CATHOLIC NEWS WORLD: WED. MAR. 30, 2011: HEADLINES-
ST. ALPHONSUS, PATRON SAINT OF CONFESSORS AND MORALISTS
VATICAN CITY, 30 MAR 2011 (VIS REPORT) - In this Wednesday's general audience, celebrated in St Peter's Square, the Pope spoke about St. Alphonsus Maria of Liguori, bishop, Doctor of the Church and "outstanding moral theologian and master of spiritual life".
"St. Alphonsus was born in 1696 to a rich and noble Neapolitan family", and undertook a brilliant career as a lawyer, which he abandoned in order to become a priest in 1726. (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA)
The Holy Father explained that the saint "began his work of evangelisation and catechesis at the most humble levels of Neapolitan society, to whom he enjoyed preaching and whom he instructed in the basic truths of the faith".
In 1732 he founded the religious congregation of the Holy Redeemer. Its members, "under the guidance of Alphonsus, were genuine itinerant missionaries, who travelled to the remotest villages exhorting conversion to the faith and perseverance in Christian life, above all by means of prayer".
Benedict XVI recalled that St. Alphonsus died in 1787, was canonised in 1839 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1871. This title was granted for a number of reasons. Firstly, for his valuable teachings in the field of moral theology, which accurately expressed Catholic doctrine and on account of which Pius XII proclaimed him as "patron of all confessors and moralists".
"St. Alphonsus", continued the Pope, "never tired of repeating that priests were a visible sign of the infinite mercy of God, Who pardons and illuminates the minds and hearts of sinners that they might convert and change their lives. In our age, in which there are clear signs of a loss of moral conscience and - it is necessary to note with some concern - a certain lack of respect for the Sacrament of Confession, the teaching of St. Alphonsus remains valid".
The Holy Father explained that, "along with his theological works, St. Alphonsus composed many other writings which contributed to the religious formation of the people, such as 'Eternal Maxims', the 'Glories of Mary' and the 'Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ'. This last work represented a synthesis of his thought and is his masterpiece".
The Pope emphasised that the Neapolitan saint "insisted on the need for prayer", and remarked that "among the forms of prayer recommended by St. Alphonsus, most important was the visit to the Blessed Sacrament or, as we would say nowadays, adoration - brief or sustained, personal or communal - of the Eucharist".
"Alphonsus' spirituality was eminently Christological, centred upon Christ and His Gospel. Meditation on the mystery of the Incarnation and of the Passion of the Lord were frequently subjects of his teachings. ... His piety was also markedly Marian. Personally devoted to Mary, he emphasised her role in the history of salvation".
Benedict XVI concluded his catechesis by commenting that "St. Alphonsus of Liguori was an example of a zealous priest who won souls by teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments, and by his own gentle and mild manner which originated from his intense rapport with God's infinite goodness. He had a realistically optimistic view of the resources the Lord grants to every man, and gave importance to affections and sentiments of the heart, as well as to the mind, in loving God and others".
VATICAN CITY, 30 MAR 2011 (VIS) - During the language greetings following his catechesis at this morning's general audience, Benedict XVI mentioned the people of Ivory Coast "traumatised by painful internal conflicts and grave social and political tensions.
"While I express my closeness to all those who have lost a loved one or suffer as a result of the violence", he said in French, "I make an urgent appeal for the process of constructive dialogue for the common good to begin as quickly as possible. The dramatic clashes necessitate the urgent restoration of respect and peaceful co-existence. Every effort must be made to this end.
"With these sentiments, I have decided to send to that noble country Cardinal Peter Kodwo Turkson, present of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, to express my solidarity and that of the Universal Church with the victims of the conflict, and to encourage reconciliation and peace".
Then, speaking Ukrainian, he greeted His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, recently elected as major archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc, and the accompanying bishops and faithful of the Greek-Ukrainian Catholic Church, assuring them of his "constant prayer that the Holy Trinity may bring abundance, and confirm in peace and harmony the beloved Ukrainian nation".
"The Lord", said the Holy Father, addressing the new archbishop, "has called you to the service and guidance of this noble Church, which is a part of the people who for over a thousand years have received Baptism at Kyiv. I am sure that, illuminated by the work of the Holy Spirit, you will preside over your Church, guiding her in faith in Jesus Christ in accordance with her own tradition and spirituality, in communion with the See of Peter which is the visible bond of that unity for which so many of her children have not hesitated even to lay down their lives".
