Friday, April 16, 2010




VATICAN CITY, 16 APR 2010 (VIS) - This afternoon, Benedict XVI, who turns 83 today, received members of the Papal Foundation, the United States Catholic agency founded in Philadelphia, USA in 1990 by the now-deceased Cardinal John Krol, which every year finances the needs of the Church in the world. Its current chairman is Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia.
In his address, the Pope reaffirmed that in every time and place the Church is called to proclaim the message of the "hope" of the Risen One and to "confirm its truth by her practical witness of holiness and charity. The Papal Foundation has advanced this mission in a particular way by supporting a broad spectrum of charities close to the heart of the Successor of Peter." "I thank you for your generous efforts," Benedict XVI said, "to offer assistance to our brothers and sisters in developing countries, to provide for the education of the Church's future leaders, and to advance the missionary endeavours of so many dioceses and religious congregations throughout the world."
The Holy Father concluded, asking that the members of the Papal Foundation "pray for the needs of the universal Church and to implore a renewed outpouring of the Spirit's gifts of holiness, unity, and missionary zeal upon the whole People of God."


VATICAN CITY, 16 APR 2010 (VIS) - Yesterday morning, Benedict XVI presided at a Eucharistic concelebration con members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.
In his homily, the Pope reflected on the primacy of obedience to God and the true meaning of penitence and forgiveness in the life of Christians.
Recalling the words of St. Peter before the Sanhedrin, the Pope noted that "we must obey God rather than men." Conversely in modern times, he said, the freedom of the human being is often spoken of, of man's full autonomy, and thus of a liberation from obedience to God.
"This autonomy, however," the Holy Father asserted, "is a lie. It is an ontological lie because man does not exist in and for himself. It is a political and practical lie because collaboration and sharing in freedoms are necessary and if God did not exist, if God is not accessible to call upon, then only the will of the majority remains as a last recourse. The rule of the majority then becomes the final word that we must obey and this consensus - as we know from our history of the last century - can also be a consensus of evil. Thus we see that so-called autonomy does not liberate man."
Benedict XVI highlighted that dictatorships have always been against obedience to God. "Nazi dictatorship, as that of Marxism, cannot accept a God above ideological power." Today, he continued, we do not live under a dictatorship but subtle forms of dictatorship exist: "Conformity, in which it is obligatory to think as everyone else thinks, to act as all others act, and the more or less subtle aggression against the Church demonstrate how this conformity can be a real dictatorship."
The Pope continued to emphasize that "today we are often a little afraid to speak of eternal life. We speak of the things that are useful for the world, we show that Christianity can help improve the world but we dare not say that its goal is eternal life and that from that goal come the criteria of life."
That is why, he added, "we should instead have the courage, the joy, and the great hope that eternal life exists, which is the true life and that from this true life comes the light that also illuminates this world. From this point of view, 'penitence is a grace', a grace that we recognize our sins, that we can recognize that we need renewal, change, a transformation of our very being."
"I have to say that we Christians, also recently, have often avoided the word 'penitence', which seems too harsh. Now, before the attacks from the world that speak of our sins, we see that the power to be penitent is a grace and we see how it is necessary to make penance, to recognize what is wrong in our life. We must be open to forgiveness, prepare ourselves for forgiveness, let ourselves be transformed. The sorrow of penitence, of purification and transformation," he concluded, "is a grace because it is a renewal, the work of Divine Mercy."

VATICAN CITY, 16 APR 2010 (VIS) - Yesterday afternoon, the director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., made the following declaration concerning the letter of 8 September 2001, written by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, at the time prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, to then bishop of Bayeux-Lisieux, France, Fr. Pierre Pican, regarding a case of sexual abuse in the diocese.
"This document," affirmed the director of the Holy See Press Office, "is proof of the timeliness of the unification of the treatment of cases of the sexual abuse of minors on the part of members of the clergy under the competency of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, to guarantee rigorous and coherent action, as effectively occurred with the documents approved by the Pope in 2001."

OP/ VIS 20100416 (130

VATICAN CITY, 16 APR 2010 (VIS) - Today the Holy Father received in separate audiences:
- Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
and five prelates from the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (North II Region), on their "ad limina" visit:

- Bishop Dominique Marie Jean Denis You of Santissima Conceicao do Araguaia.
- Bishop Juventino Kestering of Rondonopolis.
- Bishop Capistrano Francisco Heim, O.F.M., of Itaituba.
- Bishop Jose Luis Azcona Hermoso, O.A.R., of Marajo.
- Bishop Erwin Krautler, C.P.P.S., of Xingu.

AP:AL/ VIS 20100416 (80)

VATICAN CITY, 16 APR 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, as his representative at the funeral of the Polish president Lech Kaczynski, which will take place tomorrow, Saturday, 17 April.


CBN report: A federal district court in Wisconsin has declared the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional, less than a month away from the 59th annual observance.

