Wednesday, December 7, 2022

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary; a Holy Day of Obligation


Advent: December 8th

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception: O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin prepared a worthy dwelling for your Son, grant, we pray, that, as you preserved her from every stain by virtue of the Death of your Son, which you foresaw, so, through her intercession, we, too, may be cleansed and admitted to your presence. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the solemn dogma defined by Blessed Pope Pius IX in 1854. As Our Lady Immaculately Conceived is the patroness of the United States of America, this is a holy day of obligation in the United States.

Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Blessed Pope Pius IX proclaimed on December 8, 1854: "The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin." —Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Mass Readings for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
The First Reading is from the Book of Genesis 3:9-15, 20. The preceding verses (2:4--3:8) described the temptation of the woman (later called Eve) by the serpent. She succumbs and tempts the man. As soon as they had disobeyed God's command given in 2:16-17, they realized their guilt and tried to hide from God.

"I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers." These words of God addressed to the serpent, the evil tempter, immediately after the sin of disobedience committed by the first parents, have been called the proto-Evangelium or "first good news" of hope for the human race. These verses from the Book of Genesis have been chosen for today's feast day, that of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, because she was chosen by God to be the human Mother of his Incarnate Son, and was conceived free form any stain of the sin handed down from the first parents. From the first moment of her human existence she was "full of grace" and God's "highly favored daughter."

In Mary, therefore, this "first good news" had its first fulfillment. Satan had no part in her. The serpent had lost his power in her case. This was because of the privileged position God had allotted to her. She was to be the Mother of the long-expected Messiah—Savior, who would finally crush the serpent's head.

The Second Reading is from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians 1:3-6; 11-12. From his prison in Rome (about 63 A.D.) St. Paul wrote this letter to his converts in Ephesus. The purpose of the letter was to recall to their minds the basic Christian truths and to encourage them to remain faithful followers of Christ. It is closely connected with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception which we are celebrating today. God planned from all eternity to make man, the masterpiece and master of creation, his adopted son, and heir to his own eternal happiness. He was to bring this about through his divine Son's adoption of our human nature. Man would then be a brother of Christ and therefore a son of God by adoption. Christ, the Son of God in human nature, the God-man, is the pivotal point in all of God's creative activity. In him, through him, and for him all creation came into existence. In him and through him all making, the whole human race, was destined for eternal life.

But man, realizing the many gifts which he had, and forgetting the one who gave them to him, grew proud of his own capabilities and wanted to be his own master. He rebelled and sin came into the world. It did not stop God from carrying out his eternal plan. The Incarnation still took place.

The Gospel is from Luke 1:26-38, a brief account of the Annunciation or the message of the Angel Gabriel to Mary. He told her that she was to be the Mother of the Messiah, Son of the Most High. When the angel solved the problem concerning her virginity, Mary humbly accepted the role that God had planned for her. At that moment of acceptance the Incarnation took place. The Son of God began his human life in the chaste womb of the Blessed Virgin.

Meditation: Immaculate Conception of Mary
"Hail Mary, full of grace." For thousands of centuries, millions of times per day the Virgin Mary is greeted by the faithful with the greeting of the Archangel, that we hear resonating anew in today’s Gospel. The sons of the Church learn from the words of the Archangel Gabriel that the fullness of the mystery of God’s grace was realized in Holy Mary. St Paul the Apostle teaches us that the Father made all fullness dwell in His Incarnate Son (c.f. Col 1:12-20), which overflows from Christ’s head and spills out on His Mystical Body that is the Church. Before descending in Body, Christ’s fullness was spread in a unique and unrepeatable way on Mary, predestined from eternity to be the Mother of God.

Significantly in the first reading, the liturgy recalls the figure of Eve, the mother of all the living. The Fathers of the Church saw in Mary, the new Eve that unties the knot bound by the first woman. The knot of disobedience tied by Eve, was untied by the obedience of Mary. As Eve was created in purity and integrity, also the new Eve was miraculously preserved from the contamination of original sin because she had to give humanity the Word, who was incarnated for our ransom.

