Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Pope offers prayers for Charlie Gard

Pope Prays for Charlie Gard and His Parents
Asks Faithful to Join in Prayer So They Find God’s Consolation and Love

“Pope Francis is praying for Charlie and his parents, and feels especially close to them at this time of immense suffering. The Holy Father asks that we join in prayer that they may find God’s consolation and love.”
This declaration was made by Director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, today, in response to the parents of the British 11-month-year old baby, deciding today to abandon their legal battle to bring the infant to the United States for treatment with a therapy thought to help his mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome.
Recently, medical examinations showed the baby to have irreversible brain damage and no active function.

Fountains off at the Vatican; drought in Rome

Pope Francis shuts off Vatican fountains due to Italy drought

Nuns walks past an empty fountain in St Peter's Square, in Vatican city, after the Vatican authorities decision to turn off some of the 100 fountains due to a drought affecting Rome, on July 25, 2017.
Andreas Solaro / AFP/Getty Images  
The Vatican began turning off its fountains due to an ongoing drought in Italy, the BBC reported Tuesday.
This spring has been Italy's third-driest in 60 years, and the lack of rainfall has cost the Italian agriculture sector nearly 2.3 billion dollars.
The Vatican has approximately 100 fountains, some of which are considered artistic masterpieces, and Vatican spokesman Greg Burke told the Reuters news agency that the move was the Vatican's way of standing side by side with the city of Rome during the crisis.
"As far as we know, at least in our memory, this is the first time we've had to shut the fountains down," he said.
A woman looks at an empty fountain in St Peter's Square, in Vatican city, after the Vatican authorities decision to turn off some of the 100 fountains due to a drought affecting Rome, on July 25, 2017.
Andreas Solaro / AFP/Getty Images
"This is the Vatican's way of living solidarity with Rome, trying to help Rome get through this crisis. Essentially, the water that comes into the Vatican comes from the same place as where the water comes and goes to Rome, and this is our way of trying to help out the city," he continued.
A report on Vatican Radio said the decision was consistent with Pope Francis' teachings on the environment: The Pope has denounced waste and emphasized the importance of access to clean drinking water.
"This decision is very much in line with the pope's thinking on ecology," Burke said. "You can't waste, and sometimes you have to be willing to make a sacrifice. We have very beautiful gardens in the Vatican. They might not be as green this year, but we'll survive."

Feast Day of an Apostle; the 1st Apostle to be martyrd for the faith

St. James the Greater


Image of St. James the Greater


Feastday: July 25
Patron of pilgrims and Spain
Death: 44

Nothing is known of St. James the Greater's early life, though it has been established that he is the son of Zebedee and Salome and brother of John the disciple.
The title "the Greater" was added to St. James' name to help distinguish him from the Apostle James "the Less," who is believed to have been shorter than James "the Greater."
Saint James the Greater was one of Jesus' first disciples. James was fishing with his father and John the Apostle when Jesus came to the shores of the Sea of Galilee and called for the fisherman, who were unable to catch any fish that day, to dip their nets in the water once again.
When the fishermen followed Jesus' instructions, they found their nets full, and after emptying the fish on board, the boats nearly sank from their weight.
Later, James was one of only three called by Jesus to witness his Transfiguration, and when he and his brother wanted to call fire upon a Samaritan town, both were rebuked by Jesus.
Following Christ's Ascension, James spread the Gospel across Israel and the Roman kingdom as well. He traveled and spread the Word for nearly forty years in Spain.
It is said that one day, as he prayed, The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him and asked him to build her a church, which he did.
Later, James returned to Jerusalem but was martyred for his faith by King Herod, who decapitated him. Saint James the Greater is known as the first apostle to die.
As he was not allowed to be buried following his martyrdom, his remains were taken to Compostela, Spain, by some of his followers, who buried him.
In the ninth century his remains were discovered and moved to a tomb in Santiago de Compostela. Today, his remains can still be found in the Cathedral of Santiago.
Because Santiago de Compostela is the most frequently visited place pilgrims migrate to following Rome and Jerusalem, Pope Leo declared it a shrine.
St. James the Greater Prayer
O glorious Apostle,
St. James, who by reason of thy fervent and generous heart
wast chosen by Jesus to be a witness of His glory on Mount Tabor,
and of His agony in Gethsemane;
thou, whose very name is a symbol of warfare and victory:
obtain for us strength and consolation in the unending warfare of this life,
that, having constantly and generously followed Jesus,
we may be victors in the strife and deserve to receive the victor's crown in heaven.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Church is for everyone; because everyone can repent and ask for mercy

A Walk on the Holy Side: Nun Helps Transgendered Find Christ

Sister Monica Astorga via Facebook

A safe place, decent work, and an atmosphere of prayer help former prostitutes in Argentina

