"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
Pope Benedict XVI
The proclamation of the Gospel to the ends of the earth will be the focus of World Mission Day, Sunday, October 21. Pope Benedict XVI's message for the day, which was dated 1/6/12, The Solemnity of the Epiphany, follows:
". . . This year the celebration of World Mission Day has a very special meaning. The 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council and of the opening of the Year of Faith and of the Synod of Bishops on the theme of the New Evangelization contribute to reaffirming the Church's desire to engage with greater courage and zeal in the missio ad gentes so that the Gospel may reach the very ends of the earth.
"The Second Vatican Council, with the participation of Catholic Bishops from all the corners of the earth, was a truly luminous sign of the Church's universality, welcoming for the first time such a large number of Council Fathers from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Oceania. Scattered among non-Christian peoples, missionary Bishops, and indigenous Bishops, pastors from communities brought to the Council the image of a Church present on all the continents and interpreted the complex realities of what was then called the 'Third World.' Enriched by their experience of being pastors of Churches, young and in the process of formation, motivated by passion for spreading the Kingdom of God, they contributed significantly to reaffirming the need and urgency of the evangelization ad gentes, and hence to placing the Church's missionary nature at the center of ecclesiology.
"Today this vision is still valid, indeed, it has experienced a fruitful theological and pastoral reflection and, at the same time, is presented with new urgency because the number of those who do not know Christ has grown: 'The number of those awaiting Christ is still immense,' said Bl. John Paul II in his Encyclical Redemptoris Missio on the permanent validity of the missionary mandate and he added: 'we cannot be content when we consider the millions of our brothers and sisters, who like us have been redeemed by the blood of Christ but who live in ignorance of the love of God' (n. 86). In announcing the Year of Faith, I too wrote that 'today as in the past, He (Christ) sends us through the highways of the world to proclaim His Gospel to all the peoples of the earth' (Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, n. 7). Such proclamation, as the Servant of God Paul VI said in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, 'is not an optional contribution for the Church. It is the duty incumbent on her by the command of the Lord Jesus, so that people can believe and be saved. This message is indeed necessary. It is unique. It cannot be replaced' (n. 5). We therefore need to recover the same apostolic zeal as that of the early Christian communities, which, though small and defenseless, were able, through their proclamation and witness, to spread the Gospel throughout the then known world.
"No wonder, therefore, that the Second Vatican Council and the subsequent Magisterium of the Church insist in a very special way on the missionary mandate, which Christ entrusted to his disciples and which must be a commitment of all the People of God, Bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious, and lay people. The duty of proclaiming the Gospel in every corner of the world is primarily incumbent on the Bishops, directly responsible for evangelization in the world, both as members of the Episcopal College and as Pastors of the particular Churches. In fact, they 'have been consecrated not only for a particular diocese but for the salvation of the entire world' (John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio, n. 63), 'preachers of the faith, who bring new disciples to Christ' (cf. Ad Gentes, n. 20) and make 'visible the missionary spirit and zeal of the People of God, so that the whole diocese becomes missionary' (ibid., n. 38).
"The mandate to preach the Gospel, therefore, for a pastor does not end with his attention to the portion of the People of God entrusted to his pastoral care or in sending out priests or lay people fidei donum. It must involve all the activities of the particular Church, all her sectors, in short, her whole being and all her work. The Second Vatican Council clearly pointed this out and the subsequent Magisterium reaffirmed it forcefully. This requires the regular adjustment of lifestyles, pastoral planning, and diocesan organization to this fundamental dimension of being Church, especially in our continuously changing world. And this also applies for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, as well as for Ecclesial Movements: all the components of the large mosaic of the Church must feel strongly called into question by the mandate of the Lord to preach the Gospel, so that Christ may be proclaimed everywhere. We pastors, men and women religious, and all the faithful in Christ, should follow in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul, who, as 'a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles' (Eph 3:1), worked, suffered, and struggled to bring the Gospel among the Gentiles (cf. Col 1:24-29), sparing no energy, time, or means to make the Message of Christ known.
