Saturday, February 28, 2015

The patron Saint of Wales

St. David

Image of 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

Planned Parenthood on the move again in New Orleans, still hopeful they will be allowed to kill babies. We must stop them!

Abortion clinic in New Orleans sees construction restart, but protests continue; ‘God hates this project,’ one pastor says

Planned Parenthood has resumed work on a controversial new clinic in New Orleans, eight months after pressure from the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans and anti-abortion protesters shut down construction.
Planned Parenthood expected to have the clinic open for business by now, but only the bare foundation has been laid so far after the archdiocese succeeded in scaring away numerous contractors by threatening to bar them from any church projects.
Meanwhile, the anti-abortion group Louisiana Right to Life has organized protests at the South Claiborne Avenue site, and other abortion opponents have pressured contractors directly. About 50 opponents spent an hour at the site Saturday, waving signs, praying and chanting. Bishop Otis Kenner of Kingdom Growth Fellowship of United Churches encouraged the workers to quit the job.
On Friday, two anti-abortion pastors went to the home of the owner of Absolute Concrete Solutions, the New Orleans company they believe is planning to pour the concrete next week, to ask that he withdraw from the project.
“I warned him that it was not worth it,” Bill Shanks, a pastor with the New Covenant Fellowship, a nondenominational church in New Orleans, said in an interview. “I told him that God hates hands that shed innocent blood. God hates this project.”
Shanks identified the owner as Melvin Backes. Messages left at his business and home went unanswered Friday.
A person involved with the project, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said threats have caused four concrete companies to shy away from working on it.
“The church pressure has cost millions,” he said of a project originally slated to cost $4.2 million for an 8,000-square-foot clinic.
The resumption of work comes at a time when the clinic is in legal limbo because — apart from the construction issues — the Jindal administration in January denied Planned Parenthood the operating license it will need to open.
Planned Parenthood said the clinic would fill an unmet need of 2,844 abortions per year in New Orleans and surrounding parishes — a claim rejected by Jindal’s Department of Health and Hospitals without explanation.
Planned Parenthood officials announced earlier this month that they would appeal that decision and vowed that the clinic will open. They noted that the clinic would provide a variety of services for women, including Pap tests, clinical breast exams and tests for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Planned Parenthood operates a smaller facility on Magazine Street that does not perform abortions.
So to open the new clinic, the group must overcome the construction roadblocks created by the archdiocese and anti-abortion forces and must overturn the decision by the Department of Health and Hospitals.
“The continuing intimidation and bullying tactics may be new to our New Orleans community, but they are not new to Planned Parenthood,” Melaney Linton, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, said in a written statement. “Health center projects in other communities have endured and overcome this kind of harassment. Ultimately, they opened their doors and began providing health care to women and men who trust and rely on Planned Parenthood.”
At the groundbreaking ceremony in May 2013, Planned Parenthood officials predicted the clinic would open in late 2014. A sign posted at the site later put the date as “early 2015.”
The New Orleans area — which had 10 abortion clinics 25 years ago, according to Shanks — currently has one in New Orleans and another in Metairie.
Anti-abortion forces quickly went to work to ensure that metro New Orleans did not get a third one.
Archbishop Gregory Aymond went public with the archdiocese’s opposition in January 2014 via an open letter published in the church’s Clarion Herald newspaper.
“The archdiocese is obliged to remind every person and organization involved in the acquisition, preparation and construction of this or any abortion facility that they are cooperating with the evil that will take place there,” Aymond wrote. “For this reason, the archdiocese, including its churches, schools, apartments for the elderly and nursing homes, will strive in its privately funded work not to enter into business relationships with any person or organization that participates in actions that are essential to making this abortion facility a reality.”
An archdiocese spokeswoman said the archbishop would not comment beyond the letter.
The archdiocese has sent out other letters. Andre Villere Jr., the archdiocese’s director of building, sent a June 2014 letter to F.H. Myers Construction Corp. to advise the Harahan-based company of the church’s belief that Planned Parenthood was trying to hide the role of abortions by calling it a “medical office building.”
“We ask you, through your industry contacts, to notify subcontractors, suppliers, equipment companies, etc. of this ruse in order to prevent those who share our concerns for the unborn from facilitating abortions in our community,” Villere wrote.
F.H. Myers did not respond to a request for an interview.

