Sunday, March 14, 2010




Benedict XVI says that the parable that reveals God as the Father of Mercy is the basis of our culture, art and civilization.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - An invitation to meditate on the parable of the "prodigal son", in which we are reflected in "the two children and especially, in which we contemplate the heart of the Father. Let us cast ourselves into his arms and be regenerated by his merciful love”. This is what Benedict XVI said at the Angelus in St Peter's Square today, taking his cue from today’s Sunday Gospel, the Fourth Sunday of Lent (Luke 15, 11-32).
"This chapter of St. Luke - explained the pope – represents a spiritual and literary high point of all time. Indeed, what would our culture, art, and more generally our civilization be without this revelation of God the Father, full of mercy? It never ceases to move us, and every time I hear it or read it, it always suggests new meanings. Above all, this Gospel text has the power to speak of God, let us know his face, better yet, his heart. After Jesus told us of the Father's merciful love, things have changed forever, now we know God, He is our Father who created us free to love and gifted us a consciousness that suffers if we get lost and that celebrates if we return. For this, the relationship with God is built through a story, similar to what happens to every child with their parents: at the beginning he depends on them, then he claims his own autonomy, and finally - if there is a positive development - he comes to a mature relationship based on genuine gratitude and love.
"In these stages - continued the Pope - we can read even moments of the journey of man in relationship with God. There is a phase that is like childhood: a religion provoked by need, by dependence. Gradually man grows and is emancipated, he wants to free himself from this submission and become free, adult, able to regulate himself and make his own choices independently, to the point of even thinking he can do without God This phase, indeed, it is a delicate one and can lead to atheism, but this too often hides the need to discover the true face of God. Fortunately, God never fails in his loyalty, and even if we move away and get lost, he continues to follow us with his love, forgive our mistakes and speak to our inner consciousness, to call us back to him. In the parable, the two children behave in an opposite way: the younger son leaves and increasingly falls lower and lower, while the older son remains at home, but he also has an immature relationship with the Father, because, when his brother returns, the older son is not happy as the Father is, indeed, he grows angry and refuses to return home. The two sons represent two immature ways of relating with God: rebellion and hypocrisy. Both of these methods are overcome through the experience of mercy. Only by experiencing forgiveness, recognizing ourselves as loved with a free love, greater than our misery, but also of our justice, will we finally enter into a truly filial and free relationship with God. "


All Africa report: The body count from the perennial killing fields of Jos, Plateau State, does not matter anymore.
The number this time has been put at around 400. These were victims of the latest in the mindless slaughter of Nigerian citizens in Jos and some other parts of the Northern states by fellow Nigerians on grounds of ethnicity, religion or in the guise of seeking or protecting economic advantages and grazing grounds in predominantly farming communities.

This time, in what the authorities have dubbed a 'reprisal' attack, scores of Christian and animist Berom, living in Dogo Nahawa village cluster in Jos South local government area, were set upon in the early hours of Saturday and practically wiped out by suspected Muslim Fulani herdsmen.
Apparently this organised murder was a diabolical attempt to even the scores of last January 2010 killings by those who felt most at loss.
In fact, except for the number of casualties, events of last Saturday are all too familiar. The trajectories have all conformed to existing norm.
However, an added sickening twist to the recent Jos slaughters, (which began in the 1940s and 50s with murderous clashes between Igbo and Hausa-Fulani settlers over mineral mining rights) has been the deliberate targeting of the most vulnerable among target groups- children, women, the aged and infirm-who can hardly protect themselves.
The diabolical and frightening intent and motivation for this form of heartless attack on children and pregnant women may well have been to ensure that no children from the target group would survive and grow to seek revenge. And also, that no new children are born to replace the avengers, when women of child-bearing age are equally exterminated.
Under international protocols and laws governing human behaviour in conflict situations, like the Geneva Convention, what the alleged Fulani herdsmen did in Jos South local government area, qualifies to be called 'genocide'.
This may well be why the global community has risen in total condemnation of the latest Jos killings - from the Vatican to the United States and the EU nations-who appear to read the hidden, unstated, message between the lines in the method and patterns of so-called 'riots' in the Middle Belt region.
Any one familiar with the 'genocidal process' where target groups are, first demonized, reduced to sub-human status and then bureaucratically and mechanically exterminated would not fail to detect the same pattern in Jos against target groups. Certainly, the sight of tots, mothers and the aged being interred in mass graves in Jos last week would suggest that the dimensions of atrocities in Jos have taken a systemic nature.
As in previous cases, pious noises of outrage have been made by those in authority. Blames have been traded, leading to the replacement of the National Security Adviser, Gen. Muktar by General Gusau, for reasons that some saw as his failure to act on available intelligence to forestal the carnage.
Allegations have also been directed at the nation's Army whose troops where supposed to maintain a curfew emplaced after the January killings, but on whose watch the Jos murderers operated for close to four hours before retreating back to their bases.
Also official pronouncements have been made about government's determination to ensure that these sort of heartless killings do not occur again. Indeed, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan was reported to have vowed that this would not happen again.
This resolve would be tested by how diligently his government pursues the investigation, interdiction, prosecution and conviction of not just the foot-soldiers that do the actual killings but also the sponsors, the preachers of hate in the name of religion and those who secretly finance them.
It is only then that Nigerians and the rest of the world would begin to see this country in a more benign light and not as a country that has failed itself and its citizens.


