Friday, February 28, 2014

Founder of many monasteries, Archbishop & Saint from Wales

St. David

St. David
St. David

Feastday: March 1

According to tradition, St. David was the son of King Sant of South Wales and St. Non. He was ordained a priest and later studied under St. Paulinus. Later, he was involved in missionary work and founded a number of monasteries. The monastery he founded at Menevia in Southwestern Wales was noted for extreme asceticism. David and his monks drank neither wine nor beer - only water - while putting in a full day of heavy manual labor and intense study. Around the year 550, David attended a synod at Brevi in Cardiganshire. His contributions at the synod are said to have been the major cause for his election as primate of the Cambrian Church. He was reportedly consecrated archbishop by the patriarch of Jerusalem while on a visit to the Holy Land. He also is said to have invoked a council that ended the last vestiges of Pelagianism. David died at his monastery in Menevia around the year 589, and his cult was approved in 1120 by Pope Callistus II. He is revered as the patron of Wales. Undoubtedly, St. David was endowed with substantial qualities of spiritual leadership. What is more, many monasteries flourished as a result of his leadership and good example. His staunch adherence to monastic piety bespeaks a fine example for modern Christians seeking order and form in their prayer life.His feast day is March 1.

Pray with Pope Francis' intentions for March

Pope Francis' Prayer Intentions For March 2014

Vatican City, 28 February 2014 (VIS) – The Pope's universal prayer intention for March is “that all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women”.

His prayer intention for evangelisation is “that many young people may accept the Lord's invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel”.

One year ago today: Pope Benedict XVI leaves the as Pope

CDF official: My memories of that historic day when Pope Benedict stepped down

 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Exactly one year ago (on February 28th 2013) Pope Benedict left the Vatican for the last time as Pope and was flown by helicopter to the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. Benedict was the first Pope to step down in more than 600 years and for many people within the Vatican those final moments of his papacy are indelible images stamped in their memories.
One of those who was an eyewitness on that historic day was Monsignor John Kennedy, a senior official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Monsignor Kennedy worked with Pope Benedict for several years when as Cardinal Josef Ratzinger he was the Prefect of that Congregation. He shared with Susy Hodges his memories and emotions of that day that was like no other.
Monsignor Kennedy recalls that February 28th last year when Pope Benedict formally stepped down was “a typically bright early spring day but it was so surreal.” As a result he said it was really hard for him and his colleagues to concentrate on their work. “Our minds were on our desks but our hearts were with Pope Benedict.” He describes how the people working at the Congregation that day “all felt magnetically drawn” to go up onto the roof of their office building to witness with their own eyes the final scenes of Benedict’s departure from the Vatican.
Asked about his own emotions on that historic day, Monsignor Kennedy said: “I felt lost, I felt sad and I felt kind of empty.” He took pictures of Pope Benedict’s helicopter which after taking off turned back and came and circled right over the roof of their office building and described how they “all waved” in a cheerful yet “heart-sinking” sort of way as it flew over their heads.
Later on that day, Monsignor Kennedy went down to St. Peter’s Square just before 8pm, the exact time when Benedict’s papacy formally came to an end and described what he saw and his own feelings.
“At eight o’clock the bells chimed … and then everybody in the square began to clap and I thought this was a nice way of saying (to Benedict) ‘Well done, thank you for everything you’ve done for us and we wish you well in the future.”

Here is a clue from the Pope: failed marriages deserve our prayerful support

Pope Francis: accompany, don't condemn, those who have experience failure in marriage

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta residence in the Vatican this morning. In remarks following the readings of the day, the Holy Father focused on the beauty of marriage and warned that the Church must accompany – not condemn – those who experience failure in married life. He explained that Christ is the Bridegroom of the Church, and therefore you cannot understand one without the Other.

The Holy Father also warned against giving in to the temptation to entertain “special pleading” in questions regarding marriage. The Pharisees, he noted, present Jesus with the problem of divorce. Their method, the Pope said, is always the same: “casuistry,” — “is this licit or not?”

“It is always the small case. And this is the trap, behind casuistry, behind casuistical thought, there is always a trap: against people, against us, and against God, always. ‘But is it licit to do this? To divorce his wife?’ And Jesus answered, asking them what the Law said, and explaining why Moses framed the Law as he did. But He doesn’t stop there. From [the study of the particular case], He goes to the heart of the problem, and here He goes straight to the days of Creation. That reference of the Lord is so beautiful: ‘But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh’.”

Pope Francis went on to say, “The Lord refers to the masterpiece of Creation,” which is precisely the human person, created as male and female. God said He “did not want man to be alone,” He wanted him to be with “his companion along the way.” The moment Adam meets Eve, he said, is a poetic moment: “It is the beginning of love: [a couple] going together as one flesh.” The Lord , he repeated, “always takes casuistic thought and brings it to the beginning of revelation.” On the other hand, he explained, “this masterpiece of the Lord is not finished there, in the days of Creation, because the Lord has chosen this icon to explain the love that He has for His people.” At the very point “when the people is unfaithful,” he said, God speaks to him with words of love”:

“The Lord takes this love of the masterpiece of Creation to explain the love He has for His people. And going further: when Paul needs to explain the mystery of Christ, he does it in a relationship, in reference to His Spouse: because Christ is married, Christ was married, He married the Church, His people. As the Father had married the People of Israel, Christ married His people. This is the love story, this is the history of the masterpiece of Creation – and before this path of love, this icon, casuistry falls and becomes sorrowful. When, however, this leaving one’s father and mother, and joining oneself to a woman, and going forward... when this love fails – because many times it fails – we have to feel the pain of the failure, [we must] accompany those people who have had this failure in their love. Do not condemn. Walk with them – and don’t practice casuistry on their situation.”

Pope Francis also said the Gospel episode encourages us to reflect “about this plan of love, this journey of love in Christian marriage, that God has blessed the masterpiece of His Creation,” a blessing, he said, “that has never been taken away. Not even original sin has destroyed it.” When we thinks of this, we can “see how beautiful love is, how beautiful marriage is, how beautiful the family is, how beautiful this journey is, and how much love we too [must have], how close we must be to our brothers and sisters who in life have had the misfortune of a failure in love.”