"Today too the mission ad gentes must be the constant horizon and paradigm of every ecclesial endeavor, because the identity of the Church herself is constituted by faith in the Mystery of God Who revealed Himself in Christ to bring us salvation, and by the mission of witnessing and proclaiming Him to the world until He comes. Like St. Paul, we should be attentive to those who are distant, to those who do not yet know Christ, or who have not yet experienced the fatherhood of God, in the awareness that missionary 'cooperation includes new forms not only economic assistance, but also direct participation' to evangelization (John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio, n. 82). The celebration of the Year of Faith and of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization will be favorable opportunities to relaunch missionary cooperation, especially in this second dimension.
"The eagerness to proclaim Christ also urges us to read history so as to perceive the problems, aspirations, and hopes of humanity which Christ must heal, purify, and fill with His presence. His Message is ever timely, it falls into the very heart of history and can respond to the deepest restlessness of every human being. For this reason all the members of the Church must be aware that 'the immense horizons of the Church's mission and the complexity of today's situation call for new ways of effectively communicating the Word of God' (Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, n. 97). This demands, first of all, a renewed adherence of personal and community faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, 'especially at a time of profound change such as humanity is currently experiencing' (Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, n. 8).
"In fact, one of the obstacles to the impetus of evangelization is the crisis of faith, not only in the Western world, but among most of humanity, which, however, is hungering and thirsting for God and must be invited and brought to the bread of life and the living water, like the Samaritan woman who goes to Jacob's well and converses with Christ. As John the Evangelist recounts, this woman's story is particularly significant (cf. Jn 4:1-30): she meets Christ, Who asks her for a drink but then speaks to her of a new water which can satisfy thirst for ever. At first the woman does not understand, she remains at a material level, but slowly she is led by the Lord to make a journey of faith which leads her to recognize Him as the Messiah. And St. Augustine says about this: 'after having welcomed Christ the Lord in her heart, what else could [this woman] have done other than leave her pitcher and run to the village to announce the good news?' (cf. Homily 15, 30).
"The encounter with Christ as a living Person, Who satisfies the thirst of the heart, cannot but lead to the desire to share with others the joy of this presence and to make Him known, so that all may experience this joy. It is necessary to renew the enthusiasm of communicating the faith to promote a new evangelization of the communities and Countries with a long-standing Christian tradition which are losing their reference to God so that they may rediscover the joy of believing. The concern to evangelize must never remain on the margins of ecclesial activity and of the personal life of Christians. Rather, it must strongly characterize it, in the awareness that they are those for whom the Gospel is intended and, at the same time, missionaries of the Gospel. The core of the proclamation always remains the same: the Kerygma of Christ Who died and rose for the world's salvation, the Kerygma of God's absolute and total love for every man and every woman, which culminated in His sending the eternal and Only-Begotten Son, the Lord Jesus, Who did not scorn to take on the poverty of our human nature, loving it and redeeming it from sin and death through the offering of Himself on the Cross.
"Faith in God, in this project of love brought about in Christ, is first and foremost a gift and a mystery which must be welcomed in the heart and in life, and for which we must always thank the Lord. However, faith is a gift that is given to us to be shared; it is a talent received so that it may bear fruit; it is a light that must never be hidden, but must illuminate the whole house. It is the most important gift which has been made to us in our lives and which we cannot keep to ourselves.
" 'Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!' said the Apostle Paul (1 Cor 9:16). This word has a strong resonance for every Christian and for every Christian community on all the continents. Mission awareness has also become a connatural dimension for the Churches in mission lands, the majority of which are young, even though they themselves are still in need of missionaries. Many priests, men and women religious from every part of the world, numerous lay people, and even entire families leave their countries and their local communities and go to other Churches to bear witness to and to proclaim the Name of Christ, in which humanity finds salvation. It is an expression of profound communion, sharing and charity among the Churches, so that every man and woman may hear or listen again to the saving proclamation and approach the sacraments, source of true life.