Fides report; Cistercian monks from the “Stift Heiligenkreuz” Abbey on their way to Sri Lanka to found new abbey
Vienna (Agenzia Fides) - On March 14, four Cistercian monks will leave the Abbey “Stift Heiligenkreuz” near Vienna (Austria) for Sri Lanka. In 2001, three young candidates for the monastic life from the Archdiocese of Colombo had arrived in Austria with the community, to prepare for the Cistercian life along with the Austrian community. At the request of their Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, they will now return to their country of origin to found a Cistercian abbey and spread this form of life in the Asian country. Following the request of the Archbishop of Colombo, the Abbot of Heiligenkreuz, Fr. Gregor Henckel Donnersmarck, will send the Austrian Fr. Kosmas Thielmann along with the three young monks, to support the start up phase of "Project Sri Lanka."The idea of founding a monastery in the vicinity of Columbus came about many years ago. After a series of difficulties that had to be overcome, at the last Chapter of the Abbey of Heiligenkreuz, celebrated in mid-February, it was decided that monks would be sent. Initially, the four monks will live in a formation center in Negombo, 30 km from Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. "We ask for prayers for the Archbishop of Colombo and for this foundation project. We will do everything possible to spread the monks' life in Sri Lanka," said Fr. Gregor Henckel Donnersmarck. "In Asia, there is a great opening to Christ and our monasteries prove it. In Sri Lanka, there is a long tradition of Buddhist monks, but until now Christian monasticism was not known. The new Abbey will initially be founded as a diocesan institute with a contemplative character, with the hope of a future integration into the Cistercian Order.”On the occasion of his pilgrimage to Mariazell (Austria), on September 9, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI visited the “Stift Heiligenkreuz” Abbey, reminding the monks who follow the Benedictine Rule: "Your first service to the world must be the prayer and the Eucharist." (MS) (Agenzia Fides 11/03/2010)


CNA report: A San Francisco court ruled Thursday that the phrase “one nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance does not violate the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution.
The decision, made by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, reverses a 2002 rejection of the phrase which was backed at the time by atheist activist Dr. Michael Nedow. Non-profit civil rights law firm the Beckett Fund began to argue the 2002 decision with the Court two years ago.
“The Ninth Circuit finally stood up for the Pledge,” said Kevin J. “Seamus” Hasson of the Becket Fund who argued the case. “The Court has just said what was self-evident to Thomas Jefferson and the signers of our Declaration of Independence in 1776 – our rights are unalienable precisely because they come not from the State, but from the Creator.”
The Court was influenced in its ruling by the Beckett Fund's argument for the constitutionality of the words “under God” in the pledge. The non-profit group stated that Congress' purpose in devising the pledge was “to underscore the political philosophy of the Founding Fathers that God granted certain inalienable rights to the people which the government cannot take away.”
The Beckett Fund also acted in the case on behalf of parents and schoolchildren in the Sacramento public school district as well as the Knights of Columbus who spearheaded the initiative to add “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1955.
“This decision is a victory for common sense,” Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson said on Thursday. “Today, the Court got it absolutely right: recitation of the Pledge is a patriotic exercise, not a religious prayer. Best of all, the Court said that the words 'under God' add a 'note of importance which a Pledge to our Nation ought to have and which in our culture ceremonial references to God arouse.' Every reasonable person knows that, and today's decision is a breath of fresh air from a court system that has too often seemed to be almost allergic to public references to God.”
“This is a very good day for America,” Anderson added.
In their decision on Thursday, the Ninth Circuit also asserted that because saying the pledge is voluntary, efforts by the plaintiffs to remove certain parts of it is an attempt to suppress the free speech of others. “What is at issue is not saying the Pledge or affirming a belief in God. What is at issue is whether Roechild (Dr. Newdow’s anonymous client) can prevent other students, who have no such objection, from saying the Pledge,” stated the court.