Saint Irenaeus compares the virginity of the pure earth from which Adam was drawn to the virginity of the immaculate humanity of Mary from which the Second Adam was drawn. ‘And as the protoplast himself, Adam, had his substance from untilled and as yet virgin soil (for God had not yet sent rain, and man had not tilled the ground (Genesis 2:5) so did He who is the Word, recapitulating Adam in Himself, rightly receive a birth, enabling Him to gather up Adam [into Himself], from Mary, who was as yet a virgin’ (Adversus hereses III, 21:10).

Blessed Pope Pius IX on the 8th of December 1854 proclaimed the Dogma of the faith revealed by God that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin" (Denz.-Schonm, 2083). If the official proclamation of the dogma is relatively recent, the profession of faith by Christians and the liturgy is very ancient in this regard. Furthermore, four years later the same Virgin Mary, appearing in Lourdes to St Bernadette, confirmed the truth of the doctrine by presenting herself with the title ‘I am the Immaculate Conception’.

Mary’s predestination to this singular grace—consistent with the suspension of the universal decree by which every man, from the moment of his conception is contaminated with original sin—leads us to ponder in the deepest depths the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity’s salvific plan. God, One and Triune, had foreseen from the very beginning the future incarnation of the Word culminating in the redemption of human nature that had fallen into sin. He therefore predestined pure Mary, so that He could draw from her uncontaminated humanity, which the Son could adopt in order to re-establish in Himself the original purity of creation and reorientate it to eternal glory.

For this reason, in the second reading of today’s liturgy, St Paul reminds us that God wants to see us holy and immaculate before Him. The purity of our origins seemed to be irredeemably lost. However, in Immaculate Mary, God found the perfect solution to reverse the disaster made from the misuse of our liberty, and returned humanity to the original purity that seemed hopelessly lost.

Mary’s Immaculate Conception is a direct consequence of her Divine Maternity. St. Anselm of Aosta wrote: ‘Assuredly, it was fitting that the Virgin be beautified with a purity than which a greater cannot be conceived, except for God's. For, toward her, God the Father was so disposed to give His only Son who was naturally one and the same common Son of God the Father and of the Virgin.’ (De conceptu virginali et originali peccato, XVIII)

This link between the privilege of Divine Maternity and Mary’s Immaculate Conception results also in her superiority with respect to us. She is a perfect image of the Church in heaven, the new triumphant Jerusalem, that won’t have any marks nor will there be pain and death. This is why today’s preface recites: '…she was to be a worthy mother of your Son, your sign of favour to the church at its beginning, and the promise of its perfection as the bride of Christ, radiant in beauty’. Also in heaven Mary is not and will never be only a disciple, but her Son’s most exalted. She is and will always be the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church, the Queen of the Angels and Saints. Therefore, the preface of the Mass adds: ‘…You chose her from all creatures to be our advocate with you and our pattern of holiness.’

Mary was Immaculate because she had to be the Mother of God. She, herself has received the original grace of purity and the final state of the blessed life that we also, by collaborating with Divine Grace, hope one day to receive.

Immaculate Mary is full of grace. She is not only Christ’s disciple, who with the help of grace has overcome the chains of sin, but she is totius Trinitatis nobile triclinium, the noble resting place of the Holy Trinity (St Thomas Aquinas, Exposito Salutationis Angelicae, I). The Immaculate, full of grace, will always be Mother and Queen for that elect part of the Church that we hope one day to join, that will one day joyfully sing before the Almighty.

—From the Dicastery for the Clergy

Patronage: United States; barrel makers; cloth makers; cloth workers; coopers; tapestry workers; upholsterers. See for a long list of locations that claim Our Lady's patronage.

Symbols and Representation: crown and monogram; lily; enclosed garden; crown of stars; glass (symbol of purity) lily often placed in a vase of transparent glass; lily of the valley.

