"If my people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14
|Photo by Lyons Photography|
During his recent visit to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI urged a return to the sacrament of Confession and continued witnessing to Christ our Hope.
During a Mass at Washington, D.C.'s Nationals Stadium on April 17, the Pope said in his homily: ". . . In the exercise of my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I have come to America to confirm you, my brothers and sisters, in the faith of the Apostles (cf. Lk 22:32). I have come to proclaim anew, as Peter proclaimed on the day of Pentecost, that Jesus Christ is Lord and Messiah, risen from the dead, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father, and established as judge of the living and the dead (cf. Acts 2:14ff.). I have come to repeat the Apostle's urgent call to conversion and the forgiveness of sins, and to implore from the Lord a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church in this country. As we have heard throughout this Easter season, the Church was born of the Spirit's gift of repentance and faith in the risen Lord. In every age she is impelled by the same Spirit to bring to men and women of every race, language, and people (cf. Rv 5:9) the good news of our reconciliation with God in Christ.
"The readings of today's Mass invite us to consider the growth of the Church in America as one chapter in the greater story of the Church's expansion following the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In those readings we see the inseparable link between the risen Lord, the gift of the Spirit for the forgiveness of sins, and the mystery of the Church. Christ established his Church on the foundation of the Apostles (cf. Rv 21:14) as a visible, structured community which is at the same time a spiritual communion, a mystical body enlivened by the Spirit's manifold gifts, and the sacrament of salvation for all humanity (cf. Lumen Gentium, 8). In every time and place, the Church is called to grow in unity through constant conversion to Christ, whose saving work is proclaimed by the Successors of the Apostles and celebrated in the sacraments. This unity, in turn, gives rise to an unceasing missionary outreach, as the Spirit spurs believers to proclaim 'the great works of God' and to invite all people to enter the community of those saved by the blood of Christ and granted new life in His Spirit.
"I pray, then, that this significant anniversary in the life of the Church in the United States, and the presence of the Successor of Peter in your midst, will be an occasion for all Catholics to reaffirm their unity in the apostolic faith, to offer their contemporaries a convincing account of the hope which inspires them (cf. 1 Pt 3:15), and to be renewed in missionary zeal for the extension of God's Kingdom.
"The world needs this witness! Who can deny that the present moment is a crossroads, not only for the Church in America but also for society as a whole? It is a time of great promise, as we see the human family in many ways drawing closer together and becoming ever more interdependent. Yet at the same time we see clear signs of a disturbing breakdown in the very foundations of society: signs of alienation, anger, and polarization on the part of many of our contemporaries; increased violence; a weakening of the moral sense; a coarsening of social relations; and a growing forgetfulness of Christ and God. The Church, too, sees signs of immense promise in her many strong parishes and vital movements, in the enthusiasm for the faith shown by so many young people, in the number of those who each year embrace the Catholic faith, and in a greater interest in prayer and catechesis. At the same time she senses, often painfully, the presence of division and polarization in her midst, as well as the troubling realization that many of the baptized, rather than acting as a spiritual leaven in the world, are inclined to embrace attitudes contrary to the truth of the Gospel.
" 'Lord, send out Your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth!' (cf. Ps 104:30). The words of today's Responsorial Psalm are a prayer which rises up from the heart of the Church in every time and place. They remind us that the Holy Spirit has been poured out as the first fruits of a new creation, 'new heavens and a new earth' (cf. 2 Pt 3:13; Rv 21:1), in which God's peace will reign and the human family will be reconciled in justice and love. We have heard Saint Paul tell us that all creation is even now 'groaning' in expectation of that true freedom which is God's gift to his children (Rom 8:21-22), a freedom which enables us to live in conformity to His will. Today let us pray fervently that the Church in America will be renewed in that same Spirit, and sustained in her mission of proclaiming the Gospel to a world that longs for genuine freedom (cf. Jn 8:32), authentic happiness, and the fulfillment of its deepest aspirations!
