"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: Lyons Photography)|
“Rejoice in the Lord always: I say it again. Rejoice!” (Phil 4:4)
Pope Benedict XVI preached the homily at the Mass opening the Second Special Assembly of Bishops for Africa on October 4. The Pope's address follows:
"Pax vobis peace to you! With this liturgical greeting I address you all, gathered in the Vatican Basilica, where 15 years ago, on April 10, 1994, the Servant of God John Paul II opened the First Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. The fact that today we are here to inaugurate the Second one means that it was indeed a historic event, but not an isolated one. It marked the arrival point of a journey that subsequently continued and is now reaching a significant new milestone in the process of assessment and relaunching. Let us praise the Lord for this! I address my most cordial welcome to the Members of the Synod Assembly who are concelebrating this Holy Eucharist with me, with the Experts, and with the Auditors, and in particular to those who come from Africa. I extend a special greeting to the General Secretary of the Synod and his collaborators. I am very happy to have with us His Holiness Abuna Paulos, Patriarch of the Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Ethiopia, whom I warmly thank, and the Fraternal Delegates of the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities. I am also glad to greet the Civil Authorities and Ambassadors who have wished to take part in this celebration; I greet with affection the priests, the men and women religious, the representatives of organiza-tions, movements, and associations, and the Congolese Choir which, together with the Sistine Chapel Choir, is enlivening our Eucharistic Celebration.
"The biblical Readings of this Sunday speak of marriage. However, more radically, they speak of the design of Creation, of the origins, and hence, of God. The Second Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews confirms this design, where it says: 'For He who sanctifies,' namely Jesus Christ, and 'those who are sanctified,' that is, human beings, 'have all one origin.' 'That is why He is not ashamed to call them brethren' (Heb 2:11). Thus the primacy of God the Creator visibly stands out in both Readings, with the eternal validity of His original imprint and the absolute priority of His lordship, that lordship which children can welcome better than adults; for this reason Jesus holds them up as a model for entering the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Mk 10: 13-15). Now, recognition of the absolute lordship of God is certainly one of the salient and unifying features of the African culture. There are of course many different cultures in Africa but they all seem to agree on this point: God is the Creator and the source of life. Now life as we well know is essentially expressed in the union between the man and the woman and in the birth of children; the divine law, written into nature, is therefore stronger and pre-eminent with respect to any human law, according to Jesus' clear and concise affirmation: 'What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder' (Mk 10:9). Thus the perspective is not primarily moral: it concerns being, the order inscribed in creation, before duty.
"Dear brothers and sisters, in this regard beyond the first impression today's liturgy of the Word appears particularly suited to accompanying the opening of a Synodal Assembly dedicated to Africa. I would like to stress in particular certain aspects that emerge forcefully and call into question the work that awaits us. The first, already mentioned: the primacy of God, Creator, and Lord. The second: marriage. The third: children. As regards the first aspect, Africa is the depository of a priceless treasure for the whole world: its profound sense of God, which I have been able to perceive first hand at my meetings with the African Bishops on their ad limina visits, and especially during my recent Apostolic Visit in Cameroon and Angola, of which I retain pleasant and moving memories. It is precisely this pilgrimage to Africa that I would now like to recall, because during those days I opened this Synod Assembly in spirit by presenting the Instrumentum Laboris to the Presidents of the Bishops' Conferences and the Heads of the Synods of Bishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches.
"When Africa's treasures are mentioned, one immediately thinks of the abundant riches of the territory which have unfortunately become and continue to be a cause of exploitation, conflict, and corruption. The Word of God, instead, makes us look at another patrimony: the spiritual and cultural heritage, which humanity needs even more than raw materials. 'For what does it profit a man,' Jesus was to say, 'to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?' (Mk 8:36). From this viewpoint Africa constitutes an immense spiritual 'lung' for a humanity that appears to be in a crisis of faith and hope. But this 'lung' can also become ill. And at this moment at least two dangerous pathologies are infecting it: in the first place, a disease that is already widespread in the Western world, in other words practical materialism, combined with relativist and nihilistic thought.
"Without discussing the genesis of such sickness of the spirit, it is nevertheless indisputable that the so-called 'first' world has sometimes exported and is exporting toxic spiritual refuse which contaminates the peoples of other continents, including in particular the population of Africa. In this sense, colonialism finished at a political level has never really ended. But, precisely in this perspective, a second 'virus' should be pointed out that could strike Africa too, that is, religious fundamentalism, combined with political and economic interests. Groups that relate to various religious affiliations are spreading on the African continent; they do so in the name of God but according to a logic opposed to divine logic, in other words, not by teaching and practicing love and respect for freedom but rather by intolerance and violence.