For the past 10 years, Sister Monica Astorga, a Discalced Carmelite in the central Argentine city of Neuquen, has helped a group of transvestites and transsexuals who decided to give up prostitution and addictions to alcohol and drugs. She has started them on the path of recovery and reintegration into society.
It began in 2005, when a transvestite named Romina showed up at her Carmel. Romina had tried to make a donation to a local parish, Our Lady of Lourdes, but when the parish found out that the money came from prostitution, the matter was referred to the nun.
Sister Monica talked for an hour with the Romina, who felt inspired to bring friends to the convent.
A few days later, these friends did come; they prayed together and shared their experiences and sorrows—especially, the religious said, from the years where they were abused as children.
“We went to pray and afterwards, I asked them, ‘What are your dreams?’ because a person without dreams doesn’t have a life. They told me that they wanted to become hairdressers or cooks and have their own business. But one group member named Katty told me that she wanted to have a clean bed to die in. “Why? Because the average age of a transgendered person is about 40 years,” the religious said.
At that point, the nun heard a calling and decided to get down to work.  She contacted Caritas in Neuquen and Bishop Virginio Bressanelli and opened a hair salon and a dressmaking cooperative. A home was renovated as a residence.
“It was thought that the house would be a place for them to die in, but that was too upsetting,” Sister Monica said. “So we decided to make it a meeting place, and I asked the bishop if I could use it as a sewing workshop.”
Katty, who wanted a clean bed to die, now leads the meetings and the sewing courses and hosts more transsexuals and transvestites from the streets.
“We have a monthly meeting. Seeing them praying for peace and joy and other things is something you have to see to believe. You will see that you are dealing with human beings, not animals, as some people sometimes treat them. For me it is very rewarding to see them pray. I believe my level of prayer cannot be compared with theirs.
She continued: “In the beginning, they couldn’t even speak because they were used to fighting. In the past, they competed to get the best places on the street, and they also saw younger ones coming. Now it’s different. They can converse and instead of gathering to drink and use drugs or talk about clients, there is dialogue. They converse quietly. This is a life for them.”
“I do this out of faith,” Sister Monica said. “I try to introduce God into their lives, that they may feel loved by God. I help them feel loved by Jesus, to see him as a friend who loves them as they are,” continued.
But the work has been full of obstacles, she said. “People asked me why there were transgendered people in church. I told them the Church is for everyone. Who was Jesus with? With sinners. What is important here is that they live in dignity, so they don’t have to sleep on the street in cold temperatures—even below zero. What I offer them is a space for prayer and to find a way to work, and the rest is for the judgment of God, which I know is so merciful.”
But the work over the years has also left Sister Monica with plenty of stories, such as Romina, the first who came to her. “She told me she felt a fight against the devil, because she was working in the hair salon, but sometimes she felt the desire to go look for another man, but she said when she felt that temptation she always asked Our Lady to help him. Another told me about taking a drink of holy water to go against the temptations. These are very strong testimonies that Jesus surely encountered when he was with prostitutes and sinners.”
According to the nun, Pope Francis, the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, knows about the work she does, and this gives her the strength she needs to continue. “In a letter, he asked me to ‘not abandon this leadership the Lord has given you’. He offered his help for what I need.”
When Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope, Sister Monica sent greetings to the new Bishop of Rome from herself and her “girls.”
“He responded saying that he doesn’t judge them and he loves them and may they know that Jesus and Mary love them so much,” she said.
The nun wishes that society would be conscious of the pain these people feel. She tells people that they might have family members who are homosexual. “I ask you to receive them with the love they deserve. Do not reject them because in some cases that could send them into prostitution. All this can be avoided with the support of the families.”

This article appeared on the website of Aleteia’s Spanish edition and comes from the Argentine Catholic Information Agency.

The universality of the Church: this Saint is from Lebanon

July 24

Saint Sharbel Makhlūf, Priest

Optional Memorial
St. Sharbel was born in Lebanon in 1828, a devout son in a humble family. At the age of 23, he joined a Maronite monastic community of Our Lady of Mayfouk, but after transferred to the Monastery of St. Maron near Beirut. There, he took vows and began studying for the priesthood. After his ordination, he spent many years in his monastery living a very ascetical way of life. In 1875 he received permission to live as a hermit in a chapel overseen by the monastery. For 23 years, he lived there as a hermit. Paul VI canonized him in 1977 as a shining example of an Eastern Christian sanctity

Great news: the Catholic Archbishop of Mosul reclaims the Archdiocese

Prelate Reclaims Archdiocese of Mosul
Syriac-Catholic Archbishop Petros Mouche of Mosul, Iraq’s 2nd Largest City, Discusses Situation
Damaged Christian home in Qaraoqosh, Nineveh Plain -- ACN Photo
When Pope Francis met US President Donald Trump in late May, a Vatican statement said their discussion made “particular reference to the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities.” That need for security has become particularly urgent in Iraq now that Mosul and the Nineveh Plains have been recaptured from ISIS. Displaced Christians want to return to their homes in the newly-liberated territory, but that can only happen when their safety is guaranteed and when regional and world governments supply adequate funding to rebuild communities devastated by ISIS. In this interview, provided by Aid to the Church in Need, a local Church leader assesses the situation.
Prelate reclaims Archdiocese of Mosul