Catholic Herald report: Fr Marcus Stock is beaming about the bishops’ ad limina visit to Rome. The bishops, he says, enjoyed each other’s company, got “positive feedback” from the dicasteries, and felt a greater sense of communion with St Peter. Many of them were “deeply moved” by their meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. It didn’t start out that way: some bishops were initially apprehensive, “questioning whether it was an effective use of their time”.Fr Stock organised it all, even arranging a cake and card (signed by all the bishops) for Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton on his birthday. When I meet Fr Stock a week later some bishops have already sent him letters of thanks.He, too, enjoyed the trip, and says the formal photographs of the occasion don’t capture the sense of fun and camaraderie. “After a while I began to see past the purple zuchettos and just saw them as a really great bunch of priests, enjoying each other’s company, among whom I felt very welcomed.”For Fr Stock, the new general secretary of the bishops’ conference, it was a jump in the deep end: he had only started the job in November. Before that, he was a parish priest in Coleshill, on the outskirts of Birmingham, and the director of the archdiocesan schools commission. Described by colleagues as “meticulous”, he was handpicked for the job by his former boss, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster.He is not, therefore, a bishops’ conference insider. And it seems, from the way he talks, that he is prepared to make some pretty serious changes.When I meet him at Eccleston Square, he comes across as considerate and down to earth; his cheeriness is gentle and reserved. In his office Maggie Doherty from the Catholic Communications Network (CCN) is there to take notes, and to start with the conversation is a little uncomfortable. Fr Stock fidgets slightly with a pair of glasses, folding and unfolding the arms. There’s one question in particular I’m worried about asking — about the bishops’ conference being viewed as bureaucratic and irrelevant to ordinary Catholics. But when I do raise the subject, he does not dismiss the idea; in fact, he is remarkably open to criticism. “You have to take people’s perceptions seriously,” he says. His voice, soft and reassuring, does not suggest any discomfort. “One of the things I see for me to do is actually take seriously people’s understanding and see if there’s any truth in it. And if there is any truth in it then to address those issues.”He mentions that, as a parish priest, he “wasn’t that much aware of what the bishops’ conference secretariat did”, even though he helped to raise money for it. Most parish priests would be the same, he says: they’d be aware broadly of the work, but not “the detail and the extent”.He stresses that changes should not be carried out rashly, and that his first year would be in the “listen, look and learn” mode. “To be done well and properly and thoroughly it needs time,” he says. “You can’t walk into an organisation and make rash judgments because there’s always a history behind the way things are done. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a mandate to carry out change, but it does mean you’ve got to be careful about how you do it. You’ve got to take people with you.”He praises the bishops’ conference – he says it does an “amazing amount of work on limited resources”. He also emphasises that it “serves the needs of the bishops” and is not an independent body (the bishops’ conference proper, he says, is the two meetings the bishops have each year; at Eccleston Square is the bishops’ conference secretariat).It’s clear, though, that he has an eye on the money. “Part of my vision is to see how we can use the resources as effectively as possible because they are charitable resources, at the end of the day we’re a charity, and it is incumbent upon us to use the money wisely and efficiently.”As a parish priest, he says, he used to do the accounts himself. “It enabled me to know what was coming in and what was going out, where we were spending money and where we could make savings. I think the leader of any organisation needs to be very clear about the resources that are available and where they are being used.”Fr Stock’s approach is very analytical. He separates business into three areas: “the musts, the shoulds, the coulds”. The musts are the core work; the coulds, on the other hand, are “the things you do on a rainy day if you’ve got pots of money swishing around”.The core business of the secretariat, he says, are those areas where “the voice of the bishops collectively needs to be represented”. He says the media are absolutely crucial in this. “And I’m not just saying that to butter up Maggie.” (Fr Stock’s good humour expresses itself frequently, as it does here, in a bashful and mischievous kind of laugh.)Often when talking about his new role, Fr Stock refers to his experience as a parish priest. And it seems to be how he sees himself: after all, this is the first time since he was ordained about 20 years ago that he has not been serving in a parish. He is, he admits, finding it a hard adjustment to make. “There isn’t the regularity,” he says. “As a parish priest you have Mass at a certain time every morning for the parish and your weekend is mapped out for you by your obligations, whereas here it’s the reverse – I’m twiddling my thumbs at the weekend.”When I ask what the biggest crisis has been in his life he says “the adjustment you have to make when you leave a parish”. “It doesn’t sound like a huge crisis but you build up very, very close relationships with your parishioners and it’s very difficult to leave them... You’ve been given unique access to people’s lives when you’re there as a parish priest a long time – 10 years at my last parish – you grow up with them and they grow up with you. It’s like being part of a family.”In fact, when he first heard about his appointment in April last year, he asked if he could stay on in his parish until November when the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux were scheduled to visit. He sounds a bit sheepish: “They very graciously let me stay on, and my predecessor very graciously stayed on in his post here.” St Thérèse worked “real miracles”, he says. He talks of two police officers who had been marshalling traffic outside and who went into the church almost out of curiosity. “I don’t think they were Catholics but they knelt down and prayed and as they walked out they were both shedding tears, both clearly moved by the occasion.”Another man came up to him at 2am in the morning “to pour his heart out, in tears about his prayer life and the way he’d lived his life as a Catholic and wanting to renew his faith”.I get the impression that Fr Stock has the same kind of emotional engagement with his own faith. His family are from the evangelical wing of the Church of England and by the time he converted at the age of 19 he had already developed a “deep love” of Christ and of holy scripture. He applied to enter seminary in his last year at university (he was at Oxford) but the idea was first planted in his head by an Anglican curate when he was only 11. His inspiration to continue his training, he says, came not from any priest but from the Sisters who cooked and looked after the seminarians in Rome. “It was their daily work, their personal sacrifice, doing all the menial things with very little praise or recognition,” he says. His job was to get up at 4am and drive them to the food market – and it was here, he says, that he first learned about Italian cooking. “The wives [at the stalls] would ask the Sisters what they’d be giving the lads this week, and the Sisters would talk about their own recipes. I was all ears, and clocked it, and so when I came back to England I used to try out these typical Roman recipes.” One source says that Fr Stock is the best Italian cook in the Archdiocese of Birmingham. His favourite recipe, he says, is porchetta di Ariccia – roast loin of pork coated and stuffed with fennel and herbs. But he admits he hasn’t had the chance to test out his cooking in London.