"Here I wish to offer a special word of gratitude and encouragement to all those who have taken up the challenge of the Second Vatican Council, so often reiterated by Pope John Paul II, and committed their lives to the new evangelization. I thank my brother Bishops, priests and deacons, men and women religious, parents, teachers, and catechists. The fidelity and courage with which the Church in this country will respond to the challenges raised by an increasingly secular and materialistic culture will depend in large part upon your own fidelity in handing on the treasure of our Catholic faith. Young people need to be helped to discern the path that leads to true freedom: the path of a sincere and generous imitation of Christ, the path of commitment to justice and peace. Much progress has been made in developing solid programs of catechesis, yet so much more remains to be done in forming the hearts and minds of the young in knowledge and love of the Lord. The challenges confronting us require a comprehensive and sound instruction in the truths of the faith. But they also call for cultivating a mindset, an intellectual 'culture,' which is genuinely Catholic, confident in the profound harmony of faith and reason, and prepared to bring the richness of faith's vision to bear on the urgent issues which affect the future of American society.
"Dear friends, my visit to the United States is meant to be a witness to 'Christ our Hope.' Americans have always been a people of hope: your ancestors came to this country with the expectation of finding new freedom and opportunity, while the vastness of the unexplored wilderness inspired in them the hope of being able to start completely anew, building a new nation on new foundations. To be sure, this promise was not experienced by all the inhabitants of this land; one thinks of the injustices endured by the native American peoples and by those brought here forcibly from Africa as slaves. Yet hope, hope for the future, is very much a part of the American character. And the Christian virtue of hope – the hope poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, the hope which supernaturally purifies and corrects our aspirations by focusing them on the Lord and his saving plan – that hope has also marked, and continues to mark, the life of the Catholic community in this country.
"It is in the context of this hope born of God's love and fidelity that I acknowledge the pain which the Church in America has experienced as a result of the sexual abuse of minors. No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse. It is important that those who have suffered be given loving pastoral attention. Nor can I adequately describe the damage that has occurred within the community of the Church. Great efforts have already been made to deal honestly and fairly with this tragic situation, and to ensure that children – whom our Lord loves so deeply (cf. Mk 10:14), and who are our greatest treasure – can grow up in a safe environment. These efforts to protect children must continue. Yesterday I spoke with your Bishops about this. Today I encourage each of you to do what you can to foster healing and reconciliation, and to assist those who have been hurt. Also, I ask you to love your priests, and to affirm them in the excellent work that they do. And above all, pray that the Holy Spirit will pour out his gifts upon the Church, the gifts that lead to conversion, forgiveness, and growth in holiness.
"Saint Paul speaks, as we heard in the second reading, of a kind of prayer which arises from the depths of our hearts in sighs too deep for words, in 'groanings' (Rom 8:26) inspired by the Spirit. This is a prayer which yearns, in the midst of chastisement, for the fulfillment of God's promises. It is a prayer of unfailing hope, but also one of patient endurance and, often, accompanied by suffering for the truth. Through this prayer, we share in the mystery of Christ's own weakness and suffering, while trusting firmly in the victory of his Cross. With this prayer, may the Church in America embrace ever more fully the way of conversion and fidelity to the demands of the Gospel. And may all Catholics experience the consolation of hope, and the Spirit's gifts of joy and strength.
"In today's Gospel, the risen Lord bestows the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and grants them the authority to forgive sins. Through the surpassing power of Christ's grace, entrusted to frail human ministers, the Church is constantly reborn and each of us is given the hope of a new beginning. Let us trust in the Spirit's power to inspire conversion, to heal every wound, to overcome every division, and to inspire new life and freedom. How much we need these gifts! And how close at hand they are, particularly in the sacrament of Penance! The liberating power of this sacrament, in which our honest confession of sin is met by God's merciful word of pardon and peace, needs to be rediscovered and reappropriated by every Catholic. To a great extent, the renewal of the Church in America and throughout the world depends on the renewal of the practice of Penance and the growth in holiness which that sacrament both inspires and accomplishes.