"As regards the subject of marriage, the text of chapter 2 of the Book of Genesis has recalled the perennial foundation that Jesus Himself confirmed: 'Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh' (Gn 2: 24). How is it possible not to recall the wonderful cycle of catecheses that the Servant of God John Paul II dedicated to this subject, based on a particularly deeply studied exegesis of this biblical text? Today, in proposing it to us again at the opening of the Synod, the liturgy offers us the superabundant light of the truth revealed and incarnate in Christ with which it is possible to consider the complex topic of marriage in the African ecclesial and social context. On this point too, however, I would like briefly to mention a thought that precedes any reflection or indication of a moral order, and which is nevertheless still connected to the primacy of the meaning of the sacred and of God. Marriage, as the Bible presents it to us, does not exist outside the relationship with God. Conjugal life between a man and a woman, and hence the life of the family that results from it, is inscribed in communion with God and, in the light of the New Testament, becomes an icon of Trinitarian Love and the sacrament of Christ's union with the Church. To the extent in which it preserves and develops its faith, Africa will be able to draw on immense resources for the benefit of the family founded on marriage.
"Furthermore, by including in the Gospel passage the text on Jesus and the children (Mk 10:13-15), the liturgy invites us from this moment to bear in mind in our pastoral concern the reality of children who constitute a great and unfortunately often suffering part of the African population. In the scene where Jesus welcomes the children, even indignantly opposing the disciples who sought to keep them away from Him, we see the image of the Church which in Africa, and in every other part of the earth, expresses her own motherhood especially to the smallest ones, even when they are not yet born. Like the Lord Jesus, the Church does not see them principally as recipients of assistance and even less of pietism or exploitation but rather as people in every sense, who through their own way of being show the main road by which to enter the Kingdom of God, the road, that is, of unconditional entrustment to His love.
"Dear Brothers, these indications that come from the Word of God fit into the broad horizon of the Synodal Assembly that is beginning today and that is the follow-up of the former Synod dedicated to the African continent, whose fruits were presented to Pope John Paul II, of venerable memory, in the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa. Although the first duty of evangelization remains valid and timely, there is need of a new evangelization that takes into account the rapid social changes of our epoch and of the phenomenon of world globalization. The same can be said of the pastoral decision to build the Church as God's family (cf. ibid., n. 63). In this broad wake comes the Second Assembly whose theme is: 'The Church in Africa at the service of reconciliation, justice, and peace: "You are the salt of the earth . . . You are the light of the world" (Mt 5:13, 14).' In recent years the Catholic Church in Africa has experienced great dynamism and the Synodal Meeting is an opportunity to thank the Lord. And since the growth of the ecclesial community in all fields also entails challenges ad intra and ad extra, the Synod is a favorable moment for rethinking pastoral activity and renewing the thrust of evangelization. In order to become the light of the world and the salt of the earth it is therefore always necessary to aim at the 'high standard' of Christian living, in other words, at holiness. Pastors and all the members of the ecclesial community are called to be holy; the lay faithful are called to spread the fragrance of holiness in the family, in the work place, at school, and in every other social and political context. May the Church in Africa always be a family of authentic disciples of Christ where the difference between ethnic groups becomes a cause and an incentive for reciprocal human and spiritual enrichment.
"With her work of evangelization and human advancement, the Church can certainly make a great contribution in Africa to the whole of society which, unfortunately, is experiencing poverty, injustice, violence, and war in various countries. The vocation of the Church, a community of people who are reconciled with God and with one another, is that of being a prophecy and a leaven of reconciliation between the different ethnic, linguistic, and even religious groups, within single nations and throughout the continent. Reconciliation, a gift of God that men and women must implore and receive, is a stable basis on which to build peace, an indispensable condition for the authentic progress of people and of society, in accordance with the project of justice wanted by God. Open to the redeeming grace of the Risen Lord, Africa will thus be illuminated increasingly by His light and, letting itself be guided by the Holy Spirit, will become a blessing for the universal Church, making its own qualified contribution to building a more just and fraternal world.
"Dear Synod Fathers, thank you for the contribution that each one of you will make to the work in the coming weeks, which will be for us a renewed experience of fraternal communion that will redound to the benefit of the whole Church, especially in the context of the Year for Priests.
And I ask you, dear brothers and sisters, to accompany us with your prayers. I ask it of those present: I ask it of the cloistered monasteries and religious communities scattered throughout Africa and in other parts of the world, of the parishes and movements, of the sick and the suffering: I ask all to pray that the Lord may make this Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops fruitful. Let us invoke upon it the protection of St. Francis of Assisi whom we are commemorating today, that of all the African Saints and, in a special way, that of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and Our Lady of Africa. Amen!"
