"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
(artwork by Smokey Sr. Del Rosario)
Pope Benedict XVI focused on the link between Baptism and Lent in his 2011 Lenten Message. The Message, dated November 4, 2010, follows:
"The Lenten period, which leads us to the celebration of Holy Easter, is for the Church a most valuable and important liturgical time, in view of which I am pleased to offer a specific word in order that it may be lived with due diligence. As she awaits the definitive encounter with her Spouse in the eternal Easter, the Church community, assiduous in prayer and charitable works, intensifies her journey in purifying the spirit, so as to draw more abundantly from the Mystery of Redemption the new life in Christ the Lord (cf. Preface I of Lent).
"1. This very life was already bestowed upon us on the day of our Baptism, when we 'become sharers in Christ's death and Resurrection,' and there began for us 'the joyful and exulting adventure of His disciples' (Homily on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, January 10, 2010). In his Letters, St. Paul repeatedly insists on the singular communion with the Son of God that this washing brings about. The fact that, in most cases, Baptism is received in infancy highlights how it is a gift of God: no one earns eternal life through their own efforts. The mercy of God, which cancels sin and, at the same time, allows us to experience in our lives 'the mind of Christ Jesus' (Phil 2: 5), is given to men and women freely. The Apostle to the Gentiles, in the Letter to the Philippians, expresses the meaning of the transformation that takes place through participation in the death and resurrection of Christ, pointing to its goal: that 'I may come to know Him and the power of His resurrection, and partake of His sufferings by being molded to the pattern of His death, striving towards the goal of resurrection from the dead' (Phil 3: 10-11). Hence, Baptism is not a rite from the past, but the encounter with Christ, which informs the entire existence of the baptized, imparting divine life and calling for sincere conversion; initiated and supported by Grace, it permits the baptized to reach the adult stature of Christ.
"A particular connection binds Baptism to Lent as the favorable time to experience this saving Grace. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council exhorted all of the Church's Pastors to make greater use 'of the baptismal features proper to the Lenten liturgy' (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum concilium, n. 109). In fact, the Church has always associated the Easter Vigil with the celebration of Baptism: this Sacrament realizes the great mystery in which man dies to sin, is made a sharer in the new life of the Risen Christ and receives the same Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead (cf. Rm 8:11). This free gift must always be rekindled in each one of us, and Lent offers us a path like that of the catechumenate, which, for the Christians of the early Church, just as for catechumens today, is an irreplaceable school of faith and Christian life. Truly, they live their Baptism as an act that shapes their entire existence.
"2. In order to undertake more seriously our journey towards Easter and prepare ourselves to celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord – the most joyous and solemn feast of the entire liturgical year – what could be more appropriate than allowing ourselves to be guided by the Word of God? For this reason, the Church, in the Gospel texts of the Sundays of Lent, leads us to a particularly intense encounter with the Lord, calling us to retrace the steps of Christian initiation: for catechumens, in preparation for receiving the Sacrament of rebirth; for the baptized, in light of the new and decisive steps to be taken in the sequela Christi and a fuller giving of oneself to Him.
"The First Sunday of the Lenten journey reveals our condition as human beings here on earth. The victorious battle against temptation, the starting point of Jesus' mission, is an invitation to become aware of our own fragility in order to accept the Grace that frees from sin and infuses new strength in Christ – the way, the truth and the life (cf. Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum, n. 25). It is a powerful reminder that Christian faith implies, following the example of Jesus and in union with Him, a battle 'against the ruling forces who are masters of the darkness in this world' (Eph 6:12), in which the devil is at work and never tires – even today – of tempting whoever wishes to draw close to the Lord: Christ emerges victorious to open also our hearts to hope and guide us in overcoming the seductions of evil.
"The Gospel of the Transfiguration of the Lord puts before our eyes the glory of Christ, which anticipates the resurrection and announces the divinization of man. The Christian community becomes aware that Jesus leads it, like the Apostles Peter, James, and John 'up a high mountain by themselves' (Mt 17:1), to receive once again in Christ, as sons and daughters in the Son, the gift of the Grace of God: 'This is My Son, the Beloved; He enjoys My favor. Listen to Him' (Mt 17:5). It is the invitation to take a distance from the noisiness of everyday life in order to immerse oneself in God's presence. He desires to hand down to us, each day, a Word that penetrates the depths of our spirit, where we discern good from evil (cf. Heb 4:12), reinforcing our will to follow the Lord.