Manila (AsiaNews) - Regardless of the appeals from Manila and Catholics, China has carried out the death sentence on three Filipinos accused of drug dealing. Sally Ordinario Villanueva, Ramon Credo and Elizabeth I Batain were killed by lethal injection. The executions took place in the prisons of the city of Xiamen (Fujian) and Shenzhen (Guangdong). Chinese police arrested the two women and man separately in 2008 after finding about 4 kg of heroin in each of their suitcases. In China, the possession of just 50 grams of drugs carries the death sentence.
In an effort to ask the Chinese government for a pardon, yesterday the Filipino bishops' conference organized a prayer vigil in the capital. In recent days, families and some human rights organizations sent open letters stressing the innocence of the condemned, who they claim unknowingly carried the drugs in their suitcases. President Aquino has repeatedly called for dialogue on the issue with Beijing, however, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that drug trafficking is a serious crime and that justice was done.
Yesterday, a Filipino bishop interviewed by AsiaNews criticized the case, asking countries like China to abandon the use of capital punishment, which removes any possibility and hope of change, instead to commit themselves to improving their justice systems, which are often imperfect and corrupt.
In recent years several foreign nationals have been sentenced to death for drug dealing on Chinese soil. In 2009 the authorities carried out the conviction on a Japanese, a Nigerian and a Briton. China is the only country where the number of executions has increased rather than decreased. In 2010 alone over 1000 people were executed. In the rest of the world 740 people were executed.
WASHINGTON (March 29, 2011)—“We remain firmly committed to the defense of religious liberty for all—not just for Catholics—because our commitment is to the dignity of each and every human person,” said Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the retired archbishop of Washington, testifying on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights hearing on “Protecting the Civil Rights of American Muslims.”
“As a community that has been the target of religious discrimination, we understand the need today to bring attention to protecting the civil rights of our Muslim brothers and sisters,” Cardinal McCarrick said. “We see religious freedom as an essential foundation for our life together in our own nation and across the globe.”
Cardinal McCarrick spoke of current threats to religious freedom, noting, “When the very right of conscience is attacked, the ability to exercise religious beliefs is subverted. There are well known contemporary examples where the state would force religious groups and individuals to choose between following their religious beliefs and practices and following the dictates of law.”
He concluded, “As other countries wrestle with how to treat religious minorities, let them look to our nation where we work to ensure that their Muslim sisters and brothers are treated with dignity and their religious identity and beliefs are treated with respect. Let them see a people blessed with hard won religious freedom living out our commitment to the rights of all by demonstrating full respect for the identity, integrity and freedom of all religions.”
Cardinal McCarrick’s written testimony can be found online:www.usccb.org/sdwp/Cardinal_McCarrick_Testimony_March_29_hearing.pdf
Catholic News Service
MADRID (CNS) -- Playing a character with no apparent redeeming qualities was a blessing that helped Wes Bentley regain sobriety after years of addiction and isolation.
The actor made the comments to journalists in Madrid for the premiere of director Roland Joffe's film, "There Be Dragons," about the early life of St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, founder of Opus Dei.
Bentley, the son of two Methodist ministers from Jonesboro, Ark., said he grew up in a "loving, supportive, spiritually strong family." Over time he said he "drifted into another world" where "things got very dark and lonely. I had isolated myself from everybody who cared about me."
The first scenes Bentley was asked to shoot were scenes in which his character, Manolo, was 78 years old, on his deathbed and about to reveal long-held secrets to his son.
In the film, Manolo grew up with and attended the seminary with St. Josemaria but left after one year and ended up becoming a spy for fascist forces during the Spanish Civil War. The war, which lasted from 1936 to 1939, tore apart families, as well as the country.
Manolo's decisions would lead him down a path of betrayal, vengeance and isolation.
Bentley said staring at himself in the mirror as an old man made him realize that he did not want to end up in the same position. "I had many things in my life I had to put right and it was scary, very frightening, and that was the turning point where I started making the right decisions," he said.
What further helped Bentley on his road to recovery were the people working on the film. "The people on it were the most important part," he said.
Before arriving on the film set, Bentley had stopped using the substances he had been abusing. "But the hole in my heart was so large that some of (the cast members), when I was expressing things, they could see that. They were there for me without knowing they were. ... They were there to help me," the actor said.
One of those cast members was Charlie Cox, the British actor who portrayed St. Josemaria in the film. He came into the film not having ever heard of the saint even though he was raised Catholic.
To prepare for the role, he read biographies about St. Josemaria, visited Opus Dei centers and did a weeklong retreat with Father John Wauk, the Opus Dei priest who served as a consultant to the film.
