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Pope Francis has a special message this Lent, and here it is

Vatican City, Mar 1, 2017 / 09:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his message for Lent 2017, Pope Francis reminded the faithful that they should heed the Scriptures and treat each human person they encounter as a gift.

“Lent is the favorable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments and in our neighbor,” he said. “May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need.”

Scripture is also a gift, the Pope said in his message, which was released last October to help Catholics across the globe prepare for the 2017 Lenten season.

In his message, Pope Francis reflected on the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. In that story, a poor man named Lazarus lives on the doorstep of a wealthy man who ignores him. When they die, Lazarus rests in paradise, while the rich man suffers.

Although Lazarus is “practically invisible to the rich man,” Pope Francis said, we should see him as a concrete person, whom God views as a priceless treasure.

“Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift,” the pontiff said. “A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value. Even the poor person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but a summons to conversion and to change.”

In this way, the parable invites us to see each person as a blessing, he said, and Lent is a particularly fitting time to open our door to all those in need and the face of Christ in them.

“Each life that we encounter is a gift deserving acceptance, respect and love. The word of God helps us to open our eyes to welcome and love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable.”

Another important lesson from the parable is how sin can blind us, Pope Francis said. He pointed to the rich man’s ostentatious displays of wealth, saying, “In him we can catch a dramatic glimpse of the corruption of sin, which progresses in three successive stages: love of money, vanity and pride.”

“Money can come to dominate us, even to the point of becoming a tyrannical idol,” the Pope warned. “Instead of being an instrument at our service for doing good and showing solidarity towards others, money can chain us and the entire world to a selfish logic that leaves no room for love and hinders peace.”

“For those corrupted by love of riches, nothing exists beyond their own ego,” the Holy Father warned.

“The result of attachment to money is a sort of blindness. The rich man does not see the poor man who is starving, hurting, lying at his door.”

The end of the parable offers an additional lesson, the Pope continued. In the afterlife, the rich man calls out to Abraham from his place of torment. This is the first mention of the fact that he belongs to the people of God, for during his life, “his only God was himself.”

When the rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers, who are still living, Abraham responds, “They have Moses and the prophets, let them listen to them…If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”

Thus, we ultimately see that the problem of the rich man is a “failure to heed God’s word,” Pope Francis said. “As a result, he no longer loved God and grew to despise his neighbor.”

“The word of God is alive and powerful, capable of converting hearts and leading them back to God. When we close our heart to the gift of God’s word, we end up closing our heart to the gift of our brothers and sisters.”

As we start the journey of Lent, with its emphasis on fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, we have a chance at a new beginning in our own lives, the Pope noted.

“This season urgently calls us to conversion. Christians are asked to return to God with all their hearts, to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord,” he said, adding that Christ waits for us patiently, ready to forgive us when we fall short.

“Let us pray for one another so that, by sharing in the victory of Christ, we may open our doors to the weak and poor,” he concluded. “Then we will be able to experience and share to the full the joy of Easter.”

 

Pope on Ash Wednesday: Feeling suffocated by sin? Let God save you

Vatican City, Mar 1, 2017 / 09:43 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At Ash Wednesday Mass, Pope Francis spoke about the bad habits, negativity, and sin present in our lives which cause us to be choked off from the life-giving breath of God – supernatural grace.

“The breath of God’s life saves us from this asphyxia that dampens our faith, cools our charity and strangles every hope,” he said March 1. “To experience Lent is to yearn for this breath of life that our Father unceasingly offers us amid the mire of our history.”

Marking the start of the Lenten season, Pope Francis prayed the Stations of the Cross at St. Anselm Church in Rome before processing the short way to the Basilica of Santa Sabina for the celebration of Mass, benediction, and the imposition of ashes.

Francis said that as we set out from the church, the mark of the ashes reminds us of our origin: “we were taken from the earth, we are made of dust.”

“True,” he said, “yet we are dust in the loving hands of God, who has breathed his spirit of life upon each one of us, and still wants to do so.”