"The question that Jesus puts to the Samaritan woman: 'Give me a drink' (Jn 4: 7), is presented to us in the liturgy of the third Sunday; it expresses the passion of God for every man and woman, and wishes to awaken in our hearts the desire for the gift of 'a spring of water within, welling up for eternal life' (Jn 4:14): this is the gift of the Holy Spirit, who transforms Christians into 'true worshippers,' capable of praying to the Father 'in spirit and truth' (Jn 4: 23). Only this water can extinguish our thirst for goodness, truth, and beauty! Only this water, given to us by the Son, can irrigate the deserts of our restless and unsatisfied soul, until it 'finds rest in God,' as per the famous words of St. Augustine.
"The Sunday of the man born blind presents Christ as the light of the world. The Gospel confronts each one of us with the question: 'Do you believe in the Son of man?' 'Lord, I believe!' (Jn 9:35, 38), the man born blind joyfully exclaims, giving voice to all believers. The miracle of this healing is a sign that Christ wants not only to give us sight, but also open our interior vision, so that our faith may become ever deeper and we may recognize Him as our only Savior. He illuminates all that is dark in life and leads men and women to live as 'children of the light.'
"On the fifth Sunday, when the resurrection of Lazarus is proclaimed, we are faced with the ultimate mystery of our existence: 'I am the resurrection and the life . . . Do you believe this?' (Jn 11: 25-26). For the Christian community, it is the moment to place with sincerity – together with Martha – all of our hopes in Jesus of Nazareth: 'Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world' (Jn 11:27). Communion with Christ in this life prepares us to overcome the barrier of death, so that we may live eternally with Him. Faith in the resurrection of the dead and hope in eternal life open our eyes to the ultimate meaning of our existence: God created men and women for resurrection and life, and this truth gives an authentic and definitive meaning to human history, to the personal and social lives of men and women, to culture, politics, and the economy. Without the light of faith, the entire universe finishes shut within a tomb devoid of any future, any hope.
"The Lenten journey finds its fulfillment in the Paschal Triduum, especially in the Great Vigil of the Holy Night: renewing our baptismal promises, we reaffirm that Christ is the Lord of our life, that life which God bestowed upon us when we were reborn of 'water and Holy Spirit,' and we profess again our firm commitment to respond to the action of the Grace in order to be His disciples.
"3. By immersing ourselves into the death and resurrection of Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are moved to free our hearts every day from the burden of material things, from a self-centered relationship with the 'world' that impoverishes us and prevents us from being available and open to God and our neighbor. In Christ, God revealed Himself as Love (cf. 1Jn 4:7-10). The Cross of Christ, the 'word of the Cross,' manifests God's saving power (cf. 1Cor 1:18), that is given to raise men and women anew and bring them salvation: it is love in its most extreme form (cf. Encyclical Deus caritas est, n. 12). Through the traditional practices of fasting, almsgiving, and prayer, which are an expression of our commitment to conversion, Lent teaches us how to live the love of Christ in an ever more radical way. Fasting, which can have various motivations, takes on a profoundly religious significance for the Christian: by rendering our table poorer, we learn to overcome selfishness in order to live in the logic of gift and love; by bearing some form of deprivation – and not just what is in excess – we learn to look away from our 'ego,' to discover Someone close to us and to recognize God in the face of so many brothers and sisters. For Christians, fasting, far from being depressing, opens us ever more to God and to the needs of others, thus allowing love of God to become also love of our neighbor (cf. Mk 12:31).
"In our journey, we are often faced with the temptation of accumulating and love of money that undermine God's primacy in our lives. The greed of possession leads to violence, exploitation, and death; for this, the Church, especially during the Lenten period, reminds us to practice almsgiving – which is the capacity to share. The idolatry of goods, on the other hand, not only causes us to drift away from others, but divests man, making him unhappy, deceiving him, deluding him without fulfilling its promises, since it puts materialistic goods in the place of God, the only source of life. How can we understand God's paternal goodness, if our heart is full of egoism and our own projects, deceiving us that our future is guaranteed? The temptation is to think, just like the rich man in the parable: 'My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come . . .' We are all aware of the Lord's judgment: 'Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul . . .' (Lk 12:19-20). The practice of almsgiving is a reminder of God's primacy and turns our attention towards others, so that we may rediscover how good our Father is, and receive His mercy.