" 'In hope we were saved!' (Rom 8:24). As the Church in the United States gives thanks for the blessings of the past two hundred years, I invite you, your families, and every parish and religious community, to trust in the power of grace to create a future of promise for God's people in this country. I ask you, in the Lord Jesus, to set aside all division and to work with joy to prepare a way for him, in fidelity to his word and in constant conversion to his will. Above all, I urge you to continue to be a leaven of evangelical hope in American society, striving to bring the light and truth of the Gospel to the task of building an ever more just and free world for generations yet to come.
"Those who have hope must live different lives! (cf. Spe Salvi, 2). By your prayers, by the witness of your faith, by the fruitfulness of your charity, may you point the way towards that vast horizon of hope which God is even now opening up to his Church, and indeed to all humanity: the vision of a world reconciled and renewed in Christ Jesus, our Savior. To him be all honor and glory, now and forever. Amen!"
In an address to an assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family on April 5 in Vatican City, Pope Benedict XVI talked about the special role of grandparents. The theme of the meeting was "Grandparents: Their witness and presence in the family."
The Pope said: ". . .I thank you for accepting my suggestion at the Meeting in Valencia when I said: 'In no way should [grandparents] ever be excluded from the family circle. They are a treasure which the younger generation should not be denied, especially when they bear witness to their faith' (Address at the Fifth World Meeting of Families, Valencia, July 8, 2006)."
The pope continued: "The theme you have discussed is very familiar to all. Who does not remember their grandparents? Who can forget their presence and their witness by the domestic hearth? How many of us bear their names as a sign of continuity and gratitude! It is a custom in families, after their departure, to remember their birthdays with the celebration of Mass for the repose of their souls and if possible, a visit to the cemetery. These and other gestures of love and faith are a manifestation of our gratitude to them. They gave themselves, they sacrificed themselves for us, and in certain cases also gave their lives.
"The Church has always paid special attention to grandparents, recognizing them as a great treasure from both the human and social, as well as religious and spiritual viewpoints. My venerable Predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II . . . emphasized on various occasions the Ecclesial Community's respect for the elderly, for their dedication and their spirituality. In particular, during the Jubilee of the Year 2000, John Paul II summoned the world's elderly to St. Peter's Square in September and said on that occasion: 'Despite the limitations brought on by age, I continue to enjoy life. For this I thank the Lord. It is wonderful to be able to give oneself to the very end for the sake of the Kingdom of God!' These words were contained in the Letter that about a year earlier, in October 1999, he had addressed to the elderly and which have preserved intact their human, social, and cultural timeliness.
"Your Plenary Assembly has discussed the theme of grandparents' presence in the family, the Church, and society with a look that can include the past, present, and future. Let us briefly analyze these three moments. In the past, grandparents had an important role in the life and growth of the family. Even with their advancing age they continued to be present with their children, their grandchildren, and even their great-grandchildren, giving a living witness of caring, sacrifice, and a daily gift of themselves without reserve. They were witnesses of a personal and community history that continued to live on in their memories and in their wisdom. Today, the economic and social evolution has brought profound transformations to the life of families. The elderly, including many grandparents, find themselves in a sort of 'parking area': some realize they are a burden to their family and prefer to live alone or in retirement homes with all the consequences that such decisions entail.
"Unfortunately, it seems that the 'culture of death' is advancing on many fronts and is also threatening the season of old age. With growing insistence, people are even proposing euthanasia as a solution for resolving certain difficult situations. Old age, with its problems that are also linked to the new family and social contexts because of modern development, should be evaluated carefully and always in the light of the truth about man, the family, and the community. It is always necessary to react strongly to what dehumanizes society. Parish and diocesan communities are forcefully challenged by these problems and are seeking today to meet the needs of the elderly. Ecclesial movements and associations exist which have embraced this important and urgent cause. It is necessary to join forces to defeat together all forms of marginalization, for it is not only they - grandfathers, grandmothers, senior citizens - who are being injured by the individualistic mindset, but everyone. If grandparents, as is said often and on many sides, are a precious resource, it is necessary to put into practice coherent choices that allow them to be better valued.
