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Parents lose three children to tragic accident: ‘If Jesus can forgive me, I can forgive’

Danny and Leila Abdallah / EWTN News In Depth

Washington D.C., Jun 13, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

It was a hot summer day when Danny and Leila Abdallah found out that three of their children had perished in a car accident. 

The proud parents of six, Danny and Leila never imagined that the last time they would speak with three of their children was when they gave them permission to walk down a footpath in Sydney, Australia, for ice cream. Minutes later, a car hit their children - ages nine, 12, and 13 - and their lives changed forever. 

While the Abdallahs live in Australia, Danny and Leila first met in Lebanon, they told EWTN News In Depth on June 4. From the beginning, they were attracted to each other’s faith. 

Danny’s “first question to me was, ‘Do you pray?’ And that was my sign from God,” said Leila, who was raised in a strong Catholic family.

Likewise, Danny valued Leila’s faith. “I always say the biggest decision you make in your life is who you marry, and I know that a woman that loves and fears God will be with you in your darkest hour,” he said.

They married, and later welcomed six beautiful children: Antony, Angelina, Liana, Sienna, Alex, and Michael.

“We loved every minute, every second even when we were tired and exhausted we still – we love them so much,” Danny said. “I used to say to myself my day begins when I get home.”

But a terrible tragedy shook their family last year, in February 2020. The family was celebrating a birthday when the parents let their kids walk down the street to buy some ice cream.

“I heard my sister saying to Danny, ‘Are you sure it's okay for them to walk?’” Leila remembered. “Then he goes, ‘Yeah, they're only walking on the footpath, what's gonna happen?” 

A few minutes later, something unthinkable did happen. Danny and Leila received a phone call about an accident, and rushed to check on their children.

“What we saw was beyond our comprehension,” Danny remembered when he arrived at the scene. “When I saw them, I realized I had to surrender to God.”

Leila compared it to a “war zone.”  

“I started praying when everyone around me was screaming,” she said. “My immediate response, I'm like, ‘Why would God do that to us? No, He can't take our kids. He wouldn’t do that to us.’”

They later found out more about the tragic accident. A 30-year-old under the influence of alcohol, cocaine, and other drugs lost control of his car. He drove over the sidewalk at a high speed and hit their children.

“Sometimes you see those movies where your body comes out and you look back into the, over like a top view, of what's happening. That's how it felt,” Danny described. “I was in shock and then I just started to fix what I could.”

He grabbed Liana who was conscious, he said. Still, “I felt in my heart that I'd lost my kids that day.”

Arriving at the hospital, four priests met with Danny and Leila and broke the news to them: 13-year-old Antony, Angelina (12), Sienna (9), and their niece, Veronique (11), did not survive.

“I was screaming, I'm like no, no, they didn't die,” Leila recalled.

Despite their tremendous suffering and pain, the Abdallahs did not hate the driver, who was sentenced to 21 years in prison.

“I feel sorry for him,” Danny said. “I pray for him. The devil used him as a puppet.”

In a move that shocked the news media, Leila publicly forgave him.

“Forgiveness is something you practice, is something you practice all your life. Then eventually you can forgive on a bigger scale,” she explained. “And you forgive not because the others deserve to be forgiven. It's because you deserve to be at peace.”

Her faith, she said, inspired her.

 “If Jesus can forgive me, then of course I can forgive the driver,” she stressed. “If He died on the cross for me, then of course I can pray for that driver. Our Christianity, our faith got me to forgive him.”

She offered a special message to viewers of EWTN News In Depth

“Remember that if Jesus carried his cross, we are meant to carry our cross and follow Him,” the mother concluded. “And on this earth while we're living, enjoy every moment, hug your family tight, kiss your kids, don't take anything for granted, because anything can change in the blink of an eye.”

That is Sort of Our Trademark Sweetie

        Never apologize for taking advantage of the stupidity of an enemy.  

Amoris laetitia webinar equips leaders to build up sacramental marriages in the Church

scribbletaylor via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Rome Newsroom, Jun 13, 2021 / 08:50 am (CNA).

