"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
|Crucified and Risen Jesus, Artwork by Joseph Fisher|
The 49th World Day of Prayer for Vocations will be on April 29, the Fourth Sunday of Easter. This year's theme is Vocations, The Gift of the Love of God. The Pope's message for the day, dated October 18, 2011, follows:
"The source of every perfect gift is God Who is Love – Deus caritas est: 'Whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him' (1 Jn 4:16). Sacred Scripture tells the story of this original bond between God and man, which precedes creation itself. Writing to the Christians of the city of Ephesus, Saint Paul raises a hymn of gratitude and praise to the Father Who, with infinite benevolence, in the course of the centuries accomplishes His universal plan of salvation, which is a plan of love. In His Son Jesus – Paul states – 'He chose us, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before Him in love' (Eph 1:4). We are loved by God even 'before' we come into existence! Moved solely by His unconditional love, He created us 'not . . . out of existing things' (cf. 2 Macc 7:28), to bring us into full communion with Him.
"In great wonderment before the work of God's providence, the Psalmist exclaims: 'When I see the heavens, the work of Your hands, the moon and the stars which You arranged, what is man that You should keep him in mind, mortal man that you care for him?' (Ps 8:3-4). The profound truth of our existence is thus contained in this surprising mystery: every creature, and in particular every human person, is the fruit of God's thought and an act of His love, a love that is boundless, faithful, and everlasting (cf. Jer 31:3). The discovery of this reality is what truly and profoundly changes our lives. In a famous page of the Confessions, Saint Augustine expresses with great force his discovery of God, supreme beauty and supreme love, a God Who was always close to him, and to Whom he at last opened his mind and heart to be transformed: 'Late have I loved You, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved You! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for You. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which You created. You were with me, but I was not with You. Created things kept me from You; yet if they had not been in You they would have not been at all. You called, You shouted, and You broke through my deafness. You flashed, You shone, and You dispelled my blindness. You breathed Your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for You. I have tasted You, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for Your peace.' (X, 27.38). With these images, the Saint of Hippo seeks to describe the ineffable mystery of his encounter with God, with God's love that transforms all of life.
"It is a love that is limitless and that precedes us, sustains us, and calls us along the path of life, a love rooted in an absolutely free gift of God. Speaking particularly of the ministerial priesthood, my predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, stated that 'every ministerial action - while it leads to loving and serving the Church - provides an incentive to grow in ever greater love and service of Jesus Christ the head, shepherd and spouse of the Church, a love which is always a response to the free and unsolicited love of God in Christ' (Pastores Dabo Vobis, 25). Every specific vocation is in fact born of the initiative of God; it is a gift of the Love of God! He is the One Who takes the 'first step,' and not because He has found something good in us, but because of the presence of His own love 'poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit' (Rom 5:5).
"In every age, the source of the divine call is to be found in the initiative of the infinite love of God, Who reveals Himself fully in Jesus Christ. As I wrote in my first Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, 'God is indeed visible in a number of ways. In the love-story recounted by the Bible, He comes towards us, He seeks to win our hearts, all the way to the Last Supper, to the piercing of His heart on the Cross, to His appearances after the Resurrection, and to the great deeds by which, through the activity of the Apostles, He guided the nascent Church along its path. Nor has the Lord been absent from subsequent Church history: He encounters us ever anew, in the men and women who reflect His presence, in His word, in the sacraments, and especially in the Eucharist' (No. 17).
"The love of God is everlasting; He is faithful to Himself, to the 'word that He commanded for a thousand generations' (Ps 105:8). Yet the appealing beauty of this divine love, which precedes and accompanies us, needs to be proclaimed ever anew, especially to younger generations. This divine love is the hidden impulse, the motivation which never fails, even in the most difficult circumstances.
"Dear brothers and sisters, we need to open our lives to this love. It is to the perfection of the Father's love (cf. Mt 5:48) that Jesus Christ calls us every day! The high standard of the Christian life consists in loving 'as' God loves; with a love that is shown in the total, faithful, and fruitful gift of self. Saint John of the Cross, writing to the Prioress of the Monastery of Segovia who was pained by the terrible circumstances surrounding his suspension, responded by urging her to act as God does: 'Think nothing else but that God ordains all, and where there is no love, put love, and there you will draw out love' (Letters, 26).
