CNA STAFF, May 2, 2010 (CNA) - Wednesday, May 5, is the feast of Blessed Edmund Rice, an Irish businessman who was so moved by the plight of children in the port city where he worked that he founded schools and eventually a religious order to serve them.
Edmund was born in 1762 in Callan, Ireland. As a young man, he moved to Waterford and began to work for his uncle in the shipping business. He became quite wealthy, and when his uncle died, he took over the company.
When his wife passed away and his daughter grew up, Edmund began to contemplate his next direction in life. He thought about leaving everything behind and joining a monastery. One day, as he was talking about his vocation and his future with a friend, a ragged group of poor boys walked by on the street. Inspired by the sight, his friend exclaimed: "What! Would you bury yourself in a cell on the continent rather than devote your wealth and your life to the spiritual and material interest of these poor youths?"
Edmund took the conversation as a sign from God. He took on the mission of devoting his life to improving the lives of poor children through education. He founded his first school in Waterford, Ireland in 1802 with the intention of helping poor boys “become good Catholics and good citizens.”
Selling his business, he immersed himself fully in the mission, and in 1808, he founded the Presentations Brothers, and order of men dedicated to education and the first order of men to be founded in Ireland. The rule of the community was approved in 1821 by the Pope and the name was changed to the Christian Brothers. By 1825, Edmund and his 30 Christian Brothers were providing free education, as well as clothing and feeding about 5,500 boys in 12 different towns.
Edmund served as the superior general of the community from its inception until 1838, when he retired at the age of 76. He died in 1844, and was beatified in 1996 by Pope John Paul II, who called him “an outstanding model of a true lay apostle.”
San Francisco, Calif., May 2, 2010 (CNA) - Saturday morning first Communion instruction at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in East Palo Alto, Calif. is too big by far to fit into one room. It takes up the sanctuary, the parish hall, a room off the entrance, the choir loft and a picnic area outdoors. The class, where youngsters complete their two-year catechism preparation to receive first Eucharist either this year or next, is filled to capacity with 500 students but would be larger if the parish had room.
“There’s more out there, people keep coming all through the year,” pastor Father Larry Goode said. “‘When do we register for catechism?’ We’re halfway through the program and they’re still asking the question. People still have it ingrained in them that children should make their first Communion.”
St. Francis of Assisi is a growing parish with a primarily Latino congregation – the 9:30 a.m. Sunday Mass is standing-room only, and the 1:30 Mass isn’t far behind. These are the families who make up the backbone of the Silicon Valley service economy. The congregation consists largely of Mexican immigrants who are highly focused on work, and first Eucharist is a milestone for families nurturing their faith in their adopted country.
“One of my sermons is, jobs can’t take the place of religion,” Father Goode said. “Just think that the center of life was religion down there and all of a sudden it’s work. There’s no comparison. You need religion in order to navigate all the stuff that’s out there.”
Dominating the scene on Saturday, April 24, was Sister Ghisella Ruiz as she administered a catechism lesson on male parental responsibility to parents and godparents filling the front pews. Sister Ruiz is a member of the Misioneras de la Madre de Dios (Missionaries of the Mother of God), an order of women religious whose charism is Bible teaching with an emphasis on Mary. Three members of the order, which is based in Merida in Mexico’s Yucatan, have been working in the St. Francis of Assisi community to offer Bible instruction, a ministry more typically associated with Protestant churches.
In a room off the front entrance, catechism teacher Nicolasa Chacon showed third graders the proper way to place their hands when receiving the host. She also initiated them into the mysteries of the sacred blood.
“It’s not actually blood,” student Corinna Martinez volunteered. “Some kids say that it looks like blood, but it isn’t. My mom had it and she said it tastes like grape juice.”
In the choir loft, David Richter, a Stanford mechanical engineering student who is one of several Stanford students teaching catechism at the parish, worked with seventh graders to prepare them for their first time confessing to a priest. Some of them had the misconception that they would be expected to amplify their sins in order to confess properly.