“He wants to keep giving us that breath of life that saves us from every other type of breath: the stifling asphyxia brought on by our selfishness, the stifling asphyxia generated by petty ambition and silent indifference – an asphyxia that smothers the spirit, narrows our horizons and slows the beating of our hearts.”

We get so accustomed to this strangulation, the Pope said, that it becomes normal for us, and we fail to notice that we are breathing air “in which hope has dissipated,” and only “the air of glumness and resignation, the stifling air of panic and hostility,” remain.

Lent is a time of saying ‘no’ to all of this, he said: “No to the spiritual asphyxia” of indifference, of trivializing life, of excluding people, and of looking for God while ignoring the “wounds of Christ present in the wounds” of others.

“Lent means saying no to the toxic pollution of empty and meaningless words, of harsh and hasty criticism, of simplistic analyses that fail to grasp the complexity of problems, especially the problems of those who suffer the most,” he said.

It is also a time to examine our manner of praying, giving alms, and fasting, he said, to be sure that we aren’t doing it for the wrong reason, like to feel good about ourselves.

Instead, Francis said, “Lent is a time for remembering. It is the time to reflect and ask ourselves what we would be if God had closed his doors to us. What would we be without his mercy that never tires of forgiving us and always gives us the chance to begin anew?”

Moreover, it is “the time to start breathing again. It is the time to open our hearts to the breath of the One capable of turning our dust into humanity,” he said.

It isn’t a time to “rend our garments before the evil all around us,” he continued. Instead, we are called to “make room” in our lives “for all the good we are able to do.”

“Lent is a time of compassion,” the Pope concluded, “when, with the Psalmist, we can say: ‘Restore to us the joy of your salvation, sustain in us a willing spirit,’ so that by our lives we may declare your praise, and our dust – by the power of your breath of life – may become a ‘dust of love.’”

Abuse survivor resigns from commission for protection of minors

Vatican City, Mar 1, 2017 / 06:42 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday, the decision of clerical abuse survivor Marie Collins to resign from her post on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was announced, citing frustrations with “a lack of cooperation” by the Curia as leading factor.

In a March 1 statement coinciding with the announcement of Collins’ resignation, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, who heads the commission, voiced “our most sincere thanks for the extraordinary contributions she has made as a founding member of the commission.”

“We will certainly listen carefully to all that Marie wishes to share with us about her concerns and we will greatly miss her important contributions as a member of the commission,” he said.

A laywoman from Ireland, Collins had been one of two clerical abuse survivors tapped to join the commission when it was established in March 2014. Plans to found the commission had been announced shortly before, in December 2013.

Of the original nine founding members of the commission, Collins was one of two clerical sex abuse survivors, alongside Peter Saunders from the UK.

However, Sanders was asked to take “a leave of absence” by the other members in February 2016, making Collins the only active abuse survivor serving on the commission until her resignation.

In a March 1 communique announcing her decision, the commission praised Collins as someone who has “consistently and tirelessly championed for the voices of the victims/survivors to be heard, and for the healing of the victims/survivors to be a priority for the Church.”

The communique said that in her resignation letter to Pope Francis, she cited her “frustration at a lack of cooperation with the commission by other offices in the Roman Curia” as a reason for stepping down.

However, she has agreed to continue working with the commission “in an educational role” given her “exceptional teaching skills” and the impact of her testimony as an abuse survivor.

Pope Francis, the communique read, accepted her resignation “with deep appreciation for her work” on behalf of other survivors.

In his personal statement, Cardinal O’Malley said that when the commission gathers for their plenary meeting next month, they will discuss the concerns that Collins brought up.

He voiced his gratitude to her for her willingness to continue working with the commission, specifically “in the education of church leaders,” including upcoming courses for new bishops and departments of the Holy See.

In comments to CNA, Fr. Hans Zollner SJ, who heads the Center for Child Protection (CCP) at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and is a fellow of member of the commission, said he “can understand and I certainly respect” Collins’ frustration.