Turning again to Saint Paul, Pope Francis emphasized the beauty of “the love Christ has for His bride, the Church”:

“Here too, we must be careful that love should not fail: [it is dangerous] to speak about a bachelor-Christ (It. Cristo troppo scappolo): Christ married the Church. You can’t understand Christ without the Church, and you can’t understand the Church without Christ. This is the great mystery of the masterpiece of Creation. May the Lord give all of us the grace to understand it and also the grace to never fall into these casuistical attitudes of the Pharisees, of the teachers of the law.”

Text from page,_dont_condemn,_those_who_have_experience/en1-777372
of the Vatican Radio website

In the line of Peter, a 5th century Pope

St. Hilary, Pope

St. Hilary, Pope
St. Hilary, Pope

Feastday: February 28
Died: 468

Pope from 461-468 and guardian of Church unity. He was born in Sardinia, Italy, and was a papal legate to the Robber Council of Ephesus in 449, barely escaping with his life from this affair. Hilary was used by Pope St. Leo I the Great on many assignments. When Leo died, Hilary was elected pope and consecrated on November 19,461. He worked diligently to strengthen the Church in France and Spain, calling councils in 462 and 465. Hilary also rebuilt many Roman churches and erected the chapel of St. John Lateran. He also publicly rebuked Emperor Anthemius in St. Peter’s for supporting the Macedonian heresy and sent a decree to the Eastern bishops validating the decisions of the General Councils of Nicaea, Ephesus, and Chalcedon. Hilary consolidated the Church in Sandi, Africa, and Gaul. He died in Rome on February 28.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pope Francis says don't be inconsistent; practice what you preach

Pope: Inconsistency in our actions causes Church scandal
By Elise Harris
Pope Francis greets pilgrims in St. Peter's Square before the Wednesday general audience Dec. 4, 2013. Credit: Kyle Burkhart/CNA.
Pope Francis greets pilgrims in St. Peter's Square before the Wednesday general audience Dec. 4, 2013. Credit: Kyle Burkhart/CNA.

.- In his daily homily Pope Francis spoke of the harm done when Christians don't practice what they preach, noting that this incoherence leads others away from the Church and often brings scandal.

“When there is no Christian coherency, and you live with this incoherence, you're giving scandal. And the Christians that are not coherent are giving scandal,” the Pope said in his Feb. 27 Mass.

Speaking to those gathered in the chapel of the Vatican's St. Martha guesthouse, the pontiff began his reflections by drawing attention to a person to whom he administered the Sacrament of Confirmation during the Mass, observing that they had “manifested the desire to be a Christian.”

“To be Christian means to bear witness to Jesus Christ,” he said, adding that to a Christian person “thinks like a Christian, feels like a Christian and acts like a Christian. And this is coherency in the life of a Christian.”

However, the pontiff noted that “if one of these things is missing, he is not a Christian, there’s something wrong, there’s a certain incoherence,” and that Christians “who ordinarily, commonly live in incoherence, do so much harm.”

Recalling the first reading taken from the book of James, the Pope drew attention to words which the apostle spoke to the people who had boasted of being Christians, but took advantage of their employees.

“‘Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.’”

When we hear these words, there are some who might think “‘But a communist has said this!’” the Pope explained, emphasizing that “No, no, the Apostle James said it! It is the Word of the Lord. It’s incoherent.”

“And when there is no Christian coherency, and you live with this incoherence, you’re giving scandal.”

Referring to the words of Jesus in the Gospel, taken from Mark, in which he says that “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me,’ even one of these brothers, these sisters that have faith, ‘it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.’”

Inconsistent Christians do “so much harm. Scandal kills,” he continued, adding that “So many times we’ve heard ‘But Father, I believe in God, but not in the Church, because you Christians say one thing and do another.'”

This attitude of “‘I believe in God, but not in you,'” comes “because of inconsistency” the Pope repeated, explaining that “If you find yourself in front of – imagine! - in front of an atheist and he tells you he doesn’t believe in God, you can read him a whole library, where it says that God exists and even proving that God exists, and he will not have faith.”

“But if in the presence of this atheist you bear coherent witness of Christian life, something will begin to work in his heart,” the pontiff observed, and “it will be your witness that he will bring this restlessness on which the Holy Spirit works.”

“It’s a grace that we all, the whole Church must ask for,” the Pope noted, explaining that prayer is necessary in order to live a coherent life, and that when we fail at this, we should ask for forgiveness.

“We are all sinners, all of us, but we all have the ability to ask for forgiveness,” the pontiff went on to say, highlighting that God “never gets tired of forgiving!”

“Have the humility to ask for forgiveness,” he concluded, “Go forward in life with Christian coherence, with the witness of one who believes in Jesus Christ, who knows that he is a sinner, but who has the courage to ask for forgiveness when he makes mistakes” and who is “afraid of giving scandal.”

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

This Saint gave us the teaching of "consubstantial" and introduced the Nicene Creed in the Mass

St. Leander of Seville

St. Leander of Seville
St. Leander of Seville

Feastday: February 27
534 - 600

St. Leander of Seville, Bishop (Feast - February 27th) Leander was born at Cartagena, Spain, of Severianus and Theodora, illustrious for their virtue. St. Isidore and Fulgentius, both bishops were his brothers, and his sister, Florentina, is also numbered among the saints. He became a monk at Seville and then the bishop of the See. He was instrumental in converting the two sons Hermenegild and Reccared of the Arian Visigothic King Leovigild. This action earned him the kings's wrath and exile to Constantinople, where he met and became close friends of the Papal Legate, the future Pope Gregory the Great. It was Leander who suggested that Gregory write the famous commentary on the Book of Job called the Moralia. Once back home, under King Reccared, St. Leander began his life work of propagating Christian orthodoxy against the Arians in Spain. The third local Council of Toledo (over which he presided in 589) decreed the consubstantiality of the three Persons of the Trinity and brought about moral reforms. Leander's unerring wisdom and unflagging dedication let the Visigoths and the Suevi back to the true Faith and obtained the gratitude of Gregory the Great. The saintly bishop also composed an influential Rule for nuns and was the first to introduce the Nicene Creed at Mass. Worn out by his many activities in the cause of Christ, Leander died around 600 and was succeeded in the See of Seville by his brother Isidore. The Spanish Church honors Leander as the Doctor of the Faith.