"Together with this lofty sign of faith that is transformed into love, I remember and thank the Pontifical Mission Societies, instruments for cooperation in the universal mission of the Church across the world. Through their action, the proclamation of the Gospel also becomes an intervention on behalf of one's neighbor, justice for the poorest, the possibility of education in the most remote villages, medical aid in isolated places, emancipation from poverty, the rehabilitation of the marginalized, support for the development of peoples, overcoming ethnic divisions, and respect for life in all its stages.
"Dear brothers and sisters, I invoke on the mission of evangelization ad gentes and, in particular, on its workers, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, so that God's grace may enable it to advance firmly in the history of the world. Together with Bl. John Henry Newman I would like to pray: 'O Lord, accompany your missionaries in the lands to be evangelized, put the right words on their lips, and make their labors fruitful.' May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and Star of Evangelization, accompany all Gospel missionaries."
(Editor's note: The following Labor Day Statement 2012 of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is reprinted with permission.)
Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, Bishop of Stockton
Chairman, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
September 3, 2012
This Labor Day, our country continues to struggle with a broken economy that is not producing enough decent jobs. Millions of Americans suffer from unemployment, underemployment, or are living in poverty as their basic needs too often go unmet. This represents a serious economic and moral failure for our nation. As people of faith, we are called to stand with those left behind, offer our solidarity, and join forces with "the least of these" to help meet their basic needs. We seek national economic renewal that places working people and their families at the center of economic life.
Officially over 12 million workers are looking for work but cannot find a job and millions more have actually given up seeking employment. Millions more are underemployed; they are willing and able to work full time, but there are not enough jobs available. Over ten million families are "working poor"--they work hard, but their jobs do not pay enough to meet their basic needs. The sad fact is that over 46 million people live in poverty and, most disturbingly, over 16 million children grow up poor in our nation. The link between joblessness and poverty is undeniable, as Pope Benedict points out:
In many cases, poverty results from a violation of the dignity of human work, either because work opportunities are limited (through unemployment or underemployment), or "because a low value is put on work and the rights that flow from it, especially the right to a just wage and to the personal security of the worker and his or her family" (Caritas in Veritate, no. 63).
Public officials rightfully debate the need to reduce unsustainable federal deficits and debt. In the current political campaigns, we hear much about the economy, but almost nothing about the moral imperative to overcome pervasive poverty in a nation still blessed with substantial economic resources and power.
These harsh economic realities bring terrible human costs for millions of families, who live with anxiety and uncertainty and cope with stagnant or falling wages. Many are forced to work second or third jobs, which places further strain on their children's well-being, and millions of young adults are denied the ability to begin families. These people are not abstractions: they are fellow parishioners and our neighbors; our cousins, aunts, and uncles; our brothers and sisters; our mothers and fathers; possibly our own children. The economy should help families thrive, not place additional pressures on them.
This broken economy also contributes to the danger that workers will be exploited or mistreated in other ways. For example, many employees struggle for just wages, a safe workplace, and a voice in the economy, but they cannot purchase the goods they make, stay in the hotels they clean, or eat the food they harvest, prepare, or serve. Immigrants and their families are especially vulnerable, which highlights the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform.
The Catholic bishops of the United States, through our Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), provide help and hope to exploited and mistreated working people. MRS helps workers who have fled their home countries with the promise of employment, only to find themselves forced to work long hours in dangerous jobs. CCHD supports groups throughout the country that empower working people to raise their voices and regain wages that have been taken from them, demand fair treatment, and seek greater economic opportunity. The broken economy also places additional strain on other Catholic organizations such as Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities, and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, that struggle to fulfill our Gospel mandate in the face of increased demand and fewer resources.