"It is in this soil of self-offering and openness to the love of God, and as the fruit of that love, that all vocations are born and grow. By drawing from this wellspring through prayer, constant recourse to God's word and to the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, it becomes possible to live a life of love for our neighbors, in whom we come to perceive the face of Christ the Lord (cf. Mt 25:31-46). To express the inseparable bond that links these 'two loves' – love of God and love of neighbor – both of which flow from the same divine source and return to it, Pope Saint Gregory the Great uses the metaphor of the seedling: 'In the soil of our heart God first planted the root of love for Him; from this, like the leaf, sprouts love for one another.' (Moralium Libri, sive expositio in Librum B. Job, Lib. VII, Ch. 24, 28; PL 75, 780D).
"These two expressions of the one divine love must be lived with a particular intensity and purity of heart by those who have decided to set out on the path of vocation discernment towards the ministerial priesthood and the consecrated life; they are its distinguishing mark. Love of God, which priests and consecrated persons are called to mirror, however imperfectly, is the motivation for answering the Lord's call to special consecration through priestly ordination or the profession of the evangelical counsels. Saint Peter's vehement reply to the Divine Master: 'Yes, Lord, You know that I love You' (Jn 21:15) contains the secret of a life fully given and lived out, and thus one which is deeply joyful.
"The other practical expression of love, that towards our neighbor, and especially those who suffer and are in greatest need, is the decisive impulse that leads the priest and the consecrated person to be a builder of communion between people and a sower of hope. The relationship of consecrated persons, and especially of the priest, to the Christian community is vital and becomes a fundamental dimension of their affectivity. The Curé of Ars was fond of saying: 'Priests are not priests for themselves, but for you' (Le cure d'Ars. Sa pensée – Son cœur, Foi Vivante, 1966, p. 100).
"Dear brother bishops, dear priests, deacons, consecrated men and women, catechists, pastoral workers, and all of you who are engaged in the field of educating young people: I fervently exhort you to pay close attention to those members of parish communities, associations, and ecclesial movements who sense a call to the priesthood or to a special consecration. It is important for the Church to create the conditions that will permit many young people to say 'yes' in generous response to God's loving call.
"The task of fostering vocations will be to provide helpful guidance and direction along the way. Central to this should be love of God's word nourished by a growing familiarity with sacred Scripture, and attentive and unceasing prayer, both personal and in community; this will make it possible to hear God's call amid all the voices of daily life. But above all, the Eucharist should be the heart of every vocational journey: it is here that the love of God touches us in Christ's sacrifice, the perfect expression of love, and it is here that we learn ever anew how to live according to the 'high standard' of God's love. Scripture, prayer, and the Eucharist are the precious treasure enabling us to grasp the beauty of a life spent fully in service of the Kingdom.
"It is my hope that the local Churches and all the various groups within them, will become places where vocations are carefully discerned and their authenticity tested, places where young men and women are offered wise and strong spiritual direction. In this way, the Christian community itself becomes a manifestation of the Love of God in which every calling is contained. As a response to the demands of the new commandment of Jesus, this can find eloquent and particular realization in Christian families, whose love is an expression of the love of Christ Who gave Himself for His Church (cf. Eph 5:32). Within the family, 'a community of life and love' (Gaudium et Spes, 48), young people can have a wonderful experience of this self-giving love. Indeed, families are not only the privileged place for human and Christian formation; they can also be 'the primary and most excellent seed-bed of vocations to a life of consecration to the Kingdom of God' (Familiaris Consortio, 53), by helping their members to see, precisely within the family, the beauty and the importance of the priesthood and the consecrated life. May pastors and all the lay faithful always cooperate so that in the Church these 'homes and schools of communion' may multiply, modelled on the Holy Family of Nazareth, the harmonious reflection on earth of the life of the Most Holy Trinity.
"With this prayerful hope, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to all of you: my brother bishops, priests, deacons, religious men and women, and all lay faithful, and especially those young men and women who strive to listen with a docile heart to God's voice and are ready to respond generously and faithfully."