Now that Mosul has been recaptured from ISIS, will Christians be able to return to their homes there soon? It’s too soon to tell, according to Syriac-Catholic Archbishop Petros Mouche of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. He spoke with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
By Olivier Labesse
How did you experience the liberation of Mosul?
As a sign of hope for us Christians. ISIS was driven off. I hope that the attitude of the people will change. The destruction in Mosul occurred on an enormous scale. For us Syriac-Catholic Christians in Iraq, liberation is of course a cause for great joy because the bulk my diocese is comprised by Mosul and Qaraqosh and environs. Today, Mosul is completely destroyed. Officially, all parts of the city have been liberated, even though there are still militants hiding in a number of places. But they will soon be found and captured.
Everything needs to be rebuilt. When will the Christians be able to return to Mosul?
Perhaps in a few years. People will return from time to time to check on their houses, but at the moment one cannot permanently stay in Mosul. However, many people can return to the Nineveh Plains.  A good number of families have already arrived there. Some have found work or started restaurants, shops and businesses. It takes a lot of courage to start from scratch again!
Apart from military measures, how can Islamic fundamentalism be combated?
That is exactly what makes it so difficult: you have to be able to affect a change in attitude. In view of the peculiar ideology of these jihadist groups, one has to understand that war is not a solution. We have to be able to live together. We have always lived together and this never was a problem. These recent events have given rise to great hope: that life will begin all over again and that the people will learn how to live together. We are all sick of war. Wars have been fought in Iraq off and on since 1958. We have to learn how to live in peace.
What is your message to donors in the West?
I would of course like to express my heartfelt thanks because their presence is always felt among us and in our diaspora. With their support, we will be able to rebuild our houses. It is a great mercy that we can count on their help. After all, the Syriac-Catholic Christians were the hardest-hit group. They represent 60 percent of those who fled the Nineveh Plains in the summer of 2014, when ISIS invaded the region. But there will always be help.
The challenges facing Christians on the Nineveh Plains are enormous: Currently there are still 14,000 families who have fled from Mosul and the Nineveh Plains living in Erbil (approximately 90,000 people); nearly 13,000 homes have to be repaired or rebuilt; there are security concerns in the villages; there is Kurdish-Iraqi political manoeuvring on the ground; there are massive infrastructure concerns (water, electricity, roads, schools and clinics; and, most urgently, the IDPs in Erbil will continue to need food aid as well as help paying the rent, pending their hoped-for eventual return to their homes on the Nineveh Plains.
To-date, 599 families have returned to the Nineveh Plains and 342 properties are being renovated, in part through funding by ACN. Since the crisis began, ACN has provided ongoing support to the Christian refugees in northern Iraq. To date, close to $35M has been donated for emergency aid, including food, education, housing, pastoral help and reconstruction.
Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA);www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Monday Saint of the Day

St. John Boste

Image of St. John Boste


Feastday: July 24
Birth: 1544
Death: 1594

One of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. He was born at Dufton, at Westmoreland, England, and studied at Oxford. Becoming a Catholic in 1576, he went to Reims and received ordination in 1581. John went back to England where he worked in the northern parts of the kingdom and became the object of a massive manhunt. He was betrayed, arrested, and taken to London. There he was crippled on the rack and returned to Dryburn near Durham. On July 24, he was hanged, drawn, and quartered. John was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970 as a martyr of Durham

Homily 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

A man lay dying, and they laughed.  The latest sad story to come to us in the week that was showed us the mean and ugly side of humanity.  A 31-year old disabled man decided to go swimming in a retention pond, perhaps to simply escape the heat of a southern summer day.  It was not a good decision and the man began to struggle in the water, crying out for help.  Nearby were three young men, close enough to hear him and close enough to help him.  Yet there would be no help.  The three bystanders instead begin to yell insults and taunts at the drowning man and chose to film his struggle and death.  Imagine dying and the last words you hear on earth are the insults and just plain meanness of fellow human beings.  There will always be weeds among the wheat.  Incredibly there is possibly no law with which to charge the three with a crime.  God knows hearts and we remember there is a reason we pray for mercy for "what we have done and what we have failed to do".

As people of faith, we are called to be God's wheat and to plant seeds of faith!

This reading from Matthew Chapter 13 gives us this well known parable often referred to simply as the "wheat and the weeds".  We learn of a dastardly act of the "enemy" to plant weeds among his neighbors bumper crop of wheat.  Specifically planted was a weed called the darnel or the tares; weeds that early on resemble wheat and only reveal themselves as weeds at harvest time.  Imagine the extent to which the enemy worked on this; no seeds, no machinery, only cultivating weeds for a long period of time to ruin the field of wheat.  This enemy planned a long time to sew these weeds.  But our farmer is a wise and patient man, as our Father is wise and patient and merciful.  Don't pull up the weeds, let then grow with the wheat.  At the harvest the wheat will be collected as a prized harvest while the weeds will be collected and thrown into the fire.  Yes, at the end of time, there will be a harvest; we can be wheat, or we can be weeds.  You and I are called to be wheat, to grow in this world along with the weeds, to be a good witness to the faith; our prayer life, our spiritual life and our life of service to God by being of service to our brother and sister, particularly those who are in most need or struggle to help themselves.