Cath News report:
ENGLISH-SPEAKING parishioners have been forced out of a church whose service is now to be heard solely in Korean.
Denistone East Uniting Church in north Sydney will hold its final English service this Sunday.
The community that has replaced bygone eras in Denistone is "delightfully Asianised", Reverend Les Pearson said, with at least 120 keen Korean Christians packing each sermon.
"At a time when church-going for Caucasian people seems to be diminishing, it is a healthy thing for our church to become more ethnic," he said.
"This is society dictating to the church and the church responding to that. It would have been easy to say 'This is an Aussie church' but it would have been unreasonable and wrong.
"We live in a land enriched by migrants."
Sixty years ago founder Rod Field painted a promise of things to come: "This is the site of the Denistone East Methodist Church."
It was a simple sign on a cow paddock surrounded by orchards which were being carved up into suburban Sydney.
After 57 years of Sundays, this final English service would be sad, Mr Field said, but it was better that a Korean congregation use the church than none at all.
"I could not have put up a new sign saying it was to be closed. It would have been too emotional," the 86-year-old said.
"Putting up a sign saying it was going Korean ... I could do that."
Long-time parishioner Ron Hoffmann, 77, will miss his tiny church but he understands the change.
"It's a very caring church, everyone knows everybody. I will always remember its heyday where the Sunday school had 300 children, our youth group had 70 teenagers and at Christmas you couldn't fit everybody into this hall," Mr Hoffmann said.
Korean Pastor Jim Ho Cho said there was huge demand for more Korean services and with English cancelled, he could run two morning services on Sunday as well as evening services during the week.