A Deacons prayer

A Prayer for Deacons

God our Father,

I thank you for the love and care you show to me and my family for calling me to serve you as a deacon in the Church.

May your Holy Spirit guide me in my home life, in my employment, and in my ministry to your people.  I ask for understanding of others and compassion to all.  Help me to know the gifts you have given me and how to use them in serving others.

Bless me with the humility needed to accept rejection, the ability to discern your will, and the peace of mind that comes with serving you as you would have me do.

I pray for my brother deacons, the men in the diaconate formation program and those being called.  I pray for their wives and families, and their special needs.  I pray for our Pope, our bishops, priests, religious, parish communities, and all people.  May we serve each other in love and with understanding.

Give me the courage, strength and grace to help build a world of justice and peace through Jesus Christ, your Son. 


(Imprimatur by Bishop Stanislaus J. Brzana, Bishop of Ogdensburg, October 4, 1986, Feast of St. Francis of Assisi)

Update on Wendy and the lessons in life learned this week

Many of my readers know that my wife Wendy entered the Louisiana Heart Hospital on Tuesday morning for an angiogram to confirm or deny a blockage as indicated on last week's stress test.  The bottom line is we were relieved that while a small blockage was confirmed there is no need for any surgery at this time.  The blockage can be effectively treated with medication and cardio rehabilitation.  This was indeed good news as Wendy has battled heart disease now for almost 20 years and battles heredity and other risk factors that we try to manage. 

The amazing response of prayers and expressions of love and support proved to be a source of great strength, hope and encouragement.  I learned this week that prayer works and that solidarity in prayer is important; you know, where two or more...

Wendy and I are thrilled that these results were good because we will not need to alter our plans to visit with #1 grandson, Calvin.  So while the rest of the greater New Orleans area will focus on Mardi Gras, Wendy and I plan to bring a little Mardi Gras to North Carolina and have a Krewe of Calvin!!!  We have learned through this process of being grandparents that life is precious and that family is important. 

In just this same week that Wendy went through her personal challenge I prayed for my aunt, the only surviving member of the family from my mothers side, battling a pesky skin cancer and then for my brother-in-law and my sister too as they prepare to say goodbye to his dad.  May he rest in peace!

I've mentioned here too lately the awesome battle of a young wife and mom against cancer and her subsequent death to new life this past Saturday.  Today our friend Leon, along with his precious children, said goodbye to their beloved Courtney, wife and mom.  Leon and Courtney became members of the diaconate community several years back when Leon was accepted as an aspirant with the possibility of ordination in June of 2015.  But today was about saying goodbye, praying for the soul of Courtney and showing presence, love and support to Leon.  As one of many deacons present for the funeral liturgy, the love flowing from an over-packed church, the presence of Priests & Deacons and the beauty and dignity of the liturgy spoke volumes about love.  In death, this young wife and mother taught so many so much about the Kingdom of God.

This has been an impactful powerful week.  Lessons learned.  The beauty of life affirmed.  The glory of God magnified and the love of Jesus Christ evident!

The amazing chapel at Louisiana State Penitentiary

Inmates complete prison’s new Catholic chapel in 38 days        
Angola’s Alamo

The inmates affectionately call it “The Alamo.” The bishop calls it a blessing. And nearly everyone who visits Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel declares it amazing and beautiful.
The chapel, located inside the Louisiana State Penitentiary’s Main Camp, was built by volunteer inmates, who worked in 12-hour shifts around the clock and completed it in 38 days.
Designed in the Colonial Spanish Mission style to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe, the chapel’s stucco front façade resembles the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, and many other Catholic edifices from the American Southwest to South America.
At a Mass of Dedication on Dec. 12, Bishop Robert W. Muench, of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of the Americas. Hundreds of inmates, visitors, officials and even a mariachi band packed into the 6,000 square-foot, steel-framed building that features paintings, stained-glass windows and furniture, all crafted by inmates.
“The new Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel at Angola is a special blessing to Catholic residents and others who are able and wish to pray and worship there,” Bishop Muench said for this story. “It stands as a testament of faith to civil authorities, generous donors, talented artisans and dedicated workers who made it possible.”
The chapel is part of the Louisiana Prison Chapel Foundation system, and is the 14th chapel built in state prisons with inmate labor and donated funds, according to Cindy Mann, the foundation’s executive director.
Latin American businessmen Jorge Valdez and the late Fernando Garcia, who unexpectedly died right before the project started, were the primary donors.
“These men had a passion and a burning in their hearts for the prison chapel, and that passion was also shown by the inmates who poured their hearts and souls into the 24/7 construction,” Mann said. “Every detail is absolutely amazing, from the craftsmanship of the handmade chandeliers to the pews to the beautiful artwork. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Tim Byrd, Angola’s maintenance director and chapel construction project manager, estimated the cost for materials and some of the furniture at $451,000.
About half of Angola’s 6,400 inmates are registered as Catholics, according to Warden Burl Cain.
The prison’s Catholic chaplain, the Rev. Bernard Papania, called “Father Bernie” by his congregation, has been at Angola for about a year and a half, and travels among the prison’s six camps on a regular basis.
Papania said about 50 Main Camp inmates did everything from framing up the steel, to laying the block and tile, to painting, wiring and plumbing, with much of that work going on simultaneously.
Before the chapel was built, the 60 or so Main Camp Catholics worshipped in a small, 1970s-era interfaith chapel shared with other groups, Papania said. Now they have their own space and pew seating for more than 200 worshippers.
“It’s been very good,” Papania said. “A lot of the guys who built this aren’t Catholics, but they all put their heart and soul into it.”