Pope Benedict XVI addressed the crisis of marriage and the family in a March 9 meeting in Vatican City with U.S. Bishops from Region VIII. The Bishops were there for their "ad limina" visits made every five years. This year the Pope indicated the visits are focused "on certain aspects of the evangelization of American culture in the light of the intellectual and ethical challenges of the present moment."
The Pope's address follows:
"In our previous meetings I acknowledged our concern about threats to freedom of conscience, religion, and worship which need to be addressed urgently, so that all men and women of faith, and the institutions they inspire, can act in accordance with their deepest moral convictions. In this talk I would like to discuss another serious issue which you raised with me during my Pastoral Visit to America, namely, the contemporary crisis of marriage and the family, and, more generally, of the Christian vision of human sexuality. It is in fact increasingly evident that a weakened appreciation of the indissolubility of the marriage covenant, and the widespread rejection of a responsible, mature sexual ethic grounded in the practice of chastity, have led to grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost.
"Yet, as Blessed John Paul II observed, the future of humanity passes by way of the family (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 85). Indeed, 'the good that the Church and society as a whole expect from marriage and from the family founded on marriage is so great as to call for full pastoral commitment to this particular area. Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself' (Sacramentum Caritatis, 29).
"In this regard, particular mention must be made of the powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage. The Church's conscientious effort to resist this pressure calls for a reasoned defense of marriage as a natural institution consisting of a specific communion of persons, essentially rooted in the complementarity of the sexes and oriented to procreation. Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage. Defending the institution of marriage as a social reality is ultimately a question of justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike.
"You must consider yourself dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus." (Rom 6:11)
"In our conversations, some of you have pointed with concern to the growing difficulties encountered in communicating the Church's teaching on marriage and the family in its integrity, and to a decrease in the number of young people who approach the sacrament of matrimony. Certainly we must acknowledge deficiencies in the catechesis of recent decades, which failed at times to communicate the rich heritage of Catholic teaching on marriage as a natural institution elevated by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament, the vocation of Christian spouses in society and in the Church, and the practice of marital chastity. This teaching, stated with increasing clarity by the post-conciliar magisterium and comprehensively presented in both the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, needs to be restored to its proper place in preaching and catechetical instruction.
"On the practical level, marriage preparation programs must be carefully reviewed to ensure that there is greater concentration on their catechetical component and their presentation of the social and ecclesial responsibilities entailed by Christian marriage. In this context we cannot overlook the serious pastoral problem presented by the widespread practice of cohabitation, often by couples who seem unaware that it is gravely sinful, not to mention damaging to the stability of society. I encourage your efforts to develop clear pastoral and liturgical norms for the worthy celebration of matrimony which embody an unambiguous witness to the objective demands of Christian morality, while showing sensitivity and concern for young couples.
"Here too I would express my appreciation of the pastoral programs which you are promoting in your Dioceses and, in particular, the clear and authoritative presentation of the Church's teaching found in your 2009 Letter Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan. I also appreciate all that your parishes, schools, and charitable agencies do daily to support families and to reach out to those in difficult marital situations, especially the divorced and separated, single parents, teenage mothers, and women considering abortion, as well as children suffering the tragic effects of family breakdown.
"In this great pastoral effort there is an urgent need for the entire Christian community to recover an appreciation of the virtue of chastity. The integrating and liberating function of this virtue (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2338-2343) should be emphasized by a formation of the heart, which presents the Christian understanding of sexuality as a source of genuine freedom, happiness, and the fulfilment of our fundamental and innate human vocation to love. It is not merely a question of presenting arguments, but of appealing to an integrated, consistent and uplifting vision of human sexuality. The richness of this vision is more sound and appealing than the permissive ideologies exalted in some quarters; these in fact constitute a powerful and destructive form of counter-catechesis for the young.
"Young people need to encounter the Church's teaching in its integrity, challenging and countercultural as that teaching may be; more importantly, they need to see it embodied by faithful married couples who bear convincing witness to its truth. They also need to be supported as they struggle to make wise choices at a difficult and confusing time in their lives. Chastity, as the Catechism reminds us, involves an ongoing 'apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom' (2339). In a society which increasingly tends to misunderstand and even ridicule this essential dimension of Christian teaching, young people need to be reassured that 'if we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, absolutely nothing, of what makes life free, beautiful, and great' (Homily, Inaugural Mass of the Pontificate, April 24, 2005).
