CNA STAFF, Jan 10, 2010 (CNA) - On Tuesday, January 12, the church will celebrate the feast of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, a young French woman who first traveled to Canada as a lay teacher. Her endeavors led to the establishment of the Congregation of Notre Dame, a pioneering order of teaching nuns.
Marguerite was born in France on Good Friday in 1620 and was the sixth of 12 children. When she was 19, her mother died. The following year she was inspired to consecrate herself to serving God.
She joined a lay group of young girls dedicated to teaching the poor children. Then she met Monsieur de Maisonneuve, a French priest who was working in Montreal, Canada. He convinced her to move to Montreal, where she began to teach the French and Indian children there.
Life in the colony was physically very difficult. When Marguerite arrived, she found that children were not likely to survive to an age suitable for attending school. Nevertheless, she began to work with the nurse in charge of Montreal’s hospital and eventually established her first school in a stable.
Marguerite made three trips across the Atlantic, returning to France to recruit more teachers for her mission and fledgling order. The Congregation of Notre Dame was unique in that the sisters were teachers and were not cloistered. In the face of much pressure for her order to join another cloistered one, Marguerite had to fight to keep her mission independent and to convince a bishop to let her sisters travel as teachers in the wild ranges of the Canadian wilderness. Though the teaching sisters often lived in huts and suffered other hardships, the order grew. They did not dedicate themselves to teaching solely children, but also set up schools where they taught new immigrants how to survive in their new environments.
As the order expanded, Marguerite passed leadership on to one of the sisters. She spent her last few years praying and writing her autobiography. On the last day of 1699, one of the young members of her congregation lay dying. Mother Marguerite asked the Lord to take her own life in exchange. By the morning of January 1, 1700, the young sister had recovered and Mother Marguerite had a raging fever.
She suffered 12 days, and died on January 12, 1700.
Pope John Paul II canonized her on October 31, 1982 whence she became Canada’s first female saint.
Amman, Jordan, Jan 10, 2010 (CNA) - In an interview with CNA, Rustom Mkhjian, the assistant commission director at the site of Jesus' baptism, encouraged Christians to visit the site explaining that it “is of utmost importance for Christians because it is where Christianity started.”
The site, which is located in the country of Jordan, is one of two locations claiming to be the true place where Christ was baptized. Just across the narrow Jordan River, another site claims to be the location of Jesus' baptism, but Mkhijan's site has been visited by both John Paul II and Pope Benedict and also is supported by John 1:28, which says, “These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.”
Due to its importance to Christianity, the commission pours its efforts into maintaining the site because, according to Mkhijan, “it is where Christianity started through the baptism of Christ, that is when His ministry started and spread all over the world.”
He also encouraged Christians to visit and “enjoy the site as John and Jesus saw it.”
When Pope Benedict visited the site in May 2009 he was able to draw inspiration from the events that took place there. He reflected on the scene of Christ's baptism, saying, “Jesus stood in line with sinners and accepted John’s baptism of penance as a prophetic sign of his own passion, death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins.”
The Pope also encouraged the faithful to prayerfully contemplate the mystery of Christ's baptism and to seek to promote “dialogue and understanding in civil society.”
The site is also home to the place where the Israelites entered the Promised Land and where Elijah was taken into heaven.
Last year over 150,000 pilgrims visited the location, a 53 percent increase from 2007.
San Francisco, Calif., Jan 10, 2010 (CNA) - Dolores Meehan, co-founder of Walk for Life West Coast, will be a keynote speaker at the sixth annual Paris “March for Life” on Jan. 17. The Paris March, known in French as “Marche Pour Le Respect de la Vie,” has become a rallying point for pro-lifers across Europe.
The Paris March attracts groups from France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Poland, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland and the United States, the California Catholic Daily reports. Last year’s March drew an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 participants.
The event began in 2005 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the French law legalizing abortion. Their slogan was “30 Years is enough!”
Meehan told the California Catholic Daily she was “delighted” to be invited to speak at the March and was “intrigued” by the similarities between the French and the Californian events.
“Both the March and the Walk for Life West Coast began in 2005, both take place in cities with a strong history of radical and countercultural action, both draw impressive numbers of young people, and both recognize that without compassion and justice there can be no common good or true Culture of Life.”
The French event is non-denominational and non-partisan in its mission to defend human life.
Its mission statement says pro-lifers ask their countrymen to reflect upon the “disastrous result” of 35 years of legal abortion, the “unspeakable sufferings of millions of women” and the “blatant injustice towards millions of our unborn brothers and sisters.”
The event also notes that despite its world-leading contraception rates, France has the second highest abortion rate in Western Europe.
“The way forward is one of compassion and justice: compassion by providing expectant mothers with the real choice, that of preserving their unborn life; and justice with the comprehensive abolition of abortion,” the Paris March for Life’s mission statement continues
The 1975 abortion law’s sponsor, Simon Veil, herself has deemed the high abortion rate “distressing.”