In a 66-page opinion issued Thursday, April 15, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb said the holiday violates the separation of church and state.
"It's because the nature of prayer is so personal and can have such a powerful effect on a community that the government may not use its authority to try to influence an individual's decision whether and when to pray," Crabb wrote.
A lawsuit was originally filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, challenging the federal law that gives the president authority to designate the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer.
Group members claimed they felt "excluded, disenfranchised and deeply insulted" by the day because they don't believe in God or prayer.
"It's unfortunate that this court failed to understand that a day set aside for prayer for the country represents a time-honored tradition that embraces the First Amendment, not violates it," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, which worked on the case.
Judge Crabb, appointed by former President Carter, called the day of prayer "an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function."
But those who support the National Day of Prayer say the ruling goes against America's faithful heritage.
"This is discrimination against the very roots and foundation of this nation," said Lou Engle, founder of the Christian movement The Call. "Let's fast, pray and say 'God, from the White House to my house give us a massive revival."
Congress established the National Day of Prayer in 1952 and lawmakers with the Congressional Prayer Caucus promise they'll fight to preserve it. Sekulow said his colleagues plan to file an appeal representing the members of Congress.
"If the appeals court fails to reverse this decision, we're confident the Supreme Court will hear the case," Sekulow said. "And ultimately determine that such proclamations and observances like the National Day of Prayer not only reflect our nation's rich history, but are indeed consistent with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment."
The judge's ruling doesn't bar the event until the c,ase is decided on appeal. The 59th National Day of Prayer is set for May 6.
In a statement to CBN News, the White House said President Obama still plans to recognize the day but will not hold any formal events. Obama did not hold an event last year either.

Asia News report: Winds of up to 160 kilometres an hour devastate northeastern India and Bangladesh. Communication lines are down; rescue operations are difficult. West Bengal bishop says shelters are open across the diocese to help the displaced “without discrimination of caste or creed.”

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Rescue teams continue searching for survivors, after a tropical storm struck northeastern India and Bangladesh. The death toll now stands at 130 people but is expected to go higher. Many areas are still isolated and telephone communications are down. Winds reaching up to160 kilometres per hour swept entire towns and villages, damaging 70,000 to 100,000 homes, according to preliminary estimates. In India, the State of Bihar was the hardest hit with at least 76 known deaths. Emergency teams are struggling to provide medicines and basic necessities. Official sources said that 42 people died in the northeastern State of West Bengal, and five more in Assam. In Bangladesh, seven people are known to have died, all in Rangpur District. Hundreds of people were hurt by the fury of the wind, and thousands have lost their home. In the meantime, many people are angry with the weather department in India, guilty in their eyes of not issuing any early warning. Experts explained that the storm was an extreme form of what is locally known as a "nor'wester", a weather pattern that develops over the Bay of Bengal during the hot months of the year. Mgr Alphonsus F. D’Souza, bishop of Raiganj, in Uttar Dinajpur District (West Bengal), told AsiaNews that he was “deeply saddened by the loss of life.”
“Roads are blocked with fallen trees and communications lines have snapped. Getting detailed information is difficult,” he said.“The Catholic Church, through its social ministry, that is the Social Welfare Institute (SWI), will provide immediate aid to people who lost their homes,” the bishop of Raiganj said. “Thousands are homeless, and the diocese will open shelters in Catholic facilities, providing help and medical assistance.”
Later, through its partner agencies, the Church “will work towards rehabilitation and reconstruction.” But for now, “our most urgent concern is immediate relief for the people,” and this “without discrimination of caste or creed.” In neighbouring Bangladesh, people displaced by the storm blame the local administration in Rangpur District for failing to start a coordinated effort in support of the population. Many have become homeless, forced to live in the open air. The fate of children, deprived of any assistance, is particularly worrisome.,-thousands-homeless,-as-Church-helps-victims-18145.html


CNN report: Volcanic ash from Iceland snarled air traffic across Europe for a second day Friday, causing the cancellation of some 16,000 flights, according to the intergovernmental body that manages European air travel.

