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Pope Francis: The true measure of success is what you give, not what you have

Pope Francis delivers his Angelus address at the Vatican, Sept. 19, 2021. / Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

Vatican City, Sep 19, 2021 / 05:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Sunday that in God’s eyes, success is measured “not on what someone has, but on what someone gives.”

In his Angelus address on Sept. 19, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, Mark 9:30-37, in which Jesus declares that “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”

The pope said: “Through this shocking phrase, the Lord inaugurates a reversal: he overturns the criteria about what truly matters. The value of a person does not depend anymore on the role they have, the work they do, the money they have in the bank.”

“No, no, no, it does not depend on this. Greatness and success in God’s eyes are measured differently: they are measured by service. Not on what someone has, but on what someone gives. Do you want to be first? Serve. This is the way.”

Giving his live-streamed address at a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, the pope said that those who wish to follow Jesus must take “the path of service.”

“Our fidelity to the Lord depends on our willingness to serve. And we know this often costs, because ‘it tastes like a cross.’ But, as our care and availability toward others grow, we become freer inside, more like Jesus. The more we serve, the more we are aware of God’s presence,” he explained.

“Above all, when we serve those who cannot give anything in return, the poor, embracing their difficulties and needs with tender compassion: and we in turn discover God’s love and embrace there.”

He noted that after making his declaration about service, Jesus brought a child before his disciples, saying: “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”

The pope said: “In the Gospel, the child does not symbolize innocence so much as littleness. For the little ones, like children, depend on others, on adults, they need to receive. Jesus embraces those children and says that those who welcome a little one, welcome him.”

“The ones who are to be served above all are those in need of receiving who cannot give anything in return. In welcoming those on the margins, the neglected, we welcome Jesus because He is there. And in the little one, in the poor person we serve, we also receive God’s tender embrace.”

Pilgrims listen to the Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square, Sept. 19, 2021. Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
Pilgrims listen to the Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square, Sept. 19, 2021. Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

The pope urged pilgrims gathered in the square below to ask themselves whether they were truly committed to serving the neglected or simply sought “personal gratification” like Jesus’ disciples on that occasion.

“Do I understand life in terms of competing to make room for myself at others’ expense, or do I believe that being first means serving?” he asked.

“And, concretely: do I dedicate time to a ‘little one,’ to a person who has no means to pay me back? Am I concerned about someone who cannot give me anything in return, or only with my relatives and friends? These are the questions we need to ask ourselves.”

After praying the Angelus, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to victims of flooding in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo.

He highlighted the deaths of at least 17 patients after a river burst its banks and water inundated a hospital in the town of Tula.

He also referred -- without mentioning any countries by name -- to those held unjustly in detention outside their homelands.

“I want to assure my prayer for the people who have been unjustly detained in foreign countries: unfortunately, there are several cases, for different, and sometimes, complex causes. I hope that, in the due fulfillment of justice, these people might return as soon as possible to their homeland,” he said.

He then greeted pilgrims gathered for his address, singling out those from Poland, Slovakia, and Honduras.

Finally, he acknowledged the 175th anniversary of the apparition of the Virgin Mary at La Salette, southeastern France.

He noted that Mary appeared in tears to two children, Maximin Giraud and Mélanie Calvat, in 1846.

“Mary’s tears make us think of Jesus’ tears over Jerusalem and of his anguish in Gethsemane: they are a reflection of Christ’s suffering for our sins and an appeal that is always contemporary, to entrust ourselves to God’s mercy,” he said.

St. Januarius’ blood liquefies for the second time in 2021

Archbishop Domenico Battaglia holds a reliquary containing St. Januarius’ liquefied blood in Naples Cathedral, Italy, Sept. 19, 2021. / Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.

Naples, Italy, Sep 19, 2021 / 03:25 am (CNA).

The blood of St. Januarius, patron of the Italian city of Naples, liquefied on Sunday.

The miraculous event took place in the city’s Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary during morning Mass on Sept. 19, the saint’s feast day.

Before the Mass, Naples Archbishop Domenico Battaglia went to the Royal Chapel of the Treasure of St. Januarius with Msgr. Vincenzo de Gregorio, the chapel’s abbot, and city mayor Luigi De Magistris.

Battaglia opened the safe containing a reliquary with a circular sealed vial filled with the third-century bishop’s blood.

During the miracle, the dried, red-colored mass confined to one side of the reliquary becomes blood that covers the entire glass. In local lore, the failure of the blood to liquefy signals war, famine, disease, or other disaster.