Much of the furniture and several statues — some of which survived Hurricane Katrina — were donated by the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Papania said. The marble altar is from Hope Haven, a West Bank boys’ home where several of the inmates told him they lived as youths.

A life-sized Lady of Guadalupe icon, custom made in the Netherlands of three-dimensional glass, dominates the front right side of the sanctuary. Wrought-iron chandeliers, made by inmate blacksmiths, hang from the vaulted ceiling.

Inmate: ‘It’s a miracle!’

The sanctuary’s front is dominated by a colorful, floor-to-ceiling, larger-than-life mural of Christ’s crucifixion painted by Miguel Velez. Now in his 27th year of a life sentence for murder, the 65 year-old Colombian native and architect, said he experienced a miracle.
When the work began, Velez said he suffered from several large cancerous tumors on his back and neck and couldn’t even help build the scaffolding. But as he painted the mural the tumors went away, he said.
“I still have cancer, but the tumors are gone,” Velez said. “It’s a miracle!”
Papania, standing nearby, nodded in agreement.

A place of refuge

“This is a place where you can come and forget about your life and your life sentence,” Velez said of the chapel. “It is a place of fellowship and peace.”
Derrick Sonnier, a 35-year-old Jefferson Parish native in his 16th year of a life sentence for principal to murder as a juvenile, assisted Velez and also painted the corner columns and cross emblems around the room. An artist, but not a Catholic, he paints Louisiana scenes he sells at the prison’s rodeos.
“You can see the difference in the men now that they have a place they can call their own,” Sonnier said.
Each of the 14 Stations of the Cross were painted by different inmate artists. Jorge Rodriguez, 63, a native Cuban now in his 33rd year of a life sentence for a second degree murder conviction, painted the third station.
“My inspiration was, I fell for the first time and I see Jesus and the cross fall for the first time,” Rodriguez said. “It’s part of my life.”
Rodriguez, a chapel minister who became a Catholic in 2005, said, “we have a place of our own to worship. It elevates our spirits.”
Sonnier added that he’s seen a positive change in the prison since Warden Burl Cain instituted faith-based and educational programs after his arrival in 1995.
“Sixteen years ago this was a bad place — especially for a young white guy,” Sonnier said. “The demeanor of guys has changed over the years. Now they have more things to focus their energy on versus the chaos that was rampant during those times.”
Rodriguez added: “God’s hand is on this chapel, and on Warden Burl Cain for building this. This was a bloody prison before but God is using Burl Cain to show the world that this place changed and people can be changed. I thank God for that.”
Assistant Warden Cathy Fontenot said the chapel is a symbol of how faith in God and innovative programs can change the inmates and even society at large.
“This is a solemn and holy place that is a reflection of who they are now,” Fontenot said. “It is the best of who they are reflected in something that is going to reassure them that their life has purpose and there is a greater goal beyond what we normally see and that is through our faith.”
“This place gives them hope,” Fontenot added. “In a prison setting, where usually men are not allowed to be creative, and to follow in the image of their creator, to be able to be in a facility that allows them to get to that point, that’s good for victims, that’s good for the public’s safety, it’s good to break the cycle of violence in the family — it’s all good.”

Pope Benedict says knock it of; I resigned validly; speculations are absurd

Ratzinger: “My resignation is valid. Speculations are simply absurd”

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Benedict XVI and Francis: a blending of papacies
(©Ansa) Benedict XVI and Francis: a blending of papacies

Benedict XVI responds to a letter sent to him by the Vatican correspondent Andrea Tornielli. The journalist sent him some questions regarding the alleged pressures and conspiracies which some claim led to his resignation

“There is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my resignation from the Petrine ministry” and the “speculations” surrounding it are “simply absurd”. Joseph Ratzinger was not forced to resign, he was not pressured into it and he did not fall victim to a conspiracy: his resignation was genuine and valid and there is no “diarchy” (dual government) in the Church today. There is a reigning Pope, Francis, who leads the Catholic Church and an Emeritus Pope whose “only purpose” is to pray for his successor.
The Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has put pen to paper to set the record straight on the historic decision he took one year ago, in response to the various interpretations that have been circulating in the press and on the web regarding his gesture. Writing from the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican, he replied in person to a letter with some questions which we sent him a few days ago, after certain comments made in the Italian and international press about his resignation. Ratzinger was brief and to the point; he denied speculations about any secret reasons behind his resignation and urged people not to give undue importance to certain choices he has made, such as his decision to carry on wearing the white cassock after stepping down as Bishop of Rome.
Readers will recall the shock announcement Benedict XVI made on 11 February 2013, informing cardinals at the Consistory of his free decision to resign ingravescente aetate (because of old age): “I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.” He also announced that the Apostolic See was going to be vacant as of the evening of 28 February when the cardinals would meet to begin the process of electing his successor. In the days that followed, Ratzinger informed he would be keeping his papal name Benedict XVI (the name with which he signed the letter he sent us), that he would from that moment on be referred to as Pope Emeritus (this title also appears in print on the letter) and that he planned to carry on wearing a white cassock, albeit a simpler version than the papal one: Ratzinger does not wear the short shoulder cape, known as the “pellegrina” and without the fascia.

At his final General Audience on 27 February 2013, Benedict XVI told a packed and sunny St. Peter’s Square that: “In these last few months, I have felt my strength diminish and I have asked God with insistency in my prayers to illuminate me with his light and make me take the best decision. I took this step in full awareness of its gravity and novelty but with profound serenity of spirit. Loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, painful choices, always keeping the good of the Church in mind and not ourselves.”

He added that his decision to withdraw from the public spot light “hidden from the world”, did not mean a return to private life. “My decision to resign the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this. I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences, and so on. I am not abandoning the cross, but remaining in a new way at the side of the crucified Lord. I no longer bear the power of office for the governance of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, in the enclosure of Saint Peter,” he said.

