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The Gospel Meets the World

Untitled-1Jesus was a man of his time and culture. He was a peasant Jew growing up, working, and ministering for most of his life in Galilee, in northern Judea. After the death of Joseph, he grew up in a single-parent household and earned his living as a tradesman, a carpenter.

When he looked around him he saw farmers sowing their seeds and harvesting their crops, shepherds tending their flocks, and fishermen on the Sea of Galilee hauling in their catch or mending their nets on the seashore.

He saw neighbors crushed by poverty, resentful of the heavy Roman taxes. He witnessed the difficult life of widows – like his own mother – and of orphans. He saw up close and at first hand the loss and sorrow caused by death and hopelessness. The flint hard life of peasants found occasional release in joyous, no-holds-barred wedding feasts or in the birth of a child.

When he was about thirty (Luke 3:23), he took to the road, preaching that the Kingdom of God was at hand and announcing the good news (gospel) of God’s gracious favor. As he moved among the villages and hamlets of Galilee, he addressed people who came from the same background as he did. He spoke to them using the language, images, and experiences they shared in common. He spoke about farmers: the one who went out to sow his seed; the one who was concerned about weeds in his crop of wheat; and the one who needed a bigger barn for his abundant harvest.

Read more: The Gospel Meets the World

Pope Francis’s Pectoral Cross

Untitled-1Pope Francis (on left) with his pectoral cross;
(on right) a close-up of his pectoral cross.
You may have noticed a bishop’s or pope’s pectoral cross at one time or another. The words “pectoral” means “on the chest”, which is precisely how it is used by bishops, abbots, cardinals and popes. It is odd to realize that the pectoral cross with its accompanying chain was worn in ancient and medieval times not only by clergy but also by laity as well. However by the end of the Medieval period this insignia was only worn by bishops and other high-ranking Church officials.

Today the pectoral cross is much larger than the crosses worn by many Christians. Its design can be a crucifix – that is, a cross with a corpus (the body of Jesus); other designs include more stylized designs and symbols. Generally it hangs from the neck and is worn in the center of the chest below the heart (as opposed to just below the collarbones) and can even contain relics of a saint.

The Cross of Pope Francis

The maker of Pope Francis’s Pectoral Crossgives the following explanation:

“The copyrighted original version of Pope Francis Pectoral Cross was created by the Italian craftsmen Antonio Vedele. The cross is also, know as the Papa Francesco Cross or Papa Francisco Cross.

“The beauty of the cross is the meaning and simplicity it depicts: Christ the Good Shepherd leading the flock and carries the lost sheep on his shoulders. On the top of the cross is depicted the Holy Spirit. The cross is beautiful highly detailed silver oxidized die cast and is made in Italy.

Read more: Pope Francis’s Pectoral Cross

Married Catholic Priests and Vocations

Untitled-1Catholic priest, Fr. Dwight Longenecker, with his wife and children; he was a married former Anglican clergyman and serves in a Catholic parish in Greenville, NC.Married priests? I am one. As a former Anglican minister, I have been ordained as a Catholic priest under a special measure called the Pastoral Provision. Through this process a married man who has been ordained in the Anglican (and sometimes Lutheran and Methodist churches) is granted a dispensation from the vow of celibacy in order to be ordained as a Catholic priest.

Therefore I am frequently asked, “Father, you are so good with the children, and you understand marriage first hand. Don’t you think the church should allow priests to marry?” First of all there are some distinctions to be made. Celibacy for priests is a discipline of the church, not a doctrine. That is why exceptions can be made and the rule could be changed.

The dangers and challenges of changing the Church's discipline

However, if it is changed that doesn’t mean that (all) priests can be married. The Church continues to uphold the fine and ancient tradition of priestly celibacy and a priest has taken a vow of celibacy which is life-long and cannot be broken.

Read more: Married Catholic Priests and Vocations

She Whom God Called "Mother"

Untitled-1Madonna of the Streets (or Madonnina, "Little Mother") by Roberto Ferruzzi (1854-1934)It is beautiful, it is worthy and beneficial to discourse at length on the title of the Blessed Virgin - the Immaculate Conception, the Divine Motherhood, Assumption, Mediation, Co-Redemptrix - if never forget that this Great Woman of all ages, called “blessed”, was also the lovely girl that her friends simply called Mary.

