Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Kicking off September with our 1st Saint of the Day


St. Giles, Abbot

Feastday: September 1
Patron: of beggars; blacksmiths; breast cancer; breast feeding; cancer patients; disabled people; Edinburgh (Scotland); epilepsy; fear of night; noctiphobics; forests; hermits; horses; lepers; mental illness; outcasts; poor peoples; rams; spur makers; sterility
Birth: 650
Death: 710

St. Giles, Abbot (Patron of Physically Disabled) Feast day - September 1

St. Giles is said to have been a seventh century Athenian of noble birth. His piety and learning made him so conspicuous and an object of such admiration in his own country that, dreading praise and longing for a hidden life, he left his home and sailed for France. At first he took up his abode in a wilderness near the mouth of the Rhone river, afterward near the river Gard, and, finally, in the diocese of Nimes.

He spend many years in solitude conversing only with God. The fame of his miracles became so great that his reputation spread throughout France. He was highly esteemed by the French king, but he could not be prevailed upon to forsake his solitude. He admitted several disciples, however, to share it with him. He founded a monastery, and established an excellent discipline therein. In succeeding ages it embraced the rule of St. Benedict. St. Giles died probably in the beginning of the eighth century, about the year 724.

Pope Francis monthly prayer intention for September


Pope’s September prayer intention: For abolition of the death penalty

In his prayer intention for September, Pope Francis calls on all people of good will “to mobilize for the abolition of the death penalty throughout the world.”

By Vatican News staff reporter

“Each day, there is a growing ‘NO’ to the death penalty around the world,” says Pope Francis in the video released on Wednesday announcing his prayer intention for September. “For the Church, this is a sign of hope.”

In The Pope Video, produced by the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network, the Holy Father maintains that the death penalty is not necessary “from a legal point of view.”

He argues that “society can effectively repress crime without definitively depriving offenders of the possibility of redeeming themselves.”

He adds that there must be “a window of hope” in every legal sentence. Capital punishment, he says, “offers no justice to victims, but rather encourages revenge. And it prevents any possibility of undoing a possible miscarriage of justice.”

Always possible to repent

Pope Francis goes on to say that the death penalty is “morally inadmissible” because it destroys life, and insists that “up to the very last moment, a person can convert and change.”

The Pope argues further that “in the light of the Gospel, the death penalty is unacceptable, because the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ refers to both the innocent and the guilty.”

Pope Francis concludes his message with an appeal for all people of goodwill to mobilize for the abolition of the death penalty throughout the world.”

“Let us pray that the death penalty, which attacks the dignity of the human person, may be legally abolished in every country.”

Pope Francis says these times are the 3rd World War


A man walks through the rubble of a damaged building following a shelling on Kharkiv, UkraineA man walks through the rubble of a damaged building following a shelling on Kharkiv, Ukraine  (AFP or licensors)

Pope says we are living through Third World War

Pope Francis prays for Ukraine and recalls the 83rd anniversary of the Second World War during the weekly General Audience noting that ongoing conflicts throughout the globe constitute a Third World War.

By Benedict Mayaki, SJ

During the General Audience on Wednesday morning, Pope Francis recalled the 83rd anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War.

Addressing the Polish-speaking faithful gathered, he noted that “Tomorrow you will remember the anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, which so painfully marked the Polish nation.”

“May the memory of past experiences urge you to cultivate peace in yourselves, in your families, in social and international life,” said the Pope.

WWII began on 1 September 1939 and lasted till 2 September 1945.

Prayers for Ukraine

Pope Francis also turned his attention to the ongoing war in Ukraine, noting that today we are living through a “third World War” – one that is being fought piecemeal.

He seized the opportunity to pray for the Ukrainian people, imploring Our Lady to support them in their “daily choice of goodness, justice and solidarity with those in need, generating hope, joy and inner freedom in your hearts.”

Papal Wednesday General Audience 08.31.2022


Pope at Audience: ‘Discernment requires loving relationship with God’

At the weekly General Audience, Pope Francis launches a new catechesis series on discernment, and says learning to choose what is best for our lives requires us to have a close relationship with God.

By Devin Watkins

Pope Francis kicked off a new series of catecheses on discernment at the Wednesday General Audience, reflecting on the question: “What does it mean to discern?”

Discernment, he said, is a process which everyone must learn to master in order to live well.

“One chooses food, clothing, a course of study, a job, a relationship,” he said. “In all of these, a life project is realised, and so is our relationship with God.”

Brains, heart, hands

The Pope said Jesus often spoke about discernment by employing images from ordinary life, such as choosing the better fish, or the best pearl, or even knowning what to do when we find a treasure.