The ash cloud is expected to drift farther south and eastward through Europe on Friday night, Eurocontrol said, raising concerns that more countries and airports could be affected.
The cloud comes from an eruption under an Icelandic glacier that began early Wednesday. The eruption through the Eyjafjallajokull glacier is the latest in a series that began on March 20.
The volcano was still erupting Friday and producing a lot of ash, said a spokesman for Iceland's Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management.
"It is reasonable to assume that there will be some significant disruption to European air traffic tomorrow," Eurocontrol Deputy Head Brian Flynn said at a news conference in Brussels, Belgium. He called the situation "major and unprecedented."
See latest developments affecting air travel
Eurocontrol said it expected around 11,000 flights to take place Friday, in contrast with the usual 28,000.
Officials said the ash can cause aircraft engines and electrical systems to fail.
The International Air Traffic Association, which represents 230 airlines worldwide, estimated the financial impact on airlines at more than $200 million a day in lost revenue.
The ash has forced the closure of some of Europe's busiest airports, including Charles de Gaulle in Paris, France, Heathrow in London, England, and Schiphol in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Airspace was closed over Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia and the Netherlands. It was partially closed in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Norway and Ireland, Eurocontrol and local authorities said.
The United Kingdom's National Air Traffic Service announced that airspace restrictions over the UK will remain in place until at least 1:00 p.m. Saturday.
Norway's airspace closure included cancellation of helicopter flights to off-shore oil installations.
The French closure included all Paris airports.
Germany closed all its airports until at least Saturday morning, German air security said. Airspace above 36,000 feet remain open.
Warsaw and Krakow airports in Poland were closed, affecting plans for world leaders to attend the Sunday funeral of Polish President Lech Kaczynski.
Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorsky said the services "will not be postponed, but they will be affected." The papal legate who was to lead the funeral mass has "apparently canceled," Sikorsky added. "And, quite frankly, we can't blame people for not wanting to take even the smallest risk to the security of air traffic in the circumstances."
President Obama still plans to attend the funeral.
The Spanish airport authority said 617 fights have been canceled and that 40 percent of the scheduled 1,600 flights between Spain and northern Europe were affected by the ash.
Medevac flights from Afghanistan and Iraq were being rerouted from their usual landing point at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where flight operations are shut down, U.S. military officials said.
U.S. carriers canceled approximately 280 flights Friday between the United States and volcano-affected areas in Europe, according to the Air Transport Association of America.
Two Royal Air Force bases in England -- at Lakenheath and Mildenhall -- will be shut for at least two days, the U.S. Air Force said Thursday. Dozens of U.S. Air Force F-15s and other fighter jets and tankers are not flying, and flights to Iraq and Afghanistan flying through that airspace are being diverted to other routes.
The Finnish air force said Friday it had found severe damage to the engines of F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets flown the day before when the airspace was open.
The accumulated ash melted in the combustion chamber, the air force said, a situation that could lead to the overheating of engines and overall deterioration.
At least some of the engines have had to be removed, the Finnish air force said.
Air transport and weather authorities all over Europe are working together and with the airlines to discuss the impact of the ash cloud, British Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis said. Adonis said he would discuss contingency plans with transport officials Friday in case the situation continues.
English Channel ferry operators and Eurostar, which runs high-speed trains between London, Paris and Brussels, said they were experiencing a high demand as passengers seek other ways of getting to their destinations. Adonis said Eurostar had added services to cope with demand.
Travelers rush to trains and ferries
Passengers at Heathrow's Terminal 1 seemed resigned to having missed their flights.
"I don't want the plane going down. This is really dangerous," one man said. "But I've been in some different situations over the years, and this is a new one."
One traveler said she had missed a wedding because of the problems.
"Not sure if we're still going to go or not," she said. "I don't know that there's any point any more, 'cause we've missed everything the trip was ultimately for."
Hotels around Heathrow were full Friday as they tried to accommodate stranded passengers. Dozens of children played soccer in the Renaissance Hotel's reception area, which is usually filled with business travelers and flight attendants.
Passengers stranded at Frankfurt Airport in Germany received food and other supplies. Spokesman Robert Payne said authorities distributed 1,000 cots along with cold drinks, hot soup, bread, baby food, diapers and toiletries.
U.S. carriers canceled 196 flights Friday between the United States and volcano-affected areas in Europe, according to the Air Transport Association of America.
Delta Air Lines canceled 65 international flights from its U.S. hubs scheduled over Thursday night and Friday morning in response to the ash cloud. The decision affected flights to Amsterdam; London; Shannon, Ireland; Brussels; and Mumbai, India. Delta said it would determine later Friday whether to resume flights.
iReporter doesn't mind being stranded in Tokyo
Air China announced the cancellation of most of its Friday flights to Europe.
Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific also canceled or delayed flights from Hong Kong to London, Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam.
It's hard to predict how long it will be before air travel can resume, said Matthew Watson, a geophysicist at England's Bristol University.
"You really need two things to happen: You need the volcano to stop emplacing ash to the altitude that commercial aircraft fly at, 30,000 to 35,000 feet, and you then need the upper level winds to blow the ash and disperse it out of the airspace," Watson said.
How long that will take "depends very much on the volcano. If this is it and it's stopped right now and it doesn't do anything else ... I imagine you are looking at 24 to 48 hours to clear UK airspace," he said.
Britain's Health Protection Agency said the concentration of ash particles that may reach the ground in Britain will likely be low and not cause serious harm. People may suffer irritated eyes, runny noses or sore throats -- or even notice the smell of sulphur -- but any effects are likely to be short term, the agency said.
If the airspace closures continue for as long as three days, some 6 million passengers will be affected, the Center for Asia Pacific Aviation estimated Friday.
Passengers also may not be able to make travel insurance claims because the volcano's impact may be classified as an act of God, the center said.
"Recovery in the key trans-Atlantic business market (the lifeblood for many European and U.S. long-haul airlines) is still elusive, while short-haul premium demand within Europe continues to contract," the center said in an analysis on its Web site.
"Airlines' finances, particularly in Europe, remain fragile, and airline managements will be hoping the ash -- and the attendant paranoia -- settles quickly."


All Africa report: Five options are being offered as possible solutions to defuse mounting opposition by churches to the draft constitution.

(picture) President Mwai Kibaki with Bishop Maurice Muhatia: Language on abortion and Islamic courts is a contentious issue in the new draft constitution