Two new groups have joined the Paris March. One, Etudiants pro-vie (Pro-life Students), is inspired by the American group Students for Life and has opened chapters in many French universities. The other, Soignants Porteurs d’Esperance, is a group of pro-life medical professionals.
According to the California Catholic Daily, after attending the Paris March for Life, Meehan will return to San Francisco in time for the 2010 Walk for Life West Coast on Jan. 23.
The Walk for Life West Coast will feature speakers such as Live Action president Lila Rose and former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson. Its website is http://www.walkforlifewc.com
Vatican City, Jan 10, 2010 (CNA) - Superiors, students and former students of the Pontifical North American College were received in audience by the Holy Father at noon on Saturday in the Hall of Benedictions of the Apostolic Palace. The visit was part of their celebration of the institution's 150th year.
In an address to the gathering, Pope Benedict XVI gave thanks to God for the faithfulness of the College to the original mission of its founders. He said it trained "generations of worthy preachers of the Gospel" and ministers of the sacraments” who are “devoted to the Successor of Peter and committed to the building up of the Church in the United States of America."
The Pontiff said the presence of non-resident bishops and priests in Rome for the celebration, was appropriate to express their gratitude for the academic and spiritual formation which “has nourished (their) priestly ministry over the years."
The reunion, Pope Benedict said, provides all of them with an opportunity to renew their commitment to "the high ideals of holiness, fidelity and pastoral zeal which you embraced on the day of your ordination." He added that the celebration also offers a chance to "reaffirm (their) filial affection for the Church of Rome and renew (their) love for the College and (their) appreciation of its distinctive mission to the Church” in the United States."
The College, explained the Pope, is in a unique position to meet the "perennial challenge" of cultivating "an intellectual ‘culture’ which is genuinely Catholic in the United States, confident in the profound harmony of faith and reason, and prepared to bring the richness of faith’s vision to bear on the pressing issues which affect the future of American society.”
He went on to praise the College in preparing its students intellectually and spiritually for the urgency of the Church's "mandate to bring Christ’s saving truth to the men and women of every time and place."
"I am confident that ... the College will continue to produce wise and generous pastors capable of transmitting the Catholic faith in its integrity, bringing Christ’s infinite mercy to the weak and the lost, and enabling America’s Catholics to be a leaven of the Gospel in the social, political and cultural life of their nation," he concluded.
Many alumni are in Rome this weekend to celebrate the College's establishment on December 8, 1859 by Blessed Pope Pius IX. The festivities, which are taking place in the Year for Priests, started on Friday with an opening Mass at the Basilica of the Holy Twelve Apostles.
The Mass was celebrated by an accomplished alumnus, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura Archbishop Raymond Burke. Among present and past students participating in the Mass was Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan, who gave the homily.
Vatican City, Jan 10, 2010 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on Sunday morning by offering Mass in the Sistine Chapel where he would also baptize a group of children. Later, in his address before the Angelus, the Pope would elaborate on the meaning of Baptism for the realization of life.
The Holy Father, referring to the Baptismal celebration in the Sistine Chapel that marked the end of the Christmas liturgy, said that Baptism "suggests very well the global sense of the Christmas festivities, in which the theme of becoming children of God, thanks to the coming of the only Son in our humanity, constitutes a dominant element."
"He was made man so that we can become children of God. He was born so that we can be reborn."
These concepts are a "great motive of reflection and hope," added Benedict XVI, as they come up repeatedly in the liturgical texts of Christmas. Rebirth, he said, is thus realized in the sacramental sign of Baptism, as it manifests the mystery of making men the adopted children of God.
"Through this sacrament man becomes truly son, son of God."
From the point of Baptism onward, continued the Pope, the life of the Baptized becomes one of "achieving freely and knowingly that which from the beginning (was) received as gift."
In this light, he elaborated, the phrase "become what you are” represents “the basic educative principal of the human person redeemed by grace."
To illustrate this achievement, the Pontiff compared Christian growth to human growth to adulthood. Just as a person grows from complete dependence to maturity, he said, he or she does the same in their faith from Baptism to the realization of being able to "invoke God knowingly as 'Abba - Father' to turn to Him with gratitude and to live the joy of being his child."
In Baptism, continued the Holy Father, "a model of society" in brotherhood is also derived, and this sense of brotherhood comes from the "humble but profound knowledge of being children of the only heavenly Father."
"As Christians, thanks to the Holy Spirit received at Baptism, we have a kind of gift and commitment to living as children of God and brothers, to be like "yeast" of a new humanity, united and rich in peace and hope."
Pope Benedict XVI concluded by saying that to achieve this maturity, in addition to the Father in Heaven, we are helped along the way by "a mother, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the perennial model." He then entrusted the newly baptized children and their families to Mary.