Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Saint of the Day for Wednesday


St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen

Franciscan Capuchin martyr. He was born Mark Rey is Sigmaringen, Germany, in 1577. A practicing lawyer, he traveled across Europe as a tutor to aristocrats but then started defending the poor. In 1612, he became a Franciscan Capuchin monk, taking the name of Fidelis. A missionary to Grisons, Switzerland, Fidelis was so successful that local Protestants claimed that he was a spy for the Austrian Emperor. Fidelis was stabbed to death in a church id Seewis. He was canonized by Pope Benedict XIV. Fidelis served also as the head of the Congregation for the Spreading of the Faith. 

The conversion to Catholicism of Candace Owens


Candace Owens converts to Catholicism

The long-expected move comes amid familiar controversy for the young Black conservative pundit based in Nashville.

The firebrand conservative commentator Candace Owens has announced her conversion to Catholicism, a long-expected move for the controversial 34-year-old Black ideologue.

She announced the news on social media Monday afternoon, describing it as a “decision to go home.”

“There is of course so much more that went into this decision and that I plan to share in the future. But for now, praise be to God for His gentle, but relentless guiding of my heart toward Truth.”

The change for Owens comes amid shifting sands in her professional life, including an acrimonious exit from The Daily Wire in March following statements she made and supported that were seen as antisemitic.

Owens has lately made a decided shift toward more open support of Christianity, taking “Christ is King” as a mantra in many of her frequent online postings—often in support of ideas and policies seen as Christian Nationalist and anti-Jewish.

She began using the phrase online in November 2023, when she first came under fire from the well-known Jewish-American conservative and Daily Wire cofounder Ben Shapiro, who called Owens’ support for antisemitic tropes and criticism of Israel’s alleged Gaza genocide “disgraceful.”

Owens brushed off the criticism for months as she continued hosting “The Candace Owens Show,” then one of the most popular podcasts in the country—extending a long run of success for the millennial contrarian, dating back to her 2016 criticism of female victims in the “Gamergate” harassment campaign. 

Owens grew her platform as a rare Black conservative voice during the 2020 U.S. presidential election, in which she threw her support behind Donald Trump. In 2018, she cofounded BLEXIT, which advocates for Black Americans to leave the Democratic Party.

Long identified as a Reformed Evangelical Protestant, in recent years Owens began speaking more frequently about Catholicism, not least because of her convert husband, the British activist and former Parler CEO George Farmer, whom she married in 2019. Owens hosted a theological debate between Farmer and Fox News commentator Allie Beth Stuckey, an evangelical, on her podcast in May 2023, racking up more than a million views on the first part of the discussion alone.

In a rare interview this week, Farmer spoke to the Catholic Herald on his family dynamics and his own conversion, though conspicuously avoiding the topic of Owens' religion. He did, however, speak on their differing career focuses.

“We have different brands,” he said. “She is very outward-facing, and pretty much everything she says becomes a news story, whereas I am exclusively interested in faith.”

At the time of the Farmer-Stuckey debate, Owens revealed that she regularly attended Mass with Farmer and their children but was not yet decided on making a denominational change. By March of this year, however, in response to a social media post asking if she is Catholic, she responded, “Almost there. ✝️”

Some interpreted Owens' response as an indication that she would be received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil, but there was no announcement forthcoming from the Nashville-based pundit.

In her social media announcement post this week, she is seen with the Oratorian priest Julian Large and a large vigil candle in her husband’s native London at the Brompton Oratory, a Latin Mass community established by St. John Henry Newman in 1849.

Reactions to Owens’ conversion have varied, ranging from elation among conservative Catholics to reticence among those critical of her often far-right views. Several Black Catholics took to social media to express their thoughts.

“Perhaps someone can send her a welcome package of post-Vatican II official Church statements about antisemitism, and USCCB letters on immigrants to introduce her to her new faith?” wrote Dr. Jalane Schmidt, a scholar of religion at the University of Virginia.

“Former sex workers that became Christian have publicly repented for their past ways. I expect folks to reject & repent publicly of their previous overtly racist statements & actions when they join the Church,” added Gloria Purvis, who did not name Owens in her post. Purvis is a former EWTN Radio host who has made waves in recent years for her advocacy against racism.

“They have done too much harm to the human family.”

Christopher Smith, a convert like Purvis and a Jesuit regent in Baltimore, took a decidedly moderate stance on Owen’s new religious move.

