reflections, updates and homilies from Deacon Mike Talbot inspired by the following words from my ordination: Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach...
In the afternoon of July 28, 2019, Pope Francis made a surprise visit to the Regina Mundi House, run by the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul in the northwest of Rome.
On making this visit — explained L’Osservatore Romano two days later –, the Holy Father wished to greet Sister Maria Mucci, retired in the House’s Infirmary, after having served for years in the Vatican’s Saint Martha’s House.
The 74-year-old religious was a pillar of Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican, where she entered even before her religious vows, explained her Sisters. “Lately, she took care of the kitchen, and she was proud to take care personally of the Pope’s vegetables,” confided Sister Stefania. Those who were close to Sister Maria in her service at the Vatican also hailed her “presence of intense prayer.”
Sister Maria underwent a surgical intervention in October, after which she has been in convalescence.” Look! My illness made the happiness of all my Sisters of the Regina Mundi House, who were able to meet the Pope,” she joked after the visit.
While at the House, the Holy Father also contemplated a relic of John Paul II’s blood-stained clothes, which was given to the Sisters after the attack on May 13, 1981, in St. Peter’s Square.
As headlines came out this week showcasing 16-year-old Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf winning $3 million playing the digitally interactive video game “Ninja Fortnite,” beating over 40 million competitors from around the world to play a six-game series on the world cup stage, gamer Richard “Ninja” Blevins shared an invaluable gift he received from his mother 28 years ago — his life!
“If you don’t know,” Blevins told the some 14 million people watching him daily on the social platform, Twitch, “I was not supposed to be born…, potentially. A lot of doctors told my mom that I had spina bifida or Down syndrome or a number of other diseases, and that I should be aborted.”
Blevins spoke intimately to his massive audience just a day before his 28th birthday in a video first shared by the pro-life group Live Action. He said his mom said no to all the doctors who were advocating for abortion and finally found one who thought she should have the baby. “Fast forward, nine months later, I was born. Perfect,” Blevins admits. “Nothing was wrong with me.”
With a look in his eye, keenly aware of his sheer luck in living, he says, “My mom is a saint, an angel, and I love her to death.” Blevins goes on to consider what might have been if his mother hadn’t chosen life.
“It’s one of those things… where… what would’ve happened if she listened to one of those doctors… or even one of those people?”
After a long concentrated look, Blevins answers his own questions. “You guys wouldn’t be here, no one would be in this room.” The 28-year-old, obviously very thankful for his life, extends gratitude for the birthday wishes coming in from fans across the globe: “Thank you all for the birthday wishes.”
The questions posed by Blevins are brutally honest when considering the statistics on abortions due to diseases and such possibilities as Down syndrome and spinda bifida. A recent study conducted by the Charlotte Lozier Institute found that 61% to 93% of those diagnosed in the womb with Down syndrome in the United States were aborted. The chances of being born overseas are even slimmer, with France documenting a 96% abortion rate and the U.K. reporting percentages in the 90s as well. Just recently, Iceland bragged about an almost 100% termination rate of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome. Lila Rose, founder of Live Action, has reported that many people around the world living with this syndrome have been asked to be put on the “endangered species list” due to these startling statistics.
Richard Blevins’ story provides a glimmer of hope for so many families that are left to grapple with the details from prenatal testing and doctors who don’t value the dignity of every human life. His honest thoughts on his own birth have potentially reached over 14 million viewers who hear a pro-life witness from a very unexpected place, a gaming platform. With an estimated 250 million people playing Ninja Fortnite, we pray that those hearing Blevins story will be touched by his message and share his story on an immeasurable gift — the gift of life!
Born Inigo Lopez de Loyola in 1491, the man known as Ignatius of Loyola entered the world in Loiola, Spain. At the time, the name of the village was spelled "Loyola," hence the discrepancy. Inigo came of age in Azpeitia, in northern Spain. Loyola is a small village at the southern end of Azpeitia.
Inigio was the youngest of thirteen children. His mother died when he was just seven, and he was then raised by Maria de Garin, who was the wife of a blacksmith. His last name, "Loyola" was taken from the village of his birth.
Despite the misfortune of losing his mother he was still a member of the local aristocracy and was raised accordingly. Inigio was an ambitious young man who had dreams of becoming a great leader. He was influenced by stories such as The Song of Roland and El Cid.