By the President of the United States of America.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements and the mines as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly then heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's Permanent Observer at the United Nations office in Geneva, Switzerland, addressed the international body on September 22. He spoke at the 12th Ordinary Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) on the impact of the current financial crisis and the right to development. Archbishop Tomasi said:
"The current financial crisis is showing the degree of global interdependence of national economies. It risks also to jeopardize the efforts of the international community to meet the Millennium and other development goals in many countries. Moreover, it could bring about a reduction of the public and private funding of national social safety nets and undermine thereby the enjoyment of human rights not only by the poorest and weakest segments of the population, but also by other groups negatively affected by the crisis. A key factor to mitigate the adverse effects of the crisis, we believe, is placing the human person at the center of economic and social policies at the international and national levels.
"The Holy See Delegation views the current debate on the right to development within this Council and its mechanisms as an opportune occasion to strengthen the international commitment on the operationalization of this right and to transform this political willingness into concrete action. Achieving development is not only a matter of eliminating material poverty, but also of principles and values guiding economies and societies in all countries irrespective of their per-capita income level. Furthermore, risks of a deterioration of the economic and social situation are present in most countries, including in high-income countries, due to the rising number of the population suffering new forms of poverty, social exclusion, and marginalization. Needless to say, these economic and social inter-country inequalities risk to be significantly increased by the financial crisis. For these reasons, my Delegation notes with interest the work that is being accomplished by the Task Force aiming at creating a list of right-to-development criteria and operational sub-criteria around three main components: human-centered development, an enabling environment, and social justice and equity. We believe that a global agreement on these criteria could constitute a fundamental step not only towards the operationalization of the 1986 Declaration, but also in the direction of the systematic consideration of the human person and its inherent rights and dignity in the elaboration of development policies at all levels.
"In the context of the development process, the human person is not only a receiver of aid but also the real actor of his or her integral development and of the relations among peoples and persons. As restated in the recent encyclical Caritas in Veritate: 'Man is the source, the focus, and the aim of all economic and social life' (25). We support the Task Force's approach of a comprehensive human-centered development that implies the indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights as well as the relevance, not only of development outcomes, but also of the development realization process and of its sustainability. My delegation believes also that the cultural component of the right to development defined in the 1986 Declaration cannot be complete without including the ethical and spiritual dimensions of the person. These qualitative dimensions should be reflected among the human-centered criteria of this right that are being elaborated by the Task Force.
"The Task Force view of the duty of States to create, individually and collectively, an enabling environment for the realization of the right to development should be endorsed. States therefore are called to remove obstacles to development due to the violation of human rights and the international community to support the development process, especially in the poorest countries. In this context the principle of subsidiarity is particularly relevant. Solidarity and subsidiarity can be viewed as complementary. While the former relates to the mobilization of financial and human resources for development, the latter helps to identify the most appropriate level of decision-making and intervention. The principle of subsidiarity can therefore be seen as a cross-cutting criterion for the creation of the enabling environment to the right to development. It allows the participation of the beneficiaries of aid in the process of development through the responsible use of their freedom and talents.
"Finally, we support the adoption of criteria of social justice and equity that imply moral imperatives prompting action for the protection of human rights and for an equitable sharing of benefits from development, including, among others, access to food, housing education, health, and employment. We follow with interest as well the overall work of the Task Force and Working Group aiming at identifying operational right-to-development criteria and dialoguing with existing poverty reduction, debt transfer, technology transfer, and other global partnerships. We believe that such work is laying the ground work for States and the international community to concretely reduce economic and social disparities, too often a cause of violations of human dignity and human rights."
Fred H. Summe, vice president of Northern Kentucky Right to Life
"Our federal bureaucracy is a vast wasteland strewn with the carcasses of absurd federal programs which proved infinitely worse than the problems they were established to correct," wrote Bishop Thomas Doran of Rockford, Illinois, warning against the unwarranted expansion of the federal government into health care.
"Despite the many flaws with our current policies, change itself does not guarantee improvement. …There is important work to be done, but 'change' for change's sake, change which expands the reach of government beyond its competence, would do more harm than good," teach the two bishops of Kansas City: Kansas City, Kansas Archbishop John F. Naumann and Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn.
As to the bill pending before the House of Representatives, Bishop R. Walter Nickless of Sioux City, Iowa, warned: "No health care reform is better than the wrong sort of health care reform."
"…the health care bill is fatally flawed and as such cannot be supported," writes Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker, Oregon.
These are just five of the growing number of bishops publicly opposing the so-called "health care reform." Although the details of the health care reform legislation in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and those in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate are vague and constantly changing, a number of U.S. bishops have now publicly expressed their opposition to President Barack Obama's health care reform because it contradicts Catholic social teachings.
There are three basic Catholic principles about which these bishops have expressed grave concern, and on which they have publicly expressed opposition to what President Obama is determined to accomplish.
Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, who chairs the U.S. Bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, criticized the bill in the House of Representatives for delegating to the Secretary of Health and Human Services "the power to make unlimited abortion a mandated benefit in the 'public health insurance plan' the government will manage nationwide." The Cardinal asked: "By what right, then, and by what precedent, would Congress make abortion coverage into a nationwide norm, or force Americans to subsidize it as a condition for participating in a public health program?" The Cardinal concluded that the current legislation being proposed was "not acceptable."
