Omaha, Neb., Sep 12, 2009 (CNA) - For many people living peacefully with the idea that God is in control is a life-long evolution. For Chuck Wright this acceptance began just seven years ago and was accelerated when he survived the shooting spree at Omaha's Von Maur Department Store in December 2007.
It was what Wright called "a typical day" at Von Maur and he was on his way back to clock in after lunch at a mall restaurant when he heard loud noises. "It sounded like circuit breakers going off," said Wright, a member of St. Columbkille Parish in Papillion. "Then I heard two more of those sounds and realized it was gun fire."
As shots continued to ring out, he and another employee took cover in the west storage room. "By the time we had gotten there, the shooting had stopped. It was less than a minute," he said.
While still hidden, he called his wife and told her he was okay, but there had been a shooting.
"I kept looking out the door and saw no activity. It was very quiet," he said.
After about 15 minutes, a lone deputy arrived and began to assess the carnage that had unfolded as Wright returned to work. Nine people were dead, including the troubled youth who had caused it all.
In the chaos that followed, Wright said he quickly realized that something had kept him safe. Returning just a few minutes earlier from lunch would have put him on the escalator with the shooter, or at the very least, in plain view of him as he began his deadly ascent to the third floor, Wright said.
He called it another turning point in a series of discoveries he was making about trusting God. Since turning 59 seven years ago, Wright found himself re-evaluating his life and his work.
He and his wife Peggy have been married 41 years and have raised three sons, who have families of their own. He wondered both verbally and through his daily journaling what God wanted him to do.
As a young man, Wright said he was "combative" both in how he accepted God's guidance and life. This included needing to know what the future held and then acting as if he could control everything, he said.
"The challenge has been making that jump from wanting to feel I'm in control all the time to letting go and accepting God's guidance and what is," he said. Through journaling he learned that the less he tries to control things, the more serenity he feels.
"I was headed in the direction of letting go of that. Von Maur allowed me to let go more quickly," he said. "I realized that I really wasn't in control that day. There was something in my life that was taking care of me.
"We have all been through things that are emotionally painful. When you get to the other side, you realize you weren't the one who got there - it was God helping you, nurturing you through that process."
One of these moments happened the day Von Maur reopened to the public following the shooting. People from around the Midwest flooded the store. They shopped, consoled and visited with the survivors.
Among them was a priest from Norfolk who told Wright God had more things for him to do. While encouraged by these words, the old Wright might have struggled to find the next step, but he wasn't concerned.
"I've learned that God will tell me what to do," Wright said. "I have to be in a place to listen and allow myself to be guided and directed, and it's going to be in his time, not mine."
That doesn't mean he's waiting to take his next step. He left Von Maur in January and will celebrate his 66th birthday later this month. He's not sure if this is retirement, but "not having a job is giving me a chance to look at other things in my life that are important to me," he said.
As someone who has worked all his life, he's making the transition the only way he's learned how.
"There are times when I literally go to church during the day just to walk in and sit down. I don't really consider it prayer. I'm just visiting with God, asking for direction," he said. "I find when I do that I find peace. I don't necessarily have answers, but I feel like it will all work out.
"God knows what he wants me to do. I know this is a spiritual plan. He and I are partners, even though he's the one in control. He's got my best interest at heart, and I have less anxiety over the unknown."
Printed with permission from The Catholic Voice, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Omaha.
Cologne, Germany, Sep 12, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, said this week that hope is the only antidote that can save Europe from the “virus” of collective depression and that only Christians can attain it, after discovering their own identity.
The cardinal made his comments during Mass in the German town of Essen, which is celebrating the 1200th anniversary of the death of St. Ludgerus, the first bishop of Munster.
He said it was essential “to always return to the roots of faith in Christ,” because “the world needs Christians who are capable of living out their own faith and that words follow actions.” In order to carry out this mission in all areas of life, he added, “we need to know first of all what we are proclaiming and what we are bearing witness to.”
Pointing to the example of St. Ludgerus, Cardinal Meisner underscored the importance of Christianity for Western culture amidst the threats from secular society.
In addition to the need to defend life and the family, Europe must promote “religious freedom, because it is the foundation and guarantor of man’s rights and of tolerance.”