An online Vatican meeting on Amoris laetitia brought together hundreds of people this week to discuss how to better support sacramental marriages and families in the Catholic Church.

Organized by the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, the four-day webinar centered on the question: "Where do we stand with the application of Amoris laetitia?"

Amoris laetitia is Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation on love in the family, written following the 2014 and 2015 synods on the family.

The closed-door meeting June 9 to 12 was attended by more than 300 delegates from 30 international movements and the family offices of over 60 bishops’ conferences.

In his introduction on the first day of the forum, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the laity, family and life dicastery, recalled a 2017 visit by Pope Francis to the offices of the Vatican department.

During that visit, Pope Francis said “Amoris laetitia must be read together, from the first to the last chapter, without ‘cherrypicking’ those sections which we consider easier to implement from those that are more challenging,” Farrell stated.

Farrell quoted the pope's words that the apostolic exhortation should "be read as an integral whole."

"The webinar should be seen within the Synodal process as a sign of the Church coming together to ensure that the family is given a central place within the missionary outreach of every institution or Parish community within the Church," the cardinal said. "The Church is at the service of the family, to work with it, to hope in its great potential, in the certainty that 'the Church is good for the family and the family is good for the Church.'"

Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández of La Plata, Argentina, a friend and known ghostwriter of Pope Francis, gave a presentation on “accompanying, discerning, and integrating fragility,” on the last day of the forum.

According to a brief summary from the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, Fernández's address began with an analysis of the controversial chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia.

Fernández said in that chapter, Pope Francis "refers to 'situations which do not yet or no longer correspond to [the Church's] teaching on marriage,' the so-called 'irregular situations.' He proposes a path of discernment for greater integration. In any case, for Pope Francis, this is a secondary issue. What interests him more are 'the two central chapters, dedicated to love.'"

Fernández also said that "the pope says that it is essential to take care of love in marriages by encouraging its growth. This is because 'Marital love is not defended primarily by presenting indissolubility as a duty, or by repeating doctrine, but by helping it to grow ever stronger under the impulse of grace.'"

The archbishop said chapter 8 of Amoris laetitia seeks to "integrate the good that is possible" and to accompany people in hard situations.

Some of the central points of the week's meetings, as summed up by Cardinal Farrell, included the need for awareness among families of the mission they have been given by the sacrament of marriage, and how that mission is shared by pastors; that the parish is a family of families; the need for more effective training for priests, deacons, religious, catechists, and lay people involved in preparing engaged couples for marriage; that Catholics must reach out to families who are estranged from the Church; that families in crisis or other difficulties need special attention; and that family pastoral ministry must be missionary.

The four days had sessions on the marriage catechumenate, the formation of those who accompany, the education of children, the spirituality of spouses, the missionary spirit of the family, and the fragility of the family.

Catholic married couples from around the world presented testimonies about their marriage and family related ministries.

One of these couples was Mary-Rose and Ryan Verret, who connected to the webinar from the United States. The Verrets are the founders of the ministry, Witness to Love: How to Help the Next Generation Build Marriages that Survive and Thrive.

In a June 11 interview with EWTN News Nightly, Ryan Verret said "we were specifically invited by the Vatican to present on the use, in Witness to Love, of mentors, or what Amoris laetitia [and] Pope Francis has referred to as 'evangelizing spouses.'"

For engaged couples, mentors "really help to fill a space of rebuilding trust, not only in the Church, but also in the Lord, and trust that marriage is a still an ongoing great gift," he said.

Mary-Rose said "Witness to Love is really a marriage movement trying to help every couple, every sacramentally married couple, to see their home as a missionary outpost of the local Church, and to really form couples to understand that and to live that, to embrace it."

"What we've found," she continued, "is there are so many great programs, there are so many great resources in the Church today, but there isn't really an infrastructure for evangelization. So Witness to Love is all about getting the materials, the witness, the tools, into couples' hands, into parishes' hands, into pastors' hands, so that that evangelization can happen."