"Let me conclude by recalling that all our efforts in this area are ultimately concerned with the good of children, who have a fundamental right to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships. Children are the greatest treasure and the future of every society: truly caring for them means recognizing our responsibility to teach, defend, and live the moral virtues which are the key to human fulfillment. It is my hope that the Church in the United States, however chastened by the events of the past decade, will persevere in its historic mission of educating the young and thus contribute to the consolidation of that sound family life which is the surest guarantee of intergenerational solidarity and the health of society as a whole. . ."
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva addressed the agency's Human Rights Council on March 1. The meeting was on religious freedom.
His address follows:
"The implementation of human rights is a difficult challenge today, particularly with regard to the fundamental and inalienable right of every person to 'freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief.' Among other elements, the evolving political situation, wrong perceptions of the role of religion, expediency, and subtle ambiguities in the understanding of secularism lead to intolerance and even outright persecution of people because of their faith or religion. The freedom to manifest one's religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance, which is guaranteed by human rights law and international instruments, is disregarded in several places in the world. Such stifling policies and practices place at risk the contribution of many citizens to social life and progress in their respective countries. The Holy See appreciates the regular attention of the Human Rights Council to this major issue as well as the related efforts and decisions taken by Special Procedures.
"In many countries, however, the gap is growing between widely accepted stated principles, and their daily application on the ground. Serious research provides reliable data on current and repetitive patterns of gross violations of the right to freedom of religion. Christians are not the only victims, but terrorist attacks on Christians in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia increased 309% between 2003 and 2010. Approximately 70% of the world's population lives in countries with high restrictions on religious beliefs and practices, and religious minorities pay the highest price. In general, rising restrictions on religion affect more than 2.2 billion people. The affected people either have lost the protection of their societies or have experienced some government-imposed and unjust restrictions, or have become victims of violence resulting from an impulsive bigotry.1 The evidence shows that additional efforts are required from the international community in order to assure the protection of people in their exercise of freedom of religion and religious practice. Such actions are urgently required since in several countries the situation is worsening and since the factual reporting of such violations is underplayed, despite the fact, it should be highlighted in the pertinent Reports.
"The Universal Declaration of Human Rights points to respect for the human dignity of all people as the foundation on which the protection of human rights is built. In the present circumstances, it is worth recalling that States should ensure that all their citizens have the right to enjoy freedom of religion individually, within the family, and as a community, and to participate in the public square. Religious freedom, in fact, is not a derived right, or one granted, but a fundamental and inalienable right of the human person. A religious belief should not be perceived or considered as harmful or offensive simply because it is different from that of the majority. The task of the Government is not to define religion or recognize its value, but to confer upon faith communities a juridical personality so that they can function peacefully within a legal framework. Respect for the religious freedom of everyone may be at stake in places where the concept of 'State religion' is recognized, especially when the latter becomes the source of unjust treatment of others, whether they believe in other faiths or have none.