“We can only be grateful that she has been with the commission for almost three years now. I think the commission will certainly cherish all that she has done for us and with us,” he said, but noted that “what she describes as resistance within the Curia” was perhaps “too testing” for her.

The message that everyone needs to be on the same page regarding abuse prevention and best practices is something that “has not happened instantaneously, and, honestly, I do not expect it to happen, especially if you look around at the global reality represented in the Catholic Church.”

“(So) I can understand that she is frustrated about that,” he said, and pointed to different perspectives on the issue taken by various cultures throughout the world.

“Canonically we're on the same page, but we are not on the same page in regards to attitudes” regarding “with how much energy, with how much determination we deal with cases of abuse that have happened, and with prevention,” he said.

“If you look into the Church worldwide there are differences that are culturally bound, and, in the wider sense, also politically bound. So this is what is difficult to bear for a survivor.”

Zollner acknowledged that part of this difference in approach is also found within Curia, as mentioned by Collins in her letter of resignation.

“There are, as you can expect in any organization and in any institution, there are pushbacks, there are setbacks,” he said, but clarified that “this is not the Curia” as a whole.

He said they have had invitations to speak at different dicasteries and "we have already received new invitations." Collins herself "says in her statement that she will continue to work with us, so if she thought it was the whole Curia then she would not work in this effort to educate those in the Curia,” the priest added. 

He said part of the “pushback” Collins referred to was likely coming from specific offices or “the persons in the offices.” He stressed that he has “no idea” as to the specific cases she is referring to, but it could be along these lines.

Regardless of Collins’ resignation, Zollner said that “we need to continue working steadily as we have done.”

“The voice of survivors at the moment is not represented by persons, but certainly by all of the members’ experiences,” he said, noting that all of the members, including O’Malley, have met with survivors on several occasions, “so it’s not that the voice of survivors is not present anymore.”

When asked if the commission was planning to look for more survivor members to join, Zollner said he doubts there will be any changes to the commission’s current composition before the end of their term at the close of 2017, but the topic will likely come up during their plenary meeting next month.

Even before Collins decided to resign, the commission had planned to discuss “the future form and composition of this commission” during the plenary, he said, adding that they will likely have a proposal by March 24, when the plenary begins.

He referred to the testimonies given Thursday by commission members Kathleen McCormack and Sheila Hollins before Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse saying the Pontifical commission is underfunded, having the resources of a diocese rather than an organization that operates throughout the globe.

While funding has “always” been a topic of discussion, Zollner said this will likely also be on the table for discussion during their upcoming plenary.

Colorado church ministers to Native Americans, homeless, and deaf

Denver, Colo., Mar 1, 2017 / 06:24 am (Denver Catholic).- St. Bernadette Parish, the pioneer Catholic church of Lakewood, Colorado, outgrew its first worship space just 18 years after being founded in 1947. Today, the half-century-old church remains large enough but needs updating to better serve its exceptionally diverse congregation.

In addition to ministering to the faithful of central Lakewood, the parish heads Colorado Catholic Deaf Ministry, is home to St. Kateri Native American Community, runs a school and soon will be host to Marisol Home, which will provide transitional housing to homeless women with children.

“One holy, Catholic and apostolic church is a pretty good description for our parish,” said the pastor, Father Tom Coyte.

“Catholic means universal,” added pastoral associate Julie Plouffe, “and there is so much diversity represented in this one worship space: the deaf, Native Americans, service to the poor and the homeless, and to our school.”

Deaf ministry

When Father Coyte was named pastor of St. Bernadette’s two and a half years ago, he quickly realized his handsome church was in need of repairs and renovations – from the essentials of updating the heating, cooling and electricity, to improving the sanctuary for comfort and hospitality.

He wants all of his parishioners, including the deaf, to be able to enjoy full, active participation in the church liturgies. When Father Coyte arrived to St. Bernadette’s, the deaf community, which he’s led for 45 years, came with him.

