St. Louis, Mo., Dec 4, 2008 (CNA) - As a St. Louis-based Catholic theater production company launches its new season this weekend, its founder noted that the goal remains to bring people closer to the faith and Scriptures.
Theater of the Word will kick off its sophomore effort the weekend of Dec. 5-7 with "Morning Star Christmas," a two-act play that delivers two separate, yet important messages on the meaning of Christmas, according to Kevin O’Brien, a member of the Cathedral Basilica Parish who started the company in the summer of 2007.
The first half will share the story of a recently converted Ebenezer Scrooge as he encounters three new ghosts — the spirits of Christmas past, "presents," and future — who represent "elements which are active today in our culture and seek to kill the spirit of Christmas," said O’Brien. "They represent attitudes that make Christmas difficult for all of us, even if we have had a conversion of heart, as Scrooge did."
Audiences also will catch in the second act a glimpse into the story of the nativity from the perspective of the Bethlehem innkeeper and his wife who turned away the Holy Family on the night of Jesus’ birth.
It also is a "modernized" version of the Second Shepherds’ Play, a famous mystery play from medieval times in England, said O’Brien. "It’s very entertaining and funny in parts, but it’s also a poignant, touching story," he added.
In 2009, Theater of the Word will welcome British author Joseph Pearce, who penned "The Quest for Shakespeare," an insight into the famous literary writer’s connection to the Catholic Church.
Pearce will intermingle his scholarly work with short scenes from Hamlet performed by the cast, according to O’Brien. Pearce’s research, he said, has shown "a good deal of documentary evidence. He is at the forefront of this scholarly investigation into the possibility that Shakespeare was in fact a Catholic. He was a recused Catholic who adamantly continued to go to ‘secret’ Mass and resisted the official imposed state religion in Elizabethan England."
Other productions in 2009 include a special presentation on St. Valentine’s Day, which will feature a one-act comedy about the "war" between the sexes and another segment that presents a view of love based on Scripture and the saints.
"Passion of Our Lord," held during the Lenten season, will be culled from the four Gospels and will include short films and other clips "from a Catholic point of view," said O’Brien.
"Socrates Meets Jesus," shown in April, is an adaptation from Peter Kreeft’s fictional book, which depicts the story of Greek philosopher Socrates, who comes back to life and enters college, only to discover someone whom everyone’s talking about: Jesus Christ.
"Socrates finds himself at a modern American college, and he starts going to classes and talking to students," said O’Brien. "They think he’s a crazy old man, but he engages them in a theocratic dialogue.
"Then there comes this point where he’s hearing about this Jesus. So he starts going to classes: one on the Old Testament, and then one on the New Testament. Kreeft shows what the greatest thinker of pre-Christian time would have made of Jesus Christ."
Theater of the Word has been taking more of its productions on the road, noted O’Brien, who added that the company just returned from a week on the East Coast.
"We did nine shows in New York, and in every case, people were just so happy about what we were doing," he said. "We’re beginning to see that this is something that people from all walks of life are really hungry for and really responding to."
In addition, Theater of the Word also will appear on EWTN on several occasions in the coming year.
On Monday, Dec. 15, O’Brien will share his personal story of conversion from atheism to Catholicism during a live interview with Marcus Grodi on "The Journey Home." The program will air at 7 p.m. St. Louis time.
Theater of the Word also will bring its "Quest for Shakespeare" performance to EWTN for a series of the same name, featuring Joseph Pearce. It is expected to air sometime in March.
And in the fall of 2009, O’Brien will launch a 13-part series, called "Theater of the Word Incorporated," which will serve as an anthology of Catholic drama, as performed by his troupe as well as other Catholic performers from around the United States.
As for the future, O’Brien said he is looking forward to continuing to spread the Gospel message to the masses through drama.
Printed with permission from the St. Louis Review.
Washington D.C., Dec 4, 2008 (CNA) - The new Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, DC has drawn criticism for minimizing references to God and to religious faith but depicting the U.S. Capitol as the sole American-built “temple” and the U.S. Constitution as Americans’ only “common oracle.”
On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Minority Leader John Boehner opened the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) to the public with a ceremony in Emancipation Hall.
Later on Tuesday, U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R – S.C.) criticized the CVC design in a press release, charging “it fails to appropriately honor our religious heritage that has been critical to America’s success.”
Noting that the Architect of the Capitol has pledged to include “some references to faith,” DeMint continued:
“More needs to be done. You cannot accurately tell the history of America or its Capitol by ignoring the religious heritage of our Founders and the generations since who relied on their faith for strength and guidance. The millions of visitors that will visit the CVC each year should get a true portrayal of the motivations and inspirations of those who have served in Congress since its establishment.”