The exploitation of working people, whether subtle or obvious, injures their humanity and denies their inherent dignity. Exploited and mistreated workers require our care and solidarity. An economy that allows this exploitation and abuse demands our attention and action. As the bishops point out in the Catholic Framework for Economic Life, "By our choices, initiative, creativity, and investment, we enhance or diminish economic opportunity, community life, and social justice." We should ask: How do we contribute to forces that threaten the human dignity of vulnerable workers? How can our choices in economic and public life enhance their lives, pursue economic justice, and promote opportunity?
Our nation needs an economic renewal that places workers and their families at the center of economic life and creates enough decent jobs for everyone who can work. Work is more than a paycheck; it helps raise our families, develop our potential, share in God's creation, and contribute to the common good.
Everyone and every institution has a role to play in building a more just economy. In the words of our Conference, we seek an economy that serves the person rather than the other way around. Blessed John Paul II said:
. . . society and the State must ensure wage levels adequate for the maintenance of the worker and his family, including a certain amount for savings. This requires a continuous effort to improve workers' training and capability so that their work will be more skilled and productive, as well as careful controls and adequate legislative measures to block shameful forms of exploitation, especially to the disadvantage of the most vulnerable workers, of immigrants, and of those on the margins of society. The role of trade unions in negotiating minimum salaries and working conditions is decisive in this area (Centesimus Annus, no. 15).
Unions and other worker associations have a unique and essential responsibility in this needed economic renewal. Our Church has long taught that unions are "an indispensable element of social life, especially in modern industrialized societies" (Laborem Exercens, no. 20) and are examples of the traditional Catholic principles of solidarity and subsidiarity in action. At their best, unions demonstrate solidarity by bringing workers together to speak and act collectively to protect their rights and pursue the common good. Unions are a sign of subsidiarity by forming associations of workers to have a voice, articulate their needs, and bargain and negotiate with the large economic institutions and structures of government.
Like other institutions, including religious, business, and civic groups, unions sometimes fall short of this promise and responsibility. Some union actions can contribute to excessive polarization and intense partisanship, can pursue positions that conflict with the common good, or can focus on just narrow self-interests. When labor institutions fall short, it does not negate Catholic teaching in support of unions and the protection of working people, but calls out for a renewed focus and candid dialogue on how to best defend workers. Indeed, economic renewal that places working people and their families at the center of economic life cannot take place without effective unions. This renewal requires business, religious, labor, and civic organizations to work together to help working people defend their dignity, claim their rights, and have a voice in the workplace and broader economy.
In this time of economic turmoil and uncertainty, we need to reflect on the moral and human dimensions of too much poverty and not enough work. We are called to work together business, labor, and government to build a productive economy that offers opportunity, creates jobs, generates growth, protects the dignity of working people, respects the family, and promotes genuine human development.
The relative silence of candidates and their campaigns on the moral imperative to resist and overcome poverty is both ominous and disheartening. Despite unacceptable levels of poverty, few candidates and elected officials speak about pervasive poverty or offer a path to overcome it. We need to hear from those who seek to lead this country about what specific steps they would take to lift people out of poverty. In this election year, Catholics should review and act on what the U.S. bishops said on economic issues in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship:
Economic decisions and institutions should be assessed according to whether they protect or undermine the dignity of the human person. Social and economic policies should foster the creation of jobs for all who can work with decent working conditions and just wages. Barriers to equal pay and employment for women and those facing unjust discrimination must be overcome. Catholic social teaching supports the right of workers to choose whether to organize, join a union, and bargain collectively, and to exercise these rights without reprisal. It also affirms economic freedom, initiative, and the right to private property. Workers, owners, employers, and unions should work together to create decent jobs, build a more just economy, and advance the common good (no. 76).