“We became aware of how difficult it is to participate visually in our liturgies here,” Father Coyte said.

Because it’s essential for the deaf to see what’s being signed, the parish plans, among other improvements, to elevate the altar platform to increase visibility for the congregation. (The change will also aid seeing the schoolchildren when they take part in liturgies.)

Deaf ministry enables the hard of hearing to serve as lectors, ushers and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. It offers interpretive services for weddings, funerals and religious education classes, and organizes retreats.

“Deaf ministry is an archdiocesan outreach to all deaf persons and their families to be fully involved in parish and Church life,” Father Coyte said.

Services include religious education and interpretive outreach, and signed weekly Masses at two other parishes – one in the Colorado Springs Diocese.

“We also go to Pueblo and have been to other states,” Father Coyte said.

St. Kateri Community

The St. Kateri ministry, in which some 60 people from across the archdiocese representing about 10 Native American tribes celebrate a weekly Mass incorporating Indian traditions, has been at St. Bernadette’s since 1985.

“They’ve been embraced by the St. Bernadette community,” Father Coyte said. “They have a beautiful spirituality.”

Kateri ministry exists to evangelize and serve the archdiocese’s Native American community and provides religious education and community building.

Aid to the poor, homeless

Last fall, the Kateri community, which had turned the parish’s old convent into a chapel, moved their weekly Mass into the church proper. Catholic Charities is leasing and transforming Kateri’s former home for worship into a home for single-parent mothers with children. Marisol Home, set to open this year, will be able to shelter up to 18 families at once.

“St. Bernadette’s will be providing a lot of meal support and volunteer hours,” Plouffe said of the Marisol ministry.

Ministry to the poor and homeless has long been a cherished activity of the parish, which helps a near daily stream of indigent from Lakewood’s Colfax corridor with food, rent assistance and resource referrals.

“We reach out to many needy families in our school as well,” Father Coyte said.

Vast outreach

This spring the parish is launching a three-year, $1.5 million capital campaign to fund necessary improvements to make St. Bernadette’s more beautiful, functional and welcoming for its diverse congregation.

Just as the church’s unique ministries stretch beyond its parish boundaries, Father Coyte said so, too, does its need for donations.

“Our outreach is much larger than St. Bernadette Parish,” he said. “We’re a relatively small parish of 700 to 800 families, yet our ministries are quite ambitious.”

 

Reprinted from the Denver Catholic.

Lent isn’t just about penance – it’s also a time of hope, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Mar 1, 2017 / 05:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis said that while Lent is certainly a time of mortification, it’s also a journey of hope that leads to the joy of Christ’s Resurrection – a journey that requires both daily sacrifice and love.

In his catechesis for the general audience March 1, the Pope likened our journey during the 40 days of Lent to the 40 years the Israelites spent wandering in the desert following their “exodus” from slavery in Egypt.

“And these 40 days are also for each of us an exit from slavery, from sin, to freedom, to a meeting with the Resurrected Christ,” he said.

“A path that’s a bit challenging, as is just, because love is challenging, but it’s a path full of hope. In fact, I would say more: the Lenten exodus is the path in which hope itself is formed.”

During their time of wandering, God never forgot his people or his promise to bring them to the Promised Land, Francis said. But even so, in the face of trials on their journey, at times they were tempted to return to Egypt.

“All of us know the temptation to go backwards, right?” he said. “We all know it. But the Lord remains faithful and that poor people, guided by Moses, arrived to the Promised Land. This whole journey is made in hope.”

The Pope explained how the celebration of Passover by Jesus became, in a sense, his exodus, since it was by his subsequent suffering and death that he opened to us the path to heaven.

“To open this road, this passageway, Jesus had to shed his glory, humble himself, make himself obedient to death and to death on the cross. Opening to us the path to eternal life cost him all of his blood, and thanks to him we have been saved from slavery and sin,” he said.