The Senator charged that the CVC displays were “left-leaning” and sometimes “distort our true history.”
“Exhibits portray the federal government as the fulfillment of human ambition and the answer to all of society’s problems,” he continued. “This is a clear departure from acknowledging that Americans’ rights ‘are endowed by their Creator’ and stem from ‘a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.’”
“Instead, the CVC’s most prominent display proclaims faith not in God, but in government. Visitors will enter reading a large engraving that states, ‘We have built no temple but the Capitol. We consult no common oracle but the Constitution.’ This is an intentional misrepresentation of our nation’s real history, and an offensive refusal to honor America's God-given blessings.”
As a positive example of government honoring God, DeMint quoted George Washington’s first inaugural address in which the first U.S. president said:
“…[I]t would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge.”
He said the principles of American freedoms stem from “our Founding Fathers’ beliefs in a higher power, beliefs put forth in the Declaration of Independence and manifest throughout our Constitution.”
Ceasing to acknowledge this, he warned, could endanger such freedoms.
“We must not censor historical references to God for the sake of political correctness. And we must truthfully represent the limited form of government the Constitution lays out so that our ‘government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.’ So help us God.”
CNA contacted the Office of the Architect of the Capitol for comment but did not receive a response by publication time.
San Jose, Calif., Dec 4, 2008 (CNA) - Live Action Films has released an undercover video showing a deliberate violation of mandatory reporting laws for sexual abuse by a Planned Parenthood nurse in Bloomington, Indiana. The video also depicts the employee advising the girl how to avoid parental consent laws for obtaining an abortion by crossing state lines.
Lila Rose, a UCLA student reporter and president of the pro-life group Live Action, posed as a 13-year-old girl in a June 25 appointment with a Planned Parenthood nurse. Speaking with a nurse at Planned Parenthood of Indiana’s Bloomington Health Center, Rose claimed to have been impregnated by a 31-year-old man.
On the recording, after Rose explains her own fabricated age, the nurse replies: “I don’t want to know how old he is, OK?”
The nurse acknowledges her legal responsibility to report the incident to Child Protective Services.
Rose, speaking of her alleged partner, tells the nurse “he might be 31 now.”
The nurse dismissively replies: “OK, I didn’t hear the age… I don’t want to know the age.”
“It could be reported as rape, and that’s child abuse” she explains, advising the girl to misrepresent her own age and the age of her alleged sexual partner.
“You've seen him around, you know he's 14, he's in your grade and whatever. You know what I mean."
Under Indiana law, sexual relations between an adult and a 13-year-old constitute a felony.
The nurse then advises Rose to cross state lines for an abortion.
“I cannot tell you this, but I can show you this,” she says, reportedly showing a list of clinic addresses. She circles an out-of-state abortion clinic before circling every other location on the list.
“So in Illinois,” Rose says.
In a Wednesday press release from Live Action Films, Rose explained that she and other students in Live Action recorded the video over the summer in a multi-state investigation of abortion clinics.
She described the investigation, called The Mona Lisa Project, as “demonstrating the routine lawlessness of abortion providers at Planned Parenthood.”
“Today's video release is only a sample from many hours of similarly disturbing footage,” Rose said.
“The Mona Lisa Project demonstrates how quickly the abortion industry's disrespect for unborn children becomes disregard for all humans," Rose continued. "Planned Parenthood offers no solutions for the victim of statutory rape—they give her an abortion and a bag of condoms and send her straight back into the arms of the abuser.”
Past investigations of Planned Parenthood showed that staffers in North Carolina also failed to report alleged victims of statutory rape.
Planned Parenthood’s budget is nearly one billion dollars in size, receiving nearly one third of that money from the government.
Jackie Stollar, student president of a Live Action chapter in Oregon, had accompanied Rose on the investigation.
“In a repeated pattern, Planned Parenthood has violated the public trust. It should have its government funding revoked," she commented. "During an economic crisis, can the government really spare $300 million to support such an unethical organization?"
The video is available through the Live Action web site, located at http://liveactionfilms.org
Vatican City, Dec 4, 2008 (CNA) - Praising the Chilean bishops for their efforts to promote a continent-wide movement of evangelization, Pope Benedict called on the prelates to also bring the light of faith to all sectors of society.
In Rome for their “ad limina” visit—a visit that entails giving an account of the state of their dioceses to the Pope—the bishops of Chile were warmly received by the Holy Father on Thursday morning. The Pope spoke of his happiness at the meeting which, he said, "gives me the chance to share the apostolic labors in the beloved land of Chile."
