Worcester, Mass., Mar 28, 2010 (CNA) - The 10th Annual Worcester Diocesan Catholic Men’s Conference produced the event’s first sell-out, drawing close to 1,300 people, including walk-ins and vendors, one conference organizer, Terry Wehner, said. People flocked to the DCU Center Saturday to hear a diverse array of speakers and share the faith with each other.
“I think men are hungry,” said conference co-chairman Msgr. Thomas J. Sullivan, diocesan chancellor. “Men have a spiritual need to develop a closer relationship with God that they don’t always get that in their everyday life. They really feel fed today and affirmed in this need. They feel energized to know other men who have the same desire for holiness.”
Highlights included talks by Australian lay minister Matthew Kelly, former police officer and current evangelist Jesse Romero, Msgr. Stuart Swetland of Mount St. Mary’s University of Maryland; Jesuit priest, author, and EWTN host Father Mitch Pacwa, and American G.K. Chesterton Society President Dale Ahlquist. In addition, local Bishop Robert McManus celebrated a closing Mass, priests from throughout the diocese heard confessions, and nearly two dozen organizations handed out brochures and sold wares to the crowd.
Bishop McManus preached about repenting and forgiving others, using the day’s Gospel, in which Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, but told her to sin no more.
Matthew Kelly, a best-selling author and business consultant, struck a theme in the opening talk with his challenge to the crowd to use the faith to become “a better version of yourself.” Many in the audience seemed to take the advice to heart.
“That’s sort of been the theme for me – each year trying to take one more step,” said Richard Dewey, 55, a building contractor from Fitchburg, who attended his second conference with his son-in-law, Dan Pitre. “You don’t try to boil the ocean. Just take one more step. Go to confession one more time. Do one more thing,” Mr. Dewey said.
Pietro Curini, a 26-year-old network administrator from Millbury, said he attended his fourth conference in an effort to “be more reflective in my faith.”
“It’s not easy to do in society, but it’s encouraging seeing people do it here, in front of others who are more accepting,” he said.
Ronald LaReau was attending his first conference. Asked why he attended, he laughed and admitted that he came at the behest of his wife.
“I didn’t come in with a lot of expectations,” the 67-year-old business consultant from Leicester said. “As I walk around and talk to people, I see a lot of Knights of Columbus people here, which is nice. But mostly, as a Catholic ‘gentleman,’ as I like to say, I like to hear how other men are relating to the Catholic faith. It is very impressive.”
Others sought comfort in the Catholic community and the uplifting message.
“My life is so much more improved as a Catholic man being at this conference,” said James Sandidi, 52, an electronics engineer working in Boxboro. “Being with men who come here with one common goal – to love Jesus – is a wonderful experience. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to this the whole year. It’s just the high point of the year – people with like needs and like beliefs, all focused on one goal: the Catholic faith.”
“It’s unfortunate it’s just once a year,” added Mike Blaney, also 52, from Westboro. “It’s very helpful and very appropriate. It helps you reflect on yourself. The fact that a number of the speakers are lay people … I find it very beneficial to see folks like myself who have so much faith.”
The speaking program included three EWTN-TV hosts from a variety of backgrounds.
Msgr. Swetland, who hosts a TV program aimed at college students, spoke about the importance of confession. To become holy, he said, we need to “be totally transparent,” to confess our sins and faults and “allow God to find us.”
“That begins in the sacrament of confession,” he said. “Standing before God being totally transparent, not holding anything back, admitting ‘Here I am with all my faults.’ What we discover is just how much God loves us.”
While in Worcester last weekend, Father Pacwa, a Scripture scholar, made a special presentation at St. John’s Parish in the city. At the men’s conference he discussed St. Paul’s Theology of the Cross.
Discussing St. Paul’s writings about the “centrality” of the cross to the Catholic faith, Father Pacwa noted how people of other faiths – Mormons, Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses – do not believe in the crucifixion. This, he said, “distorts Christ” and “distorts heaven.”
“When they distort Christ, they no longer look forward to a heaven where they will be with God and see the Lord face to face,” Father Pacwa said. “All three of them look for a heaven basically just as ‘what I experience – that the good times I experience on earth will continue forever.’”
Father Pacwa also said if we see Christ as being “accursed” – by his death on the Cross – we also could see taking the Body and Blood as an opportunity to “inoculate” ourselves from sin the way people did from a disease like polio.
“We should think about Christ in the same way,” Father Pacwa said. “Not only does he become accused by hanging on the tree; by dying on the tree he becomes a dead curse, and if we have faith in his death to redeem us from the curse of the law, this faith inoculates us from the life of sin – sin that controls our lives.”
Mr. Ahlquist talked about G..K. Chesterton’s view of what’s wrong with the world – big government, big business, feminism and public education, which undermine the family. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the famed writer’s book “What’s Wrong with the World?”
Chesterton favored small, family-owned businesses and local government, Mr. Ahlquist said; otherwise no one is accountable and everyone becomes dependent on the system.
Unlike men, women can be mothers, the most important role in society, Mr. Ahlquist said, to applause. Women have strength on the spot, called industry, and men have strength in reserve, called laziness, so women are in charge of the household, the most important place, he said. Men learn one skill and go out to use it to provide for their families. When women leave the home, big government is happy because it can replace the family, and big business is happy because it can get cheap labor, he said.
Chesterton called education truth in the state of transmission, and said children should be taught the oldest ideas, Mr. Ahlquist said. He said most people are educated wrongly. Specialists, not well-rounded individuals, are created. The only ones who seem to have nothing to do with children’s education is the parents. He asked how it can be more important to teach a child to avoid a disease than to teach him to value life.
“You are the problem,” Mr. Ahlquist told listeners. “You are also the solution.” He urged them to start small businesses, get involved in local government and home-school their children, send them to good Catholic schools or get the public schools to read Chesterton.
“If we want women to start acting like women, men have to start acting like men,” he said, and spoke of chivalry and devotion to Mary.
Chesterton was a prophet and there’s a good case to be made he’s a saint, Mr. Ahlquist said.
Printed with permission from The Catholic Free Press, newspaper from the Diocese of Worcester, Mass.
CNA STAFF, Mar 28, 2010 (CNA) -
Thursday, April 1, is the feast of a little-known saint whose story demonstrates the power of the Church as the home of forgiveness, redemption and mercy. St. Mary of Egypt was a prostitute for 17 years before she received the Eucharist and chose the life of a hermit.
Born in 344 A.D., Mary of Egypt moved to the city of Alexandria when she was 12 years old and worked as a prostitute for 17 years. With the intention of continuing her trade, she joined a large group that was making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
On the feast day itself, she joined the crowd as it was headed to the church in order to venerate the relic of the True Cross, again with the intention of luring others into sin. When she got to the door of the church, she was unable to enter. A miraculous force propelled her away from the door each time she approached. After trying to get in three or four times, Mary of Egypt moved to a corner of the churchyard and began to cry tears of remorse.
Then she saw a statue of the Blessed Virgin. She prayed to the Holy Mother for permission to enter the church for the purposes of venerating the relic. She promised the Virgin Mother that if she were allowed to enter the church, she would renounce the world and its ways.
Mary of Egypt entered the church, venerated the relic and returned to the statue outside to pray for guidance. She heard a voice telling her to cross the Jordan River and find rest. She set out and in the evening, she arrived at the Jordan and received communion in a church dedicated to St. John the Baptist.
The next day, she crossed the river and went into the desert, where she lived alone for 47 years. Then, while making his Lenten retreat, a priest named Zosimus found the hermitess. She asked him to return to the banks of the Jordan on Holy Thursday of the following year and to bring her Communion. The priest was true to his word and returned bearing the Eucharist. Mary told him to come back again the next year, but to the place where he had originally met her.
When Zosimus returned in a year’s time, he found Mary’s corpse. On the ground beside it was a written request that she be buried accompanied by a statement that she had died one year ago, in 421 A.D., on the very night she had received Holy Communion.
Vatican City, Mar 28, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Benedict XVI has approved the cause for the canonization of a Spanish religious sister and cleared the way for the beatification of eight other individuals. Among others advancing on the road to declared sainthood is Servant of God Henrietta Delille of New Orleans, who was declared to have lived a life of "heroic virtue."
Sixteen new decrees regarding cases of possible saints were approved in the Vatican in a meeting between the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Archbishop Angelo Amato, and Pope Benedict on Saturday morning.
A miracle was approved for the cause Spanish sister Boniface Rodriguez Castro, foundress of the Congregration of the Missionary Servants of St. Joseph. According to Vatican Radio, she showed exemplary humility in her life, continuing to live with dignity and faith even after being sent away from the order she founded in support of working women, bearing the contempt of her fellow sisters and living a life of silence.
She was exonerated and recognized for her holiness only after her death in 1905.
Among the eight candidates now authorized for beatification are three 20th century martyrs: German diocesan priest, Fr. Gerhard Hirschfelder, who died in the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau in 1942; Slovenian Luigi Grozde, lay member of the Catholic Action group who was killed "out of hate for the Faith" in 1943; and Bishop Szilard Bogdanffy of Romania who died in jail in 1953.
The single American to be recognized in this most recent round of decrees is Mother Henrietta Delille, foundress of the Louisiana-based Congregation of Sisters of the Holy Family. A free woman of African descent, Venerable Henrietta Delille started the African American congregation in 1842 with the goal of educating the children of slaves and caring for the sick, poor and elderly.
The order carries on the original mission of the foundress today, providing education to youth in more than 20 institutions in the United States and offering care and shelter for the elderly.
