Archive of September 9, 2009

U.S. deacon cured through Cardinal Newman to visit Birmingham Oratory

Birmingham, England, Sep 9, 2009 (CNA) -

An American deacon whose cure from a crippling spine malady has been recognized as a miracle wrought though the intercession of Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman will visit Newman’s Birmingham Oratory in November.

Deacon Jack Sullivan of Massachusetts and his wife Carol will be in Birmingham from November 11 to 12. He will tour Newman’s room and library and the Oratory church, built in the early twentieth century to memorialize the nineteenth century theologian and Catholic convert. The deacon will see the desk at which Cardinal Newman wrote his Apologia Pro Vita Sua, a defense of his 1845 conversion to Catholicism.

The deacon will also visit Newman’s grave at Rednal and parts of Birmingham, such as Digbeth, where the cardinal worked in a poor neighborhood that was part of his first Oratorian parish, the Birmingham Oratory reports.

Deacon Sullivan will later visit Oxford, visiting Newman’s two colleges of Trinity and Oriel, and will also visit Littlemore, where Newman was received into the Catholic Church. The Brompton Oratory in London, which was founded by Father Newman, will be on Deacon Sullivan's itinerary too.

Deacon Sullivan will also visit Westminster Cathedral, where he will preach at Mass on the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica.

Sullivan's Connection to Newman

In June 2000 he had awoken to excruciating pain. A CT scan revealed that all or most of the vertebrae and discs in his back had turned inward and were squeezing his spinal cord. A neurosurgeon advised him to have immediate surgery to prevent paralysis.

After seeing a show about the cardinal on EWTN, he first prayed to Cardinal Newman for the pain to cease so that he could continue his diaconate training. The pain ceased for a year, but came back with a fury.

Sullivan had surgery in the spring of 2001 during which his surgeon discovered that in addition to his other injuries the protective membrane surrounding his spine had been torn in at least two places.

Sullivan could not walk and suffered agonizing pain, facing the prospect of not being able to return to his diaconate classes. On August 15, 2001, four days after his surgery, he again prayed to Cardinal Newman.

“I felt tremendous heat and a tingling feeling all over that lasted for five or 10 minutes,” Sullivan told EWTN. “After I experienced this, I immediately stood up straight. I was able to walk, not with a walker or cane, but on my own, without any difficulty or pain. I walked all over the hospital, just joyful. I never needed any pain medication after that.”

Deacon Sullivan said the visit to Birmingham Oratory will be “the greatest moment of my life.”

“To visit the place where Newman prayed, lived and worked will be a wonderful experience. I call Cardinal Newman my ‘intercessor and special friend.’ Birmingham was the center of Newman’s whole life,” he said.

Writing in “A Story of a Miracle,” Deacon Sullivan has said Cardinal Newman’s writings are relevant in view of present tendencies towards intellectualism and lack of doctrine in “this so called progressive and secular age.”

“The supremacy of God has given way to the supremacy of man especially in his sense of self-sufficiency. As Newman suggested, modern man needs to recapture his former sense of awe and wonder at the majesty of God and our total dependence upon His love and mercy. I remember Newman suggests that what’s worse than the atheist is the Christian who thinks God thinks just like he does.”

Father Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Oratory and Actor of the Cause for Newman’s Canonization, said Deacon Sullivan’s visit will be a moment of “special grace.”

“God has chosen Jack’s healing as the means of Newman’s Beatification, which will be such an important moment for the Church of our times,” he commented.

The location and date of Cardinal Newman’s beatification is still undecided, the Birmingham Oratory reports.

The official website for the Cause for Cardinal Newman’s Canonization is at

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Worldwide Children’s Eucharistic Holy Hour to be observed at National Shrine

Minneapolis, Minn., Sep 9, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop of New Orleans Gregory Aymond will lead the annual Worldwide Children’s Eucharistic Holy Hour on Friday, October 2 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

The Holy Hour, to begin at 10 a.m. Eastern Time, will be broadcast live to over 40 nations on Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). It is sponsored by Children of the Eucharist, the children’s program of the World Apostolate of Fatima.