“What wonderful news. I have never cared for your views, but, I am so so happy that you are a part of the Church,” he wrote. “Our faith is the only view that truly matters.”

Monday, April 22, 2024

Tuesday Saint of the Day


St. George

Feastday: April 23
Patron: of England & Catalonia
Death: 303
Canonized: by Pope Gelasius I

It is uncertain when Saint George was born and historians continue to debate to this day. However, his death date is estimated to be April 23, 303 A.D.

The first piece of evidence of George's existance appeared within the works of the Bollandists Daniel Papebroch, Jean Bolland, and Godfrey Henschen's Bibliotheca Hagiographica Graeca. George was one of several names listed in the historical text, and Pope Gelasius claimed George was one of the saints "whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose actions are known only to God."

George was born to a Gerontios and Polychronia, a Roman officer and a Greek native of Lydda. Both were Christians from noble families of the Anici and George, Georgios in the original Greek, was raised to follow their faith.

When George was old enough, he was welcomed into Diocletian's army. By his late 20's, George became a Tribunus and served as an imperial guard for the Emperor at Nicomedia.

On February 24, 303 A.D., Diocletian, who hated Christians, announced that every Christian the army passed would be arrested and every other soldier should offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods.

George refused to abide by the order and told Diocletian, who was angry but greatly valued his friendship with George's father.

When George announced his beliefs before his peers, Diocletian was unable to keep the news to himself.

In an effort to save George, Diocletian attempted to convert him to believe in the Roman gods, offered him land, money and slaves in exchange for offering a sacrifice to the Roman gods, and made several other offers that George refused.

Finally, after exhausting all other options, Diocletian ordered George's execution. In preparation for his death, George gave his money to the poor and was sent for several torture sessions. He was lacerated on a wheel of swords and required resuscitation three times, but still George did not turn from God.

On April 23, 303 A.D., George was decapitated before Nicomedia's outer wall. His body was sent to Lydda for burial, and other Christians went to honor George as a martyr.

Saint George and the Dragon

There are several stories about George fighting dragons, but in the Western version, a dragon or crocodile made its nest at a spring that provided water to Silene, believed to be modern-day Cyrene in Libya.

The people were unable to collect water and so attempted to remove the dragon from its nest on several ocassions. It would temporarily leave its nest when they offered it a sheep each day, until the sheep disappeared and the people were distraught.

This was when they decided that a maiden would be just as effective as sending a sheep. The townspeople chose the victim by drawing straws. This continued until one day the princess' straw was drawn.

The monarch begged for her to be spared but the people would not have it. She was offered to the dragon, but before she could be devoured, George appeared. He faced the dragon, protected himself with the sign of the Cross, and slayed the dragon.

After saving the town, the citizens abandoned their paganism and were all converted to Christianity.

Interesting Facts

  • Saint George stands out among other saints and legends because he is known and revered by both Muslims and Christians.
  • It is said Saint George killed the dragon near the sea in Beirut, thus Saint George bay was named in his honor.
  • Saint George's feast day is celebrated on April 23, but if it falls before Easter, it is celebrated Easter Monday.
  • The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates three St. George feast days each year -April 23 as is expected, November 3, to commemorate the consecration of a cathedral dedicated to him in Lydda, and on November 26, for when a church in Kiev was dedicated to him.
  • In Bulgaria, his feast day is celebrated May 6 with the slaughter and roasting of a lamb.
  • In Egypt, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria calls St. George the "Prince of Martyrs" and celebrates on May 1. There is a second celebration November 17, in honor of the first church dedicated to him.
  • Saint George is the patron saint of England and Catalonia and his cross can be found throughout England.
  • In older works, Saint George is depicted wearing armor and holding a lance or fighting a dragon, which represents Christ's enemies

New auxiliary Bishop for Sacramento


Pope Francis names Filipino priest an auxiliary bishop of Sacramento

Courtney Mares

Pope Francis has named Father Reynaldo Bersabal as an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento, California. 

The Vatican announced on Saturday that the priest ordained in the Philippines and incardinated into the Sacramento Diocese in 2004 will be consecrated as a bishop.

“I am grateful to His Holiness and honored to have my brother, Bishop-elect Rey Bersabal, as a co-worker for the Episcopal ministry in this favored part of the Lord’s vineyard,” Bishop Jaime Soto of the Diocese of Sacramento said in a Saturday statement on the diocese’s website.

