Wednesday, June 30, 2021

First July Saint of the Day


St. Junipero Serra

Feastday: July 1
Patron: of Vocations
Birth: 1713
Death: 1784
Beatified: Pope John Paul II
Canonized: September 23, 2015, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C., by Pope Francis

Miguel Jose Serra was born on the island of Majorca on November 24, 1713, and took the name of Junipero when in 1730, he entered the Franciscan Order. Ordained in 1737, he taught philosophy and theology at the University of Padua until 1749.

At the age of thirty-seven, he landed in Mexico City on January 1, 1750, and spent the rest of his life working for the conversion of the peoples of the New World.

In 1768, Father Serra took over the missions of the Jesuits (who had been wrongly expelled by the government)in the Mexican province of Lower California and Upper California (modern day California). An indefatigable worker, Serra was in large part responsible for the foundation and spread of the Church on the West Coast of the United States when it was still mission territory.

He founded twenty-one missions and converted thousands of Indians. The converts were taught sound methods of agriculture, cattle raising, and arts and crafts.

Junipero was a dedicated religious and missionary. He was imbued with a penitential spirit and practiced austerity in sleep, eating, and other activities. On August 28, 1784, worn out by his apostolic labors, Father Serra was called to his eternal rest. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 25, 1988. His statue, representing the state of California, is in National Statuary Hall. His feast day is July 1.

Here comes July; pray with Pope Francis all month long


Pope Francis’ 2021 Monthly Prayer Intentions


Universal Intention: – Social Friendship 

We pray that, in social, economic and political situations of conflict, we may be courageous and passionate architects of dialogue and friendship.

Cardinal Dolan speaks out on religious liberty


Religious liberty is a basic human right not a right-wing fringe cause, says Cardinal Dolan at inaugural Notre Dame summit

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan is pictured in a June 7, 2018 file photo. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Religious liberty is a basic human right, not a “nasty right-wing movement” to halt progress and oppress people, Cardinal Timothy Dolan told an audience Monday at the inaugural Notre Dame Religious Liberty Summit.

In a keynote address, Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York and the chair of the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty, said the United States Constitution’s 18th-century framers sought to protect religion from government intrusion — not the other way around — and that they welcomed religiously informed political advocacy in the public square.

“I defend (religious liberty) not to boost the Church but to boost the human rights tradition at the heart of our republic,” said Cardinal Dolan, who added that correcting the “false narratives” around religious liberty in mainstream secular society “provides us with a lot of homework” to do.

“We advocate for religious freedom because we’re Americans,” the cardinal said.

The Notre Dame Religious Liberty Summit, held June 28-29 on the campus of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, brought together Catholic and Protestant pastors, Jewish and Islamic scholars, journalists, attorneys and others to discuss the future of religious liberty in the United States and around the world.

In several panel discussions, participants emphasized the importance of the free exercise of religion as enshrined in the Constitution’s First Amendment and analyzed several modern trends and factors creating tensions around religious liberty, such as the rise of secularism in the West, a decline in religious observance, government overreach, political polarization and the jaundiced eye with which the modern progressive movement views religious freedom.

“We need to stop berating conservative Christians for their beliefs if we want to move forward,” said Asma Uddin, a religious liberty attorney and scholar who has written “The Politics of Vulnerability.” She spoke on the importance of getting past the partisan caricatures of people outside one’s political tribe and focusing instead on each other’s humanity.

“The more we can focus on that, and not as presenting each other as a dehumanized evil ‘other,’ the closer we can get to finding effective solutions,” said Uddin, who also wrote the book “When Islam is Not a Religion.”

Uddin and others also highlighted the mixed history of religious freedom in the United States. All too often, the scholars said, the country’s dominant white Christian establishment has exploited religious liberty to deny basic human rights for racial and religious minorities. 

“Religious freedom has been used by whites as a burden for African-Americans in many cases,” said Jacqueline C. Rivers, the director of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies.

Rivers noted that Southern plantation owners before the Civil War cited religious freedom to justify chattel slavery and advance their economic interests. Religious liberty was also cynically used by conservative white Christians and others to defend Jim Crow segregation.

“For the Black church, religious liberty has been both a benefit and a burden,” said Rivers, who noted that many abolitionists and Civil Rights leaders were motivated primarily by their religious convictions. But the historical use of religious freedom for racist ends has resulted in the Black church being somewhat ambivalent on the issue, scholars said.

“Call it one of America’s ugliest ironies; a country founded in part on the pursuit of representation and religious freedom, condoning and in some instances sanctioning the denial of religious freedom and representation for certain people,” said Justin Giboney, an attorney and political strategist who founded the AND Campaign, an organization that organizes Christians for civil and cultural engagement.

“This is perhaps the defining battle of the Black political and religious and political experience in America, a storyline of survival despite constant attempts to deny human dignity and agency,” said Giboney, who argued that the religious freedom debate in the United States is still too often framed by “affluent whites on both sides of the ideological spectrum.” 

Giboney, who is Black, said his organization and others are getting involved in the religious liberty debate, “whether we’re given an invitation or not.” One of the keys to depolarizing religious freedom, Giboney said, is to listen to people of color and reconstruct the conversation with their insights included.

Noting that the summit coincided with Religious Freedom Week, Cardinal Dolan said religious freedom “has always been understood in this land as one of a cluster of fundamental freedoms” that include the freedom of speech, the press and assembly, among others.

“The case can be made that the founders were characteristically wise in placing freedom of religion as the first freedom,” said Cardinal Dolan, who suggested that the other freedoms protected in the Bill of Rights would be jeopardized if that “leadoff liberty was ever diluted.”

“All we want,” the cardinal said, “is the freedom to carry the convictions that have shaped our consciences into our public lives.”

Brian Fraga is a contributing editor for Our Sunday Visitor.

The miracle prayer of Fr. Peter Rookey, Servant of God

 Servant of God Fr. Peter Mary Rookey The Healing Priest

Powerful Miracle Prayer From Fr. Peter Mary Rookey
You want your fervent prayers to be heard by God. You desire God’s loving response to your supplications. You want to learn the prayers of saints that ascent to the Heavenly Throne.
The prayers of Fr. Peter Mary Rookey(October 12, 1916 — September 10, 2014) were so effective that he was widely believed to have had the charism of healing. Peter spent a good part of his priesthood in the healing ministry that blessed countless worshippers.

Rookey began at Benburb with the common Catholic practice of blessing people after mass. The blessings were so effective that reports abounded of many people who experienced healing when Rev. Rookey prayed for them.

Despite the many miraculous healing, Rookey remained humble by saying: “It is God’s work, not mine — He does all the healing, I just pray.” However, the priest’s popularity did not escape his superiors’ attention, who took a very conservative position when it came to miracles such as healing. He was made the Servite general consultor in Rome from 1953 to 1959.
Rookey went on to serve as the administrator of the Servite Catholic College of Louvain in Belgium in the 1960s. He also acted as a parish priest in Düsseldorf, Germany for several years until he was assigned to the Ozark missions in Missouri from 1967 to 1984. He later returned to Chicago to begin the second phase of his healing ministry.

Peter Rookey was the founder and director of The International Compassion Ministry (ICM) from 1986 until his death. Rookey commented during a 1994 Chicago Tribune interview, “I say, use doctors and medicine when you are sick, but you also must pray. Because God gives the same wisdom to doctors that he gives to priests.”

Rookey died in his sleep in Chicago on September 10, 2014, just before his 98th birthday. During his lifetime, he has dedicated his life as a priest for 73 years.
His prayer became famous and was known as the Rookey’s Miracle Prayer. We share this Miracle Prayer with you below.

Let’s pray.

Rookey’s Miracle Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I come before you just as I am.
I am sorry for my sins, I repent of my sins, please forgive me.
In your name, I forgive all others for what they have done against me.
I renounce Satan, the evil spirits, and all their works.
I give you my entire self, Lord Jesus now and forever.
I invite you into my life, Jesus. I accept you as my Lord, God, and Saviour.
Heal me, change me, strengthen me in body, soul, and spirit.
Come, Lord Jesus, cover me with your precious blood and fill me with your Holy Spirit.
I Love You, Lord Jesus. I Praise You, Jesus. I Thank You, Jesus.
I shall follow you every day of my life.

Wednesday Papal General Audience 06.30.2021


Pope at Audience: God transforms our sinful lives to make us missionaries

At the weekly General Audience, Pope Francis reflects on the Letter of St. Paul to the Galatians, and says God’s grace turned sinful Saul into the Apostle to the Gentiles.

By Devin Watkins

Pope Francis held the Wednesday General Audience in the San Damaso Courtyard, and continued his catechesis on the letters of St. Paul.

The Pope focused his reflections on the Letter to the Galatians and on Paul’s self-identification as a true apostle.