And let us remember, while there are weeds among us, there can also be weeds within us.  In our own hearts and souls, we can certainly afford to do a little internal weeding.  Let us pluck those weeds in our own lives so we may be a powerful witness of the wheat that allows us to shine like the sun in our Father's kingdom.

Jesus proposed other parables in this Gospel and I want to mention that mustard seed.  From our own gardening experiences at home, my wife and I have been amazed at the bountiful harvest of fresh vegetables and even some fruit from the tiniest of seeds.  Jesus tells us that the mustard seed is the tiniest, yet it produces such a large bush that the birds can dwell within.  We start from the tiniest of seeds and Jesus us wants us to be great in the kingdom.  Look how the Church, started by Jesus with 12 Apostles and a handful of followers is now a church of 1.2 billion, in every nation, every continent, from the rising of the sun to it's setting.  How about our own dear parish, just 20 years ago we offered 4 masses total and all were not full; today 6 masses all full including one mass in the extraordinary form.  When I think about small I often remember St. Teresa of Calcutta, Mother Teresa.  Her missionary work, begun humbly in India, now offers care and prayer for the poor and disabled and elderly in 130 countries.  And her philosophy was simple, summed up in this harvest metaphor:

The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.  And here is the answer to live the life of good wheat and planting good seed; to plant seeds of prayer, faith, love and service.  And the promise is peace and when we have that peace, we can respond like this:

 People are often unreasonable, irrational and self-centered; forgive them anyway

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish. ulterior motives; be kind anyway

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and genuine enemies, succeed anyway

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you; be honest and sincere anyway

What you spend years creating others could destroy overnight, create anyway

If you find serenity and happiness some may be jealous, be happy anyway

The good you do today will often be forgotten, do good anyway

Give the best you have, it will never be enough, give your best anyway

We can be weeds or we can be wheat; be wheat anyway.

And plant those small seeds that produce an abundant harvest of prayer, faith, love, service and peace.

Today's Sunday Angelus on the parable of the wheat and the weeds

Angelus Address: On the Parable of the Good Seed and the Darnel
“Which Illustrates the Problem of Evil in the World and Highlights God’s Patience”
Angelus / Foto: Francesco Sforza - © PHOTO.VA - OSSERVATORE ROMANO
Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
* * *
Before the Angelus
Today’s Gospel page proposes three parables with which Jesus speaks to the crowds of the Kingdom of Heaven. I will reflect on the first: that of the good seed and the darnel, which illustrates the problem of evil in the world and highlights God’s patience (Cf. Matthew 13:24-30.36-43). How much patience God has! Each one of us can also say this: “How much patience God has with me!” The story unfolds in a field with two opposite protagonists. On one hand the householder, who represents God and sows the good seed; on the other the enemy, which represents Satan and sows the darnel.
With the passing of time, darnel also grows in the midst of the wheat and in face of this fact the householder and his servants have different attitudes. . The servants want to intervene and pull out the darnel, but the householder, who is concerned above all with saving the wheat, is opposed saying: “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them” (V. 29). With this image Jesus tells is that in this world the good and the evil are so intertwined that it is impossible to separate and extirpate all the evil. God alone can do this, and He will do so in the Last Judgment. The present situation, with its ambiguities and its composite character, is the field of the freedom, the field of the freedom of Christians, in which the difficult exercise of discernment between good and evil takes place. 
Therefore, in this field, it is about combining, with great trust in God and in His Providence, two seemingly contradictory attitudes: decision and patience. The decision is to want to be the good seed — we all want this, with all our strength, and, hence, distancing ourselves from the Evil One and his seductions. Patience means to prefer a Church that is leaven in the dough, who does not fear soiling her hands washing the clothes of her children, rather than a Church of “pure ones,” that pretends to judge before the time who is an who is not in the Kingdom of God.
The Lord, who is Wisdom incarnate, helps us today to understand that the good and the evil cannot be identified with defined territories or specific human groups: “These are the good, these are the evil.” He tells us that the boundary line between the good and the evil passes in the heart of every person, passes in the heart of every one of us, that is, we are all sinners. The desire comes to me to ask you: “Let him who is not a sinner raise his hand.” No one! Because we all are, we are all sinners. Jesus Christ, with His Death on the Cross and Resurrection, has freed us from the slavery of sin and He gives us the grace to walk in a new life. However, with Baptism He has also given us Confession, because we are always in need of being forgiven for our sins. To look always at the evil that is outside of us, means to not want to recognize the sin that is also in us.
And then Jesus shows us a different way of looking at the field of the world, of observing the reality. We are called to learn the times of God – which are not our times – and also God’s “look”: thanks to the beneficial influence of an anxious wait, what was darnel or seemed to be darnel can become a good product. It is the reality of conversion. It is the prospect of hope!
May the Virgin Mary help us to pick up in the reality that surrounds us not only the filth and evil but also the good and beautiful; to unmask Satan’s work but especially to trust in God’s action that makes history fruitful.
[Original text: Italian]  [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester] 
After the Angelus 
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I follow with trepidation the grave tensions and violence of these days in Jerusalem. I feel the need to express a heartfelt appeal to moderation and to dialogue. I invite you to join me in prayer that the Lord may inspire all with resolutions of reconciliation and peace.
I greet all of you, faithful of Rome and pilgrims of various parts of he world: the families, parish groups, Associations. In particular, I greet the faithful of Munster (Ireland); the Elisabettine Bigie Franciscan Sisters; the Symphonic Lyrical Choir of Enna; the young people of Casamassima who have engaged in voluntary service at Rome.
My thought and encouragement goes to the youngsters taking part in the Cantiere Hombre Mundo,” who are committed to witnessing the joy of the Gospel in the most disadvantaged peripheries of the various Continents.
I wish you all a good Sunday. And please, do not forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch and goodbye!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Apostle to the Apostles; the 1st to see the risen Lord