“Bishop-elect Rey came as an immigrant priest bringing the rich cultural heritage of the Filipino people,” Soto continued. “He became part of a presbyterate and people that is a global Catholic kaleidoscope of faith and charity radiating the historic credal customs from Portugal, Italy, Ireland, China, Poland, Africa, and more. Bishop-elect Rey has learned a lot and given much during his 25 years as a priest in Sacramento.”

Bersabal was born in Magsaysay in the province of Misamis Oriental in the Philippines on Oct. 15, 1964.

He was ordained a priest April 29, 1991, for the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro in the Philippines was incardinated in the Diocese of Sacramento 13 years later.

In Sacramento, he served as the parish vicar of St. James Church in Davis and St. Anthony Church in Sacramento before being named the parish priest of St. Paul Church in 2003.

Bersabal was also the parish priest of St. John the Baptist in Folsom from 2008 to 2016 and St. James in Davis from 2016 to 2022.

The 59-year-old priest has served the parish of St. Francis of Assisi in Sacramento since 2022.

“The years of pastoral experience working in the parishes of the geographical and demographically large Diocese of Sacramento will be one of the strengths he brings to his new ministry,” Soto said. “His understanding of Catholic faith and mercy springs from lived experiences of families striving to follow the Lord Jesus in our turbulent times.”

“I am grateful to Bishop-elect Rey for saying ‘yes’ to the Holy Father’s invitation to the college of bishops,” Soto continued. “I ask all the clergy and faithful of the diocese to join me in praying for our brother, Bishop-elect Rey Bersabal, so that he may always walk first as a faithful disciple of the Lord Jesus and be co-worker and companion cultivating the verdant Sacramento Valley for a lasting harvest of mercy and joy.”

The Diocese of Sacramento serves more than 1 million Catholics in 20 counties covering 42,000 square miles of Northern California from San Francisco Bay to Sacramento and the Oregon border, according to a diocesan media release. The diocese includes more than 100 parishes, 42 elementary and secondary schools, and various social service and family support organizations throughout the region.

Michigan Bishop apologizes for calling Joe Biden stupid


Michigan bishop apologizes for calling President Biden ‘stupid’

Bishop Robert Gruss of Saginaw, Michigan, issued an apology on Friday for having referred to President Joe Biden as “stupid” during a talk earlier in the month.

Gruss had made the comment in a talk on April 5 titled “Forgiveness as the Heart of Christianity.” During the address the prelate remarked that he “[doesn’t] have any anger toward the president. I feel sorry for him.”

“I’m not angry at him, he’s just stupid,” the bishop said, arguing that he didn’t use the word in “a derogatory way.”

“It’s stupidity in the sense of he doesn’t know until he does things,” the bishop said.

On Friday the diocese provided CNA with a statement from Gruss in which he argued that his remarks “were taken out of context.”

“I was speaking in the context of forgiving the president and any people in government who offend us by their words and actions — that we cannot harbor resentment toward them because in doing so, it would be sinful,” Gruss said.

“We must forgive them if we are to be free,” he said.

“I used the word ‘stupid’ in reference to President Biden, recognizing that it was poor judgment in my choice of words,” Gruss said. “It was not meant to be disparaging, and I apologize.”

“I will continue to pray for the president and all political leaders, that they may seek and be guided by the Spirit of Truth,” he said. “I encourage people of all faiths and goodwill to pray for our great nation.”

The bishop noted that “you can find the whole talk online to understand what was really said.”

The Saginaw Diocese, one of seven in Michigan, is located in the central part of the state.

Devotion to Saint Padre Pio to get a boost


Saint Pio of PietrelcinaSaint Pio of Pietrelcina  (fotografo Elia Stelluto e Parrocchia Paupisi)

Saint Pio Foundation to release photos of Padre Pio

The Saint Pio Foundation is set to unveil ten photos of the beloved 20th century saint, in order “to foster devotion to Saint Pio.”

By Christopher Wells

The Dicastery for Communication and the Dicastery for Culture and Education are sponsoring a press conference on Monday, 29 April, when the Saint Pio Foundation will release 10 authentic photos of Padre Pio. 

The event, entitled “Photographs of Saint Pio – Memories of a Saint,” will mark the 25th anniversary of the canonization of Pio of Pietrelcina, known around the world as Padre Pio.

It also commemorates the 10th anniversary of the Saint Pio Foundation, a non-profit, charitable organization that promotes knowledge of and devotion to Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, one of the most venerated contemporary saints of the Catholic Church.