Catholic Medical Association President Louis C. Breschi, M.D., sounded the alarm that "…few people realize that, as things stand, abortion could be a required benefit in all health insurance plans, and it would be subsidized not only in health care premiums, but also through taxation. This unjust mandate must be excluded."
Writing in Denver Catholic Register, Archbishop Charles Chaput states: "Killing or funding the killing of unborn children has nothing to do with promoting human health, and including these things in any 'health care' proposal, no matter how shrewdly hidden, would simply be a form of lying."
"First and most important, the Church will not accept any legislation that mandates coverage, public or private, for abortion, euthanasia, or embryonic stem-cell research," states Bishop Nickless. "As a corollary of this, we insist equally on adequate protection of individual rights of conscience for patients and health care providers not to be made complicit in these evils. …A so-called reform that imposes these evils on us would be far worse than keeping the health care system we now have."
The scam was exposed when Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) offered two amendments to the final draft of the health care bill in the Senate Finance Committee: (1) that no taxpayers' funds will be used to pay for abortion; and (2) no one will be compelled, against his conscience, to participate in abortions or other procedures because of religious or moral objections. The amendment was rejected by the Democratic-controlled committee.
When former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin warned that the proposed health reform legislation would bring about "death panels," the pro-abortion news media reacted in its normal manner: Ignore the issue and attack the messenger. Unable to refute her claim, the news media simply denied that it was true and simply criticized her with its litany of mean-spirited names.
Is the rationing of health care coming? The Wall Street Journal concluded: "Although administration officials are eager to deny it, rationing health care is central to President Barack Obama's health plan. The Obama strategy is to reduce health costs by rationing the services that we and future generations of patients will receive."
This newspaper continues to warn: "The existence of such a program in the United States would not only deny lifesaving care but would also cast a pall over medical researchers who would fear that government experts might reject their discoveries as 'too expensive.'"
The two Kansas City bishops also expressed their concern that end-of-life counseling mandated by the government creates the risk of pressuring those who are especially vulnerable to end their life, and "would send the message that they are no longer of value to society."
"Modern socialist governments like to control not food but the means to protect and extend life. …we as Catholics should take care that health care does not morph into life control," notes Bishop Doran.
These bishops also point out that the intention of President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress to expand the role and control of the federal government over our country's health care system violates the Catholic principle of subsidiarity.
"A community of higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions," is how the Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses the principle of subsidiarity. "Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative." This Catholic teaching "sets limits on state intervention." [Sections 1883 and 1885]
The two Kansas City bishops noted that the principle of subsidiarity was taught by Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum, repeated in Pius XI's Quadragesimo Anno, John Paul II's Centesimus Annus, and Pope Benedict XVI's Deus Caritas Est. In their joint statement, these two bishops summarized this principle: "The writings of recent Popes have warned that the neglect of subsidiarity can lead to an excessive centralization of human services, which in turn leads to excessive costs, and loss of personal responsibility and quality of care. … diminishing personal responsibility or creating an inordinately bureaucratic structure which will be vulnerable to financial abuse, be crippling to our national economy, and remove the sense of humanity from the work of healing and helping the sick."
Bishop Nickless also stressed that the Church "does not teach that government should directly provide health care," and concluded that a federal monopoly in the health care industry would be a prudentially poor decision. "While a government monopoly would not be motivated by profit, it would be motivated by such bureaucratic standards as quotas and defined 'best procedures,' which are equally beyond the influence of most citizens."
"The threat of federal power to coerce health care providers, employers, and individuals into participating in actions contrary to conscience and Catholic teaching" concerns Bishop James Vann Johnston of Cape-Girardeau and Springfield, Missouri. The Bishop pointed out this was happening now and referred to a matter of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission taking action against the Catholic Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina on the grounds that it removed coverage for abortion, contraception, and voluntary sterilization from its health insurance plan provided to its employees. After expressing that he cannot support the so-called health care reform, the Bishop added, "But, the essential element of the principle of subsidiarity is the protection of individual freedoms from unjust micromanagement and manipulation by the state."
Another example of the Obama administration's unlimited and unprecedented exercise of power was its order sent to about 200 health insurance companies after Humana mailed its members a warning that their Medicare benefits may be reduced or lost. The government letter ordered: "…we [Department of Health and Human Services] are instructing you to immediately discontinue all such mailings to beneficiaries and to remove any related materials directed to Medicare enrollees from your Web sites."
"There is a danger in being persuaded to think that the national government is the sole instrument of the common good," teaches Bishop Samuel J. Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota, as he expressed his opposition to the so-called health care reform. "States, towns, fraternal organizations, businesses, cooperatives, parishes, and especially the family have not only legitimate freedom to provide the goods they are rightly capable of supplying, but oftentimes do so with far greater efficiency, less bureaucracy and, most importantly, with personalized care and love."