At 10 a.m. local time, the 58-year-old archbishop brought the reliquary to the cathedral’s high altar.

Battaglia moved the reliquary from side to side to show its changed state.

“The blood has liquefied,” he said.

Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.

After making the Sign of the Cross, signaling the start of the live-streamed Mass, he said: “We thank the Lord for this gift, for this sign that is so important for our community.”

In his homily, Battaglia, who was installed as archbishop of Naples on Feb. 2, urged Catholics to avoid superstition and to see in the saint’s blood a sign that points to the blood shed by Jesus to redeem humanity.

Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.

The bones and blood of St. Januarius -- San Gennaro in Italian -- are preserved as relics in Naples Cathedral. The bishop of the southern Italian city is believed to have been martyred during Diocletian persecution.

The reputed miracle is locally known and accepted, though it is yet to receive official Church recognition. The liquefaction traditionally happens at least three times a year: Sept. 19, the saint’s feast day, the first Saturday of May, and Dec. 16, the anniversary of the 1631 eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius.

Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.

The saint’s blood also liquefied earlier this year.

Preaching at Mass in Naples Cathedral on May 1, Battaglia urged people not to be overly “intrigued by the miracle” and “seized by the yearning to read in it good omens or ominous omens for our future.”

Regardless of whether the blood liquefies, he said, it should remind Catholics of the blood of Christ “in whose Paschal Mystery we still find ourselves and who is the only one who gives meaning to the great and intense icon of the liquefying blood.”

The archbishop, who was known as a “street priest” who was close to the poor before his elevation, recalled victims of the Camorra mafia and domestic violence, as well as lonely elderly people and the unemployed.

He said: “There is no social sore or communal wound that does not have the right of citizenship in this precious reliquary, the marvelous apex of the entire treasure of St. Januarius.”

“But don’t misunderstand me, I’m not talking about the precious stones, nor the gems set among golden miters, nor the silver busts of the saints. The real treasure of St. Januarius is his people, and, within them, those who sit on the margins of life, the last ones, the most fragile.”

Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Chiesa di Napoli YouTube channel.

The archbishop, known locally as Don Mimmo Battaglia, will receive the pallium on Sept. 27 from Archbishop Emil Paul Tscherrig, apostolic nuncio to Italy.

Before the final blessing at Sunday’s Mass, Battaglia walked down the cathedral’s nave and through its doors, where he held up the reliquary, blessing those gathered outside.

The Vatican Nativity scene 2021 will include llamas and superfood for Baby Jesus

A screenshot of a 3D rendering of a Peruvian Nativity scene that will be featured at the Vatican during the 2021 Christmas season. / ACI Prensa

Denver Newsroom, Sep 19, 2021 / 03:00 am (CNA).

Last year, the Vatican nativity set came, for some, from outer space; in 2021 it is coming from the Andes.  

The 2021 manger that will be placed in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican to celebrate Christmas will arrive from the town of Chopcca, Peru, a small town nestled in the Andes over 12,000 feet high. 

"As of December 15 and for 45 days, more than 100 million tourists and followers of the media will be attentive to the Christmas celebrations in the Holy See that will revolve around the Andean manger," indicates a note from the Andina news agency, the official media outlet for Peru.

Last year's nativity scene, a set of 54 figures dating to the 1960s and 1970s, was panned by many on social media. One detractor described it as "some car parts, kid toys, and an astronaut."

The Vatican has not announced the details yet, but the local news agency released a video with a 3-D rendering of the nativity scene. You can a video from ACI Prensa (in Spanish) about the 3D rendering below:

Chopcca's nativity scene will have more than 30 pieces and will be made by five renowned Huancavelica artists. Huancavelica is located nearly halfway between Lima and Cusco.

The images of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, the Child Jesus, the Magi and the shepherds will be made on a realistic scale with materials such as ceramics, maguey wood and fiberglass, and will wear the typical Chopcca clothing.

The Child Jesus will be represented by a "Hilipuska" child, wrapped in a “chumpi” or woven belt and covered with a typical Huancavelica blanket.

The Three Wise Men, or Magi, will carry saddlebags or woven sacks from the region with popular superfoods, such as quinoa, kiwicha, cañihua, and potatoes, they will be accompanied by llamas that will have the Peruvian flag on their backs.

Several other local Peruvian animals such as alpacas, vicuñas (a more beautiful relative of the llama), sheep, vizcachas (related to rabbits with squirrel-like features), parihuanas or Andean flamingos, and the condor will also be present.

The Regional Government of Huancavelica will present the manger to Pope Francis in gratitude for having chosen Peru in the year in which it celebrates the bicentennial of its independence.