Fostering devotion to St. Pio

A press release from the Foundation notes that the photographs of Saint Pio, including previously unpublished photos, were personally selected by founder Luciano Lamonarca in collaboration with Padre Pio’s personal photographer, Elia Stelluto.

The high-resolution pictures will be made available free of charge, via a dedicated website, to Catholic institutions, faithful, groups, and individuals in order “to foster devotion to Saint Pio.” They will not, however, be able to be used for the creation of commercial projects.

“In an important year like this, where we celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the beatification of Saint Pio, and the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the Saint Pio Foundation,” said Mr. Lamonarca, “we wished to mark these important milestones by making a gift to the millions of devotees and faithful of Saint Pio in the form of these authentic images of their beloved saint, whom they wish to bring in their homes, churches, and shops and entrust themselves and their lives to Him.”

Mr. Lamonarca added, “Through promoting his charism, we humbly recognize Saint Pio for His blessings and protection all these years.”

A gift to Catholics

For his part, Mr. Stelluto explained, “In all these years, I have always made the photos of Saint Pio in my possession available to those who have asked me, in order to be able to increase the devotion of Saint Pio.”

He said the photographs chosen for the project with the Saint Pio Foundation are “a gift that I give so that the Catholic community can benefit from this act of love, certain of doing something that is especially pleasing to Saint Pio.”

The press conference will be held at the Filmoteca Vaticana, on April 29, 2024, at 12:00 noon Rome time. The pictures will be released and made available to the public starting April 29, 2024, on the dedicated website: www.therealsaintpio.org.

Pope Francis marks Earth Day with calls for protecting the planet and for world peace



Earth Day: Pope Francis urges responsibility for our common home

On World Earth Day 2024, Pope Francis reminds everyone of our duty to protect the planet and safeguard peace.

By Lisa Zengarini

As the world marked Earth Day on Monday, April 22, Pope Francis reiterated his urgent plea for bold action for our common home and for world peace.

The international Day was established in 1970 to raise awareness about the critical environmental challenges facing our planet, and to mobilize efforts to address them.

The observance provides an opportunity for individuals, communities, organizations, and governments to come together and engage in activities to repair and heal ecosystems, combat climate change, and preserve biodiversity so as to preserve the planet for future generations.

World not doing enough

In a post on his X social media platform (formerly known as Twitter), Pope Francis noted that his generation has bequeathed many monetary riches to later generations, but has done little to protect the planet.

He also commented on the link between current environmental problems and the many conflicts raging throughout the world.

"Our generation has bequeathed many riches, but we have failed to protect the planet and we are not safeguarding peace. We are called to become artisans and caretakers of our common home, the Earth which is "falling into ruin." #EarthDay

The Pope's post echoed his words in the 2015 Encyclical Laudato si' on care of our common home and its call for individuals, communities and governments to care for nature.

2024 Earth Day for a plasti-free world

Each year, Earth Day has a specific theme to draw global attention on pressing environmental issues. Under the banner "Planet vs. Plastics," this 54th edition is focused on plastic pollution and on the urgent need to reduce its use and production.

Beyond its environmental implications, the proliferation of plastics poses a significant threat to human health, akin to the challenges posed by climate change.

400 million metric tons of plastic produced annually

Humans produce over 400 million metric tons of plastic annually, which is roughly the weight of all human beings on the planet.

Only 9% gets recycled, and about 22% of plastic waste worldwide is either not collected, improperly disposed of, or ends up as litter.

As plastics degrade into microplastics, they release toxic chemicals into ecosystems, contaminating oceans (where over 1 million metric tons end up every year), food and water sources, and endangering all forms of life.

Detrimental effects on environment and human health

This year’s campaign, therefore, prioritizes spreading awareness about these detrimental effects. It calls for increased research into the health implications of plastic exposure and advocates for transparency in sharing findings with the public.

The immediate aim of the campaign is to swiftly eliminate single-use plastics by 2030 and to embed this commitment within the United Nations Treaty on Plastic Pollution by 2024, ensuring global cooperation in tackling this pressing issue.

The longer-term aim is to obtain 60 percent reduction in plastic production by 2040 so as to safeguard both human and environment health. To this end the campaign, also emphasizes the importance of investing in innovative technologies and materials to pave the way for a plastic-free world.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Monday Saint of the Day


Bl. Maria Gabriella Sagheddu

Feastday: April 22
Patron: of Ecumenism
Birth: 1914
Death: 1939
Beatified: 25 January 1983, Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls, Rome, Italy by John Paul II

Blessed Sister Maria Gabriella Sagheddu was a Trappist nun. She was born in Sardinia in 1914 and died of tuberculosis in the Trappist monastery of Grottaferrata in 1939. Because of her spiritual devotion to Christian unity, she was beatified by pope John Paul II in 1983.

