"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
|On May 13, the village of Amilly, France, honored an American B-17 crew which crashed near their village on August 1, 1944, during World War II. Eight crew members were killed; one was taken as a POW. A monument was unveiled in the Village Square honoring the crew. Judy Minnick Grogan, the daughter of one of the crew, Thomas Minnick, attended the ceremony with other members of her family. She is shown in the top photo next to the memorial which includes part of the plane’s propeller. In the bottom photo, the family is shown in front of the memorial. The mayor of Amilly, Denis Marc Sirot-Foreau is on the far right. Judy is the managing editor of My People.|
Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.) of Philadelphia delivered the homily at the closing Mass of the Fortnight For Freedom, July 4 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
His homily follows:
"Philadelphia is the place where both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were written. For more than two centuries, these documents have inspired people around the globe. So as we begin our reflection on today's readings, I have the privilege of greeting everyone here today — and every person watching or listening from a distance — in the name of the Church of my home, the Church of Philadelphia, the cradle of our country's liberty and the city of our nation's founding. May God bless and guide all of us as we settle our hearts on the Word of God.
"Paul Claudel, the French poet and diplomat of the last century, once described the Christian as 'a man who knows what he is doing and where he is going in a world [that] no longer [knows] the difference between good and evil, yes and no. He is like a god standing out in a crowd of invalids . . . He alone has liberty in a world of slaves.'
"Like most of the great writers of his time, Claudel was a mix of gold and clay, flaws and genius. He had a deep and brilliant Catholic faith, and when he wrote that a man 'who no longer believes in God, no longer believes in anything,' he was simply reporting what he saw all around him. He spoke from a lifetime that witnessed two world wars and the rise of atheist ideologies that murdered tens of millions of innocent people using the vocabulary of science. He knew exactly where forgetting God can lead.
"We Americans live in a different country, on a different continent, in a different century. And yet, in speaking of liberty, Claudel leads us to the reason we come together in worship this afternoon.
"Most of us know today's passage from the Gospel of Matthew. What we should, or should not, render unto Caesar shapes much of our daily discourse as citizens. But I want to focus on the other and more important point Jesus makes in today's Gospel reading: the things we should render unto God.
"When the Pharisees and Herodians try to trap Jesus, He responds by asking for a coin. Examining it He says, 'Whose image is this and whose inscription?' When His enemies say 'Caesar's,' He tells them to render it to Caesar. In other words, that which bears the image of Caesar belongs to Caesar.
"The key word in Christ's answer is 'image,' or in the Greek, eikon. Our modern meaning of 'image' is weaker than the original Greek meaning. We tend to think of an image as something symbolic, like a painting or sketch. The Greek understanding includes that sense but goes further. In the New Testament, the 'image' of something shares in the nature of the thing itself.
"This has consequences for our own lives because we're made in the image of God. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the same word, eikon, is used in Genesis when describing the creation. 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,' says God (Gen 1:26). The implication is clear. To be made in the image of God is more than a pious slogan. It's a statement of fact. Every one of us shares — in a limited but real way — in the nature of God Himself. When we follow Jesus Christ, we grow in conformity to that image.
"Once we understand this, the impact of Christ's response to His enemies becomes clear. Jesus isn't being clever. He's not offering a political commentary. He's making a claim on every human being. He's saying, 'render unto Caesar those things that bear Caesar's image, but more importantly, render unto God that which bears God's image' — in other words, you and me. All of us.
"And that raises some unsettling questions: What do you and I, and all of us, really render to God in our personal lives? If we claim to be disciples, then what does that actually mean in the way we speak and act?
"Thinking about the relationship of Caesar and God, religious faith and secular authority, is important. It helps us sort through our different duties as Christians and citizens. But on a deeper level, Caesar is a creature of this world, and Christ's message is uncompromising: We should give Caesar nothing of ourselves. Obviously we're in the world. That means we have obligations of charity and justice to the people with whom we share it. Patriotism is a virtue. Love of country is an honorable thing. As Chesterton once said, if we build a wall between ourselves and the world, it makes little difference whether we describe ourselves as locked in or locked out.
"But God made us for more than the world. Our real home isn't here. The point of today's Gospel passage is not how we might calculate a fair division of goods between Caesar and God. In reality, it all belongs to God and nothing – at least nothing permanent and important – belongs to Caesar. Why? Because just as the coin bears the stamp of Caesar's image, we bear the stamp of God's image in baptism. We belong to God, and only to God.
"In today's second reading, St. Paul tells us, 'Indeed religion' — the RSV version says 'godliness' – 'with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it.' True freedom knows no attachments other than Jesus Christ. It has no love of riches or the appetites they try to satisfy. True freedom can walk away from anything — wealth, honor, fame, pleasure. Even power. It fears neither the state, nor death itself.
