Arlington, Va., Nov 15, 2009 (CNA) - It was three years ago when Uma Krishnan, a devout Hindu, says she first dreamed of the Virgin Mary. It was January 2006 and she was living in Singapore with her husband, Kumar, and her son, Karthi. In her dream she saw a “very humble lady” surrounded by candles.
She and Kumar knew the lady in Uma’s dreams was not a Hindu god. They knew little of Christianity, but they thought this lady might be the Blessed Mother. Still, because they came from a long tradition of Hinduism in India, they didn’t give the dream much thought.
Later that year Kumar got a job that took him to San Diego. A few months later, he found a new job in McLean. Uma and Karthi joined him that December.
This past April, Uma began to have more dreams of Mary.
One night she dreamed she was walking into a church she’d never seen before. Once inside, she turned right and found a little room where there were red candles and a statue of Mary.
The second night, she was in the same room, but this time she saw a big cross made of palm leaves.
Another night, she dreamed she was in a boat. On her right was a black woman with dark hair and on her left, a lady wearing a blue scarf and holding a Bible. The woman in blue showed Uma some verses to read to make her worries disappear. In her dream, Uma read the Bible verses and both women disappeared.
Uma and Kumar talked about the dreams and, by the fourth night, they decided to visit a church to see what was happening.
Kumar typed “St. Mary Church Fairfax” into Google and entered the address from the first result into his GPS device. The address was for St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax.
When they got to the church, Uma was shocked. On the outside, it looked just like the church she had dreamed about the first night. When they went inside and turned right, there was a small chapel with red votive candles, a statue of Mary and a cross. It was just like her dreams. Uma started to cry.
“The moment was so touching,” Kumar said. “We were not even Christians and we were not even worshipping when we got such a thing. We were Hindus and we didn’t exactly know how to pray, but we just sat there and said, ‘Thank you. Thank you for all these visions and thank you for bringing us here. We don’t know what to do, you tell us, you guide us, show us what has to be done.’”
After the first visit to the church, a few days passed and Uma and Kumar didn’t return. Instead, they went to their Hindu temple.
Uma had another dream. She saw the statue of Mary on the outside wall of the church. Mary’s arms were out and there was a bright light coming from behind. In Uma’s mind, the statue seemed to be saying, “Come back to me.”
When Uma told Kumar, they decided to go to St. Mary of Sorrows that day. It was a Wednesday, and this time, they went into the main meeting room, where the Charismatic Prayer Group gathered. They shared their story and prayed with them.
After that, Uma and Kumar began to attend Mass and the Charismatic Prayer Group every week.
Uma’s dreams continued, but the couple also started experiencing strange “spiritual disturbances.” Uma would have nightmares, and during the day, alone at home, she would hear strange laughing, heavy breathing or footsteps. Sometimes she would feel a pressure on her neck and would have trouble breathing.
The disturbances were so bad that Uma was afraid to be alone. Kumar would drop her off at St. Mary of Sorrows when he went to work in the morning and she would stay at the church all day.
Frightened, Uma and Kumar talked to Father Stefan Starzynski, St. Mary of Sorrows parochial vicar.
Starzynski told them the disturbances might be coming because they were moving away from Hinduism. He told them not to worry and that they’d be okay if they just went toward the one, true God.
“Even as Hindus they were coming to the prayer groups and the healing Masses and praying the rosary every day, so I think something was trying to stop them from entering the Faith fully,” Father Starzynski said.
Kumar and Uma decided to get rid of all of their Hindu belongings and devote themselves entirely to Catholicism.
Because of their circumstances, the parish had a team of four parishioners teach the couple a condensed version of the traditional yearlong Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults program. Uma and Kumar went to the program every Saturday to learn about the sacraments and to discuss the Bible.
“It sounded like Mary was calling them to us and I felt like we had a responsibility to them,” said Father Starzynski. “They told me they wanted to become Catholic and they were so excited and eager that I thought this was an opportunity to be flexible.”
By the end of August, the group decided the family was ready to become Catholic. Sept. 12, Uma, Kumar and Karthi were baptized and the couple received the sacraments of confirmation, Communion and marriage.
In the days leading up to the ceremonies, Uma and Kumar feel they received lots of help from Mary.