"Because the family really is the future of our Church," she added. "Churches without families are churches that will close."

The forum was organized as part of the ongoing Amoris Laetitia Family Year.

In a video message sent on the first day of the online forum June 9, Pope Francis “the family is ‘a domestic Church,’ the place in which the sacramental presence of Christ acts between spouses and between parents and children.”

“In this sense,” he continued, “‘the experience of love in families is a perennial source of strength for the life of the Church,’ constantly enriched by the life of all the domestic Churches. Therefore, by virtue of the Sacrament of Marriage, every family becomes to full effect a good for the Church.”

“Co-responsibility for the mission therefore calls upon married couples and ordained ministers, especially bishops, to cooperate in a fruitful manner in the care and custody of the domestic Churches,” the pope said.

Pope Francis: 'All that is good belongs to God'

Pope Francis gives the Angelus address June 6, 2021. / Credit: Vatican Media/CNA.

Vatican City, Jun 13, 2021 / 06:10 am (CNA).

God asks us to trust that his love is always at work through our good deeds, even if we do not see the results we had hoped for, Pope Francis said on Sunday.

In his weekly Angelus address June 13, the pope said “even the seed of our good works may seem small; yet, all that is good belongs to God and therefore humbly, slowly bears fruit.”

From a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis commented on the two parables in the day’s Gospel reading from St. Mark.

In the first parable, Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a man who scatters seed on the land; as time passes, the seeds sprout and grow, and the man “knows not how.”

In the second parable, Jesus says the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, “the smallest of all the seeds on the earth,” which, once it is sown “springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”

The pope explained that “this is how God works.”

“Sometimes, the din of the world, together with the many activities that fill our days, prevent us from stopping and seeing how the Lord leads history,” he said. “And yet -- the Gospel assures us -- God is at work, like a small good seed, which silently and slowly sprouts.”

Slowly, this small seed transforms into a luxurious tree, giving life and refreshment to everyone, he said, just like our own good works have the potential to do.

He said, “the Gospel asks us to take a new look at ourselves and at reality; it asks to have bigger eyes, which know how to see beyond, especially beyond appearances, to discover the presence of God who as humble love is always at work in the terrain of our life and in that of history.”

The good often grows in small, hidden, or even invisible ways, but “with this parable, Jesus wants to instill trust in us.”

According to the pope, it is easy to become discouraged when certain situations make evil seem stronger than goodness. Sometimes we let ourselves “be paralyzed by mistrust when we see that we are committed, but the results do not come and things never seem to change.”

“The weeds of mistrust can also take root in the Church, especially when we witness the crisis of faith and the failure of various projects and initiatives,” he said.

“But let us never forget that the results of sowing do not depend on our abilities: they depend on the action of God,” he emphasized. “It is up to us to sow, with love, commitment, patience. But the strength of the seed is divine.”

He said: “This is our trust, this is what gives us strength to go forward every day with patience, sowing the good that will bear fruit.”

Jesus “teaches us that even everyday things, those that at times all seem the same and that we carry on with distraction or fatigue, are inhabited by the hidden presence of God,” he continued.

“So, we too need attentive eyes, to be able to ‘seek and find God in all things,’ as Saint Ignatius of Loyola liked to say.”

After the Angelus, the pope prayed a “Hail Mary” for the people of the Tigray region of Ethiopia. The war, which broke out in November, has caused widespread famine. According to recent estimates from Tigray, 300,000 children may have died from hunger.

“There is famine today, there is hunger there,” Francis said. “Let us pray together for an immediate end to violence, for food and health assistance to be guaranteed for all, and for social harmony to be restored as soon as possible. In this regard, I thank all those who work to alleviate the suffering of the people. Let us pray to Our Lady for these intentions.”

Pope Francis also called attention to the exploitation of children for work. The International Labor Organization estimates there are over 150 million children exploited for work today.

“Let us all together renew the effort to eliminate this slavery of our times,” he said.

