CNA STAFF, Sep 27, 2009 (CNA) - Catholic around the world will honor the life of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, or St. Thérèse of Lisieux on her feast day, October 1. St. Thérèse was born January 2, 1873 in Alençon, France to pious parents, both who have been declared venerable by Pope John Paul II. Her mother died when she was four, leaving her father and elder sisters to raise her.
On Christmas Day 1886 St. Thérèse had a profound experience of intimate union with God, which she described as a “complete conversion.” Almost a year later, in a papal audience during a pilgrimage to Rome, in 1887, she asked for and obtained permission from Pope Leo XIII to enter the Carmelite Monastery at the young age of 15.
On entering, she devoted herself to living a life of holiness, doing all things with love and childlike trust in God. She struggled with life in the convent, but decided to make an effort to be charitable to all, especially those she didn’t like. She performed little acts of charity always, and little sacrifices not caring how unimportant they seemed. These acts helped her come to a deeper understanding of her vocation.
She wrote in her autobiography that she had always dreamed of being a missionary, an Apostle, a martyr – yet she was a nun in a quiet cloister in France. How could she fulfill these longings?
“Charity gave me the key to my vocation. I understood that the Church had a Heart and that this Heart was burning with love. I knew that one love drove the members of the Church to action, that if this love were extinguished, the apostles would have proclaimed the Gospel no longer, the martyrs would have shed their blood no more. I understood that Love comprised all vocations, that Love was everything, that it embraced all times and places...in a word, that it was eternal! Then in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: O Jesus, my Love...my vocation, at last I have found it...My vocation is Love!”
Thérèse offered herself as a sacrificial victim to the merciful Love of God on June 9, 1895, the feast of the Most Holy Trinity and the following year, on the night between Holy Thursday and Good Friday, she noticed the first symptoms of Tuberculosis, the illness which would lead to her death.
Thérèse recognized in her illness the mysterious visitation of the divine Spouse and welcomed the suffering as an answer to her offering the previous year. She also began to undergo a terrible trial of faith which lasted until her death a year and a half later. “Her last words, ‘My God, I love you,’ are the seal of her life,” said Pope John Paul II.
Since her death, millions have been inspired by her ‘little way’ of loving God and neighbor. Many miracles have been attributed to her intercession. She had predicted during her earthly life that “My Heaven will be spent doing good on Earth.”
Saint Thérèse was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II in 1997 - 100 years after her death at the age of 24. She is only the third woman to be so proclaimed, after Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint Teresa of Avila.
St. Thérèse wrote once, 'You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them."
Minneapolis, Minn., Sep 27, 2009 (CNA) - The Catholic bishops of the United States have continually emphasized that the right to adequate health care “flows from the sanctity of human life,” a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin bishops has noted.
Minnesota Catholic Conference policy director Alexandra Fitzsimmons has said that previous documents of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on health care are relevant to the present debate about proposals for reform, the Catholic Spirit reports.
“We cannot let go of the principle that really is why we believe that health care is a basic right,” she said.
Health care reform without respect for life is “empty,” she remarked, which is why Catholics cannot compromise on the abortion issue.
A 1993 USCCB resolution, titled “A Framework for Comprehensive Health Care Reform,” stated that everyone has a right to “adequate health care.”
“This right flows from the sanctity of human life and the dignity that belongs to all human persons, who are made in the image of God,” the document explained.
The bishops’ resolution listed eight criteria for health care reform, including respect for life from conception to natural death, priority concern for the poor, cost restraint, pursuing the common good while preserving pluralism, and universal access for everyone living in the United States, the Catholic Spirit says.
Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Center, N.Y. in a July 2009 letter to Congress said the bishops want to support health care reform.
“We have in the past and we always must insist that health care reform excludes abortion coverage or any other provisions that threaten the sanctity of human life,” added the bishop, who is chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis John Nienstedt, writing in his August 27 column in the Catholic Spirit, has said health care reform legislation has “far-reaching moral implications.”
“What it permits and what it disallows speaks volumes about the values that we hold dear and are willing to fight to defend,” he added.
President Obama in his Sept. 9 speech said that his health care proposal will not fund abortions with federal dollars and will leave federal conscience protections intact.
However, Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, said that legislative proposals such as H.R. 3200 and the recent proposal of Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) have “the same unacceptable language.”
Rep. Lois Capps’ amendment would require a public health insurance option to cover all abortions eligible for federal funding under the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funds for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or endangerment of the mother’s life.
The proposal would also grant the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services the authority to mandate federally funded coverage for abortions in the public plan not eligible for funding under the Hyde Amendment.
Fitzsimmons said that tax credits designed to help low-income people pay their insurance premiums will also subsidize abortions in private plans that cover abortions, the Catholic Spirit reports.
The Capps Amendment says that these credits should not be used to pay for elective abortions, but Fitzsimmons said that this is merely a segregation of funds that will not achieve its stated aim.
Washington D.C., Sep 27, 2009 (CNA) - A watchdog group which discovered that the Catholic Campaign for Human Development has given grants to groups which support abortion and same-sex “marriage” has said it is pleased that the campaign has taken steps to defund at least two of the organizations.
Bellarmine Veritas Ministry (BVM), which describes itself as “a Catholic grass-roots organizing ministry dedicated to truth and action,” in August announced its effort to address some “troubling groups” funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).
According to its website, the CCHD was founded by the U.S. Catholic bishops in 1970 to fund projects such as voter registration, community organizations, community-run schools, minority-owned cooperatives and credit unions, capital for industrial development and job training programs, and rural cooperatives.
The CCHD makes grants to organizations that work to eliminate the “root causes” of poverty and to enact “institutional change.”
Though the campaign’s criteria require that funded activity must conform to the moral and social teachings of the Catholic Church, BVM found that some grantees’ advocacy undermines those teachings.
One group, the Chinese Progressive Association, was to receive $30,000 in CCHD money in 2009.
The association’s 2008 voting guide characterized California’s Proposition 8 as “discrimination against same-sex couples” and opposed Proposition 4, a parental notification restriction on abortion. It also filed a legal brief in support of same-sex “marriage.”
According to the research tool Implu.com, the association’s revenues were $562,960 in 2007, the last year for which information is available. That year, it received a $30,000 CCHD grant. It received $25,000 grants in both 2006 and 2008.
Another grantee is the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN), which promotes same-sex “marriage” and actively supports contraception and the morning-after pill through its Downtown Women’s Center clinic. It has received CCHD grants for the past five years and was to receive $40,000 for 2009-2010.
CCHD Director Ralph McCloud was informed of BVM’s findings by LifeSiteNews.com on September 10. On September 18 he said that both the Chinese Progressive Association and LACAN had been defunded.
LifeSiteNews.com reported that he was still waiting to hear from the Young Workers United.
The organization, a new 2009 CCHD grantee, supports legalized abortion, legalized prostitution, and same-sex “marriage.” The organization also sponsored a counter-protest to the Walk for Life – West Coast march in San Francisco in January 2008.
It was awarded a $25,000 grant for 2009-2010. The National Center for Charitable Statistics reports that the group’s 2007 revenue amounted to $350,091.
The BVM report has also criticized a $30,000 CCHD grant to the Women's Community Revitalization Project, a coalition member of a group which favors abortion, the morning-after pill, contraception and same-sex “marriage.”
McCloud said that he was “shocked” by the BVM report. He said the groups’ profiled work in low-income communities did not include activities like voter’s guides.
“When we had first begun a relationship with them, they weren't doing any advocacy at all, and we focus just on that particular portion of the work," he reported.
CNA contacted McCloud for further comment but did not receive a response by press time.
“We are pleased with this first step and regard it as a sign of good faith by the CCHD,” Bellarmine Veritas Ministry said in a statement. “However, we remain concerned with how these organizations were cleared to receive funding in the first place.”
The group said Catholics should feel assured that they will not fund groups which promote abortion or any other practice contrary to “the moral and natural law.” However, in its view, there is no such assurance.
“Hundreds of thousands of dollars have made their way to such groups and if the current standards remain in place, the risk remains for the future.”
Bellarmine Veritas Ministry said it will continue to advise Catholics to withhold donations from the CCHD until “more robust” guidelines are implemented.