"Above the institutional considerations, the critical problem facing the promotion and protection of human rights in the area of religious freedom is the intolerance that leads to violence and to the killing of many innocent people each year simply because of their religious convictions. The realistic and collective responsibility, therefore, is to sustain mutual tolerance and respect of human rights and a greater equality among citizens of different religions in order to achieve a healthy democracy where the public role of religion and the distinction between religious and temporal spheres are recognized. In practical life, when managed in the context of mutual acceptance, the relations between majority and minority allow for cooperation and compromise and open the way for peaceful and constructive coexistence. But to achieve this desirable goal, there is a need to overcome a culture that devalues the human person and is intent on eliminating religion from the public life. Pope Benedict XVI has clearly described this situation when he writes: 'Sadly, in certain countries, mainly in the West, one increasingly encounters in political and cultural circles, as well in the media, scarce respect and at times hostility, if not scorn, directed towards religion and towards Christianity in particular. It is clear that if relativism is considered an essential element of democracy, one risks viewing secularity solely in the sense of excluding or, more precisely, denying the social importance of religion. But such an approach creates confrontation and division, disturbs peace, harms human ecology and, by rejecting in principle approaches other than its own, finishes in a dead end. There is thus an urgent need to delineate a positive and open secularity which, grounded in the just autonomy of the temporal order and the spiritual order, can foster healthy cooperation and a spirit of shared responsibility.'2
". . . Religions are not a threat, but a resource. They contribute to the development of civilizations, and this is good for everyone. Their freedom and activities should be protected so that the partnership between religious beliefs and societies may enhance the common good. A culture of tolerance, mutual acceptance, and dialogue is urgent. The educational system and the media have a major role to play by excluding prejudice and hatred from textbooks, from newscasts, and from newspapers, and by disseminating accurate and fair information on all component groups of society. But lack of education and information, that facilitates an easier manipulation of people for political advantages, is too often linked to underdevelopment, poverty, lack of access to effective participation in the management of society. Greater social justice provides fertile ground for the implementation of all human rights. Religions are communities based on convictions and their freedom guarantees a contribution of moral values without which the freedom of everyone is not possible. For this reason, it becomes an urgent and beneficial responsibility of the international community to counteract the trend of increasing violence against religious groups and of mistaken and deceptive neutrality that in fact aims at neutralizing religion."
1 http://www.pewforum.org/Government/Rising-Restrictions-on-Religion.aspx Also, Portes Ouvertes: Index mondial de Persécution des chrétiens, 2011; Ayaan Hirsi Ali, "The War on Christians," Newsweek, February 13, 2012, p. 30 Cfr.
2 Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps for the Traditional Exchange of New Year Greetings, Monday, January 11, 2010
Fred H. Summe is Vice President of Northern Kentucky Right to Life, P.O. Box 1202, Covington, Kentucky 41012
"Never before have we faced this kind of challenge to our ability to engage in the public square as people of faith and as service providers. If we do not act now, the consequences will be grave," warns Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
What prompted this fear is a number of actions by the federal government, under President Barack Obama's direction, the latest and gravest of which is the ruling of the Department of Health and Human Services that all employers, even religious organizations, such as the Catholic Church, must provide their employees with healthcare insurance that provides for birth control, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.
Employers, whether religious organizations, corporations, individuals, etc., will be required to finance intrinsically evil acts, regardless of their moral objections.
Many religious individuals, and organizations such as the Catholic Church and other Christian churches, along with their schools, universities, agencies, etc., will be forced to either materially become involved in doing immoral acts, or be faced with penalties and fines, the magnitude of which is intended to force compliance or force out of business those who either work for profit, or for the assistance and care of other individuals.
An idea long supported in the pro-abortion secular mainstream media is that freedom of religion is limited to freedom of "worship," as stated by Obama in the last State of the Union Address.
What kind of rites a religion conducts in its places of worship should not be subject to government review, is the new meaning given to "freedom of religion." However, when those who hold strong religious views desire to express those in the marketplace of ideas, or advocate that natural law be the basis of civil law, a new concept of "separation of church and state" is developed to forbid such. In the name of tolerance, ideas based on religion cannot be tolerated.
Restricting "freedom of religion" to "freedom of worship" is practiced in communist countries, as pointed out by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, who recently wrote: "Freedom of worship was guaranteed in the Constitution of the former Soviet Union. You could go to church, if you could find one. The church, however, could do nothing except conduct religious rites in places of worship – no schools, religious publications, healthcare institutions, organized charity, ministry for justice, and the works of mercy that flow naturally from a living faith. All of these were co-opted by the government."
Cardinal Francis George
As to Obama's recent mandate, condemned by every Catholic bishop, the Cardinal warns its "long-term effect is that the Catholic Church will be stripped of the institutions that are her instruments for public service."
Although it seems like only recently the Catholic hierarchy in our country is becoming concerned with the possibility of religious persecution, Pope Benedict XVI (who as a child experienced religious persecution by the Nazis), as head of the Catholic Church, sees the great religious persecution of the Church throughout the world, especially in Communist China:
"In the light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church's public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres . . . Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion . . . Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience."
