Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 24, 2007 (CNA) - A Montecito Heights artist has been spending the past seven years in what might seem a fruitless task: painting the Saints of Los Angeles.
Though not “a formal Catholic,” said an Oct. 11 Los Angeles Times story, artist J. Michael Walker “feels a close affinity to Catholic spirituality and culture.” This affinity inspired him to paint the Catholic saints after whom 103 Los Angeles streets have been named. Walker not only visits the streets, but also studies their histories and the lives of their saints.
For instance, when he first visited Santa Clara Street, he found it ran through a derelict industrial district. Walker painted St. Clare, the companion of St. Francis of Assisi, lifting a railroad lantern and standing next to barbed wire and security bars. He then placed this inscription on the painting: “Santa Clara had sought the privilege of absolute poverty, and found it here, on this meager portion of a street.”
San Pablo Street, Walker found, ran to the northeast of downtown Los Angeles and finally turned into a dirt road that climbed a bluff overlooking the city. He pictured this as a place where San Pablo – St. Paul – might preach.
The saints project did not, of course, rise from pure spiritual inspiration. In 2000, the city of Los Angeles awarded Walker a $6,500 grant to paint the pictures of saints, which would hang for two months in bus stops near the saint-named streets. He has received other grants for the project as well.
But Walker’s interest carried him into further research. The street names, he learned, were founded in “mission fantasy” – real estate developers, not Spanish-era rancheros or padres, named the streets after the saints. "I guess you could say [the developers] called upon the saints to bless their enterprise," he told the Times. And Walker reflected: "When you're founding a community, that's one thing. But when you're a real estate developer, and you're trying to use the name of a saint to sell real estate, that may not be the best possible use for someone who's known to help the poor, to have lived a sainted life."
Walker spent several years in rural Mexico, beginning in the 1970s, where he encountered popular Catholic piety and where he met, and married his wife, Mimi. His “affection for that world,” says his web site (http://www.jmichaelwalker.com/id48.htm), led him not only to paint street saints, but also “The Daily Life of the Virgin of Guadalupe.” In these paintings, the Virgin is depicted “as a real Mexican woman of Indian descent, engaged in the myriad daily tasks by which women hold the world together,” says Walker’s web site.
The web site says he found the Virgin in the lives and faces of the women whom he met in his family. “It seemed natural, even obvious, to depict her this way,” he says on the site. “And, indeed, she came to acquire a greater vividness, or reality, as I came to see her in the faces of women everywhere -- in Oaxaca and Puebla, in el D.F. and Los Angeles.”
The original story can be found at California Catholic Daily.
St. Leo, Fla., Oct 24, 2007 (CNA) - After eleven years of leadership under an administrator designated by the American Cassinese Congregation of Benedictine Monasteries, members of Saint Leo Abbey, Saint Leo, FL., are scheduled to vote for a new abbot on October 27.
The late Right Rev. Patrick Shelton of Saint Leo resigned June 6, 1996. In the intervening years, Saint Leo Abbey has had three administrators. The first two, Very Revs. Simeon Thole and James Tingerthal were designated by the Benedictine congregation, and the third, Very Rev. Robert Velten, was appointed administrator by the Congregation after a community selection process.
The election will be prefaced by a meeting Friday October 26 and balloting will begin Saturday at nine a.m. Eligible for election to the abbacy are the 575 priest members of the American Cassinese Congregation of Benedictines, representing the twenty abbeys in seven Western Hemisphere countries. The abbot will hold the position until his 75th birthday or for eight years, whichever is longer.
Installation of the new abbot of Saint Leo will take place at Saint Leo Abbey Church, Saturday, December 1, at a conventual Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert Lynch of Saint Petersburg, FL., and world wide President of the Benedictines, Right Rev. Notker Wolf, O.S.B., of San Anselmo Abbey, Rome, Italy, will be in the U.S. at the time and has been invited. Abbot President Timothy Kelly of the American Cassinese congregation is also expected to attend the blessing along with Fathers Simeon Thole and James Tingerthal.
The Saint Leo Abbey membership of solemnly professed monks numbers 18. Additionally there are three temporarily professed members.
“Please keep our monastic community in your daily prayers” – Rev. Robert Velten OSB and the Benedictine Monks of Saint Leo Abbey.
Vatican City, Oct 24, 2007 (CNA) - In front of more than 30,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI held his weekly general audience today. The Church Father he turned his attention to for his catechesis was St. Ambrose of Milan.
Benedict said that Ambrose's example should teach everyone that living out the faith cannot be a role that they play like a clown, but rather that their faith and life should be one seamless witness.