Cox said the process of preparation not only helped him understand sanctity, but also helped him reconnect with his own faith in God.
Asked what made St. Josemaria a saint, Cox said, "It's a lifetime of consistently beautiful decisions, and a lifetime of dedicating his life to the work, which for me is what made this man saintly."
The actor said reading the Spanish saint's writings he realized that the principles espoused by St. Josemaria are very simple, but difficult to apply to one's daily life. Cox said he also gained a new understanding of faith and how it can grow and change.
During the retreat, he and Father Wauk would get up early every morning and do a one-hour meditation that would begin with the two men getting on their knees and Father Wauk saying, "I firmly believe you are here, that you hear me." Cox said on the fourth or fifth day of the retreat he told Father Wauk that he couldn't identify with that statement, because he did not firmly believe God was there.
"What I'm understanding now is that's OK," he said. "That faith (Father Wauk) is describing is not entirely or necessarily an act of his own will, it's a gift, it's a grace," the actor said.
Cox said once he had started inviting God in to his life on a regular basis, he noticed his faith began to grow. "I find myself getting closer to that place that Father John describes" he said.
The moment that consoled Cox most regarding his faith was watching a DVD of St. Josemaria giving a talk in Chile. "He said, 'Some days you may wake up and you may have no faith, you may feel like you have no faith, no inclination to speak to God that day. What you do with that is you tell him that, and you involve him in that,'" the actor recalled. "That was key for me."
"There Be Dragons" is based on St. Josemaria's early life. Most events depicted in the film either actually happened or were based on things that happened. The character Manolo is fictional, but based on people St. Josemaria knew.
The film, which premiered in Madrid March 23, was scheduled to open in the United States May 6.
CATH NEWS REPORT- The new Coalition Government will need to prioritise the "well-being of the people of NSW", said the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell in the Catholic Weekly.
"Opinion will be divided on whether it was completely deserved," he said."The people of NSW have spoken and the judgment is harsh," the cardinal said after the Liberal-National Party coalition's crushing win over Labor in last Saturday's state election.
"It is good to see that minority parties which are determined opponents of religious freedom did not do as well as expected."
The cardinal said the new government, led by Premier Barry O'Farrell, "faces a huge task".
"A strong Opposition is important to help a government perform well, and if this is not provided the Government may find it difficult to control its large majority," he said.
"In any case, the people have made their decision. We wish the new government well and hope that they will keep the well-being of the people of NSW as their first priority."
“They want to keep going with the war. Now rebels are at the ports of Sirte, but to pass through Sirte will not be easy. To arm one part of the Libyan people against the other does not seem a moral solution to me,” underlines Bishop Martinelli. “As for the action of the coalition, it does not come to my mind to say to bomb in order to defend the civilian population. No matter how accurate the bombing of military targets, it also undoubtedly involves bombing homes in the district. I know of at least two hospitals which have suffered indirect damage caused by the bombing. Doors and windows were destroyed and the patients are in shock. What we know: the military actions are causing casualties among those civilians who these military operations are trying to protect,” says the Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli.
“I repeat: if you want a peaceful solution the African Union, the Arab League and some local bodies all need to be involved. But it seems to me that other logic is outweighing,” insists Bishop Martinelli. “With regard to asylum seekers - Eritreans and Ethiopians - most were transferred to Tunisia. Others have reached Lampedusa and Malta. Here in Tripoli there are still about 25% and other African migrants (from Congo, Chad, etc ...),” concludes Bishop Martinelli.