He noted that Paul lays out his intent clearly, which is to “reiterate the novelty of the Gospel, which the Galatians have received through his preaching, to build the true identity on which to base their existence.”

Getting to the heart of the problem

The Pope said St. Paul puts aside the empty arguments of his detractors and “flies high” by showing the path to overcome conflicts in the community.

Only near the end of his letter, noted the Pope, does Paul reveal that the core of his argumentation is the question of whether or not circumcision is required for all Christians.

“Paul chooses to go deeper, because what is at stake is the truth of the Gospel and the freedom of Christians, which is an integral part of it.”

He goes to the heart of the problem that has arisen in the Galatian community, rather than seeking a quick and easy solution.

Boasting of God’s mercy

Pope Francis went on to recall Paul’s assertion that he was called to be an apostle by God, and not by his own merit.

Paul even boasted that he had progressed far beyond others in Judaism, highlighting that he had been a defender of his “ancestral traditions” and ferociously persecuted the Church.

The Pope said St. Paul boasts of his previous way of life only to underline the greatness of the mercy of God.

“Paul thus highlights the truth of his vocation through the striking contrast that had been created in his life: from being a persecutor of Christians for not observing the traditions and the law, he was called to become an apostle to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Using the weak and sinful

Despite Paul’s checkered past, God chose to reveal His Risen Son to him, so that he might preach the Gospel to the Gentiles.

“How inscrutable are the ways of the Lord!” said the Pope. “We experience this every day, but especially if we think back to the times when the Lord called us.”

Pope Francis urged everyone never to forget the moment when Jesus entered our lives, keeping “fixed in our hearts and minds that encounter with grace, when God changed our existence.”

And he marveled at how often God makes use of sinners and the weak to manifest His will.

“And yet, none of this happens by chance, because everything has been prepared in God's plan. He weaves our history and, if we correspond with trust to His plan of salvation, we realize it.”

God’s grace makes us servants of the Gospel

Finally, Pope Francis recalled that when God calls He also instills us with a mission, which we must prepare for diligently.

“Let us allow ourselves to be led by this awareness: the primacy of grace transforms existence and makes it worthy of being placed at the service of the Gospel.”

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Last day of June is for the protomartyrs of Rome


First Martyrs of the See of Rome

The holy men and women are also called the "Protomartyrs of Rome." They were accused of burning Rome by Nero , who burned Rome to cover his own crimes. Some martyrs were burned as living torches at evening banquets, some crucified, others were fed to wild animals. These martyrs died before Sts. Peter and Paul, and are called "disciples of the Apostles. . . whom the Holy Roman church sent to their Lord before the Apostles' death."

All churches seem to have the same concerns; will they come back?


Millions skipped church during pandemic. Will they return?


WALDOBORO, Maine (AP) — With millions of people having stayed home from places of worship during the coronavirus pandemic, struggling congregations have one key question: How many of them will return?

As the pandemic recedes in the United States and in-person services resume, worries of a deepening slide in attendance are universal.

Some houses of worship won’t make it.

Smaller organizations with older congregations that struggled to adapt during the pandemic are in the greatest danger of a downward spiral from which they can’t recover, said the Rev. Gloria E. White-Hammond, lecturer at the Harvard Divinity School and co-pastor of a church in Boston.

On the Maine coast, the pandemic proved to be the last straw for the 164-year-old Waldoboro United Methodist Church.

Even before COVID-19 swept the world, weekly attendance had dipped to 25 or 30 at the white-clapboard New England church that could hold several hundred worshippers. The number further dwindled to five or six before the final service was held Sunday, said the Rev. Gregory Foster.

The remaining congregants realized they couldn’t continue to maintain the structure, and decided to fold the tent, Foster said.

“We can’t entirely blame everything on COVID. But that was just the final blow. Some people have not been back at all,” he said.

In Virginia, the Mount Clifton United Methodist Church experienced a similar fate. The church can seat more than 100 but the number of weekly worshippers dwindled to 10 to 15, even before the pandemic.

The small white church built on a hill in the Shenandoah Valley in the 1880s may be rented to another congregation, or it may be put up for sale.

“It’s a complicated picture overall, but the pandemic was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said the Rev. Darlene Wilkins, who oversaw Mount Clifton. “It just became next to impossible to sustain.”

In the United States, the latest challenge for places of worship comes against a backdrop of a decadeslong trend of a smaller share of the population identifying as religious.

It’s too early to know the full impact of the pandemic. Surveys do show signs of hopefulness — and also cause for concern.