"Who is the most free person at anything? It's the person who masters her art. A pianist is most free who — having mastered her instrument according to the rules that govern it and the rules of music, and having disciplined and honed her skills — can now play anything she wants.
"The same holds true for our lives. We're free only to the extent that we unburden ourselves of our own willfulness and practice the art of living according to God's plan. When we do this, when we choose to live according to God's intention for us, we are then — and only then — truly free.
"This is the freedom of the sons and daughters of God. It's the freedom of Miguel Pro, Mother Teresa, Maximilian Kolbe, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and all the other holy women and men who have gone before us to do the right thing, the heroic thing, in the face of suffering and adversity.
"This is the kind of freedom that can transform the world. And it should animate all of our talk about liberty – religious or otherwise.
"I say this for two reasons. Here's the first reason. Real freedom isn't something Caesar can give or take away. He can interfere with it; but when he does, he steals from his own legitimacy.
"Here's the second reason. The purpose of religious liberty is to create the context for true freedom. Religious liberty is a foundational right. It's necessary for a good society. But it can never be sufficient for human happiness. It's not an end in itself. In the end, we defend religious liberty in order to live the deeper freedom that is discipleship in Jesus Christ. What good is religious freedom, consecrated in the law, if we don't then use that freedom to seek God with our whole mind and soul and strength?
"Today, July 4, we celebrate the birth of a novus ordo seclorum – a 'new order of the ages,' the American Era. God has blessed our nation with resources, power, beauty, and the rule of law. We have so much to be grateful for. But these are gifts. They can be misused. They can be lost. In coming years, we'll face more and more serious challenges to religious liberty in our country. This is why the Fortnight for Freedom has been so very important.
"And yet, the political and legal effort to defend religious liberty – as vital as it is – belongs to a much greater struggle to master and convert our own hearts, and to live for God completely, without alibis or self-delusion. The only question that finally matters is this one: Will we live wholeheartedly for Jesus Christ? If so, then we can be a source of freedom for the world. If not, nothing else will do.
"God's words in today's first reading are a caution we ignore at our own expense. 'Son of man,' God says to Ezekiel and to all of us, 'I have appointed you as a sentinel. If I say to the wicked, "you will surely die" – and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them . . . I will hold you responsible for their blood.'
"Here's what that means for each of us: We live in a time that calls for sentinels and public witness. Every Christian in every era faces the same task. But you and I are responsible for this moment. Today. Now. We need to 'speak out,' not only for religious liberty and the ideals of the nation we love, but for the sacredness of life and the dignity of the human person – in other words, for the truth of what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God.
"We need to be witnesses of that truth not only in word, but also in deed. In the end, we're missionaries of Jesus Christ, or we're nothing at all. And we can't share with others what we don't live faithfully and joyfully ourselves.
"When we leave this Mass today, we need to render unto Caesar those things that bear his image. But we need to render ourselves unto God — generously, zealously, holding nothing back. To the extent we let God transform us into His own image, we will – by the example of our lives – fulfill our duty as citizens of the United States, but much more importantly, as disciples of Jesus Christ."
(Editor's note: The following is a press release from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.)
WASHINGTON — A crowd of almost 5,000 people filled the 3,500-seat capacity of Washington's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, July 4. The Mass in the nation's capital was the closing bookend liturgy of the June 21 - July 4 Fortnight for Freedom.
The Fortnight opened with another overflow Mass at Baltimore's historic Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary celebrated by Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, June 21.
Dioceses nationwide included local events to stress religious freedom during the two-week period, from special prayers and liturgies to processions, educational forums, and picnics.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington celebrated the Mass at the Washington shrine, with 180 priest concelebrants. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia preached the homily and stressed that freedom comes from God.
"Real freedom isn't something Caesar can give or take away," he said. "He can interfere with it; but when he does, he steals from his own legitimacy." (see separate article for Archbishop Chaput's homily.)
At the start of the celebration Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, read a message from Pope Benedict XVI, sent through the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
"The Holy Father encourages the American Catholic community, and young people in particular, to continue to bring the wisdom and insight born of their faith to the task of building a society worthy of America's highest moral and constitutional principles," it said. (The full message is found at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/fortnight-for-freedom/upload/Bertone-Cardinal-Papal-message-for-July-4-Mass.pdf)
The Fortnight was called for by the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty last April as the signature spiritual and educational event for the launch of a campaign to highlight threats to religious liberty both in the United States and abroad.