"May grandparents return to being a living presence in the family, in the Church, and in society. With regard to the family, may grandparents continue to be witnesses of unity, of values founded on fidelity, and of a unique love that gives rise to faith and the joy of living. The so-called new models of the family and a spreading relativism have weakened these fundamental values of the family nucleus. The evils of our society - as you justly observed during your work - are in need of urgent remedies. In the face of the crisis of the family, might it not be possible to set out anew precisely from the presence and witness of these people - grandparents - whose values and projects are more resilient? Indeed, it is impossible to plan the future without referring to a past full of significant experiences and spiritual and moral reference points. Thinking of grandparents, of their testimony of love and fidelity to life, reminds us of the Biblical figures of Abraham and Sarah, of Elizabeth and Zechariah, of Joachim and Anne, as well as of the elderly Simeon and Anna and even Nicodemus: they all remind us that at every age the Lord asks each one for the contribution of his or her own talents.
"Let us now turn our gaze towards the sixth World Meeting of Families which will be celebrated in Mexico in January 2009. I greet and thank Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, Archbishop of Mexico, present here, for all he has already done in these months of preparation together with his collaborators. All Christian families of the world look to this Nation, 'ever faithful' to the Church, which will open the doors to all the families of the world. I invite the Ecclesial Communities, especially family groups, movements, and associations of families, to prepare themselves spiritually for this event of grace. Venerable and dear Brothers, I thank you once again for your visit and for the work you have done during these days; I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and cordially impart the Apostolic Blessing to you and to your loved ones."
Fred H. Summe, vice president of Northern Kentucky Right to Life
In January, Brazilian Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho condemned the distribution of the "morning-after pill," warning "…both those who use it and those who incite its use are committing a crime punishable by excommunication."
The Catholic Bishops of Honduras have also warned the faithful that complicity in abortion is grounds for excommunication, and that the morning-after pill "is abortifacient, since it deliberately and directly ends the life of a human being immediately after conception."
On the other hand, in November 2004, the four Kentucky Catholic Bishops issued a statement titled Guideline for Catholic Health Care Institutions Treating Victims of Sexual Assault, in which they approved the use of this abortifacient drug in Catholic hospitals in cases of sexual assault. It was ironic that these four bishops had just opposed legislation for the public distribution of that drug, stating: "The primary function of the drug is abortifacient."
On September 28, 2007, the Connecticut Catholic Bishops withdrew their prior opposition to a Connecticut statute which required all hospitals to provide the so-called "emergency contraception" to victims of rape.
When the legislation was pending last spring, the three Connecticut bishops argued that the proposed legislation requiring hospitals to provide "emergency contraception" would cause a "direct opposition to our religious beliefs that life begins at the moment of conception and as such is a serious violation of a basic tenet of the Catholic faith."
The Kentucky bishops and the Connecticut bishops are not the only ones who have addressed this issue. Catholic hospitals in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New York, California, and Washington have also approved the giving of "emergency contraception" to victims of sexual assault.
How can the use of the morning-after pill be so immoral that one can be excommunicated for dispensing it in some countries, but here in the United States it is morally acceptable to dispense it in Catholic hospitals?
These two positions cannot both be right.
How "Emergency Contraception" Functions
"Emergency contraception (also known as the morning-after pill or EC or Plan B) is a high dosage of the birth control pill. Those who promote EC claim it may be used after sexual intercourse, over a period of 72 hours, to achieve the goal of preventing pregnancy.
"How does it work?