Turning to pastoral matters, Pope Benedict encouraged the bishops "to cultivate intense interior life and profound faith so that, through the intimate relationship with the Master in prayer, the pastoral initiatives that best respond to the spiritual needs of the faithful might arise."
Following the recent meeting of the Bishops of Latin American and the Caribbean, the bishops had agreed to embark on a “Great Continental Mission” to evangelize South America.
As the conversation between the Pope and the Chilean bishops turned to this mission, Benedict XVI reminded the bishops that "this great evangelizing mission ... requires particular efforts of purification and charity from everyone.
“You are well aware that mankind today feels the urgent need for examples of truly evangelical and coherent life. For this reason the saintliness of all members of the Church, and especially of her pastors, is one of the most precious gifts you can offer your brothers and sisters," the Pope said.
Pope Benedict then extended his vision for the Great Continental Mission from the Church into society-at-large.
"All sectors of life can be illuminated with the light of the faith. I am thinking, among other areas, of the world of culture, science and politics; of the promotion of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman; of the creation of more just working conditions and the assistance of the disadvantaged; of concern for the environment; of defence of human life at every stage of existence, and of the right and obligation of parents to the spiritual and moral education of their children,” the Holy Father explained.
Amidst this effort, "charitable activity in favor of the poor" must not be forgotten, he reminded the bishops, saying that "following the example of the first community of disciples, we must attempt to make the Church, like the family of God, a place of mutual assistance."
Finally the Pope told them "to continue to cultivate the spirit of communion with the Roman Pontiff and with brother bishops, especially with the episcopal conference and ecclesiastical provinces. ... For everyone, be true models and instruments of communion."
Madrid, Spain, Dec 4, 2008 (CNA/Europa Press) - The Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, together with his auxiliary bishops, has condemned the murder of businessman Ignacio Uria Mendizabal by the Basque separatist group ETA. The bishops also reiterated that terrorism is a sin and called for the conversion of terrorists.
According to the prelates, “Once again, terrorism has left its mark on Spanish society” with this latest “cruel crime” that “has ended the life of a human being made in the image and likeness of the Creator.” The murder of Uria “constitutes a grave sin,” the bishops stressed.
In a statement the bishops condemned “this action against life and freedom,” and recalled that “terrorism is a radical No to the law of God and to the most basic aspect of the dignity of the human person.”
The bishops commended “this new victim of senseless violence” to God and prayed for the consolation of his family. “Behind terrorism is an enormous crisis of moral conscience,” they added, calling on the faithful to “pray for the violence to end and for a change of heart, a true conversion of the terrorists.”
Rome, Italy, Dec 4, 2008 (CNA) - L’Osservatore Romano reported this week that the Italian Federation of Bread Bakers has donated to the Pope one thousand loaves of “panettone” (a traditional Christmas sweet bread) for the poor who receive assistance from Caritas and for those who come to the Missionary of Charity’s shelter “Gift of Mary.”
At the conclusion of the Wednesday General Audience, the president of the Federation, Luca Vecchiato, and the honorary president, Edi Jerian, presented the plan to the Holy Father along with an 11-pound “panettone.” The Federation has been donating the sweet bread each year at Christmas since 2000.
At the end of the audience the Pontiff was also presented with a copy in Danish of his book “Jesus of Nazareth” by Bishop Czeslaw Kozon and the book’s translator Jakob E. Thorsen.
Madrid, Spain, Dec 4, 2008 (CNA) - Mexican actor and producer Eduardo Verastegui has teamed up with the pro-life website in Spain “DerechoaVivir.org” (RighttoLife.org) in order to battle against a plan to overhaul the nation’s abortion laws. The actor appears in a video on the website inviting Spaniards to join in rejecting the plan.
“As you know, I have stepped out on the front lines because I want to do everything I can to defend the lives of the most defenseless human beings, the unborn; because I want to support women with unexpected pregnancies; because I want to help end the silent holocaust of the 21st century, which is abortion,” he says in the video.
Verastegui also called on Spaniards to join in the campaign to oppose the reform of the country’s abortion law.
The actor’s recent pro-life film “Bella” was also mentioned.
“Thanks to you and to thousands of moviegoers—whose hearts have been touched by this film—Bella has taken in over $1.2 million three weeks in 100 theaters across Spain. We hope that many people can still benefit from its message and that it will remain in theaters for many more weeks,” he said.