"During the entire Lenten period, the Church offers us God's Word with particular abundance. By meditating and internalizing the Word in order to live it every day, we learn a precious and irreplaceable form of prayer; by attentively listening to God, Who continues to speak to our hearts, we nourish the itinerary of faith initiated on the day of our Baptism. Prayer also allows us to gain a new concept of time: without the perspective of eternity and transcendence, in fact, time simply directs our steps towards a horizon without a future. Instead, when we pray, we find time for God, to understand that His 'words will not pass away' (cf. Mk 13:31), to enter into that intimate communion with Him 'that no one shall take from you' (Jn 16:22), opening us to the hope that does not disappoint, eternal life.
"In synthesis, the Lenten journey, in which we are invited to contemplate the Mystery of the Cross, is meant to reproduce within us 'the pattern of His death' (Ph 3:10), so as to effect a deep conversion in our lives; that we may be transformed by the action of the Holy Spirit, like St. Paul on the road to Damascus; that we may firmly orient our existence according to the will of God; that we may be freed of our egoism, overcoming the instinct to dominate others and opening us to the love of Christ. The Lenten period is a favorable time to recognize our weakness and to accept, through a sincere inventory of our life, the renewing Grace of the Sacrament of Penance, and walk resolutely towards Christ.
"Dear Brothers and Sisters, through the personal encounter with our Redeemer and through fasting, almsgiving, and prayer, the journey of conversion towards Easter leads us to rediscover our Baptism. This Lent, let us renew our acceptance of the Grace that God bestowed upon us at that moment, so that it may illuminate and guide all of our actions. What the Sacrament signifies and realizes, we are called to experience every day by following Christ in an ever more generous and authentic manner. In this our itinerary, let us entrust ourselves to the Virgin Mary, who generated the Word of God in faith and in the flesh, so that we may immerse ourselves – just as she did – in the death and resurrection of her Son Jesus, and possess eternal life."
On February 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, the Church celebrated the 15th Day of Consecrated Life. At a celebration of Vespers in the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI delivered the following homily:
"On today's Feast we contemplate the Lord Jesus, Whom Mary and Joseph bring to the Temple 'to present Him to the Lord' (Lk 2:22). This Gospel scene reveals the mystery of the Son of the Virgin, the consecrated One of the Father Who came into the world to do His will faithfully (cf. Heb 10:5-7).
"Simeon identifies Him as 'a light for revelation to the Gentiles' (Lk 2:32) and announces with prophetic words his supreme offering to God and His final victory (cf. Lk 2:32-35). This is the meeting point of the two Testaments, Old and New. Jesus enters the ancient temple; He Who is the new Temple of God: He comes to visit His people, thus bringing to fulfillment obedience to the Law and ushering in the last times of salvation.
"It is interesting to take a close look at this entrance of the Child Jesus into the solemnity of the temple, in the great comings and goings of many people, busy with their work: priests and Levites taking turns to be on duty, the numerous devout people and pilgrims anxious to encounter the Holy God of Israel. Yet none of them noticed anything. Jesus was a child like the others, a first-born son of very simple parents.
"Even the priests proved incapable of recognizing the signs of the new and special presence of the Messiah and Savior. Alone two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, discover this great newness. Led by the Holy Spirit, in this Child they find the fulfillment of their long waiting and watchfulness. They both contemplate the light of God that comes to illuminate the world and their prophetic gaze is opened to the future in the proclamation of the Messiah: 'Lumen ad revelationem gentium!' (Lk 2:32). The prophetic attitude of the two elderly people contains the entire Old Covenant which expresses the joy of the encounter with the Redeemer. Upon seeing the Child, Simeon and Anna understood that He was the Awaited One.
"The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is an eloquent image of the total gift of one's life for all those, men and women, who are called to represent 'the characteristic features of Jesus — the chaste, poor, and obedient one' (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Vita Consecrata, n. 1) in the Church and in the world, through the evangelical counsels. For this reason Venerable John Paul II chose today's Feast to celebrate the Annual World Day of Consecrated Life . . .
"I would like to suggest three brief thoughts for reflection on this Feast. The first: the evangelical image of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple contains the fundamental symbol of light; the light that comes from Christ and shines on Mary and Joseph, on Simeon and Anna, and through them, on everyone. The Fathers of the Church connected this radiance with the spiritual journey. The consecrated life expresses this journey, in a special way, as 'philokalia,' love of the divine beauty, a reflection of God's divine goodness (cf. ibid., n. 19). On Christ's Face the light of such beauty shines forth.