Canadian archbishop: Only fully vaccinated can attend Mass

Coronavirus vaccine, stock image. / M-Foto/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Sep 18, 2021 / 22:48 pm (CNA).

Anyone age 12 or over attending a gathering at Catholic churches, rectories or community centers under the responsibility of the Archdiocese of Moncton must present proof that they are fully vaccinated, the archdiocese announced Friday.

The new policy applies to all religious celebrations, Sunday and weekday Masses, baptisms, wedding and funerals, parish and pastoral meetings, catechesis, and social meetings.

The archdiocese's announcement comes in the wake of new provincial government rules set to take effect Tuesday requiring proof of vaccination to access certain events, services, and businesses. Fewer than 50 people have died from COVID-19 in the province of New Brunswick since the pandemic began, out of a total population of more than 780,000, according to government statistics. But provincial officials say they are concerned about a recent uptick in cases and hospitalizations.

The New Brunswick rules apply to those 12 and older seeking to attend “indoor organized gatherings,” including weddings, funerals, conferences, workshops and parties, excepting parties at a private dwelling.

Other events requiring such proof include indoor festivals, performing arts and sports events; movie theaters, nightclubs, bowling alleys and casinos; gyms, indoor pools, and indoor recreation facilities; and indoor and outdoor dining and drinking at restaurants. Proof of vaccination also is needed to visit a long-term care facility.

Events, business and services must have proof of vaccination and government-issued identification from all participants and patrons aged 12 and older. Individuals who claim a medical exemption must show proof. Failure to follow the rules can be fined for amounts between $172 and $772 Canadian, about $135 to $605.

There have been 48 Covid-19-related deaths in New Brunswick out of some 3,200 total cases since the epidemic began. However, there are now some 370 active cases, higher than its previous peak of 348 on Jan. 25, CBC News reports. The province recently witnessed its largest single-day report of new COVID cases, when active cases jumped by 63.

About 17 people in the province are currently hospitalized, 10 of whom are in intensive care.

“As we are in the fourth wave of the pandemic, it is imperative that we do what is needed to protect our residents while living with the reality that the virus is still with us,” said Premier Blaine Higgs. The premier had loosened COVID restrictions on July 30.

“These changes are necessary to ensure that our province is able to remain in Green and avoid lockdowns, which we know are detrimental to businesses and people’s mental health. We also need to avoid overwhelming our health-care system. The vaccine is an effective tool that can help us combat this virus, but more people must get vaccinated to provide us all with better protection.

Dorothy Shephard, the provincial minister of health, met with religious leaders after the Sept. 15 announcement of the new rules, Archbishop Valery Vienneau of Moncton said Sept. 17.

“While explaining new guidelines, she indicated that they had only one goal: to increase the rate of people fully vaccinated in the province,” the archbishop said in a statement.

“We ask you to implement these new measures in each of your Christian communities not only to respect the government's request but above all to help stop the spread of the virus among our population. We would not want one of our places of worship to be the location of a COVID exposure due to our negligence,” Archbishop Vienneau said. “The Minister of Health is counting on our cooperation.”

The archbishop said volunteers are expected to be at the church doors to ask attendees for full proof of vaccination and to collect their names. This list can be used again each Sunday to avoid repeated requests for proof of vaccination from repeat visitors.

“This list may eventually be requested by the government,” the archbishop noted.

The rules apply to everyone present, excepting those under age 12 who cannot be vaccinated.

The only possible other exception to this mandate is for someone with a proof of medical exemption, which is rare. Parish employees who do not seek vaccination must wear a mask at all times and take a COVID test periodically. Any parish office visitor may be asked to wear a mask if not vaccinated.

Health authorities are concerned that the vaccinated can still pass on the virus to vulnerable groups, like children too young to be vaccinated. Some 80% of new positive coronavirus cases in the province are among the unvaccinated. Over 77.5% of New Brunswick residents have been fully vaccinated, while over 86% have had at least one dose. The province’s population numbers over 750,000 people, about half of whom are Catholic.

The government aims for a vaccination rate of about 90% and the health minister aims to allow gatherings only of fully vaccinated people “to keep people safe and to act as an incentive for the unvaccinated,” the archbishop said. A return to previous measures like masking and social distancing is not being promoted for this reason, he reported.

Under the new rules, anyone entering New Brunswick will have to register with health authorities. Those who are not fully vaccinated must self-isolate for 14 days or wait for a negative test 10 days into their stay.