The Transfiguration in the Luminous Mysteries of the Holy Rosary

Luminous Rosary Mystery
The Transfiguration

"Follow peace with all men, and holiness:
without which no man shall see God."
-Hebrews 12:14

Catholic Rosary Myteries
When meditating on The Transfiguration of Jesus it may be helpful to look at a picture of this event or listen to some uplifting music. The Transfiguration is the fourth of the new Luminous Mysteries rosary and is a key event in the life of Jesus.
It beautifully complements both the Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries by adding meditations on the Rosary that gave strength to the apostles during Jesus passion and were a foreshadow of Jesus' glory that was soon to come. As you read this retelling of the Transfiguration, keep in mind that the fruit of this mystery is a desire for holiness. Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John on Mount Tabor. When the three disciples and Jesus reached the top of the mountain, Jesus' "face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow." Then suddenly Peter, James and John saw Moses and Elias appear. They were talking to Jesus. Peter got very excited and didn't really understand the significance of what was happening as he called out to Jesus saying... "Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias." Jesus did not answer him and a bright cloud came and covered them. A booming voice came from the cloud. It was the voice of God. The words they heard were, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him." This frightened Peter, James and John. Immediately they fell prostrate. Jesus went to them, stooped down, gently touched them then said, "Arise, and fear not." When they arose, they only saw Jesus and the apparition was over. While they were making their descent from the mountain Jesus gave them this command... "Tell the vision to no man, till the Son of man be risen from the dead." -Matthew 17:9

It's March already and time to pray the Pope's monthly intentions

March 2015 Prayer Intentions of Pope Francis
That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.

Homily for 2nd Sunday of Lent: Listen to Him!

When EF Hutton speaks, people listen!  Do you remember this TV commercial?  This investment firm’s advertising campaign implied that every word EF Hutton spoke was important, so people listened and took action.  If they listened carefully, the client made money.
In our lives, people speak, we listen, perhaps we take action and the result has some benefit in our lives.  We were taught to listen to our parents, teachers, coaches and our boss.  When we got married we learned early on that part of the formula for a great marriage includes listening.  When we come to church, we should be listening too.  Unfortunately many studies tell us that listening is a struggle for us.  All too often we want to speak and not listen.  There is a reason God created us the way he did; he created us to listen because He gave us two ears and only one mouth.
As people of faith, we are called to listen to Jesus. God speaks: this is my beloved Son.  Listen to Him! 
Every 2nd Sunday in Lent the Church gives us the Gospel of the Transfiguration!  The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all detail the Transfiguration and each account is remarkably consistent.  In each account of the Transfiguration we hear the voice of God the Father.  Now we only hear God’s voice twice in all of the New Testament, once at the Baptism of Jesus (where He reminds us that in Jesus He is well pleased) and at the Transfiguration (where He tells us listen to Him). 
In the context of the Gospel of Mark, which we heard proclaimed today, the command listen to Him is to be understood as all the Good News of the Kingdom of God as proclaimed by Jesus.  If we want to know the Good News, if we want to share eternal happiness one day with God in Heaven, we must listen to Him!
In all the Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration we have the appearance of both Elijah and Moses.  The presence of Elijah and Moses embodies all of the Old Testament, the law and the prophets.  The Good News proclaimed by Jesus is deeply rooted in the Old Testament Scriptures.  We are called today, in hearing again the Gospel of the Transfiguration, to embrace all of the Scriptures; the New Testament and the Old Testament!  We are challenged to read and delve deeply into the Bible and listen! 
Listen to Him is not a mere suggestion from God; this truly is the path to glory.  The glory that shone forth from the transfigured body of Jesus Christ at Mt. Tabor is the same glory that stretched out His arms for us on that Cross, the same glory that burst forth in the Resurrection and the same glory present in His Holy Word, the Scriptures, and that perfect glory present in the Eucharist, His Body and Blood, which we receive at Holy Communion in the physical appearance of bread and wine.
Of course, this is not mere bread and wine.  Today we hear the word Transfiguration in the Holy Gospel but as Catholics we should be very familiar with the word Transubstantiation.  This is the word, given to us by the Church to describe the changing of the bread and wine into His Body & Blood.  The words and actions of the Priest at the Consecration, the bread and wine become the actual, the real Body and Blood of Jesus while maintaining all the physical appearances of bread and wine.  It is a mystery of our faith and a real and present reality.  We are challenged to know not what we receive at Holy Communion; we are challenged to know who we receive at Holy Communion!  And we are challenged to receive Him worthily, by being properly disposed, properly prepared and spending all of our time before receiving Holy Communion listening to Him!
In the week ahead, as we continue our Lenten journey, our challenge is to LISTEN.  Can we ask ourselves throughout the week, do I really listen to Jesus?  Do I follow what He teaches?   Can we commit this week to listen to Jesus by reading the Bible at least twice this week?  Reread today’s readings perhaps tomorrow and read next Sunday’s readings at the end of the week.  Listen to what His Word is saying to me personally.  We have an opportunity to listen to Him this week if we attend the 2nd week of our Lenten Mission.  This coming Thursday night at 7 pm, we can hear God’s Word in a presentation by Deacon Drea Capaci.  This is a prime example of God calling us to listen, but we must accept the invitation!  And we can listen to Him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  As we confess our sins listen to the words spoken by the Priest, giving us our penance and absolving our sins.  And when you really listen carefully, you hear Jesus for it is Jesus forgiving our sins.
Yes, when EF Hutton spoke, people listened.  Guess what?  EF Hutton is no longer in business today.  When Jesus speaks, we are called to listen!  Listen to Him!  Jesus is not out of business and never will be; we should always listen to Him!