The Holy Father demonstrated that St. Ambrose achieved this union by meditating on the Scriptures, a method that he learned from Origen. Benedict explained that it was Ambrose who "brought meditation upon the Scriptures into the Latin world, ... introducing the practice of 'lectio divina' to the West." This practice "guided all his own preaching and writing which flow, in fact, from his listening ... to the Word of God."
The bishop saint made certain that those who wished to become Christians "learnt first the art of correct living" in order "to be prepared for the great Mysteries of Christ." His preaching was founded on "the reading of Sacred Scripture" with the aim of "living in conformity with divine Revelation.
"It is evident," the Pope added, "that the preacher's personal witness and the exemplary nature of the Christian community influence the effectiveness of preaching. ... From this point of view, one decisive factor is life context, the reality of how the Word is lived."
Benedict XVI recalled the fact that St. Augustine in his Confessions recounts how his own conversion was not due "chiefly to the beautiful homilies" of Ambrose, whom he knew in Milan, but above all "to the witness of the bishop and of his Milanese Church, who sang and prayed together like one single body." Augustine also tells of his surprise at seeing how Ambrose, when he was alone, would read the Scriptures without moving his lips, because at that time reading was considered as something to be proclaimed out loud in order to facilitate its comprehension.
It is "in such reading, ... when the heart seeks to achieve an understanding of the Word of God, that we catch a glimpse of Ambrosian catechesis," said the Holy Father. "Scripture intimately assimilated suggests what must be announced to convert people's hearts. ... Thus catechesis is inseparable from life witness."
"Who educates in the faith," he continued, "cannot run to the risk of appearing like a clown who plays a role, ... rather he must be like the beloved disciple who rested his head on the Master's heart and there learnt how to think, speak and act."
St. Ambrose died on Good Friday, his arms open in the form of the cross. "Thus," the Pope concluded, "he expressed his mystical participation in the death and resurrection of the Lord. This was his final catechesis. In the absence of words, he spoke still with the testimony of his life."
Charleston, S.C., Oct 24, 2007 (CNA) - The number of Catholic radio stations is set to double, according to Catholic Radio Association president Stephen Gajdosik. The Catholic Radio Association has secured broadcasting licenses from the FCC for noncommercial educational FM radio stations across the country. The association has helped submit over 220 applications for new licenses in areas as far apart as Anchorage, Alaska and Key West, Florida.
“We pulled together dioceses, parishes, Knights of Columbus councils, lay apostolates, donors, lawyers, and engineers in the largest effort ever to acquire radio licenses for the sake of the Church’s work of evangelization,” said Gajdosik. “In our culture of 24/7 media consumption, the Church needs these tools to effectively proclaim the person of Jesus Christ. We exist to help her do that.”
The Catholic Radio Association offers start-up assistance services for new stations. There are currently 150 Catholic radio stations in the country.
For more information please visit: http://www.catholicradioassociation.org/
Hollywood, Calif., Oct 24, 2007 (CNA) - Eduardo Verastegui, star of the movie "Bella," has been "overwhelmed with joy" by the support shown for the movie.
In an email to his fans, Verastegui described the progress of Bella as marked by three miracles. The first miracle was finding investors to finance the movie. The second miracle was the completion of the movie itself, since its makers were first-time filmmakers. The third miracle was when "Bella" won the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival's People's Choice award.
Though grateful for these fortunate events, Verastegui applauded his supporters most of all. "The most touching of all has been traveling the country and meeting all of you, and your support this week has been inspirational," he wrote.
He explained that hundreds of the theaters showing the film have pre-sold all their seats to fans. Some individuals are buying 100 to 10,000 tickets for family, church groups, and total strangers. One young woman who could not even afford her rent was so dedicated to the movie she "adopted" a theater with her meager savings so others could see the movie.
Bella organizers also told CNA of another young woman who was planning on aborting the child that she was pregnant with. After seeing the movie, she decided that there was no way she could have an abortion. Her new baby girl is named Bella.
Verastegui asked supporters to e-mail friends and family and book theaters for the film. "It is a beautiful film that to me was created by something bigger then (sic) us all, and I will never forget all of the passion, support and life this film has inspired," he wrote.
"Bella," which opens this Friday in select theaters, is a romantic drama about a single New York City waitress who struggles with an unexpected pregnancy and the man who helps her through her hardship. It has secured as its executive producer Steve McEveety, who is known for producing "Braveheart" and "The Passion of the Christ."
The film's website is at http://www.bellathemovie.com.
