Anchorage, Alaska, Mar 16, 2009 (CNA) - On Mar. 17, the Catholic Church especially honors St. Patrick – Catholic bishop, “Apostle of Ireland” and one of the most well-loved and celebrated saints of all time. From special Masses to parades, the world rejoices on St. Patrick’s day.
In an interview with the Catholic Anchor, Anchorage Archbishop Roger Schwietz recalled the annual revelries in his hometown of St. Paul, Minn. While a student in the Christian Brothers’ military prep high school there, he marched with the school’s drill team in the city’s St. Patrick’s day parade.
However, certain joyous feast days – like St. Patrick’s day this year – can fall during the penitential season of Lent.
Archbishop Schwietz explained that as long as the feast day is on the church’s calendar of feasts, the faithful may celebrate the feast in Lent. He added that when the feast day falls on a day of abstinence from meat, such as a Friday in Lent, the local bishop may grant a special dispensation from the law of abstinence for the celebration.
Archbishop Schwietz noted that in the past, when St. Patrick’s day has fallen on a Friday and at the request of St. Patrick’s Church in Anchorage, he has given a dispensation to the parish for its celebration that includes a traditional Irish meal of corned-beef and cabbage.
This year, St. Patrick’s day — as well as the often-celebrated St. Joseph’s day — take place on a Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.
The great patron of Ireland, St. Patrick was born in Scotland to Roman parents around 385. His mother was a relative of St. Martin of Tours. When he was 14 years old, St. Patrick was kidnapped by an Irish raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave. For six years in the pagan land, the youth herded sheep for a Druid high priest and chieftain.
Throughout his captivity, St. Patrick fervently prayed to God. He later wrote: “...His fear increased in me more and more, and the faith grew in me, and the spirit was roused, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers, and in the night nearly the same, so that whilst in the woods and on the mountain, even before the dawn, I was roused to prayer and felt no hurt from it, whether there was snow or ice or rain...”
At the age of 20, inspired by an angel in a dream, he escaped to the coast and journeyed across the sea back to his family. In Britain, he studied for the priesthood and was ordained.
Later, St. Patrick became a bishop. For 18 years, he helped St. Germanus successfully quell the heresies of paganism and Pelagianism which Christian Britain was battling. Still, according to The Catholic Encyclopedia, from time to time, St. Patrick saw visions of the children in Ireland crying to him: “O holy youth, come back to Erin, and walk once more amongst us.”
Eventually, Pope Celestine I charged St. Patrick with the mission of returning to Ireland to draw its people into the fold of Christ’s universal church. For his work, the Holy Father gave the saint many relics and spiritual gifts.
St. Patrick arrived at Ireland’s shores on March 25, 433 – on the feast of the Annunciation. While some Irish were happy to hear him preach the Gospel, the chieftains and the Druids – eager to maintain the hold of superstition among the Celts – were up in arms.
There are a number of dramatic accounts of St. Patrick’s heroic stands against the pagan forces.
In his work, “Confessio,” St. Patrick said that he and his companions were seized and carried off as captives 12 times. But the faithful servant of Christ overcame the trials as he and his followers converted thousands, built churches and formed dioceses across all of Ireland.
The humble saint is known for his powerful expositions of the principles of the Catholic faith. He even employed the ordinary, little, three-leaved shamrock plant to teach people about the Trinity.
Upon his death in the late 5th century, the Irish people came to mourn and venerate him. St. Patrick’s body was wrapped in a shroud woven by St. Brigid, and his remains were interred where the Cathedral of Down now sits.
Printed with permission from the Catholic Anchor, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska.
Vatican City, Mar 16, 2009 (CNA) - As part of its increased efforts to unite the Church in Asia and around the world, the Vatican is dedicating a Chinese section of its website on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church.
Chinese "will be the eighth language to be represented on www.vatican.va, which also includes Italian, English, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese and Latin," a statement from the Holy See’s press office says.
The new service will expand the reach of Pope Benedict’s speeches and documents to the Chinese-speaking world. The texts will be available in both traditional and simplified Chinese characters.
Rome, Italy, Mar 16, 2009 (CNA) - The Vicar Emeritus of the Pope for the Diocese of Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, encouraged the faithful last week to recover the sense of ecclesial belonging, that is, to experience anew “the joy and gratitude of being part of the Catholic Church.”