On-going events include a text campaign, where those who would participate text "Freedom" or "Libertad" to 377377 to receive regular updates on the ongoing efforts to promote and protect religious freedom. One of the first updates sent to participants in the text campaign noted that the Affordable Healthcare Act is flawed because it compels religious institutions to pay for services it opposes morally, such as female sterilization and contraception, including abortion-inducing drugs.
Specific U.S. threats to religious liberty cited by the bishops include not only the HHS mandate but also threats to Catholic foster care and adoption services, unjust state immigration laws, discrimination against small church congregations, against Catholic humanitarian services, against Christian students on campus and forcing religious groups to host same-sex marriage and civil-union ceremonies (http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/current-threats-to-religious-liberty-bulletin-insert-summer-2012.cfm).
Recent threats abroad include assaults in churches in Iraq, Nigeria, and Kenya.
Fred H. Summe is Vice President of Northern Kentucky Right to Life, P.O. Box 1202, Covington, Kentucky 41012
"In boldly preaching the Gospel in word and deed, we serve the common good as loyal citizens," teaches Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori. Spearheading the efforts of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to defend religious freedom, Archbishop Lori has spoken out against President Obama's HHS mandate that all employers, including the Catholic Church, provide healthcare insurance to employees, which includes, free of charge, contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.
In an impressive show of unity, the U.S. bishops have protested Obama's attack on religious freedom, something which has well resonated with the Catholic populace. However, the U.S. bishops have long failed to boldly preach that the use of artificial contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients are intrinsically evil and are mortal sins. The bishops seem to fear that if they do boldly preach, it may result in the laity withdrawing their support of the Church and criticizing those who lead it, because the laity may be unwilling to accept such moral truths.
In an article published in The Wanderer, Vatican analyst, Sandro Magister, highlighted the link between widespread usage of contraception among Catholics in the 20th century and the long silence of the clergy in presenting Church teachings:
"Decades of silence, interpreted by most of the faithful as consent to their contraceptive practice, had left its mark. …The distance between Church teaching and the use of contraceptives continues to be perceived by most of the population as neither a sin nor a rebellion.
". . . Even afterward . . . the condemnation of contraceptives would be the subject of papal documents, but already at the level of the bishops it would hardly appear in preaching.
"The clergy, for their part, would be almost completely silent on it and would continue to be very understanding and indulgent in the confessional."
When have you last read an article in the Catholic-owned diocesan newspaper or a Church bulletin, or heard a member of the clergy, explaining the Church's teaching on artificial contraception, sterilization, or abortifacients? Other than from independent Catholic organizations, right to life groups, EWTN, and a few clergy, most faithful Catholics have not witnessed the Church "boldly preaching" on such topics.
Northern Kentucky Right to Life is indeed proud to invite Mrs. Karen L. Brauer to address the 39th Annual Celebration of Life scheduled for Sunday, September 16, 2012, at Drawbridge Hotel, Fort Mitchell, Kentucky (I-75, Exit 186).
Mrs. Karen L. Brauer
In 1996, our guest speaker's life as a professional and accomplished medical researcher and registered pharmacist was rudely interrupted by the aggressively pro-death community when she was fired by her employer, Kmart, for refusing to sell an abortion-inducing birth control pill. She had worked seven years for that company, managing or working in their pharmacies around the tristate area.
This wife and mother was vindicated by a ruling of the federal district court in Cincinnati, Ohio, which held that an Ohio law, designed to protect people who refuse to perform or participate in medical procedures resulting in abortion, also applies to pharmacists.
As president of Pharmacists for Life International, Mrs. Brauer will discuss the "unpleasant" and "controversial" fact that the standard birth control pill kills the newly conceived child, in what is referred to as a chemical abortion.
This medical fact may disturb the women who have been misled into using the birth control pill as a contraceptive, but to fail to clearly teach that the standard birth control pill is an abortifacient abandons future generations to the sufferings brought by this intrinsic evil.
The doors will open at 1:15 p.m., followed by the showing of a pro-life film at 1:30 p.m. Refreshments and exhibits will be available at 2:00 p.m. with the program commencing at 2:30 p.m. (Free babysitting is provided.)
Tickets ($10.00) and additional information can be obtained from Stan Barczak, Northern Kentucky Right to Life, P.O. Box 1202, Covington 41012. (859-431-6380). (Tickets can be obtained in advance or at the door.)
It has long been acknowledged by all drug manufacturers of oral contraceptives ("birth control" pills), and by the Food and Drug Administration, that standard birth control pills also abort the newly conceived child.