It was these words regarding his wish to stay within “the enclosure of Saint Peter” that led some to think that Benedict XVI’s decision to resign had not been taken freely and was therefore not valid. The idea that the Pope Emeritus wanted to cut out a role for himself as a “shadow Pope”, was light years away from the real Ratzinger. After Francis’ election, the changes he brought with him and the electric effect his words and personal testimony have had on the Church, comparisons with his predecessor were to be expected. This is after all what always happens when a new Pope takes charge. Benedict XVI himself has always rejected this comparison. Over the past weeks, as the anniversary of his resignation approaches, some have gone a bit too far, suggesting that Benedict XVI’s resignation may not have lacked validity and that he is therefore still playing an active and institutional role beside the reigning Pope.
On 16 February, the author of this article sent the Pope Emeritus a letter with some specific questions regarding these interpretations. A response came two days later. “There is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my resignation from the Petrine ministry,” Ratzinger wrote in his letter of reply. The only condition for the validity of my resignation is the complete freedom of my decision. Speculations regarding its validity are simply absurd.” Those closest to Ratzinger had been aware of the possibility of his resignation for a long time and he himself confirmed it in a book-length interview with the German journalist Peter Seewald (“Light of the World”, 2010): “If a pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign."

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sister of the King of France, virgin and foundress, Saint

St. Isabel of France

St. Isabel of France
St. Isabel of France

Feastday: February 26

Sister of St. Louis and daughter of King Louis VIII of France and Blanche of Castile, she refused offers of marriage from several noble suitors to continue her life of virginity consecrated to God. She ministered to the sick and the poor, and after the death of her mother, founded the Franciscan Monastery of the Humility of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Longchamps in Paris. She lived there in austerity but never became a nun and refused to become abbess. She died there on February 23, and her cult was approved in 1521.

President of the USCCB: there is a great thirst for Christ in the United States

Archbishop Kurtz sees 'great thirst' for Christ in US
By Andrea Gagliarducci and Kate Veik
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville takes part in a press conference at the USCCB's Fall General Assembly in Baltimore on Nov. 12, 2013. Credit: Addie Mena/CNA.

.- Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, says he has witnessed a strong desire for the Catholic Church among people in the United States.

“There are so many opportunities where people are thirsting: young people who are preparing for Confirmation, young adults who are searching, people of every age,” Archbishop Kurtz said. “There’s a great thirst, I think, of people to come to understand and to belong to the Church of Christ.”

He said the New Evangelization is an opportunity for Catholics to minister to those thirsting for truth with the same zeal as Jesus’ first apostles.

The archbishop spoke with CNA Feb. 20 in Rome. It was his first visit to the Vatican since his election as president of the U.S. bishops’ conference last November.

During the interview, Archbishop Kurtz outlined three steps to the New Evangelization in the United States. First, he said, Christians must experience a personal conversion.

“Our Holy Father says every one of us is in need of conversion, beginning with ourselves,” the archbishop stressed. “We are all in need of the grace of Jesus Christ to receive the Gospel.”

The next step is developing greater confidence in the power of the Gospel, he said. Christians must believe “that the power of the grace of Jesus Christ far exceeds any weakness on our part.”

Finally, after renewing personal conviction in the power of Christ, Christians must develop creative ways of sharing the Gospel.

“That's an exciting thing,” Archbishop Kurtz explained. “There's an adventure to that, in being able to find new ways to touch the hearts of people.”

The Pope has succeeded in doing this, he said, pointing to the “Pope Francis effect” in the media and culture across the globe.

“People have been touched in their hearts because our Holy Father says, ‘Before I see a rule, I always first see the person’,” the archbishop reflected. “Within the context of listening and understanding and walking with people together, we discover anew what were the teachings of Jesus, what he presented to us.”

“It begins with mercy, as our Holy Father says, and with love…the law of Christ is meant to give us a path to happiness in eternity and, we also hope, to the building of the body of Christ here on earth.”

The archbishop reiterated that the New Evangelization does not mean changing Church teaching. Instead, it is “providing a fresh understanding” of Church teaching that is “pastorally solid.”

“Our Holy Father…is very clear that, of course, the teachings of the Church must be preserved and passed on,” he said. “However, we need to do this in a way that the Holy Father says is creative. We need to do it in a way that we look for new strategies that address the hearts of people.”

Archbishop Kurtz is slated to return to Rome in October for the Synod of Bishops, which will focus on a pastoral approach to family issues.

“It will be the work of this synod to be able to, on the one hand, maintain a strict clarity on the teachings of our Church, but also to find new ways to proclaim the Gospel,” he said.

Don't tell me you can't make a difference; she did so by simply waving

This video demonstrates that whoever we are, whatever the circumstances, we can make a difference in someone else's life.

We tend to look for the overly heroic, or the big attention grabbing act.  This elderly lady made the difference in the life of school students because she waved, that's right, she waved.

Everyday, without fail, she waved.  Then one day, the students said thank-you.

How beautiful is this:

Make a difference everyday in someone's life!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Confessor, evangelizer. beatified by Bl. Pope JP II

Bl. Domenico Lentini

Bl. Domenico Lentini
Bl. Domenico Lentini

Feastday: February 25
1770 - 1828
Beatified By: 12 October 1997 by Pope John Paul II at Rome, Italy

Blessed Dominic Lentini was born November 20, 1770. Dominic family was of poor economic conditions, but rich in faith and honesty. He was baptized on the day of birth. At fourteen years old, Dominic followed the vocation of the priesthood. In 1793, he was ordained deacon in Mormanno. On the feast of Pentecost, June 8, 1794, Dominic was ordained a priest in the Cathedral of Marsiconuovo. Always available for the Sacrament of Penance, Dominic heared the confessions of the faithful diligently, he devoted himself with all his strength to evangelize. Equipped with all the gifts of prophecy and searching of hearts, would have worked wonders in life, died Feb. 25, 1828, in his house. His humble devotion to the Church and his parishioners led all who knew him to consider him a model for priests, and a saint even in life.

