A leading U.S. bishop expressed grave concerns Thursday about a revised health care bill which the House may vote on within days. The bill is an effort replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

“It is deeply disappointing to many Americans that, in modifying the American Health Care Act to again attempt a vote, proponents of the bill left in place its serious flaws, including unacceptable modifications to Medicaid that will endanger coverage and affordability for millions of people, according to reports,” Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, chair of the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee, stated April 27.

Ugly churches with bad acoustics don't do justice to the richness and beauty of the liturgy – and it's this connection between art and faith that's vital for priests to understand today, a Vatican official insists.

Art and Architecture 101

Untitled 1A project to study the training of priests and other cultural workers in the Church in the aesthetics and history of art, especially as it contributes in the creation of religious art fitting for sacred spaces, has been launched by the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture.

Along with the Italian bishops' conference and with support from the Foundation for Arts and Artistic Culture, the project will examine the training leaders of a diocese, such as clergy, religion teachers, catechists and more, receive on the relationship between faith and art. It will also look at what specific training exists for artists in the Church, such as architects, painters, sculptors, and musicians, so that they are equipped to produce works “that fit in places of worship and are in service to the liturgy,” a press release stated.

Pope Francis has wrapped up the second and final day of his visit to Egypt this weekend, April 28-29. This marked his 18th apostolic journey out of Italy and 27th country visited. It also marked the second time that a Pope goes to the north African nation, after the visit of St. Pope John Paul II in 2000.

The Pope was invited to the country by President Abdel-Fattah al Sisi, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar University, Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed al-Tayeb, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, and by the Catholic bishops.

Very Busy Days

As opposed to his first intense day which involved three discourses, including to authorities, an international peace conference at Al Azhar and to Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, along with a common declaration and moments of prayer with the Coptic Pope, Francis’ second day was a bit lighter. It started out with a Mass, for the country’s Catholics who don’t even constitute one percent of the population, followed by lunch, and concluded with addressing clergy and religious.

In his homily at the Mass for Egyptian Catholics in the “Air Defense Stadium,” he recalled that today’s Gospel of the third Sunday of Easter speaks of the journey to Emmaus of the two disciples who set out from Jerusalem. The Jesuit Pope explained the account can be summed up in three words: death, resurrection and life. He also reminded all those present what ‘true faith’ has the power to do and that nothing is impossible to God.

(Easter Sunday readings: Acts 4:37-43; Col. 3:1-4 OR 1 Cor. 5:1-8; John 20:1-9)

In many languages we say, “Seeing is believing.”

When the Beloved Disciple entered the tomb of Jesus, “He saw and believed.” This is not a case of “seeing is believing.” What did he see? The emptiness of the tomb. In other words: nothing. And he believed. The tomb had become, as it were, a portal to the deepest conviction of faith.

Faith is a relationship, not a set of beliefs about God but an experience of God.

Untitled 1Jesus reveals to us an image of God as Father, but he drew his image from somewhere: his faith, culture, and sacred history. In Hosea 11:1-4 we see an example of an Old Testament passage on our Father – God as Father to Israel:

When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the farther they went from me, Sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to idols.

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms;
but they did not know that I cared for them. I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like those who raise an infant to their cheeks; I bent down to feed them.

Mark has only four references, all of which are picked up by the other Synoptics.

Luke has about a dozen references to the Father, where Matthew has over thirty. These seem to be concentrated in the “Sermon on the Mount” and other places where Jesus is teaching. Many places where Luke uses the word “God,” Matthew will use “Father.” “My Father, your Father, the Father – all these expressions are used, but Matthew appears to like the adjective, “heavenly” or “in heaven” when referring to God as Father. This title may be a way of closing the distance between us and God: it is not the Law that effects this kind of filial closeness with God, but the relationship revealed by Jesus.

John: Reading the references in John’s Gospel — which are numerous! — it occurs to me that this issue of the relationship with the Father is central to the drama of the Gospel and the entire mission of Jesus.

A Reason to Kill Jesus…

Untitled 2The drama is set in John 5:18, after the cure of the sick man at the pool in Bethesda. Here it gives the reason the Jews wanted to kill Jesus: not only the fact that he broke Sabbath observance, but that he called God his Father, thereby making himself equal to God! In case we don’t get it, this is precisely the reason given as Jesus stands before the crowd with Pilate (Jn 19:7): “We have a law that says he should be put to death because he made himself the Son of God.”

Throughout the Gospel Jesus is clear that this is not his doing; it is a gift of the Father. Some other key references from John’s Gospel include:

• “The Father and I are one” (Jn 10:30).
• “I came from the Father and have come into the world. Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father” (Jn 16:28).
• “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20:21).

This is Your Father Too!

But, then, the coup de grace: this is your Father, too!

Catholic Schools in Philadelphia have seen a revitalization in finances and quality of education thanks to the initiative of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, says a group that collaborated with him on the effort.

“While fund-raising certainly helped, the faith and wisdom of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput was equally important,” the Faith in the Future foundation said. “He recognized the passion of lay leaders – Catholic and non-Catholic alike – for these schools and he empowered them to take action.”

A Collaborative Effort for our School Children

Untitled 1Archbishop Charles Chaput from Philadelphia, PA.
The archdiocese began a partnership in 2012 with the Faith in the Future to increase fundraising and new leadership in overseeing Catholic school management. “We need to have ongoing interest on the part of the donor community – not only Catholics but people who share our commitment to education – the ongoing support of the archdiocese of course, and our people and our pastors are all included,” Archbishop Charles Chaput said at the time, according to the Catholic Philly.

