Archive for February, 2013

BROTHERS-VOCATION Feb-21-2013 (1,140 words) Backgrounder. With photos
posted Feb. 21 and graphic to come. xxxn

Beth Griffin
Catholic News Service

(CNS) — Religious brothers say they are an invisible group in the church, but
that it’s not such a bad thing because it allows them the freedom to be ordinary
men performing an extraordinary ministry.

That’s the view of brothers and other participants at a think tank convened last fall to examine their vocation.

“Our vocation is one of the church’s best-kept secrets,” Holy Cross Brother Paul Bednarczyk, executive director the National Religious Vocation Conference, told Catholic News Service. “We are vowed religious who commit ourselves to a particular ministry, live in community and share prayers.

“We are not part of the hierarchy of the church, which gives us more freedom in ministry to respond to those most in need. Our vocation complements the religious priesthood,” he said.

The number of religious brothers in the United States fell from 12,271 in 1965 to 4,477 in 2012, according to statistics compiled by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. More than half are at, or close to, retirement age.

A steady decline in the number of brothers and a persistent need for the witness to
dedicated discipleship they provide inspired four groups to discuss the future
of the vocation. Seventeen representatives from the Conference of Major
Superiors of Men, the Religious Brothers Conference, the National Religious
Vocation Conference and the Religious Formation Conference convened Nov. 29 and
30 at the Ossining headquarters of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.

Brothers are laymen who take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They belong to communities comprised of brothers only or of both brothers and priests. Religious brothers are dedicated to the particular charism of their community, expressed in service and prayer.

By tradition, some work in schools, hospitals and parishes. Others are monastics. The brotherhood is a distinct vocation, not a step on the route to priesthood.

The think tank affirmed the brotherhood as the heart of male religious life and examined ways to promote it as a serious vocational option for young men. The group will meet again May 14 and 15.

Brother Bednarczyk said the brothers in his community, Congregation of Holy Cross, “share a communion of vocation with the priests and each is more complete because of the presence of both within the religious institute.”

“This vocation is vital to the church. Brothers have contributed significantly to the development of the church in the United States, in ministry and as consecrated men, by giving of ourselves to humanity and to God,” Brother Bednarczyk said.

Think tank participants acknowledged many Catholics are unfamiliar with the role of brothers in the church and are unclear about the value of religious communities.

“The religious work with others to give common witness to Christian values,” said
Capuchin Father John Pavlik, executive director of the Conference of Major
Superiors of Men. The diminished opportunities for community religious life
underscore the sense that “we are all working as independent operators” and
lessen the impact of collective witness, he said.

“Every religious community says something appropriate for the times,” said Christian Brother Robert Berger, associate professor of religious studies at Manhattan College in Riverdale. Brother Berger, who did not participate in the think tank, said the charism of some religious communities can be distilled to an individual word.

“For the Benedictines, it’s stability; the Franciscans, poverty; Christian Brothers, education; Trappists, silence; Dominicans, preaching. Since the Second Vatican Council, the gift has taken a new form, but is still vital to the church,” he said.

Manhattan College was founded by the De La Salle Christian Brothers. Brother Berger said although there are more Lasallian schools, with more students now than there were at the opening of Vatican II, the focus is now on the teaching charism, not on the brothers who live it.

“At educational institutions themselves, there is a responsibility on the laypeople’s part to struggle to understand what the identity of the Catholic school means,” Brother Berger said. “They may look to the religious order for guidance, but it’s up to them” to promote and sustain it.

Brother Berger said men considering a religious vocation today “are joining a seed, rather than a large plant,” but are attracted to the communal life and worship and the timeless values they promote. “The technology and speed of the way things are
done in the 21st century are countercultural to a group of men who pray over
psalms that are 3,000 years old,” he said.

Brother Berger said parents who once encouraged their sons to become Christian Brothers considered them extraordinary men doing an ordinary ministry. “Now we’ll be seen as ordinary men who do an extraordinary ministry,” he said.

The brotherhood offers an opportunity to be present to young people in a way married men and priests cannot, Brother Berger said. “I teach at Manhattan, but am also in charge of a residence hall. How many 61-year-old men are living with 263 undergraduates? It’s a gift of brotherhood that we’re with young people and not with the trappings of a parish structure.”

“The sense of freedom has been phenomenal,” Brother Berger said. “To be working with young people who will be the church of the 21st century is exciting. I get glimpses, but I have no idea how the spirit will work.”