“Our times are filled with religiosity but empty of faith in God. And we Christians are no exception! The lack of knowledge of Christ is clear,” he said, noting that Christians are unable to give a reason for their faith “at work, in schools and at universities, where nobody can take a competent stand against the heresies and attacks on the faith, because many simply no longer know their catechism.”
Chicago, Ill., Sep 12, 2009 (CNA) - Liturgy Training Publications, the Chicago-based publisher associated with the Archdiocese of Chicago, has apologized for distributing a controversial prayer that praised the late pro-abortion Sen. Edward M. Kennedy as one who had promoted peace, justice, equality and liberty.
The prayer was made available for use at Sunday Masses after the prominent Catholic senator’s death on August 25.
The original prayer, posted through the publisher’s downloadable Prayer of the Faithful resource, read: “For those who have given their lives to service to their country, promoting values of peace, justice, equality, and liberty; especially, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, that he may find his eternal reward in the arms of God . . . . We pray.”
Pro-life Catholics such as the 87-year-old priest and blogger Fr. John Malloy complained about the prayer, citing the late senator’s ardent support for abortion in the latter half of his political career.
Liturgy Training Publications Director John A. Thomas wrote to Fr. Malloy and others to apologize for the “extremely poor use of words” in the prayer.
He explained that the prayer had been adapted from the text for “Prayers on the Inauguration of a Public Official.” Calling the source text a “poor choice,” he said that the prayer is future-oriented and not intended as a reflection on “the quality of the life of a person.”
“This was not considered enough when adapted. As adapted for the Prayer of the Faithful, the text inappropriately presents a sense of support for the positions and actions taken by the late Senator by those who wrote it or pray it.”
He said the editors did not intend to show support for Sen. Kennedy’s positions.
“I apologize for our failure in judgment and poor selection of words used in the prayer. I pray that we do better in the future,” his letter concluded.
A spokeswoman at Liturgy Training Publications confirmed for CNA that Thomas had sent out the letter, which has been published on several websites.
Responding to the apology, Fr. Malloy explained his reaction to the prayer and commented that Sen. Kennedy “certainly didn't promote liberty for the unborn, or equality and justice. And that's what I found offensive."
"I think we pray for everyone who's dead, our enemies, we pray for them, but we don't extol them," he continued.
Fr. Malloy told ChicagoCatholicNews he has “great respect” for the publisher and said he believes their apology is sincere.
Venice, Italy, Sep 12, 2009 (CNA) -
A new documentary on the life of Fr. Matteo Ricci, a pioneering Jesuit missionary to China, was screened at the Venice Film Festival on Thursday.
The film is part of a revival of interest in Ricci, whom Pope Benedict XVI has called a model for a “fruitful meeting” between civilizations.
The movie, directed by Italian filmmaker Gjon Kolndrekaj, was shot in China and Italy.
Political and religious dignitaries from both countries attended the screening, ANSA reports. They included the Patriarch of Venice Cardinal Angelo Scola, China’s Ambassador to Italy Sun Yuxi and the Chinese Embassy’s cultural counselor Zhang Jianda.
Matteo Ricci was born in 1552 in the Marche town of Macerata. He became a Jesuit priest and a scholar of mathematics and astronomy before leaving for the Far East at the age of 26.
Audience members from Ricci’s hometown of Macerata included Bishop Claudio Giuliodori, Mayor Giorgio Meschini. The Governor of Marche Gian Maria Spacca was also in attendance.
Ricci spent four years in Goa on the west coast of India before traveling to China. There, he settled in Zhao Qing in the southernmost Guangdong Province and began studying Chinese. During his time there he produced his global Great Map of Ten Thousand Countries, which revolutionized the Chinese understanding of the rest of the world.
In 1589 he moved to Zhao Zhou and began sharing European mathematics discoveries with Chinese scholars. He became known as “Li Madou” and was renowned for his extraordinary memory and knowledge of astronomy. He eventually became a member of the court of Ming Emperor Wanli.
In 1601 he was allowed into the Forbidden City of Beijing, where he worked until his death in 1610.
Ricci’s work is familiar to Chinese schoolchildren of all ages but he was not well known in Italy until recently, ANSA says. Two successive exhibitions and a TV film have revived interest in his life.
Governor Spacca said that Father Ricci is one of his region’s “most important sons.”
