Vatican City, Mar 8, 2009 (CNA) - On Sunday Pope Benedict XVI made an appeal to include moments of prayer and silence during the season of Lent. Marking International Women's Day, he also pledged his prayers “for all women, that they may always be increasingly respected in their dignity and valued in their positive capabilities.”
The Holy Father also asked for prayers for his trips to Africa and the Holy Land.
Speaking to about 20,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Angelus, the Pontiff recalled the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Lent, about the Transfiguration of Jesus, relating it to his experience of prayer during spiritual exercises with the Roman Curia, which concluded yesterday.
“The Transfiguration of Jesus,” the Pope said, “was substantially an experience of prayer.”
“Prayer, in fact, reaches its peak, and thus becomes a source of interior light, when the spirit of man clings to that of God, and their wills blend almost to the point of forming a single whole,” he explained.
“When Jesus went up onto the mountain, he immersed himself in the contemplation of the loving plan of the Father, who had sent him into the world to save humanity,” the Holy Father continued.
Pope Benedict urged the faithful “to find prolonged moments of silence, and of retreat if possible, during this season of Lent, in order to review (their) lives in the light of the heavenly Father's plan of love.”
“Let yourselves be guided in this more intense listening to God by the Virgin Mary, teacher and model of prayer,” Benedict XVI added. “Even in the deep darkness of the Passion of Christ, (Mary) did not lose, but instead preserved in her heart the light of her divine Son. For this reason, let us invoke her as Mother of trust and of hope.”
After the Marian prayer, the Pope prayed for all women and for their dignity and value. Citing pontifical documents, especially John Paul II's Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem, the Holy Father pointed out the importance of the testimony of female saints: “Our age has seen that [witness] of Mother Teresa of Calcutta: a humble daughter of Albania who became, by the grace of God, an example to the entire world in the exercise of charity and of service to human advancement.”
“How many other women,” he added, “work every day, in obscurity, for the good of humanity and for the Kingdom of God?”
Pope Benedict also asked for the “spiritual support of all” for his upcoming apostolic voyages.
“Next week,” he said, “from March 17 to 23, I will go to Africa, first to Cameroon and then to Angola, to demonstrate the concrete closeness of myself and of the Church to the Christians and populations of that continent which is particularly dear to me. Then, from May 8 to 15 I will make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to ask the Lord, in visiting the places sanctified by his earthly passage, for the precious gift of unity and of peace for the Middle East and for all humanity."
Green Bay, Wis., Mar 8, 2009 (CNA) - A Wisconsin oncologist has found that in his profession, life and faith intersect on a daily basis in the cancer patients he treats at St. Vincent Hospital. He notes that many people facing cancer often turn to their faith to help them through.
"It's sometimes good to feel good about your faith and where you are, but cancer is just gross reality," oncologist Dr. Greg Cooley said. "It brings your faith down to this dirty, meaty, tough, tough position where you grasp reality.
"I suspect," he continued "in times before hospitalization and antibiotics and significant prolongation of life through things as simple as antibiotics, people paid more attention to things like that because death wasn't hidden away in rooms like it is now. Maybe that's some of what cancer does is bring together some of that harsh reality. It's certainly more of an opportunity for growth when you have to put your faith together with what's happening. It's not separating Sunday from the rest of the week."
"Sometimes people bring things like that up, or they don't understand why ‘God did this to me.' Sometimes those opportunities for sharing or for prayer are greatly rewarding. It's what we're called to do," Dr. Cooley said. "I find a great sense of peace in it."
Dr. Cooley was born in Milwaukee and graduated from Marquette High School. He attended UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee and the Medical College of Milwaukee, where he did his residency.
He became interested in radiation oncology during his second year of medical school.
At the time, the Medical College had a stronger radiation oncology program than UW-Madison, he said. "It had a very international flavor. They really trained us to be independent thinkers, to back up what we did based on research, no matter where it came from. We didn't learn cookbook type oncology. They had a lot of connections with some of the grandfathers of radiation, with some folks from France and other places."
At the start of a class, which he almost skipped that day, he learned that the American Cancer Society was sponsoring a summer externship in a radiation oncology clinic.
He applied and "fell in love with it. I loved the fact that you're taking care of a whole human. You weren't just dealing with a person's problems in just one part of the body," he said. "They're typically pretty acute ones, not longstanding ones. For my personality, I like that type of thing."
Dr. Cooley, who is a member of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish, Green Bay, and the diocesan Board of Education, also liked the spiritual connection.
"When you think about why we're here and the opportunity to be involved in people's lives in such a dramatic fashion, where you're literally facing life and death issues, that just had a much deeper dimension for me and I felt really honored to have that," Dr. Cooley said.
"One of the things I like in working with cancer patients is that they come to you with a different perspective," Dr. Cooley said. "You can work in an emergency room where the guy is in for his fifth drug abuse problem or other traumatic illnesses. People that come in with cancer - because they are facing life and death issues - a lot of the stuff that we think is important is stripped away, things we find out that it are really pretty silly," he said.
"From a physician's perspective it allows you to interact with people in a much more personal and close way where they have to have a sense of trust in you and you have to give them everything you've got. That's very rewarding too. There aren't any pretenses," he said. "You're there to help them and they're there trusting you."