St. John Climacus
ABBOTT OF SINAI
Feast: March 30
St John, generally distinguished by the appellation of Climacus, from his excellent book entitled Climax, or the Ladder to Perfection, was born about the year 525, probably in Palestine. By his extraordinary progress in the arts and sciences he obtained very young the surname of the Scholastic. But at sixteen years of age he renounced all the advantages which the world promised him to dedicate himself to God in a religious state, in 547. He retired to Mount Sinai, which, from the time of the disciples of St. Anthony and St. Hilarion, had been always peopled by holy men, who, in imitation of Moses, when he received the law on that mountain, lived in the perpetual contemplation of heavenly things. Our novice, fearing the danger of dissipation and relaxation to which numerous communities are generally more exposed than others, chose not to live in the great monastery on the summit, but in an hermitage on the descent of the mountain, under the discipline of Martyrius, an holy ancient anchoret. By silence he curbed the insolent itch of talking about everything, an ordinary vice in learned men, but usually a mark of pride and self-sufficiency. By perfect humility and obedience he banished the dangerous desire of self-complacency in his actions. He never contradicted, never disputed with anyone. So perfect was his submission that he seemed to have no self-will. He undertook to sail through the deep sea of this mortal life securely, under the direction of a prudent guide, and shunned those rocks which he could not have escaped, had he presumed to steer alone, as he tells us. From the visible mountain he raised his heart, without interruption, in all his actions, to God, who is invisible; and, attentive to all the motions of his grace, studied only to do his will. Four years he spent in the trial of his own strength, and in learning the obligations of his state, before he made his religious profession, which was in the twentieth year of his age. In his writings he severely condemns engagements made by persons too young, or before a sufficient probation. By fervent prayer and fasting he prepared himself for the solemn consecration of himself to God, that the most intense fervour might make his holocaust the more perfect; and from that moment he seemed to be renewed in spirit; and his master admired the strides with which, like a mighty giant, the young disciple advanced daily more and more towards God, by self-denial, obedience, humility, and the uninterrupted exercises of divine love and prayer.
God bestowed on St. John an extraordinary grace of healing the spiritual disorders of souls. Among others, a monk called Isaac was brought almost to the brink of despair by most violent temptations of the flesh. He addressed himself to St. John, who perceived by his tears how much he underwent from that conflict and struggle which he felt within himself. The servant of God commended his faith, and said, "My son, let us have recourse to God by prayer." They accordingly prostrated themselves together on the ground in fervent supplication for a deliverance, and from that time the infernal serpent left Isaac in peace. Many others resorted to St. John for spiritual advice; but the devil excited some to jealousy, who censured him as one who, out of vanity, lost much time in unprofitable discourse. The saint took this accusation, which was a mere calumny, in good part, and as a charitable admonition; he therefore imposed on himself a rigorous silence for near a twelvemonth. This, his humility and modesty, so much astonished his calumniators that they joined the rest of the monks in beseeching him to reassume his former function of giving charitable advice to all that resorted to him for it, and not to bury that talent of science which he had received for the benefit of many. He who knew not what it was to contradict others, with the same humility and deference again opened his mouth to instruct his neighbour in the rules of perfect virtue, in which office, such was the reputation of his wisdom and experience, that he was regarded as another Moses in that holy place.
St. John was now seventy-five years old, and had spent forty of them in his hermitage, when, in the year 600, he was unanimously chosen Abbot of Mount Sinai, and superior-general of all the monks and hermits in that country. Soon after he was raised to this dignity, the people of Palestine and Arabia, in the time of a great drought and famine, made their application to him as to another Elias, begging him to intercede with God in their behalf. The saint failed not, with great earnestness, to recommend their distress to the Father of mercies, and his prayer was immediately recompensed with abundant rains. St. Gregory the Great, who then sat in St. Peter's chair, wrote to our holy abbot, recommending himself to his prayers, and sent him beds, with other furniture and money, for his hospital, for the use of pilgrims near Mount Sinai. John, who had used his utmost endeavours to decline the pastoral charge when he saw it laid upon him, neglected no means which might promote the sanctification of all those who were entrusted to his care. That posterity might receive some share in the benefit of his holy instructions, John, the learned and virtuous Abbot of Raithu, a monastery situate towards the Red Sea, entreated him by that obedience he had ever practiced, even with regard to his inferiors, that he would draw up the most necessary rules by which fervent souls might arrive at Christian perfection. The saint answered him that nothing but extreme humility could have moved him to write to so miserable a sinner, destitute of every sort of virtue; but that he received his commands with respect, though far above his strength, never considering his own insufficiency. Wherefore, apprehensive of falling into death by disobedience, he took up his pen in haste, with great eagerness mixed with fear, and set himself to draw some imperfect outlines, as an unskillful painter, leaving them to receive from him, as a great master, the finishing strokes. This produced the excellent work which he called "Climax; or, the Ladder of religious Perfection." This book, being written in sentences, almost in the manner of aphorisms, abounds more in sense than words. A certain majestic simplicity- an inexpressible unction and spirit of humility, joined