A miracle has been attributed to the intercession of Venerable Pope Paul VI

Vatican theologians recognize miracle attributed to Paul VI
Pope Paul VI Visits Geneva to Address ILO Conference on Fiftieth Anniversary, June 10, 1969. Credit: UN Photo.

.- The consulting theologians of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints have approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Pope Paul VI, moving him closer to sainthood.

Vatican Insider’s Andrea Tornielli reported Feb. 21 that earlier that week, the congregation’s theological experts had unanimously recognized the healing of an unborn child through the intercession of the late Roman Pontiff.

In the mid-1990s in California, the then-unborn child was found to have a serious problem with a high risk of brain damage. Physicians advised that the child be aborted, but the mother entrusted her pregnancy to Paul VI.

The child was born without problems, and now that he is an adolescent and remains healthy, he is regarded as having been completely healed.

The healing had already been announced as medically inexplicable by the medical commission of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

A miracle must be approved by both the members of the congregation and Pope Francis in order for Pope Paul VI to be beatified – the last step in the canonization process prior to being named a saint.

Paul VI’s canonization cause was opened in 1993, and in December 2012, then-Pope Benedict XVI signed a decree recognizing his predecessor’s “heroic virtue,” bestowing on him the title “Venerable.” This title means the individual has practiced outstanding faith, hope, and charity, as well as extraordinary virtuous actions with readiness over a period of time.

Paul VI was born Giovanni Montini in 1897, and was ordained a priest at the unusually young age of 22. He served as Archbishop of Milan before he was elected Pope in 1963.

As Pope, he oversaw much of the Second Vatican Council, which had been opened by Bl. John XXIII, and he promulgated a new Roman Missal in 1969. The year before, he published an apostolic constitution reforming the Roman Curia.

He published the encyclical “Humanae vitae” in 1968, which reaffirmed the Church’s teaching against contraception, as well as firm affirmation of the merits of priestly celibacy.

Our reformed minded Pope makes another overhaul in Vatican bureaucracy

Pope makes first overhaul of Vatican in 25 years

Associated Press
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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Monday announced the first major overhaul of the Vatican's outdated and inefficient bureaucracy in a quarter-century, creating an economics secretariat to control all economic, administrative, personnel and procurement functions of the Holy See.
Australian Cardinal George Pell, one of Francis' core eight cardinal advisers and a sharp critic of current Vatican governance, was named prefect of the new office. He reports to a new 15-member economy council made up of eight cardinals reflecting various parts of the world and seven lay experts.
Francis was elected pope a year ago on a mandate to reform the Vatican after documents stolen by Pope Benedict XVI's butler revealed the Holy See bureaucracy to be a dysfunctional, Machiavellian world of petty turf battles, corruption and political intrigue.
Pell, the outgoing archbishop of Sydney, was remarkably candid about the 2012 leaks scandal, saying it showed a failure of governance under Benedict.
"Problems there have been, problems there are, and this is one factor that has to be addressed as the new pope comes into office," Pell told The Associated Press just days before Francis was elected in March 2013.
"It would be useful to have a pope who can pull the show together, lift the morale of the Curia (Vatican bureaucracy), and strengthen a bit of the discipline there and effectively draw on all the energies and goodness of the great majority of the people in the Curia," Pell said in what could now be seen as pitch for his new job.
The new structure, the Vatican said, is intended to simplify and consolidate existing management structures, and improve oversight, internal controls and transparency — and provide more support for the Vatican's works for the poor.
It's the biggest reshuffling of the Vatican's internal organization since Pope John Paul II in 1988 issued the apostolic constitution, Pastor Bonus, the blueprint for the Holy See's various congregations, pontifical councils and offices.
The changes appear to significantly diminish the scope of the Secretariat of State, which previously had administrative control over the Holy See while also handling diplomatic relations. The new Secretariat of the Economy's name suggests some sort of parity with the Secretariat of State — and in the official announcement, Francis said that the heads of the two secretariats are to work together.
The leaks scandal appeared aimed at discrediting the then-Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, blamed for many of the Vatican's administrative shortcomings under Benedict. Bertone has since retired and been replaced by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, an experienced Vatican diplomat.
The new economics body covers the budgets, financial planning and administration of the Holy See — the central governing structure of the Catholic Church — and the 44-hectare Vatican City State in central Rome which includes the profit-making Vatican Museums and Vatican's post office.
An auditor will be empowered to conduct audits of any Vatican agency, at any time, the announcement said.
The new structure is the result of a commission of inquiry appointed by Francis last summer to recommend ways to improve efficiency and transparency and reduce waste. Last week, with Francis' Group of Eight cardinal advisers present, the commission reported its findings.
The pope has yet to announce any decision on the findings of the other commission of inquiry, concerning the scandal-marred Vatican bank. That commission also presented its recommendations last week.

Facing a Monday morning with faith

Just a few days ago I had no idea that this Monday morning would be so challenging for me, with unanswered questions and concerns.  Still, I find today that I am dealing with this with great faith.  In my human frailty, my only prayer is that that faith shines through.  My wife Wendy will be having a heart procedure tomorrow morning, a sudden unexpected necessity after a poor stress test.  We will be at the hospital at 5 AM and praying that this procedure will reveal no further need further treatment or possibly surgery.  Wendy has battled heart disease for 19 years now and my prayer is that this is just another bump in the road.

We both are expecting the best and are prepared for whatever because of our faith.  I learned a lot more about faith in this past week or so as I witnessed the courage and love of a young husband and father as his wife slowly slipped away and passed on to the Father on Saturday.  Despite the fact that Courtney was 38, her husband shared with us his great faith.  And while no one should misunderstand that he and her entire family are experiencing great loss, their expressions of love and faith are an encouragement to all!  And Wendy and I are vey prayerful for the repose of Courtney's soul and peace and understanding and comfort for all who miss her, especially Leon and the children.

This morning I was informed that my brother-in-law of many years will soon say goodbye to his dad.  I had the privilege of knowing his dad from back in my former days working for a company called LGS.  And of course, he has been part of the extended family now for 30 years.