Think tank participants said to promote interest in the brotherhood, religious communities should honor the distinct vocation, enhance its visibility in the church, reinforce the identity of brothers and make them more accessible to young people.

“There is nothing so unique that brothers do in the church that others cannot do,” Brother Bednarczyk said. “But the heart of our life is our communal life and prayer
life, which is not always visible to people. It’s a challenge to make that
hidden part visible to a world that craves community.”

He said people drawn to religious life are “seeking a balance of prayer, community and ministry.”

Marianist Brother Steve Glodek, director of the office of formation for mission for the U.S. province of the Society of Mary, said brothers are somewhat invisible in church circles and “not generally under the same ecclesiastical microscope” as priests. While this does not allow them to “do more or less” than others, Brother Glodek said the lessened scrutiny allows brothers to focus “our vocation in this community we love.”

“We’re not a threat to anything unless we get into the issue of jurisdiction,” he said. With few exceptions, canon law prevents laypeople from being major superiors of
religious orders. Because brothers are considered laymen, “the governance issue
raises hackles,” Brother Glodek said.

He said the downside to invisibility is “as our institutional presence diminishes a bit, so does people’s familiarity with what we do and why. Even people going through a
university that oozes our spirituality and charism don’t have the interaction
with brothers they would have in the past.”

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Published on Jan  9, 2013

Filmed at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land, Texas.

Published on May  7, 2012

+J.M.J.+ This is the full version of our 10 min. video which was originally uploaded on Sep 28, 2010.
A simple video on how to serve the Traditional Latin(Low) Mass. With the permission of Father Michael Rodriguez, some of the young men in the parish of San Juan Bautista Catholic Church, located in El Paso,Texas, got together to make a training video for those interested in serving a Low Mass. Mr. Thomas Drake acted out the part of the priest. There are a few slight imperfections,but the young men did their best. All for the love of God, and the salvation of souls ! Let us pray for the men who were formed in this parish under the guidance of Fr. Michael Rodriguez, and who have joined the Holy Priesthood, and for those who may in the future. Pray for vocations! Deo grátias!

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BENEDICT-VATII Feb-20-2013 (850 words) Analysis. With photo. xxxi

Pope Benedict XVI speaks during an audience with priests of the Diocese of Rome in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Feb. 14. One of the major themes of his pontificate was promoting a better understanding of the Second Vatican Council. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Francis X. Rocca Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — On Feb. 14, in one of the last public appearances of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to the clergy of Rome about his experiences at the Second Vatican Council, which he had attended as an expert consultant half a century before.
The pope praised some of the council’s achievements, including its teachings on the interpretation of Scripture, religious freedom and relations with non-Christian religions. But he also lamented what he described as widespread distortions of the council’s teachings. The news media, he said, had presented the council to most of the world as a political struggle for “popular sovereignty” in the church.
This “council of the media” was responsible for “many calamities, so many problems, so much misery,” the pope said. “Seminaries closed, convents closed, liturgy trivialized.”
With that speech, Pope Benedict returned to one of the major themes of his pontificate. During his first year as pope, he had explained in a landmark speech that Vatican II could be properly understood only in continuity with the church’s millennial traditions, not as a radical break with the past. He went on to devote much of his papacy to promoting this understanding of the council’s teachings.
Under Pope Benedict, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, which as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger he had headed for almost 24 years, continued to censure or criticize theologians whose writings, often invoking the spirit if not the letter of Vatican II documents, deviated from orthodoxy in areas that included sexual morality, the mystery of the incarnation and the possibility of salvation without Christ.
The congregation also issued documents asserting that the Catholic Church is the one true “church of Christ” and that missionaries have a duty preach the Gospel as well as provide charitable assistance to the needy. Both documents, the Vatican said, were necessary to correct misunderstandings of the teachings of Vatican II.
Pope Benedict presided over two major Vatican investigations of women religious in the United States, responding to diminishing numbers and reported deviations from doctrine and discipline in the decades since the council. One of the investigations led to an order of reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, intended to ensure the group’s commitment to Catholic teaching in areas including abortion, euthanasia, women’s ordination and homosexuality.
The pope also tried to correct what he considered overly expansive notions of interreligious dialogue that had blossomed after Vatican II, which he feared could lead to relativism or syncretism. In October 2011, at the 25th-anniversary commemoration of the World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, Italy, there was no public multireligious prayer of the kind that had distinguished the original event, which then-Cardinal Ratzinger had criticized at the time. Pope Benedict also added agnostic “seekers of the truth” to the guest list, further diluting the interreligious character of the event.
A lifelong teacher, Pope Benedict naturally made Vatican II’s continuity with tradition a recurrent theme in his homilies, catechetical talks, papal documents and even in his personal writings, addressing the topic in the first of his best-selling “Jesus of Nazareth” books.
This pedagogical project culminated in the current Year of Faith, which opened Oct. 11, the 50th anniversary of the council.
“The council did not formulate anything new in matters of faith, nor did it wish to replace what was ancient,” the pope told the congregation at Mass that day in St. Peter’s Square. “Rather, it concerned itself with seeing that the same faith might continue to be lived in the present day, that it might remain a living faith in a world of change.”
For most Catholics, the pope conveyed this lesson most clearly through worship. Following the exuberant and colorful celebrations that had marked the papacy of Blessed John Paul, especially at World Youth Days and on other international trips, papal Masses under his successor became more solemn. Pope Benedict encouraged the use of Gregorian chant and the practice of eucharistic adoration, one of the traditional devotions that had fallen largely out of use in the wake of Vatican II.
Most dramatically, Pope Benedict lifted most restrictions on the Tridentine Mass, which had practically disappeared in the post-conciliar reform of the liturgy. He explicitly intended the move to promote reconciliation with the disaffected traditionalists of the Society of St. Pius X, whom he later offered the status of a personal prelature if they would return to full communion with Rome, an effort that did not bear fruit in his pontificate. Yet Pope Benedict also expressed the hope that celebration of the Tridentine Mass would encourage a more reverent celebration of the new Mass, helping to bring out the latter’s “sacrality,” “spiritual richness” and “theological depth.”
If Pope Benedict’s service to the liturgical tradition should emerge as one of his major legacies as pope, he would no doubt be content. As he told the priests of Rome three days after announcing his resignation: “I find now, looking back, that it was a very good idea (for Vatican II) to begin with the liturgy, because in this way the primacy of God could appear, the primacy of adoration.”