Highlights and Things to Do:

  • The dogma of the Immaculate Conception lends itself to fruitful meditation and should be taught to children. The doctrine of original sin, the sin of Adam and its effects on the human race, is a good beginning for study. For the best explanation of the teachings of the Church on this, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, numbers 386-412. Also, you might read the Apostolic Constitution The Immaculate Conception (Ineffabilis Deus) where Pope Pius IX defined ex cathedra the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The decree was promulgated on December 8, 1854, the date of the annual feast of the Immaculate Conception.

The Catholic Church in America continues to grow especially in the South


U.S. Catholic population shows growth, trends southward

The Catholic population in the United States has grown by about 2 million people in 10 years. With nearly 62 million people, it continues to constitute the largest religious body in 36 U.S. states, according to the latest religion-focused survey of America’s religious congregations.

Over the last decade, many Catholics, the survey found, have moved to the South.

“Perhaps the most notable changes were by region,” Clifford Grammich, a political scientist involved in the U.S. Religion Census, told CNA Dec. 5.

“Fifty years ago, 71% of U.S. Catholics were in the Northeast and Midwest; in 2020, 45% were. And the South now has more Catholics than any other region. I was surprised to see there are now more Catholics than Southern Baptists in Missouri and Virginia.”

The U.S. Religion Census is conducted by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies every 10 years. Its latest report was released last month.

Its 2020 survey reported that there were 61.9 million Catholics in the U.S., about 18.7% of the population. The survey identified 372 religious bodies with more than 356,000 congregations and 161.4 million adherents in the United States. With a population of 331.4 million Americans, that would mean 48.7% of the country is a member of a religious congregation. While other surveys group Americans by how they self-identify, researchers for the religion census focused on counting people who have some connection with a religious congregation.

While Protestants collectively outnumber Catholics in the U.S, the researchers of the U.S. Religion Census viewed various Protestant bodies as their own denominational groups, not collectively. According to this categorization, Catholics are the single-largest religious group in the U.S. There are about three times as many Catholics as nondenominational Christians or Southern Baptists, the next two largest groups.

Despite being the largest religious group, Catholics have the fourth-most congregations of all religious bodies. The survey identified 19,405 Catholic congregations. The number of Catholic congregations is the lowest the religion census has found in more than 50 years.

According to Grammich, the decline in congregation numbers reflects consolidation in the Church. Grammich, who authored a report focused on the 2020 survey’s Catholic findings, is an associate of the Glenmary Research Center. The center provides research for the Glenmary Home Missioners, a Catholic society of priests and religious brothers who focus on serving the people of Appalachia and the South.

Grammich told CNA he was not surprised to find that the Catholic population remains at around 60 million, about the same since 2000.

The 2010 edition of the religion census found 58.9 million Catholics affiliated with 20,589 congregations. The population figure was a decrease of 5% from the 2000 census results, which reported 62 million Catholic adherents, though this change in part reflected differences in methodology.

For the purposes of the 2020 census, a Catholic “congregation” means a parish, mission, or other site with regularly scheduled public Mass at least six months of the year. A Catholic “adherent” is an individual “associated with a Catholic church in some way.”

Researchers focused on the proportion of the population who self-described as Catholic and said they attended religious services “more frequently than ‘never.’” Other surveys indicate millions of people self-identify as Catholics but also say they never attend religious services.

Researchers drew on sources such as diocesan data, which includes the figures in the Official Catholic Directory. They also drew on vital statistics, sacramental statistics, and survey statistics from sources such as the Pew Forum. The quality and completeness of diocesan data can vary greatly, and data collection was made more difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This survey reports the lowest number of Catholics compared with other recent surveys. By comparison, the 2018 National Opinion Research Center General Social Survey reported 76.6 million Catholics, about 23% of the U.S. population, while the Official Catholic Directory says there are about 67.6 million Catholics in the U.S.

The Catholic Church has been the single-largest religious body in the U.S. for more than a century. The average number of adherents per congregation is 3,000 for Catholics, unusually high compared with other groups. No other group had as many as 2,000 adherents per congregation, and only five others had as many as 1,000.

Large Catholic congregations are especially common in the West, where there are 4,700 Catholics per congregation.