"There are over 30 'contraceptive' pills on the market, each differing a little from the others. They 'prevent' pregnancy through three separate functions:
"The close connection which exists, in mentality, between the practice of contraception, and that of abortion, is becoming increasingly obvious. It is being demonstrated in an alarming way by the development of chemical products, intrauterine devices and vaccinations which, distributed with the same ease as contraceptives, really act as abortifacients in the very early stages of the development of the life of the new human being." Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, Sec. 13
The practice of contraception is intrinsically evil. No circumstances and no method justify the practice of artificial contraception.
"The Catholic Church clearly teaches that the use of artificial contraception in all its forms, including direct sterilization, is gravely immoral, is intrinsically evil, is contrary to the law of nature and nature's God…Catholics who practice artificial birth control may not receive Holy Communion without committing sacrilege." Bishop G.P. Flavin, Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska
We know that God would want all those who hold the Judeo-Christian principle of the sanctity of all innocent human life to support the efforts of the U.S. bishops in defending religious freedom from the present attacks by the federal government. Surely, would not God also want to see His teachings faithfully, boldly, clearly, and consistently proclaimed in order to save the immortal souls of the creatures He loves?
Thus, the Church, meaning its hierarchy, its clergy, its religious orders, its institutions, and, equally important, its laity, need to confidently and boldly express the consistent 2,000-year teaching of the Catholic Church, which has been, is now, and will be in the future, the unchanging truth for all ages and for all cultures and societies.
"We cannot solve all the problems of the world, but let us never bring in the worst problem of all, that is to destroy love. And this is what happens when we tell people to practice contraception and abortion." Mother Teresa
Considering the priority of defending our religious freedom and not being forced to pay for the intrinsic evils of contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs, please make the personal commitment to hear this pro-life advocate and encourage your family, friends, physicians, pharmacists, and pastors to join you. Take this opportunity to also come and meet the more than 20 exhibitors, who can show you how you can also participate in the pro-life movement, giving the needed and obligatory witness in a variety of ways, to the sanctity of all human life.
(Editor's note: Mr. Spotz writes from Pennsylvania where he is a prisoner on death row. He has been on death row for 17 years and says "the end of my journey is near." He hopes that this meditation blesses someone and asks for prayers. We welcome contributions from prisoners. We would like to hear from a variety of prisoners.)
King Hezekiah ruled over Judah from age 25 to age 54. Immediately upon ascending the Throne, he set to work, doing the most noble and necessary of all the acts a righteous ruler could do; he reopened, cleansed, repaired, and restored the fully functional state of the Temple in Jerusalem, the spiritual center of the Hebrew Israel people of God.
Meditating upon this passage, I see a deeper spiritual application available to us.
As a child of the True and Living God, I am to be "the Temple of God" (see: 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 3:16-17; John 14:17, 20, 23). If I submit to the Will of Almighty God, enthroning Him as Sovereign King and Ruler of my life and my soul, reigning and ruling from the Temple of "me," how am I to present that Temple to Him?
Are the Temple doors opened for Him (v. 3)? Have I done the necessary repairs to the damage done by sin (v. 6)? Repairs made by way of admission, contrition, and confession of that sin; repairing the damage to my relationship with my Heavenly Father which results in things such as Him turning away His ear from my prayers? (see: Isaiah 59:1-2)
Have I brought in the High Priest, Jesus (see: Hebrews 10:19-22), to cleanse and purify the Temple of "me" (v. 4-5)? Or are the doors locked-up tightly? The lights snuffed out? The pungent funk of musty mildew permeating the Sanctuary which was once filled with the sweet aroma of heavenly incense and the sacrificial offerings of prayer and obedience (v. 7)?
Have I been enduring the chastisement of my Father as a disobedient and rebellious child (see: Hebrews 12:5-13)? Or worse — experiencing His wrath as an enemy (v. 8-9)? If either is the case, today is the day, now is the time to repent and renew my spiritual covenant with the lover of my soul; my king and my Lord (v. 10). I must stand up! Returning to my position as a child of the Living God and serve Him (v. 11).
Come, O Spirit, soul and body of "me"! Come to sanctification and cleansing by the Word (v. 15) (see: John 17:14-20).
Have I opened the doors of the Temple of "me"? Allowing the High Priest, Jesus, to enter, cleanse, and remove all of the uncleanness within (v. 16)? All attachment to sin? All vice? Or have I tried to do it myself? Or worse — have I invited Him in only to restrict His access to certain chambers of my heart? Chambers where secret sins lie? Prejudice? Pride? Perversion? Have I submitted myself wholly to the lengthy process of spiritual cleansing, mind renewal, transformation, examination of conscience and internal inventory of all that lies within the Temple of "me" (v. 17) (see: Romans 12:1-2)?