Our Conference of Bishops is developing a pastoral reflection on work, poverty, and a broken economy. This modest reflection will draw heavily from Pope Benedict's powerful encyclicals, will communicate our solidarity with those who have been left behind, and will call for prayer, education, discussion, and action. It will be an example of responding to the call of Pope Paul VI to the laity:
. . . to take the initiatives freely and to infuse a Christian spirit into the mentality, customs, laws, and structures of the community in which they live. Let each one examine himself, to see what he has done up to now, and what he ought to do. It is not enough to recall principles, state intentions, point to crying injustice, and utter prophetic denunciations; these words will lack real weight unless they are accompanied for each individual by a livelier awareness of personal responsibility and by effective action (Octogesima Adveniens, no. 48).
This Labor Day, millions of working people and their families have urgent and compelling needs. I ask you to join me in a special prayer for them and all workers, especially those without a job struggling to live in dignity. May God guide our nation in creating a more just economy that truly honors the dignity of work and the rights of workers.
© 2012 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Fred H. Summe is Vice President of Northern Kentucky Right to Life, P.O. Box 1202, Covington, Kentucky 41012
The poor choice of words used by Congressman Todd Akin (R), who is now running for the U.S. Senate in Missouri, brought national attention again to the question of whether the unborn child is a person entitled to the right to life, no matter how he or she is conceived.
Akin's statement that abortions caused by rape are "really rare" and "if it is a legitimate rape, the female body has always tried to shut down the whole thing" allowed the pro-abortion news media and the leadership of the Democratic Party to go into a frenzy. How dare anyone even suggest that in the case of rape, the killing of an innocent child would not be justified!
For 2,000 years, the Catholic Church has clearly taught that abortion is an intrinsic evil, since each person from the moment of fertilization is a unique and special gift from God, a human person who will live for eternity.
In his encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II reminds us: "The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end."
The position that abortion, the killing of the unborn child, is justified in the case where the child has been conceived in an act of rape clearly rejects the inviolable principle that all persons have an inalienable right to life, claiming that an innocent person can be killed in some circumstances.
Is capital punishment for the innocent child somehow justified by the criminal act of his father?
The woman who has conceived a child by the violent act of rape needs understanding, encouragement, and support by family, friends, and the entire community. An abortion cannot and will not remove the suffering from such trauma nor provide the woman relief from the violence of rape.
"I soon discovered that the aftermath of my abortion continued a long time after the memory of my rape had faded. I felt empty and horrible," recalls Jackie Bakker, a victim of rape.
"Rape and incest victims actually suffer considerably from the abortion. What are some of the symptoms of rape? The woman feels dirty, guilty, sexually violated, down on herself, angry, and fearful or hateful toward men; she may experience sexual dysfunction, or feel she has lost control of her life.
"Now let's look at the symptoms of abortion. The woman feels dirty, guilty, sexually violated, down on herself, angry, and fearful or hateful toward men; she may experience sexual dysfunction or a loss of control of her life all the same symptoms.
"So instead of curing the problem, we are intensifying the same symptoms by offering abortion. Abortion, then, is a 'cure' that only aggravates the problem," teaches David C. Reardon, Director of Eliot Institute for Social Sciences Research.
As reported by LifeSiteNews.com, rape victim, Shauna Prewitt, in an open letter to Rep. Akin, states:
"Although I would not be able to articulate it for months, I was experiencing a most curious emotion toward the life growing inside of me, an emotion that both enlivened me and caused me to experience an intolerable shame. You see, to my surprise, I did not altogether hate the life growing inside of me. Instead, I felt a sort of kinship, a partnership perhaps the kind that only develops between those who have suffered together but, nevertheless, I felt a bond.
"Perhaps the answer is as simple as this: Just as being raped did not override my body's natural ability to get pregnant, rape did not altogether override my body's natural response to being pregnant."
When our actions violate the moral teachings of the Creator, regardless of whatever our intentions may be, we bring about more evil, violence, and suffering. Instead of assisting those who suffer, abortion simply exacerbates their situation.