Mary – A Most Special Little Girl


We knew who she was, but, then again, we don’t know. We knew she was the only daughter of an old couple loved by Anne and Joachim and their neighbors. With them the small town of Nazareth certainly had jumped for joy the day their little girl was born.

Mary being their first-born, it may have appeared to them that God was not favoring them since being childless was seen as an infamous curse. Yet no doubt Anne and Joachim frequently engaged in fasting and praying, hoping, even in their old age, that God would finally bless them with new life.

We can imagine that God, since the very creation of the world, had sat down to think with more delicacy and attention before God created that very special soul – in many ways so special. Then, having completed this masterpiece, God resolved never again to create any similar person because, after all, God was creating the soul of the mother of God’s only Son. 

Read more: She Whom God Called "Mother"

Immigration Myths

Untitled-1Impressions can be dangerous, especially if they are unfounded. Here are some common myths about immigration which every Catholic should know and which you may find interesting.

 

MYTH: Immigrants increase the Crime Rate

 

FACT: Recent research has shown that immigrant communities do not increase the crime rate and that newly arriving immigrants tend to commit fewer crimes than native born Americans. Ruben Rumbaut, a professor of sociology at Brandeis University, found that “even as the undocumented population has doubled to 12 million since 1994, the violent crime rate in the United States has declined 34.2 percent and the property crime rate has fallen 26.4 percent.”

 

Cities where there are high levels of immigrants, such as New York, Chicago and Miami experienced declines in violent crime during this period. Other cities with numerous immigrants, such as El Paso and Laredo, are among the country’s safest cities to live in.


Untitled-2(Source: Immigration Policy Center, “Immigrants and Crime: Are They Connected,” December, 2007, Ruben Rumbaut and Walter Ewing, The Myth of Immigrant Criminality and the Paradox of Assimilation (Washington, DC: American Immigration Law Foundation, 2007); Radley Balko, “The El Paso Miracle,” ReasonOnline, July 6, 2009,

MYTH: Immigrants Don’t Pay Taxes

 

Read more: Immigration Myths

New Martyrs of the Twentieth Century

Untitled-1Basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Tiber Island, one of the first inhabited areas of the ancient city of Rome. Often we hear about the martyrs and perhaps we think of the early Christian martyrs and the persecutions by the Roman emperors such as Nero from 64-68 AD. Of course, the persecution of Christians has continued through the Middle Ages up to this present day.

New Christian Martyrs


From wikipedia we learn about the background of the new display: “In 1999, anticipating the celebration of the Jubilee 2000, Pope John Paul II created a Commission to the study the life and history of the New Christian Martyrs of the 20th Century. For two years the Commission worked in the Basilica of St. Bartholomew, collecting approximately 12,000 dossiers on martyrs and witnesses of faith from dioceses all around the world.


“Among the fruits of this study was the ecumenical prayer at the Coliseum, when the Pope gathered with several representatives of various Christian Churches during the Jubilee celebrations. The event revealed that the multitude of Christian believers killed or persecuted in the last century is like a continent still waiting to be explored, a heritage that all Christian denominations share.

Read more: New Martyrs of the Twentieth Century

The Nun Study

Untitled-1Rev. Myles N. Sheehan, S.J., M.D.In the first years of the 20th century, Alois Alzheimer, a German neurologist, cared for a middle-aged woman with a marked personality change, characterized by bizarre behavior and memory loss. This woman died about five years after he first met her, years characterized by an inexorable decline to a final stage in which she was bed-bound, required total care and was unable to communicate meaningfully. After her death, Dr. Alzheimer studied the brain of his patient and described the changes in intellect, behavior and brain structure that characterize the disease now known by his name.

Alzheimer’s disease is a particular type of dementia. Dementia, when used as a diagnostic term in medicine, refers to the progressive loss of cognitive function in an individual. Thus dementing illnesses affect memory, language, the ability to recognize and name individuals, sense of direction, personality and other aspects of what it means for us to think and reason.