So if you are a prayer warrior, this is one Deacon in strong need of prayer help.  Join me in my intentions as I pray for my readers too.

Our faith is something that we must show forth always, when things are running along as smooth as can be and when things come along that are simply not pleasant.  So pray for one another, love one another, let folks know that you care!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Priest, founder, friend of youth; beatified by Bl. Pope JP II

Bl. Tommaso Maria Fusco

Bl. Tommaso Maria Fusco
Bl. Tommaso Maria Fusco

Feastday: February 24
1831 - 1891
Beatified By: Pope John Paul II

Thomas Mary Fusco, the seventh of eight children, was born on1 December 1831 in Pagani, Salerno, in the Diocese of Nocera-Sarno, Italy, to Dr Antonio, a pharmacist, and Stella Giordano, of noble descent. They were known for their upright moral and religious conduct, and taught their son Christian piety and charity to the poor.
He was baptized on the day he was born in the parish of S. Felice e Corpo di Cristo. In 1837, when he was only six years old, his mother died of cholera and a few years later, in 1841, he also lost his father. Fr Giuseppe, an uncle on his father's side and a primary school teacher, then took charge of his education.
Since 1839, the year of the canonization of St Alphonsus Mary de' Liguori, little Tommaso had dreamed of church and the altar; in 1847 he was at last able to enter the same diocesan seminary of Nocera which his brother Raffaele would leave after being ordained a priest in 1849.
On 1 April 1851, Tommaso Maria received the sacrament of Confirmation and on 22 December 1855, after completing his seminary formation, he was ordained a priest by Bishop Agnello Giuseppe D'Auria.
In those years, sorrowful because of the loss of his loved ones, including his uncle (1847) as well as his young brother, Raffaele (1852), the devotion to the Patient Christ and to his Blessed Sorrowful Mother, already dear to the entire Fusco family, took root in Tommaso Maria, as in fact his biographers recall: "He had a deep devotion to the crucified Christ which he cherished throughout his life".
Right from the start he saw to the formation of boys for whom he opened a morning school in his own home, while for young people and adults, bent on increasing their human and Christian formation, he organized evening prayers at the parish church of S. Felice e Corpo di Cristo. This was a true place of conversion and prayer, just as it had been for St Alphonsus, revered and honoured in Pagani for his apostolate.
In 1857, he was admitted to the Congregation of the Missionaries of Nocera under the title of St Vincent de Paul and became an itinerant missionary, especially in the regions of Southern Italy.
In 1860 he was appointed chaplain at the Shrine of our Lady of Carmel (known as "Our Lady of the Hens") in Pagani, where he built up the men's and women's Catholic associations and set up the altar of the Crucified Christ and the Pious Union for the Adoration of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus.
In 1862 he opened a school of moral theology in his own home to train priests for the ministry of confession, kindling enthusiasm for the love of Christ's Blood; that same year, he founded the "(Priestly) Society of the Catholic Apostolate" for missions among the common people; in 1874 he received the approval of Pope Pius IX, now blessed.
Deeply moved by the sorry plight of an orphan girl, a victim of the street, after careful preparation in prayer for discernment, Fr Tommaso Maria founded the Congregation of the "Daughters of Charity of the Most Precious Blood" on 6 January, the Solemnity of Epiphany in 1873. This institute was inaugurated at the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in the presence of Bishop Raffaele Ammirante, who, with the clothing of the first three sisters with the religious habit, blessed the first orphanage for seven poor little orphan girls of the area. It was not long before the newborn religious family and the orphanage also received the Pope's blessing, in response to their request.
Fr Tommaso Maria continued to dedicate himself to the priestly ministry, preaching spiritual retreats and popular missions; and from his apostolic travels sprang the many foundations of houses and orphanages that were a monument to his heroic charity, which was even more ardent in the last 20 years of his life (1870-1891).
In addition to his commitments as founder and apostolic missionary, he was parish priest (1874-1887) at the principal church of S. Felice e Corpo di Cristo in Pagani, extraordinary confessor to the cloistered nuns in Pagani and Nocera and, in the last years of his life, spiritual father of the lay congregation at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
It was not long before Fr Tommaso Maria, envied for the good he achieved in his ministry and for his life as an exemplary priest, was faced with humiliation and persecution and, in 1880, even a brother priest's slanderous calumny. However, sustained by the Lord, he lovingly carried that cross which own Pastor, Bishop Ammirante had foretold at the time of his institute's foundation: "Have you chosen the title of the Most Precious Blood? Well, may you be prepared to drink the bitter cup".
During the harshest of trials, which he bore in silence, he would repeat: "May work and suffering for God always be your glory and in your work and suffering, may God be your consolation on this earth, and your recompense in heaven. Patience is the safeguard and pillar of all the virtues".
Wasting away with a liver-disease, Fr Tommaso Maria died a devout death on 24 February 1891, praying with the elderly Simeon: Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word" (Lk 2, 29).
He was only 59 years old! In the notice issued by the town council of Pagani on 25 February 1891 the Gospel witness of his life, known to one and all, was summarized in these words: "Tommaso Maria Fusco, Apostolic Missionary, Founder of the Daughters of Charity of the Most Precious Blood, an exemplary priest of indomitable faith and ardent charity, worked tirelessly in the name of the Redeeming Blood for the salvation of souls: in life he loved the poor and in death forgave his enemies".
His life was directed to the highest devotion of Christian virtues by the priestly life, lived intensely in constant meditation on the mystery of the Father's love, contemplated in the crucified Son whose Blood is "the expression, measure and pledge" of divine Charity and heroic charity to the poor and needy, in whom Fr Tommaso Maria saw the bleeding Face of Jesus.
His writings, preaching and popular missions marked his vast experience of faith and the light of Christian hope that shone from his vocation and actions. He had a vital, burning love for God; it enflamed his words and his apostolate, made fruitful by love for God and neighbour, by union with the crucified Jesus, by trust in Mary, Immaculate and Sorrowful, and above all by the Eucharist.
Fr Tommaso Maria Fusco was an Apostle of Charity of the Most Precious Blood, a friend of boys and girls and young people and attentive to every kind of poverty and human and spiritual misery.
For all these reasons he enjoyed the fame of holiness among the diocesan priests, among the people and among his spiritual daughters who received his charism, and witness to it today in the various parts of the world where they carry out their apostolate in communion with the Church.
The cause for the beatification of Fr Tommaso Maria Fusco was initiated in 1955 and the decree of his heroic Christian virtues was published on 24 April 2001. The miraculous healing of Mrs Maria Battaglia on 20 August 1964 in Sciacca, Agrigento, Sicily, through the intercession of Fr Tommaso Maria Fusco was recognized on7 July 2001.
With his beatification, Pope John Paul II presents Fr Tommaso Maria Fusco as an example and a guide to holiness for priests, for the people of God and for his spiritual daughters, the Daughters of Charity of the Most Precious Blood.