“The fact this film is being shown on September 10 is also a special coincidence, as this was the very day in 1583 when Ricci left Macao and set out for inland China, the province of Canton,” he continued, according to ANSA.
Pope Benedict XVI recently sent a message to the Bishop of Marcerata which described the Jesuit missionary as a model for a “fruitful meeting” between European and Chinese civilizations.
“Matteo Ricci sets an example for our communities of people from different cultures and religions to bloom in the spirit of hospitality and mutual respect,” the Pontiff said.
Seattle, Wash., Sep 12, 2009 (CNA) - On Thursday a U.S. District Court judge issued a temporary order preventing the release of the names of Washington state citizens who signed a petition in support of a marriage defense referendum. Supporters of the referendum feared the information would be used to intimidate and retaliate against signers.
The Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed argued that the Washington Public Records Act required the release of the names. Advocates of releasing the names included several groups who wished to place the information on the internet.
Referendum backer Protect Marriage Washington and other plaintiffs argued against the release of the names, citing instances where supporters of marriage have had their property destroyed and have received harassing phone calls and even death threats.
“This situation in Washington is part of a larger, concerted campaign of harassment and intimidation of supporters of traditional marriage by the gay rights lobby,” reported a press release from the law firm Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom, which represented the plaintiffs. “The campaign has involved gaining access to the names of pro-marriage supporters, posting their names and addresses on the Internet, and inviting people to contact them.
“This has triggered hundreds of cases of harassment, vandalism and threats of violence directed at marriage supporters throughout the nation. Such personal attacks occurred in large numbers after the adoption of Proposition 8 in California last November.”
Proposition 8 restored the legal definition of marriage in California to be a union between a man and a woman.
James Bopp, Jr., lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said the decision was a “welcome step” towards protecting citizens who want to participate in the democratic process.
“No one should have to suffer vandalism and death threats just because they support government protection of traditional marriage. Keeping the petition signatures confidential will protect these people from the harassment and intimidation that has now so frequently characterized the response of the gay rights lobby.”
The judicial order preventing the release of petition signers’ names will remain in effect until the court makes a permanent ruling.
Washington D.C., Sep 12, 2009 (CNA) - Officials with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have welcomed President Barack Obama’s September 9 address on health care reform, singling out for praise his statements regarding help for the uninsured and the prevention of federal funds for abortion.
During his Wednesday address on health care reform, the president said he wanted to clear up a “misunderstanding.”
“Under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place,” he stated.
Two officials with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) responded to the speech in a Thursday press release.
"We especially welcome the President's commitment to exclude federal funding of abortion, and to maintain existing federal laws protecting conscience rights in health care,” said Richard Doerflinger, Associate Director of Pro-Life Activities at the USCCB.
He said that incorporating “essential and longstanding” federal laws on such issues will strengthen support for health care reform. Doerflinger also pledged that the USCCB will work with Congress and the administration to ensure the protections are “clearly reflected” in new legislation so that it does not require anyone to pay for abortion or to take part in one.
Speaking to CNA via e-mail on Thursday, Doerflinger said that current health care reform bills such as H.R. 3200 will “fund and mandate” abortion coverage. In his view, the president is preparing to introduce a new bill which will not fund abortions.
"We have to wait and see what is actually in the bill before judging whether we agree. We are willing to work with him and Congress to help make sure this commitment is reflected in the actual bill," Doerflinger added.
Kathy Saile, Director of Domestic Social Development at the USCCB, expressed agreement with the president’s comment “no one should go broke because they get sick.”
“That's why the U.S. Bishops have worked for decades for decent health care for all,” she added, according to the USCCB press release. “The Catholic Church provides health care for millions, purchases health care, picks up the pieces of a failing health system, and has a long tradition of teaching on ethics in health care.”
She said health care reform that respects “the life and dignity of all” is a “moral imperative” and an “urgent” national priority.
“We agree with the President that there are details that need to be ironed out," Saile continued. "And with his address last night, we see the opportunity to work towards a truly universal health policy with respect for human life and dignity, access for all with a special concern for the poor, and inclusion of legal immigrants.”
She added that the USCCB believes it is possible to preserve freedom of conscience while restraining health care costs and applying them equitably.
In his Thursday CNA interview, Doerflinger reiterated that there is cause for pro-lifers’ concern about health care reform proposals and called for the forthcoming legislation to be scrutinized “very carefully.