This doesn’t make reaching heaven easy, however. “Our salvation is certainly his gift, but, because it’s a story of love, it requires our ‘yes’ and our participation,” the Pope said, “as shown to us by our Mother Mary and after her all of the Saints.”

“The fatigue of crossing the desert – all the trials, temptations, illusions, mirages – all this is to forge a strong, steadfast hope, on the model of the Virgin Mary, who in the midst of the darkness of the Passion and death of her son continued to believe and hope in his resurrection, in the victory of God’s love.”

As a preparation for Easter, Lent “takes light from the Paschal mystery toward which it is oriented…” So although Christ has gone before us, rejecting all the temptations of the Devil, we have to still do our part, which means returning to the sacraments and allowing ourselves to shed sin and be renewed, the Pope said.

“Each step, each fatigue, each fall and each round, everything has meaning only inside the design of the salvation of God, who wants for his people life and not death, joy and not pain.”

“With a heart open to this horizon, we enter Lent,” he concluded. “Feeling that we are part of the holy people of God, we begin with joy this path of hope.”

These 17th century monks did a beer fast for Lent

Washington D.C., Mar 1, 2017 / 02:25 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As Ash Wednesday kicks off the Lenten season, Catholics enter into 40 days of abstaining from sweets, technology, alcohol and other luxuries.

But did you know that Catholic monks once brewed beer specifically for a liquid-only Lenten fast?

Back in the 1600s, Paulaner monks moved from Southern Italy to the Cloister Neudeck ob der Au in Bavaria. “Being a strict order, they were not allowed to consume solid food during Lent,” the current braumeister and beer sommelier of Paulaner Brewery Martin Zuber explained in a video on the company’s website.

They needed something other than water to sustain them, so the monks turned to a common staple of the time of their region – beer. They concocted an “unusually strong” brew, full of carbohydrates and nutrients, because “liquid bread wouldn’t break the fast,” Zuber noted.

This was an early doppelbock-style beer, which the monks eventually sold in the community and which was an original product of Paulaner brewery, founded in 1634. They gave it the name “Salvator,” named after “Sankt Vater,” which “roughly translates as ‘Holy Father beer,’” Zuber said.

Paulaner currently serves 70 countries and is one of the chief breweries featured at Munich’s Octoberfest. Although its doppelbock is enjoyed around the world today, it had a distinctly penitential origin with the monks.

Could a beer-only fast really be accomplished? One journalist had read of the monks’ story and, in 2011, attempted to re-create their fast.

J. Wilson, a Christian working as an editor for a county newspaper in Iowa, partnered with a local brewery and brewed a special doppelbock that he consumed over 46 days during Lent, eating no solid food.

He had regular check-ups with his doctor and obtained permission from his boss for the fast, drinking four beers over the course of a work day and five beers on Saturdays and Sundays. His experience, he said, was transformative – and not in an intoxicating way.

Wilson learned “that the human body is an amazing machine,” he wrote in a blog for CNN after his Lenten experience.

“Aside from cramming it [the body] full of junk food, we don’t ask much of it. We take it for granted. It is capable of much more than many of us give it credit for. It can climb mountains, run marathons and, yes, it can function without food for long periods of time,” he wrote.

Wilson noted that he was acutely hungry for the first several days of his fast, but “my body then switched gears, replaced hunger with focus, and I found myself operating in a tunnel of clarity unlike anything I’d ever experienced.” He ended up losing over 25 pounds over the course of the Lenten season, but learned to practice “self-discipline.”

And, he found, one of his greatest challenges was actually fasting from media.

As he blogged about his fast, Wilson received numerous interview requests from local and national media outlets, and he chose to forego some of these requests and step away from using media to focus on the spiritual purpose of his fast.

“The experience proved that the origin story of monks fasting on doppelbock was not only possible, but probable,” he concluded.