5th century Pope who further unified the Church

St. Hilary, Pope

Image of St. Hilary, Pope


Feastday: February 28
Death: 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.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Pope says Lent is a great time for fallen away Catholics to come home

This Lent, the Pope has a message for lapsed Catholics: It's never too late
Pope Francis greets pilgrims in St. Peter's Square during the Wednesday general audience on Dec. 3, 2014. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.
Pope Francis greets pilgrims in St. Peter's Square during the Wednesday general audience on Dec. 3, 2014. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.
.- Fallen away Catholics are being invited to “come home” this Lent through a worldwide initiative led by Pope Francis, which points to confession as a primary way to experience God's merciful embrace.

“So often, people are afraid to come back to church or to the Sacrament of Reconciliation for they feel that, since they have been gone for so long, there is no way back,” said Father Geno Sylva, English language official for the Vatican's New Evangelization council.

“This initiative is to let people know that it is never too late and there is always a way back,” he told CNA.

“24 Hours for the Lord” is a yearly event set for the fourth Friday and Saturday of Lent which began in 2014 under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.

Taking place on Mar. 13-14, this year's theme is “God rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4) which, Fr. Sylva observed, “is such an important theme of our Holy Father.”

In his 2015 message for Lent, Pope Francis expressed his hope that the Church, “also at the diocesan level,” would observe 24-hour initiative, saying it “is meant to be a sign of this need for prayer.”

The event will begin on the evening of the fourth Friday of Lent with a penance service presided over by Pope Francis in Saint Peter's Basilica. Following the service in the Vatican, Churches throughout Rome will remain open for 24 hours to give pilgrims the opportunity to go to Confession and take part in Eucharistic Adoration.

Fr. Sylva recalled one of the iconic images of Pope Francis during the 2014 penance service for “24 Hours for the Lord,” in which the Pope surprised one of the priests by approaching him for confession before hearing confessions himself.

“There’s something to be said for joining with our Holy Father, joining as a universal Church, in such a prayer experience,” Fr. Sylva said.

He then told of his own experience in 2014 hearing confessions at the church of Saint Agnes in Agony, one of three churches in open Rome throughout the night.

“It was so incredibly moving and inspiring just how many people had come back to the sacrament for the first time many decades,” he said. “When I asked them why they came back, so many of them said they came back because Pope Francis had invited and asked them to. And he had indeed during the Angelus the Sunday before.”

The inspiration for “24 Hours for Prayer” came from the 2012 Synod on the New Evangelization, during which the question of placing“the sacrament of reconciliation once again at the center of pastoral life” came to the surface, Fr. Sylva explained.

While parishes in Rome will be open overnight, Churches elsewhere are invited to adapt the initiative to their local situations and needs. Acknowledging that “every parish has a different history and unique culture,” Fr. Sylva said, “The pastor and the community are simply to invite people to come home.”

For those taking part in this year's event in Rome or elsewhere in the world, especially those who have been away from the Sacraments for a long time, organizers have prepared pastoral aids in Italian, English, Spanish, French and Polish. The English edition can be purchased at the Catholic Publishing Company and is available worldwide.

“There are many different moments and steps in the new evangelization,” Fr. Geno said. “The 24 Hours for the Lord allows the Church the opportunity to demonstrate the great harmony of these moments: We invite, we welcome, we catechize and God forgives.”

Additional information on the “24 Hours for Prayer” can be found at the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization's website,

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bishop, defended Church against Arianism, Doctor, Saint

St. Leander of Seville

Image of St. Leander of Seville


Feastday: February 27
Birth: 534
Death: 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.

Archbishop stands strong against rabid liberal Catholic hating politicians

This man won’t be bullied: Bravo Archbishop Cordileone!
Cathy Ruse
It's not easy swimming against the tide. I am sorry to admit that "pro-life activist" is not always my first response to the cocktail party question.
And standing by your belief in man-woman marriage sometimes feels like holding up a "punch me" sign.
But San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has shown again and again that he is made of the strongest stuff.
Here's the tick-tock on his latest battle to protect Catholic teaching in Catholic schools:
February 3: The Archdiocese of San Francisco announces proposed changes in teacher contracts telling applicants that if they'd like a job teaching children at one of their schools, they will be expected to uphold and not publicly contradict Catholic moral teaching. In the view of the Archdiocese, this simply codifies the long-established expectation for school employees.
February 17: A group of legislators, all Democrats, writes a letter to Cordileone urging him to stand down, arguing that his plan would discriminate against the teachers and violate their civil rights to "choose who to love and marry, how to plan a family, and what causes or beliefs to support."

