It would be nice to win the lottery – although psychologists and others warn us of the dangers. But many of us at least have a place called home.

Untitled 1In South Central Los Angeles, there literally is “A Place Called Home”. It’s an outreach center for “at-risk” youth from ages 8 to 21. In an introduction to its mission and goals, it describes the importance and value of having a “home”.

“’Home’ means so much to so many. It’s a place where we feel safe… where we can be ourselves… where we can be with our friends, family, and loved ones. Most of all, home is where a community comes together. Home is where the heart is.”

The importance and need for a home were expressed by Pliny the Elder (23-79AD) to whom is attributed the famous saying: “Home is where the heart is.”

As we transition from the December holidays and holy days, the songs of the season have reminded us unendingly that “there’s no place like home for the holidays” and “I’ll be home for Christmas (if only in my dreams).” Personally having lived as an adult in many places, I consider home where those I love gather or have gathered. The warm welcome of my relatives and friends help me feel at home. Their smiles, their laughter, even the sharing of their struggles and illnesses during the past year are enjoyable in the sense of allowing me to enter into their real efforts at staying healthy and happy.

Untitled 1Madonna of the Streets by Roberto Ferruzzi (1854-1934)
There’s a Christmas reason to speak always about the poor and about mercy, Pope Francis told a benefit concert Saturday.

“At times someone says to me ‘But Father, you always speak about the poor and about mercy.’ Yes, I say. But this is not a malady. It’s simply the way that God had revealed himself,” the Pope said in a Dec. 17 video message.

“The fact that Christmas is almost upon us reminds us of the way in which God entered the world: born of the Virgin Mary like all children, wrapped in swaddling clothes, picked up, nursed. Not only him, but his mother and Joseph have had to contend with the fact that there was no room for them in the inn,” the Pope continued.

He became a poor baby, one of us…

“The good news, the announcement of this birth, is not delivered to the king and princes, but to shepherds… This is our God: not the wholly other, but totally the neighbor.” His video message was delivered to Paul VI Hall the evening of Francis’ eightieth birthday.

The concert marked the bicentenary of the Vatican Gendarmerie and was headlined by the Italian singer Claudio Baglioni. The concert benefited a pediatric hospital in Bangui in the Central African Republic and also the victims of the major earthquake in central Italy.

Untitled 1Every day, we hear of issues – such as war, terrorism, or social violence – that affect us and our sisters and brothers around the world. The problems can seem so complex that they can leave us paralyzed, overwhelmed, or even numb. We may wonder, “What can I possibly do?”

In his message for the 50th World Day of Peace, celebrated on January 1, 2017, Pope Francis urges us to overcome such challenges by replacing cautiousness with courage and cynicism with hope.

Christian Nonviolence – Politics for Peace

This year Pope Francis has asked Catholics to focus on Christian nonviolence as a style of politics for peace. What can you do to affirm the centrality of active nonviolence in the message of Jesus, the life of the Catholic Church, and to the calling to be part of the healing and reconciling of both people and our earth?

In our families, schools, and institutions, we must learn the things that make for peace. There are effective Christian ways to counter war, terrorism, and social and domestic violence that can be accomplished without resorting to violence or military options. We must reach out to engage in positive encounters with our neighbors, in civil dialogue for the common good, and building skills to address these problems in meaningful ways.

What Can We Do?

St. John XXIII reminds us that violence and war can no longer be considered “a fit instrument with which to repair the violation of justice.” But violations of justice must be addressed. Christian nonviolent practices and strategies are ways to effectively address injustice, while also building peace.

Untitled 1Emblem of Faith and Light, a group co-founded by Jean Vanier in 1971We belong to various kinds of groups: Boston Red Sox Meetup Groups, our children’s PTA group, golf clubs, and even online Shopping Networks. In religious circles, we perhaps belong to a Temple, a Congregation, a Parish, Society, or other faith-based group.