“Discernment presents itself as an exercise of intelligence, of skill, and also of will, to seize the opportune moment: these are conditions for making a good choice.”

He added that making the best choice between a set of options also involves our emotions, since a well-made choice can bring us great joy.

Pope Francis said Jesus uses everyday images to describe discernment because the Kingdom of God “manifests itself in the ordinary actions of life, which require us to take a stand.”

“This is why it is so important to be able to discern,” he said, “great choices can arise from circumstances that at first sight seem secondary, but turn out to be decisive.”

Hard work & freedom

Discernment requires several indispensable elements, including “knowledge, experience, emotion, and will.”

“Discernment involves hard work. According to the Bible, we do not find set before us the life we are to live. God invites us to evaluate and choose. He created us free and wants us to exercise our freedom. Therefore, discerning is demanding.”

The Pope noted that most people have had the experience of choosing something we thought was good for us, but which later turned out to be the wrong choice.

Choices & consequences

At the same time, said Pope Francis, many of us have also known what our true good was but did not choose it.

Even in the first pages of the Bible, God gives Adam and Eve a specific instruction on how to live to be happy.

“If you want to live, if you want to enjoy life, remember that you are a creature, that you are not the criterion of good and evil, and that the choices you make will have a consequence, for you, for others and for the world; you can make the earth a magnificent garden or you can make it a desert of death.”

Relationship & love

Pope Francis noted that discernment is “indispensable for living” and requires us to know ourselves and “what is good for me in the here and now.”

“Above all, [discernment] requires a filial relationship with God. God is Father and He does not leave us alone, He is always willing to advise us, to encourage us, to welcome us. But He never imposes His will.”

Finally, the Pope concluded his catechesis at the General Audience by reminding us that God wants us to love Him and not fear Him.

“Love can only be lived in freedom,” he said. “To learn to live one must learn to love, and for this it is necessary to discern.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Sister Suellen Tennyson has been freed


Sister Sullen freed after five months of captivity in Burkina Faso

By Peter Finney Jr. and Christine Bordelon
Clarion Herald

Marianite Sister Suellen Tennyson, who was kidnapped from the convent of her educational and medical mission in Yalgo, Burkina Faso, Africa, in early April, has been found alive and is safe after nearly five months of captivity, Marianite Sister Ann Lacour, congregational leader of the Marianites, said Aug. 30.

“She is safe,” Sister Ann told the Clarion Herald. “She is on American soil, but not in America. She is safe. She was recovered (Monday) morning. We have spoken to her. She eventually will get back to the United States.”

Sister Ann said she had spoken with Sister Suellen by telephone.

At least 10 armed men were involved in the attack in which Sister Suellen, 83, was abducted, the Marianites of Holy Cross said in an electronic newsletter at the time of the abduction.

Since then, there had been no news of her whereabouts or condition.

Sister Ann said when she spoke with Sister Suellen, the missionary did not actually “know where she was.”

“She’s totally worn out,” Sister Ann said. “I told her how much people love her, and she doesn’t have anything to worry about. I told her, ‘You are alive and safe. That’s all that matters.’”

New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond said he received a text from Sister Ann earlier in the day and was overjoyed that she had been freed. When Sister Suellen was abducted – barefoot and in the middle of the night – she had left behind her blood pressure medication and her glasses.

The congregation said Sister Suellen, the former international congregational leader for the Marianites of Holy Cross and native of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, was sleeping when the men burst into the convent, ransacked the living quarters and kidnapped her, leaving behind two other Marianite sisters and two young women who also lived in the convent.

“There were about 10 men who came during the night while the sisters were sleeping,” Sister Ann said in an e-bulletin April 6. “They destroyed almost everything in the house, shot holes in the new truck and tried to burn it. The house itself is OK, but its contents are ruined.”

Sister Ann said she was told by the two younger women living at the convent that Sister Suellen was taken from her bed with “no glasses, shoes, phone, medicine, etc.”

The other two Marianites at the convent in Yalgo – Sister Pauline Drouin, a Canadian, and Sister Pascaline Tougma, a Burkinabé – were not abducted and did not see many of the details.

“They say the two young women who live with them saw what happened and told them (the details),” Sister Ann said. “They think there were more men on the road. They have heard nothing from or about Suellen since she was taken.”

Sister Ann said Sister Pauline and Sister Pascaline were quickly relocated to Kaya, Burkina Faso, about 70 miles from Yalgo.

Sister Ann said the Marianites contacted both the U.S. Embassy in Burkina Faso and the U.S. State Department and received assurance that this was “a high priority case for them.” The congregation also contacted the apostolic nuncios to the U.S., Burkina Faso and France as well as the Vatican’s secretary of state and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the U.S.