Tegucigalpa, Oct 24, 2007 (CNA) - An official with the UN HIV/AIDS Program has blamed the Catholic Church for not stopping the spread of the disease in Central America and dismissed the success of campaigns that promote abstinence.
Far from acknowledging the failure of the UN to stop the disease, Alberto Stella, UNAIDS coordinator for Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, told the Reuters news agency that the Catholic Church’s opposition to condoms has worsened the AIDS epidemic in Latin America.
“In Latin America the use of the condom has been demonized, but if it was used during relations I guarantee the epidemic would be eliminated in the region,” Stella said.
“The fact that young people become sexually active between the ages of 15 and 19 without any sexual education contributes to the spread of the virus, and evidence shows that abstinence does not work,” he claimed.
An estimated 1.7 million people in Latin America are believed to be HIV positive. The greatest numbers of cases are in Argentina, Brazil and Colombia, while Honduras has the most cases in Central America.
According to Carlos Polo, director for Latin America of the Population Research Institute, the statements by Stella are an attempt to deny the failure of the UNAIDS campaigns which are always centered on the use of condoms.
“To accuse the Church of spreading AIDS is absurd because it assumes that one believes the Church is telling young people to have relations without condoms, when in reality the Church is calling on them insistently to live abstinence in the face of the aggressive propaganda by entities such as UNAIDS, which encourage promiscuity under the euphemism of ‘safe-sex’,” Polo said.
Polo pointed out that UNAIDS “cannot speak about the failure of abstinence” because it has never tried to promote it in its campaigns. Throughout the years, the UN “has denied the success of abstinence in the fight against AIDS in Uganda, where together with the Church, the government has been able to stop the spread of the disease by promoting abstinence and fidelity.”
Washington D.C., Oct 24, 2007 (CNA) - The House Foreign Affairs Committee has reauthorized the nation's first anti-trafficking law in what US Representative Chris Smith called “another step forward in our commitment to end this appalling form of modern-day slavery.”
Smith is the lead Republican cosponsor of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2007, which was introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos (D-CA).
The bill reauthorizes funds for U.S. anti-trafficking programs and increases assistance to victims of trafficking in other countries. It also tightens penalties against governments that fail to meet minimum anti-trafficking standards, while enhancing protections for child victims of trafficking.
Representative Smith extolled the benefits of the legislation. “Since enactment of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the traffickers here and abroad are increasingly likely to face prosecution and conviction. According to the Department of Justice, domestic prosecutions for trafficking have increased by more than 300% under this legislation. Worldwide, nearly 6,000 traffickers were prosecuted last year, and more than 3,000 were convicted,” he said.
Smith also decried a "creeping complacency" in the State Department, which he accused of laxity in ranking countries that egregiously permit human trafficking. The worst offenders must face sanctions.
The bill also expands visa programs for victims, their families, and witnesses to aid in trafficking investigations. It strengthens penalties against traffickers, while creating new penalties punishing individuals who go abroad for so-called "sex tourism." The legislation authorizes government agency support for child victims of human trafficking. The bill also prohibits U.S. military assistance to governments whose official armed forces or their auxiliaries recruit or use child soldiers.
Rome, Italy, Oct 24, 2007 (CNA) - In October of 2006, Carlo Acutis was 15 years old and was fading fast from leukemia. A native of Milan, Acutis touched family members and friends with his witness of offering the sufferings of his illness for the Church and the Pope. His testimony of faith, which could lead to his beatification in the coming years, has moved Italy.
“The Eucharist: My Road to Heaven: A Biography of Carlo Acutis” is the title of the book by Nicola Gori, a writer for the L’Osservatore Romano, and published by Ediciones San Pablo.
According to the publishers, Carlo “was a teen of our times, like many others. He tried hard in school, with his friends, [and] he loved computers. At the same time he was a great friend of Jesus Christ, he was a daily communicant and he trusted in the Virgin Mary. Succumbing to leukemia at the age of 15, he offered his life for the Pope and for the Church. Those who have read about his life are moved to profound admiration. The book was born of a desire to tell everyone his simple and incredible human and profoundly Christian story.”
“As a little boy, especially after his First Communion, he never missed his daily appointment with the Holy Mass and the Rosary, followed by a moment of Eucharistic adoration,” recalls his mother, Antonia Acutis.
“With this intense spiritual life, Carlo has fully and generously lived his fifteen years of life, leaving a profound impact on those who knew him. He was an expert with computers, he read books on computer engineering and left everyone in awe, but he put his gift at the service of others and used it to help his friends,” she added.
“His immense generosity made him interested in everyone: the foreigners, the handicapped, children, beggars. To be close to Carlo was to be close to a fountain of fresh water,” his mother said.