A provincial bill to remove religious and philosophical exemptions from the mandatory vaccinations for schoolchildren narrowly failed last year and could be reintroduced.

Vaccine mandates have prompted debates among Catholics about conscientious exemption, the risks and benefits of the available COVID-19 vaccines, and the ethics and legality of vaccine mandates imposed by governments and employers, including some U.S. Catholic dioceses.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation” and therefore “must be voluntary.” In its December 2020 note, it said that the morality of vaccination depends on both the duty to pursue the common good and the duty to protect one’s own health, and that “in the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination.”

September 19, 2021: Speak Like a Pirate Day

              To all pirates I have but one thing to say:  amateurs. Donald R. McClarey, Lawyer     Aye Maties, something for ye weekend of Speak Like a Pirate Day!  When Ye Are a… Continue Reading

Saint of the Day Quote: Saint Alphonsus de Orozco

Pope John Paul II on the Feast of Pentecost, May 19, 2002, canonized this Spanish follower of Saint Augustine. Alfonso de Orozco was born October 17, 1500 in Oropesa, Province of Toledo, Spain. His father sent him to study in… Continue Reading

Meanwhile, Back in Australia

WATCH: Australians protesting Covid mandates bust through police line. pic.twitter.com/HsI1UeexEz — Election Wizard (@ElectionWiz) September 18, 2021 You can push free peoples only so far, and then they will start to push back.  The lockdowns have zilch to do with… Continue Reading

Thought For the Day

Club Fed Event

US Capitol Police in full riot gear pic.twitter.com/vftDmmYVEc — Lisa Bennatan (@LisaBennatan) September 18, 2021   News that I missed, courtesy of The Babylon Bee: WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Federal Bureau of Investigation is disappointed by the low attendance at the D.C.… Continue Reading

Justice Clarence Thomas credits Catholic nuns’ anti-racist example

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas / Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Denver Newsroom, Sep 18, 2021 / 16:41 pm (CNA).

Catholic nuns and his grandparents’ example helped instill in Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas the belief that all people were children of God and that the racist flaws of American society were a betrayal of its best promises, he said in a lecture Thursday.

“My nuns and my grandparents lived out their sacred vocation in a time of stark racial animus, and did so with pride with dignity and with honor. May we find it within ourselves to emulate them,” Justice Thomas said at the University of Notre Dame Sept. 16.

“To this day I revere, admire and love my nuns. They were devout, courageous and principled women.”

Thomas, only the second Black Supreme Court justice, delivered the Tocqueville Lecture at the invitation of the Center for Citizenship and Constitutional Government, a new Notre Dame initiative that focuses on discussions and scholarship related to Catholicism and the common good.

“In my generation, one of the central aspects of our lives was religion and religious education,” he said. “The single biggest event in my early life was going to live with my grandparents in 1955.”

His grandfather was a “very devout” Catholic convert, while his grandmother was a Baptist. Thomas, then a second grader, was sent with his brother to St. Benedict the Moor Grammar School in Savannah, Georgia. He was not Catholic at the time, but would convert at a young age.

“Between my grandparents and my nuns, I was taught pedagogically and experientially to navigate through and survive the negativity of a segregated world without negating the good that there was or, as my grandfather frequently said, without ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water,’” the Supreme Court justice said.

“There was of course quotidian and pervasive segregation and race-based laws which were repulsive and at odds with the principles of our country,” he said, but there was also “a deep and abiding love for our country and a firm desire to have the rights and responsibilities of full citizenship regardless how society treated us.”

Said Thomas: “There was never any doubt that we were equally entitled to claim the promise of America as our birthright, and equally duty-bound to honor and defend her to the best of our ability. We held these ideals first and foremost because we were raised to know that, as children of God, we were inherently equal and equally responsible for our actions.”

Thomas spoke of his second grade teacher Sister Mary Dolorosa’s catechism lessons, during which she would ask the class why God had created them.

“In unison our class of about 40 kids would answer loudly, reciting the Baltimore Catechism: ‘God created me to know love and serve him in this life and to be happy with him in the next,’” he said.

“Through many years of school and extensive reading since then, I have yet to hear a better explanation of why we are here. It was the motivating truth of my childhood and remains a central truth today," he said.

“Because I am a child of God there is no force on this earth that can make me any less than a man of equal dignity and equal worth,” he said. This truth was “repeatedly restated and echoed throughout the segregated world of my youth” and “reinforced our proper roles as equal citizens, not the perversely distorted and reduced role offered us by Jim Crow.”

Thomas questioned what he saw as a “reduced” image of Blacks today, deemed inferior by bigots or “considered a victim by the most educated elites.”