The desire to limit freedom of religion to freedom of worship has a kindred spirit in an attitude devastating the Catholic Church today, i.e., freedom of religion is the individual's right to define his own worship and moral truths, divorced from the will of God.
Over the last two or three generations, a higher percentage of Catholics have embraced the heresy of relativism or secularism. They believe that if they think something is morally right, then it is morally right, i.e., there are no moral absolutes to which they should look for the will of God, as taught through the Church He instituted.
How often over the years have you heard the statement, "I don't go to church anymore. As long as I worship God in my own way, that's okay." Or, "What right does the pope or the bishop have in determining whether abortion is right or wrong?" as though they determined whether abortion is intrinsically evil or not. "If he can decide, why can't I decide?" (Many seem to have lost the understanding that the Church teachings are not its determination as to what is right and wrong, but are an expression of what God mandates as moral truth.)
Freedom of religion is not freedom from the moral teachings of the Church, whether we like it or not, the adherence to which we will be judged by the One Who gave us the free will to choose between good and evil – not to define good and evil.
For the last 2,000 years of Christianity, when the faith of Catholics grew weak, persecution followed. As stated by Winston Churchill, "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
Although the U.S. bishops rightly express grave concern about the direction President Obama has taken the federal government, and have warned of loss of religious freedom, the bishops need to address also the ever-growing dissent by Catholics, including members of the hierarchy, clergy, and religious orders, as well as the laity, to the moral teachings conveyed by the Church.
How are the bishops to claim this federal mandate is an attack on religious freedom, when they have tolerated such intrinsic evils in their medical facilities for years?
For example, in 2008, Bishop Alvara Corrada of Tyler, Texas, forced two Catholic hospitals to stop performing tubal ligations.
Working on her Ph.D. in church-state studies at Baylor University, Sandra Hapenney requested data from 176 Catholic hospitals that offer obstetric services in California, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Washington. From her research, she documents that over half of these institutions perform female sterilizations, performing over 20,000 sterilizations in three years the study covered, reports LifeSiteNews.com. Hapenney points out the obvious, that Catholic hospitals performing voluntary sterilization may threaten their ability to refuse to do so if forced.
I am sure a number of you readers can relate stories of those in the Church, including religious and paid employees, who have not only dissented from the teachings of the Church, but have "persecuted" anyone who would dare dissent from their dissent.
As reported by LifeSiteNews.com, in response to her study that female sterilizations are being conducted in many Catholic hospitals, Fred Caesar of the Catholic Hospital Association wrote: "We put no credence in the study," stating that the report contains unspecified "gross errors." However, when challenged to specify these "gross errors," he was unable to point to any specific error. (Remember Sr. Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, was a key supporter of Obamacare, ignoring the bishops' direct opposition to the abortion-expanding law.)
“I don’t understand the harsh criticism of Dr. Hapenney’s work, since you would think that Catholic healthcare professionals would welcome her research as an opportunity to remedy whatever problems they may have inadvertently missed over the years,” states Dr. Francis J. Beckwith, her faculty advisor, reports LifeSiteNews.com.
If religious persecution does come to the United States, could it be that God, as He has done so often in the past, allows a persecution to take place in order to reform His Church? As so often happens in Church history, as the Church grows weak, its enemies grow bolder.
In order to save souls, and in order to avoid needless suffering brought on by acts of intrinsic evil, the bishops, clergy, religious orders, and the laity, through their religious schools, medical facilities, and agencies, should use this opportunity to clearly teach that artificial contraception always is a grave evil, and the practice of it not only destroys a person’s spiritual life, but does great harm in their personal life and in society.
Although numerous polls differ in their results on how many Catholic women have taken the birth control pill, one thing is clear: Many Catholic women do take the birth control pill. When is the last time you have heard preached from the altar or read in a Church bulletin or a diocesan-owned newspaper that the standard birth control pill is in fact an abortifacient, since it impedes the implantation of the newly conceived child in the mother’s womb?
If those who desire to be Catholic do not adhere to the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, it will be hard to oppose the federal government’s dictating what the Catholic Church and its institutions will have to fund.
