pope's comments incorrecty

Rick Santorum Excited By Pope Francis: 'What He's Doing Is The Right Thing'



Former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum likes what he's hearing from Pope Francis.
WASHINGTON -- Although Pope Francis has been hailed for being more open to gays and lesbians within the Roman Catholic Church than his predecessors were, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) -- a Catholic known for his socially conservative views -- had nothing but praise for the pontiff on Sunday.
When asked by NBC's "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd whether he is as "excited" by Pope Francis as other Catholics around the world appear to be, Santorum replied, "I am. He's a humble man. He lives the faith out in his own personal life. ... He's here to be a shepherd; he isn't here to be a scold. I think that's a good thing for the church and for the world, frankly."
Francis has not veered from the Catholic Church's basic doctrine against homosexuality, but he has suggested he would not judge priests based on their sexual orientation.
“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" the pope stated last year.
The Washington Post reported recently that gay Catholics in Italy are feeling the "Francis effect" -- "a burgeoning spirit of acceptance in pockets of the church’s grass roots."
Santorum, however, said he doesn't believe the pope appears to be more progressive on social issues.
"I don't think he's coming across as lenient at all," said Santorum. "He's actually given speeches very much staying with the line. What he's doing is the right thing. He's looking at a world, he's looking at his faithful that are really struggling right now, struggling with their faith. And he wants to focus on the central thing, which is the good news. He's not out there saying you can't do this and that, and we're against this and against that."
Last year, Santorum also tried to shoot down suggestions that the Catholic Church may become more accepting of gay men and women after the pope's now-famous remarks.
“I’ve read the whole transcript, and what he said early on was that ‘I don’t know anybody who puts gay on their identification card.’ He said it in that context,” Santorum said. “I think all believers need to understand that we need to respect and love everybody and treat everybody with dignity and respect. There’s no room for harshness in respect to this issue -- but that doesn’t mean the church doesn’t have the right to believe what is right and wrong.”

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Ladder of Perfection

St. John Climacus

Image of St. John Climacus


Feastday: March 30
Birth: 525
Death: 606

Abbot of Sinai, so called “Climacus” from the title of his famous book, The Climax, or The Ladder of Perfection; also known as John Scholasticus. He was a Syrian or a Palestinian who started his eremitical life at sixteen, living for many years as a hermit on Sinai. He then went to Thale. Revered also as a scriptural scholar, he authored The Ladder of Perfection to provide a comprehensive treatise on the ideal of Christian perfection and the virtues and vices of the monastic life. Composed in thirty chapters, it was intended to correspond to the age of Christ at the time of his baptism by John the Baptist. John was elected abbot of the monks of Mt. Sinai at the age of seventy He died there on March 30.

From a few years ago; but for this Sunday's Gospel

Homily for 4th Sunday of Lent
“A weary mother returned from the store, lugging groceries through the kitchen door. Awaiting her arrival her 8 year old son, anxious to relate what his younger brother had done. While I was out playing and dad on a call, T.J. took crayons and wrote on the wall! It’s on the new wall paper you just hung in the den. I told him you’d be mad at having to do it again. She let out a moan and furrowed her brow, where is your little brother right now? She emptied her arms and with a purposeful stride, she marched to the closet where he had gone to hide. She called his full name as she entered the room. He trembled with fear; he knew this meant doom! For 10 minutes she ranted and raved about the expensive wallpaper and how she had saved. Lamenting all the work it would take to repair, she condemned his actions and total lack of care. The more she scolded, the madder she got, then stomped from his room, totally distraught! She headed for the den to confirm her fears. When she saw the wall, her eyes filled with tears. The message she read pierced her soul with a dart. It said I love mommy, surrounded by a heart. The wallpaper remained just as she found it, with an empty picture frame around it. A reminder to her; a reminder to us all: TAKE TIME TO READ THE HANDWRITING ON THE WALL…

 The handwriting on the wall; just one of many sayings we use to remind each other how blind sometimes we may be. Even if nothing is wrong with our vision, we may be blind. We remind ourselves that things are not often as they seem, don’t judge a book by its cover, we can’t see the forest for the trees, you have to read between the lines. In light of today’s Gospel, and as people of faith, we all are being challenged to address spiritual blindness. We all are being challenged to see with the eyes of Christ.