About three-quarters of Americans who attended religious services in person at least monthly before the pandemic say they are likely to do so again in the next few weeks, according to a recent AP-NORC poll. That’s up slightly from the about two-thirds who said in May 2020 that they would if they were allowed to do so. But 7% said they definitely won’t be attending.

Those findings are in line with a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. residents last summer. It found that 92% of people who regularly attend religious services expected to continue at the same or higher rate, while 7% say they will attend in-person services less often.

Nashville, Tennessee-based Lifeway Research, an evangelical research firm, says many churches lost steam when in-person services shut down. A small but concerning number churchgoers are coming out of the pandemic in limbo without a church home, said Scott McConnell, Lifeway’s executive director.

“That’s a lot of momentum to lose and a lot of people stepping out of the habit” of weekly worship, McConnell said.

Those that are successful in reemerging from the COVID-19 lockdowns will likely be those that did a better job adapting to the pandemic, said White-Hammond. Eight in 10 congregants in the U.S. reported that their services were being streamed online, Pew said.

Those that kept a connection with congregants and relied less on the physical passing of the plate for donations stand a better chance of emerging unscathed, White-Hammond said.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, Temple Beth El was closed during the pandemic but kept congregants in touch through events like “challah day.” Volunteers baked over 900 loaves of the bread, which were delivered to homes so worshippers could share them over a Shabbat meal.

There will be no returning to “normal” after the pandemic, said Rabbi Dusty Klass. “There were people who went home and may never come back to the sanctuary. They may just pray from their couch. It’s up to us to make sure they have the opportunity.”

The All Dulles Area Muslim Society, whose main campus is in Sterling, Virginia, said some of its 11 locations have reopened to worshippers with safety measures.

“If COVID is gone 100%, I firmly believe our community would be fully back because people crave ... to be together,” said Rizwan Jaka, chair of interfaith and media relations.

In San Francisco, the historic Old St. Mary’s Cathedral survived when members rebuilt after a fire following the 1906 earthquake but it has struggled mightily during the pandemic to stay open.

The 160-year-old Roman Catholic church, which is heavily dependent on older worshippers and tourists, lost most of its revenue after parishes closed during the pandemic. During those “dark hours,” the Rev. John Ardis had to dismiss most of the lay staff, cut the salary of a priest and close the parish preschool.

The plaster is crumbling, the paint is peeling off the walls and dozens of its stained-glass windows need to be replaced.

“But those are secondary at the moment,” Ardis said. “Because I’m just basically trying to trying to keep the doors open.”

Here in New England, any slide could be more acute since a smaller proportion of residents identify as religious.

In Maine, Judy Grant, 77, was a newcomer to Waldoboro who started watching the services online and then began attending in person.

She’s upset by the closure.

“I’m extremely disappointed,” she said. “A lot of churches are closing. I think COVID had a big part in this latest shrinkage, but they were shrinking even before that,” she said.

The final service on Sunday was emotional, with both smiles and tears, as nearly 60 gathered in the sanctuary. Foster preached about new beginnings and encouraged people to continue their faith.

Afterward, people began removing some of the church’s contents, including religious paintings, some furniture, and other items.

Grant said many hope the building will come alive again with a new congregation: “We have to be positive — and pray.”


Associated Press writers Mariam Fam in Winter Park, Florida, Luis Andres Henao in New York and Hannah Fingerhut in Washington contributed to this report.

Pope Francis visits Benedict XVI marking his 70th anniversary of ordination


Archive photo of Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVIArchive photo of Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI  (Vatican Media)

Pope thanks Benedict XVI for his continuing service

Marking the 70th anniversary from the ordination of the Pope Emeritus, Pope Francis upholds his continuing service and describes him as “the contemplative of the Vatican” who prays for the Church and the diocese of Rome.

By Linda Bordoni

Pope Francis on Tuesday said he is marking an anniversary “hat touches the hearts of us all: 70 years ago, Pope Benedict was ordained a priest!”

Addressing the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus prayer on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the patron saints of the city of Rome, the Pope said: that “To you, Benedict, dear father and brother, goes our affection, our gratitude and our closeness. “

He told those present that the Pope Emeritus lives in a monastery, “a place intended to house the contemplative communities here in the Vatican, so that they could pray for the Church.”

He is now the contemplative of the Vatican, the Pope continued, who spends his life praying for the Church and for the diocese of Rome, of which he is bishop emeritu: “Thank you, Benedict, dear father and brother. Thank you for your credible witness. Thank you for your gaze, constantly directed towards the horizon of God: thank you!"