St. Mary Magdalene

Image of St. Mary Magdalene


Feastday: July 22
Patron of contemplative life, converts, glove makers, hairdressers, penitent sinners, people ridiculed for their piety, perfumeries, pharmacists, sexual temptation, tanners, women

St. Mary Magdalene is one of the greatest saints of the Bible and a legendary example of God's mercy and grace. The precise dates of her birth and death are unknown, but we do know she was present with Christ during his public ministry, death and resurrection. She is mentioned at least a dozen times in the Gospels.
Mary Magdalene has long been regarded as a prostitute or sexually immoral in western Christianity, but this is not supported in the scriptures. It is believed she was a Jewish woman who lived among Gentiles, living as they did.
The Gospels agree that Mary was originally a great sinner. Jesus cast seven demons out of her when he met her. After this, she told several women she associated with and these women also became followers.
There is also debate over if Mary Magdalene is the same unnamed women, a sinner, who weeps and washes Jesus' feet with her hair in the Gospel of John. Scholars are skeptical this is the same person.
Despite the scholarly dispute over her background, what she did in her subsequent life, after meeting Jesus, is much more significant. She was certainly a sinner whom Jesus saved, giving us an example of how no person is beyond the saving grace of God.
During Jesus' ministry, it is believed that Mary Magdalene followed him, part of a semi-permanent entourage who served Jesus and his Disciples.
Mary likely watched the crucifixion from a distance along with the other women who followed Christ during His ministry. Mary was present when Christ rose from the dead, visiting his tomb to anoint his body only to find the stone rolled away and Christ, very much alive, sitting at the place they laid Him. She was the first witness to His resurrection.
After the death of Christ, a legend states that she remained among the early Christians. After fourteen years, she was allegedly put into a boat by Jews, along with several other saints of the early Church, and set adrift without sails or oars. The boat landed in southern France, where she spent the remaining years of her life living in solitude, in a cave.
St. Mary Magdalene's feast day is July 22. She is the patroness of converts, repentant sinners, sexual temptation, pharmacists, tanners and women, and many other places and causes