Losing a member of the Deacon family

I post this today purely to honor the memory of Courtney Schexnayder Guidry, a member of the Deacon family here in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.  Courtney, 38, died peacefully yesterday surrounded by her family.  Courtney is the beloved wife of one of our Deacon candidates, Leon, class of 2015.

Courtney's illness and struggle I will leave for others to describe in other places.  I simply wish to honor her here with the acknowledgement that yes, as a wife of one of our hard working candidates, she indeed is a member of our Deacon family.  Our entire diaconate community stands in solidarity and support with Leon and Jude, Anna and Gabriel; praying for solace and comfort in the face of sorrow.

I was personally thrilled to have learned that Courtney was so devoted to the intercessory ministry of Blessed Father Francis Xavier Seelos.  In so many ways, her story was so similar to Angela Boudreaux, the healed Westbank mother whose miraculous healing was confirmed by the Vatican to elevate Seelos to a Blessed.  Courtney was a tireless advocate on behalf of bringing others to Seelos and her support of the Shrine here in New Orleans.

I met Courtney when Leon and her arrived at the inquiry stage of the diaconate process.  She was so supportive of Leon's stirrings of the possibility of a vocation.  And she was so open and honest in sharing appropriately with the diaconate formation leaders of her story, including her battle with cancer.  Courageous and beautiful; full of life and love and faith.

If you could visit her facebook wall, you would see an outpouring from family and friends that would simply blow you away.  In just the short time she was with us on this earth, she touched lives, she brought them to faith and prayer.  Yes, even in her passing, God intends great good.

I am so, so very sorry for the deep intimate personal loss her loved ones, especially Leon and the children will endure, but I know too that Courtney's faith & love will strengthen them.

Photo: Always a good day when I get to visit my friend

Always a good day when I get to visit my friend — at Blessed Francis Seelos Shrine.

Courtney Schexnayder Guidry, rest in peace.  May her soul, and the soul of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.

Powerful message from the Pope to the Cardinals: avoid becoming a "royal court", be good servants!

Pope tells cardinals to shun intrigue, cliques of a royal court

Pope Francis holds the Book of the Gospels as he celebrates a mass in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican
View photo
Pope Francis holds the Book of the Gospels as he celebrates a mass in Saint Peter's Basilica at the …
By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis urged cardinals, who make up the top echelon of the Roman Catholic Church, on Sunday to shun the intrigue, gossip and cliques typical of a royal court.
Since his election nearly a year ago, Francis has often told his top aides not to live or behave like a privileged class. The eight-year papacy of his predecessor, Benedict, was marked by mishaps and missteps, which were often blamed on a dysfunctional Vatican bureaucracy and intrigue befitting a Renaissance court.
On Sunday, Francis celebrated a mass with 18 of the 19 new cardinals who were elevated to that rank on Saturday. One could not attend because of illness.
"A cardinal enters the Church of Rome, not a royal court," Francis said in his sermon, welcoming the men into the elite group that help him run the Church in the Vatican and around the world.
"May all of us avoid, and help others to avoid, habits and ways of acting typical of a court: intrigue, gossip, cliques, favoritism and preferences," he said during a solemn ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica.
"Jesus did not come to teach us good manners or to behave as if we were at a social gathering," Francis told them.
It was the second consecutive day that Francis had warned cardinals to shun worldly temptations in the corridors of clerical power, either at home or in the nerve center of the 1.2 billion-member Church.
At the induction ceremony on Saturday, which was attended by ex-pope Benedict, Francis urged the cardinals to avoid rivalries and factions. It was the first time Francis and Benedict, who resigned on February 28, 2013, had been together for a liturgical celebration.
The "Vatileaks" scandal, in which Benedict's butler was arrested for leaking the pope's private papers to the media, alleged corruption in the Holy See, something the Vatican denied.
He asked the new cardinals to remain united among themselves and with him as they advise and help him run the Church in the Vatican and beyond in a spirit of simplicity and service.
Later, addressing tens of thousands of people in St. Peter's Square for his Sunday blessing, Francis said Catholic leaders should "not consider themselves holders of special powers or bosses, but place themselves at the service of the community".
They should be "good servants, not good bosses," he said.
Since his election last March as the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, Francis has attempted to infuse the Vatican and the Church with his simple style.
Last month, when he announced the names of the new cardinals, he quickly followed up with a letter to each asking that they not see their appointment as a promotion and not to waste money holding celebratory parties.
Francis, who has called for a "poor Church, and for the poor", has set the example himself. He has opted to live in a simple boarding house rather than the Apostolic Palace, and travels in a blue Ford Focus rather than a luxury car.
Cardinals are the pope's closest advisers in the Vatican and around the world. Apart from being Church leaders in their home countries, those who are not based in the Vatican are members of key committees in Rome that decide policies that can affect the lives of all Roman Catholics.
Sixteen of the new appointees are "cardinal electors" who join 106 existing cardinals who are also under 80 and thus eligible to enter a conclave to elect a pope from among their own ranks.
They come from Italy, Germany, Britain, Nicaragua, Canada, Ivory Coast, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, Chile, Burkina Faso, the Philippines and Haiti. The non-electors come from Italy, Spain and Saint Lucia.