February 19: The archbishop replies. Here is the meat of his letter:
First of all, I always believe that it is important, before making a judgment on a situation or anyone's action, that one first obtain as complete and accurate information as possible. To this end, a number of documents and videos giving accurate and more complete information about this contentious issue are available on the website of our Archdiocese. I would encourage you to avail yourselves of these resources, as they will help to clear up a lot of misinformation being circulated about it (such as, for example, the falsehood that the morality clauses apply to the teachers' private life).
The next thing I would like to mention is actually a question: would you hire a campaign manager who advocates policies contrary to those that you stand for, and who shows disrespect toward you and the Democratic Party in general? On the other hand, if you knew a brilliant campaign manager who, although a Republican, was willing to work for you and not speak or act in public contrary to you or your party -- would you hire such a person? If your answer to the first question is "no," and to the second question is "yes," then we are actually in agreement on the principal point in debate here.
Now let's say that this campaign manager you hired, despite promises to the contrary, starts speaking critically of your party and favorably of your running opponent, and so you decide to fire the person. Would you have done this because you hate all Republicans outright, or because this individual, who happens to be a Republican, violated the trust given to you and acted contrary to your mission? If the latter, then we are again in agreement on this principle.
My point is: I respect your right to employ or not employ whomever you wish to advance your mission. I simply ask the same respect from you.
This is how you do it. Bravo Archbishop Cordileone!
As the Archdiocesan announcement said: "Catholic schools exist to affirm and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ." Amen. Let them take their best shot at that goal, and complaining legislators stand aside.
Reprinted with permission from Family Research Council.

A noble women who gave it all to Christ and the Church

St. Isabel of France

Image of 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

A Pro-Life warrior has died; may he rest in peace

Willke, a Catholic doctor and longtime pro-life advocate, dies at 89
Catholic News Service
Dr. John "Jack" Willke, an obstetrician and a former president of the National Right to Life Committee who is credited with helping shape the pro-life movement, died Feb. 20 at his home in Cincinnati. He was 89 years old. He is pictured in an undated pho to shaking hands with Pope John Paul II.
Catholic News Service

CINCINNATI — Dr. John "Jack" Willke, an obstetrician and a former president of the National Right to Life Committee who is credited with helping shape the pro-life movement, died Feb. 20 at his home in Cincinnati. He was 89.
A funeral Mass was to be celebrated Feb. 26 at St. Clare Church in Cincinnati.
"There is no way to quantify the contributions Jack Willke, along with his wife, Barbara, made to the right-to-life movement," said Carol Tobias, the current president of National Right to Life, as it is now called.
"Jack's generous heart and wonderful sense of humor will be greatly missed. He and Barbara devoted their lives to the right-to-life movement, and we will be forever in their debt," Tobias said in a statement.
Born April 5, 1925, in Maria Stein, Ohio, Willke was a son and grandson of doctors.
He earned his medical degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1948 and was a family practitioner in Ohio for much of his medical career, from 1950 to 1988. He also was on the senior attending staff of Providence and Good Samaritan hospitals.
In the early 1970s, Willke and his late wife, Barbara, co-founded Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati.
In 1973, John Willke joined the National Right to Life board of directors representing his home state of Ohio, and served continuously in some capacity on the board until his retirement in 2012. He was vice chairman, then vice president and in 1980 was elected president, serving a three-year term. In 1984, he was again elected president, serving until 1991.
By 1988, Willke had stopped practicing medicine so he could devote himself full time to the pro-life movement.
He and his wife co-wrote 12 books on human sexuality and abortion. They created audio and visual pro-life educational materials used throughout the world, and those materials have been translated into 30 languages on five continents.
The couple helped form the foundation of right-to-life educational efforts through the development of the "Willke slides," on fetal development and abortion, and their first book, "The Handbook on Abortion," which sold an estimated 1.5 million copies. Both were considered must-haves for local activists, according to National Right to Life.
"Every pro-lifer relied on the 'Willke slides' on fetal development that beautifully depicted the development of the unborn child as well as the brutal reality of abortion," Tobias said.
In 1984, Willke helped found the International Right to Life Federation. He was president emeritus of the organization at the time of his death.
In 1991, when he stepped down as National Right to Life president, he formed a new national group, the Life Issues Institute, to "serve the educational needs of the pro-life movement," he said, by presenting the scientific facts about fetal development and the consequences of abortion.
The Cincinnati-based organization was formed to target Americans who were undecided or unsure of their stance on abortion, what he called "mushy middle" of the abortion debate.
"It is the middle group of Americans which will ultimately determine the fate of the unborn and which must be educated on the abortion issue," he said at the time.
The goal of the Life Issues Institute was to "bring the undecided or confused to a firm and committed pro-life position on abortion and give the pro-life movement a clear majority to effect the necessary social change."
The Willkes spent 40 years traveling around the United States and to dozens of other countries speaking out on behalf of the unborn.
In the U.S., their presentations prompted the formation of some state and local right-to-life groups even before the Supreme Court in 1973 handed down its landmark decisions in Roe v. Wade and its companion case, Doe v. Bolton, which legalized abortion on demand.
Willke had a daily five-minute radio program that was carried on almost 400 radio stations for 18 years. His one-minute commentaries, called "Life Jewels," could be heard in English and Spanish on more than 1,000 stations, including 50 stations in Australia, 30 in South Africa and many stations in Brazil.
A book he wrote with his wife chronicling their involvement in the pro-life cause, "Abortion and the Pro-Life Movement: An Inside View," was released earlier this year.
"The right-to-life movement has lost one of its most influential activists," Tobias said. "But we know that Dr. Willke's legacy of education and activism will live on in the countless men and women who were inspired to join the fight for life because of his efforts."
Willke's wife, Barbara, died in 2013. The couple had been married close to 65 years. He is survived by three daughters and three sons, and their spouses, and 22 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Virgin and Abbess, the Saint with a great name