Her witness to the faith in Sweden spread across Europe and beyond

St. Bridget of Sweden

Image of St. Bridget of Sweden


Feastday: July 23
Patron of Sweden

Saint Birgitta was the daughter of Uppland's Lagman, Birger Petersson and his wife, Ingeborg, who was a member of the same clan as the reigning family. Birgitta's family was pious; her father went to confession every Friday and made long and arduous pilgrimages as far away as the Holy Land.
Birgitta's mother died, leaving Birgitta, ten years old, Katharine, nine and a newborn baby boy, Israel. The children were sent to their maternal aunt for further education and care. It seems that as a young child, Birgitta had a dream-vision of The Man of Sorrows. This dream was very vivid. Birgitta asked Him who had done that to Him. His answer: 'All those who despise my love.' The memory of this dream never left Birgitta and may have even left an indelible mark on her sub-conscious. As was usual during the Middle Ages, Birgitta was married when she was 13 years old to a young man, Ulf Gudmarsson with whom she had eight children, four daughters and four sons, all of them survived infancy, and that was very rare at that time.
When the King of Sweden, Magnus Eriksson married Blanche of Namur, he asked his kinswoman, Birgitta to come and be Lady-in Waiting and to teach the young queen the language and customs of her new country. After her years of service at Court, Birgitta and Ulf made the long pilgrimage to Santiago di Compostela. On the return journey Ulf became dangerously ill in Arras. Birgitta feared for his death and sat all night by his bed praying, and then a bishop appeared to her, promised that Ulf would recover and 'God had great things for her to do.' He told her that he was Denis, Patron of France. Ulf recovered and was able to continue his work as Lagman in the province of Närke until early in the year 1344, when he was very ill so Birgitta took him to the monks at Alvastra where he died and was buried. Birgitta remained in a little house near the abbey and she spent along hours in prayer by Ulf's grave. She said that she 'loved him like my own body.' She arranged her affairs among her children and various charities and prayed for guidance. She was 41 years old and in the abbey at Alvastra God called her 'be My Bride and My canal'. He gave her the task of founding new religious order, mainly for women. He said that the other orders had fallen into decay and this new order would be a vineyard whose wine would revivify the Church. He showed her how her abbey church was to be built, gave directions concerning the clothing and prayers of the nuns, 60 in all, who needed priests as chaplains, 13 priests, 4 deacons and 8 lay brothers. These two communities were to be ruled by an abbess, who was to represent the Blessed Virgin Mary together with the Apostles in the Upper Room in Jerusalem.
King Magnus Eriksson donated a little palace and much land to the new monastery, but almost as soon she had begun altering the palace and organising the work, Christ appeared to her and asked her to go to Rome and wait there until she got the pope to return from France to Rome. She was to be there during the Holy Year 1350. Birgitta left Sweden at the end of 1349 never to return. For the rest of her life she saw visions concerning the reform of the Church, messages to kings and popes and many other persons in high places, directing them to work for the Church. It may be noted that Birgitta never wrote in the first person. She always said the she carried a message from a very High Lord. Although she had longed to become a nun, she never even saw the monastery in Vadstena. In fact, nothing she set out to do was ever realised. She never had the pope return to Rome permanently, she never managed to make peace between France and England, she never saw any nun in the habit that Christ had shown her, and she never returned to Sweden but died, worn out old lady far from home in July 1373. She can be called the Patroness of Failures. In this she was like her Lord. He was also classed as failure as He hung on the Cross. Birgitta was a successful failure as she was canonized in 1391.Birgitta was the only women ever to found a religious Order, Ordo Sanctissimi Salvatoris. It was never a double order but an order primarily for women with permanent chaplains, ruled by an abbess. The brothers had as their head, not a prior but a Confessor General who was responsible for the spiritual business of both convents.
The order spread swiftly throughout Europe with monasteries from Scandinavia right through Europe down to Italy. In modern times is has expanded into five different, juridically independant branches; Spain 1629, Rome 1911, U.S.A. 1970, Mexico at the change of the century. None of these foundations have brothers (except U.S.A. which has one male convent). The last Birgittine father died in Altomünster 1863. She is the patroness of Sweden. Her feast day is

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Saint & Doctor of the Church


St. Lawrence of Brindisi

Image of St. Lawrence of Brindisi


Feastday: July 21
Patron of Brindisi
Birth: 1559
Death: 1619

Caesare de Rossi was born at Brandisi, kingdom of Naples, on July 22nd. He was educated by the conventual Franciscans there and by his uncle at St. Mark's in Venice. When sixteen, he joined the Capuchins at Verona, taking the name Lawrence. He pursued his higher studies in theology, philosophy, the bible, Greek, Hebrew, and several other languages at the University of Padua. He was ordained and began to preach with great effect in Northern Italy. He became definitor general of his Order in Rome in 1596, a position he was to hold five times, was assigned to conversion work with Jews, and was sent to Germany, with Blessed Benedict of Urbino, to combat Lutheranism. They founded friaries at Prague, Vienna, and Gorizia, which were to develop into the provinces of Bohemia, Austria, and Styria. At the request of Emperor Rudolf II, Lawrence helped raise an army among the German rulers to fight against the Turks, who were threatening to conquer all of Hungary, became its chaplain, and was among the leaders in the Battle of Szekesfehevar in 1601; many attributed the ensuing victory to him. In 1602, he was elected Vicar General of the Capuchins but refused re-election in 1605. He was sent to Spain by the emperor to persuade Philip III to join the Catholic League, and while there, founded a Capuchin house in Madrid. He was then sent as papal nuncio to the court of Maximillian of Bavaria, served as peacemaker in several royal disputes, and in 1618, retired from worldly affairs to the friary at Caserta. He was recalled at the request of the rulers of Naples to go to Spain to intercede with King Philip for them against the Duke of Osuna, Spanish envoy to naples and convinced the King to recall the Duke to avert an uprising. The trip in the sweltering heat of summer exhausted him, and he died a few days after his meeting with the King at Lisbon on July 22nd. Lawrence wrote a commentary on Genesis and several treatises against Luther, but Lawrence's main writings are in the nine volumes of his sermons. He was canonized in 1881 and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope John XXIII in 1959. His feast day is July 21st.

Moving Father around so much

Why are priests moved around so much? How should we welcome them?


Parish reassignments can be stressful for priests, and for the people in the pews, too.