“Being dismissed as anything other than inherently equal is still, at bottom, a reduction of our human worth,” he said. “My nuns at Saint Benedict's taught me that that was a lie. In God's eyes, we were inherently equal.”

His grandparents also believed in equality before God. Because of that, “not only did we deserve to be treated equally, but we also were required to conduct ourselves as children of God. Hence, we were to live our lives according to his word. My grandparents repeatedly stressed that because of our fallen nature we had to earn our bread by the sweat of our brows.”

Thomas continued: “There was no room to doubt this and even less for self-pity. As they saw things, on judgment day we would be held accountable for the use of our God-given talents and our opportunities.”

Thomas became a Catholic seminarian and studied for a year at Conception Abbey Seminary in Missouri, but left after the 1968 assassination of civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elsewhere, Thomas has said he was repelled to witness fellow seminarians make disparaging comments about King. That experience led to years of distance from Catholicism, and he only returned to the Catholic faith after becoming a Supreme Court justice.

He said he regretted that he ignored or rejected the lessons of his youth, including “not to act badly because others had acted badly.” For a time he saw this morality “as a sign of weakness or cowardice.” After King’s assassination, he said, “I lost faith in the teachings of my childhood and succumbed to an array of angry ideologies.”

“Indeed, that was why I left the seminary in May of 1968. I let others and my emotions persuade me that my country and my God had abandoned me. I became disoriented and disenchanted with my faith and my country and deeply embittered, and perhaps worst of all, I let my family down,” he said.

At the age of 19, his grandfather asked him to leave his house. He then became a student at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, where, he said, “I fell in quickly with radical ideologies such as Black Power. It was an era of disenchantment and deconstruction. The beliefs of my youth were subjected to the jaundiced eye of critical theories or, perhaps more accurately, cynical theories.”

His grandfather warned him that he had taken the wrong path, and Thomas later came to believe that “the theories of my young adulthood were destructive and self-defeating.”

“The wholesomeness of my childhood had been replaced with emptiness, cynicism and despair,” he said. “I was faced with a simple fact that there was no greater truth than what my nuns and my grandparents had taught me: We are all children of God and rightful heirs to our nation’s legacy of civic equality. We were duty-bound to live up to obligations of the full and equal citizenship to which we were entitled by birth.”

In April 1970 Thomas returned to his college campus from a riot early one morning. There, he said, “I stood outside the chapel at Holy Cross and asked God to take hate out of my heart.”

This was his background for his later encounters with the Declaration of Independence and the legacy of the founding of the United States. He praised the “self-evident” truths of the Declaration, which had been “beyond dispute” in the society, school and home of his youth,

“As I rediscovered the God-given principles of the Declaration and our Founding, I eventually returned to the Church which had been teaching the same truths for millennia,” he said, reflecting on American history and its fierce debates about slavery and racial equality.

While radical abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison depicted America as “a racist and irredeemable nation,” Thomas sided with those who “were unwilling to give up on the American project.”

“Equal citizenship was a black man's birthright and to give up on America was to concede that America's Blacks never were equal citizens as the Declaration of Independence had promised them,” he said. “To demoralize freedmen and slaves in that way, as Frederick Douglass argued, served only to increase the hopelessness of their bondage.”

Douglass, a former slave who became a famous American orator, aimed to convince Americans “that the country was unmoored but not lost.” Both Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King similarly emphasized the promise of equality in America’s founding documents.

“While we have failed the Declaration time and again, and the ideals of the Declaration time and again, I know of no time when the ideals have failed us,” said Thomas.

“Ultimately, the Declaration endures because it articulates truth. … As Lincoln taught us, the Declaration reflects the noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to his creatures, and the enlightened belief that ‘nothing stamped with the divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on and degraded and imbruted by its fellows.'"

In his other comments, Thomas reflected on his friendship with the late justice Antonin Scalia and the possibility that despite their different backgrounds they both thought similarly because of their shared Catholic background, their shared formation in Catholic schools, and a “common culture.”

Thomas knew Supreme Court Justice Amy Barrett, a former Notre Dame law professor, from her time as a clerk for Scalia. “I pray that she has a long and fruitful tenure on the court,” he said of the newest justice.

The justice was introduced by Notre Dame student Maggie Garnett, whose mother was clerking for Justice Thomas while pregnant with her. Garnett said she claims to be “the first unborn Supreme Court clerk,” though she joked that Justice Thomas might not agree that that is a “faithful interpretation of the original meaning.”