Catholics are overrepresented in urban locations and underrepresented in rural areas. They also are the largest religious body in 36 U.S. states. Southern Baptists comprise the largest religious body in nine states in the U.S. South. Nondenominational Christians predominate in Alaska, Washington state, and West Virginia, while adherents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as Mormons, predominate in Idaho and Utah.

Unlike in 2010, Catholics no longer comprise the largest body of religious adherents in Alaska and Washington state. However, they have become the largest religious body in two other states, Missouri and Virginia.

At the county level, Catholics are most prevalent mainly in New Mexico and in Texas along the Rio Grande. There is at least one Catholic congregation in 2,961 U.S. counties, a feat second only to the United Methodists.

The religion census reported on other Christian denominations and religious groups. It found almost 21.1 million nondenominational Christians in more than 44,000 congregations, 17.6 million Southern Baptist adherents in more than 51,000 congregations, and 8 million United Methodists in 30,000 congregations.

United Methodist numbers could decline significantly due to changing circumstances. Many American United Methodists have rejected communion with global Methodism and deny historic Christian teaching on matters such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and sexual ethics. Last weekend, hundreds of congregations in Texas alone voted to disaffiliate with United Methodism. Many are expected to join the Global Methodist Church, a new denomination.

As for other religious bodies, the religion census reported 6.7 million Latter-day Saint adherents in 14,000 congregations and an estimated 4.4 million Muslims in 2,700 congregations.

The top 10 largest religious bodies include several million other Americans who are adherents, respectively, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Assemblies of God, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or the predominantly African American National Missionary Baptist Convention.

Other Christian and non-Christian minorities did not fall within the top 10 largest religious bodies. Among other non-Christian groups, the census counted one Baha’i group, three Buddhist groups, three Hindu groups, and four Jewish groups.

Council of Cardinals meet with the Pope


2020.12.21 Foto-presentazione FB "100 presepi sotto il Colonnato"

Pope meets with the Council of Cardinals

Pope Francis and six members of the Council of Cardinals (C-6) met on 5-6 December for their periodical consultations in the Vatican.

By Vatican News staff reporter

The ongoing synodal process leading to the 2023-24 Synod on synodality, the protection of minors and the outcome of the recent COP-27 in Sharm-el-Sheikh, were among the important topics discussed at this week’s meeting of the Council of Cardinals (also known as the C-6), which took place at the Casa Santa Marta, in the Vatican, from 5-6 December with the participation of Pope Francis.

Attending the meeting were Cardinals Pietro Parolin, Giuseppe Bertello, Óscar A. Rodríguez Maradiaga, S.D.B., Reinhard Marx, Seán Patrick O'Malley, O.F.M. Cap., Oswald Gracias and Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, O.F.M. Cap., and the Secretary of the Council, H.E. Archbishop Marco Mellino. Pope Francis took part in the proceedings on both days.

According to a statement by the Vatican Press Office, on  5 December, the Cardinals celebrated a Mass in the St. Peter’s Basilica in memory of late Cardinal Richard Kuuia Baawobr, who passed away on November 27.

Topics discussed

The Pope’s advisory board then xamined the outcome of the recent COP-27 in Egypt on climate change. Discussions were introduced by the  Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and by Cardinal  Ambongo Besungu of Kinshasa.

On Tuesday the C-6 reflected with Pope Francis on the continental phase of the ongoing Synod on synodality , on the basis of a report submitted by Cardinal Mario Grech, the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, and of the fruits of the digital synodal process elaborated in collaboration with the Dicastery for Communication.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston presented the work carried out by the Commission for the Protection of Minors at the service of the Bishops' Conferences and the Roman Curia, and in the the afternoon Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay reported on the recent Conference of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) which met  in Bangkok, Thailand, in October.

Next meetin in Aprile 2023

The meeting also offered the Cardinals an opportunity to exchange an update on some current affairs in their respective countries and for an overall progress assessment of the Board’s  work in the past years.

The next appointment is set for the month of April 2023.

Wednesday General Audience with the Pope


Pope at Audience: Inner peace confirms our decisions

Pope Francis continues his catechesis on discernment at the weekly General Audience, and reflects on the need to confirm our decisions with the presence of a long-lasting inner peace.