"Common in the post-abortion patient are grief and heartache over the procedure and feelings of loss and victimization. Even more important, however, is her inability to process the trauma and its accompanying feelings because of denying and repressing her thoughts and feelings about the event. Because the consequences of abortion can be so threatening, we don't want to exacerbate the problem by doubting or negating the many women who have undergone excruciating pain because of their 'choice,' " explains Theresa Karminski Burke, Ph.D., a psychologist.
"One of the greatest things I've learned is that the rapist is NOT my creator, as some people would have me believe. My value and identity are not established as a 'product of rape,' but as a child of God," claims Rebecca Kiessling, who is the "product" of a rape. Mrs. Kiessling authored the pamphlet Conceived in Rape: A Story of Hope, and was the guest speaker of the 2011 Celebration for Life sponsored by Northern Kentucky Right to Life.
This mother of five explained: "I'll be able to teach my children, and I teach others that your value is not based on the circumstances of your conception, your parents, your siblings, your mate, your house, your clothes, your looks, your IQ, your grades, your scores, your money, your occupation, your successes or failures, or your abilities or disabilities these are the lies that are perpetuated in our society.
"The truth is that you don't have to prove your worth to anyone, and if you really want to know what your value is, all you have to do is look to the Cross because that's the price that was paid for your life! That's the infinite value that God placed on your life!
"As someone who really cares about rape victims, I want to protect them from the rapist, and from the abortion, and not the baby. A baby is not the worst thing that could ever happen to a rape victim an abortion is."
Georgette Forney, co-founder of Silent No More Awareness Campaign, in an interview with LifeSiteNews, states that most "women are having abortions because they don't feel they have the support system to have the child."
The message society is giving to women today, said Forney, is that women aren't strong enough to handle an unplanned pregnancy. "In all honesty," she said, "women are the stronger of the two sexes; we can move mountains when it comes to protecting our children.
"We're taking away from women the ability to dig deep down and find the depth of character and strength to care for our children."
The response of many in the Republican establishment to Congressman Akin's remarks expose their shallowness to the cause of protecting the unborn child. A number of Republican officeholders called on Akin to resign as the Republican nominee. The National Republican Senatorial Committee withdrew all funds from his race. Mitt Romney referred to Akin's remarks as "inexcusable." Such actions evidence the rather weak commitment to the plight of the unborn child by many Republicans who like to profess that they are "pro-life."
Another organization's disappointing response to Congressman Akin's remarks is the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. At the time of the printing of this article, I have yet to read any comments of a member of the hierarchy using this opportunity where the news media is highlighting the issue of whether rape justifies an abortion, to clearly express the Church's teaching that no circumstance justifies the killing of an innocent child. The silence of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, state conferences of bishops, diocesan-owned newspapers, Catholic universities, Catholic hospitals and charities, and religious orders has been deafening.
On the other hand, pro-life groups across the nation, including a number of Protestant organizations, boldly came forth and defended the inalienable right of all unborn children to life, while encouraging Akin to continue his campaign.
We all pray that Congressman Akin will be successful in defeating the incumbent pro-abortion Democratic senator of Missouri, and that God bless him and his family for his courage to not abandon the unborn child for political expediency.
Do you remember the names Blunk, Brooks, Larimer, McQuinn, or Teves? Some commenting on the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shootings bemoaned that there are too many villains and too few heroes. Some people believe that is rather that the heroes, the self-sacrificing first responders, are not as long remembered or as well as they ought to be.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper noted that the Aurora shooting prompted "many acts of heroism that can't even be described in a bright enough light to do the heroes justice." William Bennett of CNN generalized, "Good triumphs over evil, not just in movies, but also in reality." Even if we might have forgotten the first responders who were there at 9/11 or in more recent wild fires, we ought not soon forget their self-sacrifice.