If I have done this, then High Priest Jesus has gone to King Father and proclaimed: I "have cleansed all the House of the Lord . . . cast away his transgression . . . prepared and sanctified" the Temple of "me" (v. 18-19), into which Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will immediately take up residence.
If I have not done this, I must! Sacred Scripture, referring to the immediate presence of God in the Temple City of New Jerusalem, declares: "And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie" (Revelation 19:27). By way of comparison, God will not enter the Temple of "me" if it is filled with filth of any sort. I must be conscious of my words and deeds, doing all as unto the Lord (see: Colossians 3:17).
Beloved brother and sister reader, join me in a soul-searching examination of conscience, turning from sinful rebellion against God, turning toward the loving embrace of our Heavenly Father in obedient submission. Let us prepare our hearts for the indwelling presence of our thrice Holy God, observing the call of St. Peter in 1 Peter 1:13-16.
(Editor's note: Leianne Spontaneo is a lay associate of Priests for Life.)
Scott Klusendorf is the author of The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture (Crossway Books, March, 2009).
No matter what age, no matter what condition, are they human and should they be allowed to live?
The author states on page 164 that Mother Teresa liked to help people; Hitler liked to kill them. When people are told not to judge, what if we don't? Over 50 million babies have been killed and the killing continues. Honestly, how could we be asked, "Who are you to judge?"
Klusendorf indicates (page 36) that as early as 1868, Dr. Horatio Storer, the head of the American Medical Association's Committee on Criminal Abortion, along with co-author Franklin F. Heard, confidently stated, "Physicians have now arrived at the unanimous opinion that the foetus in utero is alive from the very moment of conception . . . The willful killings of a human being at any stage of its existence is murder."
Klusendorf contradicts himself quite a few times. For example, on page 55, he states that he sees no moral requirement for using life support to "delay the decomposing process." He indicates that after all, the person is "already dead." However, on page 57 he writes that there are comprehensive doctrines about ultimate reality that can't be proven empirically or argued rationally. He writes that people must accept them on faith. The author asks, "What do you mean by faith?" He states that most often he hears that faith means believing something in spite of the evidence, what you fall back on when the facts are against you. Klusendorf writes that in 1 Cor 15, St. Paul makes it clear that Christ's bodily resurrection was not an isolated event but a foretaste of what Christians everywhere can expect when the imperfect is made perfect. On page 113, he states that Christ's followers didn't fabricate stories of His death and resurrection — they recorded them. Think of this the next time a person is in a coma. Do you have faith?
Church-going adults and youths must be taught courage, Klusendorf indicates on pages 210-211. He writes about Summer White, a 15 year-old who wrote a paper for a class. It was no ordinary paper. She defended her pro-life views by arguing that embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) unjustly takes the life of a defenseless human being. She was the only one in her class to take that position. She defended her case two ways. First, she argued that the embryos in question were human beings and should not be killed to benefit other people. Second, she argued that we don't have to kill embryonic human beings to find cures for disease. Adult stem cell research, which does not require killing the donor, is already treating human illness and there is nothing controversial about it. The teacher sent the paper back with no credit. What was Summer's crime? She claimed to be right and backed up her case. We need more Christian people trained within our local churches. If pastors don't equip their Christians, they'll remain tongue-tied when they need to speak up.
The 800th anniversary of the conversion of St. Clare of Assisi is being celebrated with a "Clarian Year." Pope Benedict XVI sent a letter marking the occasion to Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi — Nocera Umbra — Gualdo Tadino. The letter, dated April 1, Palm Sunday, follows:
"I learned with joy that in this diocese as well as among Franciscans and Poor Clares across the world, St. Clare is being commemorated with a 'Clarian Year' on the occasion of the eighth centenary of her 'conversion' and consecration. This event, which can be dated between 1211 and 1212, completed 'in the feminine,' so to speak, the grace that the Assisi community had attained a few years earlier with the conversion of the son of Pietro di Bernardone. And, just as it had happened for Francis, Clare's decision also contained the hidden shoot of a new community, the Order of Poor Clares, which, having grown into a sturdy tree, in the cloister's fertile silence continues to scatter the good seed of the Gospel and to serve the cause of God's Kingdom.
"This joyful occasion compels me to return to Assisi in spirit, to reflect on the meaning of that event with you, Venerable Brother, with the community entrusted to your care and, likewise, with the sons of St. Francis and the daughters of St. Clare. Indeed, the event also speaks to our generation and is particularly fascinating to young people . . .