" 'The Church contemplates the transfigured face of Christ in order to be confirmed in faith and to avoid being dismayed at his disfigured face on the Cross . . . she is the Bride before her Spouse, sharing in his mystery and surrounded by his light. This light shines on all the Church's children . . . But those who are called to the consecrated life have a special experience of the light which shines forth from the Incarnate Word. For the profession of the evangelical counsels makes them a kind of sign and prophetic statement for the community of the brethren and for the world' (ibid., n. 15).
"Secondly, the evangelical image portrays the prophecy, a gift of the Holy Spirit. In contemplating the Child Jesus, Simeon and Anna foresee his destiny of death and Resurrection for the salvation of all peoples and they proclaim this mystery as universal salvation.
"The consecrated life is called to bear this prophetic witness, linked to its two-fold contemplative and active approach. Indeed consecrated men and women are granted to show the primacy of God, passion for the Gospel practiced as a form of life and proclaimed to the poor and the lowliest of the earth.
" 'Because of this pre-eminence nothing can come before personal love of Christ and of the poor in whom he lives . . . True prophecy is born of God, from friendship with him, from attentive listening to his word in the different circumstances of history' (ibid., n. 84).
"In this way the consecrated life in its daily experience on the roads of humanity, displays the Gospel and the Kingdom, already present and active.
"Thirdly, the evangelical image of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple demonstrates the wisdom of Simeon and Anna, the wisdom of a life completely dedicated to the search for God's Face, for his signs, for his will; a life dedicated to listening to and proclaiming his word. 'Faciem tuam, Domine, requiram: "Your face, Lord, do I seek" (Ps 27 :8) . . . Consecrated life in the world and in the Church is a visible sign of this search for the face of the Lord and of the ways that lead to the Lord (cf. Jn 14:8) . . . The consecrated person, therefore, gives witness to the task, at once joyful and laborious, of the diligent search for the divine will' . . .
"Dear brothers and sisters, may you be assiduous listeners to the word, because all wisdom concerning life comes from the word of the Lord! May you seek the word, through lectio divina, since consecrated life 'is born from hearing the word of God and embracing the Gospel as its rule of life. A life devoted to following Christ in his chastity, poverty, and obedience thus becomes a living "exegesis" of God's word. The Holy Spirit, in whom the Bible was written, is the same Spirit who illumines the word of God with new light for the Founders and Foundresses. Every charism and every Rule springs from it and seeks to be an expression of it, thus opening up new pathways of Christian living marked by the radicalism of the Gospel' (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, n. 83).
"Today, especially in the more developed societies, we live in a condition often marked by a radical plurality, by the progressive marginalization of religion in the public sphere, and by relativism which touches the fundamental values. This demands that our Christian witness be luminous and consistent and that our educational effort be ever more attentive and generous.
"May your apostolic action, in particular, dear brothers and sisters, become a commitment of life that with persevering enthusiasm attains to Wisdom as truth and as beauty, the 'splendor of the truth.' May you, with the wisdom of your life and with trust in the inexhaustible possibilities of true education, guide the minds and hearts of the men and women of our time towards a 'good life according to the Gospel.'
"At this moment, my thoughts turn with special affection to all of the consecrated men and women throughout the world and I entrust them to the Blessed Virgin Mary:
"O, Mary, Mother of the Church,
I entrust all consecrated people to you,
that you may obtain for them the fullness of divine light:
may they live in listening to the Word of God,
in the humility of following Jesus, your Son and our Lord,
in the acceptance of the visit of the Holy Spirit,
in the daily joy of the Magnificat,
so that the Church may be edified by the holy lives of these sons and daughters of yours,
in the commandment of love. Amen."
Fred H. Summe is Vice President of Northern Kentucky Right to Life, P.O. Box 1202, Covington, Kentucky 41012
Pimp: "We have some girls that are kind of young like, 14, 15, that they might need an abortion. And, how is the best way should they go about it?"
Planned Parenthood Supervisor/Practitioner: "They just show up, and set up an appointment."
Pimp: "Could we even sign off as guardians, is that even possible?"
Planned Parenthood Staffer: ". . . we don't ask for guardian's signature. …Like a thirteen-year-old could come in and get the services she needed, by herself. . . . I said everything's confidential, they don't have to tell anybody what it is that they do when they make an appointment."