"EC has three possible ways in which it can work:
"Women are being falsely led to believe that these pills are contraceptive in nature. But one of their common and intended modes of action is to prevent the development of the embryo, resulting in his or her death." – Emergency "Contraception" and Early Abortion, published by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
"The truth is that there is absolutely no doubt about how the Plan B pills work. Just ask the manufacturer, Barr Pharmaceuticals, whose product insert states: 'This product works mainly by preventing ovulation (egg release). It may also prevent fertilization of a released egg (joining of sperm and egg) or attachment of a fertilized egg to the uterus (implantation).' It's that third term that makes Plan B an abortion-causing drug. The same can be said for every chemical contraceptive." – Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer, President of Human Life International
"The evidence that the morning-after pills are in fact abortifacient is overwhelming and irrefutable," states Dr. Eugene Diamond, Director of the Catholic Medical Association's Linacre Institute.
Pontifical Academy for Life
As reported by LifeSiteNews.com, Bishop Ello Sgreccia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, stated that the morning-after pill may not be administered by Catholic physicians. He affirmed the 2000 statement of the Academy which absolutely prohibited the use of these pills. The Bishop stated: "The morning-after pill is dangerous; is an abortifacient when there is a conception and so illicit to prescribe by doctors. …It is not medicine, not a composition for health, so physicians are not obliged to prescribe it. It is forbidden for Catholic doctors to prescribe it and also to be requested by Catholics."
In response to LifeSiteNews.com's question if there was an exception in case of rape, the President of the Academy stated: "No. It is not able to prevent the rape. But it is able to eliminate the embryo. It is thus the second negative intervention on the woman (the first being the rape itself)."
As Fr. Euteneuer explained: "The Vatican did not need to invent any new teaching on the Plan B pills because these pills fall into the category of abortifacient contraception, pure and simple. The consistent teaching of our Church on abortion applies here."
So the positions of some of the U.S. bishops contradict the teachings of the Catholic Church. Colorado Springs Bishop Michael Sheridan, in response to pending legislation requiring Catholic hospitals to dispense emergency contraception, stated that he would not permit Plan B in Catholic hospitals. "How could you continue to call yourself Catholic if you were doing things that were contrary to Catholic teaching even if you were being forced by the state to do them?"
|Some of Mary’s family are pictured, left to right. Anne and Maggie Blom; Owen, Mary, Mary Theresa Kennedy; Frances, Joe, and Peggy Hoffer (Mary’s parents and aunt); David, Ben, Catherine, Susan, Brigid, Mary and Alan, Mary’s spouse. Missing from the photo are Ann’s spouse, Tom Blom; Elizabeth, Patrick and Luke Hartman; and John.|
Modesty is the "royal diadem" of a woman and a man's "coat of many colors." It is a beautiful treasure from God, specifically, a fruit of the gracious and loving Holy Spirit. Modesty protects what should remain hidden. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "Modesty is decency. It inspires one's choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet."1
In addition to its status as a fruit of the Holy Spirit, modesty is mandated by two of God's Commandments. The Sixth Commandment forbids all impure words and actions, and the Ninth Commandment outlaws any impure thoughts and desires. Dressing or putting on one's clothes is a moral act and wearing them is a moral act.2 Appropriate dress exists for all occasions: Church, social occasions, the swimming pool, and the privacy of one's own room.
Baptism makes us pure and holy tabernacles of Jesus. The purity of a young child is a radiant testimony of God's love and mercy. As a little one approaches the age of reason, it becomes a painful experience to undress for the Pediatrician. Although they understand the physician's willingness to maintain them in a state of good health, innately, they are uncomfortable with the experience because they are clothed with the splendor of Jesus. However, growth in age is accompanied by an intensifying of the struggle against the flesh, the world, and the powers of darkness. Nevertheless, Jesus Christ has won the victory and the baptized will prevail by god's grace and by the virtue and gift of chastity, by purity of intention, by purity of vision and by prayer.3
Chastity aids in the battle for holy purity because chastity enables one to love with an upright and undivided heart. Purity in intention is added armor in the struggle for a pure heart, for it consists in keeping focus and in perpetually seeking the true end of man. The baptized person is relentless in finding and fulfilling God's will in everything. Purity of vision, external and internal, also spearheads the attack against our earthly struggles. This encompasses disciplining our feelings and imagination by refusing all complicity in impure thoughts that incline us to turn aside from God's commandments. Prayer is the mainstay in achieving purity of heart. St. Augustine writes: "I thought that continence arose from one's own powers, which I did not recognize in myself. I was foolish enough not to know that no one can be continent unless you grant it. For you would surely have granted it if my inner groaning had reached your ears and I with firm faith had cast my cares on you.4
Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.5
Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies. Purity requires modesty; an integral part of temperance. Modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man. It is born with the awakening consciousness of being a subject. Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person.