St. Walburga

Image of St. Walburga


Feastday: February 25
Death: 779

St. Walburga, Virgin (Feast day - February 25) Walburga was born in Devonshire England, around 710. She was the daughter of a West Saxon chieftain and the sister of St. Willibald and Winebald. Walburga was educated at Wimborne Monastery in Dorset, where she became a nun. In 748, she was sent with St. Lioba to Germany to help St. Boniface in his missionary work. She spent two years at Bishofsheim, after which she became Abbess of the double monastery at Heidenheim founded by her brother Winebald. At the death of Winebald, St. Walburga was appointed Abbess of both monasteries by her brother Willibald, who was then Bishop of Eichstadt. She remained superior of both men and women until her death in 779. She was buried first at Heidenheim, but later her body was interred next to that of her brother, St. Winebald, at Eichstadt. at a small church called Holy Cross around which a group of canonesses were gathered.

Monday, February 23, 2015

19th century Priest and founder of religious order; beatified by St. Pope JPII

Bl. Tommaso Maria Fusco

Image of Bl. Tommaso Maria Fusco


Feastday: February 24
Birth: 1831
Death: 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

The Bishop of Wyoming offers great advice when disagreements pop up

Holding on to Unity in the Midst of Disagreement

There is nothing like mixing politics and religion to cause disagreement and great tension. Both religion and politics cause people to take strong and emotional stands.  A recent survey by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops indicates that most Catholics do not like it when the Church gets involved in politics.  But the same research also reveals that politics means getting involved in any topic that can be divisive.
Such is the tension we are presently experiencing in Wyoming during these waning days of the 2015 legislative session.  It is important for all of us to hold on to UNITY even while we vehemently disagree about various social issues.  It is important for all of us to truly believe that it is possible to still be UNITED even while disagreeing.  This is a fundamental mission of the Church, to remain united as the Body of Christ, and it is the Lord’s desire that we be ONE.
Thus, I would like to share with you this month’s Word of Life from the Focolare movement.  Despite what proposed legislation becomes law as a result of this legislative session, UNITY is where we must keep our focus.  You may be interested to know that, Chiara Lubich began the Focolare movement during the 1930′s and her cause for sainthood was introduced last month.
Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God (Rom 15:7).
The apostle Paul wanted to go to Rome on his way to Spain, and he sent a letter to the Romans before he arrived. Through their countless martyrs they were about to give witness to the sincerity and depth of their devotion to the Gospel, but among them, just as elsewhere, there was no lack of tensions, misunderstandings and even rivalries. In fact, the Christians in Rome came from a variety of social, cultural and religious backgrounds. There were some who came from Judaism and others from the Hellenic world and the ancient religion of Rome, perhaps from Stoicism or from other philosophies. They brought with them their traditions of thought and ethical convictions. Some were called ‘weak’, because they followed particular rules about eating, being, for instance, vegetarians or complying with calendars that indicated special days of fasting. Others were called ‘strong’ because, free from these kinds of conditioning, they were not bound by food taboos or specific rituals. To all of them Paul made the urgent invitation:
Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Before this point in his letter he had already spoken about the issue, addressing first of all the ‘strong’ and inviting them to ‘welcome’ the ‘weak’, ‘without quarrelling over opinions’. Then he says that the ‘weak’ in turn should welcome the ‘strong’ without judging them, since they are says that the ‘weak’ in turn should welcome the ‘strong’ without judging them, since they are ‘acceptable to God’.
Paul, indeed, is convinced that each one, even amid the diversity of opinions and ways of behaving, acts for the love of the Lord. There is no reason therefore to judge those who think differently, and even less to scandalize them by behaving arrogantly and with a sense of superiority. Instead, what is necessary is to aim at the good of all, at ‘mutual edification’, that is, the building up of the community, its unity (see Rom 14:1-23).
It is a matter of applying, in this case too, the great standard of Christian life that Paul had recalled shortly before in his letter: ‘love is the fulfilling of the law’ (Rom 13:10). No longer ‘walking in love’ (Rom 14:15), the Christians in Rome were lacking in the spirit of fraternity that ought to animate the members of every community.