By early February, Live Action (LiveAction.org) had released seven videos revealing Planned Parenthood's willingness to assist a man posing as a pimp, its willingness to aid and abet sex traffickers with underage girls. Planned Parenthood offered guidance on how the pimp's underage girls can get insurance through taxpayer-funded programs to pay for the abortions, including underage girls that were not U.S. citizens, reports lifesitenews.com.
"Sex trafficking in the U.S. has increased dramatically in recent years, and the pattern revealed by our investigation shows sex traffickers have no better friend than Planned Parenthood," states Lila Rose, president of Live Action. "Untold damage has already been done to countless girls and young women, whose safety and health are clearly at risk because organizations like Planned Parenthood provide confidentiality and a safe haven for sex traffickers."
Live Action notes that none of the seven Planned Parenthood clinics filed a report with the police about these potential sex traffickers, nor did they gather any information from the pimp about the sex ring to give to civil authorities.
Back in December, 2008, Live Action released undercover footage showing sexual abuse cover-up of a 13-year-old girl at a Planned Parenthood clinic.
Those who kill innocent babies have no qualms about lying. Planned Parenthood's Vice President, Stewart Schear, claimed that the tapes were doctored. However, he later admitted he hadn't seen any of them.
Planned Parenthood also claimed that these were isolated incidents, even though there are now 16 videos produced by Live Action, documenting Planned Parenthood's willingness to assist in the covering up of sexual abuse of minor children as young as 13 years. "Even before the human trafficking footage, we released videos of 10 clinics that revealed the sexual abuse cover-up of minors as young as 13. In these 10 clinics, we had actors posing as the underage girls, self-reporting abuse and asking for help. In every case, Planned Parenthood worked to cover up the abuse of the underage girls and did not comply with the mandatory reporting laws for sexual abuse," reports Rose. Some of these documented occurrences began several years ago.
"Planned Parenthood repeatedly looked the other way. It is a federal crime to aid and abet in the trafficking of underage persons. What is a better way to aid and abet a pimp of young girls, than give him all the secret abortions, birth control, and the services that a pimp would need to keep his sex slaves on the street?" continues Rose.
"It happens all the time; it happened at my clinic," says Abby Johnson, former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli reacted to the unedited video footage, ". . . what you do have is clearly an open willingness of several organizations, meaning subsidiaries of Planned Parenthood nationally . . . [to aid] sex trafficking of minors, and an open willingness to participate in this."
"There's a conservative group that went into Planned Parenthood with video cameras and taped what appeared to be Planned Parenthood workers turning a blind eye to sex trafficking," an NBC 12 interviewer said to President Obama. "Do you think this video should be a reason to look at Planned Parenthood funding? Do you think it's a setup? How would you react to that?"
"I will tell you, the vast majority of people right now, what they're thinking about are jobs, the economy – I think sometimes these issues get manufactured, and they get a lot of attention on the blogosphere," said Obama in this February 17 interview.
Naturally, President Obama, a longtime and consistent supporter of Planned Parenthood, who courted PPH's endorsement and contributions in his 2008 campaign for the presidency, and who has publicly lauded them, has no problem dismissing these atrocities as "manufactured."
At the time this article is going to press, the Republican-dominated U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, known as the Continuing Resolution, which has now been sent to the Senate for a vote.
This bill not only bars all Planned Parenthood affiliates from receiving government funds, but also reestablishes the Mexican City Policy, which barred foreign aid funds from going to international organizations that perform or promote abortion, and also eliminates funding of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which an investigation under the Bush administration revealed forced abortion and sterilization. Obama had reversed the Mexican City Policy and had restored $50 million in annual aid to UNFPA, reports lifesitenews.com.
Of course, President Obama has threatened to veto this bill.
"This afternoon's vote is a victory for taxpayers and a victory for life. By banning federal funding to Planned Parenthood, Congress has taken a stand for millions of Americans who believe their tax dollars should not be used to subsidize the largest abortion provider in America," states Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), who introduced the amendment to defund Planned Parenthood, which passed by a vote of 240 to 185.
"We now turn our attention to the Senate," states Rose. "Now they must examine the facts and move to pull the plug on subsidizing Planned Parenthood's exploitation of the most vulnerable among us. The case to cease funding is crystal clear. But for any Senator who remains unsure, imagine explaining to your constituents that you voted to keep sending $350 million of their tax dollars to a 'non-profit' that puts young girls in harm's way and made $63 million in profits by performing over 300,000 abortions last year. It's time once and for all to stop financing these activities."