Though they had a very limited budget and hardly any time to plan, Uma and Kumar wanted to have a nice wedding ceremony. They only had $400 to spend on a wedding dress for Uma, but their son found a perfect dress for $399.
Then, after deciding wedding photographers would be too expensive, a photographer from the parish offered his services for free.
Before the baptism and wedding day, Uma had another dream. This time Mary was standing outside the historic St. Mary of Sorrows Church, with a big smile on her face. She was holding two wedding rings and three rosaries — red, orange and yellow.
The couple decided to use those colors in Uma’s bouquet and on the wedding cake, all donated by fellow churchgoers.
On the actual day, the whole parish was invited to see Uma and Kumar receive the sacraments. A reception was held in the hall of the historic church, decorated with red, orange and yellow flowers.
“Even though we hadn’t planned things, God had planned for us,” Kumar said. “He planned everything so perfectly and he took care of everything, right down to the photographs. It was like he has predicted this marriage for us. We are so glad and so thankful and so lucky to be here.”
Father Starzynski said Uma and Kumar’s conversion story shows that God works in mysterious ways. He felt honored that he could be there to help the family.
“I think it speaks to how beautifully God can work and does work,” he said. “It makes you think, are we flexible enough to understand the ways God may work that are outside the box that we have constructed?”
Since they received the sacraments, Kumar and Uma say the disturbances and nightmares have stopped. Uma feels stronger and is able to stay home by herself with no fear.
“We feel like the Holy Spirit in her has just given her this total protection,” Kumar said.
The couple says they are constantly impressed with the parish community.
“I feel like I’ve been wandering all over the place and that I’ve come home,” Kumar said. “I never heard of such good people, such good Catholic people.”
And through it all, Uma’s dreams of Mary continue.
“Whether it’s good or bad, we want to share them with everybody so everybody knows about it,” Kumar said. “Some may take it badly, but we want to share it. We are very fortunate. I feel lucky, I feel honored and I feel blessed.”
Printed with permission from the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper from the Diocese of Arlington, Va.
CNA STAFF, Nov 15, 2009 (CNA) - On November 16, the Church will celebrate the feast of St. Joseph Moscati, the first modern medical doctor to be canonized. Born on July 25, 1880 in Benevento, Italy, he lived out the Gospel through his position as a teacher and physician.
There are a number of stories of Dr. Moscati paying close attention to the state of his patient's soul as well as the body, sometimes even bringing the patient back to the sacraments. The Catholic understanding of body and soul clearly informed his understanding of illness and medicine. He saw Confession and Communion as the “first medicine.”
He is quoted as once having said, “Remember that you have to deal not only with the bodies but also with the moaning souls coming to you.”
Dr. Moscati’s holiness and devotion wasn’t just limited to his practice. To help the poor, he often donated his medical services or paid for his patients' prescriptions.
St. Joseph Moscati also felt it was important to support priests and those in religious life with his prayers because, as he said: "They are easily forgotten by the living, since Christians often think that they do not need prayers."
He carried a Rosary in his pocket as a reminder throughout his day and as a way to draw him to Our Lady -- and through her, to Jesus -- when he needed to make important decisions.
St. Joseph Moscati died on April 12, 1927 of natural causes in his office between patient appointments. He was beatified on November 16, 1975 by Pope Paul VI and canonized on October 25, 1987 by Pope John Paul II. His body rests in Naples, Italy, in the Church of Gesu Nuovo.
Los Angeles, Calif., Nov 15, 2009 (CNA) -
A new poll shows that almost 60 percent of California voters show they don’t want an initiative seeking to overturn Proposition 8 on the 2010 ballot.
Prop. 8 overturned a California Supreme Court decision which instated same-sex “marriage.” It passed in the 2008 election by 52 to 48 percent.
A poll conducted by the Los Angeles Times surveyed 1,500 voters and found about 60 percent did not want to revisit the issue.
“The survey showed that same-sex marriage continues to reverberate differently along racial and generational lines,” the Times reported. “A little more than half of whites backed it, while slightly fewer than half of African Americans and Latinos did. All three groups, however, opposed having to vote on it in 2010.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that 51 percent of those polled expressed support for same-sex “marriage” while 43 percent said they were opposed.
According to the California Catholic Daily, advocates of same-sex “marriage” are divided on whether to work for the repeal of Prop. 8 in 2010 or wait for 2012, when more voters are likely to go to the polls.