“It left me with the realization that the monks must have been keenly aware of their own humanity and imperfections. In order to refocus on God, they engaged this annual practice not only to endure sacrifice, but to stress and rediscover their own shortcomings in an effort to continually refine themselves.”

Catholics are not obliged to give up solid food for Lent, of course, but they must do penance during the season of Lent in the example of Christ’s 40-day fast in the wilderness, in commemoration of His death, and in preparation for Easter.

Catholics in the U.S., if healthy adults aged 18-59, must fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and are encouraged to continue the Good Friday fast through Holy Saturday to the Easter Vigil.

“No Catholic Christian will lightly excuse himself from so hallowed an obligation on the Wednesday which solemnly opens the Lenten season and on that Friday called ‘Good’ because on that day Christ suffered in the flesh and died for our sins,” the U.S. Catholic bishops wrote in their 1966 pastoral letter on fasting.

Fasting is interpreted to mean eating one full meal and two smaller meals that, taken together, do not equal that one full meal. There may be no eating in between meals, and there is no specific mention of liquids in the guidelines.

In their pastoral letter, the bishops also maintained obligatory abstinence from meat for all Catholics on Fridays in Lent, and “strongly recommend participation in daily mass and a self-imposed observance of fasting” on other Lenten days, as well as almsgiving, study of the Scriptures, and devotions like the rosary and the Stations of the Cross.

 

Pope: learn from indigenous peoples how to care for creation

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has joined his voice to those taking part in Brazil’s “Fraternity Campaign,” an annual Lenten Campaign organized by the Brazilian National Conference of Bishops.

This year’s campaign focusses on the theme "Brazilian biomes and the defense of life" with the motto from Genesis: “Cultivate and keep creation.”

Brazil has one of the most significant bio diversities in the world, and its territory is divided into 6 natural biomes, each with its own set of fauna, flora and soil, with specific social and cultural manifestations of its population. The 2017 Fraternity Campaign is dedicated to the appreciation and protection of these biomes. 

In his message addressed to his “dear brothers and sisters in Brazil”, Pope Francis speaks of the generosity of the Creator towards Brazil in giving it “a diversity of ecosystems of extraordinary beauty.”

Unfortunately, the Pope said, the Brazilian land also carries “the signs of aggression towards creation and the deterioration of nature”.

He said the Church in Brazil not only provides a prophetic voice for the care and respect of the environment and attention towards the poor, but highlights the need to tackle the ecological challenges and problems as well as pinpointing their causes and possible solutions.

Pope Francis recalled that amongst the many initiatives promoted by the Church, as far back as 1979, the Lenten Fraternity Campaign shone the spotlight on environmental issues.

He also noted that we cannot not consider the effects environmental degradation, the current model for development and the culture of waste are having on the lives of people.

“This Campaign invites us to contemplate, admire, give thanks and respect the diversity of nature manifested in Brazil’s different ecosystems which are a true gift of God” he said.

Pointing out that environmental degradation is one of the greatest challenges we face because it is always accompanied by social injustice, the Pope pointed to indigenous peoples as an example of “how cohabitation with creation can be respectful, fruitful and merciful”.

It is necessary, he said, to learn from these peoples how to relate to nature in the quest for a sustainable model “that can be a valid alternative to the race for profit that exhausts natural resources and damages the dignity of peoples”.

“Every year, the Pope concluded, the Fraternity Campaign takes place during Lent: it is an invitation to live the spirituality of Easter with deepened awareness”.    

(from Vatican Radio)

Dorothy Day, as seen by her granddaughter

New York City, N.Y., Mar 1, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement whose cause for canonization has been opened, is the subject of a new book by her own granddaughter, Kate Hennessy.

“My grandmother and my mother really thought carefully and closely about some pretty basic things that I think we have lost sight of,” Hennessy said. “One is: what am I meant to do, what is each of us meant to do, in terms of occupation and vocation? What skills can I offer the world? They both felt that that was so important.”