"In her Testament the saint herself speaks of her radical choice of Christ in terms of 'conversion' (cf. FF 2825). I would like to begin with this aspect, in a way taking up the theme of the Discourse I gave on June 17, 2007, on Francis' conversion when I had the joy of visiting this diocese. The story of Clare's conversion revolves around the liturgical Feast of Palm Sunday.
"Indeed her biographer writes: 'The solemn day of the Palms was at hand when the young woman went to the man of God to ask him about her conversion and when and how she should act. Fr. Francis ordered her to go among the crowds on the day of the Feast at the Palm Sunday celebration, dressed elegantly and adorned with jewels. Then, the following evening, to leave the town, to convert the worldly joy into the mourning of Passion Sunday. So it was that when the Sunday came, among the other ladies the young girl radiant with festive light entered the church with them. Here, with fitting foresight, it happened that while the others hurried to receive their palms, Clare, out of shyness, stood motionless; so the bishop came down the steps to her and placed the palm in her hands' (Legenda Sanctae Clarae Virginis, n. 7: FF 3168).
"About six years had passed since the time when young Francis had set out on the path to holiness. He discovered his vocation in the words of the Crucifix in the Church of St. Damian — 'Go, Francis, repair My house' — and in the embrace of the lepers, the suffering face of Christ. It was this discovery that prompted his liberating gesture of 'stripping himself,' in the presence of Bishop Guido.
"In choosing between the idol of money, proposed by his earthly father, and the love of God that promised to fill his heart, he had no doubts and impulsively exclaimed: 'From this moment I can say freely, "Our Father, who art in heaven," not father Pietro di Bernardone' (Vita Seconda, 12: FF 597). Francis' decision disconcerted the city and the first years of his new life were marked by hardship, bitterness, and incomprehension. Yet many began to think.
"Young Clare too, then in her teens, was moved by that witness. Endowed with a marked religious sense, she was won over by the existential 'change' in direction taken by the man who had been a 'king of feasts.' She found a way to meet him and let herself be caught up in his ardent love for Christ. The biographer portrays the young convert while he is instructing his new disciple: 'Father Francis urged her to despise the world, showing her with lively words that hope directed to this world is arid and leads to disappointment, and instilling in her ears the sweet union with Christ' (Vita Sanctae Clarae Virginis, 5: FF 3164).
"According to St. Clare's Testament, even before receiving his other companions Francis prophesied the way that would be taken by his first spiritual daughter and her sisters. Indeed while he was restoring the Church of St. Damian, where the Crucifix had spoken to him, he proclaimed that women would live in this place who would glorify God by the holy tenor of their life (cf. FF 2826; cf. Tommaso da Celano, Vita Seconda, 13: FF 599).
"The original Crucifix is now in the Basilica of St. Clare. Christ's large eyes which had fascinated Francis were to become Clare's 'mirror.' It is not by chance that the looking-glass would become a topic so dear to her that in her fourth letter to Agnes of Prague she would write: 'Look into this mirror every day, O queen, spouse of Jesus Christ, and continually examine your face in it' (FF 2902).
"In the years in which she met Francis to learn from him about the way of God, Clare was an attractive young woman. The 'Poverello' of Assisi showed her a loftier beauty that cannot be measured by the mirror of vanity but develops in a life of authentic love, following in the footsteps of the Crucified Christ. God is the true beauty! Clare's heart was lit up with this splendor and it gave her the courage to let her hair be cut and to embark on a life of penance.
"For her, as for Francis, this decision was fraught with difficulty. Although some of her relatives understood her immediately — and Ortolana, her mother, and two of her sisters even followed her in the life she had chosen — others reacted violently. Her escape from home on the night between Palm Sunday and the Monday of Holy Week had something of an adventure about it. In the following days she was pursued to the places Francis had prepared for her but the attempts, even with force, to make her go back on her decision were in vain.
"Clare had prepared herself for this struggle. Moreover although Francis was her guide, several clues hint that she also received fatherly support from Bishop Guido. This would explain the prelate's gesture in offering the palm to her, as if to bless her courageous decision. Without the bishop's support it would have been difficult for Clare to follow the plan that Francis had devised and that she put into practice, both in her consecration in the Church of the Porziuncola in the presence of Francis and his friars, and in the hospitality she received in the days that followed at the Monastery of San Paolo delle Abbadesse and at the community of Sant'Angelo in Panzo, prior to her definitive arrival at St. Damian.
"Clare's story, like Francis', thus has a specific ecclesial trait: an enlightened pastor and two children of the Church who entrust themselves to his discernment. In it institution and charism wondrously interact. Love and obedience to the Church, so marked in Franciscan-Clarissian spirituality, are rooted in this beautiful experience of the Christian community of Assisi, which not only gave birth to the faith of Francis and of his 'little plant,' but also accompanied them, taking them by the hand on the path of holiness.