“Up to now Bella has saved more than 25 babies who were going to be aborted,” he continued. “These are the cases we have found out about, but I think there must be thousands of lives that have been saved by this film. Help us make Bella save more lives,” the actor stated.
DerechoaVivir.org was created from the civil rights watch dog site HazteOir.org in response to Minister of Equality Bibiana Aido’s announcement that a proposal to liberalize Spain’s abortion restrictions is being made.
The video can be seen at: http://es.youtube.com/watch?v=na83C35VwQo
Vatican City, Dec 4, 2008 (CNA) -
The Holy See has ratified a convention banning the creation and use of cluster munitions in an attempt to highlight its solidarity with victims of the weapons and to urge others to become signers of the ban.
At a ceremony in Oslo, Norway on Wednesday, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, explained that the Holy See chose to immediately ratify the agreement for two reasons.
Archbishop Mamberti stated that the Holy See took the unusual step of immediately ratifying the treaty to "send out a powerful political signal" and to "express to victims the human proximity of the Holy See and its institutions.
"We also wish to launch an appeal to States - especially to the producers, exporters and potential consumers of cluster munitions - to join the current signatories, so as to assure victims, and all countries gravely affected by these arms, that their message has been understood."
The treaty prohibits the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster bombs. Signatory nations pledge to clear affected areas within 10 years, declare and destroy stockpiled cluster munitions within eight years, assist affected countries with clearance, and provide comprehensive assistance to victims of the munitions. After 30 nations have signed and ratified the treaty, it will go into effect.
A press release from the Vatican added that, "The Holy See considers the Convention on cluster munitions an important step in the protection of civilians during and after conflicts, from the indiscriminate effects of this inhumane type of weapon."
Branislav Kapetanovi, a survivor of an encounter with a cluster bomb, described the treaty as setting the "highest standard to date for victim assistance" he also added that it "will make a real difference to affected people and communities around the world."
The Vatican also sees the implementation of the treaty as a "legal and humanitarian challenge for the near future" that must involve the cooperation of governments and NGOs and should "reinforce the link between disarmament and development."
Rome, Italy, Dec 4, 2008 (CNA) - "A light for the persecuted Church” is the title of a Christmas fundraising drive launched by the Italian secretariat of the international organization Aid to the Church in Need.
According to L’Osservatore Romano, “prayer and spiritual union with the persecuted Church are two fundamental elements that characterize the activity of ACN for the suffering Church these past 60 years. In just a few days, more than one thousand people have pledged for the drive.”
Donors are able to light a candle during Christmas as a way of expressing solidarity with the persecuted faithful.
In order to participate in the fundraising drive go to: www.acs-italia.org
San Francisco, Calif., Dec 4, 2008 (CNA) - One month after the victory of California’s Proposition 8, Archbishop of San Francisco George Niederauer has written an essay defending Catholics’ role in the campaign and explaining his cooperation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are also known as Mormons.
The archbishop explained the reasons Catholics, Mormons, and a broad coalition of other churches supported restoring the definition of marriage to be a union between a man and a woman.
He also criticized some of the most hostile reactions to the success of the ballot proposal, calling for mutual tolerance, respect, and trust.
Writing in his weekly column in Catholic San Francisco, the archbishop noted that the bishops had endorsed several propositions on the California ballot and through the California Catholic Conference (CCC), urged Catholics and lay Catholic organizations to work for their passage.
“The Archdiocese of San Francisco did not donate or transfer any Archdiocesan funds to the campaign in favor of Proposition 8. As far as I know, that is also true of other Catholic dioceses in California. The Archdiocese did pay, and appropriately disclose, printing and distribution of flyers to parishes,” he wrote.
In May, he said, the staff of the CCC informed him that Mormon leaders and members had supported the 2000 marriage initiative Proposition 22 and were considering involvement in the Proposition 8 campaign.
“Accordingly, I was asked to contact leaders of the LDS Church whom I had come to know during my eleven years as Bishop of Salt Lake City, to ask them to cooperate again, in this election cycle. I did write to them and they urged the members of their Church, especially those in California, to become involved,” the archbishop explained.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Michael Otterson, managing director of public affairs for the Mormon church, said that the archbishop’s letter persuaded church leaders that they would not be alone in the campaign.
"We were invited to join the coalition," he said. “We didn't unilaterally go into the battle.”
"Having Catholics, evangelicals and Jews in a coalition was exactly the right way to do it," Otterson told the San Francisco Chronicle. "We knew someone would make this a Mormon-versus-gays battle."
Writing in his column, Archbishop Niederauer also emphasized that Catholics and Mormons were joined by evangelical Protestant churches and churches with many African-American members.