More than 4,000 school children will gather at the basilica, according to the St. Paul/ Minneapolis division of the World Apostolate of Fatima. Children around the world will join them to pray the Rosary before the Blessed Sacrament in their own parishes, dioceses and schools. They will also pray the Entrustment to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, prayers of reparation taught by the Angel of Fatima, and the Benediction.

Connie Schneider, founder of Children of the Eucharist and local president of the World Apostolate of Fatima, Saint Paul/Minneapolis division, described the event by recalling Pope Benedict XVI’s  teaching that catechesis is about bringing “the flame of Jesus’ love” to the hearts of small children and through them, to their parents, to “reopen the places of faith in our times.”

“He explained our movement to a tee,” Schneider commented, saying that the Holy Hour gathers together the children of the world to make reparation and to pray for their families.

“Then Jesus does what no one else can do; he fans the flame of faith in the hearts of the children. This is the door that will initiate the new times in the families of the world.”

According to the World Apostolate of Fatima, the Worldwide Children’s Holy Hour responds to the requests of Our Lady of Fatima in 1917 for prayers and sacrifices, and for the particular requests of the “Angel of Peace” to the three shepherd children visionaries for prayer and reparation before the Eucharistic Lord.

Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph Robert Finn, who led the Worldwide Children’s Holy Hour in 2007, characterized Fatima as “the first children’s Holy Hour.”

Marlon De La Torre, Superintendent of Schools of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, said that the Children of the Eucharist program has helped foster deeper appreciation for the true presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

“In a world where atheistic opinions tend to be given more credence than not, this wonderful apostolate has provided a sanctuary for our students to embrace Christ in a truly remarkable way.”

Todd Amick, Director of the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ Office of Eucharistic Renewal, said the invitation to the Holy Hour is an opportunity for “Eucharistic intimacy” and for witness to “our Catholic Culture.”

“Hopefully we can start to see this in more and more dioceses,” he continued. “As human persons, we are made for the Eucharist and our children in particular have a receptivity for the Eucharist that is only waiting for an invitation. That’s our job as adults to make that invitation to help them come to love and serve Christ.”

More information on the Holy Hour, including prayers and programs, is available at

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Prayer vigil seeks to keep abortion funding out of health care reform

Washington D.C., Sep 9, 2009 (CNA) - A 27-hour prayer vigil will be held on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol this Sunday to pray that no taxpayer money will be used to pay for abortions as part of health care reform legislation.

The vigil will begin on Sunday September 13 at 7 p.m. and will end the following day at 10 p.m., a press release from vigil organizers reports.

Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the group Faith and Action, said the nation was not only in an economic crisis or a health care crisis but “a spiritual crisis.” He said that the only way to address that crisis is through prayer.

“Every American, no matter how young or old, can and must pray,” he added.

Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, said that Americans have always turned to God in prayer at times of great challenge and crisis.

“We have set these 27 hours apart to seek God for his wisdom, direction and counsel for our nation. This is especially true concerning the national debate on health care.”

Those gathered at the Capitol vigil, he said, will “humble ourselves and cry out to God for social justice and human rights.”

“We will be specifically praying that no public monies are used in any way to pay for abortions as part of health care reform.”

According to Rev. Mahoney, participants will be a “bold public and prophetic witness” that abortion is not health care and that health care reform should bring “healing and compassion” and not “violence and brokenness.”

“As people of faith, we do not have to sit on the sidelines and watch as events unfold on the world state. Rather, through prayer, fasting and repentance we can help shape history."

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Make Jesus central to your life like St. Peter Damian did, Pope exhorts

Vatican City, Sep 9, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis for today's general audience to the figure of St. Peter Damian. The great eleventh century monk offers people the insight that they should not to be overly absorbed by daily activities and the problems of life, thus "forgetting that Jesus must be central to our lives," the Holy Father said.

Peter Damian, who was born in Ravenna in 1007, lost both his parents while still very young and was raised by his siblings. He received a superlative education in law and Greek and Latin culture. As a young man, the saintly Italian dedicated himself to teaching and authored a number of literary works.