Those seeking to place a repeal initiative on the 2010 ballot submitted a letter to the attorney general with the proposed wording of the measure. Among its nine signatories were Fr. Geoffrey Farrow, a former Fresno diocesan priest suspended from his parish and banned from his diocese.
Petitions seeking to qualify the repeal initiative are being circulated by a group which calls itself Yes! On Equality. California Catholic Daily reports that the group appears unlikely to gather the 695,000 signatures required before the Nov. 19 deadline.
Equality California, which led opposition to Prop. 8 in 2008, announced that its leaders have decided to wait until 2012 to seek appeal.
In August the group published an analysis on its website which noted the “sobering points” that support for same-sex “marriage” is stagnant in the state and that there was no “buyers’ remorse” about the outcome of the election.
The analysis also noted that the majority of younger voters opposed Proposition 8. Equality California predicted that supporters of the traditional definition of marriage will die off, assuming that younger voters do not change their opinions on same-sex "marriage."
California Catholic Daily reports that polls on the issue have been shown to be unreliable. Polls before the Prop. 8 vote suggested it would be defeated. Maine polls about Question 1 said the measure was opposed and supported equally, but the initiative rejecting same-sex “marriage” was victorious by a margin of 53 to 47 percent.
Ballot initiatives rejecting same-sex “marriage” have been passed in 31 U.S. states.
New Orleans, La., Nov 15, 2009 (CNA) - The Knights of Peter Claver marked the 100th Anniversary of their founding on Nov. 7. The Catholic fraternal group, the largest historically African-American Catholic lay organization in the U.S., says it will continue its founders’ commitment to the Church and to community service.
The organization was founded in Mobile, Alabama on Nov. 7, 1909 to allow black men membership in a Catholic fraternal society. It was incorporated in 1911.
Presently headquartered in New Orleans, the Knights of Peter Claver has over 18,000 Catholic family members among more than 700 units throughout the U.S. The fraternity also has one unit in Colombia. The fraternity’s Knights and Ladies are complemented by youth divisions of Junior Knights and Junior Daughters.
Goals of the order, listed on its website, include support for local parishes and bishops, the promotion of civic improvements and social justice, the awarding of scholarships, and the development of youth in a “positive, nurturing environment.”
The organization’s 2009 annual convention, held in New Orleans from Aug. 2-7, attracted thousands of people. Its convention Mass was celebrated by Archbishop of Atlanta Wilton Gregory.
Writing in the Knights of Peter Claver publication The Claverite, Supreme Knight Gene A. Phillips, Sr. said the Knights are determined to continue their founders’ commitment to the Church, the organization, and community service.
The society’s patron, St. Peter Claver, was born June 26, 1580 in Verdu, Spain of noble parents. In 1604 he took the vows of the Society of Jesus and in March of 1616 he was ordained a priest in Cartagena, Colombia, the Knights’ website says. On April 3, 1622, he solemnly promised to be the "Slave of the Black Slaves Forever"
Cartagena was a port of the “Middle Passage” in the slave trade. About 1,000 slaves landed there every month, often in dire straits.
“Father Claver proved himself a friend and advocate to the poor and slaves. Braving social ostracism, he administered to the ill, cleaning their wounds and feeding them. After 40 years of serving Christ and the poor, tens of thousands had embraced the Faith, responding to his language of love,” the Knights’ website continues.
The saint died in September 1654 and was canonized in 1888.
Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago Joseph N. Perry, the Knights’ national chaplain, preached a homily at the Church of St. Peter Claver in Cartagena in February.
Bishop Perry said that St. Peter Claver ministered to slaves who had survived the grueling passage across the Atlantic.
“He fed them, gave them whatever medicines he could put his hands on and taught them about Jesus, who suffered as they suffered,” the bishop said in his homily, which was republished in The Claverite.
“Oblivious of his own safety and comfort, he walked among the sick, starving, despairing blacks and comforted them. He treated their sicknesses and bound up their wounds before teaching them about the merciful God. He advocated on their behalf, pleading the dignity of black skin. Peter Claver absorbed in his own person the suffering of his dark flock.”
In addition to his example of generosity and courage, Bishop Perry explained, the saint also shows how to be patient and tolerant with those who are “intolerant or gripped in race prejudice and those who fail to show gratitude and appreciation for our goodness toward them.”