“Among the Orthodox churches, the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of San Francisco and three other Orthodox bishops signed and published a joint statement in favor of Proposition 8,” he continued.
Archbishop Niederauer also rejected claims that these churches were motivated by “hatred, prejudice and bigotry against gays, along with a determination to discriminate against them and deny them their civil rights.”
“The churches that worked in favor of Proposition 8 did so because of their belief that the traditional understanding and definition of marriage is in need of defense and support, and not in need of being re-designed or re-configured,” he insisted.
The archbishop noted that religious leaders in America have a constitutional right to speak out on issues of public policy.
“Catholic bishops, specifically, also have a responsibility to teach the faith, and our beliefs about marriage and family are part of this faith.”
“Members of churches who supported Proposition 8 sincerely believe that defining marriage as only between a man and a woman is one such issue,” Archbishop Niederauer said. “They see marriage and the family as the basic building blocks of human society, existing before government and not created by it. Marriage is for us the ideal relationship between a man and woman, in which, through their unique sexual complementarity, the spouses offer themselves to God as co-creators of new human persons, a father and mother giving them life and enabling them to thrive in the family setting.”
The archbishop emphasized that Proposition 8 was not an attack on any group or an attempt to deprive others of their civil rights, noting that domestic partnerships provide the same rights and benefits as married couples.
To those who were offended by the campaign and had voiced hostility to Proposition 8 supporters, Archbishop Niederauer counseled:
“Tolerance, respect, and trust are always two-way streets, and tolerance respect and trust often do not include agreement, or even approval. We need to be able to disagree without being disagreeable. We need to stop talking as if we are experts on the real motives of people with whom we have never even spoken. We need to stop hurling names like ‘bigot’ and ‘pervert’ at each other. And we need to stop it now.”
Bill May, Chairman for the Catholics for the Common Good initiative which encouraged Catholics to back Proposition 8, commented on the Archbishop’s statement. He described it as presenting “strong and legitimate reasons for supporting marriage between a man and a woman.”
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, May said that Niederauer “is a very loving person,” and “he expresses the teachings of the church in a very pastoral way. He is expressing the fundamental understanding of the Catholic Church that every human person has intrinsic dignity that must be respected.”
, Dec 4, 2008 (CNA) - A new cable channel called New Evangelization Television (NET) is scheduled for launch on the evening of December 8 to provide a new center for religious, educational and cultural programming in the New York area.
The new station has taken an interesting tack in its marketing by creating what it hopes are “viral ads” that feature a short devil urging people not to watch the channel.
“You and I have toiled together to create filthy television. Now a new network is threatening our wonderful world of evil-tainment,” the devil says melodramatically, urging people not to tune in at the channel’s 8 p.m. launch time this Monday.
The devil also refers viewers to the site StopGoodTV.com where they are again asked to avoid watching NET.
NET, owned by Trans Video Communications, plans a line-up which includes a music video show, children’s programming, a culinary show, and programming about religious faith and believers in New York City.
Christopher Quinn, General Manager of NET, explained the goals of the effort, which replaces The Prayer Channel.
“At NET we’re all about positive and uplifting programming that will offer more than just news and entertainment,” Quinn said in a press release. “Our programming extends beyond what you’d expect to find on ‘the big networks.’ We offer non-traditional programming that strives to enrich people’s daily lives and we do it by serving it up with a positive perspective. We have also developed programming that will cater to the youth audience with music videos and an upcoming film festival, because we believe that just because it’s optimistic doesn’t mean it has to be dull.”
The show “iCTHuS.eQ,” hosted by Mari White, will present an “eclectic bend” of worldwide music. A culinary show “Breaking Bread,” hosted by Tati Amare, will highlight restaurants and eateries of New York City neighborhoods while also noting area culture and meeting local parish priests.
Other local programming at NET includes “City of Churches” on the history, architecture, and artwork of New York City churches. Another show, “Tapestries of Faith,” will examine the city’s myriad ethnic groups and their unique traditions.
The show “Mysteries of the Church” will examine the origin of certain Church traditions and their incorporation into today’s worship, while “The Real Deal with Doctor Mango” will give family and relationship advice.
Programming in 2009 will include the “Faith Film Festival” showcasing films and artists NET says “offer diverse views of people, experiences, beliefs and stories highlighting religious faith.” It also seeks to present films dealing with human rights issues and environmental conservation.
Charging no submission fee, finalists’ entries will be aired on NET and featured on the NET website.
NET plans to broadcast 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on Time Warner Cable Channel 97 and Cablevision channel 30. Its website is located at http://www.NETny.net