"Ending taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood is a non-negotiable," explains Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List. "Pro-life America demands that our leaders in the Senate step up and take on this fight and that the House leadership holds its ground. Americans have spoken and the time to defund Planned Parenthood, a habitual and unapologetic ally of those who deal in the exploitation of minors, is now. This is a black and white issue and we will accept nothing less than the total defunding of Planned Parenthood in the Continuing Resolution."
When has President Obama, your U.S. senators, or your representatives, heard from you? Now is a great time to call, write, or email.
There has been little coverage in the pro-abortion national news media, and, sadly, also in the diocesan-owned Catholic newspapers, even though EWTN, The Wanderer, Catholic World Report, and other orthodox Catholic publications, not owned by the Church itself, have provided much coverage. For more information, visit lifesitenews.com, the source from which this author obtained most of the above information.
In his article "The New Martyrs" in The Catholic Thing, Robert Royal comments on the recent killings of Christians in Egypt, Phillipines, Nigeria, and harassment in India.
"These religious conflicts are regrettable and Benedict XVI eloquently regretted them and several others earlier in the week," he writes, "but there's a whole other category of violence against religious people that is far worse and largely overlooked.
" 'New' in this context does not mean simply 'recent,' " he explains. "John Paul intended to call attention to a whole class of victims of various nefarious forces in the twentieth century and beyond — victims whose absence from our consciousness gives a false picture even of the secular history of modern times."
“We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.” – St. Francis of Assisi
Royal reminds us that "Hitler threatened in his table talk that he would 'crush the Church like a toad,' " "that the Soviets brutally suppressed the Ukrainian Catholic Church, making it the largest underground religious body in the world," and that during the Spanish Civil War "for the first time in Europe since ancient Rome, defenseless Christians (in this case, priests) were once again killed by wild animals, in Spanish bull rings."
In his book, The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century, Royal noted that in the twenty centuries of Church history, about 70 million Christians have given their lives for the faith, and of these, nearly two-thirds were in the last century. This is according to The New Persecuted by Antonio Socci, whose estimates are based on Oxford's World Christian Encyclopedia.
Royal's new martyrology includes Catholic martyrs who died for their faith, on every continent but Antarctica and Australia. He includes Miguel Pro and the Mexican martyrs of the 1920s, saints like Edith Stein and Maximilian Kolbe under Nazis in the 1930s and '40s, Burundi and Rwanda in the 1990s, Archbishop Romero in El Salvador, and lesser-known martyrs of the Spanish Civil War, Romania, and Albania.
Socci includes especially the martyrs under Communist Cuba, Vietnam, China, and the former Soviet republics, and in fundamentalist Moslem countries like Saudi Arabia, Bangadesh, and Indonesia. He also estimates that about 160,000 Christians have been killed every year since 1990 in places like Algeria, Nigeria, Sudan, and Pakistan.
As such worldwide persecution threatened even our country, it seems appropriate then that Fr. Prentice Dean, a former Episcopal priest who is now a Catholic priest in Nashville, Tennessee, has recently founded Our Lady of the Martyrs Anglican Use Society. They remember martyrs, such as the Anglican companions of the Ugandan martyrs, who were united in death with Catholic martyrs.
Of particular interest is Mukasa Kiriwawanvu, who was baptized by blood and desire rather than by water. He was from the Muganda tribe, Ndiga (Sheep) clan, Kyaggwe county. He served as a page to both King Muteesa I and Mwanga II. He died in his early twenties by being burnt alive in the Namugongo furnace on the Ascension, Thursday, June 3, 1886. Mukasa is the patron of hotels, restaurants, bars, and all kinds of public recreations.
We know more about Chi Zhuze, who was also an unbaptized martyr, born four years later in the village of Dezhaoin Shen County, Hebei Province, China. Although illiterate, he made great efforts to learn the Catholic doctrine and attended Mass every Sunday. When the Boxer Rebellion raged, his parents objected saying, "If you want to remain a member of this family, stop going to church and wait until the rebellion has ended."
Chi Zhuze, however, remained firm, refusing to join them in worshiping the family idols on New Year's Eve and was banished from the family. However, he gladly endured all hardships in the name of God.
Since Zhuze was not yet baptized, he was not known among many of the Catholics of the village, but finally found one who knew him, took him in, and gave him a job as a servant in his house.