Russell Simmons said, "These are the names that we must remember and carry with us as a source of inspiration." Kathee Alexander McCarl added, "We should be hearing the names of these men over and over and over again in the news, praising their heroic deeds and giving them the honor they deserve. Matt McQuinn, Alex Teves, Jon Blunk, and John Larimer should be the names we remember, not the name of an evil madman."
Jonathan Blunk shielded Jansen Young with his body. He had served five years in the Navy and planned to become a SEAL. He went to the theater with three other sailors from nearby Buckley Air Force Base.
"Jon just took a bullet for me," Young said. "He knew and threw me on the ground, and was like, 'We have to get down and stay down.' "
"He wanted the kids to look up to him," Blunk's wife, Chantel, back in Reno, said. "He always said, if he was ever going to die, he wanted to die as a hero."
Anna Soull shared about Jarrell Brooks who died protecting a woman whose boyfriend had fled. "If that wasn't what a hero is, I don't know what one is," was Gagnez Le Jeu's comment.
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class John Larimer saved Julia Vojtsek at the cost of his own life. "John immediately and instinctively covered me," she told reporters, "and brought me to the ground in order to protect me from any danger. Moments later, John knowingly shielded me from a spray of gunshots. It was then I believe John was hit with a bullet that would have very possibly struck me. I feel very strongly that I was saved by John and his ultimate kindness."
Matthew McQuinn used his body to shield both his girlfriend Samantha Yowler and her brother, Nick. He took three bullets, while she took a bullet in the knee, and her brother was uninjured.
Alex Teves was a recent University of Denver Masters graduate. His girlfriend, Amanda Lindgren, told of his last heroism, "I was really, really confused at first about what was going on, so confused, but, it's like Alex didn't even hesitate, because I sat there for a minute, not knowing what was going on and he held me down and he covered my head and he said, 'Shh, stay down. It's OK. Shh, just stay down.' "
"My other half was just ripped apart from me and so for me it's still unreal. I can't picture my life without him. How do you? When someone loves you that much and you love somebody that much how do you believe that this is real?"
Jon Miranda addressed his comment to the ladies who want their man to be a hero, "Make sure your lives were worth saving."
Much quoted Jessica Ghawi had survived another mass shooting at the Eaton Centre Mall, Toronto, before dying in Aurora. It was after the earlier experience that she wrote: "I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders' faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don't know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath."
Although these men did not give their lives for their wives, we are reminded of "Love . . . as Christ loved the Church. He gave Himself up for her." (Eph 5:25) and "There is no greater love than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." (Jn 15:13)
Some just marveled that anyone could give their life for anyone else. ?Others, both men and women, commented on the meaning of true manliness, while praying for the families of the victims.
Ryan Carranza called these heroes "just awesome guys protecting what they love. Anyone who lives someone unconditionally will face danger for them."
"These men are truly heroic," was Paul Till's comment. "These were men, not the coward who took their's and many others' lives." Jeff Emanuel's comment was, "That's going out like a Man. RIP." Whitney Bittner had a similar comment, it "takes a real man to protect [who] he loves till the end."
Jacqueline L. Steinert wrote, I am "proud to call them men! Their friends, family, and acquaintances can take some comfort and honor in their last selfless act! Pretty awesome!"
Renee Gagne wrote, "I know that these men were raised to have honor and their parents should be very proud of them. I pray that everyone finds peace."
Missy Louise Tatro's prayers were for her own family, "All I can hope is that someday my girls find men like this. And that if I am every lucky enough to find a man like this that I cherish him and make sure he knows how thankful I am to have him."
You might remember Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger who became a hero when he safely landed a U.S. Airways jet in the Hudson River saving 155 lives. In recent appeals for St. Jude's Children's Hospital, he calls the children there who risk their lives to save other children "the real heroes."
You may not remember Lenny Skutnik who became a hero in 1982. He saved six people by handing the rescue helicopter's life ring to the other survivors before sinking into the icy Potomac back in 1982.