Dear Katrina,
I have two questions for you. What is the reason for frequent priestly reassignments? We seem to get a new priests at our parish every three years or so. Also, what is the best way to welcome our new priest? I would like to do something nice to make him feel welcomed. Ideas?
Dear M.M.R,
Both are great questions.
I asked a few priest friends of mine what are some ways their congregation can make them feel welcome and their replies were as varied as their personalities. Most suggested inviting Father over for dinner, but keep in mind that some priests may be more introverted or extremely busy settling into their new assignment. Feeding Father seemed to be the most suggested and welcomed advice, though, because who doesn’t appreciate a nice meal? My favorite comment came from a local priest who said “If you feed me, I’ll remember your name.” Tip noted, padre.
There were also a few suggestions that a nice card welcoming the priest was a genuine and simple effort they often appreciated. You could even slip in a $10 gift card for gas or coffee in the card. It doesn’t need to be an extravagant effort to still be sincere. Other ideas included spiritual bouquets (like this beautiful example) or offering to help out or volunteer at the parish.
Now let me add how to make a priest NOT feel welcome. Don’t tell Father “This is how it’s always been done” or “That’s not how Fr. Previous Priest used to do things.” Don’t complain to other parishioners or publicly voice your objections if the new priest does something you don’t like or don’t agree with; basically don’t be a gossip. Patiently give each new priest the chance to find his footing in this new environment. Patience is probably the best gift you could give to any new priest.
As for your other question, there can be several reason for reassigning a priest to a new parish and the frequency in which it’s done varies from diocese to diocese. In my own diocese, pastor reassignments happen every six years and in other dioceses it can be without any terms at all. When it’s without terms a pastor can request to stay or be reassigned with the bishop giving the final approval.
For the parochial vicar, or assistant pastor, they typically have no terms and can be moved around more frequently, generally every 1-3 years. I’ve been told the reason for this frequency is so they can gain experience in preparation for their more permanent role as pastor. The circulation of priests typically serves practical reasons. It helps priests broaden their experience and perspectives but it also can prevent cults of personality from forming around priests.
I know reassignments can be stressful for all involved, the priest and the congregation, and adjusting to change can be harder for some than others. Some priests transition with little effort and some parishioners can become very anxious when they receive word that a priest they’ve become attached to is moving. We could argue either way about the necessity for such frequent change. But in the end, it’s important to remember that the main relationship is always between the People of God and Jesus Christ.

New Catholic School Chief in New Orleans on school choice

Is school choice helping or hurting Catholic schools in New Orleans?

Fresh on the job, the city’s first black Catholic schools chief remains optimistic in face of flagging enrollment, new competition
The following article is a re-print of Janene Tate’s article, Is school choice helping or hurting Catholic schools in New Orleans? This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
RaeNell Houston heard the calling to be an educator years ago. A former teacher, she has served as associate superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of New Orleans since 2012. She takes her seat as the head of the school system — an appointment by New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond —  in July.  Houston, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of New Orleans and a master’s degree from Louisiana State University, is the first black person in the history of the Archdiocese to fill this role.
In a news release announcing Houston’s assignment to lead schools in eight parishes and more than 3,500 students, Aymond said: “She (Houston) brings with her the professional experience and expertise necessary to lead our schools…She is a woman of strong faith and family, and is well prepared to lead our school family.”
As a longtime member of this family, Houston knows firsthand that she has her share of challenges ahead. Among them are declining enrollment in Catholic schools and growing public scrutiny over private school vouchers. However, she is equipped and enthusiastic to continue on the path of promoting Catholic education.
Question: Do you feel that you’re in competition with charter or secular private schools?
Answer: I think today, in New Orleans in particular, that parents are empowered with school choice. You’re not assigned to a particular school based your address. Parents are empowered with finding the school that is the best fit for their children. The competition has always existed with other private schools as well as public schools, but I think that’s a positive thing.
I am seeing a lot more targeted marketing by schools on TV, radio and billboards marketing schools to particular groups of parents. This is a discussion we’ve been having… (how to) develop a strategic and robust marketing campaign for Catholic education in general, and of course, assisting our schools with their more targeted marketing.
Q: How have your admissions and retention trends been over the past two years?
A: We have fluctuation in numbers, of course. There’s no big trend of students leaving Catholic schools for other private school or public schools here. Usually, a student will transfer from one Catholic school to another Catholic school, if needed. Most of the parents that come in looking for an alternative (to their current school) are those that have moved to a different neighborhood, or have some other personal or household issue. If there is a financial issue, we always try to assist as much as we can so that the student can remain in our system and matriculate.
All of our schools have some amount of financial assistance set aside for families in need of financial assistance. We have the annual Champions of Catholic Education collection in February. Every church in the archdiocese has a second collection. Those funds are distributed to families who are in need of financial assistance.
More than 3,000 students in New Orleans use vouchers to attend Catholic schools.

Read more: http://nceatalk.org/2017/07/is-school-choice-helping-or-hurting-catholic-schools-in-new-orleans/

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The would be Apostle; but he lost out to Matthias

St. Joseph of Barsabas


Feastday: July 20
Death: 1st century

A follower of Christ also called Joseph Barsassas and sur named "the Just." He is the person listed in the Acts of the Apostles as a competitor of St. Matthias for the vacant place among the Apostles, caused by the treachery of Judas Iscariot.