Peter Damian felt the call to become a monk and in 1034 entered the recently founded monastery of Fonte Avellana. This monastery “was dedicated to the Holy Cross,” Benedict XVI explained, “and of all the Christian mysteries the Cross would be the one that most fascinated Peter Damian." “Peter Damian’s example,” the Pope added, “encourages us to always look to the Cross as God's supreme act of love towards man."

In Fonte Avellana, Peter Damian "wrote a Rule in which he placed great emphasis upon the 'rigor of the hermitage.'” Pope Benedict explained to the gathered faithful that, “For Peter Damian hermitic life is the apex of Christian life. It is 'the highest state of life' because the monk, free from the ties of the world and of his own self, receives 'the pledge of the Holy Spirit and his soul felicitously unites with the heavenly Bridegroom.'”

But Peter Damian's insight is still important for those of us who are not monks, the Holy Father said.  The lay faithful should also know “how to make silence within, to hear the voice of God” as well as  have an awareness that “learning the Word of God in prayer and meditation is the path of life."

Another aspect of the Italian saint's teaching that the faithful should learn from is his “profound theology of the Church as communion," Benedict said. According to Peter Damian's teaching, communion with Christ creates “a unity of love among Christians,” and at the same time, those who serve others participate in the universality of the Church.

"Yet nonetheless," the Holy Father added, "this ideal image as illustrated by Peter Damian did not correspond to the reality of his own time. Peter Damian was not afraid to denounce the state of corruption that existed in the monasteries and among the clergy, the result, above all, of the practice of the civil authorities conferring investiture to ecclesiastical office."

In 1057 Peter Damian left the monastery to accept the office of Cardinal of Ostia. "He renounced the beauty of the Hermitage and courageously undertook numerous journeys and missions,” Benedict XVI recalled. While Peter Damian returned to monastic life after ten years, he continued to serve the Church with prayer and action. He died in 1072 on his return from a mission to re-establish peace with the archbishop of Ravenna.

Peter Damian, the Pope concluded, "was a monk par excellence, practicing forms of austerity which today we might find excessive. Yet in this way he made monastic life an eloquent witness of God's primacy and a call to everyone to progress towards sanctity, free from any kind of worldly compromise."

After his teaching on St. Peter Damian, the Pope encouraged the Italian agricultural organization "Coldiretti” to continue in its commitment to “social and spiritual service to the world of agriculture." Referring then to the theme of the congress - "Ethics and the economy today" - he expressed his hope that it "may be a stimulus for you to reaffirm ethical principles in the economy, so as to reanimate hope through solidarity."

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Vatican dicastery organizes congress on family evangelization

Vatican City, Sep 9, 2009 (CNA) - The Pontifical Council for the Family, led by Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, is hosting the international congress, “The Family, Object of Evangelization,” September 10-11 in Rome, featuring a series of conferences, study sessions and prayer.
The event will begin with morning Mass on Thursday, September 10, after which Cardinal Antonelli will greet the participants.  The under secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Archbishop Carlos Simon Vazquez, will present the teaching of the Church on the family, and other speakers will address pertinent theological and pastoral aspects.
In the afternoon, families active in evangelization in Brazil, Italy, Germany and Mexico will share their experiences.
On Friday participants will attend additional sessions and prepare for the 2010 meeting.  They will also listen to an address by Cardinal Antonelli.

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Three thousand Ecuadoran youth make chastity promise

Guayaquil, Ecuador, Sep 9, 2009 (CNA) - As part of the Week of the Family being celebrated in the Archdiocese of Guayaquil in Ecuador, 3,000 young people made a promise of chastity at the local cathedral during a Mass with Auxiliary Bishop Anibal Nieto on Tuesday evening.
The teens and young adults will make the promise before the Creed and will receive a medal of the Virgin Mary and a holy card with a prayer for purity.
The Week of the Family is intended to strengthen and defend the family and is being promoted by all 280 parish pastors in Guayaquil. 
Father Alfonso Aviles, the archdiocesan Vicar for the Family, invited all the faithful to participate in the event.  “We are living in a time in which we must strengthen the family as an institution willed and governed by God.  The Church always has her arms opened to helping families,” he said.
Father Aviles said some 20,000 are expected to participate in the different activities held during the week.