Day was also captivated by “this idea that we each have a role to play, that each are capable of doing something,” she said. “I think that’s very, very hopeful. In these times people are unsure of what to do – I mean the problem seems so big. My grandmother was saying [that] what we can do is so little, but that is what we are given to do. That’s only what we can do, so let’s move forward and do what we each think that we can do. That’s what I hope people will come away with from this story.”

Hennessy is the youngest of Day's nine grandchildren, through her daughter Tamar. She spoke to CNA about her book Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty, a biography-memoir about her grandmother.

Born in Brooklyn in 1897, Day was baptized Episcopalian at the age of 12. She displayed signs at a young age of possessing a deep religious sense, fasting and mortifying her body by sleeping on hardwood floors.

She was strongly influenced by Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, and she worked as a journalist for a socialist publication. She had a series of disastrous romances, and procured an abortion.

She had a profound conversion, and had her daughter baptized as a Catholic. She was herself received into the Church in 1927.

She co-founded the Catholic Worker Movement with Peter Maurin in 1933, starting soup kitchens, farm communities, and a Catholic newspaper.She dedicated her life to aiding and advocating for the poor and leading a life characterized by voluntary poverty and works of mercy.

Her legacy lives on today in some 185 Catholic Worker communities in the U.S. and around the globe.

The Catholic Worker was meant “to bring the word that the Church had a call among social action,” Hennessy reflected.

Hennessy considers Day's profound influence on others to be the clearest evidence of her sanctity.

“So many people have said to me that when they met my grandmother, when they read her books, or when they worked at the Catholic Worker, that it had just changed their lives forever … What is my vocation, what should I be doing as an occupation? Or how should I be treating people, how should I be as a moral person?”

Holy persons like Day “help us, they lead us to change our perception of reality, in a way, and become more engaged in the world.”

Hennessy recalled the beauty of a Catholic Worker Farm where she had spent summer breaks in upstate New York. She said Day had a powerful eye of observation and was able to see beauty anywhere.

“One of the things that I think my grandmother was so good at, and really teaches us, is how she could see beauty anywhere. She would see beauty in a tree that was struggling to grow in the middle of the city. She could see beauty in any little bit of nature that she could see … or eating from a lovely plate that had been donated.”

That beauty can be found at the Catholic Worker houses, she said: “Just being able to invite people in, and set them down with a cup of coffee and a bowl of soup, is also a form of beauty.”

Pope Francis: ‘we do not go to heaven in a carriage’

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis marked Ash Wednesday inviting the faithful to renew their hope in Christ’s promises and their commitment to follow Him ever more closely.

He was addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience.

Pointing out that on Ash Wednesday we enter the liturgical time of Lent, Pope Francis said this time of penitence  and mortification is actually a journey of hope as it is directs us on the path towards Resurrection, and help us renew our Baptismal identity. 

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:

To better understand what this means, he said, we must refer to the fundamental experience of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, in which the Chosen People journeyed towards the Promised Land and, through spiritual discipline and the gift of the Law, learned the love of God and neighbor.  

The Scriptures, the Pope said, tell of a tormented journey that symbolically lasted forty years, the time span of a generation, and that difficulties and obstacles represented continuous temptations to regret Egypt and to turn back. But, he said, the Lord stayed close to the people who finally arrived in the Promised Land guided by Moses.

Their journey, he explained, was undertaken ‘in hope’, and in this sense “it is an ‘exodus’ out of slavery and into freedom.

“Every step, every effort, every test, every fall and every recovery has a sense within God’s design for salvation, as He wants life – not death – and joy – not pain – for His people” he said.       

The Pope said Easter is Jesus’ own exodus, his passover from death to life, in which we participate through our rebirth in Baptism. 

He said that by following Christ along the way of the Cross, we share in his victory over sin and death;  he explained that in order to open this passage for us, Jesus had to cast off his glory, he had to humble himself, he had to be obedient until death on the cross.

“This doesn’t mean that he did everything and we don’t have to do anything” he said.