"Francis saw clearly the reason for suggesting to Clare that she run away from home at the beginning of Holy Week. The whole of Christian life — hence also the life of special consecration — is a fruit of the Paschal Mystery and of participation in Christ's death and Resurrection. The themes of sadness and glory, interwoven in the Palm Sunday liturgy, will be developed in the successive days through the darkness of the Passion to the light of Easter. With her decision Clare relives this mystery. She receives the program for it, as it were, on Palm Sunday. She then enters the drama of the Passion, forfeiting her hair and, with it, renouncing her whole self in order to be a bride of Christ in humility and poverty. Francis and his companions are now her family.
"Sisters were soon to come also from afar, but as in Francis' case, the first new shoots were to sprout in Assisi. And Clare would always remain bound to her city, demonstrating her ties with it especially in certain difficult circumstances when her prayers saved Assisi from violence and devastation. She said to her sisters at the time: 'We have received many things from this city every day, dear daughters; it would be quite wicked if we were not to do our utmost to help it now in this time of need' (cf. Legenda Sanctae Clarae Virginis 23: FF 3203).
"The profound meaning of Clare's 'conversion' is a conversion to love. She was no longer to wear the fine clothes worn by the Assisi nobility but rather the elegance of a soul that expends itself in the praise of God and in the gift of self. In the small space of the Monastery of St. Damian, at the school of Jesus, contemplated with spousal affection in the Eucharist, day by day the features developed of a community governed by love of God and by prayer, by caring for others and by service. In this context of profound faith and great humanity Clare became a sure interpreter of the Franciscan ideal, imploring the 'privilege' of poverty, namely, the renunciation of goods, possessed even only as a community, which for a long time perplexed the Supreme Pontiff himself, even though, in the end, he surrendered to the heroism of her holiness.
"How could one fail to hold up Clare, like Francis, to the youth of today? The time that separates us from the events of both these Saints has in no way diminished their magnetism. On the contrary, their timeliness in comparison with the illusions and delusions that all too often mark the condition of young people today. Never before has a time inspired so many dreams among the young, with the thousands of attractions of a life in which everything seems possible and licit.
"Yet, how much discontent there is, how often does the pursuit of happiness and fulfilment end by unfolding paths that lead to artificial paradises, such as those of drugs and unrestrained sensuality!
"The current situation with the difficulty of finding dignified employment and forming a happy and united family makes clouds loom on the horizon. However there are many young people, in our day too, who accept the invitation to entrust themselves to Christ and to face life's journey with courage, responsibility, and hope, and even opt to leave everything to follow him in total service to him and to their brethren.
"The story of Clare, with that of Francis, is an invitation to reflect on the meaning of life and to seek the secret of true joy in God. It is a concrete proof that those who do the Lord's will and trust in him alone lose nothing; on the contrary they find the true treasure that can give meaning to all things.
"I address this short reflection to you, Venerable Brother, to this Church that has the honor of having given birth to Francis and Clare, and the Poor Clares who every day live the beauty and fruitfulness of the contemplative life in support of the journey of the entire People of God, and to the Franciscans of the whole world, to all the young people who are seeking and in need of light, I offer this brief reflection. I hope it will contribute to an ever new discovery of these two figures who shine out in the firmament of the Church. With a special thought for the daughters of St. Clare of the first monastery, of the other monasteries of Assisi and throughout the world, I impart my heartfelt Apostolic blessing to all."
St. Clare, pray for us!
WASHINGTON—The United States Supreme Court issued a decision June 28 upholding as a tax the provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires individuals to purchase a health plan—the so-called "individual mandate."
For nearly a century, the Catholic bishops of the United States have been and continue to be consistent advocates for comprehensive health care reform to ensure access to life-affirming health care for all, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable. Although the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) did not participate in these cases and took no position on the specific questions presented to the Court, USCCB's position on health care reform generally and on ACA particularly is a matter of public record. The bishops ultimately opposed final passage of ACA for several reasons.
First, ACA allows use of federal funds to pay for elective abortions and for plans that cover such abortions, contradicting longstanding federal policy. The risk we identified in this area has already materialized, particularly in the initial approval by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of "high risk" insurance pools that would have covered abortion.
Second, the Act fails to include necessary language to provide essential conscience protection, both within and beyond the abortion context. We have provided extensive analyses of ACA's defects with respect to both abortion and conscience. The lack of statutory conscience protections applicable to ACA's new mandates has been illustrated in dramatic fashion by HHS's "preventive services" mandate, which forces religious and other employers to cover sterilization and contraception, including abortifacient drugs.