As a Catholic, I remember asking a young woman where she lived. Without hesitation she said: “I’m from St. Peter’s in Dorchester.” Taken a bit by surprise, I asked her why she mentioned her parish’s name and town. She said: “I grew up in the area and, when I was younger, everything in my life – my school, friends, sports teams, youth activities and neighborhood connections – were all connected with my parish. It was my life, my world, and it still is!”

Yes, our Parish, Temple, or other religious group can be – and perhaps should be – a very important part of our life. The truth is that many of us do realize that without our faith, our life can easily become meaningless, lonely and even hopeless. We can easily get caught up in the tasks of life, like finishing school, getting a degree, a job promotion, raising our family and somehow forget what should be the center of our life – our faith. It can give us values as well as offer us the opportunity to give back, to help others. And, taking the long view of our life, isn’t that one of the basic purposes of our life on earth?

The daily practice of our faith can remind us what should be central to our life – loving God and reflecting God’s love to others. It’s so simple that even a child can understand it.


The Philippines is the only country in Asia where Christians – in this case Catholics – form the overwhelming majority of the country. More than one-third of the population of some 100 million is under age 15; another 10 million Filipinos are living abroad.
Untitled 1Reinhard Backes
Reinhard Backes, who oversees projects in the country for the International Catholic Charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), just returned from a fact-finding mission to the Philippines.

Q: What is the main focus of the Church in the Philippines?

Backes: The Church is concerned about both the general and religious education of the faithful. The people are deeply religious, but poorly educated. To give one example, I attended a wedding on the island of Luzon. Ten couples were married at the same time, and all of them brought their children with them. There were quite a few of them.

It was explained to me that many couples live together before marriage and only marry later, partly because they do not have the money – but also owing to a lack of understanding of the faith.

Q: What impressed you most on this trip?

Backes: The work of the Silsilah dialogue movement on Mindanao, where the fighting over the past four decades between government forces and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNFL) has cost the lives of around 120,000 people. ACN has long been supporting this initiative by Father Sebastiano D’Ambra, and Italian priest from Sicily, and Minda Sano, a Filipina woman who herself comes from Mindanao.

Untitled 1Noted scientist, Stephen Hawking, at NASA.Stephen Hawking’s visit to the Vatican this week has raised curiosity, with some asking what exactly the famed astrophysicist and self-proclaimed atheist was doing in the heart of the Catholic Church.

But for the Vatican, his visit was nothing out of the ordinary. Hawking is a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences – which includes 80 of the most brilliant scientists in the world – and he was in Vatican City for the group’s annual meeting.

This year’s conference was focused on “Science and Sustainability.” Hawking himself gave a talk on “The Origin of the Universe,” the topic that has earned him world renown.


A Yearly Open Forum

Religious belief – Catholic or otherwise – is not a criterion for membership in the Pontifical Academy. The group’s president, Werner Arber, a former Nobel Prize Laureate in Medicine, is a Protestant. And members of the Academy are Catholics, atheists, Protestants and members of other religions.

This open membership policy exists because the Pontifical Academy is conceived as a place where science and faith can meet and discuss. It is not a confessional forum, but a place where it is possible to have an open discussion and examine future scientific developments.

The Academy was founded back in 1603 by Prince Federico Cesi with Pope Clement VII’s blessing, and its first leader was Galileo Galilei. When Prince Cesi died, the Academy was shut down. Pius IX refounded it in 1847, but the Academy was then embodied in the Kingdom of Italy after the fall of the Pontifical State. In 1936, Pius XI founded the Academy once more, giving it the current name and a statute that Paul VI updated in 1976 and St. John Paul II updated once more in 1986.

Untitled 1Martin Scorsese, Cannes, 2010 (Photo: By Georges Biard)Editor: The film, “Silence” is a 2016 American historical drama film based upon the 1966 novel of the same name by Shūsaku Endō. The film was shot entirely in Taipei, Taiwan and premiered in Vatican City on November 29, 2016 and released in the U.S. on Dec. 23, 2016.