The struggle for religious freedom will not succeed unless the Church clearly, consistently, and unapologetically teaches God’s moral truths, from which true freedom springs.
"If we obey the commands that God has given us, He will make us more than we ever dreamed possible." So says Willie Aames, former child star on "Eight Is Enough." He became a superhero called BibleMan in the series and in "BibleMan Live" performances.
"My own life is an example there, I think," he explains, having succumbed to the Hollywood lifestyle. "I think certainly there are plenty of Bible characters you can see that in. David would be one. Moses would be another one."
"I love You, O Lord, my strength; O Lord, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer!" (Ps 18:2-3)
"What God really wants is for us to obey Him. First He wants us to love Him, because I don't think you can obey anyone you don't love. The word 'obey' has taken on such a negative connotation that we wanted to let people know [in "Breaking the Bonds of Disobedience"] that when we obey people it's a sign that we love them."
Tracy Henao plays Lia Martinez playing BibleGirl in a "BibleMan Live" performance in this story within a story. Her character chooses to obey God rather than her own desires for a career on Broadway.
"I've always known," Henao says, "that God was preparing me for His work, but I must say that the exact direction of His plan was unexpected."
The videos and performances have many kid-friendly elements. The DVDs feature bloopers, deleted scenes, and a video game based on "A Fight for Faith." There are talking computers, light sabers, and other familiar science fictional gadgetry complete with technobabble. There is Bible Cave under Eaglegate manor where the heroes pray and a transporter-like Bible chamber where the armor of God from Ephesians 6:11 is put on.
It doesn't take itself too seriously, and especially not the foolish villains. The exception is when the Bible Trio, BibleMan, BibleGirl, and BibleBoy, fight evil by referencing Bible verses. Then the villain sometimes misapplies Bible verses.
When the villain in "Jesus Our Savior" misapplies a quote from Ecclesiastes, for example, BibleMan counters with another quote from Ecclesiastes. A quote from the prophet Amos is countered with another from Ephesians in the New Testament.
Although purposely childish and entertaining, this could provide an opening to getting parents and children to discuss how Scripture can apply to their own lives. Playing together with the action figures or the video game could get them to use Scripture in their play with each other. Although "Miles Peterson," the original BibleMan was replaced by Robert T. Schlipp's "Josh Carpenter," Aames says, "this is want He wants. It's awesome. I don't know where He's going to take it, but God is building this thing. We've been called and He has blessed."
Another DVD series also intended for kids, but with less emphasis on the Bible and more on fantastic animation, is called "Angel Wars." Extra features, however, do include the usual commentaries and music videos, as well as an interactive "How to Draw Angel Wars." Chris Waters compares his creation to C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. "Someone who isn't a Christian can still appreciate the struggle and not feel like they are being preached to or being smacked over their head."
Michael leads other Angels in a futuristic world with hovercars and a moonbase to guard us Humans against the fallen Angels. The Humans re realistically portrayed as unaware of the great battle going on about them, as when a boy steals from a candy store, while a battle rages.
These Angels or Anawim also fight evil with cool armor and weapons, music videos, and action figures. There is even a board game and Redemption collector cards. There are also, however, interactive Bible studies for kids, at least in the later DVDs in the series.
The episode "Grace and Glory" deals with the theme of obedience when Morgan steals one of the Foundation Stones and becomes the demon Morg, the Angel of Death. Michael almost forgets that Morgan is his brother angel in the fight, but then gives Morgan one last chance to come back into God's family. He wouldn't give up his pride and literally falls from grace into the pit of hell.
The accompanying Bible study draws lessons from the Old and New Testaments and asks viewers to apply them to their own lives. The full length DVD, "The Messengers," is based on Michael's role in the book of Daniel.
(Editor's note: This month we're printing poems from two prisoners who write from Georgia. We welcome contributions from prisoners. We would like to hear from a variety of prisoners.)
When nobody else is around
His spirit is easily found.
When help is what you're looking for,
all you have to do is pray and look no more.
You may not be able to see His face,
but His presence surrounds this place.
When there's nowhere else to go,
His answer for help will never be no.
He's always there no matter how many times you walk away,
He will never leave your side, He's there to stay.