with conciseness and perspicuity-very much enhance the value of this performance; but its chief merit consists in the sublime sentiments and perfect description of all Christian virtues which it contains. The author confirms his precepts by several edifying examples, as of obedience and penance. In describing a monastery of three hundred and thirty monks which he had visited near Alexandria, in Egypt, he mentions one of the principal citizens of that city, named Isidore, who, petitioning to be admitted into the house, said to the abbot, "As iron is in the hands of the smith, so am I in your hands." The abbot ordered him to remain without the gate, and to prostrate himself at the feet of everyone that passed by, begging their prayers for his soul struck with a leprosy. Thus he passed seven years in profound humility and patience. He told St. John that, during the first year, he always considered himself as a slave condemned for his sins, and sustained violent conflicts; the second year he passed in tranquillity and confidence; and the third with relish and pleasure in his humiliations. So great was his virtue that the abbot determined to present him to the bishop in order to be promoted to the priesthood, but the humility of the holy penitent prevented the execution of that design; for, having begged at least a respite, he died within ten days. St. John could not help admiring the cook of this numerous community, who seemed always recollected, and generally bathed in tears amidst his continual occupation, and asked him by what means he nourished so perfect a spirit of compunction, in the midst of such a dissipating laborious employment. He said that serving the monks, he represented to himself that he was serving not men, but God in his servants; and that the fire he always had before his eyes reminded him of that fire which will burn souls for all eternity. The moving description which our author gives of the monastery of penitents called the Prison, above a mile from the former, hath been already abridged in our language. John the Sabaite told our saint, as of a third person, that seeing himself respected in his monastery, he considered that this was not the way to satisfy for his sins; wherefore, with the leave of his abbot, he repaired to a severe monastery in Pontus, and after three years saw in a dream a schedule of his debts, to the amount in appearance of one hundred pounds of gold, of which only ten were cancelled. He therefore repeated often to himself, "Poor Antiochus, thou hast still a great debt to satisfy." After passing other thirteen years in contempt and the most fervent practices of penance, he deserved to see in a vision his whole debt blotted out. Another monk, in a grievous fit of illness, fell into a trance, in which he lay as if he had been dead for the space of an hour; but, recovering, he shut himself up in a cell, and lived a recluse twelve years, almost continually weeping, in the perpetual meditation of death. When he was near death, his brethren could only extort from him these words of edification, "He who hath death always before his eyes will never sin." John, Abbot of Raithu, explained this book of our saint by judicious comments, which are also extant. We have likewise a letter of St. John Climacus to the same person concerning the duties of a pastor, in which he exhorts him in correcting others to temper severity with mildness, and encourages him zealously to fulfil the obligations of his charge; for nothing is greater or more acceptable to God than to offer him the sacrifice of rational souls sanctified by penance and charity.
St. John sighed continually under the weight of his dignity during the four years that he governed the monks of Mount Sinai; and as he had taken upon him that burden with fear and reluctance, he with joy found means to resign the same a little before his death. Heavenly contemplation, and the continual exercise of divine love and praise, were his delight and comfort in his earthly pilgrimage: and in this imitation of the functions of the blessed spirits in heaven he placeth the essence of the monastic state. In his excellent maxims concerning the gift of holy tears, the fruit of charity, we seem to behold a lively portraiture of his most pure soul. He died in his hermitage on the 30th day of March, in 605, being fourscore years old. His spiritual son, George, who had succeeded him in the abbacy, earnestly begged of God that he might not be separated from his dear master and guide; and followed him by a happy death within a few days. On several Greek commentaries on St. John Climacus's ladder, see Montfaucon, Biblioth. Coisliana, pp. 305, 306.
St. John Climacus, speaking of the excellence and the effects of charity, does it with a feeling and energy worthy of such a subject: "A mother," says he, "feels less pleasure when she folds within her arms the dear infant whom she nourishes with her own milk than the true child of charity does when united as he incessantly is, to his God, and folded as it were in the arms of his heavenly Father.—Charity operates in some persons so as to carry them almost entirely out of themselves. It illuminates others, and fills them with such sentiments of joy, that they cannot help crying out: The Lord is my helper and my protector: in him hath my heart confided, and I have been helped And my flesh hath flourished again, and with my will I will give praise to him. This joy which they feel in their hearts, is reflected on their countenances; and when once God has united, or, as we may say, incorporated them with his charity, he displays in their exterior, as in the reflection of a mirror, the brightness and serenity of their souls: even as Moses, being honored with a sight of God, was encompassed round by his glory." St. John Climacus composed the following prayer to obtain the gift of charity: "My God, I pretend to nothing upon this earth, except to be so firmly united to you by prayer that to be separated from you may be impossible; let others desire riches and glory; for my part, I desire but one thing, and that is, to be inseparably united to you, and to place in you alone all my hopes of happiness and repose."
|Matthew 5: 17 - 19|
|17||"Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.|
|18||For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.|
|19||Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.|