According to the order's website, the Sisters of the Holy Family also have a presence internationally in Nigeria and Belize.
Dates for the canonization and beatifications have not been released but will be announced by the Vatican as they are scheduled.
Vatican City, Mar 28, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - "Being Christian is a path, or better: a pilgrimage, a walk together with Jesus Christ," underlined the Holy Father at Palm Sunday Mass on an extraordinary spring morning in Rome. He said it is in this communion on the path towards Jerusalem that we find our way to the "new City of God."
Tens of thousands of people were in St. Peter's Square to have their palms and olive branches blessed and to join in the celebration of the Mass, marking not only the start of Holy Week but also the 25th World Youth Day.
During his homily, the Holy Father emphasized that being Christian means “considering the way of Jesus Christ as the just way for being men - as that way that leads to the goal, to a fully realized and true humanity."
As Jesus walked up to Jerusalem, so we too walk up towards Heaven, "the new City of God," said the Holy Father. It is Jesus who leads us towards the heavens, towards “what is great, pure, he leads us towards the healthy air of the heights: towards the life according to the truth; towards courage that does not let itself be intimidated by the chattering of the dominant opinions; towards the patience that supports and sustains others."
He leads us to assist the abandoned and suffering, to be faithful and to kindness that is unfailing even when met with ingratitude, said the Pope. "He leads us towards love... towards God."
We walk and we are also carried, added the Pope. Jesus “pulls and sustains us" when we accept that we cannot do it alone. "The humility of 'being with' is essential for the ascent."
Benedict XVI said that another part of the "ascent" is the Cross. As "great results cannot be achieved without renunciation and hard exercise... [likewise] the way towards life, towards the realization of our humanity is tied to the communion with Him who went up to the height of God by way of the Cross."
The Cross, he explained, is “the expression of what love means: only he who loses himself, finds himself."
Summarizing, Pope Benedict XVI said that the story of Christ asks us to "reawaken" to the longing for God and for being truly men, so that we enter into communion with the Church and Jesus Christ to reach the path to Heaven and live the Word of God in faith, hope and love.
"In this way," said the pontiff, "we are on the path towards the definitive Jerusalem and already from then on, in a way, we find ourselves there, in communion with all the Saints of God."
Vatican City, Mar 28, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Holy Father welcomed the 25th World Youth Day in his remarks before the Angelus in a St. Peter's Square full of flags and banners from all over the world.
From behind the altar at the entrance of the Vatican basilica where he had just celebrated Palm Sunday Mass, the Pope recalled the first World Youth Day, and John Paul II's call for youth to be witnesses to the truth for their generation.
Noting the origins of World Youth Day (WYD) within the United Nation's "International Year of Youth" in 1985, Benedict XVI remembered the invitation from Pope John Paul II during the inaugural celebration for young people to “profess their faith in Christ who 'has taken the cause of man upon himself.'"
Pope Benedict said, "Today, I renew this call to the new generation, to give testimony with the meek and luminous strength of the truth, so that the men and the women of the third millennium don't lack the most authentic model: Jesus Christ."
The Holy Father hosted a celebration for WYD 2010 in the square on Thursday evening at which more than 70,000 young people were in attendance.
Vatican City, Mar 28, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Expressing his sorrow for the current situation in the Holy Land, Pope Benedict XVI hoped and prayed for peace in the region on Palm Sunday. He provided words of encouragement for Christians in the area and reflected on the nature of the pilgrim as a "messenger of peace."
In his Italian-language greeting after the Angelus, the Pope drew attention to Jerusalem, Jesus' destination in Sunday's Liturgy. He said he is "profoundly pained" by the recent conflicts and tensions in the city, which he called "the spiritual homeland of Christians, Jews and Muslims."
This city is the "prophecy and promise of that universal reconciliation that God desires for the entire human family," noted the Pope.
"Peace," he continued, "is a gift that God entrusts to human responsibility, so that it is cultivated through dialogue and respect for the rights of all, reconciliation and forgiveness.
"We pray, then, so that those responsible for the fate of Jerusalem undertake courageously the way of peace and follow it with perseverance!"
In his Palm Sunday homily just minutes earlier, reflecting on his Apostolic Journey to the Holy Land last year, Benedict XVI made observations regarding the significance of a Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
In addition to seeking to understand the actual places the Son of God lived, a pilgrim makes the trip to be a "messenger of peace" and with his prayer he invites "everyone to do... everything possible so that it becomes a true place of peace."
The pilgrimage also provides "encouragement for Christians to remain in the country of their origins and to work intensely in it for peace."
Christians, a minority in Jerusalem, have been fleeing the city in recent years due to persecution and the continued Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.
During the post-Angelus greetings, the Holy Father also expressed his support for the United Nations' World Autism Awareness Day to be observed on April 2.