Thursday, November 19, 2009



(VIS) - At midday today in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, the Pope received professors and students of Roman pontifical universities, and participants in the general assembly of the International Federation of Catholic Universities (FIUC). At the beginning of his address the Holy Father recalled how John Paul II's Apostolic Constitution "Sapientia christiana", the thirtieth anniversary of which falls this year, "underlines the urgent need, which still persists today, to overcome the separation between faith and culture, calling for a greater commitment to evangelisation in the firm conviction that Christian Revelation is a transforming power destined to permeate patterns of thought, standards of judgment and norms of behaviour. It is capable of illuminating, purifying and renewing man's conduct and his cultures, and must remain the focal point for teaching and research, as well as the horizon illuminating the nature and goals of all ecclesiastical faculties". The underlying ideas of "Sapientia christiana", Benedict XVI went on, "still retain all their validity. Indeed, in modern society where knowledge is becoming ever more specialised and sectorial but is profoundly marked by relativism, it is even more necessary to open oneself to the wisdom which comes from the Gospel. Man, in fact, is incapable of gaining a full understanding of himself and the world without Jesus Christ; He alone illuminates man's true dignity, his vocation and ultimate destiny, and opens his heart to a firm and lasting hope". Professors and students "must never lose sight of the goal to be pursued, that of becoming instruments for the announcement of the Gospel. ... At the same time, it is important to remember that the study of the sacred sciences must never be separated from prayer, from union with God, from contemplation, ... otherwise reflection on the divine Mysteries risks becoming an empty intellectual exercise". Turning then to address participants in the general assembly of the FIUC, which this year celebrates the sixtieth anniversary of its canonical recognition, the Holy Father encouraged them to make "further efforts to renew your will to serve the Church. In this context, your motto also represents a programme for the future of the federation: 'Sciat ut serviat', to know in order to serve. "In a culture which reveals a 'lack of wisdom and reflection, a lack of thinking capable of formulating a guiding synthesis'", he added in conclusion, "Catholic universities, faithful to an identity which makes a specific point of Christian inspiration, are called to promote a 'new humanistic synthesis', knowledge that is 'wisdom capable of directing man in the light of his first beginnings and his final ends', knowledge illuminated by faith".AC/.../ROMAN PONTIFICAL UNIVERSITIES VIS 091119 (450)
AUDIENCES VATICAN CITY, 19 NOV 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences eight prelates from the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, on their "ad limina" visit: - Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, archbishop of Sao Paulo, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishops Pedro Luiz Stringhini, Joaquim Justino Carreira, Joao Mamede Filho O.F.M. Conv., and Tarcisio Scaramussa S.D.B. - Bishop Ercilio Turco of Osasco. - Bishop David Dias Pimentel of Sao Joao da Boa Vista. - Bishop Jose Luiz Bertanha S.V.D. of Registro.AL/.../... VIS 091119 (90)
OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS VATICAN CITY, 19 NOV 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed: - As consultors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Archbishop Manuel Monteiro de Castro, secretary of the Congregation for Bishops, and Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues O.P., secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education. - John C. Cavadini, professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame at South Bend, U.S.A., as a member of the International Theological Commission.NA/.../MONTEIRO:BRUGUES:CAVADINI VIS 091119 (80)



Catholic Herald reports that tens of thousands of pupils, teachers and other staff, parents, governors, and Mass-goers in England and Wales joined in this year's Just Stand Up Against Poverty campaign from October 16 to 18.Co-ordinated by Hugh Gibbons of Bracknell, Berkshire, they formed part of Britain's contribution of 220,000 to this year's worldwide campaign following Make Poverty History. Altogether 173 million people stood up in 130 countries - breaking last year's Guinness world record by almost 50 per cent. Some bishops took up Mr Gibbon's suggestion of "Stand Up dioceses", and agreed to encourage their schools and churches to participate. Catholic Portsmouth, Hallam and Hexham and Newcastle dioceses were joined by the Anglican dioceses of Liverpool, Blackburn and Newcastle. In addition, Mr Gibbon gathered more than 30,000 people from Catholic schools, invited by email from mid-September onwards, to add to the 17,000 enrolled last year. Mr Gibbon said: "The Stands Ups are a simple collective show of concern for social justice that calls for only a few moments in school or Mass. They fit well with RE and personal, social, health and citizenship education in the curriculum. "And they let everyone take part in a nationwide rally - without taking to the streets."One activity involved standing up for a few minutes to share the "Promises to the Poor" - a set of pledges created by Mr Gilbert based on the United Nations' millennium development goals. The largest "Stand Up" was at St Wilfrid's Catholic high school in Featherstone, West Yorkshire, with 2,000 people. (SOURCE:



CNA reports that the California Catholic Conference is calling on the state's Catholics to join the recently launched Catholic Legislative Network and become more involved in politics, California Catholic Daily reports. The campaign is beginning at the parish level and will encompass the entire state by next year.
The first step in launching the campaign for increased participation in the Catholic Legislative Network began on Oct 24-25, California Catholic Daily reported. Parishioners at St. Anthony's Church in Sacramento watched an introduction by Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto as well as short video about the new initiative.
The video mentions government funding cuts for programs such as an insurance plan for children from low-income families and protective services for the elderly. It also demonstrates the increased need for such services since many Californians are losing their jobs and homes or facing a severe reduction in their income. It also juxtaposes the cutting of programs that embrace life with the continued push for pro-choice services, such as the advocacy for teenage abortions without parental consent.
More than 400 parishioners signed up to participate in the program, whose next step is the hosting of “Life and Dignity Sunday” within the diocese. According to the Catholic Legislative Network, “'Life & Dignity Sunday' will be held in all parishes in the Diocese of Sacramento on the weekend of December 5 and 6, 2009 and move out to the remainder of the state in the coming months.”
In his introduction to the video, Bishop Soto said, “We believe that a very important voice that is lacking in the decisions that are made both here in the capital and throughout the state is the voice of faith.”
Soto also said that he and his fellow bishops desire that California Catholics become a more vocal “voice of life and dignity” in the state. (SOURCE:



UCAN reports that Priestly vocations have soared almost 50 percent in five years in Vietnam amid a relaxation of seminary enrollment rules by the government.

A bishop ordains a priest in Vietnam (File photo)
Enrollment in the country's seven major seminaries this year is 1,349, compared to 922 in 2004, says Father Joseph Do Manh Hung, secretary general of the Vietnam Bishops' Episcopal Commission for Clergy and Seminarians.
Some Church people say the relaxation of government rules on seminary recruitment is a good opportunity for the Church to take in a larger number of priestly candidates. It also indicates the government is loosening its grip on Church activities as it tries to integrate itself into the world community.
Since 1986, the government has allowed the local Church to reopen six major seminaries.
At first they were allowed to recruit students only every six years, and this was relaxed to every other year from 1991. Since 2005, seminaries have gradually been allowed to recruit every year.
Seminaries in Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Trang received such permission in 2005, 2007 and 2008 respectively.
This September and October, the major seminaries in Hue, Can Tho and Vinh cities were allowed annual recruitment.
The former Xuan Loc branch of Ho Chi Minh city-based Saint Joseph Major Seminary this year became the country's seventh major seminary serving 271 students from the dioceses of Ba Ria, Da Lat, Phan Thiet and Xuan Loc.

Xuan Loc Seminary, the latest ofseven major seminaries in the country
Father Hung, who has a master's degree in the theology of priestly formation from the Institut Catholique de Paris in France, said most local dioceses organize pre-seminary programs for seminary candidates. This is because all minor seminaries were closed by the government after the country's reunification in 1975.
Some 300 seminary candidates from Ho Chi Minh City archdiocese are attending such programs.
While the local Church is glad to be able to accept more priestly candidates, the large numbers also pose a challenge to Church infrastructure as more facilities are needed to accommodate students.
A seminary formator from a diocese in central Vietnam said his diocese does not have enough facilities for seminary candidates and lacks money for training.
The local Church also does not have enough formators with the necessary skills, he added.


CISA reports that a recent survey carried out in ten regions of Cameroon shows that rape cases are on the rise.According to IPS, 20 percent of the nearly 38,000 women interviewed reported having been raped.The German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and Cameroon's National Association of Aunties – (RENATA), an organization of more than 10,000 teenaged mothers working against sexual violence, found most rapes were committed by people known to the victims. “The rapists are family members, including fathers, school teachers, pastors and priests, classmates, colleagues, friends and neighbours," Dr Flavien Tiokou Ndonko, one of the researchers, told IPS. Family members were reported to be the assailants in 18 percent of cases. Nearly a quarter of those raped became pregnant as a result. “These statistics cannot in any way show the full extent of rape in the country, because most victims never tell anyone they have been raped,” said Ndonko. A separate study jointly carried out by the GTZ and RENATA, titled Constraints in Seeking Justice for Rape Victims in Cameroon, revealed that of the 33 reported cases between 2004 and 2007 at the Bamenda High Court, in Cameroon's North West region, "only two of them were sentenced, 22 were struck out as lacking evidence, eight cases were discharged on grounds of simple threats, while one was withdrawn.” The report further indicates that the procedures for getting legal redress are too cumbersome and take too long, essentially because of "the need for preliminary investigations, from the police and/or hospital to the legal department, before getting to court.”In the course of these lengthy procedures, the report says, "most victims encounter lots of interventions and negotiations whereby the case is stopped or withdrawn before justice is rendered." Constraints such as a lack of counseling for survivors and accused, lack of specialized judges for rape cases, the high cost of court action and administration, as well as threats from the accused, all combine to make justice for rape survivors a privilege, not a right in Cameroon. According to Patience Siri Akenji, the legal consultant who supervised the study, what happens in the Bamenda High Court is a microcosm of what happens in courts across the country. She suggests the legal system be improved to make deadlines applicable to judicial officers to prosecute, specific laws should also be enacted to protect rape victims and also also recommends that court sessions be held in the magistrates' chambers for the protection of rape survivors, away from the pressure of the court room, and as a way to uphold the dignity of the victim. "This will encourage the reporting of these cases, and encourage cooperation, leading to rapid intervention in rape cases," Akenji said. Despite Cameroon’s penal code that states, "Whoever by force or moral ascendancy compels any female, whether above or below the age of puberty, to have sexual intercourse with him shall be punished with imprisonment from five to 10 years,” few perpetrators of rape are ever prosecuted in Cameroon.(SOURCE:

Cath News reports that Australian churches are being invited to take part in the fifth nationwide National Church Life Survey of churchgoers in 2011, which aims to help churches better connect with the wider community.
The survey will take place in a variety of forms across Australian churches in the second half of 2011, the same year as the National Census, according to Anglican Media Melbourne.
Fr Brian Lucas of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said the 2011 NCLS would help churches to identify realities.
"The mission of NCLS Research is to use credible research to identify signs of hope, to nurture life in both leadership and churches as well as to encourage the wider community to reflect upon its spiritual journey and the churches' place within it," he said.

"A truly national survey can only take place with the collaboration of all the churches across the nation. We're hoping to let churches start the dialogue now, to ensure that it is a useful and cooperative venture."
All churches in Christian denominations across Australia will be invited to participate. It is hoped that 500,000 church attenders in 7,000 local churches from 25 denominations will participate in the survey, said the National Director of NCLS Research, Dr Ruth Powell.
"We will ask questions to help map the Australian church landscape, and as previously, will ask local churches questions to help them reflect on their own health and vitality," she said."We also want to find the lighthouse churches, those that are being innovative."
"We hope to meet the needs of many parts of the church, including schools and agencies by gathering information that is helpful for their mission objectives."

St. Mechtilde
Feast: November 19
Feast Day:
November 19
1240 or 1241 at the ancestral castle of Helfta, near Eisleben, Saxony
19 November, 1298