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Catholic News Agency (CNA)

February 20, 2013

 Madrid, Spain, Feb 18, 2013 / 12:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News)

A woman who helped cook for the Pope during his visit to Spain in 2011 said the Holy Father looked at those who prepared his meal the way that she looks at her children.

During Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Madrid for World Youth Day, a group of teachers from the Fuenllana School prepared lunch for him.

Diana Cabrera, a mother of three, teacher and host of a cooking show on Spanish television, was among those who helped cook for the Holy Father at the request of Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid.

Cabrera affectionately recalls the encounter with the Pope and said that what most impressed her was “how detached and humble he was, always attentive to others, looking at them in the same way that I look at my children.”

“He was continuously observing and attentive to all the details and all the people that were around him,” she explained in a press release from the education center. “I saw that he cared for them, he seemed to rise above to the spiritual level of those who were around him and those of us who were serving him.”

“I could tell by how he looked that he realized how excited we were to be working for him,” she continued. “I was amazed that despite the fatigue and the hot temperatures that day in Madrid, (the Pope) was attentive to others.”

Cabrera described the Holy Father as “the most important person I have ever served” and said that to see him was to “see a very spiritual person” who was filled with immense peace.

She explained that the spirituality, joy and humility the Pope conveyed “both with his presence and with his gaze” impressed her greatly.

Although she was initially very nervous about the lunch, Cabrera recalled that once Pope Benedict arrived, her “nerves were gone, because he conveyed such peace that he made you feel like you were with someone from your family.”
After lunch, the Pope “unexpectedly got up and came towards us and told us in Italian: ‘That was the best meal of my life, the food was so beautifully prepared, and that beauty leads to God,’” she said.

The menu that day featured salmorejo (a Spanish soup made with olive oil, vinegar and tomatoes), veal with vegetables and a dessert of lemon sorbet and jello.

The director of communications at Fuenllana, Carmen Calvo, told CNA on Feb.15 that wine was offered to the Holy Father, but he declined and preferred to drink orange juice. He asked for a copy of the menu to have as a memento, Calvo said.

All of the items used to prepare the lunch were donated by supporters of the school, and nearly 40 volunteers – including cooks and waiters – served the Pope and his entourage of approximately 60 people.

The school’s principal gave the Holy Father a donation of nearly $6000 to help pay the expenses of a new vocation to the seminary resulting from World Youth Day 2011. She also gave him a photo album about the school and a small statue of Our Lady of Fuenllana.

Cabrera said that after the experience, “I resolved to spread that joy and happiness that I saw in the Holy Father to those around me, and I know as a Catholic that that is precisely what our faith teaches.”


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Catholic News Agency (CNA)

February 18, 2013

CNA STAFF, Feb 18, 2013 / 04:01 pm (CNA)

A priest who was conceived in rape when his mother was only 13 years old is sharing the story of how he met, forgave and heard the confession of his father, who is now living a life of faith.

“I could have ended up in a trash can, but I was allowed to live,” said Father Luis Alfredo Leon Armijos of Loja, Ecuador.

In a Feb. 6 telephone interview with CNA, Fr. Leon, who is pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Loja, said his mother, Maria Eugenia Armijos Romero, was working as a maid to help her parents support their eight children.

“The owner of the home took advantage of her working alone, raped her and left her pregnant,” he said.

His mother always defended his life, even though she was young and alone, without the support of her family members, who tried to cause an abortion by giving her concoctions to drink and punching her stomach.

“She prayed and felt that the Lord was saying to her in her heart: defend that child that is in you,” Fr. Leon recalled.

The young girl ran away to the city of Cuenca, where she managed to survive on her own. On Oct. 10, 1961, she gave birth to Luis Alfredo.

A short time later, with the help of the baby’s father, she returned to Loja to begin a life as a single mother.

“She ended up under the care of her rapist – my father – who acknowledged I was his and said he would take care of me,” Fr. Leon said, “but that doesn’t mean that things between them were healthy.”

He went on to recount how his father “always visited our home and fulfilled his duty to us. They had three more children, and my relationship with him was distant but pleasant. I respected him a lot, he instilled a sense of authority in me, he was tough with me and he took me to work.”

Fr. Leon encountered Christ through an invitation to the Charismatic Renewal at age 16 and began preaching and teaching catechism “wherever God put me,” whether on the bus or with young people in juvenile detention.

At 18, he felt a call to the priesthood and entered the seminary despite the opposition of his father. He was ordained at the age of 23 with special permission from the bishop.

Two years later, he joined the Neocatechumenal Way, and his mother revealed to him how his birth came about. She had ended her relationship with his father, and this marked the beginning of a journey of reconciliation for them both. Fr. Leon helped his mother understand that she could not hate his father and dealt with his own need to forgive as well.

“God allowed me to be a priest not to judge but to forgive, to be an instrument of his mercy, and I had judged my father a lot,” he said.

Years later, he received a call from his father, who was about to undergo surgery and was afraid. He asked his son to hear his confession and returned to his faith after 30 years of being away from the Eucharist.

“I told him: Dad, you deserve heaven, eternal life,” Fr. Leon said, and “at that moment my father broke down in tears.”

When Fr. Leon preaches to pregnant women undergoing difficulties, he reminds them that just like Jeremiah, God formed their children in the womb as well.

He encourages children to learn how “to see things from the perspective of God’s love” as they come to know their own life story.

“If you are a child or a single mother, you should see how God our Father has cared for you in your life,” he added.

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VATICAN LETTER Feb-8-2013 (680 words) Backgrounder. With photos. xxxi
Theologian: American youth a ravaged but promising mission field