By Devin Watkins

“We can recognize some important aspects that help to read the time after a decision as a possible confirmation of its goodness.”

Pope Francis made that observation in his continuing catechesis on discernment at the Wednesday General Audience.

He focused his reflections on the importance of confirming decisions with signs from our daily lives.

“One of the distinctive signs of the good spirit is the fact that it communicates a peace that lasts in time. A peace that brings harmony, unity, fervour, zeal.”

Good choices improve daily life

The Pope offered the example of someone who decides to dedicate an extra half-hour to prayer.

He said the person should ask themselves whether the other moments of their day are more serene or anxious, if they care more or less for their work, or if their relationships with difficult people are more or less tranquil.

“The spiritual life is circular,” he said. “The goodness of a choice benefits all areas of our lives. For it is participation in God’s creativity.”

Alignment of our lives

Pope Francis said one aspect of post-decision discernment is the awareness of “feeling in one’s proper place in life” and a useful part of a larger plan.

He noted that St. Peter’s Square has two points from which the columns of Bernini are perfectly aligned. In the same way, he said, we understand that we have made a good decision when our day becomes more ordered and integrated and we discover renewed energy.

Overcoming desire to possess

Another sign of a good discernment, said the Pope, is when we “remain free” in relation to what we have decided and are “willing to revisit the decision” to find a possible teaching from the Lord.

“This is not because He wants to deprive us of what we hold dear, but in order to live it with freedom, without attachment,” he said. “Only God knows what is truly good for us.”

Pope Francis added that the desire to possess is the enemy of goodness, pointing to the many cases of domestic violence which he said often are the result of the desire to possess the affection of another person.

“We can only love in freedom, which is why the Lord created us free, free even to say no to Him.”

Courage in fear of the Lord

In conclusion, the Pope said that the “fear of God” or “respect of God” is an indispensable gift of Divine Wisdom that helps us in our discernment.

“It is the fear that casts out all other fears, because it is oriented to Him who is Lord of all things. In His presence, nothing can disquiet us.”

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Saint, Confessor & Doctor of the Church


St. Ambrose

Saint Ambrose, also known as Aurelius Ambrosius, is one of the four original doctors of the Church. He was the Bishop of Milan and became one of the most important theological figure of the 4th century.

Ambrose was born around 340 AD to a Roman Christian family. He grew up with his siblings, Satyrus and Marcellina, in Trier, Belgic Gaul (present-day Germany). It is believed by many that when Ambrose was just an infant, a swarm of bees landed on his face and left behind a drop of honey. To his father, this was a sign that Ambrose would become someone great with a wonderful sense for speaking.

After Ambrose's father passed away, he was educated in Rome, where he studied law, literature and rhetoric. Ambrose received a place on the council, like his father, and was made consular prefect, or the Governor, of Liguria and Emilia around 372. Ambrose?s headquarters were in Milan, the then second capital of Italy.

Ambrose remained Governor until 374 when he became the Bishop of Milan. After the former Bishop of Milan died, Ambrose attended the election to prevent any uproars between the Nicene Church and the Arians. While giving an address, the assembly began calling for him to become the next bishop.

Ambrose was known for his Nicene beliefs, but Arians also favored him because he had previously shown charity in theological matters. However, being neither baptized or trained in theology, Ambrose refused to become the next bishop.

He ran and attempted to hide, but his colleague gave him up. Within a week's time, Ambrose was baptized, ordained and duly consecrated bishop of Milan on December 7, 374.

As bishop, he donated all of his land and gave his money to the poor. This made him widely popular and often times more politically powerful than even the emperor.

He studied theology with Simplician, a presbyter of Rome. Using his new education, along with his knowledge of Greek, he took the time to study the Old Testament and Greek authors. He used all of this while preaching; his abilities impressed Augustine of Hippo, who previously thought poorly of Christian preachers.

After meeting Ambrose, Augustine reevaluated himself and was forever changed. In 387, Ambrose baptized Augustine, who he had a great influence on. St. Monica, Augustine's mother, loved Ambrose "as an angel of God who uprooted her son from his former ways and led him to his convictions of Christ."