Antonia recalls clearly that “shortly before his death, Carlo offered his sufferings for the Pope and the Church. Surely the heroism with which he faced his illness and death has convinced many that he was truly somebody special. When the doctor that was treating him asked him if he was suffering a lot, Carlo answered: ‘There are people who suffer much more than me!”
Reputation for holiness
Francesca Consolini, postulator for the causes of the saints at the Archdiocese of Milan, thinks there is reason to open Carlo’s cause of beatification when the required wait of five years after his death has been met.
“His faith, which was unique in such a young person, was pure and certain. It made him always be sincere with himself and with others. He showed extraordinary care for others; he was sensitive to the problems and situations of his friends and those who lived close to him and were with him day to day,” Consolini explained.
Carlo Acutis “understood the true value of life as a gift from God, as an effort, an answer to give to the Lord Jesus day by day in simplicity,” she went on. “I should stress that he was a normal boy who was joyful, serene, sincere, and helpful and loved having company, he liked having friends.”
“After his death many felt compelled to write down their own remembrance of him, and others say they are going to ask for his prayers,” Consolini said.
For more information on the book, written in Italian, visit
Lisbon, Portugal, Oct 24, 2007 (CNA) - Portugal’s Minister of Health, Antonio Correia de Campos, has notified the Portuguese Association of Doctors that it should eliminate from its norms the ethical prohibition of performing abortions because abortion is now legal in the country.
The Portuguese Socialist government, which legalized abortion despite losing a referendum on the issue, announced that the demand for the change in the Associations’ code of ethics would be supervised by the Attorney General and should be carried out in the next thirty days.
The Association’s code of ethics states, “Doctors should maintain respect for human life from its beginnings,” and, “The practice of abortion constitutes a serious ethical failing.”
According to numerous experts, including the College of Lawyers of Portugal, the government does not have the right to demand the code of ethics be changed, because even though the Socialist government has legalized abortion, the country’s Constitution still states that “human life is inviolable.” The College called the government’s demands “arrogant and excessive.”
Dr. Daniel Serrao, who presides over the Commission on Ethics of the Association of Doctors, said, “Any kind of interference is completely unacceptable, no matter who the person or the profession.”
Khartoum, Sudan, Oct 24, 2007 (CNA) - An Eritrean Christian gospel singer who faced torture and unjust imprisonment in her homeland has been granted asylum in Denmark, BBC News reports.
Helen Berhane was imprisoned in a metal shipping container and beaten in an effort to make her recant her faith. She was forced into torturous physical positions, and now uses a wheelchair because of the injuries caused to her legs and feet.
A member of an unregistered Rema Church, Ms. Berhane had just released a cassette of gospel music before she was arrested in the Eritrean capital in May of 2004.
The Eritrean government recognizes four religions: the Orthodox, Catholic, and Lutheran Churches and Islam. 90% of Eritreans belong to these groups. Ms. Berhane was among the estimated two thousand detained members of the country’s various illegal evangelical church groups.
In testimony collected by Release Eritrea, a religious freedom group, other prisoners have claimed they are routinely subjected to extreme heat and cold and denied water and sanitation.
Ms. Berhane was released in 2006 after an international campaign for her cause. She found sanctuary in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, where her daughter Eva later joined her. She first applied to asylum in the United Kingdom, but after seven months she applied to Denmark. After one month Denmark determined she was a genuine asylum seeker.
Dr Berhane Asmelash, Director of Release Eritrea, said "We are relieved that Helen and Eva are finally safe and would like to thank everyone who has supported them."
Christian Solidarity Worldwide's Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas, added his gratitude and concern: "We are thrilled that Helen has now finally found refuge for herself and her daughter after so many years of suffering," he said. "We cannot forget, however, that 2000 other Christians still languish in Eritrean detention centers simply for holding on to their faith."
Santiago, Chile, Oct 24, 2007 (CNA) - The organization “Muevete Chile” has launched a campaign to support Chilean pharmacies that refuse to sell the abortion pill (Plan B) and that are being threatened with millions in fines by the government.
The organization has called on Chileans to show their support for pharmacists of the chains Cruz Verde, Ahumada and Salcobrand.
“If these pharmacies are forced to sell the pill, not only would it be an attack against life but also against freedom,” Muevete Chile said. “The only thing left then would be for them to force us to buy it,” the group said, pointing out that it has been scientifically proven that the pill prevents implantation and is therefore abortifacient.