Day of Prayer and Reflection for Lebanon

Pope Francis also recalled that the day after tomorrow, 1 July, a special day of prayer and reflection for Lebanon will take place in the Vatican.

“Together with the Heads of all the Churches present in the Land of the Cedars, we will let ourselves be inspired by the Word of the Scripture that says: The Lord has plans for peace.”

He reiterated his invitation to all to join spiritually in prayer so “that Lebanon may recover from the serious crisis it is going through and show the world once again its face of peace and hope.”

160 years of “L’Osservatore Romano”

In his post Angelus remarks, the Pope also mentioned that Thursday, 1 July, will mark the 160th anniversary of the first edition of L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s daily newspaper.

“I call it the ‘party newspaper’, he said sending its staff his best wishes and thanks for their service. “Continue your work with fidelity and creativity,” he said.

Special Angelus Address for today's Solemnity


Pope Francis during the Angelus Pope Francis during the Angelus   (Vatican Media)

Pope at Angelus: Witnesses do not lose themselves in words, but rather bear fruit

Pope Francis highlights the witness of Saints Peter and Paul during the Angelus, noting that even though both saints were not always exemplary, they remind us that “God is not to be demonstrated, but shown; not announced with proclamations but shown by example.”

By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ

During the Angelus on Tuesday, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Pope Francis reflected on the Gospel of the day (Mt 16: 13 – 19) focusing his attention on the question that the Lord asks his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” (Mt 16: 15).

Who do you say that I am?

Inviting the faithful to give the Lord an answer that comes from the heart today, Pope Francis underlined the importance of the question that Jesus repeats to us:

“Who am I to you, who have accepted faith but are still afraid to set sail on my Word? Who am I to you, who have been a Christian for such a long time but, worn out by habit, have lost your first love? Who am I to you, who are going through a difficult time and need to rouse yourself in order to begin again?”

Who do people say that I am?

Prior to this question, Pope Francis noted that Jesus asked the disciples another: “Who do people say that I am?”

This question was a test, noted the Pope, to find out opinions about Jesus and the fame He enjoyed, even though notoriety did not interest Jesus.

He highlighted that Jesus asked the question to “underline a difference” which is the fundamental difference of Christian life – the difference between those who stop at the first question and at opinions and talking about Jesus, and those who, instead, “talk to Jesus, bringing their life to Him, entering into a relationship with Him, making the decisive step.”

This, the Pope said, “is what interests the Lord: to be at the centre of our thoughts, to become the reference point of our affections; to be, in short, the love of our lives.”

The witness of Saints Peter and Paul

Turning his attention to Saints Peter and Paul, Pope Francis noted that they took that step and became witnesses - imitators not admirers, protagonists of the Gospel and not spectators - “they believed not in words but in deeds.”

In this regard, Peter did not speak about mission but he was a fisher of men. Paul, for his part, did not write learned books but letters about how he lived as he traveled and bore witness. Both men, the Pope explained, “spent their lives for the Lord and for their brothers.”

The Holy Father then held up the example of Sts. Peter and Paul to provoke us from stalling at the first question, giving views, opinions and saying beautiful words but never putting them into practice. He lamented that “it is sad to see that many speak, comment and debate, but few bear witness.”

“Witnesses do not lose themselves in words, but rather they bear fruit,” the Pope said. “They do not complain about others and the world, but they start with themselves. They remind us that God is not to be demonstrated, but shown; not announced with proclamations but shown by example.”

Witnesses are not always exemplary

Pope Francis went on to point out that an objection may arise from looking at the lives of Sts Peter and Paul because “they were witnesses but they were not always exemplary” – Peter denied Jesus and Paul persecuted Christians.

However, “they also bore witness to their failures,” the Pope noted, adding that St. Peter’s story comes out “naked and raw” in the Gospels, with all its miseries, and St. Paul recounted his mistakes and weaknesses in his letters.

This is where witness begins, with the “truth about himself, with the fight against his own duplicity and falsehood,” Pope Francis underlined, adding that “the Lord can do great things through us when we are not careful to defend our image, but are transparent with Him and with others.”

In conclusion, the Holy Father pointed out that the Lord, through his witnesses Peter and Paul, urges us to “take off our masks, to renounce half measures and the excuses that make us lukewarm and mediocre.” He prayed that Our Lady, Queen of the Apostles, may kindle in us the desire to bear witness to Jesus.