What do the Kansas bishops suggest? "…to hold our elected officials accountable in these important deliberations and let them know clearly our support for those who, with prudence and wisdom, will protect the right to life, maintain freedom of conscience, and nurture the sense of solidarity that drives us to work hard, to pray, and to act charitably for the good of all."
So do it now. Call your congressman and let him know that the various proposed so-called health care reform bills are unacceptable and that you will be looking to how he votes on this most important issue.
Tell your family and friends to do the same.
(Much of the information stated above was from lifesitenews.com, into which every pro-lifer needs to tap.)
Fr. Leo E. Patalinghug from Mt. St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, is getting more well known. His ministry, Grace Before Meals, now includes speaking engagements, a cook book, podcasts, and a TV pilot.
Through www.gracebeforemeals.com's blog and weekly newsletter, Fr. Leo says, "You'll all have a chance to get to know me better, to get to know each other better, and most importantly, get to know better the One Who invites us to His Table . . . where the Food is an 'eternal banquet.' "
It all wouldn't have happened if not for 9/11. When his planned trip to France was cancelled, he and a few other priests got together for an impromptu retreat. Fr. Leo's cooking and the fellowship prompted one priest to suggest a cooking show. Fr. Leo claims he responded, "That is the dumbest idea I have ever heard!"
The idea would not go away, however. As Fr. Leo explains, he now understands "It's time to try something new to engage people and their faith. It is part of a movement among traditional Catholics who are pushing what Pope John Paul II called 'the new evangelization,' an effort to use mass communication to draw people to the Church."
His Grace Before Meals: Recipes for Family Life not only gives recipes for two meals a month centered around feast days, holidays, and family events, but includes Bible passages for reflection and conversation starter questions, such as, "What qualities do you expect out of an ideal friend?" "What is your most memorable meal?" "If you had a chance to bring one person back from the dead, who would it be and why?"
There's even a Fr. Leo grace: "Loving Father, we thank You for the family gathered around the table, the friends who extend your goodness, the food which nourishes our bodies, and the Faith that strengthens our souls. Keep us ever mindful of these blessings, and may this food inspire us to bring these blessings to those who go without family, friends, food, and faith. We ask all of this through Christ our Lord. Amen."
On fast food he comments, "Our culture has become too busy. We are too busy to prepare food for each other. We are too busy to spend time together. We are too busy to make this effort for people we love," says Fr. Leo.
"It's the mentality behind it that makes us not slow down, not come together as a family, not develop the relationships that are fostered at the home," he said. "I have no trouble with people bringing fast food, just eat it together, slowly, and say prayer beforehand."
Cincinnati-native James Boric, at the seminary, took part in some of Fr. Leo's fraternal dinners in Westminister, and was impressed by how he went out of his way to make dishes especially for him without seafood or red meat, like breaded portabello mushroom salad. "I like to think that I have forced him to become a better chef," he says.
Priests and seminarians are not the only ones included in this project. Many members of his family have also been on the show. Archived episodes of his show include pasta carbonara with his sister Angelique and his sister-in-law Angelica, zucchini frittata with older brother Carlos, mandarin Asian chicken salad with his nieces Alyssa, Angelique, and Christiania, and peanut butter and banana hot dogs with his nephews C.J., Manjo, Gabriel, Jared, and Chad.
Fr. Leo also visited the family of Thomas H. Powell, president of Mount St. Mary's University, for creamy coconut curry chicken.
His own mentor, however, is his spiritual mother, the Blessed Mother. "Life was not easy for her," he says. "She suffered." Yet he can picture her providing the Child Jesus and Joseph with their meals. "She is the model of calm generosity. She feeds all of us with the fruit of her womb, Jesus."
Fr. Leo gained a bit more notoriety when he beat chef Bobby Flay in a Fusion Fajita cook-off on the Food Network, which Fr. Leo calls "sometimes the safest thing to watch on TV."
He has been recently interviewed on "PBS" Religion and Ethics Newsweekly" and our local Sacred Heart Radio's "Son Rise Morning Show." "Grace Before Meals" won a People's Choice Podcast Award in the Food and Drink category.
Leo McWatkins Films is currently in development of a 13-part television series based on the Grace Before Meals book.
"The fact is we're all hungering for something." Fr. Leo concludes, "Let's not overlook the blessings! The food on the table and the people gathered around it. That's my hope: to come a little closer to our table as a family and to The Table as God's Family!"
In November Fr. Leo will be taping a show at Steubenville University called "Franciscan University Presents" which airs on EWTN.