They include:
Freezing the clauses on the kadhi courts, abortion and land and presenting only those sections where there is agreement during the referendum
Presenting the draft to voters at the referendum with an MoU committing parliament to the changes
To take advantage of a clause in the draft by which aggrieved parties can force a referendum by collecting one million signatures
To change the constitution to provide for amendments before the referendum
Change the law to vote on contentious issues only
The suggestions by legal experts came as the top decision making organ of the Catholic church -- the Kenya Episcopal Conference -- voted to back the No vote if the clauses are not removed.
Gichugu MP Martha Karua, a former Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, said the options of either freezing out the contentious issues or subjecting them to a referendum were discussed during the PSC retreat in Naivasha. "However, because of the political settlement in Naivasha, we did not have brackets (unresolved issues) to consider the options. People had no rethink about contentious issues," she said.
While questioning those pushing for amendments to the draft, Ms Karua warned that freezing or isolating contentious issues to deal with them separately was like enacting minimum reforms. "Freezing or isolating will jeopardise the review and we cannot go forward. It is like doing minimum reforms when you are in essence seeking comprehensive reforms," she said.
The Narc Kenya chairperson said Parliament had demonstrated the difficulty it could face in amending the draft and urged those opposed to use other means. She said they can easily collect a million signatures to push Parliament to work on those reforms. "The church, and I am a Christian, can easily collect one million signatures and submit to the Interim Electoral Commission to bring to Parliament on any issue they are not comfortable with," he said.
Ms Karua said the Committee of Experts should not be blamed because it held a meeting with PSC members in Karen to agree on the draft before it was presented in the House.
"The CoE even bent backwards and met us in Karen before handing over the draft. Some issues can be handled as we cross the bridge but let us pass this draft," she said. According to constitutional lawyer Kibe Mungai, it would not be ideal to pass the proposed constitution in bits since the law should be a single unit.
He however said that the ideal situation would be for parliament to change the law governing the review process. "This would allow us to deal with the issues that seem divisive. Then again there is no deadline that we must have a new constitution by a certain date because we are already operating on one. It would be ideal to have two or three more months to help solve the issues," said Mr Mungai.
Law Society of Kenya Chairman Kenneth Akide warns that any delay in the set timetable of the review is uncalled for and will be rolling Kenyans backwards. "Those unhappy should know that there are mechanisms for amendments. It is not that they will not be allowed to speak thereafter," says Mr Akide.
Former Cohesion Secretary Dr Kindiki Kithure suggests a simple amendment providing that a "contentious issue can only be operationalised at such a time when consensus will be reached." That is exactly what Uganda did in 1986 when they were making a new constitution on the question of multiparty democracy.
The provision was there but there was a rider that the clause would become operational after a decision to be taken in future. Mr Akide says that another possibility is for the government and the churches alongside those opposed to the draft will met around a table on the basis of trust. "If we were to re-open the debate, there is a real danger that we can never agree. Look at the amendments proposed yet none of them secured a two-third majority," warns Mr Akide.
Senior counsel Paul Muite says he can only offer one option: the proposed constitution goes to the referendum. "Anyone voting "No" at the referendum is not a friend of Kenya and that would be a recipe for chaos," he said. "The proposed constitution enables us to have free and fair elections. And there cannot be chaos," said the senior counsel.


Cath News report: A pair of devout elderly Germans "desperate to go to church" have led police on a 12km car chase through Melbourne.

The Herald-Sun reports the pilgrims, travelling the globe with "four foot crosses" and using only God as their guide, seemed to lose their way en route Melbourne from Sydney.
The paper says the driver, 73, and his slightly younger companion, known only as Manfred and Gerhard, were spotted by police about 6am on Sunday, veering across traffic in heavy rain on the Monash Freeway.
Police spokeswoman Michelle Walsh said the two men could barely speak English, and through an interpreter explained they were exhausted after driving through the night.
"The interpreter discovered the pair had driven all night in search of a Catholic Church," Ms Walsh said.
The pair were still adamant they needed to go to a Catholic mass and a police escort was organised to get them to the closest Catholic church, she said.
The men were not charged.
The pair then surprised parishioners and popular priest Father Bob Maguire at South Melbourne's Saint Peter and Paul Church by arriving with "four foot crosses" at the 10am service.
Father Bob's assistant Martin Prest said the pair "desperately needed showers … and a good night's sleep".
After learning about their predicament, Father Maguire asked the local chapter of Opus Dei to help.
A police sergeant then escorted the pair to the St Mary's of the Sea in West Melbourne where they stayed until Tuesday morning.
Assistant Priest there Joseph Pich said it was believed the devoted pair had headed to "Bendigo, or maybe Albury". But another priest at St Mary's said they had told them they were going to Adelaide.
It is understood a return to Sydney and Florida in the US is also on the men's itinerary.