The Knights of Peter Claver website is at http://www.kofpc.org.
Chicago, Ill., Nov 15, 2009 (CNA) -
On Nov. 5, Bishop Thomas Paprocki, known as the “Holy Goalie” of the Archdiocese of Chicago, skated with the Green Knights at St. Norbert College in Wisconsin and addressed the team in the locker room before their game.
Bishop Paprocki, a seasoned athlete and marathoner, told CNA that he was able to practice with the team and talk to them before their game that evening. He spoke to the college athletes about the connections between sports and living the Catholic Faith.
“The connections that I see between sports and living the Catholic Faith,” explained Bishop Paprocki, “are that they teach us lessons for life. My faith gives me strength to run marathons, and running marathons teaches me endurance, which helps me to persevere when facing challenges in life. When I'm having a bad game and I'm giving up a lot of goals, I need to keep my spirits up and not give up hope. The same is true when faced with difficulties in life when things are not going so well.”
Bishop Paprocki told CNA that he is currently writing a book on sports and faith, which was enriched by his ice time with the Green Knights.
“My most memorable part of the experience was at the end of practice when Coach Tim Coghlin had us do a shootout drill, that is, one-on-one breakaways, individual shooter against goalie. St. Norbert All-American defenseman Nick Tabisz skated in alone on me. He faked a slap shot, I was fooled and went down, he moved to his left and attempted a wrist shot to my stick side.”
“Not giving up,” the bishop recalled, “in desperation I dove to my right and blocked the shot with the paddle of my stick. That brought a collective roar from the whole team as they banged their sticks on the ice, the traditional way for hockey players to cheer since it's hard to clap their hands wearing gloves and holding a stick."
“It still gives me goose bumps to think about it,” he said.
Bishop Paprocki then promised the Green Knights that he would return the next evening before their game against Bethel University and give them a blessing.
“I returned to the locker room to give the St. Norbert Hockey Team the blessing I promised. Before blessing them, I said I had one more word, especially for the goalies: confidence. We need to play with confidence. The word 'confidence' comes from Latin: 'con' + 'fide' which means, 'with faith.' We need to have faith in God and in ourselves in using the talents and abilities that he gave us.”
After the blessing, Bishop Paprocki skated out to center ice and dropped the ceremonial first puck to start the game. St. Norbert won 8-2.
Vatican City, Nov 15, 2009 (CNA) - The Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Vatican dicastery responsible for coordinating Catholic charitable organizations around the world, issued a statement on Saturday recalling that Catholic Christian charity is not merely social work, and that workers in Catholic organizations need to be renewed in their faith.
At the end of its 28th Plenary Assembly, held at the Vatican on November 12-14, the President of Cor Unum, Cardinal Paul Joseph Cordes, said that “two key guidelines have emerged from those responsible of the Church's charitable activity: first, that the ultimate goal of our work is to bear Christian witness by means of helping the poorest, but to witness Christ means to first have encountered him.”
Second, “to evangelize requires first to be constantly educated, otherwise, along the work of charity operators, there is the risk of assuming the priorities established by other international organizations alien to the Church, The Church cannot silence its own foundation in Faith,” the statement ads.
On Friday Nov. 13, upon receiving the members of Cor Unum, Pope Benedict XVI highlighted that “Faith is a spiritual force that purifies reason in the search for a just order, freeing it from the risk of being confused by selfishness, interest and power.”
On Saturday Cardinal Cordes said that Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical Deus Caritas Est "set the agenda" of Cor Unum's future.
"The dicastery will continue to promote, in the varied world of charity and volunteering, the constructive witness of Christian individuals and communities," he explained.
South Bend, Ind., Nov 15, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI appointed on Saturday Bishop of Harrisburg, Penn. Kevin C. Rhoades as the ninth Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, the diocese that includes the University of Notre Dame.
Bishop Rhoades will replace Bishop John D'Arcy, who until Saturday was the oldest bishop governing a diocese in the US. He was prominent early this year for his strong stance against President Obama’s Notre Dame invitation.Bishop D’Arcy strongly criticized Notre Dame President John Jenkins, C.S.C. for honoring the President despite his pro-abortion stance, and made good on his pledge to stay away from the graduation. He decided at the last minute to attend what he called a “prayerful” graduation alternative organized on the campus by ND Response, a student-led pro-life group.