Benedictine; born in 1240 or 1241 at the ancestral castle of Helfta, near Eisleben, Saxony; died in the monastery of Helfta, 19 November, 1298. She belonged to one of the noblest and most powerful Thuringian families, while here sister was the saintly and illustrious Abbess Gertrude von Hackeborn. Some writers have considered that Mechtilde von Hackeborn and Mechtilde von Wippra were two distinct persons, but, as the Barons of Hackeborn were also Lords of Wippra, it was customary for members of that family to take their name indifferently from either, or both of these estates. So fragile was she at birth, that the attendants, fearing she might die unbaptized, hurried her off to the priest who was just then preparing to say Mass. He was a man of great sanctity, and after baptizing the child, uttered these prophetic words: "What do you fear? This child most certainly will not die, but she will become a saintly religious in whom God will work many wonders, and she will end her days in a good old age." When she was seven years old, having been taken by her mother on a visit to her elder sister Gertrude, then a nun in the monastery of Rodardsdorf, she became so enamoured of the cloister that her pious parents yielded to her entreaties and, acknowledging the workings of grace, allowed her to enter the alumnate. Here, being highly gifted in mind as well as in body, she made remarkable progress in virtue and learning.
Ten years later (1258) she followed her sister, who, now abbess, had transferred the monastery to an estate at Helfta given her by her brothers Louis and Albert. As a nun, Mechtilde was soon distinguished for her humility, her fervour, and that extreme amiability which had characterized her from childhood and which, like piety, seemed hereditary in her race. While still very young, she became a valuable helpmate to Abbess Gertrude, who entrusted to her direction the alumnate and the choir. Mechtilde was fully equipped for her task when, in 1261, God committed to her prudent care a child of five who was destined to shed lustre upon the monastery of Helfta. This was that Gertrude who in later generations became known as St. Gertrude the Great. Gifted with a beautiful voice, Mechtilde also possessed a special talent for rendering the solemn and sacred music over which she presided as domna cantrix. All her life she held this office and trained the choir with indefatigable zeal. Indeed, Divine praise was the keynote of her life as it is of her book; in this she never tired, despite her continual and severe physical sufferings, so that in Hisrevelations Christ was wont to call her His "nightingale". Richly endowed, naturally and supernaturally, ever gracious, beloved of all who came within the radius of her saintly and charming personality, there is little wonder that this cloistered virgin should strive to keep hidden her wondrous life. Souls thirsting for consolation or groping for light sought her advice; learned Dominicans consulted her on spiritual matters. At the beginning of her own mystic life it was from St. Mechtilde that St. Gertrude the Great learnt that the marvellous gifts lavished upon her were from God.
Only in her fiftieth year did St. Mechtilde learn that the two nuns in whom she had especially confided had noted down the favours granted her, and, moreover, that St. Gertrude had nearly finished a book on the subject. Much troubled at this, she, as usual, first had recourse to prayer. She had a vision of Christ holding in His hand the book of her revelations, and saying: "All this has been committed to writing by my will and inspiration; and, therefore you have no cause to be troubled about it." He also told her that, as He had been so generous towards her, she must make Him a like return, and that the diffusion of therevelations would cause many to increase in His love; moreover, He wished this book to be called "The Book of Special Grace", because it would prove such to many. When the saint understood that the book would tend to God's glory, she ceased to be troubled, and even corrected the manuscript herself. Immediately after her death it was made public, and copies were rapidly multiplied, owing chiefly to the widespread influence of the Friars Preachers. Boccaccio tells how, a few years after the death of Mechtilde, the book of her revelations was brought to Florence and popularized under the title of "La Laude di donna Matelda". It is related that the Florentines were accustomed to repeat daily before their sacred images the praises learned from St. Mechtilde's book. St. Gertrude, to whose devotedness we owe the "Liber Specialis Gratiae" exclaims: "Never has there arisen one like to her in our monastery; nor, alas! I fear, will there ever arise another such!" -- little dreaming that her own name would be inseparably linked with that of Mechtilde. With that of St. Gertrude, the body of St. Mechtilde most probably still reposes at Old Helfta thought the exact spot is unknown. Her feast is kept 26 or 27 February in different congregations and monasteries of her order, by special permission of the Holy See.There is another honour, inferior certainly to that of sanctity, yet great in itself and worthy of mention here: the homage of a transcendent genius was to be laid at the feet of St. Mechtilde. Critics have long been perplexed as to one of the characters introduced by Dante in his "Purgatorio" under the name of Matelda. After ascending seven terraces of a mountain, on each of which the process of purification is carried on, Dante, in Canto xxvii, hears a voice singing: "Venite, benedicti patris mei"; then later, in Canto xxviii, there appears to him on the opposite bank of the mysterious stream a lady, solitary, beautiful, and gracious. To her Dante addresses himself; she it is who initiates him into secrets, which it is not given to Virgil to penetrate, and it is to her that Beatrice refers Dante in the words: "Entreat Matilda that she teach thee this." Most commentators have identified Matilda with the warrior-Countess of Tuscany, the spiritual daughter and dauntless champion of St. Gregory VII, but all agree that beyond the name the two have little or nothing in common. She is no Amazon who, at Dante's prayer that she may draw nearer to let him understand her song, turns towards him "not otherwise than a virgin that droppeth her modest eyes". In more places than one the revelations granted to the mystics of Helfta seem in turn to have become the inspirations of the Florentine poet. All writers on Dante recognize his indebtedness to St. Augustine, the Pseudo-Dionysius, St. Bernard, and Richard of St. Victor. These are precisely the writers whose doctrines had been most assimilated by the mystics of Helfta, and thus they would the more appeal to the sympathies of the poet. The city of Florence was among the first to welcome St. Mechtilde's book. Now Dante, like all true poets, was a child of his age, and could not have been a stranger to a book which was so popular among his fellow-citizens. The "Purgatorio" was finished between 1314 and 1318, or 1319 --just about the time when St. Mechtilde's book was popular. This interpretation is supported by the fact that St. Mechtilde in her "Book of Special Grace" (pt. I, c. xiii) describes the place of purification under the same figure of a seven-terraced mountain. The coincidence of the simile and of the name, Matelda, can scarcely be accidental. For another among many points of resemblance between the two writers compare "Purgatorio", Canto xxxi, where Dante is drawn by Matelda through the mysterious stream with pt. II, c. ii. of the "Liber Specialis Gratiae". The serene atmosphere which seems to cling about the gracious and beautiful songstress, her virgin modesty and simple dignity, all seem to point to the recluse of Helfta rather than to the stern heroine of Canossa, whose hand was thrice bestowed in marriage. Besides, in politics Dante, as an ardent Ghibelline, supported the imperial pretensions and he would have been little inclined to sing the praises of the Tuscan Countess. The conclusion may therefore be hazarded that this "Donna Matelda" of the "Purgatorio" personifies St. Mechtilde as representing mystic theology.


Luke 19: 41 - 44
And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it,
saying, "Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes.
For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side,
and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation."

No comments: