Chicago, Ill., Jan 17, 2010 (CNA) - A 30 foot banner was just the invitation Matt Schneider needed to return home. Not home to where he grew up, but home to the Catholic Church and the faith that once was a part of his daily life.
Schneider had been contemplating a return to the church after many discussions with his best friend, a devout Catholic who attends daily Mass in his hometown in Poland. Schneider spent several weeks visiting him in Poland, attending Mass with him and asking questions about why his friend believed so deeply in God and the church.
But it wasn’t until he returned home and walked past Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago one day that he got the answer he was seeking: a large banner announcing the start of Catholics Returning Home.
The six week session is for Catholics who left the church and are considering coming back. Participants are able to ask any questions they have about the church and get a refresher course on doctrine, the Mass and prayer.
“That was one of the barriers I was facing in coming back to church,” Schneider said. “I was apprehensive because I didn’t remember any of this stuff. I didn’t want to go to church and stumble through the routine. So I signed up for Catholics Returning Home, and attended the sessions.”
Today, Schneider is in the pews at Holy Name just about every Sunday. The hope is that others like him will find their way back when Holy Name begins its third Catholics Returning Home session Jan. 12, the first time the program is part of the larger Catholics Come Home initiative.
Catholics Come Home is an evangelization effort to welcome back Catholics who have left the church, as well as provide resources for people interested in becoming Catholic. In the Chicago area, a series of television commercials is airing through Jan. 24, featuring Catholics who returned to the church and found the peace and answers they were seeking. The initiative is a joint effort of the Archdiocese of Chicago and the dioceses of Joliet and Rockford.
The goal is for churches to find creative ways to invite people back to a life with Christ and his church. Participation can be something as formal as classes, like at Holy Name, or simply asking parishioners to bring a friend or family member back to church.
Churches across the archdiocese also are distributing cards with the prayer to the Holy Family, to be said for those who may be considering a return “home.”
Like Holy Name, Incarnation Parish in Palos Heights, Illinois already had a plan in place that fit perfectly with the intent of Catholics Come Home. In November, Incarnation began designating one Sunday per month for parishioners to bring someone to church — based on a theme selected for that month.
For example, November was Bring a Veteran or Someone in the Military; December was Bring an Adult or Teenage Child; January is Bring a Non Practicing Catholic.
For each of the weekends, an organization within the parish provides fellowship and hospitality for the visitors, and the church creates a special bulletin written specifically for people who may not be familiar with what Incarnation has to offer.
Preparing the faithful
Kathy McNicholas, pastoral associate and director of catechesis at Incarnation, says the homilies prior to the start of the program focused on ways parishioners could be welcoming at all points of a newcomer’s visit — in the parking lot, in the pews and after Mass — even if it means giving up a regular spot or seat.
“The pastor did a homily on stepping over with a smile,” she said. “That really made people think, ‘What is it I am really doing when I come here? Has it become routine, like going to the bank, or does it mean something to me?’ It inspired people to feel more in touch with the mission of the church.”
Printed with permission from Catholic New World, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Chicago.
CNA STAFF, Jan 17, 2010 (CNA) - On January 21, the universal church will commemorate the feast of St. Agnes, a young Roman girl who chose martyrdom over giving up her virginity in marriage.
St. Agnes took a vow that she would never blemish her purity. She often said, “Jesus Christ is my only spouse.” However, she was also very beautiful and many young men were interested in her. She would have none of them, as her happiness was elsewhere.
Trouble arose when Procop, the son of the Roman governor fell in love with her. He tried to win her as his wife by giving her extravagant gifts and making many promises. However, Agnes loved God above all things and no earthly gift could sway her. She told Procop “I am already promised to the Lord of the Universe. He is more splendid than the sun and the stars, and He has said He will never leave me!"
Procop then became very angry and denounced Agnes as a Christian. She was dragged before the governor who tried to persuade her to change her mind. She was unwavering. He then had her bound with chains, but to no avail. Not wanted to kill her while she was a virgin, he had her dragged through the streets to a brothel. However, it is said that any man who tried to rape her was struck blind.
It was decided that she was to be burned alive. But when she was tied to the stake, the flames would not ignite the wood. In a final attempt, the officer in charge of the execution pulled out his sword and killed her.
St. Agnes was only 12 or 13 years old when she died and is held to be the patron saint of chastity. She is represented by a white lamb, representing purity.
Front Royal, Va., Jan 17, 2010 (CNA) - Christendom College will close Friday, January 22 and transport the entire student body to participate in the 2010 March for Life in Washington, D.C.
“This college recognizes our responsibility to the unborn and enables the entire College community to participate each year in one of the most important witnesses to the value of human life,” said student Cyrus Artz, president of Students for Life.
Christendom College cancels its classes each year on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and travels to Washington D.C. Last year, they led the March for Life, carrying the lead banners and flags in the front of the procession.
“This closing coupled with the enthusiasm of our students shows Christendom's unwavering commitment to life,” said Jesse Dorman, Dean of Student Life. “All our students are given the opportunity and the means to give public witness to the importance of life at our nation's capital.”
The 2010 theme for March for Life is “Stand Up Now! Unite for the Life Principles – No Exception! No compromise.”
Sophomore Angela Swagler calls it an honor to be able to witness against “the grave evil of abortion.”
“It's so wonderful that at Christendom College, we really are Catholics first,” she continued. “It's how it should be. We cannot just let our faith be stated, rather, it has to be genuine and to be genuine, we need to actively stand for what we believe.”
Denver, Colo., Jan 17, 2010 (CNA) -
A federal judge ordered on Monday that Colorado's Boulder County must pay more than $1.25 million in attorney's fees to Rocky Mountain Christian Church, which claimed that the county violated its civil rights.
The payment is the consequence of a 2008 Denver court ruling in which Boulder County was found guilty of violating the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) of 2000.
“This fee decision shows that cities need to take RLUIPA seriously,” said Eric Rassbach, National Litigation Director for the Becket Fund, who helped represent the church.
The recent reward comes in the wake of a three year court battle between Rocky Mountain Christian Church and Boulder County. The county had refused to approve the necessary permit that would have allowed to church a $30 million expansion. Boulder County cited the rural nature of the area as sufficient reason to deny the permit.
According to the Becket Fund, Rocky Mountain Christian Church and their adjoining K-8 academy filed a zoning permit application in 2004. Though Boulder County approved a similar permit for a secular school nearby, they refused to give one to the church.
On Nov. 18, 2008, Rocky Mountain Christian Church won the federal district case in Denver after a jury sided with their cause.
Rome, Italy, Jan 17, 2010 (CNA) - The anticipation reached a crescendo as the Holy Father entered the great Synagogue Sunday afternoon in Rome. The occasion was celebrated by kind words from all involved hoping for continued solidarity and dialogue, with only brief mention of Pope Pius XII after all.
Rome has seen a second Pope enter the Tempio Maggiore, or Great Synagogue, of Rome as Benedict XVI paid a visit to the Jewish community on Sunday afternoon. At some points of the program he was visibly moved.
Before entering the synagogue, the Pope and members the Pontifical family were met on a nearby street by the President of the Jewish Community of Rome, Riccardo Pacifici; President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, Renzo Gattegna, and other members of the Jewish community. The three leaders and their retinues paid homage to Jewish Romans killed in the Holocaust in 1943 and a small child killed outside of the Tempio Maggiore in 1982. Flowers were left at monuments remembering the dead.
On their way to the synagogue, the group also made a stop to greet Rabbi Emeritus Dr. Elio Toaff, now in his mid-nineties, the man who was Chief Rabbi of Rome when Venerable Pope John Paul II visited the site in 1986. The encounter was a happy one, with Pope Benedict showing great joy at meeting the man who was held in such high esteem by his predecessor.
Pope Benedict and the leaders of the Jewish community entered the synagogue to rays of sunlight on an otherwise overcast and cold day in Rome.
The Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, met the Pope at the top of the central stairs in the stunningly beautiful interior of the synagogue.
As the leaders of the Catholic and Jewish communities exchanged addresses, there were many words spoken of mutual appreciation. Both the Pope and the Chief Rabbi referred to the work of the Second Vatican Council as fundamental to the good rapport the two religions enjoy today. Pope Benedict called the teachings of the Council a "clear landmark to which constant reference is made in our attitude and our relations with the Jewish people, marking a new and significant age.
"The Council gave a strong impetus to our irrevocable commitment to pursue the path of dialogue, fraternity and friendship, a journey which has been deepened and developed in the last forty years, through important steps and significant gestures," Pope Benedict said.
Chief Rabbi Di Segni also commented on its importance, saying that without the Council "there would be no further possibility for dialogue."
The rabbi also thanked the Holy Father, saying, "(he) has brought us to a period of freedom," adding that since Vatican II the relationship between the Jewish community and Catholics has been "in terms of dignity as equals and mutual respect."
Riccardo Pacifici touched on the issue that was the source of the most controversy leading up to the occasion—the Pope's recent approval of Pius XII's life as displaying "heroic virtue." Pacifici asked, "with maximum respect," for a "shared judgment" on documents from the archives regarding the actions of the Pope during World War II.
Pope Benedict briefly addressed the same theme as he decried the treatment of Jews at the hands of the Nazis and the indifference of some in coming to their aid, but, he stated, "many, including Italian Catholics, sustained by their faith and by Christian teaching, reacted with courage, often at risk of their lives, opening their arms to assist the Jewish fugitives who were being hunted down, and earning perennial gratitude.
"The Apostolic See itself provided assistance, often in a hidden and discreet way," he underscored.
The Holy Father added, "the memory of these events compels us to strengthen the bonds that unite us so that our mutual understanding, respect and acceptance may always increase."
On the subject of unity, all of the speakers spoke about the importance of continued solidarity, mutual respect and efforts towards "open and sincere" dialogue to facilitate the improvement of Catholic and Jewish relations.
The Holy Father emphasized major sources of unity between the two religions, among which he included the 10 Commandments which establish a shared witness to the one God, to the protection of life "against every injustice and abuse" and the preservation and promotion of the family.
Pope Benedict XVI closed by praying that "this proximity be animated by a growing fraternal love, expressed also in closer cooperation, so that we may offer a valid contribution to solving the problems and difficulties that we still face."
Immediately following the addresses and a closing song, Pope Benedict met with Chief Rabbi Di Segni privately. Later, the Pontiff helped inaugurate an exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Rome, adjacent to the Tempio Maggiore.
Hollywood, Calif., Jan 17, 2010 (CNA) - Maddy Curtis, a sixteen-year-old from a Virginia family of twelve, is one of the contestants advancing in the American Idol singing contest. Curtis, the ninth child in the family, has an older brother and three adopted brothers with Down’s syndrome.
Speaking on a segment of American Idol, Maddy said being ninth of twelve kids was “a crazy experience, but it’s awesome.”
Describing her disabled brothers, she said “Those four boys bring out the best in every person they meet. They see the world in colors, and we need to see the world that way.”
At the American Idol try-outs in Boston in June 2009, a mildly nervous Maddy delivered a strong performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
Contest judge Randy Jackson said of her performance: “I didn’t think it would be that good… but actually I really liked it!”
He especially praised the well-controlled range of her voice, a video of the try-out shows.
Guest judge Victoria Beckham, a former member of the British pop group Spice Girls, said Maddy’s performance showed a “really, really beautiful voice.
Judge and singer-songwriter Kara DioGuardi commented: “When you sing, it feels really authentic… it’s coming from your heart.”
“Nice voice. A bit of soul in there, Maddy,” commented Simon Cowell, the series’ notoriously critical judge.
“Amazingly, for sixteen… you’re not annoying!” he added. “It’s rare.”
All the judges voted to approve Maddy for the next round of the competition, held in Hollywood, California.
“I’m on top of the world,” the aspiring American Idol said after the judges’ decision.
Curtis’ mother Barbara is a pro-life blogger and a columnist who converted with her family to Catholicism from Evangelicalism.
She discussed her daughter’s progress on her blog “Mommy Life.” Because of a confidentiality agreement, her ability to comment was limited. She said that the Feb. 3 broadcast of the show is billed as “The Road to Hollywood” and “may or may not have stuff about Maddy.”
After “an emotional roller coaster of a day,” Barbara wrote in a Jan. 13 blog post, “Maddy is sleeping peacefully. There is a God who has her in His hands and that gives me great peace and joy. Tripp and I are grateful - as we are with each of our kids - that He has entrusted us to be her parents.
“If I can offer one piece of advice to parents of young children, it's to support your children's dreams. No matter what the outcome, you will have wonderful memories and they will never forget how much you care.”
Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2010 (CNA) - The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception expects more than 10,000 people to attend its liturgies, prayer services, rosaries, Holy Hours and confessions for Catholics participating in the upcoming March for Life.
Events will take place Jan. 20-22, a press release from the National Shrine reports.
On Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston will be principal celebrant and homilist for the Vigil Mass for Life. The cardinal is the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
Following the Mass, from 10 p.m. to midnight there will be confessions, the National Rosary for Life and Night Prayer.
Holy Hours for Life will continue as part of the National Prayer Vigil from midnight to 6 a.m. The Closing Mass of the vigil will take place at 7:30 a.m. Its principal celebrant and homilist will be Archbishop for Military Services Timothy P. Broglio.
Both Masses will be broadcast live on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN).
The National Shrine and the Catholic University of America will house overnight participants in the March for Life who come from across the United States.
The March for Life commemorates the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that ordered abortion to be legalized across the United States.
According to the National Shrine, participants “demonstrate their belief in the sanctity of human life in all its stages from conception to natural death.”
The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception’s website is http://www.nationalshrine.com.
Toronto, Canada, Jan 17, 2010 (CNA) -
Archbishop Thomas Collins of the Toronto Archdiocese ordained two new auxiliary bishops this past week, and at one of the ordinations he spoke on the importance of humility for prelates, saying that a bishop “always needs to recognize his own frailties.”
“The authority of the bishop does not come from within, from any personal competence,” said the prelate. “It comes from the Lord who sends him, and so each of us bishops must live daily in a spirit of humble repentance, asking the Lord to forgive our sins and to help us deal with our human inadequacies.”
Archbishop Collins ordained the 53-year-old Bishop Bill McGratten on Jan. 12, in the Archdiocese of Toronto's St. Peter's Cathedral Basilica with over 1,000 people in attendance. The prelate included the themes of humble repentance and episcopal holiness in his homily.
“If a bishop is to represent faithfully the one who sends him, and from whom he derives his identity, his life must be marked by episcopal holiness: he must personally know the Lord whom he represents,” the archbishop said Tuesday. “His real fruitful authority is not canonical, but derives from the degree to which the people whom he serves acknowledge that in fact their bishop loves Jesus and loves them.”
The prelate also made reference to the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen in his homily, pointing out a work of his called, “A Priest is not His Own,” saying “what Bishop Sheen wrote applies especially to those who have been entrusted with the fullness of the priesthood as successors of the apostles of Our Lord. We belong to the Master, and are sent out from him to serve his people.”
“Our life is not our own,” Archbishop Collins said.
Recalling the first retreat he had as a young seminarian, Archbishop Collins recounted the words of the priest who lead it, saying, “a priest cannot have an identity crisis, because a priest does not have an identity!” Though this is obviously false in one sense, said the prelate, since everyone has an individual personality, in another sense “it is profoundly true.”
“A priest, and especially one who is consecrated in the fullness of the priesthood of Jesus Christ as a bishop, receives his deepest identity from his mission as an apostle of the Lord.”
Archbishop Collins also spoke on the necessity of “serene and joyful trust” in the ministry of the bishop. “A disciple of Jesus, and certainly a successor of the apostles, always finds reason for joyful serenity,” he stated and continued, “not in the illusion of optimism, for the storms are real, but rather in the vision of faith which reveals to us the ultimate reality of the providence of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ who sends us into this world.”
The prelate also ordained Bishop Vincent Nguyen on Jan. 13, Canada's first Roman Catholic Bishop of Asian decent and currently the youngest bishop serving the Church in Canada.
Vatican City, Jan 17, 2010 (CNA) -
The World Day for Migrants and Refugees was recognized by the Pope in the Angelus on Sunday. The Holy Father called for special consideration for child refugees as he reflected on the newborn baby Jesus and his “dramatic refugee experience."