Yalgo is in northern Burkina Faso, not far from the border with Mali. Reliefweb reported in April that in the last two years, Burkina Faso's northern and eastern regions had seen a "sharp deterioration in the security situation ... due to the presence of nonstate armed groups.”

Sister Ann, who has visited the Marianites in the country, said Sister Suellen was serving as a pastoral minister, "to wipe tears, give hugs, import a smile. She really did support the people that work in the clinic that the parish runs.” People walked for miles to get help from the clinic, she said.

Bishop Theophile Nare of the Kaya Diocese, said Sister Suellen was abducted overnight between April 4 and 5 and taken to an unknown destination by Unidentified Armed Men (UAM). 

The bishop said the kidnappers vandalized the convent where Sister Suellen lived in community with other religious women before taking her to the unknown destination. 

According to media reports, Burkina Faso, one of the 10 countries in the Sahel region of Africa, has been facing rampant violence occasioned by political crises, which offer a fertile ground for the proliferation of extremist groups. 

The city of Yalgo borders the province of Soum, where armed groups are particularly active. In this area, attacks against civilians have increased according to reports. 

“I’m so thrilled,” said Ruby Faucheux Keefe, a childhood friend of Sister Suellen’s from Kenner, after hearing that Sister Suellen was safe in U.S. custody. “I’ve been thinking about her every day. This has made my day. We grew up together.”

Keefe, 85, and Sister Suellen attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help grammar school in Kenner.  Even after going to different high schools – Keefe to Kenner High and Sister Suellen to the Academy of the Holy Angels – the two remained friends and enjoyed jitterbugging at weekend high school dances. Keefe remembers visiting Sister Suellen at the Marianite Convent on St. Claude Avenue in New Orleans.

“Just remember we loved to dance,” Keefe said Sister Suellen would always say when the two talked over the phone or in person when Sister Suellen returned home for a New Orleans visit.

The last time Sister Suellen was in town, Keefe recalled how much Sister Suellen expressed her love for being in Africa, even though it was very primitive.

“She told me she didn’t have hot water,” Keefe said. “I thought I don’t know how she did it at our age, but she loved it.”

“I just feel so great to hear that she’s been found,” Keefe said.

Wednesday Saint of the Day


St. Raymond Nonnatus

Raymond was born at Portella, Catalonia, Spain. He was delivered by caesarean operation when his mother died in childbirth. Hence his name non natus (not born). He joined the Mercedarians under St. Peter Nolasco at Barcelona. He succeeded Peter as chief ransomer and went to Algeria to ransom slaves. He remained as hostage for several slaves when his money ran out and was sentenced to be impaled when the governor learned that he had converted several Mohammedans. He escaped the death sentence because of the ransom he would bring, but was forced to run the gauntlet. He was then tortured for continuing his evangelizing activities but was ransomed eight months later by Peter Nolasco. On his return to Barcelona in 1239, he was appointed Cardinal by Pope Gregory IX, but died at Cardona a short distance from Barcelona the next year while on the way to Rome. He was canonized in 1657. He is the patron saint of expectant mothers and midwives because of the nature of his own birth. Although his mother died in labor, Raymond miraculously survived the ordeal. His feast day is August 31.

Tuesday evening Mass with the Pope and the world's Cardinals


Pope to Cardinals: May wonder, gratitude be ever alive in our hearts

Members of the College of Cardinals gather with Pope Francis for an evening Mass on Tuesday, marking the culmination of several events at the Vatican, and the Pope encourages us to renew our wonder and gratitude before God's saving plan.

By Thaddeus Jones

Pope Francis presided over the Mass with the new Cardinals and College of Cardinals in St. Peter's Basilica early Tuesday evening.

The celebration followed Saturday's Consistory for the creation of new Cardinals and two days of meetings of all the Cardinals to discuss Praedicate Evangelium, the new Apostolic Constitution of the Roman Curia.

The Mass took place three days after the Consistory given Sunday's pastoral visit of Pope Francis to the Italian city of L'Aquila and the Monday and Tuesday meetings with the Cardinals. Some 190 Cardinals, as well as Eastern Patriarchs and Superiors of the Secretariat of State, participated in the two days of discussion and reflection.

Wonder that inspires and animates

In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the theme of "wonder" as described in the readings proclaimed during the celebrations: the wonder of St. Paul before God's saving plan and the wonder of the disciples encountering the risen Jesus who called on them to "make disciples of all nations."

He said here we can appreciate how the Holy Spirit guides and moves us forward to proclaim the Gospel and "to all the peoples the wonders of the Lord."