At the age of sixteen, he began a short period of employment working for Juan Velazquez, the treasurer of Castile. By the time he was eighteen, he became a soldier and would fight for Antonio Manrique de Lara, Duke of Nájera and Viceroy of Navarre.
Seeking wider acclaim, he began referring to himself as Ignatius. Ignatius was a variant of Inigio. The young Ignatius also gained a reputation as a duelist. According to one story, he killed a Moor with whom he argued about the divinity of Jesus.
Ignatius fought in several battles under the leadership of the Duke of Najera. He had a talent for emerging unscathed, despite participating in many battles. His talent earned him promotions and soon he commanded his own troops.
In 1521, while defending the town of Pamplona against French attack, Ignatius was struck by a cannonball in the legs. One leg was merely broken, but the other was badly mangled. To save his life and possibly his legs, doctors performed several surgeries. There were no anesthetics during this time, so each surgery was painful. Despite their best efforts, Ignatius' condition deteriorated. After suffering for a month, his doctors warned him to prepare for death.
On June 29, 1521, on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Ignatius began to improve. As soon as he was healthy enough to bear it, part of one leg was amputated which while painful, sped his recovery.
During this time of bodily improvement, Ignatius began to read whatever books he could find. Most of the books he obtained were about the lives of the saints and Christ. These stories had a profound impact on him, and he became more devout.
One story in particular influenced him, "De Vita Christi" (The life of Christ). The story offers commentary on the life of Christ and suggested a spiritual exercise that required visualizing oneself in the presence of Christ during the episodes of His life. The book would inspire Ignatius' own spiritual exercises.
As he lay bedridden, Ignatius developed a desire to become a working servant of Christ. He especially wanted to convert non-Christians.
Among his profound realizations, was that some thoughts brought him happiness and others sorrow. When he considered the differences between these thoughts, he recognized that two powerful forces were acting upon him. Evil brought him unpleasant thoughts while God brought him happiness. Ignatius discerned God's call, and began a new way of life, following God instead of men.
By the spring of 1522, Ignatius had recovered enough to leave bed. On March 25, 1522, he entered the Benedictine monastery, Santa Maria de Montserrat. Before an image of the Black Madonna, he laid down his military garments. He gave his other clothes away to a poor man.
He then walked to a hospital in the town of Manresa. In exchange for a place to live, he performed work around the hospital. He begged for his food. When he was not working or begging, he would go into a cave and practice spiritual exercises.
His time in prayer and contemplation helped him to understand himself better. He also gained a better understanding of God and God's plan for him.
The ten months he spent between the hospital and the cavern were difficult for Ignatius. He suffered from doubts, anxiety and depression. But he also recognized that these were not from God.
Ignatius began recording his thoughts and experiences in a journal. This journal would be useful later for developing new spiritual exercises for the tens of thousands of people who would follow him. Those exercises remain invaluable today and are still widely practiced by religious and laity alike.
The next year, in 1523, Ignatius made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. His goal was to live there and convert non-believers. However, the Holy Land was a troubled place and Church officials did not want Ignatius to complicate things further. They asked him to return after just a fortnight.
Ignatius realized he needed to obtain a complete education if he wanted to convert people. Returning to Barcelona, Ignatius attended a grammar school, filled with children, to learn Latin and other beginning subjects. He was blessed with a great teacher during this time, Master Jeronimo Ardevol.
After completing his primary education, Ignatius traveled to Alcala, then Salamanca, where he studied at universities. In addition to studying, Ignatius often engaged others in lengthy conversations about spiritual matters.
These conversations attracted the attention of the Inquisition.
In Spain, the Inquisition was responsible for ferreting out religious dissent and combating heresy. The Inquisition was not as it has long been depicted in the media.
The Inquisition accused Ignatius of preaching without any formal education in theology. Without this training, it was likely that Ignatius could introduce heresy by way of conversation and misunderstanding.
Ignatius was questioned three times by the Inquisition, but he was always exonerated.
Ignatius eventually decided he needed more education, so he traveled north, seeking better schools and teachers. He was 38 years old when he entered the College of Saint Barbe of the University of Paris. This education was very structured and formalized. Later, Ignatius would be inspired to copy this model when establishing schools. The ideas of prerequisites and class levels would arise from the Jesuit schools, which here heavily inspired by Ignatius' experience in Paris.
Ignatius earned a master's degree at the age of 44. When he subsequently applied for his doctorate, he was passed over because of his age. He also suffered from ailments, which the school was concerned could impact his studies.