 On this 4th Sunday of Lent, as we wear the rose colored vestments, we listen to John’s Gospel once again and the story of the man born blind. John’s Gospel comes much later than the other 3; written almost 60 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. His audience is already dealing with the early years of the Church. First, John gives us the physical healing of the blind beggar. In a sacramental way, using matter and form in the mud, spit and words, Jesus cured the blind man; physically. But the larger lesson in this Gospel is the gradual spiritual blindness that Jesus heals too. As the Gospel passage continues, the blind man recounts what happened and declares Jesus a prophet and later tells Jesus I do believe and he worshipped Him. Our spiritual blindness sometimes prevents us from seeing Jesus. We may have our physical sight, but often we remain blind to all Jesus calls us to see. Most importantly, He tells us to see Him in the Most Blessed Sacrament. As we approach to receive Him in Holy Communion today, do we see Jesus in the tiny host? With physical eyes we may see ordinary bread. With eyes of faith, we see Jesus, fully present. And Jesus challenges us to see Him in our brothers and sisters; most especially our persecuted and marginalized brothers and sisters. With our spiritual eyesight can we see Jesus in the homeless, the street corner beggar, and the elderly left alone in the nursing home, those we still fear because of race or color, the dying, the poor, the prisoner?

 I’ve shared with you my prison ministry at Rayburn. I visit some pretty hard core guys. Many are doing some serious time. I always thought that my job was to be Jesus to them, and I try to do that. What I have found, week after week, is Jesus present in them, sharing Him with me. On our retreat two weeks ago I sat with an inmate who told me he just as soon kill me as pray with me. By the end of the weekend he was hugging me and praying for me and asking God for mercy and forgiveness. With spiritual eyesight, I saw Christ in that inmate.

 Our spiritual eyesight is also what Jesus asks us to use to see our own sinfulness so we may ask for God’s forgiveness and mercy. In this 4th week of Lent we should challenge ourselves to return to confession and see with eyes of faith Christ’s forgiveness in the priest who says I absolve you of your sins.

 In this Gospel we also are challenged to consider the beggar. Many of us have passed beggars in our life and have thought; what a waste. We may also have those same thoughts with the people in our lives that seem to have no remaining value. Remember when Jesus said to the disciples that he was blind so that the works of God might be made visible? Again, this is a challenge for us. At the end of my mom’s life, she was weak, frail and afraid. To a stranger, it may have appeared pathetic, hopeless. In those last days, God revealed to me, through my mom, that those who are frail, weak, lost or marginalized help us to reveal His glory. By our response to their needs and our spiritual vision to see Jesus in them, we give glory to God.

 This week, can we work on our spiritual blindness? Can we pray: open our eyes Lord; I want to see your face? May we not be like the Pharisees, saying surely I’m not blind? Acknowledge our spiritual blindness this week in confession or a Lenten devotion or in our response to all that we encounter during the week. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost but now I’m found was blind but now I see. And take time to read the handwriting on the wall!

Mourning the loss of an Australian Bishop who worked for ecumenism particularly with the Methodist Church

Vatican's Council for Christian Unity mourns death of Bishop Putney

(Vatican Radio) The diocese of Townsville in north-eastern Australia on Friday announced the death of Bishop Michael Putney who had been diagnosed with cancer in December 2012. Born in 1946, Bishop Michael’s death comes one day after he marked his 13th year as head of the city’s Catholic community.