Prague, Czech Republic, Sep 27, 2009 (CNA) -
At Sunday’s Papal Mass at the airport in Brno, Czech Republic, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed Christ to be mankind’s only certain hope. In a world in which too much trust in placed in human projects, the Pope explained, this is the message that Christians are called to spread every day through their witness.
Pope Benedict began by turning the attention of the almost half a million faithful to his second encyclical, in which he cites the historical “absurdities to which man descends when he excludes God from the horizon of his choices and actions.”
“Freedom,” Benedict XVI said, “has constantly to be won over for the cause of good, and the arduous search for the ‘right way to order human affairs’ is a task that belongs to all generations.”
Listening to God’s word, he added, will show people the way that leads to hope, for Christ crucified and risen, the Hope of humanity, is the message of salvation.
“Man needs to be liberated from material oppressions, but more profoundly, he must be saved from the evils that afflict the spirit,” the Holy Father continued. “Our firm hope is therefore Christ. In him, God has loved us to the utmost and has given us life in abundance, the life that every person, even if unknowingly, longs to possess.”
Christ, the Pontiff said, “assures us of his help, because nothing can be done without him, but at the same time, he asks everyone to make a personal commitment to spread his universal message of love and peace.”
The Pope concluded by citing the example of Saints Cyril and Methodius, the principal patrons of Moravia, who evangelized the Slavic peoples, of Saints Peter and Paul, to whom the Brno Cathedral is dedicated, of Saint Zdislava, mother of a family, rich in works of mercy, of Saint John Sarkander, priest and martyr, of Saint Clement Maria Hofbauer, priest and religious, born in the Brno diocese and canonized one hundred years ago, and of Blessed Restituta Kafkova, a religious sister born in Brno and killed by the Nazis in Vienna.
At the end of the Mass, before the Angelus prayer, Pope Benedict recalled John Paul II’s decision to visit the region after the fall of Communist totalitarianism and urged the faithful to remain true to the Gospel. Noting the Marian sanctuaries of Moravia and Bohemia, Benedict XVI encouraged the crowd “not to lose sight of the ideal expressed by traditional customs and above all to maintain the spiritual patrimony inherited from your forebears, to guard it and to make it answer to the needs of the present day.”
Prague, Czech Republic, Sep 27, 2009 (CNA) -
During a meeting held this Sunday afternoon at the Archdiocese of Prague, Pope Benedict XVI warned members of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in the Czech Republic that in a country where about half the population claim to be “non-believers,” there is a risk that Christianity will be marginalized from public life.
“Europe continues to undergo many changes. It is hard to believe that only two decades have passed since the collapse of former regimes gave way to a difficult but productive transition towards more participatory political structures,” said the Pope at the beginning of his address.
“During this period,” he continued, “Christians joined together with others of good will in helping to rebuild a just political order, and they continue to engage in dialogue today in order to pave new ways towards mutual understanding, cooperation for peace and the advancement of the common good.”
“Attempts to marginalize the influence of Christianity upon public life, sometimes under the pretext that its teachings are detrimental to the well-being of society, are emerging in new forms,” the Holy Father warned, saying that this phenomenon “gives us pause to reflect.”
“We may ask ourselves: what does the Gospel have to say to the Czech Republic and indeed all of Europe today in a period marked by proliferating world views?”
“Christianity,” Pope Benedict explained, “has much to offer on the practical and ethical level, for the Gospel never ceases to inspire men and women to place themselves at the service of their brothers and sisters. Few would dispute this. Yet those who fix their gaze upon Jesus of Nazareth with eyes of faith know that God offers a deeper reality which is nonetheless inseparable from the ‘economy’ of charity at work in this world: He offers salvation.”
The Holy Father said that Christians must take confidence “in knowing that the Church’s proclamation of salvation in Christ Jesus is ever ancient and ever new, steeped in the wisdom of the past and brimming with hope for the future.”
“As Europe listens to the story of Christianity, she hears her own. Her notions of justice, freedom and social responsibility, together with the cultural and legal institutions established to preserve these ideas and hand them on to future generations, are shaped by her Christian inheritance. Indeed, her memory of the past animates her aspirations for the future,” he added.
Pope Benedict then said that Christians today must open themselves to present realities and affirm “all that is good in society.” They “must have the courage to invite men and women to the radical conversion that ensues upon an encounter with Christ and ushers in a new life of grace.”