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Christians in Iraq survive amidst fear and violence, bishop says

Baghdad, Iraq, Sep 9, 2009 (CNA) - After the recent kidnapping of two Christians, one of whom was killed, Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad said Iraqi Catholics live with the fear that “due to the 2010 elections, violence could increase even more.”
Speaking to the SIR news agency after a pastoral visit to the Dioceses of Zakho and Amadhiya with Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly of Baghdad, Bishop Warduni said, “Christians not only suffer from this violence, but Muslims as well.”
“Christians and Muslims are trapped by the increasing violence,” he said. “The causes of this hatred are many: political, sectarian, criminal, fundamentalist, [they are] not only religious,” the bishop added.
Commenting about his pastoral visit to Zakho and Amadhiya, Bishop Warduni recounted some of the difficulties Iraqis face, especially the Christian minority.

“The lack of work is noticeable and is made worse by the fact that many lands have been occupied by people who have come from other areas in search of refuge.  The streets are not secure and neither are they in good condition, thus making it difficult for the people who need to find work or to transport the infirm to move about.”
All of this, Bishop Warduni said, “does nothing more than foster Iraqi, and in particular, Christian emigration.  Despite the difficulties, the believers we met showed us strong faith; but they also have an urgent need for material and spiritual support.”

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Mexican bishop calls for prayers after murder of candidate and his family

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 9, 2009 (CNA) - In a statement condemning the murder of Representative Jose Fuentes Esperon, his wife and their two children, Bishop Benjamin Castillo Plascencia of Tabasco, Mexico called on all Mexicans to pray and work for an end to the violence.
“I think acts like these affect us and are of interest to us all and therefore we all must be involved in remedying the violence that our society is experiencing, because these events are nothing more than evidence of social dissolution.  Violence is now taking over our lives and it must be eradicated from society.  Crimes like these have no justification,” the bishop said.
He urged Mexicans to find the roots of such violence and to work to overcome it.  “No one can say they see speck in the eyes of the authorities and ignore log that it is one’s own home.  Violence begins there, but we must remain calm, maintain unity and participate not as mere spectators but with real change, eradicating violence from our homes,” Bishop Castillo said.
Mexicans must not leave everything in the hands of the government. Instead, they must help their children to rediscover that Christian and moral values are a true remedy for overcoming violence, he added. 
After calling for investigations into the assassination, Bishop Castillo asked for calm as the campaign season continues forward. “If any candidate moves up by hurting another, he better not expect to be respected by others,” the bishop said.

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After more than 20 years, Cuban dissidents still looking for freedom

Havana, Cuba, Sep 9, 2009 (CNA) - The Christian Liberation Movement denounced this week that Communist totalitarianism has never “had such international cynic complicity” as now and that neither persecutions nor threats will intimidate Cubans, because love of the truth is what strengthens their choice for a free Cuba.
In a message marking its 21st anniversary, the Movement said the more that inequality exists on the island, the more harm is done to Cuba’s people and culture. “But at the same time, the greater our faith is within us and the more we are moved by love for our people, the more determined we are in our choice for freedom.”
The Movement reiterated that an “oppressive system” exists in Cuba in which Cubans are forced to “participate in the theater of lies, deception and adaptation in order to survive.” The citizens of Cuba must either “struggle for their daily bread in fear or under persecution,” or leave the country and separate themselves from their families, the Movement said.
The source of freedom is not the government, but rather, comes from God, the organization said. God is the “source of all rights and of “man’s inspiration for freedom” which cannot be erased, the Movement asserted. “For this reason, our hope is reborn.”
The Movement underscored the importance of the Varela Project, which is taking on new life in the country, because “We Cubans have a right to have rights.”
The changes Cubans are asking for “can be nothing less than freedom, rights, reconciliation and justice.  This is the path of peace. This is liberation,” the Movement said.
“For this freedom, for these rights for all and for nothing else are many of our brethren from the Movement and other Cubans in prison.  Do not forget them,” the statement said.