Some heroes same many lives. Some save a few or just one. One Hero gave His life to save us all.
(Editor's note: Mr. Bigon writes from Texas. We welcome contributions from prisoners. We would like to hear from a variety of prisoners.)
Another mail call with no rewards, the inmate walks away, head down and muttering quiet obscenities. A friend asks him if he is okay.
"Naw," he answers. "I don't know what's up with my family. I haven't heard from them in months."
"When'd you write them last?" inquires the friend.
"Four months ago . . . I ain't writin' again until they write first."
"Man . . .," continues the friend. "Write them again. I am sure they love you and think of you. They're probably busy like everyone else."
"No way . . . if they want to hear from me, they have to write first," the inmate replies in a defiant tone.
Are we not blessed that God is not like this inmate? What if our Creator would not contact us until He heard from us?
I believe we know the answers to these questions. He reaches out to us constantly. His desire is that we see Him in every aspect of our lives. The Lord is merciful, compassionate, and most of all loving. He longs, as the inmate above does, to "hear" from His family us.
As children of God, do we keep Him in our thoughts and actions each day? Do we "write" to the Lord with prayers? Or, are we like the loved ones who do not readily take time to show their love for us?
God extends His hands, His love to us daily. He fills our world with "post-it" notes reminding us of His presence in our lives. We simply have to "read" them with our eyes, ears, and minds. He sends His "letters" as we need them. We acknowledge them with our thanks and praise.
Are you reading your "mail"?
WASHINGTONCatholics can learn about the state of poverty in the United States and concrete ways they can make a difference at a new website from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The site, www.povertyusa.org, was launched August 15 and offers tools and resources to spread the word about poverty in America. Resources include an interactive poverty map with state and county level poverty statistics, a Poverty Tour video which gives viewers a sense of what it is like to live at the federal poverty line, videos, and links to Poverty USA's social media sites, including www.facebook.com/povertyusa.
The website, which is an initiative of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) and USCCB's Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development, will feature selected news stories related to the state of poverty in the United States. Also, on the county-level view of poverty statistics, visitors will be able to find examples of local organizations working to alleviate poverty in their communities.
"We are committed to providing educational content related to poverty as well as hopeful examples of what we can do to make the state of poverty better," said Ralph McCloud, national director of CCHD. "We welcome comments regarding the new site or suggestions for future feature articles or guest editorials."
Comments and suggestions may be sent to the Justice, Peace, and Human Development main email. Those wishing to receive additional resources on a regular basis can sign up for the email newsletter. . . , Notes for Neighbors.
CCHD is the domestic anti-poverty program of the USCCB and works to break the cycle of poverty by helping low-income people participate in decisions that affect their lives, families, and communities. It has a complementary mission of educating on poverty and its causes. This dual pastoral strategy of education for justice and helping people who are poor speak and act for themselves reflects the mandate of the Scriptures and the principles of Catholic social teaching.
CCHD is made possible by the generous support of Catholics in the United States, especially through an annual parish collection. CCHD's grants to local anti-poverty efforts are screened, awarded, and monitored in close partnership with local Catholic dioceses. CCHD grants to groups in a local community require the explicit approval of the bishop of that diocese.
(Source: USCCB press release)
"The eyes of faith behold a wonderful scene: that of a countless number of lay people, both women and men, busy at work in their daily life and activity. Oftentimes far from view and quite unacclaimed by the world, unknown to the world's great personages but nonetheless looked upon in love by the Father. Untiring laborers who work in the Lord's vineyard. Confident and steadfast through the power of God's grace, these are the humble yet great builders of the Kingdom of God in history."
Pope John Paul II, Lay Members of Christ's Faithful People
Because we are sons and daughters of God, saved by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do not merely read the news but make the news. We direct the course of world events by faith expressed in action and intercession. Please pray for the stories covered in this paper. Clip out this intercessory list and make it part of your daily prayer.
Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com