According to legend, Ambrose tried to put an end to Arianism in Milan. He often attempted to theologically dispute their propositions. The Arians appealed to many high position leaders, but Ambrose was able to stay one step ahead. The Arians increasing strength proved troublesome for Ambrose. Around 386, the Emperor Valentinian II and his mother, Justine, along with many other people, including clergy, laypersons, and military, professed Arianism.

They demanded some of the churches in Milan be dedicated to them, one in the city and one in the suburbs. Ambrose refused and was ordered to appear in front of the council, where he then spoke eloquently in defense of the Church. He is quoted with stating: If you demand my person, I am ready to submit: carry me to prison or to death, I will not resist; but I will never betray the church of Christ. I will not call upon the people to succour me; I will die at the foot of the altar rather than desert it. The tumult of the people I will not encourage: but God alone can appease it.

The imperial court did not like Ambrose's religious principles, but he was sought out to help and speak to Magnus Maximus to prevent him from descending upon Italy. Ambrose was successful.

During a second attempt, the embassy was not successful and Milan was taken. Justine and Valentinian II fled, but Ambrose stayed. He is credited with doing a great service to the sufferers during this time.

In 385, Ambrose once again refused handing over the Portian basilica to Valentinian II, this time to be used by Arian troops. A year later, Ambrose was again ordered to hand over the church for Arian use. Ambrose and his congregation barricaded themselves within the church walls until the imperial order rescinded.

After Theodosius I, emperor of the East, married Justine, Ambrose had him excommunicated for the massacre of 7,000 people. The emperor did several months? worth of public penance.

In his later years, Ambrose retired in Bologna and assisted in the transferring of saints Vitalis and Agricola's relics.

Two years after Theodosius died, after he acquired the possession of the Roman empire, Ambrose passed away on April 4, 397. He was succeeded as bishop of Milan by Simplician.

Ambrose's body remains in the church of St. Ambrogio in Milan, along with the bodies of Saints Gervase and Protase.

St. Ambrose was generous to the poor. He considered them not a group of outsiders, but rather those of the united people. To him, giving to the poor was just a repayment of God's resources, which were intended for everyone equally.

He introduced reforms in the order and manner of public worship. He was known for his "liturgical flexibility that kept in mind that liturgy was a tool to serve people in worshiping God, and ought not to become a rigid entity that is invariable from place to place."

Ambrose is credited with advising Augustine of Hippo to follow local liturgical customs. "When I am at Rome, I fast on a Saturday; when I am at Milan, I do not. Follow the custom of the church where you are," he stated. This advice remains today, and is translated in English as the saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."

Some believe Ambrose was a Christian Universalist, based on interpretations of his writing. The Theological treatises of Ambrose had great influences on Popes Damasus, Siricius and Leo XIII. Ambrose studied largely on the virginity of Mary and her role as Mother of God. He viewed celibacy as superior to marriage and saw Mary as virginity's model.

Ambrose authored many of the Church's important writings and hymns. He is credited with composing the repertory Ambrosian chant, also known as the Antiphonal Chant. He is also credited with composing the hymn "Te Deum," which is believed to have been written when he baptized Augustine of Hippo.

St. Ambrose is the Confessor and Doctor of the Church. He is the patron saint of bee keepers, beggars, learning and Milan, and his feast day is celebrated on December 7.

Jane's Revenge threatens to shoot pro-life ministry at University of Nebraska


Catholic Student Center in Nebraska Receives Shooting Threat, Signed ‘Jane’s Revenge’

The note was addressed to Father Dan Andrews, pastor of the St. John Paul II Newman Center.

Joe Bukuras/CNA

OMAHA, Neb. — A Catholic campus ministry center at the University of Nebraska received a death threat Saturday morning in a note signed, “Jane’s Revenge,” a calling card used by pro-abortion activists. 

“If our right to abortion in Bellevue is taken away due to the attempt to pass an abortion ban and it gets passed[,] we will shoot up your Newman center with our new AR14 rifles. Sincerely, Jane’s Revenge,” the note, which was posted online, says.