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Catholic fraternity a ‘beacon of light’ to others in the Greek system

Lincoln, Neb., Sep 9, 2009 (CNA) - Phi Kappa Theta, a Catholic fraternity that opened a chapter at the University of Nebraska in 2005, is working to become a “beacon of light” to those within the Greek system and, with its focus on the faith, is helping young men to follow their vocational call.

The fraternity, Phi Kappa Theta (PKT), was originally established at the University of Nebraska (UNL) in 1924, but was shut down due to the Great Depression. It was re-founded in 2005 through the efforts of the Nebraska Newman Center chaplain Father Robert Matya who “saw a need for a good fraternity to be a beacon to other fraternities on UNL’s campus,” explained founding member Jake Mach to CNA.

Fr. Matya began his search for a social Greek fraternity “that was founded on Catholic ideas” and ran across Phi Kappa Theta. It was then that he decided to bring a chapter to the Nebraska campus and contacted Mach and two others to spearhead the effort.

The three students began working on recruitment, the by-laws, constitution and incorporating themselves into the Greek system at the university. Though there were a few kinks, Mach noted that the experiences helped them “to grow as a fraternity and as a brotherhood, developing deep friendships based not only on our common experiences but also in our faith background.”

The Nebraska chapter of PKT, called Nebraska Pi, has adopted St. Thomas Aquinas as its patron, since he is the patron saint of students. Its motto is to be a “beacon, not a bunker.” Mach emphasized that the motto helps them to remember that the fraternity was not simply founded “to bring in guys and just improve ourselves. We are there to serve and give a good example to the Greek system as a whole through our philanthropy and ideals.”

The fraternity centers its events and activities around four main areas: intellectual, fraternal, social and spiritual.

Intellectually, said Mach, the fraternity stresses the importance of being a student first with mandatory study hours and requiring its members to hold at least a 2.8 GPA.

On the fraternal side, Mach noted that the fraternity holds an annual retreat called Quo Vadis, Latin for “Where are you going?” During the retreat the brothers spend time together, set goals for the year and “reinforce the reason they are part of the fraternity.” The members also play sports and spend leisure time together to build brotherhood.

Members of PKT integrate themselves socially “into the Greek system by having mixers, formals and other events with other sorority and fraternity houses” participating in events such as ice skating, salsa dancing lessons, picnics and theme parties.

“Also stressed in the social aspect of the fraternity is service,” continued Mach. The fraternity holds an annual benefit for the Children’s Miracle Network called “Phi Kap Rajin’ Cajun Cookout.” The fundraiser brings in about $2,500 for the charity each year.

Most importantly, on the spiritual side, the fraternity attends weekly Mass together on both Thursday nights and Sunday mornings and prays a Rosary each week for PKT and its members. Mach also noted that Bible studies are held for members who are interested in attending.

The fraternity has grown from 25 members its first year to nearly 85 active members and 20 alumni. Six have gone onto the seminary, including Mach.

Looking back at helping found the fraternity, Mach said that he was initially drawn to the idea because of the opportunity to be part of “something great.”

“When Fr. Matya first introduced the idea to me of helping start the fraternity, I could tell that it had the potential to touch the lives of not only the guys in the fraternity but also people in the Greek system, university, community, and possibly even on a greater scale.”

Though he has graduated from the university, he explained that he is still close to many of his fraternity brothers. “There is a saying that you always have your friend's back, but I like to liken our fraternity to having each others' souls.”

Mach said that he’d recommend the fraternity to any male student interested because,“It has opened up many possibilities for me and other members of the fraternity which have formed us to become the men we are today. There are only a handful of men who have gone through the fraternity and become alumni members but I believe that these men are leaps and bounds ahead of their peers in maturity and following their vocation.”

For information on the Nebraska chapter, visit:

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