Miracles of difficult pregnancies attributed to Blessed Pope VI

Pope known for teaching on birth control obtaining miracles for unborn babies


Paul VI draws closer to canonization

During his recent visit to Bozzolo, Italy, Pope Francis declared his desire to be able to canonize Paul VI, who was pope from 1963-1978.
According to a report today in the blog Il Sismographo, a miracle is being studied by the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, which if recognizes, will pave the way for the former pope’s canonization.
The miracle is related to the healing of a child on December 25, 2014, after a complicated pregnancy and a premature birth. The mother went to the Sanctuary of Graces in Brescia and prayed for Blessed Paul VI’s intercession for her tiny daughter’s survival.
“During his recent visit to Bozzolo, Pope Francis repeated his desire to canonize Paul VI,” noted Don Adriano Bianchi, director of the news service of Paul VI’s home diocese, Brescia, in a report on the subject in the journal Brescia oggi, on July 18.
The miracle approved for the beatification of Pope Paul VI (Giovanni Battista Montini) was also related to a difficult pregnancy.
A woman was encouraged to abort her child because the baby was disabled. She refused the abortion and entrusted the baby to Paul VI’s intercession, because of his encyclical Humanae Vitae (1968). The infant survived, without any health concerns whatsoever. Paul VI was beatified on October 19, 2014, at the conclusion of the first Synod on the Family.

Prayers ascending for Sen. John McCain

John McCain, Republican senator from Arizona, diagnosed with brain tumor
The Washington Post

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, his office said Wednesday, throwing into doubt when and if he will return to Washington to resume his duties in the Senate.
The Mayo Clinic in Phoenix said doctors discovered a tumor called a glioblastoma following surgery to remove a blood clot above McCain’s left eye last week. The senator and his family are considering a variety of treatment options, including a combination of chemotherapy and radiation, according to the hospital.

McCain, 80 has been away from the Senate this week, recovering from the surgery and undergoing tests. His office issued a statement describing him “in good spirits” and noting that his underlying health is excellent — but not indicating when he will return to the Senate.
Glioblastoma is an aggressive type of brain cancer, and the prognosis for this kind of cancer is generally poor. The late senator Edward Kennedy survived less than nine months after his was found.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Wednesday Saint of the Day

. St. Macrina the Younger

Image of St. Macrina the Younger


Feastday: July 19
Birth: 330
Death: 379

Macrina the Younger was the granddaughter of Macrina the Elder and sister of St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Peter of Sebastea. She was well educated, especially in scripture. She was engaged to be married when she was twelve, but when her fiance died, she decided to dedicate her life to God. On the death of her father, she and her mother retired to the family estate in Pontus and lived a life of prayer and contemplation in a community they formed there. Macrina became head of the group when her mother died and lived in Pontus until her death. Her feast day isJuly 19th.

Pope is popular on Twitter

Pope’s Twitter Account: More Than 35M Subscribers
Francis’ Instagram Has Exceeded 4M Followers

Pope Francis’ Twitter account in nine languages, ​​now has more than 35 million subscribers, reports Vatican Radio. It has seen a sharp rise in the last month, especially in English (with more than 11 million subscribers).
The @Pontifex account, opened by Pope Benedict XVI on Dec. 3, 2012, is among the most followed in the world and the one that records the most retweets. Since March 19, 2015, Pope Francis is also present on Instagram with the account @Franciscus which has recently exceeded 4 million subscribers.
“The Pope’s ability to fuel public debate on complex issues is of great interest,” says Professor Paolo Peverini, lecturer in semiotics at the LUISS Guido Carli University and consultant to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication.
“In my opinion,” says the professor, “we should especially emphasize the growth that characterizes the Instagram account, @Franciscus, which involves young users. This is the “capacity of Pope Francis,” the Italian professor underscored, to be “heard” by users who a few years ago, may have been a bit distant from the Church.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A life dedicated to the sick

St. Camillus de Lellis

Image of St. Camillus de Lellis


Feastday: July 18
Patron of doctors

St. Camillus de Lellis was born at Bocchianico, Italy. He fought for the Venetians against the Turks, was addicted to gambling, and by 1574 was penniless in Naples. He became a Capuchin novice, but was unable to be professed because of a diseased leg he contracted while fighting the Turks. He devoted himself to caring for the sick, and became director of St. Giacomo Hospital in Rome. He received permission from his confessor (St. Philip Neri) to be ordained and decided, with two companions, to found his own congregation, the Ministers of the Sick (the Camellians), dedicated to the care of the sick. They ministered to the sick of Holy Ghost Hospital in Rome, enlarged their facilities in 1585, founded a new house in Naples in 1588, and attended the plague-stricken aboard ships in Rome's harbor and in Rome. In 1591, the Congregation was made into an order to serve the sick by Pope Gregory XIV, and in 1591 and 1605, Camillus sent members of his order to minister to wounded troops in Hungary and Croatia, the first field medical unit. Gravely ill for many years, he resigned as superior of the Order in 1607 and died in Rome on July 14, the year after he attended a General Chapter there. He was canonized in 1746, was declared patron of the sick, with St. John of God, by Pope Leo XIII, and patron of nurses and nursing groups by Pope Pius XI. His feast day is July