Beyond the Catholic Church in Australia, Bishop Michael is also being mourned by all those in the ecumenical world where he played a vital role as co-chairman of the Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission. On hearing the news of his death, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity issued the following statement:

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our esteemed colleague the Rt Rev Michael Putney. Bishop Michael has been an inspiring and dedicated member of this Council for many years and has worked untiringly for the cause of Christian Unity at many levels. We have been blessed to have his wise counsel and constant encouragement in fulfilling the ecumenical commitment entrusted to our Church by the Second Vatican Council, a commitment which, in a real sense, was the guiding passion of Bishop Michael’s life and ministry.

As Co-Chairman of the Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission for many years, Bishop Michael brought to bear his theological expertise, his sensitivity and his great human warmth. The friendships formed in that dialogue were deep and the messages from around the world demonstrate the great affection in which Bishop Michael was held by our ecumenical partners. The current Methodist Co-Chairman, Rev David Chapman, wrote of Bishop Michael, that he was “not only a much-loved co-chair of the dialogue but also a father in God to all of us serving on the commission.”

Diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2012, Bishop Michael continued to serve in his diocese, and described 2013 as “one of the most amazing years of my life” and “my miracle”. His unflagging zeal and infectious optimism touched many with whom he shared this journey, both within his diocese and far beyond.

The day before he was admitted into hospital he attended the book launch of his autobiography, My Ecumenical Journey. We have lost a fellow traveller who sustained us and encouraged us with his own extraordinary gifts. However, his prayers will be with us as we continue to journey towards the unity for which Christ prayed.

Text from page
of the Vatican Radio website

Friday, March 28, 2014

German Bishop jailed for defending the faith

St. Ludolf of Ratzeburg

Image of St. Ludolf of Ratzeburg


Feastday: March 29
Death: 1250

Ludolf was a Norbertine priest (a canon regular of the Premonstratensian Order). In 1236 he was chosen to become bishop of the German see of Ratzeburg. While fulfilling his episcopal duties, he continued the practices of his Norbertine religious life. For his courageous defense of the Church, he was imprisoned and harshly treated by Duke Albrecht of Saxony-Lauenburg. Subsequently he fell ill and died from what he had suffered. A soldier tormented by excruciating pains in his head resulting from an arrowhead that had become embedded in his flesh during battle invoked the intercession of Saint Ludolf. Soon afterward, he found that the arrowhead had shifted to the surface of his head wound, so that he was able to extricate it with his hand. In thanksgiving to God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Saint Ludolf, the soldier donated to the Church a lavishly decorated missal and several beautifully adorned liturgical vestments.

Now here is something you don't see everyday; the Pope goes to confession in plain view

Pope Francis Breaks Tradition and Stuns Thousands With Bold Move

Pope Francis stunned parishioners, faith leaders and his own master of ceremonies Friday when he broke protocol to do something wholly unexpected: he bowed down in front of the crowd at St. Peter’s Basilica and confessed his sins to an ordinary priest, Reuters reported.
Typically, the pope goes to confession in private, so his decision was a departure from the past.
Francis made the noteworthy move after uttering a sermon in which he covered the importance of confession in the Catholic faith.
In this picture made available by the Vatican newspaper L’ Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis is confessed by a priest in St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Vatican, Friday, March 28, 2014. AP Photo/L’ Osservatore Romano)
“Who can say he is not a sinner? Nobody. We all are,” the pope told an audience of thousands.
Afterward, he was supposed to join 60 priests around the massive church in hearing the sins of the faithful, but he had a very different plan.
In this picture made available by the Vatican newspaper L’ Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis is confessed by a priest in St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Vatican, Friday, March 28, 2014. (AP Photo/L’ Osservatore Romano)
When Monsignor Guido Marini, master of ceremonies, pointed Francis toward an empty booth to hear the congregants’ sins, the pope went to a different booth and knelt before a priest to share his own sins for a few minutes.
After that, Francis did hear confessions from the faithful.