Bishop Rhoades was born November 26, 1957, in Mahanoy City, Penn. and graduated from Lebanon Catholic High School in 1975.
He enrolled at Mount Saint Mary’s College (now University) in Emmitsburg, Maryland in the fall of 1975 and studied there for two years. In 1977, he entered Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook, Penn., earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophy there in 1979. He did his theological studies at the North American College and the Pontifical Gregorian University, both in Rome, from 1979-1983. He also studied Spanish at the University of Salamanca in Spain during the summer of 1982.
He was ordained a priest of the Harrisburg Diocese on July 9, 1983. Besides being a parochial vicar at Saint Patrick Parish in York, he ministered in the Spanish-speaking apostolates at Cristo Salvador Parish in York and Cristo Rey Mission in Bendersville.
In 1985 he returned to the Gregorian University in Rome, where he earned advanced degrees in dogmatic theology and canon law.
Then in 1988, he returned to the Harrisburg Diocese to serve as assistant chancellor under then-Bishop Keeler. During this time, he also ministered as the director of the diocesan Spanish apostolate.
In 1995 he accepted a full-time faculty position with Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary.
In March 1997, he was named rector of the Seminary, an office he held until his appointment by Pope John Paul II as Bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg on October 14, 2004.
Bishop Rhoades served until today as President of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and as Co-chair of the Pennsylvania Conference on Interchurch Cooperation.
“Naturally, it will not be easy for me to bid farewell to my family and friends, my brother priests and the faithful of the Harrisburg diocese," Bishop Rhoades said in a statement. “My greatest joys as Bishop have been in being with the people, teaching the faith, and celebrating the sacraments.”
He noted his new diocese differs from the Diocese of Harrisburg in that it has five Catholic colleges and universities "including the internationally renowned University of Notre Dame."
“I ask for the people’s prayers that I might be a true shepherd after the heart of Christ,” he added.Bishop Rhoades will be installed as Bishop D'Arcy's successor on January 13, 2010.
Vatican City, Nov 15, 2009 (CNA) -
With thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Sunday Angelus, Pope Benedict XVI focused his address on Sunday’s Mass reading from the Gospel of St. Mark. While creation is “destined to end,” he said, Jesus’ words are "eternal."
On the second-to-last Sunday of the liturgical year, Pope Benedict expressed his thanks to God for another year in “the great family of the Church” almost complete: “It is an inestimable gift, which permits us to live in history the mystery of Christ, welcoming in the paths of our personal and communal existence the seed of the Word of God, an eternal seed that from the inside transforms this world and opens it to the Kingdom of Heaven.”
St. Mark, he added, today presents us a part of the discourse of Jesus on the end times: “In this discourse, there is a sentence that is striking for its clear synthesis: ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.’”
The expression “Heaven and earth,” Benedict XVI explained, appears frequently in the Bible to indicate all the universe, the entire cosmos. “Jesus,” he added, “declares that all that is destined to pass away, not only earth, but Heaven, which is included here in the cosmic sense, not as synonymous of God.”
“Sacred Scripture is unambiguous. All creation is destined to end, including elements divinized by ancient mythology. There is no confusion between creation and the Creator, but a clear difference.”
“With such clear distinction, Jesus affirms his words ‘will not pass away,’ which stand by the part of God and accordingly, are eternal,” the Pope expounded. “Pronounced with the concreteness of his early existence, these are prophetic words par excellence, as Jesus affirms (in the Gospel of St. John) when he turns to the heavenly Father: ‘the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me.’”
In a well-known parable in the Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus compares himself to a sower and explains that the seed is the Word. “The ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit” are part of the Kingdom of God, the Holy Father said.
“That is, they live under his rule, remaining in the world, but no longer part of the world. They bear in themselves…a principle of transformation that already now manifests itself in a good life, animated by love, and in the end, will produce the resurrection of the body. Behold the power of the Word of God.”
The Pontiff concluded by explaining that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the living sign of this truth: “Her heart was “good earth” that welcomed with complete openness the Word of God, such that all her existence, transformed according to the image of the Son, was introduced to eternity, soul and body, anticipating the eternal vocation of each human being.”
“Now, in prayer, let us make our own her response to the Angel ‘may it be done to me according to your word,’ so that following Christ along the way of the cross, we too can reach the glory of the resurrection.”