The foundation is now in charge of 17 high schools and four special education schools. The program started off in 2012 with nearly 13 million dollars in donations and has increased to 19.4 million in 2016. In a recent column for the Philadelphia Inquirer, the group's leaders lauded Archbishop Chaput for his part in the growing success of the city's Catholic schools. Faith in the Future works to fund the school's operational deficits then reinvests the surpluses into new programs. The organization also oversees improvements to operations and market strategies to further promote enrollment.

From Gloom to Great Hope

In the beginning of 2012, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was planning on closing 44 elementary schools, four high schools, and displacing nearly 24,000 students. Among other challenges, the archdiocese felt heavy financial strains from organizational issues and abuse scandals.

Editor: Our La Salette Missionaries have been ministering for over 75 years in Myanmar and we are watching and praying for them and those they work with and for that they may attain the religious freedom and justice they deeply desire.

Mark in his Gospel for Easter Sunday talks about the anxiety of women who were going to the tomb of Jesus. The tomb was sealed with a huge stone. To see Jesus and anoint his body the women needed someone to roll down the huge stone. The women were asking among themselves: “Who will roll the stone for us?” But to their surprise, the stone was already rolled away and they saw a young man who said to them: “Christ is going before you to Galilee” – from death to life, from despair to victory over death.

Like Jesus, Myanmar was once crucified

Yes, Myanmar was once crucified. Our people were called Good Friday people. Many thought there is no resurrection. But the country has ‘moved’ from some tombs. But we need to roll down many stones. Who will roll down the stone for the people of Myanmar so that they can encounter the Christ of peace and harmony?

The Church in Myanmar works with all the people of Myanmar to roll the heavy stones and make the resurrection of hope a reality. There are some more stones to be rolled down and move towards the Good News.

Editor: This article was written in French by Fr. Pierre Liaud, M.S. (1865-1930), first published in 1897 in his book, "The Mystical Flowers of the Mountain of La Salette (Les Fleurs Mystiques de la Sainte Montagne de La Salette)". This article has been edited and expanded.

Untitled 1Fr. Pierre Liaud, M.S. (1865-1930) with his students
The mother of God chose two herders who were watching their cows on the Mountain of La Salette to be the fortunate witnesses of her merciful apparition. These children belonged to extremely poor families. They were young and they gained their daily bread in humble service. Both were profoundly ignorant of the things of God, as well as of human affairs. They did not possess that knowledge which children of their age commonly have.

In the Apparition of La Salette and later, the Blessed Virgin, however, perhaps in order to bring out the power of her Son, preferred them to all those whom riches and education and virtue and talents seemed to have prepared to receive her confidences and to communicate her august message to the world….

“Shepherd my people, Israel”

In the scriptures we hear about God’s preference in choosing shepherd to speak to God’s people. When the voice of the Lord God made itself heard by Moses in the burning bush, the future liberator of the people of Israel was shepherding his father-in-law's flock (Exodus 3:1-17).

Prayer is seeking the face of God.

Untitled 1The Catechism of the Catholic Church recalls the story of how St. John Vianney once found a peasant praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The saint asked him what he was doing, and the man replied: “I look at him and he looks at me.”

This is what prayer is – the loving dialogue, the back and forth, the give and take of the child of God in conversation with the Father.

It is important for you to speak to God naturally and honestly, as your friend and father, talking from your heart to his heart.

The Five Movements of Lectio Divina

I also want to recommend one of the most ancient forms of Christian prayer — lectio divina, the prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture as a dialogue with God. If prayer is conversation, then we need to listen to God as much as we talk to him. “When you read the Bible, God speaks to you,” St. Augustine said. “When you pray, you speak to God.”

Lectio divina turns our reading of the Scriptures into a private audience with the living God, who comes to us lovingly and speaks with us in the pages of the sacred texts. There are different approaches to lectio divina. I follow a kind of classical method, which involves five “movements” — reading, meditation, prayer, contemplation and action.

You can use this approach with any biblical text. But I recommend that, for your daily practice of lectio divina, you pray united to the Church’s liturgy, using the Gospel reading for each day.

Full Pastoral Statement of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on the Death Penalty, March 19, 2017

Untitled 1“God proved his love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

On the third Sunday of Lent, the Gospel of John tells us how the Samaritan woman – having found in Jesus the “living water” she had longed for – left her jar of water by the well (John 4:28). Like this woman, the stubborn Israelites in the first reading, who are dying of thirst in the desert, have been led to a rock (Exodus 17:6).

Perhaps we can think of this rock as Christ himself, stricken and afflicted on the cross but gushing forth with life-giving water, making it possible for God’s people to cross over the barren desert of hatred, sin and death into the promised land of fullness of life.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ – let us not allow our wells to be poisoned by bitter water; let us uphold the sanctity of life and make a stand against death penalty.

We are not deaf to the cries of the victims of heinous crimes. The victims and their victimizers are both our brothers and sisters. The victim and the oppressor are both children of God. To the guilty we offer a challenge to repent and repair the harm of their sins. To the grieving victims, we offer our love, our compassion, our hope.

On the day the death penalty law was repealed by the Philippine Congress on June 24, 2006, the lights were turned on in the colosseum in Rome. History tells us how many people – among them, countless Christian martyrs – were publicly executed in that infamous arena.

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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.”