As a model of mutual welcome, the apostle proposes Jesus dying on the cross when, instead of pleasing himself, he took upon himself our failings (see Rom 15:1-3). From the height of the cross he drew all to himself, and he welcomed the Jewish John together with the Roman centurion, Mary Magdalene together with the criminal crucified by his side.
Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
In our Christian communities too, even though we are all ‘God’s beloved’ and ‘called to be saints’ (Rom 1:7), there is no lack, just as in Rome, of disagreement and contrast between different cultures and ways of seeing things that are often poles apart. Often the clash is between traditionalists and innovators (to use language that is slightly simplistic but readily understandable), persons who are more open and others more closed, interested in a more social or a more spiritual form of Christianity. The divergences are fed by political conviction and by differences in social background. The current fact of immigration is present in our gatherings for worship and further in our various church groups, bringing diversity of culture and geographical origin.
The same dynamic can be seen in effect in the relations among Christians of different Churches, but also in families, in the workplace or in the political arena.
With it creeps in the temptation to judge those who don’t think like us and to feel ourselves superior, in a sterile conflict and mutual exclusion.
Paul’s model is not uniformity that flattens everything out, but a communion among contrasts that enriches. It is not by chance that two chapters earlier in this very letter he speaks of the unity of the body and diversity of its members, and of the variety of gifts that enrich and give life to the community (see Rom 12:3-13). His model is not, to use an image taken from Pope Francis, a sphere where every point is the same distance from the centre and where there are no differences between one point and another. The model is of something many-facetted with surfaces that are different from one another and not symmetrical, with particular characteristics that maintain their originality. ‘Even people who can be considered dubious on account of their errors have something to offer which must not be overlooked. It is the convergence of peoples who, within the universal order, maintain their own individuality; it is the sum total of persons within a society which pursues the common good, which truly has a place for everyone.’
Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
This Word of Life is a pressing invitation to recognize the positive that exists in the other, at the very least because Christ gave his life also for that person you feel inclined to judge. It is an invitation to listen, letting go of your defence mechanisms, to stay open to change, to welcome diversity with respect and love, to manage to form a community that is both plural and united.
This word has been chosen by the Evangelical Church in Germany to be lived by its members and to be light for them throughout 2015. If, at least in this month, the members of various Churches were to share it, this would already be a sign of mutual welcome.
Like this we could give glory to God together with one voice (Rom 15:6), because as Chiara Lubich said in the Reformed cathedral of St Pierre in Geneva: ‘Our world today asks each one of us for love; it asks for unity, communion, solidarity. And it also calls upon the Churches to recompose the unity that has been torn for centuries. This is the reform of all reforms which heaven is asking of us. It is the first and necessary step towards universal fraternity with all men and women of the world. The world will believe, if we are united.’
Fabio Ciardi
Let us welcome one another, and pray for unity.

Monday morning reflection; the gift of being!

The weather outside is appropriate.  No, I'm not experiencing the brutal record cold of last week when I was vacationing in the mountains of western North Carolina, but this is a rainy, cold, dreary Monday morning.  I say it is appropriate because honestly, on this Monday morning, I am winding down what was another great vacation.  Since Calvin was born in 2012, every vacation I earn has been spent visiting with #1 grandson and family.  Last week, while everyone else was worried about Mardi Gras, Wendy and I were soaking up every minute with Calvin.  From the simple, like just playing with him, reading him a book, going off to shop or visit a museum, to the not so simple, like our 3 hour adventure to the mountains, every moment with Calvin is another great vacation memory.  Yesterday morning, when we said goodbye, we do so very low key so that Calvin knows we will be back.  And not only will we be back, but we will faithfully keep our Skype session every weekend.