While at school in Paris, Ignatius roomed with Peter Faber and Francis Xavier. Faber was French and Xavier was Basque. The men became friends and Ignatius led them in his spiritual exercises. Other men soon joined their exercises and became followers of Ignatius. The group began to refer to themselves as "Friends in the Lord," an apt description.
The circle of friends, shared Ignatius' dream of traveling to the Holy Land, but conflict between Venice and the Turks made such a journey impossible. Denied the opportunity to travel there, the group then decided to visit Rome. There, they resolved to present themselves to the Pope and to serve at his pleasure.
Pope Paul III received the group and approved them as an official religious order in 1540. The band attempted to elect Ignatius as their first leader, but he declined, saying he had not lived a worthy life in his youth. He also believed others were more experienced theologically.
The group insisted however, and Ignatius accepted the role as their first leader. They called themselves the Society of Jesus. Some people who did not appreciate their efforts dubbed them "Jesuits" in an attempt to disparage them. While the name stuck, by virtue of their good work the label lost its negative connotation.
Ignatius imposed a strict, almost military rule on his order. This was natural for a man who spent his youth as a soldier. It might be expected that such rigor would dissuade people from joining, but it had the opposite effect. The order grew.
The Society of Jesus soon found its niche in education. Before Ignatius died in 1556, his order established 35 schools and boasted 1,000 members. The order was responsible for much of the work of stopping the spread of the Protestant Reformation. The Society advocated the use of reason to persuade others and combat heresy.
Today, the Society of Jesus is known for its work in educating the youth around the world. Several universities have been founded in the name of Ignatius and in the traditional Jesuit spirit. The Jesuits also perform many other important works around the globe.
Ignatius' passed away on July 31, 1556, at the age of 64. He was beatified by Pope Paul V on July 27, 1609 and canonized on March 12, 1622. His feast day is July 31. He is the patron saint of the Society of Jesus, soldiers, educators and education.
Bishops’ Conference Domestic Committee Chairman Reacts to Gilroy, CA Shooting
July 30, 2019
WASHINGTON—Following the shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, calls for support of the victims and for actions to end gun violence.
The full statement is as follows:
“It is heartbreaking to learn yet again of a mass shooting that has taken innocent lives, and wounded many others, this time at a food festival in Gilroy, California. At the time of this writing, the reports are of twelve wounded, and three deceased, including a six-year-old boy as well as a thirteen-year-old girl. The Lord calls us to comfort those who mourn and to be peacemakers in a violent world. We pray, and we must, for the victims and their families. The Church should act in ways that heal and support all those affected by gun violence. It is disturbing that our society would seem to allow some to feel comfort in being violent. Our legislators must make changes to our gun policy to prevent the loss of life. As Americans, we must be honest with ourselves that we have a sickness, almost a plague, with the problem of gun violence. As Christians, we must look to the cross, repentant of the ways that have led us to this point and, with God’s grace, abandon such senseless, inhuman acts. Let us resolve to make the sacrifices necessary to end the violent killing that saturates our nation.”
When Bonnie Engstrom and her husband, Travis, were considering names for their third child in 2010, they said that they’d name a boy James Fulton in honor of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, a priest from their Diocese of Peoria, Illinois. His cause for canonization was opened in 2002.
Bishop Sheen in the 1950s and 1960s captured TV and radio audiences with his broadcasts of “Life Is Worth Living.” The couple had been watching them on Youtube.
“We were really taken with listening to him preach,” she told Our Sunday Visitor. “He reminds me of St. Paul in that they both had a passionate desire to tell people about the Faith and about Jesus Christ. We believed that he would be a saint one day. So we thought it would be cool to have a son named after a saint.”
Ironically, because of an approved miracle for her son, the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (1895-1979) is closer to sainthood.
That step in the journey was announced on July 6 by the Most Rev. Daniel Jenky, bishop of Peoria, who proclaimed with “overwhelming joy” that Pope Francis formally approved the miracle that’s attributed to Sheen’s intercession.
That news came just nine days after Venerable Sheen’s remains were transferred to the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria. The end of three years of litigation over his remains meant that the cause for sainthood, which had been put on hold, could be resumed.
“It’s very exciting and surreal, and it’s very humbling,” Engstrom said about her family’s involvement.