A study by the National Center on Substance and Addiction at Colombia University confirms the Grace Before Meals philosophy. It compared families who eat dinner together less than three times a week with those who do so at least five times per week. Adolescents who eat with their families more frequently were forty percent more likely to talk to their parents about a problem. Their academic performance was better. They were significantly less likely to smoke, to drink, or use drugs. The traditional two-parent family was much more likely to have dinner as a family than a single-parent household.
On October 2, Pope Benedict XVI received the credentials of Miguel Humberto Dias, the new ambassador to the Holy See. In his address, the Holy Father remarked:
"I am pleased to accept the Letters by which you are accredited Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America. I recall with pleasure my meeting with President Barack Obama and his family last July, and willingly reciprocate the kind greetings which you bring from him. I also take this occasion to express my confidence that diplomatic relations between the United States and the Holy See, formally initiated twenty-five years ago, will continue to be marked by fruitful dialogue and cooperation in the promotion of human dignity, respect for fundamental human rights, and the service of justice, solidarity, and peace within the whole human family.
Let nothing worry you;
Nothing dismay you;
God does not change.
If you have patience
You can do anything.
Those who have God
Want for nothing;
God alone is enough.
— St. Teresa of Avila
"In the course of my Pastoral Visit to your country last year I was pleased to encounter a vibrant democracy, committed to the service of the common good and shaped by a vision of equality and equal opportunity based on the God-given dignity and freedom of each human being. That vision, enshrined in the nation's founding documents, continues to inspire the growth of the United States as a cohesive yet pluralistic society constantly enriched by the gifts brought by new generations, including the many immigrants who continue to enhance and rejuvenate American society. In recent months, the reaffirmation of this dialectic of tradition and originality, unity, and diversity has recaptured the imagination of the world, many of whose peoples look to the American experience and its founding vision in their own search for viable models of accountable democracy and sound development in an increasingly interdependent and global society.
"For this reason, I appreciate your acknowledgement of the need for a greater spirit of solidarity and multilateral engagement in approaching the urgent problems facing our planet. The cultivation of the values of 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness' can no longer be seen in predominantly individualistic or even national terms, but must rather be viewed from the higher perspective of the common good of the whole human family. The continuing international economic crisis clearly calls for a revision of present political, economic, and financial structures in the light of the ethical imperative of ensuring the integral development of all people. What is needed, in effect, is a model of globalization inspired by an authentic humanism, in which the world's peoples are seen not merely as neighbors but as brothers and sisters.
"Multilateralism, for its part, should not be restricted to purely economic and political questions; rather, it should find expression in a resolve to address the whole spectrum of issues linked to the future of humanity and the promotion of human dignity, including secure access to food and water, basic health care, just policies governing commerce and immigration, particularly where families are concerned, climate control and care for the environment, and the elimination of the scourge of nuclear weapons. With regard to the latter issue, I wish to express my satisfaction for the recent Meeting of the United Nations Security Council chaired by President Obama, which unanimously approved the resolution on atomic disarmament and set before the international community the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. This is a promising sign on the eve of the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
"Genuine progress, as the Church's social teaching insists, must be integral and humane; it cannot prescind from the truth about human beings and must always be directed to their authentic good. In a word, fidelity to man requires fidelity to the truth, which alone is the guarantee of freedom and real development. For her part the Church in the United States wishes to contribute to the discussion of the weighty ethical and social questions shaping America's future by proposing respectful and reasonable arguments grounded in the natural law and confirmed by the perspective of faith. Religious vision and religious imagination do not straiten but enrich political and ethical discourse, and the religions, precisely because they deal with the ultimate destiny of every man and woman, are called to be a prophetic force for human liberation and development throughout the world, particularly in areas torn by hostility and conflict. In my recent visit to the Holy Land I stressed the value of understanding and cooperation among the followers of the various religions in the service of peace, and so I note with appreciation your government's desire to promote such cooperation as part of a broader dialogue between cultures and peoples.
"Allow me, Mr. Ambassador, to reaffirm a conviction which I expressed at the outset of my Apostolic Journey to the United States. Freedom – the freedom which Americans rightly hold dear – 'is not only a gift but also a summons to personal responsibility'; it is 'a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over to the cause of good' (Address at the White House, April 16, 2008). The preservation of freedom is inseparably linked to respect for truth and the pursuit of authentic human flourishing. The crisis of our modern democracies calls for a renewed commitment to reasoned dialogue in the discernment of wise and just policies respectful of human nature and human dignity. The Church in the United States contributes to this discernment particularly through the formation of consciences and her educational apostolate, by which she makes a significant and positive contribution to American civic life and public discourse. Here I think particularly of the need for a clear discernment with regard to issues touching the protection of human dignity and respect for the inalienable right to life from the moment of conception to natural death, as well as the protection of the right to conscientious objection on the part of health care workers, and indeed all citizens. The Church insists on the unbreakable link between an ethics of life and every other aspect of social ethics, for she is convinced that, in the prophetic words of the late Pope John Paul II, 'a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice, and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized' (Evangelium Vitae, 93; cf. Caritas in Veritate, 15).
