Archive of May 3, 2009

The beauty of the contemplative life

Agnew, Neb., May 3, 2009 (CNA) - At the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Valparaiso, Nebraska the Discalced Carmelite Sisters lead a life of prayer in the presence of Christ. Their beautiful lifestyle was begun by Saint Teresa of Avila, who, with the help of Saint John of the Cross, established the first order of Discalced Carmelites the 16th century.


The word “discalced” means “shoeless,” referring to the simple sandals the sisters wear as a sign of poverty and sacrifice. They live in cloister, separating themselves by living in a rural area. Metal grilles separate the Sisters from their visitors. There is no television, radio or other forms of media.


The Sisters wake early in time for their first formal prayer, Lauds, at 5 a.m. Altogether, they will have nine scheduled times of prayers, three holy hours before the Blessed Sacrament, Mass and the Rosary to help them stay focused on Christ. They also have time to read the Bible or other spiritual writings, and to study.


Even while they work, they are in prayer. As they perform household chores, care for the farm animals, make scapulars, etc., during their morning and afternoon work sessions, they work in silence so as not to disturb one another’s prayerful focus on the Lord.


Following the mid-day and evening meals, the Sisters enjoy an hour of recreation, during which they circle together for a lively chat while doing handiwork.


As they fill their days with prayers and sacrifices, these Carmelite Sisters are ultimately imitating Mary the Mother of God, who stood at the foot of the Cross, united to the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Their diligent prayers for redemption are vital to the diocese.


While the Carmelite lifestyle is “counter-cultural” by today’s standards, Mother Teresa of Jesus, O.C.D., has found herself fielding quite a few letters from young women who are discerning potential vocations.


“It’s very extraordinary,” she admitted. “This is just what the young women want… solid and traditional.”


Msgr. Timothy Thorburn, chaplain of the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, encourages parents to introduce their daughters to the concept of contemplative orders.


“We are all called to serve God, and this is a marvelous way to do it,” he reasoned.


He added that there is no need to pressure young people, though. “What I tell people is, ‘You don’t have to say yes now… just don’t say no.’ Consider it a possibility.”


Mother Teresa encourages the young women to write to the monastery if they feel the pull toward a contemplative life. She can recommend several books to help them understand the Carmelite vocation better. She also recommends that the young women seek guidance from a spiritual director.


As the discernment process continues, the young women are invited to visit and have a share in the Sisters’ lifestyle, so they can discover the excitement of contemplative prayer.


Any young woman who is considering such a vocation may write to Mother Teresa of Jesus, O.C.D. in care of the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, 9300 Agnew Road, Valparaiso, NE 68065.


Printed with permission from the Southern Nebraska Register, newspaper from the Diocese of Lincoln.

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Poll: Catholics likely to favor use of torture

Washington D.C., May 3, 2009 (CNA) - A new survey from the Pew Center Forum on Religion & Public Life claims that Catholics are more likely than the general population to favor the use of torture against suspected terrorists.

The survey of 742 American adults asked whether the use of torture can often, sometimes, rarely or never be justified.

About 19 percent of white non-Hispanic Catholics said they believed that the use of torture against suspected terrorists can often be justified, while 32 percent said it can sometimes be justified. About 27 percent said the practice can rarely be justified, while only 20 percent said it can never be justified.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church condemns torture, saying that which “uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred” is “contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.”

Pope John Paul II’s 1993 encyclical Veritas Splendor, reiterating the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, described “physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit” as being “hostile to life.”

Bishop of Albany, New York Howard J. Hubbard of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on International Justice and Peace has also spoken out against torture. He was a signatory to the National Religious Campaign against Torture’s January 9 letter to President-elect Barack Obama.

The letter asked President Barack Obama “to restore our nation’s moral standing in the world by rejecting the practice of torture.”

According to the Pew Center poll, white mainline Protestants were slightly less likely than Catholics to say torture can often or sometimes be justified, at a respective rate of 15 and 31 percent. White evangelical Protestant respondents said torture can often be justified at a rate of 18 percent, while 44 percent held that it can sometimes be justified.