St. Bendict Joseph Labre
Feast: April 16
Information: Feast Day: April 16

Born: 25 March 1748 at Amettes, Boulogne, France

Died: 17 April 1783 at Rome
Canonized: 8 December 1883 by Pope Leo XIII
Major Shrine: Tomb at Santa Maria ai Monti
Patron of: Unmarried men, rejects, mental illness, mentally ill people, insanity, beggars, hobos, the homeless
Born 26 March, 1748 at Amettes in the Diocese of Boulogne, France; died in Rome 16 April, 1783.
He was the eldest of fifteen children. His parents, Jean-Baptiste Labre and Anne-Barba Grandsire, belonged to the middle class and so were able to give to their numerous offspring considerable opportunities in the way of education. His early training he received in his native village in a school conducted by the vicar of the parish. The account of this period furnished in the life written by his confessor, Marconi, and that contained in the one compiled from the official processes of his beatification are at one in emphasizing the fact that he exhibited a seriousness of thought and demeanor far beyond his years. Even at that tender age he had begun to show a marked predilection for the spirit of mortification, with an aversion for the ordinary childish amusements, and he seems from the very dawning of reason to have had the liveliest horror for even the smallest sin. All this we are told was coexistent with a frank and open demeanor and a fund of cheerfulness which remained unabated to the end of his life.
At the age of twelve his education was taken over by his paternal uncle, François-Joseph Labre, curé of Erin, with whom he then went to live. During the six following years which he spent under his uncle's roof, he made considerable progress in the study ofLatin, history, etc. but found himself unable to conquer a constantly growing distaste for any form of knowledge which did not make directly for union with God. A love of solitude, a generous employment of austerities and devotedness to his religious exercises were discernible as distinguishing features of his life at this time and constitute an intelligible prelude to his subsequent career.
At the age of sixteen he resolved to embrace a religious life as a Trappist, but having on the advice of his uncle returned to Amettes to submit his design to his parents for their approval he was unable to win their consent. He therefore resumed his sojourn in the rectory at Erin, redoubling his penances and exercises of piety and in every way striving to make ready for the life of complete self-annihilation to which the voice within his soul seemed to be calling him.
After the heroic death of his uncle during an epidemic in September 1766, Benedict, who had dedicated himself during the scourge to the service of the sick and dying, returned to Amettes in November of the same year. His absorbing thought at this time was still to become a religious at La Trappe, and his parents fearing that further opposition would be resistance to the will of God fell in with his proposal to enter the cloister. It was suggested, how ever, by his maternal uncle, the Abbé Vincent, that application be made to the Carthusians at Val-Sainte-Aldegonde rather than to La Trappe. Benedict's petition at Val-Sainte-Aldegonde was unsuccessful but he was directed to another monastery of the same order at Neuville. There he was told that as he was not yet twenty there was no hurry, and that he must first learn plain-chant and logic. During the next two years he applied twice unsuccessfully to be received at La Trappe and was for six weeks as a postulant with the Carthusians at Neuville, he finally sought and obtained admission to the Cistercian Abbey of Sept-Fonts in November, 1769. After a short stay at Sept-Fonts during which his exactness in religious observance and humility endeared him to the whole community, his health gave way, and it was decided that his vocation lay elsewhere. In accordance with a resolve formed during his convalescence he then set out for Rome. From Chieri in Piedmont he wrote to his parents a letter which proved to be the last they would ever receive from him. In it he informed them of his design to enter some one of the many monasteries in Italy noted for their special rigor of life. A short time, however, after the letter was dispatched he seems to have had an internal illumination which set at rest forever any doubts he might have as to what his method of living was to be. He then understood "that it was God's will that like St. Alexis he should abandon his country, his parents, and whatever is flattering in the world to lead a new sort of life, a life most painful, most penitential, not in a wilderness nor in a cloister, but in the midst of the world, devoutly visiting as a pilgrim the famous places of Christian devotion". He repeatedly submitted this extraordinary inspiration to the judgment of experienced confessors and was told he might safely conform to it. Through the years that followed he never wavered in the conviction that this was the path appointed for him by God. He set forward on his life's journey clad in an old coat, a rosary about his neck, another between his fingers, his arms folded over a crucifix which lay upon his breast. In a small wallet he carried a Testament, a breviary, which it was his wont to recite daily, a copy of the "Imitation of Christ", and some other pious books. Clothing other than that which covered his person he had none. He slept on the ground and for the most part in the open air. For food he was satisfied with a piece of bread or some herbs, frequently taken but once a day, and either provided by charity or gotten from some refuse heap. He never asked for alms and was anxious to give away to the poor whatever he received in excess of his scanty wants. The first seven of the thirteen remaining years of his life were spent in pilgrimages to the more famous shrines of Europe. He visited in this way Loreto, Assisi, Naples, Bari, Fabriano in Italy; Einsiedeln in Switzerland; Compostella in Spain; Parav-le-Monial in France. The last six years he spent in Rome, leaving it only once a year to visit the Holy House of Loreto. His unremitting and ruthless self-denial, his unaffected humility, unhesitating obedience and perfect spirit of union with God in prayer disarmed suspicion not unnaturally aroused as to the genuineness of a Divine call to so extraordinary a way of existence. Literally worn out by his sufferings and austerities, on the 16th of April 1783, he sank down on the steps of the church of Santa Maria dei Monti in Rome and, utterly exhausted, was carried to a neighboring house where he died. His death was followed by a multitude of unequivocal miracles attributed to his intercession. The life written by his confessor, Marconi, an English version of which bears the date of 1785, witnesses to 136 miraculous cures as having been certified to up to 6 July, 1783. So remarkable, indeed, was the character of the evidence for some of the miracles that they are said to have had no inconsiderable part in finally determining the conversion of the celebrated American convert, Father John Thayer, of Boston who was in Rome at the time of the saint's death. Benedict was proclaimed Venerable by Pius IX in 1859 and canonized by Leo XIII 8 December, 1881. His feast is kept on the 16th of April, the day of his death.

St. Bernadette Soubirous

Feast: April 16
Information: Feast Day: April 16
Born: 7 January 1844 at Lourdes, France
Died: 16 April 1879, Nevers, France