With evidence of her son’s alleged miraculous healing boxed and sealed in front of a portrait of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Bonnie Engstrom gives a reading during Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria, Ill., Dec. 10, 2011. CNS photo/Tom Dermody, The Catholic Post
Her son, James Fulton Engstrom, was stillborn on Sept. 16, 2010, his life choked out by a true knot in the umbilical cord. His parents prayed fervently for Sheen’s intercession, and what happened in the next 61 lifeless minutes was the stuff that miracles are made of. When all medical personnel had given up and were about to call the time of death, the stillborn baby came to life.
“Without any medical explanation, his heart started beating normally, and he was breathing normally, and that’s one of the components for a miracle,” said Msgr. James Kruse, the diocesan vicar general of the Diocese of Peoria, who participated in the investigation for the cause.
Engstrom had delivered her two older children at home, but this time something went very wrong. Her husband performed an emergency baptism for their lifeless son, and Bonnie Engstrom began praying to Venerable Sheen.
“I have a distinct memory of calling on him and repeating his name in my head, over and over, and invoking him to pray for us,” she said.
The medics continued trying to resuscitate the baby on their way to the hospital. Engstrom, in shock, was transported in another ambulance.
“They were continually doing blood tests on the baby, and the one doctor said that the toxicity in his blood was really that of a corpse that was one week or so dead,” Msgr. Kruse said, which he learned from the medical records and later interviews with physicians. “They were about to declare him dead.”
James Fulton suddenly showed signs of life.
He was placed in the neonatal intensive care unit, but the crisis wasn’t over. The doctors warned the couple that he could have massive organ failure and die again.
“Some of the details that we learned in the scholarly research on this situation was that the longest that a child had survived without a heartbeat and respiration was 20 minutes,” said Msgr. Jason Gray, whom Bishop Jenky appointed as episcopal delegate into the inquiry. “That’s what was known to medical science and in medical journals. In addition, there are always side effects if you go 10, 15 or 20 minutes without oxygen to the brain.”
Not so for James Fulton. Despite not breathing for more than an hour, he appeared to be a normal baby physically and intellectually and was right on target for typical development.
His maternal grandmother, Alberta Fandel, urged the couple to submit the alleged miracle to the Fulton J. Sheen Foundation in Peoria. That investigation started in September 2011 and was completed that December. James Fulton was a year old, and enough time had passed to assess if his body and brain were damaged. They were not.
The Church tribunal found enough information for further investigation and forwarded medical records and witness testimonies to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints for consideration of Venerable Sheen’s canonization.
Meanwhile, there was a legal battle over his remains that were interred in St. Patrick Cathedral in New York City. The dispute went to court, and the Archdiocese of New York lost its final appeal. In compliance with Church law, the remains were transferred on June 27 without prior public notice and without ceremony.
Sheen’s niece, Joan Sheen Cunningham, and Patricia Gibson, chancellor and attorney for the Diocese of Peoria, quietly gathered at St. Patrick’s with funeral home and cemetery staff. The remains in the basement crypt were disinterred and immediately taken to LaGuardia Airport and flown to Chicago to be transported to Peoria. The remains are encased in a marble monument at the side altar that’s dedicated to Blessed Mother Mary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Thousands of people already have visited the site.
“After working 18 years with Bishop Jenky in the Cause for Beatification, it was a great privilege and honor to be present and witness the transfer of Archbishop Sheen’s remains to his home cathedral in Peoria where he served Mass as a youth and was ordained,” Gibson said.
Pope Francis will soon announce the date of the beatification that will be held at the cathedral. Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, prefect for the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, will preside.
“I continue to hope and pray that the beatification will take place in this 100-year anniversary of Venerable Sheen’s ordination to the priesthood that took place at the cathedral where he is now entombed,” Bishop Jenky said.
Msgr. Gray called the case “a remarkable story.”
He told OSV: “It makes us think a little differently about life and about what God can do in each of our lives. I think everyone involved was touched by the experience. There’s an important sense of connection that a priest from our diocese is now honored as being venerable and then blessed. That means a lot to the priests and the people of Peoria.”
James Fulton is a typical 8-year-old boy, the third of now eight children who range in age from 3 months to 11 years old. His mother calls his life “our miracle and yours. It is God’s miracle.”
Her book, “61 Minutes to a Miracle,” will soon be released by Our Sunday Visitor.
The Diocese of Peoria has established the website (celebratesheen.com) with information about Fulton J. Sheen. Information about the upcoming beatification and tickets to attend the ceremony will be offered at the website.
All are invited to visit the tomb of Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen in the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria. Times are Monday through Friday from 12-2 p.m., Saturday 3-6 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.