When his parents discovered his refuge, he returned home with them. On the way, however, he met some Boxers who ordered him to worship idols. When he refused, they cut off his arm and continued to mutilate him. Some of the villagers notified his parents but they took no measure to save him. After his death, they became Catholic, which was a sign of God's blessing on his sacrifice of life.
WASHINGTON —Expressing concern over proposed federal budget cuts in the Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Appropriations Resolution, the heads of two U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) committees and the president of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) sent letters to Congress on February 14, reminding elected officials that "decisions on how to allocate opportunities and burdens in setting budget priorities are more than economic policies — they are significant moral choices."
On the international side, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Ken Hackett, president Catholic Relief Services, said in a joint letter that "[e]specially in a time of austerity and fiscal restraints, the poor have a special moral claim on limited financial resources." According to an analysis by USCCB and CRS, the proposed Continuing Resolution makes over 26% in cuts for poverty-focused international assistance, but only 2.6% in cuts overall.
“Divine charity is the most precious gift of the Heart of Christ and of His Spirit: It is this which imparted to the Apostles and martyrs that fortitude, by the strength of which they fought their battles like heroes till death in order to preach the truth of the Gospel and bear witness to it by the shedding of their blood.”
Pope Pius XII,
"Shared sacrifice is one thing; it is another to make disproportionate cuts in programs that serve the most vulnerable," said Bishop Hubbard and Hackett in the letter. "It is morally unacceptable for our nation to balance its budget on the backs of the poor at home and abroad."
The Church leaders said international assistance is an essential tool to promote human life and dignity, advance solidarity with poorer nations, and enhance security throughout the world. The letter warned that many of the proposed funding reductions will disrupt existing programs mid-stream, undermining their impact, the capacity of local partners, and ultimately the moral credibility of United States. The letter also welcomed the restoration of the Mexico City Policy that prohibits funding groups that perform or promote abortion and the denial of funding to the U.N. Population Fund which supports a program of coerced abortion and involuntary sterilization in China, but noted that the Continuing Resolution also makes dramatic cuts that are life-threatening.
In a separate letter, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called on Congress to place the needs of the poor, the unemployed, the hungry, and other vulnerable people first, in setting priorities in the Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Appropriations Resolution, saying "[a] moral measure of the budget is how it treats 'the least of these' at all stages of life from conception until natural death."
Citing the call for major reductions in non-security related programs that serve the poor and vulnerable, Bishop Blaire said, "In a time of economic crisis, the poor and vulnerable are in greater need of assistance, not less. Preserving the national security of the country is without doubt imperative, but we cannot secure the nation while at the same time furthering the insecurity of the poor and vulnerable in our midst."
Bishop Blaire called for "reasonable solutions and strategies to address the federal deficit that will ensure stability and security for future generations" while advocating for "a balanced approach that is just and works to preserve the well-being of poor and vulnerable people." He also said, "decisions should be made that not only reflect a commitment to national and long-term fiscal security but demonstrate justice, compassion, and fairness. Our plea, then, is simple: Put the poor and vulnerable first as you consider how to spend limited federal resources."
Among the main concerns highlighted by Bishop Blaire in his letter are the proposed cuts to funding for Community Health Centers, affordable housing programs, job training programs, and critical refugee funding. The letter also welcomed the bill's retention of all appropriations riders against abortion funding, and its restoration of a consistent ban on such funding in the District of Columbia.
More than 300 Catholic leaders, in Washington for the 2011 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (February 13-16), took the bishops' message to Capitol Hill on February 15 in a day of visits to their U.S. representatives and senators lifting up the needs of the poor and vulnerable.
The full text of both letters is available at www.usccb.org.
(Source: USCCB press release)
WASHINGTON — Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, expressed his "support for and solidarity" with the Wisconsin bishops' statement on the rights of workers.
In a February 23 letter to Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee, Bishop Blaire wrote, "You and our brother bishops in Wisconsin are offering a timely reminder of what the Church teaches on the rights and duties of workers, including the right to form and belong to unions and other associations, and the obligation to address difficult problems with respect for the rights and needs of all. As you insist, 'hard times do not nullify the moral obligation each of us has to respect the legitimate rights of workers.'"
"Catholic teaching and your statement remind us these are not just political conflicts or economic choices; they are moral choices with enormous human dimensions. The debates over worker representation and collective bargaining are not simply matters of ideology or power, but involve principles of justice, participation, and how workers can have a voice in the workplace and economy."