The Pope observed that just as we often marvel at the greatness of the universe, so we are also "full of wonder as we consider the history of salvation," as "all things find their origin, existence, end and purpose in Christ."

“In Christ we were blessed even before the world was created; in Him we were called and redeemed; in Him all creation is restored to unity, and all, near and far, first and last, are destined, by the working of the Holy Spirit, to the praise of God’s glory.”

God's call to participate

While we marvel at God's plan of salvation, we can also be further amazed that "God calls us to share in this plan," the Pope pointed out, as we see in the mission given to the apostles by the risen Christ to “Go… make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20).

The Lord reassures the disciples telling them “I am with you always, to the end of the age," and this promise "inspires hope and conslation", said the Pope. These words and this mandate are given to us today, he added, thrilling our hearts even after two thousand years gone by. We are further amazed how the divine decision to evangelize the world started with a "ragtag group of disciples," some who still had doubts, but the Pope said that gives hope for ourselves as well.

“This kind of wonder is a way to salvation! May God keep it ever alive in our hearts, for it sets us free from the temptation of thinking that we can “manage things”.”

The Pope said we must avoid a false sense of security thinking that today everything is different and all set, or we risk falling into the "deception, whereby the Father of Lies seeks to make Christ’s followers first worldly, then innocuous."

Wonder and gratitude at being Church

The sense of wonder we experience through the Word of God also awakens in us "wonder at being in the Church, of being Church," the Pope added, saying the awareness of being blessed in Christ and bearing witness to Him helps strengthens the community of believers and makes them attractive to others. 

The Pope said we rejoice as well in gratitude for these gifts, all the baptized. He recalled Saint Paul VI who offered his legacy of "love for the Church, a love which is first and foremost gratitude, grateful wonder at her mystery and at the gift of our being not only members of the Church, but involved in her life, sharing in and, indeed, jointly responsible for her."

In conclusion, the Pope offered the basics of what it means to be a minister of the Church: "one who experiences wonder before God’s plan, and, in that spirit, passionately loves the Church and stands at the service of her mission wherever and however the Holy Spirit may choose."

“May it also be the case with us! May it be the case with each of you, dear brother Cardinals! May the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, obtain this grace for each and every one of us.”

Major court win for Christian hospitals who refuse abortions, gender surgery


U.S. can't punish Christian hospitals for refusing to do abortions, gender surgery

(Reuters) - The U.S. government cannot require several Christian medical groups and providers to perform abortions or gender transition surgeries under the Affordable Care Act, a federal appeals court has ruled.

A unanimous panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a lower court's permanent order shielding Christian Medical and Dental Associations and Specialty Physicians of Illinois, along with Catholic hospital system Franciscan Alliance Inc, from any enforcement action under the ACA's anti-discrimination provision, known as Section 1557, for refusing to perform the procedures, which they say would violate their religious freedom.

Circuit Judge Don Willett, joined by Circuit Judges Jennifer Elrod and Kurt Engelhardt, rejected the government's argument that the case should be dismissed as moot because the original rule challenged by the providers had been overturned. Willett wrote that the providers still faced harm because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had "repeatedly refused to disavow enforcement" against them.

"In its brief on appeal, HHS simply says it 'has not to date evaluated' whether it will enforce Section 1557 against Franciscan Alliance — in other words, it concedes that it may," he wrote.

Joe Davis of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, called the ruling "a major victory for conscience rights and compassionate medical care in America."

HHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Christian groups had sued in Wichita Falls, Texas federal court to challenge an HHS rule issued in 2016 during Democratic President Barack Obama's administration. The rule interpreted Section 1557 to prohibit healthcare providers that receive federal funding or participate in ACA exchanges from discriminating on the basis of "gender identity" or "termination of pregnancy."

U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor vacated parts of the rule in 2019, but declined to enter an injunction. In 2020, under Trump, HHS rescinded the rule.

The plaintiffs nonetheless appealed to the 5th Circuit to ask for an injunction. That court remanded the case for further consideration to O'Connor, who then entered a broad injunction against enforcing 1557 against the plaintiffs to require gender transition care or abortion.

HHS, in turn, appealed that injunction, leading to Friday's ruling.

The agency on July 25 proposed a new rule enforcing Section 1557 that would adopt similar language to the rescinded 2016 rule. While the proposed rule contains a religious exemption, the groups in the lawsuit have said it does not go far enough.

The case is Franciscan Alliance Inc v. Becerra, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 21-11174.

For the plaintiffs: Luke Goodrich and Joseph Davis of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

For the government: McKaye Neumeister of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Division