St. Matilda
Feast: March 14
Feast Day:
March 14
895 at Engern, Westphalia, Germany
14 March 968 at Quedlinburg, Germany
Patron of:
death of children, disappointing children, falsely accused people, large families, people ridiculed for their piety, queens, second marriages, widows

Queen of Germany, wife of King Henry I (The Fowler), born at the Villa of Engern in Westphalia, about 895; died at Quedlinburg, 14 March, 968. She was brought up at the monastery of Erfurt. Henry, whose marriage to a young widow, named Hathburg, had been declared invalid, asked for Matilda's hand, and married her in 909 at Walhausen, which he presented to her as a dowry. Matilda became the mother of: Otto I, Emperor of Germany; Henry, Duke of Bavaria; St. Bruno, Archbishop of Cologne; Gerberga, who married Louis IV of France; Hedwig, the mother of Hugh Capet. In 912 Matilda's husband succeeded his father as Duke of Saxony, and in 918 he was chosen to succeed King Conrad of Germany. As queen, Matilda was humble, pious, and generous, and was always ready to help the oppressed and unfortunate. She wielded a wholesome influence over the king. After a reign of seventeen years, he died in 936. He bequeathed to her all his possessions in Quedlinburg, Poehlden, Nordhausen, Grona, and Duderstadt.
It was the king's wish that his eldest son, Otto, should succeed him. Matilda wanted her favourite son Henry on the royal throne. On the plea that he was the first-born son after his father became king, she induced a few nobles to cast their vote for him, but Otto was elected and crowned king on 8 August, 936. Three years later Henry revolted against his brother Otto, but, being unable to wrest the royal crown from him, submitted, and upon the intercession of Matilda was made Duke of Bavaria. Soon, however, the two brothers joined in persecuting their mother, whom they accused of having impoverished the crown by her lavish almsgiving. To satisfy them, she renounced the possessions the deceased king had bequeathed to her, and retired to her villa at Engern in Westphalia. But afterwards, when misfortune overtook her sons, Matilda was called back to the palace, and both Otto and Henry implored her pardon.
Matilda built many churches, and founded or supported numerous monasteries. Her chief foundations were the monasteries at Quedlinburg, Nordhausen, Engern, and Poehlden. She spent many days at these monasteries and was especially fond of Nordhausen. She died at the convents of Sts. Servatius and Dionysius at Quedlinburg, and was buried there by the side of her husband. She was venerated as a saint immediately after her death. Her feast is celebrated on 14 March.




Joshua 5: 9, 10 - 12
And the LORD said to Joshua, "This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you." And so the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day.
While the people of Israel were encamped in Gilgal they kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at evening in the plains of Jericho.
And on the morrow after the passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain.
And the manna ceased on the morrow, when they ate of the produce of the land; and the people of Israel had manna no more, but ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.

Psalms 34: 2 - 7
My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and be glad.
O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!
I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Corinthians 5: 17 - 21
Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.


Luke 15: 1 - 3, 11 - 32
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.
And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."
So he told them this parable:
And he said, "There was a man who had two sons;
and the younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.' And he divided his living between them.
Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living.
And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want.
So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine.
And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything.
But when he came to himself he said, `How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger!
I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you;
I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants."'
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
And the son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
But the father said to his servants, `Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet;
and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry;
for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to make merry.
"Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.
And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant.
And he said to him, `Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.'
But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him,
but he answered his father, `Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends.
But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!'
And he said to him, `Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.
It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'"
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