Another promising development in the battle against HHS and religious intolerance

Catholic Groups Exempted from Contraceptive Mandate

Federal judge says religious groups don't have to trigger third-party coverage
, Daily Report                                             
Judge William Duffey ruled in favor of the Atlanta Catholic archdiocese and Savannah diocese.
Judge William Duffey ruled in favor of the Atlanta Catholic archdiocese and Savannah diocese.
A federal judge in Atlanta ruled Wednesday that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah are "entirely exempt" from the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act, including a provision that would let their female employees or female family members secure contraceptive coverage from their third-party insurers.
U.S. District Judge William Duffey Jr. also permanently enjoined the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from enforcing the contraceptive mandate against Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese, a nonprofit organization that provides social services; and Catholic Education of North Georgia Inc., which operates five Catholic schools that educate nearly 12,000 students and employ more than 4,800 teachers and administrators.
The judge also permanently barred HHS, the U.S. Labor Department and the U.S. Treasury from enforcing federal regulations associated with the mandate that would require Catholic Charities and Catholic Education of North Georgia to notify their third-party insurers that they did not intend to offer contraceptive coverage. That notification—called a self-certification form—would trigger a provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires third-party insurers to make contraceptive coverage available to employees whose employers won't cover contraception for religious reasons.

Read more:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dominican Preacher & Crusader

St. Venturino of Bergamo

Image of St. Venturino of Bergamo


Feastday: March 28
Birth: 1304
Death: 1346

Dominican preacher and missionary crusader. A native of Bergamo, Italy, he joined the Dominicans in 1319 and soon distinguished himself as a brilliant preacher, attracting huge crowds throughout northern Italy. Pleased with his ability to reach large numbers of believers, he announced in 1335 his intention to go on a pilgrimage to Rome. When Pope Benedict XII (r. 1334-1342) learned of the pilgrimage, he feared Venturino might be planning to crown himself pope, and so forbade the friar to proceed. This decree was joined by one issued by the Dominicans themselves at the Chapter in London (1335). Ignorant of these bans, Venturino proceeded to Rome and then to Avignon where he was arrested and imprisoned until 1343. He is also known for helping to organize a crusade, at the behest of Pope Clement VI (r. 1342-1352), against the Turks who were then menacing Europe.

More details released from Pope's meeting with President Obama

Pope Francis raises abortion, religious liberty in candid meeting with Obama

  • Thu Mar 27, 2014

Rome Correspondent Hilary White contributed to this report.
ROME, March 27, 2014 ( – In their first face-to-face meeting, Pope Francis reiterated the Catholic Church's concerns with President Barack Obama's policies on abortion, conscience rights, and freedom of religion.
A source familiar with the talks told LifeSiteNews that the Vatican press release on the meeting was "remarkably forthright" in emphasizing the fact that the pope raised these issues with the president.
According to the press release, the pope launched a discussion with the American president about the proper role of church and state, raising “questions of particular relevance for the [Catholic] Church in that country.” These included “the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life, and conscientious objection,” according to the Vatican.
The 52-minute-long meeting marked Obama's first audience with Pope Francis. The divide between the Obama administration and the Catholic Church has deepened since his meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, with broiling arguments over the president's promotion of abortion-on-demand, same-sex “marriage,” and the HHS contraceptive/abortifacient mandate.
The USCCB has spoken out against the mandate that employers provide female employees with contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs with no co-pay. Pope Francis today restated their concerns that the ObamaCare policy forced Catholics to violate their deeply held religious beliefs.
The policy even impacts American nuns. The Little Sisters of the Poor do not automatically qualify for the Affordable Care Act's constricted religious exemption because they serve non-Catholic poor, and refuse to sign a waiver implying their approval of contraceptive use. “We believe the government's attempt to coerce us in this manner is wrong, and that it violates our religious liberty,” the Sisters said last year.
The Supreme Court has yet to rule on the mandate's constitutionality.
Pope Francis presented President Obama with a copy of his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium ("The Joy of the Gospel"), which criticizes some public figures who attempt to marginalize the pro-life message by presenting it as “ideological, obscurantist, and conservative.”
“This defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right,” Pope Francis wrote. “It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development.”
The president said he may look at it. “You know, I actually will probably read this when I'm in the Oval Office,” Obama responded, “when I am deeply frustrated, and I am sure it will give me strength and will calm me down.”
The pope and President Obama pledged their mutual support to eradicating human trafficking around the world.
However, the Obama administration cut all federal grants to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' efforts to combat human trafficking in 2011, because the group refuses to refer pregnant women for abortions.

Some observers had expected this morning's meeting inside the Vatican to sidestep contentious moral issues in favor of greater economic intervention. Before their meeting, Obama told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that Pope Francis gave “great moral authority” to his call to address income inequality between “those at the very top and the income of the typical family.”
“It isn't just an economic issue,” the president said. “It's a moral issue.”
However, it is not clear from the Vatican that the issue of economic redistribution was raised.
“We hope the takeaway from today’s meeting is not a photo-op used to promote the President’s partisan domestic agenda,” Maureen Ferguson, senior policy adviser for The Catholic Association, said. “Today’s meeting comes at a time when the Obama administration is battling the Catholic Church in the U.S. over her right to be Catholic – fighting all the way to the Supreme Court to force people of faith, including nuns who care for the poor, to violate Church teaching or face massive government fines.”
International tensions were addressed, as both the pope and President Obama are deeply involved in the current tensions between Russia, Crimea, and Ukraine.
Vatican officials described the meeting as “cordial.” President Obama walked past the ceremonial Swiss Guard and shook Pope Francis' hand, bowing slightly.
For his part, Obama presented Pope Francis with a collection of seeds from the White House garden in a chest made from the first Catholic cathedral in the United States, after hearing that the pope enjoys gardening.
“His Holiness is probably the only person who has to put up with more protocol than me,” Obama joked, referring to the two men's respective meetings with foreign dignitaries and attendant security details.
Also present at the meeting were Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican's secretary for relations with states.
The previous day, Pope Francis met with another American delegation led by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, an outspoken critic of the HHS mandate and proponent of appropriate Christian engagement with the political sphere.

New Orleans based federal appeals court uphold recent Texas pro-life laws

Breaking--US Appeals Court Upholds New Texas Abortion Rules

AUSTIN, TEXAS (AP)--A federal appeals court has upheld new abortion restrictions that shuttered many of the abortions clinics in Texas.

The New Orleans-based U.S. 5th Circuit issued the ruling Thursday, overturning a lower court's decision that the rules violated the U.S. Constitution and served no medical purpose.
Texas lawmakers last year passed some of the toughest restrictions in the U.S. on when, where and how women may obtain an abortion. The Republican-controlled Legislature required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and placed strict limits on doctors prescribing abortion-inducing pills.
In its opinion, the appeals court said Texas lawmakers were within their rights to impose the rules. Other federal courts have reached the opposite conclusion, setting the stage for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Follow Breitbart Texas on Twitter @BreitbartTexas

One of the early desert hermits; a prophet and a preacher

St. John of Egypt


Feastday: March 27
Death: 394

One of the most famous early desert hermits, a noted prophet of his era. He was born in Lycopolis, modern Assiut, Egypt, and became a hermit at the age of twenty. He was walled up in a hermitage near Assiut, with a single window opening onto the public. There he preached to vast crowds each weekend. He predicted two military victories for Emperor Theodosius I, and they were proven accurate in 388 and 392. The cell in which John spent his life was discovered in 1925.

The Pope and the President meet

An Exchange of Views, Some in Accord

President Obama Meets With Pope Francis

President Obama meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Thursday. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times         

VATICAN CITY — President Obama met for the first time with Pope Francis on Thursday, sitting across from the pope at a simple desk in the papal library for a discussion that was expected to explore their philosophical common ground and their differences.
Arriving at the Vatican for his morning meeting, Mr. Obama enthusiastically greeted the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. “Wonderful meeting you,” the president said. “Thank you sir, thank you.” A few minutes later, as he entered the library, the president added “It is a great honor. I’m a great admirer. Thank you so much for receiving me.”
It was the second papal meeting for Mr. Obama, who met Pope Benedict XVI on a prior visit to the Vatican. But the visit with Francis was laden with more symbolism as both men share similar ambitions to change the economic fortunes of working class people and the poor.
The 52-minute long meeting also came amid some serious disagreements between the Catholic Church in America and Mr. Obama’s administration on issues like abortion, same-sex marriage and contraception.
Mr. Obama entered the Vatican just before 10:30 a.m., making his way through the center of Clementine Hall, a large anteroom. He proceeded past a dozen members of the Swiss Guard, standing at attention in their traditional purple and gold striped uniforms, designed originally by Michelangelo, with helmets that have bright red plumes.
Before moving into the private meeting with Francis, the president said, “I bring greetings from my family. The last time I came here to meet your predecessor, I was able to bring my wife and children.”
White House officials said that Mr. Obama presented the pope with a custom-made seed chest featuring a variety of fruit and vegetable seeds used in the White House Garden. Officials said the chest with the seeds was made from reclaimed wood from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pope Francis is very serious and it appears many Bishop's need to climb on board

Pope replaces German 'bling bishop' after inquiry

Associated Press
FILE - In this Aug. 29, 2013 file photo the Bishop of Limburg Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst blesses a new Kindergarten in Frankfurt, Germany. Pope Francis on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 permanently removed a German bishop from his Limburg diocese after his 31 million-euro ($43-million) new residence complex caused an uproar among the faithful. Francis had temporarily expelled Monsignor Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst from Limburg in October pending a church inquiry into the affair. The Vatican said Wednesday that the inquiry found that Tebartz-van Elst could no longer exercise his ministry and that Francis had accepted his resignation, which was originally offered Oct. 20. A replacement, Monsignor Manfred Grothe, currently an auxiliary bishop in Paderborn, will take over, the Vatican said, citing a statement from the diocese. It said Tebartz-van Elst would get a new job “at the opportune time. (AP Photo/Michael Probst, Files)
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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Wednesday permanently removed a German bishop from his Limburg diocese after his 31 million-euro ($43-million) new residence complex caused an uproar among the faithful.
Francis had temporarily expelled Monsignor Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst from Limburg in October pending a church inquiry.
At the center of the controversy was the price tag for the construction of a new bishop's residence complex and related renovations. Tebartz-van Elst defended the expenditures, saying the bill was actually for 10 projects and there were additional costs because the buildings were under historical protection.
But in a country where Martin Luther launched the Reformation five centuries ago in response to what he said were excesses and abuses within the church, the outcry was enormous. The perceived lack of financial transparency also struck a chord since a church tax in Germany brings in billions a year to the German church.
The Vatican said Wednesday that the inquiry into the renovation found that Tebartz-van Elst could no longer exercise his ministry in Limburg and that Francis had accepted his resignation, which was originally offered Oct. 20.
The Vatican said Monsignor Manfred Grothe, currently an auxiliary bishop in Paderborn, would take over but that Tebartz-van Elst would get a new job "at the opportune time."
It added that the pope hoped that the faithful of Limburg would accept the decision with "docility and willingness to rediscover a climate of charity and reconciliation."
In Berlin, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the head of the German Bishops' Conference, told reporters he would do whatever he could to help the Limburg dioceses move on.
"For that we will need reconciliation, new trust and the power of prayer," he said.
Francis has called on his priests and bishops to be models of sobriety in a church that "is poor and is for the poor."