In an article published in L’Osservatore Romano after the Pope issued his letter to the bishops explaining the lifting of the excommunication of four Lefebrvist bishops, Cardinal Ruini expressed dismay that the sense of ecclesial belonging is being weakened and in some cases is extinguished.
“We must rebuild within ourselves that conviction of faith that has characterized Christianity from its beginnings, according to which the sense of the Church is an essential part of our belonging to Christ.” In the cardinal’s opinion, this is an essential part of our individual freedom, our personal relationship with God, even though other memberships seem to be more concrete and gratifying.
After noting that the Pope used his letter to describe how he acted with “love and communion among us” as his first priority, Cardinal Ruini explained that the need to recover the sense of ecclesial belonging should have as its root “the acceptance of the Magisterium of the Church and the effort to conform our lives to its teachings, as well as adopting an attitude in our sentiments that translates into spontaneous affection for those who are our fathers and brothers in the faith.”
If these sentiments “are alive in us,” the cardinal continued, there will be no room for the bitterness that comes from focusing on “the faults of our supposed adversary, who in reality is our brother.” The Pope sought to explain this situation in his letter “with honesty and sorrow.”
Vatican City, Mar 16, 2009 (CNA) - Meeting with members of the Congregation for Clergy this morning, the Holy Father announced that the Church will celebrate a special year for priests beginning on June 19, 2009. The year will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the death of St. Jean Vianney, Cure of Ars.
Pope Benedict received representatives from the congregation’s full assembly, which is currently focused on how the three offices (tre munera) of the priest make him a missionary within the Church.
In his address, the Pontiff emphasized the constant struggle for moral perfection that dwells “in every truly priestly heart.” In support of this tendency toward spiritual perfection, the Holy Father announced that he has “decided to call a special ‘Year for Priests’ which will run from June 19, 2009 to June 19, 2010.”
He noted that the year also marks the “150th anniversary of the death of the saintly 'Cure of Ars', Jean Marie Vianney, a true example of a pastor at the service of Christ's flock."
The Pope will inaugurate the Year on June 19 by presiding at Vespers in St. Peter's Basilica, where the relics of the 'Cure of Ars' will be brought for the occasion by Bishop Guy Bagnard of Belley-Ars, France.
During the course of the Year, Benedict XVI will proclaim St. Jean Marie Vianney as the patron saint of all the priests of the world. A "Directory for Confessors and Spiritual Directors" will also be published, as will a collection of texts by the Holy Father on essential aspects of the life and mission of priests in our time.
The year will close June 19, 2010, with Pope Benedict presiding at a "World Meeting of Priests" in St. Peter's Square.
Speaking to the Congregation for Clergy, the Holy Father also mentioned the ecclesial communal, hierarchical and doctrinal dimensions that are “absolutely indispensable for any authentic [priestly] mission,” and which guarantee “spiritual effectiveness.”
He explained that the mission is ecclesial “because no-one announces or brings themselves, ... but brings Another, God Himself, to the world. God is the only wealth that, definitively, mankind wishes to find in a priest.”
"The mission is 'communal',” he continued, “because it takes place in a unity and communion which only at a secondary level possess important aspects of social visibility.”
He added that the “'hierarchical' and 'doctrinal' dimensions emphasize the importance of ecclesiastical discipline (a term related to that of 'disciple') and of doctrinal (not just theological, initial and permanent) formation."
The Pope also stressed the importance of priestly formation which must maintain “communion with unbroken ecclesial Tradition, without pausing or being tempted by discontinuity. In this context,” he continued, “it is important to encourage priests, especially the young generations, to a correct reading of the texts of Vatican Council II, interpreted in the light of all the Church's doctrinal inheritance."
In conclusion, the Holy Father warned of the “dilution” of priestly ministry. He explained that the without priests, “there would be no Eucharist, no mission” or the Church. “It is necessary then, to ensure that 'new structures' or pastoral organizations are not planned for a time in which it will be possible to 'do without' ordained ministry, on the basis of an erroneous interpretation of the promotion of the laity, because this would lay the foundations for a further dilution in priestly ministry, and any supposed 'solutions' would, in fact, dramatically coincide with the real causes of the problems currently affecting the ministry."