Canonized: December 8, 1933, Rome by Pope Pius XI

Patron of: Sick people, poverty, the family, Lourdes, shepherds
Bernadette's canonization in 1933 was the culmination of a process which had been started nearly three-quarters of a century earlier: she is, therefore, a saint of modern times, and the remarkable facts of her life are readily accessible to all. Her story even challenges the interest of those who do not share the Catholic faith. Christianity had its beginnings among humble people without influence or riches, such as Bernadette. Perhaps it is a natural human instinct to rejoice when the lowly are lifted up to the heights, and especially when a child, neglected and untaught, is chosen for special grace and favor, thus becoming an instrument for good.
Born in Lourdes, France, on January 7, 1844, Bernadette was the first child of Francois and Louise Soubirous. At the time of her birth, Francois was a miller, operating a mill which had belonged to his wife's people. He was a good-natured, easy-going man, with little ability for carrying on a business, and before many years the mill had been forfeited for debt. During most of Bernadette's childhood he was an odd job man, picking up a day's work as opportunity offered, and, from time to time, escaping from his problems and responsibilities by turning to the delusive comfort of alcohol. His wife and children, naturally, were the chief sufferers from his ineffectualness. Louise, whose family was of somewhat better economic status than her husband's, was a hard worker, a warm-hearted neighbor, and exemplary in her observance of Catholic rites. Within a short space of years many children were born to her, only five of whom survived infancy. After Bernadette, there was another girl, Toinette Marie, and three boys. To help feed and clothe them it was often necessary for their harassed mother to go out to work by the day, doing laundry and other rough tasks for the more prosperous citizens, and, on one occasion, at least, helping to harvest a crop of grain. A peasant woman of the region has told of seeing little Bernadette, then about twelve, carrying the youngest baby to Louise in the field, to be nursed during the noon-day rest period. As a child, Bernadette not only did more than might be expected in caring for the smaller children, but helped in their moral and religious training as well.
Bernadette was never strong, and from the age of six she showed symptoms of the respiratory ailment that later became a chronic affliction. It is not clear at this early stage whether she suffered from asthma or tuberculosis, but we know that her mother was anxious about her health and made an effort to provide special food for her. When Bernadette was thirteen she was sent to the neighboring mountain hamlet of Bartres, to the home of one Marie Arevant, her foster mother. It was here that Bernadette had been taken for a few months when she was still an infant, to be nursed by Madame Arevant, who had just lost a baby. The woman now had a large family and little Bernadette made herself useful in the house and in the fields. One of her duties was to tend a small flock of sheep that grazed on a hillside nearby; it is this brief phase of her girlhood that has inspired artists to picture her as a shepherdess. Her life was a lonely one, and we get the impression that she was overworked and homesick while she remained in this peasant home. At all events she sent word to her parents that she wished to leave Bartres. One thing seemed especially to disturb her at this time; although she was now fourteen, she had not made her First Communion. Her foster mother had tried half-heartedly to prepare her, but after one or two sessions had impatiently given it up, saying that Bernadette was too dull to learn.
When Bernadette went back to Lourdes, it made her very happy to be admitted to the day school conducted by the Sisters of Charity and Christian Instruction. This was a teaching and nursing order whose mother-house is at Nevers, in central France. A hospice, a day school, and a boarding school were maintained at Lourdes by these devout nuns, who were, as a group, unusually well trained. Thus Bernadette at last began her secular education, and, under Abbe Pomian, continued to prepare for First Communion. She was also learning a little French, for up to this time she spoke only the local dialect. The nuns discovered that beneath a quiet, modest exterior, Bernadette had a winning personality and a lively sense of humor. This might have been a happy and constructive time for the little girl had it not been for the ever-increasing shadows of poverty at home.After moving from one poor location to another, the Soubirous family was now living in a single room of a dilapidated structure in the rue des Petits Fosses; this damp, unwholesome place had once served as a jail and was known as Le Cachot, the Dungeon. Above loomed an ancient fortress, and the narrow cobbled street had once been a part of the moat. The town of Lourdes, itself very old, is situated in one of the most picturesque parts of France, lying in the extreme southwest, near the Spanish frontier, where the Pyrenees mountains rise sharply above the plains. From the craggy, wooded heights, several valleys descend to converge at this site, and the little river Gave rushes through the town, its turbulent current turning the wheels of many mills. There are escarpments of rock in and around Lourdes, the most famous being the Massabeille, a great mound jutting out from the base of a plateau. On the side facing the river it had an arch-shaped opening which led into a sizeable grotto-a grotto that was soon destined to become famous in every part of the world. At this time the Massabeille had, if not exactly an aura of evil, a touch of the sinister. According to legend, it had been sacred to the pagans of prehistoric times; now it served as a shelter for fishermen or herdsmen caught by sudden storms.
It was very cold on February 11, 1858, the day that was to mark the beginning of such an extraordinary series of events at the rock of Massabeille. When Bernadette returned from school her mother gave her permission to go down by the river to pick up driftwood and fallen branches. Toinette Marie, aged nine, and Marie Abadie, aged twelve, a neighbor's child, went with her. When the three girls reached the Massabeille, the two younger ones took off their wooden shoes to wade across an icy mill-stream which here joined the river. Bernadette, more sensitive, hung behind. Standing alone beside the river, she had started to remove her stockings when she heard a noise like a sudden rush of wind. Looking up towards the grotto she saw some movement among the branches, then there floated out of the opening a golden cloud, and in the midst of it was the figure of a beautiful young girl who placed herself in a small niche in the rock, at one side of the opening and slightly above it. In the crannies around this niche grew stunted vines and shrubs, and in particular a white eglantine. Bernadette, staring in fascination, saw that the luminous apparition was dressed in a soft white robe, with a broad girdle of blue, and a long white veil that partially covered her hair. Her eyes were blue and gentle. Golden roses gleamed on her bare feet. When the vision smiled and beckoned to Bernadette, the girl's fear vanished and she came a few steps nearer, then sank reverently to her knees. She drew her rosary from her pocket, for, in moments of stress, she habitually said her beads. The mysterious being also had a rosary, of large white beads, and to quote Bernadette's own account: "The Lady let