The religiously unaffiliated were least likely to approve of using torture against suspected terrorists, with only 15 percent saying it can often be justified and 25 percent saying it can never be justified.

White mainline Protestants were most likely to say torture can never be justified, at a rate of 31 percent, while 26 percent of the unaffiliated shared that position.

Those who attend religious services at least weekly were more likely to support torture, with 16 percent saying it can often be justified and 38 percent saying it can sometimes be justified. Only 25 percent of regular churchgoers said the practice can never be justified.

Those who attended religious services seldom or never were least likely to approve of torture. Only 12 percent said it can often be justified, while 30 percent said it can sometimes be justified and 26 percent said it can never be justified.

CNA contacted the Pew Research Center for additional details and was told all analysis on the data had been published.

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U.S. bishops issue ‘adaptations’ for swine flu outbreak

Washington D.C., May 3, 2009 (CNA) - Responding to reports of the spread of swine flu, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has released a brief statement on “liturgical adaptations” to be considered in the event of influenza outbreak. However, the statement says the need for such changes is “not evident at this time.”

The statement, from the USCCB’s Committee on Divine Worship, repeats information from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) on the nature and spread of swine flu.

The CDC recommends that the healthy should avoid close contact with those who are sick, while the sick should keep their distance from others and stay home.

“Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick; clean your hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth,” the CDC advises.

The USCCB statement reports that in previous significant outbreaks, bishops introduced several “liturgical adaptations” concerning the distribution of Holy Communion and the exchange of the Sign of Peace to “limit the spread of contagion.”

Priests, deacons and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion should be “especially reminded” of the need to practice good hygiene, by washing their hands before Mass or using an alcohol-based anti-bacterial solution before and after distributing Holy Communion.

“They should instruct people who feel ill not to receive from the cup,” the statement says.

Noting that the diocesan bishop should always be consulted regarding changes or restriction of options in the celebration of the liturgy, the statement reports that the Secretariat of Divine Worship “will continue to closely monitor the situation and provide the best advice possible to Diocesan Bishops and their Offices for Worship.”

“The Secretariat likewise appreciates whatever information Diocesan Offices for Worship are able to provide concerning local conditions and the pastoral responses developed by Diocesan Bishops.”

The USCCB statement closes with a notice that continuously updated information is available from the CDC at

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Benedict XVI prays for vocations, upcoming Holy Land visit

Vatican City, May 3, 2009 (CNA) - Fifty thousand filled St. Peter's Square to pray the Regina Coeli with Pope Benedict XVI at noon on Sunday, following Holy Mass in St Peter’s Basilica where he ordained 19 new priests for the Rome diocese.  The Pontiff asked the faithful to pray for vocations and for his imminent journey to the Holy Land.


“Both on a personal and communal level we must pray often for vocations, so that the greatness and beauty of God’s love may attract many to follow Christ to priesthood and consecrated life,” Benedict XVI said. “We also need to pray," he added, "for saintly spouses, capable of showing their children, above all by example, the high horizons for which to strive in freedom.”


This appeal for vocations was made on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, called “Good Shepherd Sunday,” when traditionally the Holy Father ordains new priests, and the world marks a day of prayer for vocations.


Benedict XVI also invited the faithful to pray for his upcoming journey to the Holy Land.


“With my visit," explained the Pope Benedict, "I aim to confirm and encourage Christians in the Holy Land, who are faced with no small number of difficulties each and every day. As successor to the Apostle Peter, I bring them the support and closeness of the entire Church."


"Moreover," he continued, "I am a pilgrim of peace, in the name of the one God, the Father of all.  I will be a witness of the Catholic Church's commitment in favor of all who struggle to practice dialogue and reconciliation, to reach a stable and lasting peace in justice and shared respect."


He also noted that his trip would be of great importance for “ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue.  Jerusalem is, from this point of view, the symbolic city par excellence: there Christ died to unite all of God's lost children."


Following the Regina Coeli the Pontiff, in Spanish, assured victims of the swine flu epidemic of his prayers and urged them to remain firm in the Lord’s faith. He wished that their month of May, traditionally dedicated to Our Lady, to be “spent in the spiritual company of Holy Mary."


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