Rome, Italy, Mar 16, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Cameroon, Archbishop Simon-Victor Tonye Bakot, said in a recent interview that the entire country “awaits with enthusiasm the Holy Father’s visit,” which will begin on March 17.
“Together with the entire Church, the citizens of Cameroon desire to give thanks to God for the honor and privilege of being able to welcome the pastor of the universal Church in his first visit to Africa in Cameroon, the Supreme Pontiff Pope Benedict XVI,” the archbishop told the daily Effort Camerounai.
“We must be attentive to the messages of the Holy Father in relation to the problems that have been made known to him, as well as about the situation that the Church is experiencing in Cameroon and in Africa.”
Regarding the preparations that are being made in the country for the Pope’s visit, the archbishop said that in the capital, Yaounde, “a prayer novena has been underway since March 7 and there are similar initiatives in other dioceses. The bishops have published a pastoral letter in preparation for visit of the Holy Father, in which they underscore the role of the Successor of Peter as Universal Pastor, the Vicar of Christ, whose teaching must be taken as a call to holiness for all.”
“We cannot forget that the Pope will travel to Cameroon during Lent and his message has preceded him. This message centers on fasting, prayer and sharing,” the archbishop added.
Regarding the logistics of the event, Archbishop Tonye Bakot said “52 presidents of the national Episcopal Conferences of Africa, 12 presidents of the Apostolic Regions of Africa and 12 members of the Special Synod of Bishops are expected to attend. We also expect delegates from the 30 dioceses of Cameroon to attend,” he said.
“We have asked all the faithful who will participate in the Mass with the Pope to register with their dioceses and to come in throngs. This mobilization entails careful planning,” he added.
Hartford, Conn., Mar 16, 2009 (CNA) - The Connecticut legislators who sponsored a quickly withdrawn bill targeting the Catholic Church for financial and organizational restructuring have now introduced and hastily withdrawn a “disastrous” bill which would legalize assisted suicide in the state.
Senator Andrew McDonald (D-Stamford) and Representative Michael Lawlor (D-East Haven), co-chairs of the State Judiciary Committee, first made headlines with their sponsorship of S.B. 1098. The bill was quickly removed after it provoked Catholic outcry for its provisions which would have removed the ability of bishops to govern their dioceses and pastors to head their parishes.
This past Friday, the two legislators put forward Raised Bill 1138, “An Act Concerning Death with Dignity.” It was withdrawn from consideration on Monday.
Before the bill was withdrawn, a statement from the Diocese of Bridgeport called it a “disastrous bill” which “would effectively legalize assisted suicide in our state.”
On Monday CNA spoke with Sarah Kolb, clerk for the Connecticut Legislature’s Judiciary Committee.
She said the bill was pulled because it was “just a clerical error.”
“Regardless if a bill dies or not, all the actions taken up to that point are still printed on the website,” she said.
The descriptions of a bill being raised, referred and withdrawn are “all recorded online for the general public to see where a bill is at.”
“It wasn’t supposed to be printed on the bulletin, it was a clerical error, therefore it’s no longer being considered and it’s not going to be on the public hearing agenda.”
She told CNA she did not know whether the bill is going to be put on the agenda later this year.
R.B. 1138 stated: “An adult who is competent, is a resident of this state, and has been determined by the attending physician and consulting physician to be suffering from a terminal disease, and who has voluntarily expressed his or her wish to die, may make a written request… for medication that the patient may self-administer to end his or her life in a humane and dignified manner…”
The bill provided a model consent document titled “Request for Medication to End My Life in a Humane and Dignified Manner.”
The proposal would have exempted from civil or criminal liability or disciplinary action medical professionals who provide lethal medication in compliance with the law. It also would have imposed punishments on those who coerce a request for fatal medication, alter or forge such a request, or conceal or destroy a revocation of that request.
Orlando, Fla., Mar 16, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop of Orlando, Florida Thomas G. Wenski has written an editorial for the Orlando Sentinel stressing the dignity of the human embryo. Noting the ways some medical reproductive technologies “devalue the meaning of human sexuality itself,” he condemned “procreation without sex.”
Invoking Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which he summarized as being about “a mad scientist who in his quest to create life never stopped to consider the consequences of his actions,” Bishop Wenski said that science reality is “stranger than science fiction.”
