Archive of January 24, 2010

Church to celebrate feast of St. Thomas Aquinas

CNA STAFF, Jan 24, 2010 (CNA) - This Thursday, the Church will celebrate the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, a Doctor of the Church who was nicknamed “the Dumb Ox” because of his silence and size.

When most people think of St. Thomas Aquinas, they think of the Summa Theologica, however the saint wrote much more than the one thick book in his short lifetime. 

Thomas was born in Italy to a well-connected, wealthy family who sent him to be educated by the monks at the abbey of Monte Cassino. The boy was quite astute, and surprised his preceptor by asking, “What is God?”

Eventually the young Aquinas chose to enter the Dominican order. His family, however, did not approve of his action, and took such drastic steps such as having him detained by relatives who were soldiers and sending an impure woman to tempt him.  The saint was able to overcome the temptation and was eventually able to pursue his vocation.

He made his profession and was sent to Cologne to study and it was there where he was ordained a priest.  His tutor and mentor was Albert the Great, but despite Albert’s greatness, Aquinas surpassed him in wisdom and knowledge. It was also during this time that Thomas earned his nickname the “Dumb Ox” because he was rather silent, and also quite large.

Aquinas was then sent to Paris, where he earned his doctorate at the age of 31. He spent the rest of his life studying, praying, teaching, writing and traveling. Aquinas is said to have been able to dictate to more than one scribe at a time. Thus, of all the works attributed to him, not all of them were written in his own, which explains the 60 works he produced in less than 50 years.

He died on March 7, 1274 and was canonized by John XXII on July 18, 1323 - less than 50 years after his death.

St. Thomas Aquinas is the patron saint of Catholic universities, colleges, and schools.


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Wisconsin father of 11 survives Haitian earthquake

River Falls, Wis., Jan 24, 2010 (CNA) - Patrick O'Malley, 72, of River Falls, Wisconsin returned home Jan. 15 after surviving Haiti's Jan. 12 earthquake.  O'Malley was in a taxi cab en route to his hotel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti when the earthquake hit; causing the airport control tower behind him to collapse in a cloud of dust. A retired American Airlines pilot, O’Malley has been visiting Haiti since 1992 and has helped raise money to build a village outside Port-au-Prince.

He arrived in Haiti at 4 p.m. Jan. 12 to avoid paying a fine on a vehicle, and the earthquake struck at 4:53 p.m.; the epicenter was less than two miles from where O'Malley was standing.

"It felt like the wheels were coming off the pickup (truck)," said O'Malley. "I thought it was an airplane crash or a riot."

O’Malley said the devastation and loss of life he witnessed over the next two days was unimaginable. As he made his way on foot to his hotel from where his taxi stopped, O’Malley said thousands of Haitians were suddenly in the street amongst the rubble. As he walked, he accidentally stepped on the body of a small boy buried underneath a collapsed building.

“I have never seen so many people crying at once in all my life, just thousands of people crying,” said O’Malley.

With two of the most well-known hotels in Port-au-Prince, The Montana and the St. Christopher, lying in rubble, O’Malley slept by the pool of the Coconut Villa Inn on Jan. 12. He estimated there were over a dozen aftershocks that night as he attempted to sleep outside among 70 other hotel guests in case the building collapsed. He saw other people on mattresses in the street that night.

"It's 15-20 times worse than what you're seeing on television," said O'Malley. "The pain and suffering that is going on there right now is beyond comprehension."

On Jan. 13, O’Malley reached the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, and was able to send a message back to his family. He spent the night sleeping outside the U.S. Embassy after a major aftershock. The next day, O’Malley was waiting with a group of Americans at the airport in Port-au-Prince to be flown to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

After several hours, O'Malley found an American Airlines flight from Puerto Rico that was delivering supplies and convinced the crew to let him on board. With no documentation and no ticket, he arrived in Puerto Rico and found a flight to Chicago. He told the border guards he had to call his wife to tell her he was alive.

“There’s a tremendous amount of praying going on, people just standing in the street just praying,” said O’Malley. “They are a very prayerful people anyway, they pray a lot.”

O’Malley described the Haitians as calm and sharing with a tremendous sense of humor. He saw many people sleeping in parks or in the street, sharing what they had with each other. He also said the devastation was horrific, and remembered hearing people yelling from under the rubble trying to get out. O'Malley said when he left there was no readily available food and water, no one could travel and people were becoming hungry.

O’Malley travels to Haiti nearly four times a year with friend Curt Larson from Ezekiel Lutheran Church, River Falls. The Jan. 12 trip was the first time Larson did not go, thinking O'Malley would not need his help. With the aid of five River Falls churches, the two friends have raised enough money to build 25 homes and a school in the town of Ganthier, 20 miles east of Port-au-Prince.

Larson said he had called their close friend Fr. Emmanuel Sainteliat nearly 50 times since the earthquake, but has not heard from him and many other friends. Catholic Relief Services has already donated five million dollars to aid the efforts in Haiti. The Diocese of Superior will take a second collection the weekend of Jan. 23.

Printed with permission from The Catholic Herald, newspaper for the Diocese of Superior.

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Pope Benedict's 'Travels' released

Vatican City, Jan 24, 2010 (CNA) - The book, “The Travels of Benedict XVI in Italy,” was released on Thursday evening in a reception at the Italian Embassy in Vatican City.  During the presentation of the volume, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco referred to it as the representation of the "untiring pastoral mission of Pope Benedict XVI."

The edition follows the Holy Father on his 16 pastoral visits to 20 cities around Italy, while it also documents his travels to important sites within the city of Rome.

"The Travels of Benedict XVI in Italy" includes pictures from each of the visits and addresses, including homilies, given by the Pope and others in welcoming him on such occasions. 

According to the Italian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the volume seeks to "witness the very particular rapport between the Bishop of Rome and Primate of Italy with our Country, as well as the work of all those who institutionally collaborate in the organization of the visits."

President of the Bishops' Conference and Archbishop of Genoa, Cardinal Angel Bagnasco, gave an address upon the release of the book in which he remarked that it is "a work that expresses the attention and the appreciation for the untiring pastoral mission of the Holy Father Benedict XVI in Rome and in Italy."

According to Cardinal Bagnasco,  the "conducting wire" that unites all of the destinations illustrated in the book "is always the particular closeness and the affection of the Vicar of Christ for our nation and for the Church that lives in Italy.

"He loves it with the affection of a Father and Italy returns it with filial affection."

The book, which was published by the Holy See's Libreria Editrice Vaticana, was released in Italian.


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Viewers will choose outcome of women with unintended pregnancies in new series

San Diego, Calif., Jan 24, 2010 (CNA) - A new webcast series will focus on the fictional stories of three women who face unintended pregnancies. It will allow viewers to choose how the characters’ stories will end for the final episode.

Yellow Line Studio said the premiere of BUMP+ would be Friday, Jan. 22. Thirteen episodes will follow in February and March, the California Catholic Daily reports.

“From Juno and Bella to Glee and Desperate Housewives, a woman’s right to choose has been explored across the media landscape,” said the series’ executive producer Dominic Iocco. “What makes BUMP+ different from the others is that we’re letting the viewers decide how our characters’ stories will end. We’ve opened the official website to comments and our team will craft the final episodes based on audience feedback. Their choice really is up to you.”

Series co-executive producer Christopher Riley said the series was inspired by President Barack Obama’s May 2009 commencement speech to graduates at Notre Dame.

“He urged people on both sides of the debate to find ways to communicate about a workable solution to the problem of unintended pregnancies,” Riley explained.

He described the series as an “experiment to see if story can succeed where nearly four decades of angry rhetoric and political posturing have failed.”

“We’re not making a moral or political statement; hopefully, we’re starting a conversation with the audience,” Riley added, according to the California Catholic Daily.

Yellow Line Studio said a trailer for the pilot has attracted several comments and personal stories for viewers and it is gaining a following on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

The San Diego-based studio describes itself as an independent entertainment company. It operates a satellite office in Los Angeles.

The website of the series is at

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Church is ‘rich and vital organism’ in its unity, remarks Pope at Angelus

Vatican City, Jan 24, 2010 (CNA) -

Citing the reading in Sunday's liturgy from First Corinthians, Pope Benedict XVI used St. Paul's comparison of the Church to the body in his words before the Angelus.  He then expressed his hope for continued progress among believers on the occasion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

In describing the Church in its unity as a body under the "head" of Christ, Pope Benedict explained that the Apostle Paul aimed to "communicate the idea of unity in the multiplicity of the charisms, which are the gifts of the Holy Spirit."

"Thanks to these the Church presents itself as a rich and vital organism, not uniform, fruit of the only Spirit that guides all to a profound unity, assuming diversity without abolishing it and realizing a harmonious whole."

The Pope mentioned that he wished to emphasize the role of the Church in maintaining the "presence of the risen Lord" during the current Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  He said, "It's really in Christ and the Spirit that the Church is one and holy, it is an intimate communion that transcends human capacity and sustains it."

"We will invoke from God the gift of the full unity of all disciples of Christ and, in particular, according to the theme of this year, we will renew the commitment to being joint witnesses to the crucified and risen Lord.

Benedict XVI reiterated the sentiment that he has expressed so often, that "The communion of Christians... makes the announcement of the Gospel more credible and effective, as affirms Jesus himself praying to the Father on the eve of his death, 'that they may all be one... that the world may believe’."

The Holy Father finished the address with a prayer for the intercession of Mary to achieve continued progress in the communion of Christians in order to "transmit the beauty of being one in the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will conclude Monday, January 25, coinciding with the feast of the conversion of St. Paul.  The Pope and members of the various other Churches ecclesial communities in Rome will join together for Vespers in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-walls.

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Holy Father praises model provided by newly beatified Spaniard

Vatican City, Jan 24, 2010 (CNA) - After the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI brought attention to the recently beatified Blessed Jose Samso i Elias.  On Saturday, the martyred Spanish priest became the first person ever to be beatified in the Archdiocese of Barcelona.

He was "a true witness of Christ, (who) died forgiving his persecutors," said the Pope of the man.  "For priests, especially for parish priests, he constitutes a model of dedication to catechesis and charity to the poor."

According to the archdiocese, the priest, known by the Archbishop of Barcelona in the 1920's as "the premier catechist in the diocese," was famous also for his charity and very active and successful in pursuing new vocations as a spiritual director.

He was killed by a firing squad in the cemetery of Mataró, Spain for being a priest.  Before he was shot, he attempted to embrace his executioners and forgave them for actions "as Christ forgave those who nailed him to the cross."

The ceremony on Saturday was presided by Archbishop of Barcelona, Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach, who was accompanied by the prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Archbishop Angelo Amato, nearly two dozen bishops and the papal nuncio to Spain.

During the celebration, Cardinal Martinez Sistach expressed his wish that the influence of the martyred priest extend to contemporary Spain, saying that with his "exemplary priestly life and with his witness of forgiveness and reconciliation of his death he offers a very positive and very necessary contribution so that our society may advance for paths of forgiveness and reconciliation and achieve a present and a future based the authentic values of spirituality, fraternity, justice and peace."

In the language-specific greetings at the end of the Angelus on Sunday, the Holy Father also recognized Blessed Fr. Samso i Elias in Spanish for his charity and apostolic zeal.  He then added in Catalan, "May the newly Beatified Josep Samso i Elias bless you and protect you!”

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Benedict XVI remembers life of St. Francis de Sales

Vatican City, Jan 24, 2010 (CNA) - Speaking before today’s Angelus, Pope Benedict recalled the life of St. Francis de Sales.  "He dedicated himself with great yield to preaching and spiritual formation of the faithful, teaching that the call to sainthood is for all people and everyone has a place in the Church.”

Due to St. Francis de Sales' evangelization, it is estimated that 72,000 people were converted to the Catholic faith in his native France.  He was known for his gentleness and humility, penchant for preaching and great dedication to the Church.

On Saturday, in light of the celebration of the saint's feast day, the Pope released his Message for the World Day for Social Communications in which he emphasized the need for today's clergy to make use of modern technology and especially to be a presence for truth and wisdom online.  The Pontiff remarked that it "will not only enliven their pastoral outreach, but also will give a 'soul' to the fabric of communications that makes up the 'Web.' "

On Sunday, the Church celebrates the feast day of this priest who is the patron of journalists and Catholic press.

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