“Dear friends, let us ask the Lord to implant within us a spirit of courage to share the timeless saving truths which have shaped, and will continue to shape, the social and cultural progress of this continent,” he concluded.
Prague, Czech Republic, Sep 27, 2009 (CNA) -
During a meeting with academics held at the famous Castle of Prague Sunday evening, Pope Benedict called professors and students to exercise academic freedom as a gift that must bring them to know and proclaim the truth.
Before the audience of rectors, professors and students from around the Czech Republic, the Pope again brought forward the issue of the dramatic transformations in Eastern Europe after the fall of Communism.
“The great changes which swept Czech society twenty years ago were precipitated not least by movements of reform which originated in university and student circles. That quest for freedom has continued to guide the work of scholars whose diakonia of truth is indispensable to any nation’s well-being,” he said, using the Greek word for “service.”
“I address you as one who has been a professor, solicitous of the right to academic freedom and the responsibility for the authentic use of reason, and is now the Pope who, in his role as Shepherd, is recognized as a voice for the ethical reasoning of humanity.”
The Holy Father recalled that “the freedom that underlies the exercise of reason, be it in a university or in the Church, has a purpose: it is directed to the pursuit of truth, and as such gives expression to a tenet of Christianity which in fact gave rise to the university.”
“Indeed,” he continued, “man’s thirst for knowledge prompts every generation to broaden the concept of reason and to drink at the wellsprings of faith. It was precisely the rich heritage of classical wisdom, assimilated and placed at the service of the Gospel, which the first Christian missionaries brought to these lands and established as the basis of a spiritual and cultural unity which endures to this day.”
Digging into the thorny issue of academic freedom in universities, and the autonomy usually claimed by the academic world, Pope Benedict said that the proper autonomy of a university finds meaning in “its accountability to the authority of truth.”
“Nevertheless, that autonomy can be thwarted in a variety of ways,” he added.
“The yearning for freedom and truth is inalienably part of our common humanity. It can never be eliminated; and, as history has shown, it is denied at humanity’s own peril. It is to this yearning that religious faith, the various arts, philosophy, theology and other scientific disciplines, each with its own method, seek to respond, both on the level of disciplined reflection and on the level of a sound praxis,” he added.
The Holy Father also recalled that he great universities springing up throughout Europe during the Middle Ages “aimed with confidence at the ideal of a synthesis of all knowledge, it was always in the service of an authentic humanitas, the perfection of the individual within the unity of a well-ordered society.”
“And likewise today: once young people’s understanding of the fullness and unity of truth has been awakened, they relish the discovery that the question of what they can know opens up the vast adventure of how they ought to be and what they ought to do.”
“The idea of an integrated education, based on the unity of knowledge grounded in truth, must be regained. It serves to counteract the tendency, so evident in contemporary society, towards a fragmentation of knowledge.”
Speaking about the consequences of new technologies such as the Internet, Pope Benedict explained that with their massive growth comes “the temptation to detach reason from the pursuit of truth.
“Sundered from the fundamental human orientation towards truth, however, reason begins to lose direction: it withers, either under the guise of modesty, resting content with the merely partial or provisional, or under the guise of certainty, insisting on capitulation to the demands of those who indiscriminately give equal value to practically everything.”
He then warned against relativism, which provides “a dense camouflage behind which new threats to the autonomy of academic institutions can lurk.”
“Our societies will not become more reasonable or tolerant or adaptable but rather more brittle and less inclusive, and they will increasingly struggle to recognize what is true, noble and good,” he also warned.
Finally, the Holy Father briefly mentioned “the mending of the breach between science and religion,” calling it a “central concern” of his predecessor Pope John Paul II.
“Each supports the other and each has its own scope of action, yet still there are those who would detach one from the other. Not only do the proponents of this positivistic exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason negate what is one of the most profound convictions of religious believers, they also thwart the very dialogue of cultures which they themselves propose,” the Pope explained.
“An understanding of reason that is deaf to the divine and which relegates religions into the realm of subcultures, is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures that our world so urgently needs. In the end, ‘fidelity to man requires fidelity to the truth, which alone is the guarantee of freedom’,” he concluded.