'Token picture from our trip to Sugar Mnt this past week.  Hard to keep a camera at the ready when you're bundled up like this!  Cal had a blast sledding shortly after this picture was taken (and even kept his goggles on most of the time!)'

As I have so often done when returning I like to explore the role of a long-distance grandparent.  I never want to give the impression that we are off the hook so to speak about being grandparents because we only are physically in Calvin's presence 15-20 days each year.  Not at all.  I don't think a day goes by without thinking about Calvin, praying for Calvin, and always looking forward to that next picture of Calvin posted on Facebook, or our next Skype session.

But there is also a reality about long distance grand-parenting that we face every time we come home.  While it is great to look back and reminisce and look forward to the next time, upon our return home we also must engage in our lives.  For Wendy and me that means work, taking care of household things and so much more.  For me, as a Permanent Deacon, it also means getting caught up on ministry responsibilities and perhaps making up a few missed assignments thanks to the help of my brother Deacons.

Just this week, with every memory of last week fresh in my mind, I now must prepare for this week's Bible Study, prison visit to Rayburn, diaconate formation activity, planning an Archbishop's visit to Rayburn and meeting with the two deacon candidates I am privileged to mentor.

This always serves as a reminder to me that even when I am on vacation, I am a Permanent Deacon.  Even reflecting back home on a dreary Monday morning, separated by 805 miles, I am Calvin's "Pops".  As my wife returns to work today, I am her spouse.  By the way, I wish she could have enjoyed this extra day off like I have today.  I guess again I am back to where I always am when I reflect upon my return home:  The gift of being is indeed a great gift; it's not just what you do, it's who you are.

Wherever you find yourself this Monday morning, make it count.  And always, always, give thanks to God for the gift of being!

Pope Francis names the newest Doctor of the Catholic Church: St. Gregory of Narek

Pope Francis declares Armenian saint Doctor of the Church

2015-02-23 Vatican Radio
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has declared Armenian poet and monk, Saint Gregory of Narek, a Doctor of the Universal Church.  Meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints on Saturday ahead of his departure for Aricca on Lenten retreat, the Pope confirmed the proposal put forward by the Plenary Session of the Congregation to confer the title of Doctor of the Universal Church on the 10th century saint.
St. Gregory of Narek is widely revered as one of the greatest figures of medieval Armenian religious thought and literature. Born in the city of Narek in about 950 A.D., St. Gregory came from a line of scholars and churchmen.
St. Gregory received his education under the guidance of his father, Bishop Khosrov, author of the earliest commentary on the Divine Liturgy, and from Anania Vartabed, abbess of Narek Monastery. He and his two brothers entered monastic life at an early age, and St. Gregory soon began to excel in music, astronomy, geometry, mathematics, literature, and theology.
He became a priest at the age of 25 and dedicated himself to God. He lived most of his life in the monastery of Narek, where he taught at the monastic school. St. Gregory began his writings with a commentary on the “Song of Songs,” which was commissioned by an Armenian prince. Despite his reservations that he was too young for the task, the commentary became famous for its clarity of thought and language and its excellence of theological presentation.
He also wrote a number of famous letters, sharagans, treasures, odes, melodies, and discourses. Many of his prayers are included in the Divine Liturgy celebrated each Sunday in Armenian Churches around the world.
St. Gregory’s masterpiece is considered to be his Book of Lamentations. Also known as Narek, it is comprised of 95 prayers, each of which is titled “Conversation with God from the depth of the heart.” A central theme is man’s separation from God, and his quest to reunite with Him. St. Gregory described the work this way: “Its letters like my body, its message like my soul.” He called his book an “encyclopedia of prayer for all nations.” It was his hope that it would serve as a guide to prayer for people all over the world. After the advent of movable type, the book was published in Marseille in 1673, and has been translated into at least 30 languages.
St. Gregory of Narek is remembered by the Armenian Church in October of each year.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A disciple of John the Evangelist, Bishop of Smyrna, martyr for the faith