Pope Francis recently met the Oscar-winning movie director Martin Scorsese whose latest film “Silence” recounts the persecution of a group of Jesuit missionaries in 17th century Japan.

In an interview with Vatican media, Scorsese spoke about his latest movie project, his past films, his life growing up in the noisy slums of New York and why he now values silence so much. Scorsese spoke to Vatican Radio’s Sean Patrick Lovett.

Untitled 1Fr. Stanley Francis Rother; Credit: Fr. David Monahan, Courtesy of Archdiocese of Oklahoma City Archives, CNA_2_16_16

Pope Francis has recognized the martyrdom of Fr. Stanley Rother, a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City who served in Guatemala, making him the first martyr to have been born in the United States. “Servant of God, Fr. Stanley Rother, has been approved for beatification!” Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City announced on Facebook Dec. 2.

“He is the first U.S. born martyr and priest to receive this official recognition from the Vatican! And of course the first from Oklahoma!”

Pope Francis had met with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Dec. 1, approving decrees for several causes of canonization.

Together with that of Fr. Rother, the Pope recognized the martyrdoms of Fr. Vicete Queralt Llloret and 20 companions, killed in the Spanish Civil War, and Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis of Kaišiadorys, a Lithuanian killed by the Soviets in 1962. Also acknowledged were a miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Giovanni Schiavo and the heroic virtue of eight Servants of God.


A Challenging Vocation

Fr. Rother was from the unassuming town of Okarche, Okla., where the parish, school and farm were the pillars of community life. He went to the same school his whole life and lived with his family until he left for seminary.

Untitled 1Replica of watch tower at Manzanar National Historic Site, built in 2005, equipped with searchlights and machine guns (Photo: Gmatsuda)

In 1942, the U.S. government ordered more than 120,000 men, women and children from their homes and detained them indefinitely in 10 isolated, military-style camps they called “War Relocation Centers.” Manzanar – a four-hour drive from Los Angeles, through the Angeles Forest, the Mojave Desert and the foothills of the Eastern Sierra Nevadas – was one of them.


A National Historic Site

In 1992, the former camp was designated the Manzanar National Historic Site. Driving in, you still pass the sentry tower where armed guards stood watch. I spent three days there in September, perusing the superbly curated exhibits, wandering the extensive trails through abandoned blocks of barracks, praying in the derelict gardens. The contrast between the breathtaking beauty of the mountains and the misery that had been borne beneath their shadow was stark.

In the wake of the Dec. 7, 1941, bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the military to remove “any and all persons” of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast.


A Dark Moment in our History of Human Rights

Notices went up giving Japanese citizens mere weeks or even days to pack up their belongings and report to be transported by armed train to internment camps.

Commercial fishermen who had been out to sea were detained as they stepped off their boats in San Pedro. U.S. citizens with no idea whether they would ever return sold their furniture and appliances for a pittance. Restaurants were closed. Pets were left behind. Prisoners were not allowed to ship personal items or household goods — they could bring only what they were able to carry.

Untitled 2St. José Sanchez del Río (1913-1928)

José Sanchez del Río was born on March 28, 1913 in Sahuayo, in the State of Michoacan, Mexico. At the outbreak of the so-called "Cristero War" in 1926, his brothers joined the rebel forces fighting the violent anti-Christian regime which had been established in the country. Jose too was enlisted.

A Good Catholic Youth

Catholicism flourished in Sahuayo and for this reason the "Cristeros" were deeply rooted in the area. Priests secretly remained in Sahuayo throughout the persecution and never abandoned the faithful, clandestinely celebrating the Eucharist and administrating the sacraments, at which young José assiduously participated.

In those years, the first Christian martyrs were often spoken of and many young people wanted to follow in their footsteps.

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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.”