“They’re definitely not looking forward to it,” Richter said. “The point is to repair your relationship with God, not to get in trouble for something you’ve done.”
Stanford students have been teaching catechism for first Communion candidates at the parish for your years. They were organized by Gaizka Ormazabal, a friend of Father Goode’s, an Opus Dei member and now a doctoral student in business. Father Goode believes these devout young scholars have what it takes to turn around youngsters whose education in public schools “is not leaning favorably toward religion.”
“That’s kind of our pastoral plan – to take the kids who are sort of a challenge and give them to the Stanford students,” he said.
Printed with permission from Catholic San Francisco.
Anchorage, Alaska, May 2, 2010 (CNA) - Towering, yet soft-spoken, Samoan Father Pale Schmidt is gently calling Samoans in Anchorage back to their spiritual homeland — the Catholic Church. Using the native language of the tiny Pacific island, he articulates the universal message of Christ to Samoans torn between two cultures.
At the invitation of Anchorage Archbishop Roger Schwietz and a group of local Catholic Samoans, Father Pale (pronounced paw-lay) Schmidt, 36, of the Diocese of Samoa Pago Pago in American Samoa came March 3 to serve the growing Samoan population in Anchorage.
Until June, Father Schmidt will assist at two Anchorage parishes — St. Anthony and St. Benedict — where many parishioners are of Samoan descent.
Father Schmidt’s mission is to cultivate the faith in local Samoans, especially those with a limited understanding of English.
Without a deep knowledge of the language, some older Samoans living in Alaska “don’t understand the Word of God being preached here,” Viliamu Vili said in an interview with the Catholic Anchor.
Vili is a native of American Samoa and high chief of his father’s village in Western Samoa. He has resided in Alaska since 1977 and is a member of the pastoral council at St. Anthony. With other Catholic Samoans, he helped petition for a Samoan-speaking priest to come to Anchorage.
Sacraments in Samoan
At St. Anthony and St. Benedict, there have been bilingual Masses in which some Scripture readings and hymns are in Samoan, but with English-speaking priests, the Gospel, homily and Canon of the Mass are in English. The same is the case for the sacraments, including confession.
That has changed with the addition of Father Schmidt.
On one evening at St. Benedict during Holy Week, Father Schmidt was in the confessional for almost four hours — three hours longer than the typical parish confession time slot. He said a number of elderly Samoans came that night, and many had been away from the sacrament for years.
He thinks the language barrier is playing a role.
Already, Father Schmidt has begun teaching classes in Samoan to help Samoans prepare for the sacraments of baptism, first communion, confirmation and marriage.
In the baptism class, Father Schmidt has discovered some children as old as 12 who have not yet been baptized. And “a lot of people” are coming for the Wednesday evening marriage preparation class. He said many of the couples have been cohabitating and were never married in the church.
On Sundays, Father Schmidt celebrates Mass. Now, in addition to the bilingual Masses, every second Sunday of the month, there is Mass entirely in Samoan at St. Benedict or St. Anthony.
News has quickly spread by word of mouth that a Samoan priest is in town and saying Mass in Samoan, Father Schmidt noted.
“Whenever they hear of a Samoan Mass, they always come,” he said — including those Catholic Samoans who have drifted away to other denominations.
Vili hopes the presence of a Catholic Samoan priest will remind them that “our church is our second family.”
Indeed, the culture “back home,” Vili explained, is devoutly Catholic.
There, he said, people recognize the priest as the “representative of God in the world,” and so “we strongly respect the priests and deacons.”
As well, the young respect their elders, he added, and “at six o’clock in the evening, everybody’s in the house saying prayers. And nobody runs the streets.”
Working around English
But sometimes the scene is different in Anchorage, explained Vili.
He believes language is the issue. Samoans in English-speaking Alaska who aren’t proficient in English aren’t growing in the faith, he said. Because of that, they have trouble transmitting the faith to their English-speaking children, he added.
So Vili hopes that by using their native language, the Samoan priest will reinvigorate the faith in “our older people that have a lack of understanding in the language, so they can understand when the priest is speaking or giving a sermon.” Then, he said, “they can encourage their kids to go to church and do the right thing, instead of getting in trouble in the street and doing the wrong thing.”
In addition to hearing the homily in Samoan, local Samoans will see familiar bits of their culture at Mass.
The ecclesiastical term is “inculturation” — the transformation of cultural values by integrating them into Christianity. This also includes the implementation of Christianity into different cultures.
This occurs when the particular Catholic Church — especially where the faith is still young and growing — integrates appropriate forms of the local cultural heritage into the liturgy of the universal church, where it is judged useful and necessary.
That could include adding across time certain devout cultural traditions, without distracting or subtracting from the beliefs and practices of the universal church handed down through the uninterrupted Apostolic tradition.
Inculturation is not simply a performance, but it must express true communal prayer of adoration, praise, offering and supplication.
This is delicate work, Pope Benedict XVI recently reminded bishops of Brazil in an address April 15.
“Worship … cannot come from our imagination: that would be a cry in the darkness or mere self-affirmation,” he said. “True liturgy supposes that God responds and shows us how we can adore Him. … The church lives in his presence and its reason for being and existing is to expand His presence in the world.”
Universal and local
“We’re so proud to be Catholics,” said Father Schmidt, “because it’s universal.” In terms of inculturation, he continued, certain local customs of Samoa are “relevant to the Mass.” But “only some of the customs we put in there,” — ones that don’t “change the spirit of the Mass itself,” he explained.
One example is the custom of honoring and welcoming someone with flowers — including Christ on the altar.
“After the consecration, we believe that Jesus himself is present through the bread and the wine,” explained Father Schmidt. That is why just after the consecration, at the Proclamation of Faith, a large, colorful, flower lei is placed at the altar. The lei, Father Schmidt said, points to “the one who signifies the unity of all of us — Christ himself.”
Similarly, before the Scriptures are announced, the Bible is “enthroned” in the sanctuary and surrounded by flowered leis.
“The King of Kings is going to speak to us through the readings. That’s why we enthrone the Bible,” Father Schmidt explained.
These are practices “the Samoan people missed here,” he observed.
But the hope is that Christ, through the sacraments and Father Schmidt’s Samoan voice, will draw them home.
Printed with permission from CatholicAnchor.org
Los Angeles, Calif., May 2, 2010 (CNA) - Responding to the designation of Archbishop Jose Gomez as the next head of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the archdiocese’s paper has explained the role of the bishop in the Catholic Church.
It explains that the local church, called a diocese, is a “community of faithful” with and under the authority of their bishop. This bishop in turn is in union with the Pope and other Catholic bishops throughout the world. This global union of bishops is known as the College of Bishops, The Tidings says.
This is in contrast to other Christian groups which see individual church communities as autonomous and independent, joined in a voluntary association of similar communities. It likewise differs from presbyterial churches governed by a regional council of ordained ministers, or episcopal churches joined in union with a national body of bishops.
The local bishop heading a diocese is known as an “ordinary” and is the successor of the Apostles in his own diocese.
“Although the Ordinary is selected and appointed by the Pope, he is neither the representative nor delegate of the Pope in the governing of his diocese,” The Tidings says. “Rather, through bonds of charity with the Holy Father and with all other Catholic bishops worldwide, he autonomously governs his own diocese in union with theirs and so contributes to the universality of the worldwide Catholic Church.”
The three parts of a bishop’s ministry is to sanctify, teach and govern the people of God in his local church. This parallels Christ’s threefold ministry as priest, prophet and king.
These episcopal duties are mirrored in three points: the altar at which he celebrates the principal liturgies of the diocese; the chair, or cathedra, from which the bishop exercises his office of teaching Catholics; and the crozier, which he carries as shepherd and ruler over the local church.