St. Polycarp

Image of St. Polycarp


Feastday: February 23

Imagine being able to sit at the feet of the apostles and hear their stories of life with Jesus from their own lips. Imagine walking with those who had walked with Jesus, seen him, and touched him. That was what Polycarp was able to do as a disciple of Saint John the Evangelist.
But being part of the second generation of Church leaders had challenges that the first generation could not teach about. What did you do when those eyewitnesses were gone? How do you carry on the correct teachings of Jesus? How do you answer new questions that never came up before?
With the apostles gone, heresies sprang up pretending to be true teaching, persecution was strong, and controversies arose over how to celebrate liturgy that Jesus never laid down rules for.
Polycarp, as a holy man and bishop of Smyrna, found there was only one answer -- to be true to the life of Jesus and imitate that life. Saint Ignatius of Antioch told Polycarp "your mind is grounded in God as on an immovable rock."
When faced with heresy, he showed the "candid face" that Ignatius admired and that imitated Jesus' response to the Pharisees. Marcion, the leader of the Marcionites who followed a dualistic heresy, confronted Polycarp and demanded respect by saying, "Recognize us, Polycarp." Polycarp responded, "I recognize you, yes, I recognize the son of Satan."
On the other hand when faced with Christian disagreements he was all forgiveness and respect. One of the controversies of the time came over the celebration of Easter. The East, where Polycarp was from, celebrated the Passover as the Passion of Christ followed by a Eucharist on the following day. The West celebrated Easter on the Sunday of the week following Passover. When Polycarp went to Rome to discuss the difference with Pope Anicetus, they could not agree on this issue. But they found no difference in their Christian beliefs. And Anicetus asked Polycarp to celebrate the Eucharist in his own papal chapel.
Polycarp faced persecution the way Christ did. His own church admired him for following the "gospel model" -- not chasing after martyrdom as some did, but avoiding it until it was God's will as Jesus did. They considered it "a sign of love to desire not to save oneself alone, but to save also all the Christian brothers and sisters."
One day, during a bloody martyrdom when Christians were attacked by wild animals in the arena, the crowd became so mad that they demanded more blood by crying, "Down with the atheists; let Polycarp be found." (They considered Christians "atheists" because they didn't believe in their pantheon of gods.) Since Polycarp was not only known as a leader but as someone holy "even before his grey hair appeared", this was a horrible demand.
Polycarp was calm but others persuaded him to leave the city and hide at a nearby farm. He spent his time in prayer for people he knew and for the Church. During his prayer he saw a vision of his pillow turned to fire and announced to his friends that the dream meant he would be burned alive.
As the search closed in, he moved to another farm, but the police discovered he was there by torturing two boys. He had a little warning since he was upstairs in the house but he decided to stay, saying, "God's will be done."
Then he went downstairs, talked to his captors and fed them a meal. All he asked of them was that they give him an hour to pray. He spent two hours praying for everyone he had every known and for the Church, "remembering all who had at any time come his way -- small folk and great folk, distinguished and undistinguished, and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world." Many of his captors started to wonder why they were arresting this holy, eighty-six-year-old bishop.
But that didn't stop them from taking him into the arena on the Sabbath. As he entered the arena, the crowd roared like the animals they cheered. Those around Polycarp heard a voice from heaven above the crowd, "Be brave, Polycarp, and act like a man."
The proconsul begged the eighty-six-year-old bishop to give in because of his age. "Say 'Away with the atheists'" the proconsul urged. Polycarp calmly turned to the face the crowd, looked straight at them, and said, "Away with the atheists." The proconsul continued to plead with him. When he asked Polycarp to swear by Caesar to save himself, Polycarp answered, "If you imagine that I will swear by Caesar, you do not know who I am. Let me tell you plainly, I am a Christian." Finally, when all else failed the proconsul reminded Polycarp that he would be thrown to the wild animals unless he changed his mind. Polycarp answered, "Change of mind from better to worse is not a change allowed to us."
Because of Polycarp's lack of fear, the proconsul told him he would be burned alive but Polycarp knew that the fire that burned for an hour was better than eternal fire.
When he was tied up to be burned, Polycarp prayed, "Lord God Almighty, Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received knowledge of you, God of angels and powers, of the whole creation and of the whole race of the righteous who live in your sight, I bless you, for having made me worthy of this day and hour, I bless you, because I may have a part, along with the martyrs, in the chalice of your Christ, to resurrection in eternal life, resurrection both of soul and body in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. May I be received today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, among those who are in you presence, as you have prepared and foretold and fulfilled, God who is faithful and true. For this and for all benefits I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal and heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, through whom be to you with him and the Holy Spirit glory, now and for all the ages to come. Amen."
The fire was lit as Polycarp said Amen and then the eyewitnesses who reported said they saw a miracle. The fire burst up in an arch around Polycarp, the flames surrounding him like sails, and instead of being burned he seemed to glow like bread baking, or gold being melted in a furnace. When the captors saw he wasn't being burned, they stabbed him. The blood that flowed put the fire out.
The proconsul wouldn't let the Christians have the body because he was afraid they would worship Polycarp. The witnesses reported this with scorn for the lack of understanding of Christian faith: "They did not know that we can never abandon the innocent Christ who suffered on behalf of sinners for the salvation of those in this world." After the body was burned, they stole the bones in order to celebrate the memory of his martyrdom and prepare others for persecution. The date was about February 23, 156.