Recalling the teachings of Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II on unions and the rights of workers, Bishop Blaire praised the Wisconsin bishops for consistently sharing the "teaching of the Church in the midst of this controversy" and made a call to everyone involved to overcome differences and put the common good first.
"We pray that the leaders and people of Wisconsin—and across our nation—will respond to your 'appeal' to everyone—lawmakers, citizens, workers, and labor unions—to move beyond divisive words and actions and work together, so that Wisconsin can recover in a humane way from the current fiscal crisis."
Washington, D.C. — Patrick Carolan, Executive Director of the Franciscan Action Network, issued a statement calling for action to insure that morality is a major factor in federal budget decisions.
The statement reads:
". . . During the next few weeks the discussions on Capitol Hill will all be centered on the budget. The Congressional Budget Office has issued a report that shows that the Federal deficit for fiscal year 2011 could be approximately $1.5 trillion. This equates to almost 9.8% of the Gross Domestic Product. Experts will endlessly debate the causes of this deficit. The simplest explanation is that there has been a large decrease in revenue combined with a significant increase in spending. Over the next months there will be a great deal of rhetoric blaming one group or the other for the situation, and there will be discussions on how to get the deficit under control. They will almost exclusively be focused on the spending side of the equation and not on the revenue side.
"President Obama recently released his proposed budget, which calls for a spending freeze on all programs serving the poor and vulnerable. The Republican Study Committee has a plan calling for the reduction of non-military/security discretionary spending to 2006 levels which could result in a cut of almost 40% for key services affecting the poor.
"It is important to remember that the Federal budget is not a balance sheet. It is not a document that says we take in so many dollars and we spend so many dollars so in the end we either have a deficit or we make a profit. The Federal budget is a moral statement reflecting the moral values and priorities of our great nation as a community and each of us as a citizen. It is often said that the United States was founded on Judeo Christian principles. In the first book of the Holy Bible, God asks Cain where his brother Abel is. Cain's response is, 'Am I my brother's keeper?' (Genesis 4:9). Throughout the Bible, God very clearly and definitively answers that question. Matthew 25:40 tells us: 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me!"
"In their document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops states that 'economic decisions and institutions should be assessed according to whether they protect or undermine the dignity of the human person.' Pope Benedict the XVI, in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), reminds us that 'Politics is more than a mere mechanism for defining the rules of public life; its origin and its goal are found in justice, which by its very nature, has to do with ethics. The state must inevitably answer the question regarding how justice can be achieved here and now.'
"Catholic teachings suggest that a fundamental measure of our nation's moral compass is whether it enhances or undermines the lives and dignity of those most in need. When we make decisions to fund programs that build weapons over programs that care for the poor, we are making a moral and ethical decision. When we choose to spend our dollars on a war in Afghanistan instead of providing maternal and child health care for pregnant women, we are making a moral decision. When we decide to cut funds for homeless shelters instead of increasing revenue, we are making a moral decision. Make no mistake, these are very difficult times and difficult decisions; the choices that our elected officials make will have significant consequences for the poor and most vulnerable. If we are truly a nation of God then we must regain the moral high ground. We must do as St. Francis did more than 800 years ago when he taught us to feed the hungry, to catch those in danger of falling through the cracks of a society that looked down on them, to care for those who cannot escape the poverty that traps them in lives of constant hardship.
"Our nation is at a crossroads. Are we truly a nation of God? Are we all brothers and sisters united in our connection to God? As children of God, in what direction is our moral compass moving? Many times you hear people ask, 'Why am I responsible for the poor and hungry? I have enough to worry about taking care of myself! Shouldn't they be responsible for picking themselves up by their bootstraps and taking care of themselves?' Is this not the exact same question that Cain asked God when he said, 'Am I my brother's keeper?' Jesus never told us that taking up the cross and following Him would be easy, or that we could take care of the hungry when it was convenient or when we had extra money. Jesus very clearly said, 'What you do to the least of My brethren you do unto me.'
"We at the Franciscan Action Network ask you to call your elected officials on all levels, and remind them that the budget is a moral document. The decision to fund war over peace, to cut programs that feed the hungry over raising revenue, to reduce environmental regulations and accountability by corporations over caring for all of God's creation are moral decisions. Remind them that as Americans, we pride ourselves on being a moral people. If this is truly our stance, then our national budget must adequately reflect our priority for the poor and hungry of our great nation . . ."
Heavenly Father and God of mercy, we no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for He is alive and has become the Lord of life.
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