There are various kinds of dementing illnesses, but Alzheimer’s is by far the most common. (Others include vascular dementia from multiple strokes and very unusual dementias like those caused by mad cow disease.)

Read more: The Nun Study

LIVING IN THE PRESENT MOMENT

Untitled-1As a man approaching my 70s, I have been reflecting on my life as I often look back to the treasured memories of my childhood, my parents, my friends and neighbors of long ago. Their presence lingers still in the warm memories of my youth.

In all of these memories, I have been somewhat puzzled by my initial reaction to my mother’s stoke and her eventually succumbing to Alzheimer's disease. In her healthier days, her warmth, attention and love lifted me up whenever I visited her.

When I eventually visited her in the nursing home and finally realized that she no longer remembered me as her son but merely as a nice man, I was initially crushed and felt so awkward when I visited her. With the onset of her Alzheimer's, my relationship with her changed and, in fact, I changed.

These thoughts and feelings all came to the surface recently when I read an insightful passage from the contemporary spiritual author, Fr. Henri J.M. Nouwen, in his book entitled, “Aging.”

Read more: LIVING IN THE PRESENT MOMENT

Life and Dignity of the Human Person

Most of us would readily state that we are good Catholics. But how much do we know about the powerful area of Catholic Social Teaching. Here is a brief reflection from various sources concerning what we believe about the life and dignity of the human person.

 

From Scripture:

Untitled-1From Paul’s first letter to the Christians of Corinth we hear: “You are holy, for you are God’s temple and God dwells in you. (1 Cor 3:16)”

 

From our Catholic Tradition:

A wonderful document from Vatican II reminds us of the innate dignity of each human person:

“Whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury” (The Church in the Modern World [Gaudium et Spes]), #27.

 

From Pope Francis: 

Read more: Life and Dignity of the Human Person

Common Ground in Caring for Nature

Untitled-1In July, 2008, representatives from the La Salette Missionaries in Attleboro, two conservation organizations and government officials gathered together at the city hall in Attleboro. Why? To celebrate the dedication of 117 acres at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette as a permanent sanctuary for the benefit of people and wildlife – a remarkable achievement that was decades in the making.

The seed for safeguarding this serene landscape was planted more than 25 years ago. While walking La Salette’s property, local landscape designer David Perry met Fr. Richard Delisle, M.S. Perry knew of the property’s history as a medical sanitarium dedicated to the relief of suffering humanity. Perry suggested designing a variety of outdoor gardens on the land for all to enjoy as a way to honor the land’s rich history and the La Salette mission of reconciliation of ourselves to God, and to our neighbor. Fr. Delisle proposed the idea to the local Shrine community. Although the La Salettes were interested, legal and management concerns put the project on hold.

The Seed Sprouts

Fast forward to fall 2005. Fr. Roger Plante, M.S., then director of the retreat house at the La Salette National Shrine, attended a conference sponsored by the Religious Lands Conservancy Project, a joint program of the Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition (MLTC) and the Crystal Spring Center for Earth Living (a project of the Dominican Sisters of Kentucky). Sr. Chris Loughlin, O.P., director of the Crystal Spring Center, spoke about the web of relationships that connect all beings, and how caring for the planet was a priority that could lead to healing within ourselves. Her talk reinforced La Salette’s mission and charism (gift) of reconciliation from the apparition message of Our Lady of La Salette.

Read more: Common Ground in Caring for Nature

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La Salette Missionaries, Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas

Our Community: The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette are deeply rooted in the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette which occurred near the hamlet of La Salette in southeastern France on Sept. 19, 1846. The Missionaries were founded in 1852 by Bp. Philbert de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble, France, and presently serve in some 25 countries.

Our Province: The Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas, was founded in 2000AD and is one of several provinces in the congregation. The members of this Province serve mainly in the countries of Canada, the United States and the Region of Argentina/Bolivia.

Our Mission: Our La Salette ministry of reconciliation responds to the broad vision given by Mary at La Salette as well as in response to the needs of the Church. As reconcilers, we together with the laity take seriously Mary’s mandate: “You will make (Mary’s) message known to all (her) people.”

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