The note was addressed to Father Dan Andrews, pastor of the St. John Paul II Newman Center. 

The threat is the latest in a series of intimidation tactics used against pro-life organizations. In other instances, the threats have come in the form of spray-painted messages with a variation on the words, “If abortion isn’t safe, neither are you.”

Located near the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Scott campus, the Newman Center is about a 14-minute drive south of Omaha in the town of Bellevue. 

Kristan Hawkins, president of the pro-life group Students for Life, shared the note on social media. reported that the pro-life group was hosting a “political leadership workshop” at the Newman center on Saturday morning. 

“This morning, a threatening note was found on the St. John Paul II Newman Center Oratory door. The author of the note claims to represent Jane’s Revenge,” a Saturday statement from the Newman center reads. 

Father Andrews called the note “unsettling and unfortunate” but added that the “Christ-centered residents and parishioners are undeterred,” according to the statement.

“This obviously causes us great concern. Our number one priority is the safety of our students,” the priest said in the statement. “We are thankful for UNO Police’s prompt response and attention to this threat.”

In a string of tweets, Hawkins related what took place, and called on the Biden Administration to act against “pro-abortion terrorist groups.”

“BREAKING: Jane’s Revenge threatens to shoot pro-lifers. This morning in Nebraska, our team arrived for our @SFLAction Political Leadership Workshop where we are gathering activists from across the state to strategize about how to use @studentsforlife’s Campaign for Abortion Free Cities to shut down the late-term abortion facility in the state. When we arrived, a death threat via guns from Jane’s Revenge was posted on the door. We’ve called the police and are scrambling to make it safe.” 

“We are headed towards tragedy if [U.S. Attorney General] Merrick Garland continues to refuse to act to protect peaceful pro-lifers from pro-abortion terrorist groups. Sadly, the incendiary comments of leaders like Hillary Clinton yesterday comparing pro-lifers to the Taliban is case in point the poisoned political climate being deliberately fostered by corporate abortion and their allies,” Hawkins added.

“The Biden Administration is laying the groundwork for deadly violence against pro-lifers while they support violence against those in the womb. They must act.”

The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Department of Public Safety said in a Saturday statement that the Douglas County Sheriff’s office and the Omaha Police Department are working together to investigate the threat and increase security measures. 

The Newman Center and the campus are maintaining normal operations, the statement said. 

“Individuals with information that can assist with the investigation are encouraged to contact UNO Public Safety by phone at 402.554.2648, by email at, or by text using U-TIP. The latest information will be published on the UNO News Center as it becomes available,” the statement said. 

CNA reached out to the Archdiocese of Omaha for comment but did not immediately hear back by time of publication.

Rebuilding homes in Ukraine; after so much pain one can still feel gratitude


The nun rebuilding homes and hope in Ukraine

Sister Marta Meshko organises the donation of building materials to those whose houses have been destroyed by missile strikes in Ukraine. "It's a miracle that after so much pain one can still feel gratitude", she says.

By Svitlana Dukhovych – Vatican City

In Ukraine, winter is just around the corner. In peacetime, this moment brought the joy of seeing big snowflakes falling from the sky, feeling snow crunching underfoot, spending time with family in heated homes over the course of long winter evenings.

Today, however, it is a moment of terror. For many Ukrainians, their only thought now is how to survive the winter cold, which sometimes lasts until even April, with temperatures going as low as -25° C.

Many power plants and central heating systems, moreover, have been destroyed by Russian missile strikes. The most vulnerable of all are those who have lost their houses due to attacks. In the Kyiv region alone, during the first months of the Russian invasion, which began on the 24th February, more than 12 thousand houses were damaged, and around 5 thousand completely destroyed. The same fate befell hundreds of multi-floor buildings.

Not all their inhabitants, however, decided to flee: many remained on their own land, to rebuild their houses and lives.

Rebuilding hope

"One woman told me that she saw her house burn down completely in 20 minutes. Only a small hut remains, where she now lives with her husband. It is very painful for them to wake up every morning and see only ruins around them."