Third, ACA fails to treat undocumented immigrant workers and their families fairly. ACA leaves them worse off by not allowing them to purchase health coverage in the new exchanges created under the law, even if they use their own money. This undermines the Act's stated goal of promoting access to basic life-affirming health care for everyone, especially for those most in need.
Following enactment of ACA, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has not joined in efforts to repeal the law in its entirety, and we do not do so today. The decision of the Supreme Court neither diminishes the moral imperative to ensure decent health care for all, nor eliminates the need to correct the fundamental flaws described above. We therefore continue to urge Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, legislation to fix those flaws.
(Source: USCCB press release)
WASHINGTON — The U.S. bishops greeted with hope and caution the June 25 Supreme Court decision to strike down provisions of an Arizona immigration law that would have allowed warrantless arrests of people suspected of an offense that is deportable, that would have made it a crime to seek work in the state and that would have made undocumented presence a state crime.
The bishops found hope in the decision in Arizona vs. United States and said it reflects the bishops' call for humane and just immigration laws and concern for laws that could tear families apart. Their caution lay in the lifting of an injunction against immigrants having to show papers in some circumstances.
The bishops had filed a friend of the court brief in the case.
Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration, expressed concern regarding the one part of the 5-3 decision that narrowly upheld a provision that permits state law enforcement personnel to determine the immigration status of any person stopped, detained, or arrested if there is a reasonable suspicion that the person is not lawfully in the United States, and to verify the immigration status of any person arrested before releasing that person.
In the opinion, the justices left the door open that the provision that was upheld — known as 2(B) of SB 1070 — could later be found unconstitutional.
"While we are concerned with the Court's decision to lift the injunction on section 2 (B) of the law, we are encouraged that the Court did not rule it constitutional," Archbishop Gomez said. "As we articulated in our amicus brief, the implementation of this provision could lead to the separation of families and undermine the Church's ability to minister to the immigrant population."
A copy of the brief can be found at http://www.usccb.org/ogc/amicus-briefs/upload/state-of-arizona-v-united-states-of-america.pdf
"We stand in solidarity with our brother bishops in Arizona, as they prepare to respond to the implementation of this provision and its potential human consequences," Archbishop Gomez said.
(Source: USCCB press release)
We pray You, O God of might, wisdom, and justice, through Whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Your Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Your people, over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of your divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.
We recommend likewise, to Your unbounded mercy, all our fellow citizens throughout the United States, that we may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Your most holy law; that we may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.
From his 1791 Prayer for Government, recited in parishes throughout his diocese. Archbishop John Carroll, SJ
God our Father in Heaven, You chose Mary as the fairest of Your daughters; Holy Spirit, You overshadowed Mary at the Annunciation; God the Son, You became incarnate in the womb of Mary, Your Mother. In union with Mary, we adore You, the Most Holy Trinity and acknowledge that You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, hold eternal dominion and authority over all nations.
Most Holy Trinity, we place the United States of America into the hands of Mary Immaculate in order that she may present our country to You. Through her we wish to praise and thank You for the great resources of our land and for the freedom, which has been our heritage. Through the intercession of Mary, have mercy on the Catholic Church in the United States. Grant us peace. Have mercy on our president and on all the officers of our government. Grant us a fruitful economy born of justice and charity. Raise up and protect all of our families. Through the intercession of our Mother, have mercy on the sick, the poor, the tempted, sinners—on all who are in need. Above all, we ask Mary to intercede on our behalf that You would protect our conscience rights and religious freedom, upon which our country was founded.
Mary, Immaculate Virgin, Our Mother, Patroness of our land, we honor you and give ourselves to you. Wrap your mantle of protection around each of us and all our fellow citizens. Protect us from all evil and harm. Pray for us, that acting always according to your will and the Will of your Divine Son, we may live and die pleasing to God.
Based on a Marian consecration by Patrick Cardinal O'Boyle, Archbishop of Washington, prayed in parishes throughout the United States in November of 1959.
Source: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
O GOD OUR CREATOR, from Your provident hand we have received our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You have called us as your people and given us the right and the duty to worship You, the only true God, and Your Son, Jesus Christ. Through the power and working of Your Holy Spirit, You call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world, bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel to every corner of society.
We ask You to bless us in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty. Give us the strength of mind and heart to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened; give us courage in making our voices heard on behalf of the rights of Your Church and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father, a clear and united voice to all Your sons and daughters gathered in Your Church in this decisive hour in the history of our nation, so that, with every trial withstood and every danger overcome—for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and all who come after us—this great land will always be "one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
Source: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
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.
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