Open up your heart and let Him inside you,
this is one love that's surely true.
I have a place that's all my own.
My little secret where I'm all alone.
It's where I go to hide my fears.
Where no one can hear or see my tears.
Where I can talk to my Father Who's worlds away.
He takes my hand when alone I pray.
Surrounded by people who just don't care.
It's where I go when I can't leave here.
This special place that's known by few.
Jesus Christ, this place is with You.
WASHINGTON—Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York voiced dismay in the Administration's handling of the church as the White House and the church seek to work out religious freedom problems found in a mandate in the new health care reform bill.
The mandate drew church ire when it required that all employers, including religious ones, pay for contraceptives – including abortifacients – and sterilization for employees despite church teaching against them.
He also promised to provide educational materials to parishes and to pursue legislative and judicial efforts to restore respect for religious freedom in the nation.
The letter can be found at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Dolan-to-all-bishops-HHS.pdf.
Given church concerns about religious freedom, Cardinal Dolan wrote, "the President invited us to 'work out the wrinkles.' We have accepted that invitation. Unfortunately, this seems to be stalled: the White House Press Secretary, for instance, informed the nation that the mandates are a fait accompli (and, embarrassingly for him, commented that we bishops have always opposed Health Care anyway, a charge that is scurrilous and insulting, not to mention flat out wrong.)"
Cardinal Dolan also said that "The White House already notified Congress that the dreaded mandates are now published in the Federal Registry 'without change.' " He added that "The Secretary of HHS is widely quoted as saying, 'Religious insurance companies don't really design the plans they sell based on their own religious tenets.' That doesn't bode well for their getting a truly acceptable 'accommodation.'"
Cardinal Dolan also described a recent meeting at the White House between bishops' conference staff and White House staff, and said "our staff members asked directly whether the broader concerns of religious freedom—that is, revisiting the straight-jacketing mandates, or broadening the maligned exemption—are all off the table. They were informed that they are. So much for 'working out the wrinkles.' Instead, they advised the bishops' conference that we should listen to the 'enlightened' voices of accommodation, such as the recent, hardly surprising yet terribly unfortunate editorial in America."
"The White House seems to think we bishops simply do not know or understand Catholic teaching and so, taking a cue from its own definition of religious freedom, now has nominated its own handpicked official Catholic teachers."
(Source: USCCB press release)
WASHINGTON—Congress should base decisions on the federal budget on whether they protect or threaten human life and dignity, whether they put the needs of the hungry, the homeless, and the unemployed first, and whether they reflect the shared responsibility of government and other institutions to promote the common good of all, especially "workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times," said the two U.S. bishops who lead the justice and peace efforts of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
"In the past year, Congress and the Administration have taken significant action to reduce the federal deficit, while attempting to protect programs that serve poor and vulnerable people," wrote Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, and Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, in a March 6 letter. "Congress will continue to face difficult choices about how to allocate burdens and sacrifices and balance resources and needs. We fear the pressure to cut vital programs that protect the lives and dignity of the poor and vulnerable will increase. As Catholic bishops, we have tried to remind Congress that these choices are economic, political, and moral."
Bishop Blaire and Bishop Pates chair the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and the Committee on International Justice and Peace, respectively.
The bishops voiced support for moves to strengthen programs that help the poor and vulnerable, such as Pell Grants and improved workforce training and development. They also opposed moves negatively impacting poor families such as increasing the minimum rent that can be charged to families receiving housing assistance and a proposal to eliminate funding for the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program. The bishops also made the case for protecting programs that help the poor internationally.
"As pastors, we see every day the human consequences of budget choices. Our Catholic community defends the unborn, feeds the hungry, shelters the homeless, educates the young, and cares for the sick, both at home and abroad. We help poor families rise above crushing poverty, resettle refugees fleeing conflict and persecution, and reach out to communities devastated by wars, natural disasters, and famines," the bishops wrote. "The moral measure of this budget debate is not which party wins or which powerful interests prevail, but rather how those who are jobless, hungry, homeless, or poor are treated. Their voices are too often missing in these debates, but they have the most compelling moral claim on our consciences and our common resources."
(Source: USCCB press release)
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