"Mr. Ambassador, as you undertake your new mission in the service of your country I offer you my good wishes and the promise of my prayers. Be assured that you may always count on the offices of the Holy See to assist and support you in the fulfillment of your duties. Upon you and your family, and upon all the beloved American people, I cordially invoke God's blessings of wisdom, strength, and peace."
An international retreat for priests was held September 27 - October 3 in Ars, France, the home of St. John Vianney, patron of parish priests. Pope Benedict XVI sent a message by videotape.
The Pope said: "As you can easily imagine, I would have been extremely happy to be with you on this international retreat for priests on the theme: 'The joy of priesthood: consecrated for the salvation of the world.' A large number of you are taking part and you have the benefit of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn's teaching. I greet him cordially together with the other preachers and Bishop Guy-Marie Bagnard of Belley-Ars. I must be content with addressing this recorded message to you, but please believe that through these words I am speaking to each one of you in the most personal way possible because, as St. Paul says: 'I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace' (Phil 1:7).
"St. John Mary Vianney emphasized the indispensable role of the priest when he said: 'A good pastor, a pastor according to the heart of God, is the greatest treasure that the good Lord can give to a parish and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy' (Le Curé d'Ars, Pensées, presented by Abbé Bernard Nodet, Desclée de Brouwer, Foi Vivante, 2000, p. 101). In this Year for Priests we are all called to explore and to rediscover the greatness of the sacrament which has configured us for ever to Christ the High Priest and has 'consecrated' us all 'in truth' (Jn 17: 19).
The interior life is like a sea of love in which the soul is plunged and is, as it were, drowned in love. Just as a mother holds her child’s face in her hands to cover it with kisses, so does God’s hold the devout man.
— St. John Vianney
"Chosen from among men, the priest continues to be one of them and is called to serve them by giving them the life of God. It is he who 'continues the work of redemption on earth' (Nodet, p. 98). Our priestly vocation is a treasure that we bear in earthen vessels (cf. 2 Cor 4:7). St. Paul expressed with happiness the infinite distance that exists between our vocation and the poverty of the responses we can give to God. From this point of view, a secret bond unites the Pauline Year with the Year for Priests. Let us keep present in our ears and in the depths of our hearts the moving and trusting exclamation of the Apostle who said: 'When I am weak, then I am strong' (2 Cor 12:10). Awareness of this weakness opens us to intimacy with God Who gives us strength and joy. The more the priest perseveres in friendship with God, the more he will continue the Redeemer's work on this earth (cf. Nodet, p. 98). The priest does not exist for himself, he exists for everyone (cf. Nodet, p. 100).
"That is precisely where one of the greatest challenges of our time lies. Indeed, today more than ever the priest, a man of the divine word and of the sacred, must be a man of joy and hope. To people who can no longer conceive that God is pure Love, he will always affirm that life is worth living and that Christ gives it its full meaning because He loves human beings, He loves them all. The religion of the Curé d'Ars is a religion of joy, not a morbid quest for mortification as has sometimes been believed: 'Our happiness is too great; no, no, we shall never understand it' (Nodet, p. 110), he would say, and further: 'when we are travelling and see a bell-tower, this view should quicken our heart beat, just as the sight of the roof of her beloved's dwelling place quickens the bride's heart beat' (ibid.). Here I would like to greet with very special affection all those of you who have pastoral responsibility for several bell-towers and spend yourselves without counting the cost to keep up the sacramental life in your respective communities. The Church is immensely grateful to you all! Do not lose heart but continue to pray and to have prayers said that numerous young men will be ready to respond to the call of Christ Who never stops wanting to increase the number of His apostles to reap the harvest in His fields.
"Dear priests, think too of the extreme diversity of the ministries you exercise in the service of the Church. Think of the great number of Masses you have celebrated or will celebrate, making Christ really present on the altar each time. Think of the innumerable absolutions you have given and will give, enabling a sinner to be forgiven. Then you perceive the infinite fruitfulness of the sacrament of Orders. In the space of a moment your hands, your lips became the hands and lips of God. You bear Christ within you; through grace, you have entered the Holy Trinity. Just as the saintly Curé said: 'if we had faith, we would see God hidden in the priest like a light behind glass or like wine mixed with water' (Nodet, p. 97). This consideration should lead to harmonizing relations between priests so as to create a priestly community, as St. Peter exhorted (cf. 1 Pt 2: 9), in order to build up the body of Christ and build up yourselves in love (cf. Eph 4:11-16).