Similarly, he suggested that some scientists use various reproductive technologies to manipulate life without sufficiently considering the consequences. Citing the case of Nadya Suleman, who gave birth to eight children conceived through in-vitro fertilization, he said the morality of such procedures must be considered.
Referring to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith statement Dignitas Personae, he noted that the Church advocates scientific research but also condemns such forms of reproductive technologies.
“Because it is possible to do something does not make it necessarily right to do it,” Bishop Wenski wrote in the Orlando Sentinel. “Science, if it is to truly serve humanity, cannot separate itself from the demands of ethics. The ends do not justify the means.”
He said in-vitro fertilization procedures frequently involves the “deliberate destruction of embryos,” asserting that some 80 percent of artificially produced embryos are “sacrificed” to secure a pregnancy.
“Each embryo, however, is an individual human being and not just simply a mass of cells to be used, selected or discarded,” the bishop wrote.
“The desire for children is both legitimate and laudable, but not every means is morally acceptable for those wishing to become parents,” he said, noting Dignitas Personae’s comments about the origin of human life having its “authentic context” in marriage and the family. There, life is “generated through an act which expresses the reciprocal love between a man and a woman.”
“A child should be the fruit of the parents' love — a gift received and accepted and not a consumer product to satisfy someone's subjective desire,” Bishop Wenski explained, insisting that medical science is “not above ethics.”
“Artificial contraception opened the possibility of sex without procreation; now in-vitro and related technologies proffer procreation without sex. Such technologies divorced from moral reasoning devalue the meaning of human sexuality itself.”
Madrid, Spain, Mar 16, 2009 (CNA) - The Salesian Info Agency reported last week that Muslim and Christian students from the Don Bosco Salesian Institute in Korhogo, Ivory Coast did not respond violently to attacks by 200 young people “armed with clubs and machetes” who suddenly entered the Institute and forced the students, teachers and other staff to suspend lessons and leave the school.
“The 372 students in the Salesian School who have cultivated an attitude of integration and dialogue (47% are Muslim and 37% Christian), kept calm and have not retaliated responding to the aggression with further violence as is sadly often happening in these days in other schools around the country with terrible consequences,” the report indicated.
Fr. Guillermo Basañes, Councillor for the Africa-Madagascar Region, who was in Korhogo, invited the young students “to be responsible and to form their own consciences. This is a particularly significant exhortation bearing in mind the deep moral disorders which the recent history of the Ivory Coast with its wars has left among the young.”
The Salesian news agency explained that yesterday’s attack is part of a widespread reaction against a newly adopted educational policy. Opponents of the policy have taken to attacking schools that refuse to take part in a strike being conducted by state schools.
Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 16, 2009 (CNA) - The Congress of Mexican state of Puebla has approved a reform of the state constitution granting protection to human life from conception to natural death. The move is intended to ward off efforts to legalize abortion throughout the country.
The reform, led by the PAN party, was approved by 29 votes out of 41, including votes by members of the ruling PRI party, despite a commission of PRI federal lawmakers being sent to Puebla to try to stop the measure.
The Puebla Congress decided to modify article 26 of the Constitution, obliging the state to protect human life from conception to natural death.
The leader of the PRD party in Puebla, Irma Ramos Galindo, announced that the constitutionality of the reform would be challenged before the Mexican Supreme Court.
The state of Puebla is the fifth Mexican state to move to protect life in the wake of Mexico City legalizing abortion for cases of rape, incest and the health of the mother.
Madrid, Spain, Mar 16, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Institute for Family Policy in Madrid, Mariano Martinez Aedo, said last week the elimination of child credits for most families in the Spanish capital is a step backwards and the breaking of a campaign promise by the president of the Community of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre.
“The Community of Madrid has begun a going backwards with regards to assistance for families,” Martinez said, in reference to a new proposal that would eliminate the credit families receive for the birth of every child.
Martinez criticized the Aguirre administration for including little aid for families in its budget, calling the mere 0.01% of the budget set aside for family assistance “truly ridiculous.”
He pointed out that the recent cutbacks in the credits, that will now only be given to large families or families in financial need, are a violation of the campaign promise made by Aguirre to increase the credit from 100 to 300 euros ($130--$390).Martinez said the Institute is calling on Aguirre to implement policies that truly help the family. “This is not only an essential duty for public administrations,” he stated, “it is politically crucial in these times of crisis, to help Madrid families overcome them.”