These are the words of Sister Marta Meshko of the Sisters of Mary of the Miraculous Medal, a congregation founded in Slovenia. She has been serving in Kyiv since 2005. For the past few months, together with volunteers from the organization De Paul Ukraine, she has been providing building materials to villagers around the Ukrainian capital so that they can start rebuilding their homes.

"It is a true miracle," the nun emphasises, "to see how, after losing everything, instead of complaining about the evil they have unjustly suffered, these people immediately react to a gesture of kindness by finding hope in life again. It moves me to see how, in this tragic situation, they manage to demonstrate gratitude and hope."

Purchasing building materials

Sister Marta explains that the idea of helping in this way came from a realisation she had on the return journey to Kyiv from the Zakarpattia region, where her community spent the first three months of the invasion, praying day and night.

Her first thought was “to live the Gospel here and now, even in these conditions”. This occurred to her in a moment of prayer, as she was asking God how her community could restart its mission in the capital.

The answer as to what concrete help they could offer the inhabitants came when Sister Marta went, with volunteers, to bring food to the residents of the villages of Moschchun and Zahaltsi, on the outskirts of Kyiv. There a woman named Olha showed them her house, which had been completely destroyed.

“If we at least had the materials, we could begin to rebuild it ourselves, and finish it before winter”. This is what Olha told Sister Marta, and, in those words, she discovered what she should do with the money that her congregation had made available for the nuns in Ukraine to use for war victims. Sister Marta thus decided to buy materials to help the people to rebuild their homes, asking them individually what they needed.

A chain of goodness

In the face of suffering, the discernment process happens fast. There is no time to waste, and so, just a day later, Sister Marta and the volunteers began to search for the material requested by the villagers.

"For the people to whom we brought the materials," Sister Marta explains, "this represented an impetus that gave them hope and joy. They could begin the work. We saw that our help generated a chain of goodness. For example, one family to whom we brought aerated concrete blocks then helped another family rebuild their roof. So, there was a lot of solidarity and a lot of goodness. And experiencing it under these conditions felt like a miracle."

Contact and listening

Sister Marta also explains that their initiative is not aimed at the masses; they prefer to support fewer people, so that they can make personal contact, be able to visit them and talk to them. This way, the nun is also able to carry out her pastoral mission: she is able to listen to the suffering endured by the inhabitants of these villages near the capital during its occupation by the Russian military.

"One woman, Halyna, told me," the nun recalls, "that when the Russians entered the village, she and her family hid in the cellar, in the cold. They could only get out at night to cook something. Her brother Leonid, a brave man, went around the village to feed the animals: cows, chickens, pigs, abandoned in the stables, and also the dogs and cats left behind by their owners who had escaped the attackers. Halyna, crying, told me that the Russian military shot one of her acquaintances just for failing to open a gate as quickly as they asked her to."

Evil is without logic

Sister Marta also notes that, although Ukrainians speak openly about their pain, they are not desperate at heart, and manage to show deep gratitude when somebody lends them a hand.

“I remember Sina, a grandmother, more than eighty years old, who lives in the village of Moschchun. Her house was also destroyed, and she went to live in a hut. We decided to buy a small premade wooden house for her, and she was so moved. She couldn’t believe that we’d done this for her. These people, in one short period, have experienced very strong emotions, contradictory and not easy to process. At the beginning of the year, the saw their property destroyed, and now they meet somebody who helps them and expects nothing in return.”

Sister Marta is giving her service, moreover, at a time in which one hears the air-raid alarm almost every day, and Russian missiles continue to destroy civilian infrastructure and strike people’s homes. “I am aware,” she concludes, “that I am not alone. I know that the Lord is with me, and with the people I help.  What is more, through prayer I can bring their pain to God, who can give them the strength to go on and not focus on evil. A real temptation is to analyse evil, try to understand it. But evil does not have any logic, and one cannot understand it. Instead, you need to direct your energy and thoughts toward action, understand the concrete needs of people, and try to help them.”

Updated and published 6 December 2022