The Pope went on to highlight that it doesn’t mean “he went through the cross and we will go to heaven in a carriage.” That is not how it works.

He explained that our salvation is Jesus’ gift, but it is part of a love story and requires our ‘yes’ and our participation.

With a heart open to this horizon, the Pope concluded, let us enter into Lent feeling that we belong to the holy people of God: “may we begin our journey of hope with joy.”

 

(from Vatican Radio)

The Filipino Catholic Church is resisting the brutal drug war

Manila, Philippines, Feb 28, 2017 / 05:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Caught in the throes of a brutal war on drugs, the people of the Philippines are increasingly looking to the Catholic Church to provide refuge and resistance.

Since last summer, more than 7,000 people, usually suspected drug addicts or dealers, have been killed by law enforcement officers in President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs. The attacks are often carried out in hit-and-run nighttime shootings by gunmen on motorcycles.

As the death toll mounts, more Catholic leaders and laypeople are taking action.

This week, The Guardian reported that many Catholic priests have been offering their churches as sanctuaries for people on government “kill lists,” or to those who believe they will be targeted. The Catholic Church connects these people to an underground network of people who provide refuge and assistance, such as finding employment.

One priest, Father Gilbert Billena, told The Guardian that at first he favored the war on drugs, and even voted for President Duterte, “but I didn’t expect this outcome,” he said. Now he offers sanctuary to those in danger.

Still, some priests and Catholics have been afraid to speak out or offer assistance, fearing that they will become the next targets. Many Filipinos, the majority of whom are Catholic, also support the drug war, believing that it will make their neighborhoods safer.

Leaders in the Catholic Church have been increasingly outspoken against the violent drug war, calling it a “reign of terror” in a recent pastoral letter that was read at all the Sunday Masses in the country on February 5. The letter, from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, denounced the killings and offered prayers and solidarity to the families of those who have been killed.

Brother Jun Santiago, with the religious order the Redemptorists, has been resisting the drug war in another way. Most nights, when the most brutal attacks of the drug war take place, he is out on the streets with journalists, capturing the scenes on his camera.

“I’m trying to get out of the brutality,” he said in a recent interview with Quartz. “I want to capture the stench, the smell of the crime scene. The night is so powerful. The darkness is so powerful. Right now people are sleeping and they don’t know what’s happening.”

In December, his photos made headlines after they were blown up and displayed outside of the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Manila, also known as the Baclaran Church, where Br. Jun’s apostolate is based.

“It was a unique way of exposing reality,” Father Carlos Ronquillo, the rector of the Baclaran, told Quartz. “The power of images is something that I think can be harnessed if we as a church want to engage people to think deeply about what’s happening. Not only through words. Not only through preaching.”

Besides photography, the clergy and faithful of Baclaran Church also offer sanctuary and assistance to those whose lives are threatened by the drug wars. Through a program called the extra-judicial killing (EJK) response program, the church provides financial support, legal assistance, rehab programs and other aid to victims and families of the war on drugs. They also follow up with families of the victims photographed by Br. Jun.

“The concrete actions we are doing are really non-political,” Dennis Febre, who works for the program, told Quartz. “We respect [Duterte] as the president of the country, but at the same time the government needs to respect human rights.”

President Duterte and the Catholic leadership of the country have frequently clashed, with Duterte attacking the Church whenever they have spoken out against his leadership or his war on drugs.

In their recent pastoral letter, the Catholic bishops of the country called on the government to address the root causes of the drug problem, including poverty, family breakdown, and corruption. They said the government should address these problems through anti-poverty efforts to provide employment and living wages; family strengthening efforts; and reform in the country’s police forces, judicial systems and politics, rather than wholesale killings.

“To destroy one’s own life and the life of another, is a grave sin and does evil to society. The use of drugs is a sign that a person no longer values his own life, and endangers the lives of others. We must all work together to solve the drug problem and work for the rehabilitation of drug addicts,” they said.