"The priest is the man of the future: it is he who has taken seriously Paul's words: 'If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above' (Col 3:1). What he does on earth is in the order of the means ordered to the last things. The Mass is this one point of union between the means and the End because it already enables us to contemplate, under the humble appearances of bread and wine, the Body and Blood of the One we shall adore for eternity. The holy Curé's simple, concentrated sentences on the Eucharist help us perceive more clearly the riches of this unique moment in the day when we experience an encounter that is life-giving for ourselves and for each one of the faithful. 'The happiness that exists in saying Mass,' he wrote, 'will only be properly understood in Heaven' (Nodet, page 104).
"I, therefore, encourage you to strengthen your faith and that of your faithful in the sacrament you celebrate, which is the source of true joy. The Saint of Ars wrote: 'The priest must feel the same joy (as the Apostles) in seeing Our Lord Whom he holds in his hands' (ibid.). In giving thanks for what you are and for what you do, I repeat to you: 'Nothing will ever replace the ministry of priests at the heart of the Church' (Homily, Mass on the Esplanade des Invalides, Paris, September 13, 2008). Living witnesses of the power of God at work in human weakness, consecrated for the salvation of the world, you remain, my dear brothers, chosen by Christ Himself in order to be, through Him, salt of the earth and light of the world. At this spiritual retreat may you have a profound experience of the 'inexpressible closeness' (St. Augustine, Les Confessions, III, 6, 11 BA 13, p. 383) in order to be perfectly united to Christ so as to proclaim His Love around you and to be wholly committed to the service of the sanctification of all the members of the People of God. As I entrust you to the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and of priests, I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all."
vatican city — Pope Benedict XVI addressed the United Nations 2009 Summit on Climate Change by video statement.
The Pope's statement follows:
"I wish to reflect today upon the relationship between the Creator and ourselves as guardians of His creation. In so doing I also wish to offer my support to leaders of governments and international agencies who soon will meet at the United Nations to discuss the urgent issue of climate change.
"The Earth is indeed a precious gift of the Creator Who, in designing its intrinsic order, has given us guidelines that assist us as stewards of His creation. Precisely from within this framework, the Church considers that matters concerning the environment and its protection are intimately linked with integral human development. In my recent encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, I referred to such questions recalling the 'pressing moral need for renewed solidarity' (no. 49) not only between countries but also between individuals, since the natural environment is given by God to everyone, and so our use of it entails a personal responsibility towards humanity as a whole, particularly towards the poor and towards future generations (cf. no. 48).
The soul of one who loves God always swims in joy, always keeps holiday, and is always in a mood for singing.
— St. John of the Cross
"How important it is then, that the international community and individual governments send the right signals to their citizens and succeed in countering harmful ways of treating the environment! The economic and social costs of using up shared resources must be recognized with transparency and borne by those who incur them, and not by other peoples or future generations. The protection of the environment, and the safeguarding of resources and of the climate, oblige all leaders to act jointly, respecting the law and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the world (cf. no. 50). Together we can build an integral human development beneficial for all peoples, present and future, a development inspired by the values of charity in truth. For this to happen it is essential that the current model of global development be transformed through a greater, and shared, acceptance of responsibility for creation: this is demanded not only by environmental factors, but also by the scandal of hunger and human misery.
"With these sentiments I wish to encourage all the participants in the United Nations summit to enter into their discussions constructively and with generous courage. Indeed, we are all called to exercise responsible stewardship of creation, to use resources in such a way that every individual and community can live with dignity, and to develop 'that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God' (Message for the 2008 World Day of Peace, 7)! . . ."
vatican city — At the Angelus on October 4, Pope Benedict XVI discussed the Synod of Bishops for Africa which opend that day.
The Pope stated: "The Synod is always an intense ecclesial experience, an experience of collegial pastoral responsibility with regard to a specific aspect of the Church's life, or, as in this case, of a part of the Christian People determined on the basis of their geographical area. The Pope and his closest collaborators are meeting with the Members designated by the Assembly, the Experts and the Auditors to examine the chosen theme. It is important to stress that it is neither a study convention nor a programmatic assembly. Reports and discourses are heard in the hall, the participants meet in groups, but we all know well that we are not the protagonists: it is the Lord, His Holy Spirit, Who guides the Church. The most important thing for everyone is to listen: to listen to each other, and for everyone to listen to what the Lord wants to say to us. This is why the Synod takes place in an atmosphere of faith and prayer, in religious obedience to God's word. It is the task of the Successor of Peter to convoke and guide Synodal Assemblies, to evaluate what emerges from their work, and then to make the appropriate pastoral suggestions.
"Dear friends, Africa is a continent endowed with an extraordinary wealth of humanity. Its population currently amounts to about a billion, and its overall birth-rate is the highest in the world. Africa is a fertile land of human life, but this life is unfortunately beset by so many forms of poverty and at times suffers from gross injustice. The Church is committed to surmounting them with the power of the Gospel and the material solidarity of numerous institutions and charitable projects. Let us pray the Virgin Mary that she may bless the Second Synod Assembly for Africa and obtain peace and development for that great, beloved continent."
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