me pray alone; she passed the beads of the rosary between her fingers, but said nothing; only at the end of each decade did she say the Gloria with me." When the recitation was finished, the Lady vanished into the cave and the golden mist disappeared with her. This experience affected Bernadette so powerfully that, when the other girls turned back to look for her, she was still kneeling, a rapt, faraway look on her face. They chided her, thinking she had passed the time praying to escape the task of gathering fuel. Tying up their twigs and branches into faggots, they started for home. Too full of her vision to keep quiet about it, before they had gone far Bernadette burst out with the whole wondrous story; she asked the girls to say nothing at home. But Toinette told Madame Soubirous that same evening, and soon the news spread further. Bernadette wished to go back to the Massabeille the next day, but her mother, after talking the matter over with a sister, refused her permission.Bernadette now showed the independence of spirit-some were to characterize it as obstinacy-that became one of her outstanding traits. When she told her confessor of the apparition, Abbe Pomian made light of it, thinking the girl suffered from hallucinations. Nevertheless, on the following Sunday Bernadette asked if she might go to the grotto and her father told her she might go if she took a flask of holy water with her, to exorcise the apparition should it prove to be a demon. Bernadette, advancing ahead of several little friends who accompanied her, knelt before the grotto and soon the vision appeared as before. On their return the excited girls, although they had seen nothing, naturally began to tell their versions of the affair, and soon the town buzzed with varying reports and rumors. On the next market day the peasants heard of these strange happenings. The story reached the Mother Superior of the convent, who took a firm stand: she announced to the class preparing for Communion, comprising Bernadette's friends and companions for the most part, that they must stop talking and thinking of this matter. Bernadette's teacher, Sister Marie Therese Vauzous, was even hostile.
The apparition was manifest to Bernadette for the third time on Thursday, February 18, when she went to the grotto accompanied by two women of Lourdes who thought the "damiezelo," as Bernadette called her, was the returning spirit of a young woman, one of their dear friends, who had died a few months before. On this occasion the same little figure appeared to Bernadette, smiled warmly, and spoke, asking Bernadette to come every day for fifteen days. Bernadette promised to come, provided she was given permission to do so. Since neither her god-mother, who was her mother's sister, nor the priest actually forbade it, Bernadette's parents offered no objection. On the following day her mother and aunt went with her, and on subsequent visits great crowds of people gathered on the Massabeille, or down by the river, hoping to see or hear something miraculous. During these two weeks the excitement increased to such a pitch that the civil authorities felt obliged to take action. The police were not content to threaten the Soubirous family; they must take Bernadette to the local police office for questioning and try to make her admit that it was all an elaborate hoax. Bernadette emerged from this and many another ordeal somewhat shaken but obdurate. The authorities continued to try to discredit her. They even gave currency to the report that the whole thing had been thought up by Bernadette's poverty-stricken parents, so that they might derive some profit from it. Francois and Louise Soubirous, from being puzzled, worried, and uncertain at the outset, had now come to believe in the supernatural character of their daughter's experiences, and stood loyally by her. They did not dream of exploiting the affair in their own interest. As a matter of fact, pious, well-meaning people were bringing them gifts of money and food, sometimes asking for a token from Bernadette. These offerings were declined; even Bernadette's small brothers were cautioned to accept nothing. The girl herself was adamant in her determination to have no part in any kind of trafficking; the record of her complete honesty and disinterestedness is clear and unquestioned. However, she found the sudden notoriety unpleasant, and this sensitivity to being stared at and talked about and pointed out was to last throughout her life. People began to gather at the grotto in the middle of the night, awaiting her appearance. It was rumored that she had a miraculous, healing touch. Several cures were attributed to her.
On Sunday, February 21, a number of persons went with her to the grotto, including citizens who had been highly skeptical. On this occasion, Bernadette reported later, the apparition said to her: "You will pray to God for sinners." On February 26, while she was in the trance-like state which lasted as long as she saw the vision, Bernadette crawled inside the grotto, and, at the Lady's bidding, uncovered with her bare hands a little trickle of water from which she drank and with which she bathed her face, still at the Lady's direction. This tiny spring continued to well up and by the next day was flowing steadily down into the river: to this day it has never ceased to gush forth from the grotto. The people regarded its discovery by Bernadette as a miracle.
On March 2 Bernadette saw the apparition for the thirteenth time. It was on this day that the Lady bade Bernadette to tell the priests that "a chapel should be built and a procession formed." Bernadette had no thought but to obey, in spite of the open hostility of the cure of Lourdes. Dean Peyramale, an imposing man of excellent family and background, received Bernadette and reprimanded her harshly, asking her to inquire the name of her visitant, and to tell her she must perform a real miracle, such as making the eglantine bloom out of season, to prove herself. During the preceding weeks he had ordered the priests to have nothing to do with the grotto, for it was the general practice of the clergy to discourage or ignore religious visionaries. Very often such persons were ill-balanced or suffering from delusions. As a matter of fact, Bernadette's experiences were proving contagious, and before long many others, young and old, were claiming to have had supernatural visions at the grotto and elsewhere. Dean Peyramale's stand of determined opposition was based on the necessity of restoring order in the parish.
On March 25, Lady Day, Bernadette started for the grotto at dawn. When the vision appeared to her, Bernadette said: "Would you kindly tell me who you are?" When the girl had repeated the question twice more, the Lady replied: "I am the Immaculate Conception. I want a chapel here." This answer, when reported by Bernadette, caused the local excitement to rise to a still higher pitch and the feeling grew that Bernadette's visitor was the Blessed Virgin. Only four years before the dogma of the Immaculate Conception had been promulgated. The seventeenth apparition took place on April 7, and the final one, more than three months later, on July 16. By that time, the grotto, which the people were trying to make into a sanctuary and place of worship, had been barricaded by the town authorities to discourage worshipers and curiosity-seekers from congregating there. During the twenty-one years that she was to remain on earth, Bernadette never again saw the vision. The accounts of what she had seen and heard, which she was obliged to repeat so often, never varied in any significant detail.