Referring to refugees and immigrants , Pope Benedict said, “The presence of the Church beside these people has been constant over history," citing the specific contributions of blessed Bishop John Baptist Scalabrini and Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini at the turn of the 20th century.
The Holy Father called for attention to young migrant and refugee, who, like Jesus who had lived as a refugee after his birth, taught his disciples “to take in children with great respect and love.”
Pope Benedict added, “Also the child, in fact, regardless of his nationality and skin color, is to be considering first of all and always as a person, image of God, to encourage and protect against every marginalization and exploitation. In particular, we must take every care so that minors that find themselves living in a foreign country are guaranteed for on the legislative plane and above all (are) accompanied in the innumerable problems that they must confront.”
“While I strongly encourage the Christian community and the organisms that work in service of minor immigrants and refugees, I exhort all to keep alive the educative and cultural sensitivity in their experiences, according to the authentic evangelistic spirit.”
Blessed Giovanni Scalabrini and Saint Frances Cabrini knew each other well and both founded religious orders to provide aid to those emigrating from Italy.
According to Saints.com, Blessed John Baptist Scalabrini founded the Congregation of the Missionaries of Saint Charles who dedicated themselves to the "religious, moral, social and legal care of migrants." Saint (Mother) Cabrini, under orders from Bishop Scalabrini, founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart "to care for poor children in schools and hospitals. She would be sent to Chicago by Pope Leo XIII to continue this mission, working mostly with Italian nationals. Mother Cabrini would become the first U.S. citizen to become a saint.
Following the Angelus, the Pope warmly greeted, with an emphatic "Thanks for coming!" to all those present in St. Peter's Square in representation of diverse the ethnic communities. He also expressed his hope that "all would participate fully in the social and ecclesial life, keeping the values of their cultures of origin."
Vatican City, Jan 17, 2010 (CNA) -
After praying the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI remembered those affected by the earthquake in Haiti. He prayed that patroness of Haiti, the Virgin Mary, protect and assist them so that they might "find aid and comfort."
The Holy Father mentioned that through contact with the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, he is keeping "constantly informed" as to the situation on the ground in the island country. Pope Benedict said that he heard from Archbishop Auza of the death of Archbishop of Port-au-Prince Serge Miot, and so many other priests, religious and seminarians.
Pope Benedict assured the charitable organizations who are "taking charge of the immense need of the country" that they have his support.
"I pray for the injured, for the homeless and for everyone who has tragically lost their life," he said.
Following the Angelus, as Benedict XVI addressed the French-speaking pilgrims, he entrusted the care of the "dear Haitian population" to the protection of the Holy Virgin in their current trials, so that they might "find aid and comfort."
The Pope finished by exclaiming in prayer, "May Our Lady of Perpetual Help, patroness of Haiti, protect her children!"
Vatican City, Jan 17, 2010 (CNA) - The Holy Father called attention to his visit to the Synagogue of Rome in his address before the Angelus on Sunday to a packed St. Peter's Square. With just hours left before the much-awaited encounter, Pope Benedict XVI anticipated it as a way to renew “harmony and friendship” between Catholics and Jews.
"This afternoon," said Benedict XVI, "at almost 24 years from the historic visit of Venerable John Paul II, I will go to the great Synagogue of Rome, called the Tempio Maggiore, to meet the Jewish Community of the city."
This encounter, continued the Holy Father, would mark the beginning of "a further stage in the road of harmony and friendship between Catholics and Jews."
Recognizing that the path has not been without its "problems and difficulties," he underscored the current "climate of great respect and dialogue" between the two religions.
This, said Pope Benedict, is "a testimony of how much the relations have matured and of the common commitment to value that which unites: faith in the one God, first of all, but also (in) the protection of life and of the family, the aspiration to social justice and to peace."
At 4:30 p.m. local time in Rome on Sunday, the Holy Father will meet with leaders and Rabbis of the Jewish community of Rome, greater Italy and abroad at the Synagogue of Rome. On the schedule for the two hours he will spend there are acts to pay homage to Roman Jews who were deported from the city and killed at the hands of the Nazis in 1943, the exchange of addresses from leaders of the Jewish community and the Pope and the opening of an exhibition at the adjacent Jewish Museum of Rome.