Pope Francis remembers Pope Pius VII


Pope Francis meeting the pilgrims from the Italian Dioceses Cesena-Sarsina, Tivoli, Savona e Imola, on the occasion of the bicentenary of the death of Pope Pius VIIPope Francis meeting the pilgrims from the Italian Dioceses Cesena-Sarsina, Tivoli, Savona e Imola, on the occasion of the bicentenary of the death of Pope Pius VII  (VATICAN MEDIA Divisione Foto)

Pope remembers Pius VII, a man of communion in difficult times

Pope Francis invites Italian pilgrims from the Dioceses of Cesena-Sarsina, Savona, Imola and Tivoli Pope Francis to heed the legacy of the Servant of God Pope Pius VII, a courageous witness of the Gospel in times of struggles and divisions.

By Lisa Zengarini

Pope Francis on Saturday paid tribute to the unwavering faith and dedication to the Church of the Servant of God Pope Pius VII (1742-1823) , who was elected to the Papacy in 1800 in one of the most turbulent years of Europe’s and the Church’s history, marked by the French Revolution and Napoleon's rule.

A Benedictine monk and a renowned theologian, Pius VII, born Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti, is remembered along with his predecessor Pius VI for his unyielding opposition to Napoleon's attempts to subjugate the Church that cost him his arrest and imprisonment in 1809.

“Non debemus, non possumus, non volumus”

Meeting a group of  pilgrims from the Italian Dioceses of Cesena-Sarsina, Savona, Imola and Tivoli as they commemorate the bicentenary of his death, Pope Francis recalled that  Pius VII’s “dedication to God and the Church” remained unshakable even at the moment of  his arrest, when he refused a compromise offered to him saying: “Non debemus, non possumus, non volumus” (“We must not, we cannot, we don’t want”).

Delving into his life, Pope Francis  described how he witnessed to three key values,  which are also essential for our personal and community journeys of faith: communion, testimony and mercy.

A staunch supporter and defender of communion

Pius VII, the Pope said, was “a staunch supporter and defender of communion” in times of fierce struggles and divisions: “With his calm and tenacious perseverance in defending unity”, he was able “to transform the arrogance of those who wanted to isolate him into  opportunities to relaunch a message of dedication and love for the Church, to which God's people responded with enthusiasm. The result – Pope Francis noted - was a community that was materially poorer, but morally more cohesive, strong and credible.”

His example, the Pope remarked, therefore also encourages us today to be builders of unity in the Church, that is “to make communion, encourage reconciliation, promote peace, faithful to the truth in charity!”

“One thing that helps communion a lot is knowing how to speak well. Badmouthing, gossip, instead destroys communion. When you feel compelled to speak badly about someone else, bite your tongue and you will do a great job for the community and unity.”

A courageous announcer of the Gospel

A meek man, Pope Francis continued, Pius VII was also a “courageous announcer of the Gospel”, with his words and with his life. This is testified by the remarks he addressed to the Cardinals electors at the beginning of his pontificate, when he stressed the need to set an example “in humility, in modesty, in patience, in charity and in every priestly duty” to preserve the” authentic dimension of the Church.”  

He lived out this ideal of Christian prophecy throughout his life “with dignity”, in good and bad times, both on a personal and ecclesial level, “even when this led him to clash with the powerful of his time.”

A social reformer

Finally, Pope Francis recalled that, despite the difficulties he faced during the Napoleonic rule, Pius VII paid a particular attention to the needy and carried out far-reaching social reforms that emancipated poor peasants, abolished privileges and the practice of torture.

He showed the same mercy towards his persecutors: “Although he denounced their errors and abuses in no uncertain terms, he tried to keep a channel of dialogue open with them and above all always offered his forgiveness."

Love for truth and willingness to dialogue

Bringing his address to a close,  Pope Francis invited the Italian pilgrims to reflect on the many values  which the memory of this Servant of God recalls to our mind: love for truth, unity, dialogue, attention to the least, forgiveness, the tenacious search for peace :”It will do us good to meditate on them, make them our own and bear witness to them, so that the style of meekness and willingness to sacrifice may grow in us and in our communities,” he concluded.