The pope noted the day’s welcoming ceremony in Augusta, Sicily, of the pieces of a ship wrecked in the Mediterranean Sea in April 2015.

Francis called the boat, which was carrying migrants when it wrecked, a “symbol of many tragedies.”

He expressed the desire that it will appeal to consciences and “encourage the growth of a more supportive humanity, that breaks down the wall of indifference.”

Trump: Miss Me Yet? A Continuing Series-99

JUST IN – Attorney General Merrick Garland announces that the Justice Department will scrutinize any post-election audits for evidence of voting law violations. pic.twitter.com/asXkJtXzby — Disclose.tv 🚨 (@disclosetv) June 11, 2021  

Frei and Barnes

June 13, 2021 at 6:00 PM CT.

Saint of the Day Quote: Saint Felicula

“On the seventh milestone from the city of Rome on the Via Ardeatina, Saint Felicula, martyr”. Roman Martyrology

Thought For the Day

John Drinkwater’s Abraham Lincoln

  The things you find on the internet. John Drinkwater’s play, written in 1918, about Abraham Lincoln, which was broadcast on May 26, 1952 as an episode of the CBS Studio One anthology series. Robert Pastene has the title role.… Continue Reading

Cardinal Zen says possible restrictions to extraordinary form Mass are ‘worrying’

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun departs the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome, Nov. 18, 2014. / Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Rome Newsroom, Jun 12, 2021 / 06:30 am (CNA).

Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, has called possible restrictions to the celebration of the Mass in the extraordinary form of the Roman rite “worrying news.”

Zen wrote on his personal blog that “I am not considered an extremist of this liturgical form and that I worked actively, as a priest and as a bishop, for the liturgical reform after Vatican II, also trying to curb the excesses and abuses.”

“But I cannot deny, in my experience of Hong Kong, the very good that came from the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum and from the celebration of the Tridentine Mass.”

In a 2007 letter to the world’s bishops, Pope Benedict XVI explained that Summorum Pontificum enabled priests to offer Mass according to the 1962 Missal as a “Forma extraordinaria,” or extraordinary form, of the Roman Rite. The Missal published by Paul VI would remain the “Forma ordinaria,” or ordinary form, of the Rite, he said.

The extraordinary form of the Mass is sometimes also called the Traditional Latin Mass or the Tridentine Mass.

Earlier this month, a source within the Congregation for the Divine Worship told CNA the congregation might soon issue a document modifying some of the provisions of Summorum Pontificum.

Rumors about possible restrictions imposed on Summorum Pontificum spread at the end of May after Pope Francis had a closed-door question-and-answer session with the members of the Italian bishops' conference gathered in Rome for their annual plenary assembly.

Speaking with the bishops, Francis hinted at new regulations about the celebration of the Mass in the extraordinary form, although he did not provide details, according to two bishops who attended the conference.

The sources told CNA that the pope said a third draft of the document is currently under study.

In his blog post, the 89-year-old Zen said he has worked for liturgical reform, but he “cannot forget the Mass of my childhood...”

“I felt such reverence, I was so fascinated (and still am!) by the beauty of Gregorian chant, that I think that experience has nourished my vocation to the priesthood, as for so many others,” he said.

He added that he remembers “the many Chinese faithful (and I don't think everyone knew Latin ...) participating with great enthusiasm in these liturgical ceremonies, just as I can now testify about the community that participates in the Tridentine Mass in Hong Kong.”

The cardinal said he thinks Mass in the extraordinary form “is not divisive, on the contrary it unites us to our brothers and sisters of all ages, to the saints and martyrs of all times, to those who have fought for their faith and who have found in it an inexhaustible spiritual nourishment.”

In 2020, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sent a nine-point questionnaire about Summorum Pontificum to the presidents of bishops’ conferences worldwide, since the pope wished to be “informed about the current application” of the motu proprio.

The expected document will come from the Congregation for Divine Worship, however.

One of the proposals being considered for the document is to require priests who want to celebrate Mass in the extraordinary form to establish a specific community at a specific church.