Meanwhile the news of the phenomenal happenings at Lourdes had reached the very highest ecclesiastical and government circles: the bishop, the prefect, even Emperor Napoleon III and his pious wife Eugenie, became actors in the drama. On October 5, the mayor of Lourdes, on orders from above, had the grotto reopened. It was thought that the empress herself had had a voice in this decision. At all events, it seemed to be the only appropriate response to the overwhelming demand of the people for a shrine Bernadette's visions, the new spring, and the cures that were being reported, all had taken a profound hold on the popular imagination.
Due to a lucky turn, Bernadette's family was now more comfortably situated, and, to escape visitors, Bernadette went to live at the convent. Even there, intrusions upon her privacy were allowed; these she bore as patiently as she could. While her fame not only continued but steadily grew, Bernadette herself withdrew more and more. At the age of twenty she decided to take the veil. Since the state of her health precluded the more ascetic orders, it was considered best for her to join the Sisters who had taught and sheltered her. At twenty-two, therefore, she traveled to the motherhouse of the convent. Her novitiate was full of trials and sorrows. Acting under the quite unfounded notion that Bernadette's visions and all the attendant publicity might have made the young woman vain or self-important, Sister Marie Therese Vauzous, now novice-mistress at Nevers, was very severe with her former pupil. Although she made life difficult for Bernadette, the little novice met all tests with perfect humility. She cheerfully performed the menial tasks assigned to her, at first in the convent kitchen, although this work must have taxed her strength. Later, when it was noted that her sympathetic manner made her a favorite with sick people, she was appointed assistant infirmarian. Her step and touch were light, and her very presence brought comfort. But during these years, Bernadette was suffering from the chronic disease which was slowly draining her life away. She was finally given work in the sacristy, where cleverness with the needle made her work admired and cherished. She displayed a real gift for design and color in embroidering the sacred vestments. To all tasks she brought a pure grace of spirit and an utter willingness to serve.In September, 1878, Bernadette made her perpetual and final vows. Her strength was ebbing away, but even when she was confined to wheel chair or bed, she went on with the fine needlework. And now she had more time for prayer and meditation. There is little outward drama in the life of a nun, but in Bernadette's case there was steady activity, steady growth, in things of the spirit. She had been told by her vision that she would not attain happiness in this world. Her childhood had been sad, and maturity had brought no easing of the burden she must carry. During the last two years of life a tumor developed on one knee, which was followed by caries of the bone. She suffered excruciating pain. One day, when a Superior came to visit her and said, "What are you doing in bed, you lazy little thing?" Bernadette simply replied, "I am doing my stint. I must be a victim." She felt that such was the Divine plan for her.
The nuns, the novice mistress, and the Superior had all long since come to regard her as the vessel of Divine grace and to believe in the reality of those visitations of her youth. She still suffered from the curiosity of visiting strangers. Not only did nuns and priests come to Nevers but celebrities from Paris and other parts of France came to see for themselves the now famous Bernadette. Disliking publicity as she did, yet not wishing to remain isolated and aloof if a glimpse of her could help or inspire any other human soul, she met this test too-and sometimes with a native cleverness. Once a visitor stopped her as she was passing down a corridor and asked where she could get a glimpse of Sister Bernadette. The little nun said, "Just watch that doorway and presently you will see her go through." And she slipped away through the door. Such was the prestige her presence gave to the order that many young women now joined it.
On her death-bed, in a spasm of pain, Bernadette pressed the crucifix closer to her, and cried, "All this is good for Heaven!" That afternoon, as the nuns of the convent knelt round her bed to repeat the prayers for the dying, they heard her say in a low voice, "Blessed Mary, Mother of God, pray for me! A poor sinner, a poor sinner-" She could not finish. The date was April 16, 1879. As soon as the news spread, people came streaming towards the convent, chanting, "The saint is dead! The saint is dead!" Bernadette's body was placed in a casket which was sealed, then buried near the chapel of St. Joseph in the convent grounds. When it was exhumed in 1908 by the commission formed to forward the examination of Bernadette's life and character, it was found to be intact and uncorrupted. In August, 1913, Pope Pius X conferred the title of Venerable upon her, and in June, 1925, the ceremony of beatification took place. Since then, her body, reposing in a handsome glass reliquary, lies in the convent chapel, guarded above by a statue of the Blessed Virgin, and by the nuns who keep vigil. In Rome, on December 8, 1933, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, amidst a brilliant setting and the fanfare of silver trumpets, Bernadette Soubirous was admitted to the company of saints. This little nun, humble, unlettered, honest, and obedient, is venerated by the great host of Catholic worshipers throughout the world. Tens of thousands of them journey annually to the glorious shrine at Lourdes.


John 6: 1 - 15

1 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiber'i-as.

2 And a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased.

3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there sat down with his disciples.

4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.

5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, "How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?"

6 This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.

7 Philip answered him, "Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little."

8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him,

9 "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?"

10 Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand.

11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.

12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost."

13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten.

14 When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!"

15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
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