Therefore, support the main pharmacy chains in their decision not to by the abortion pill and congratulate them for their strong opposition to this flagrant attack against life and freedom,” the organization told Chileans.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 24, 2007 (CNA) - The International Federation of Atheists announced this week it will hold the first Council of Atheists in Toledo, Spain, during which it will present a pornographic and blasphemous exhibit entitled Sanctorum, which features images of Christ, the Virgin Mary and the saints.
Organizers said the event will be held in the old church of San Vicente of Toledo, which is now administered by the Toledo Art Circle. The International Federation of Atheists decided to accept an offer by Art Circle president Fernando Barredo to use the church for the exhibit.
Barredo said the Toledo Art Circle has administered the old church of San Vicente for fifteen years and is licensed to host events and exhibits that are free of intervention by public officials. The first Council of Atheists will be held December 7-9.
Denver, Colo., Oct 24, 2007 (CNA) - In an exclusive interview with CNA, the Archbishop of Denver, Charles Chaput discussed the role of Hispanics in the defense of the family.
The archbishop explained that the family is the most important institution in the Hispanic community. “The role of marriage and family among Hispanics is very close to the traditional American view. All social relations are centered in the family, especially the extended family (including relatives, Godparents, etc.). Family is the most important institution in Latino society and is widely respected and protected. It is rather uncommon in Latin America to see couples living together without the Sacrament of Matrimony.”
That being said, keeping the family values as the center of the community doesn’t necessarily continue when Hispanics come to the United States. Archbishop Chaput commented that, “Unfortunately, many circumstances take Hispanics away from their understanding of matrimony and family when they emigrate. In the United States, different immigration-related situations lead couples to live together without the Sacrament of Matrimony, and many others are forced to live separated from their families. The secular mass media and peer pressure also play a big role.”
The archbishop continued, “Hispanics tend to take the importance of family and marriage for granted and sometimes haven’t paid attention to family ministry. In recent years, the priority of Hispanic ministry has been catechesis, youth ministry, or simply gaining diocesan recognition as Hispanic ministry itself, but not family ministry. In fact, I don’t know of a single national institute or organization emphasizing family values among Hispanics in the United States. We have national organizations for Spanish catechesis, Hispanic youth ministry, Hispanic priests, Hispanic leadership, etc., but not a single major Catholic group focused on Hispanic families and family values. Some non-Hispanic institutes, publishers, or organizations have tried to reach Hispanics, but generally with little success because of lack of understanding of Latino culture.”
When asked if the immigration debate prevents the Latino community from joining in pro-family activism, Archbishop Chaput answered, “unfortunately, Spanish-language media tend to emphasize that many politicians who promote family values are also against immigrants. It seems difficult to find officials who are strong pro-family or pro-life supporters and, at the same time, pro-immigration reform. Immigration reform has been seen as a liberal agenda, while pro-family is usually seen as a conservative agenda. I have no doubt that a high percentage of Hispanics would join pro-family forces if informed properly. “
“The Catholic Church in Latin America has mostly emphasized social issues other than pro-family or pro-life issues as their social ministry”, he continued. Poverty and injustice have had priority. Questions about abortion or gay marriage have not been a significant part of Latino political culture. In the presidential debates for last year’s election in Mexico, none of those questions were ever included. Now that Mexico City, Chile, Spain, etc., have approved abortion and gay marriage, politics in Mexico and other Latin American countries will change, and I suspect generations to come will start seeing family and life issues as important questions to ask a candidate.”
Chaput suggests that the dormant political energy of the Latino community could be awakened through the media. “The effective use of media is very important. Hispanics are very likely to watch TV and listen to radio. Those two are considered the main channels to reach Hispanics. The internet is not as commonly used as it is for non-Hispanics, but it’s starting to gain importance. Educating young people and speaking from the pulpit about it, are also crucial. About 85 masses are celebrated in Spanish in the Archdiocese of Denver every weekend. Preaching about family issues must be a priority.”
It is also necessary that dioceses across the United States reach out to the Hispanic populations. “The Archdiocese of Denver is one of the few dioceses – maybe the only one -- in the United States that has a full time person working on family ministry exclusively for Hispanics. The position is new, but we’re confident of good outcomes in the near future.”
“Defending marriage and family is one of the central responsibilities of this person. Our Hispanic Ministry has a one hour radio show every week (Fe Católica Viva) on a secular radio station. Family issues are a common topic during the show. Our communications office has also been very outspoken on family issues in the local Spanish media. Hispanic Ministry has been also working with the Archdiocesan Respect Life Office to establish programs in Spanish, and has also been involved in establishing the first ENDOW group for Hispanic women.”
“The challenge remains to bring family issues to the social square and not only as a religious, private issue. Many more things should be done.”