Such involvement can take an emotional toll, Dr. Cooley said. That's why it's important to be compassionate and empathize, but not sympathize, with patients. That also allows him to do the best job possible in much the way a pilot does, he said.
Beyond the sorrows are the joys, including relationships with patients, giving a patient a clean bill of health at a five-year check-up and the interactions with staff and patients, he said.
He said he finds it gratifying that while about half his patients can be cured, he can improve the quality of life for the others by lessening their pain or solving an immediate problem.
Beyond that, he likes working with surgeons and medical oncologists in a field teeming with new discoveries, such as non-chemo drugs and various technologies, and learning the best ways to make it all work together.
For example, he said, they have learned that chemotherapy makes inoperable head-neck tumors more susceptible to radiation. Recent technological developments provide both pin-point delivery of higher doses of radiation to affected regions and scans that show how well the treatment is working.
"One of the biggest satisfactions in a doctor's life is when he has the bells and whistles to do the job that he knows is possible," he said. "I've seen over the last years dramatic drops in both the side-effects that people get under treatment and then the long-term effects that come with the potential of problems down the road."
"There's also a great sense of reward when the occasional patient, who has a tremendous faith, sets me in awe of them in how they handled their terminal illness down to their very last days," he said. "If we all had that kind of faith I think that life would be so much different."
Printed with permission from The Compass, newspaper for the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Shawnee, Okla., Mar 8, 2009 (CNA) - Five students from St. Gregory’s University will be among a group traveling to Lafayette, La., for their spring break to build houses with Habitat for Humanity. The volunteers are participants of Collegiate Challenge, a Habitat for Humanity program that provides year-round opportunities for youth to use their vacations to help build homes.
During the week of March 15-21, the St. Gregory’s group will help build simple, decent and affordable homes with families in need. This will be the fifth Collegiate Challenge trip for SGU’s campus minister, Diane Willis.
“Habitat is such a rewarding experience for everyone involved,” Willis stated in a press release from the university. “The builders see it as service to others, making a difference in others’ lives. The home builders see it as such a blessing.”
This spring break marks the 20th anniversary of the Collegiate Challenge program, and more than 12,000 students will travel to 200 locations across the United States to build houses through the program. Throughout its 20-year history, more than 166,000 students have participated in Collegiate Challenge, raising more than $15.5 million.
“Youth who choose to volunteer and build houses with Habitat for Humanity during their spring break are making a powerful statement about the role they want to play in helping families move into affordable housing,” said Desiree Adaway, Habitat’s senior director of Volunteer Mobilization. “We are grateful that for the past 20 years, youth have united to eliminate poverty housing across the United States through the Collegiate Challenge program.”
Collegiate Challenge is one of the many Habitat for Humanity youth programs designed to capture the energy and hope of young people worldwide to involve them as leaders in the work of Habitat for Humanity.
New York City, N.Y., Mar 8, 2009 (CNA) - Representatives of several countries and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) met at the United Nations this week for the annual Commission on the Status of Women. Purportedly intended to discuss relations between men and women and care for HIV/AIDS victims, the event was instead used to criticize the Catholic Church and to promote radical ideas on abortion, homosexual rights and sex education.
According to the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), radical feminist NGOs criticized the Catholic Church’s strong pro-life stance at several events.
At the Center for Reproductive Rights event on HIV positive women, a Chilean panelist reportedly denigrated the Catholic Church for using its “power and influence” to discourage the Chilean government from supporting condom distribution.
The panelist shouted down one young pro-life advocate who spoke on the effectiveness of abstinence in HIV prevention, C-FAM reports in its March 5 Friday Fax.
At a meeting of the European Women’s Lobby on religions and sexual and reproductive rights, organizers called on the EU to defend abortion “rights” against an “alliance [that] is currently being formed between the Holy See, Islamist fundamentalist regimes and Christian right-wing governments – including the former Bush administration – who work together in order to influence U.N. texts on women’s rights.”
Norway and Sweden partnered with the International Planned Parenthood Federation to host a panel titled “Promoting Sexual and Reproductive Empowerment.” Both Norway and Sweden advocated prioritizing “sexual and reproductive rights,” C-FAM says.
Norwegian State Secretary Hakon Gulbrandsen declared “sexual rights” to be a “cornerstone to gender equality” and argued that “safe abortion” is “a crucial component of sexual and reproductive rights.”
He criticized those who “claim to be pro-life and yet wish to abolish abortion,” arguing that abortion is sometimes “the only solution to premature, unwanted pregnancies.”
Advocating homosexual rights, he also urged participants to “respect the diversity of gender identities.”
At an event sponsored by Human Rights Watch, organizers strategized on how to build on the non-binding EU-led “sexual orientation” statement introduced in the General Assembly last fall.
The statement called on member states to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected categories like race, religion or sex.
“Human Rights Watch confirmed critics’ fears that homosexual rights NGOs would push for the non-binding statement to appear in a more permanent form, like a General Assembly resolution to be voted upon in ‘three years or less’,” C-FAM reported.
Organizers at a youth caucus meeting refused to incorporate pro-abstinence suggestions from a group of more than 20 pro-life youths.
“I don’t know which youth they represent, but they don’t speak for me or any of my friends that are here,” one pro-life youth told C-FAM’s Friday Fax.
The Commission on the Status of Women meeting is to conclude on March 13.