Pia de Solenni (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Francis X. Rocca Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In sexual morality, family life and education, the Baby Boom generation ushered in a series of cultural changes that led to an “anthropological crisis” in American society, leaving younger generations yearning acutely for what the Catholic Church has to offer.
That is the assessment of Pia de Solenni, a Seattle-based writer with theology degrees from two Vatican-chartered universities, who now serves as a consultant to the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas. She spoke with Catholic News Service in Rome while participating in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture, which met in early February to address the theme of “emerging youth cultures.”
The sexual revolution, promoted by mass media and facilitated by abortion and contraception, led to a breakdown of the family, so that an estimated 40 percent of births in the U.S. today are to single mothers, de Solenni said.
“There is something missing there, in terms of a father for the child, the security of knowing that your mother and father love each other,” she said.
Lacking complete or stable families, many raised since the 1970s have failed to develop the capacity for strong and intimate relationships, de Solenni said. They have also failed to receive religious education in the home, which the church teaches should be the primary site of such instruction.
Yet the ethos of promiscuity is losing its luster for the young, de Solenni said, pointing to evidence from popular culture. In the last decade the television series “Sex and the City” portrayed a libertine lifestyle as a glamorous option for women, she said, but the current hit “Girls” highlights the anomie and alienation that such behavior produces.
“It’s a very gritty, almost depressing portrayal,” de Solenni said. “I honestly don’t think that’s what women want, or what most young women want. I think people do that because they think that’s what you’re supposed to do.”
Younger Americans today are also suffering effects of the ideology of inflated self-esteem that prevailed for decades in their schools, she said, since such education is poor preparation for the harsher tests of adult life.
More recently, Solenni said, advances in technology have made possible what she calls the “iWorld,” in which one can adjust one’s environment to taste, in every respect from climate control to entertainment, facilitating an increasingly disconnected society of “atomistic selves.”
As discouraging a picture as she paints of the American socio-cultural landscape, de Solenni insists that all this represents a momentous opportunity for Catholic evangelization.
Young Americans are hungering for the sorts of relationships, love and intimacy that they can best find in the church, she said, as well as for the personal dignity that Catholic moral teaching ensures.
“One woman in particular told me that it wasn’t till she met her husband, who is a Christian, that she had any sense that she could not have sex on a date,” de Solenni said. “She thought it was something you were supposed to do.”
The church’s social teaching is also eminently suited to addressing the nation’s current economic woes, she said, which are largely the consequence of the previous generation squandering young Americans’ future.
“I think it would be a great opportunity for the church to step up on the side of youth and to talk about the injustice, and also to give a plan for going forward, because clearly we need something different,” she said.
De Solenni stressed that evangelization must be serious, with an emphasis on authentic doctrine and prayer, to be effective.
She praised the work of college ministries, particularly through the Fellowship of Catholic University Students and various Newman Centers, as well as youth groups in parishes across the country.
Such groups, she said, provide an experience of community in which faith naturally thrives.
“The Trinity is relationships of love,” de Solenni said. “Helping people to experience that on a natural level helps them to understand it on a supernatural level. If we don’t understand intimacy and relationships on a natural level, it’s almost impossible to understand (them) on a supernatural level.”
– – –
Editors: Videos featuring de Solenni can be found at http://youtu.be/VovgYzJSMow and http://youtu.be/OXB8m2SWsD8.

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Catholic News Agency (CNA)

February 6, 2013

Rev. Robert W. Oliver and Fr. Hans Zollner, SJ, at the Pontifical Gregorian University Feb. 5, 2013. Credit: PUG-P.PEGORARO.

Rome, Italy, Feb 6, 2013 / 05:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News) –  Father Robert Oliver, the Vatican’s new person responsible for investigating cases of clerical sex abuse, says that over three-quarters of the world’s bishops conferences have developed guidelines for cases of alleged abuse.

At the same time, Fr. Oliver recalled that Pope Benedict XVI asked “all institutions, without exception…to comply with standards in the protection of children and young people.”

The project of requiring every bishops’ conference to create guidelines for responding to abuse allegations began with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issuing a circular letter to the world’s 112 episcopal conferences in May 2011.

Although Fr. Oliver only began his job on Feb. 1, he delivered remarks to a Feb. 5 conference that was held at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, under the title “Toward Healing and Renewal.”

He reported that of the 112 conferences “more than three-quarters” have sent or are close to sending their responses to the doctrine office.

The highest response rates were from South America, North America, Oceania and Europe. The remaining conferences are working with the Vatican’s doctrine department to complete the process.

The circular letter called for attention to five areas in developing guidelines: assistance to victims of sexual abuse; child protection; the formation of future priests and religious; support for the priests accused of or found guilty of abuse; and collaboration with civil authorities.

Fr. Oliver also made some general observations about the drafts the doctrine congregation has already received.

He noted that the personal example of the Pope in meeting with sex abuse victims and listening to their pain with compassion “is having a great effect.”

In his previous post in the Boston archdiocese, Fr. Oliver said that he heard from victims about the harm inflicted on them, and he also heard about the sense of alienation and abandonment that priests felt in the wake of scandals.

In addition to the conferences’ guidelines, the Gregorian-based Center for Child Protection is running an online training module to promote the prevention of the sexual abuse of minors.

Both Fr. Oliver and Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, who also presented at the conference, agreed that responding to sexual abuse and protecting children require a sustained and concerted effort on the part of the Church.

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