The sixth beatitude proclaims, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). Purity of heart enables us to see God; it enables us even now to see things according to God. Purity of heart requires the modesty which is patience, decency, and discretion. Modesty protects the beautiful tabernacle that each and every person is before God.
The word modesty is derived from the Latin word, pudicitia, and means decency or a sense of decency. It is the moral virtue that moderates and controls the impulse of sexual display in a man or woman. Modesty collaborates with humility and charity to regulate one's actions and one's dress in order to avoid sexual arousal in oneself or others.
Mary Burwinkel with her first grandchild, Mary Theresa Kennedy
When one recognizes modesty as a gift from God which protects all temples of the Holy Spirit, it is logical to view modesty as an obligation for all Christians. Love of God and love of neighbor require that one internalize the positive connection between modest dress and behavior and personal loyalty to Christ. The intense peer pressure to be fashionable at all costs is also a gift to Christian persons. It provides one with the opportunity to be a martyr and to bleed daily for Him who is our Lord, our God, and our All. The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle (2 Timothy 4). If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Matthew 16:24).
Father Al Lauer, founder of Presentation Ministries, compiled a short teaching on the subject of modesty in his pamphlet, The Bible on Sex. Father Al was truly pure of heart and pure of intention in his desire for holiness for all of God's people. The following is Father Al's teaching: "'For the man and his wife the Lord God made leather garments, with which He clothed them' (Genesis 3:21).
"God made us, and after our sin He made us our first clothes, leather garments. He made these clothes for us because we had to have them. Even husband and wife could not be naked together as they were before.
"Although Jesus has redeemed us, obviously sin and its effects have not been completely repented of and healed. Therefore, we still need clothes not only for warmth and protection but also for peace and purity. That's why it's so important to dress modestly. A girl dressed even slightly immodestly can be the occasion of over one hundred adulteries a day, as men look lustfully at her (Mt. 5:28). And that's a conservative estimate.
"Has your dress changed much over the years? If so, you may be dressing immodestly. If you wouldn't have worn it years ago, you probably shouldn't wear it now. Our sex drives have not lessened over the years. Even though many are jaded by a pornographic world, never underestimate what the devil can do with even old and wrinkled bare flesh. I recently heard of an 81-year-old man who was committing adultery and cheating on his 84-year-old wife. They were married for 58 years. The world is a cemetery for dead marriages, and hell the abode of dead souls. We're fools to think immodest dress is a trifling matter.
"Prayer: Father, You taught me to dress myself when I was growing up. Teach me again how to dress in a way pleasing to You and helpful to others."6
Father, bless us with the same zeal for you that St. Paul, Father Al, and all other heavenly friends have. We ask this in the name of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
"And lo! The woman comes to meet him, robed like a harlot, with secret designs" (Proverbs 7:10).
This is rarely the attitude of most ladies as they attempt the near impossible task of selecting clothing. For the most part, women are often ignorant of the important role that sight plays in masculine sexual arousal. Within marriage, this is part of God's plan for the love-giving and life-giving gift of the marital embrace. Apart from the marriage bed, St. Paul admonishes us to subordinate our preferences to the needs of others.
Because we are sons and daughters of God, saved by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do not merely read the news but make the news. We direct the course of world events by faith expressed in action and intercession. Please pray for the stories covered in this paper. Clip out this intercessory list and make it part of your daily prayer.
Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com