The Tidings also notes the organization of the Church into dioceses and archdioceses. The United States, for example, is divided into 33 geographic areas called provinces, each of which contains two or more dioceses.
The diocese associated with the principal city or metropolis of the province is termed the archdiocese, while the others are known as suffragan dioceses.
The bishop of an archdiocese is called an archbishop, but the title does not give him real authority over the other dioceses of the province.
According to The Tidings, the Metropolitan Province of Los Angeles is made up by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the dioceses of Fresno, Monterey, Orange, San Bernardino and San Diego.
Los Angeles’ current and two previous archbishops have been made cardinals, a “significant distinction and honor” with additional responsibilities.
Keeping in mind that the principal title and responsibility of the bishop of Los Angeles is “Archbishop,” The Tidings says, “we prepare to welcome the appointment of the next Archbishop of Los Angeles.”
Turin, Italy, May 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Holy Father celebrated Mass Sunday morning in St. Charles Square in Turin. During his homily, he taught about the new commandment of Christ and told how Christ's passion, witnessed in the Shroud of Turin, gives us hope.
Pope Benedict arrived at Turin on Sunday morning for a Pastoral visit to the city. The first event in a day filled with commitments was Mass with 25,000 people in St. Charles Square.
Teaching from the day's Gospel reading, the Holy Father said that Jesus, in proposing the new commandment to love one another as he loved them, gives the disciples a means "to continue his presence in a new way among them."
The Pope pointed out that this remains true: "If we love each other, Jesus continues to be present among us."
What differentiates the call to love from a similar command in the Old Testament, explained the Holy Father, is that Jesus adds, "Just as I have loved you, so also must you love one another."
This new commandment differs from that of the Old Testament because loving "as Jesus has loved" means "a love without limits, universal, able to also transform all of the negative circumstances and all of the obstacles ... to progress in love."
In giving us this new commandment, the Pope added later, "Jesus asks us to live his same love, which is the truly credible, eloquent and effective sign for announcing to the world the coming of the Kingdom of God."
In his extensive homily, the Holy Father called particularly for priests and deacons to know, in the face of the great deal of work, how to draw strength to carry the good news to the people from their "relationship of love with God in prayer."
He also told them to focus their existence on the Gospel, to "cultivate a real dimension of communion and fraternity" with those around them and to provide a witness in their ministry to the "power of love that comes from on high."
To all Christians, Benedict XVI said that in the face of the great variety of difficulties life presents, we can be fortified to live through them by the "certainty that comes from the faith, the certainty that we are not alone, that God loves each of us without distinction and (that) he is close to everyone with his love."
The Christian community, he added, "must be a concrete instrument of this love."
He continued exhorting everyone, especially young people, never to lose the hope that comes “from the Risen Christ, from the victory of God over sin and death."
This, he said, is the message of the Shroud of Turin, in which we see our sufferings “mirrored” in the suffering of Christ.
It's for this reason, he went on, that it is a sign of hope.
Christ took on the cross to put evil in check, said the Holy Father, and in his Easter is “the anticipation of that moment in which, also for us, every tear will be dried and there will no longer be death, mourning, lamenting, or worry.”
Turin, Italy, May 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy Father prayed the Regina Caeli after Mass in Turin's St. Charles Square on Sunday. Saying Mary teaches us to recognize the face of God in Jesus’ human face, Pope Benedict asked for her intercession for workers, those in jail and all believers.
Pope Benedict made a Pastoral Visit to the city that was once the capital of Italy this Sunday, in particular to visit the Shroud of Turin which is on temporary exposition in the Cathedral of Turin. An estimated 50,000 people accompanied him, both in the square and by way of enormous television screens in other parts of the city center, for the celebration of the morning Mass and the Marian prayer that followed.
To Mary, said the Holy Father before the recitation of the Regina Caeli, "I entrust this city and all who live here."
Speaking the day after Italy celebrated the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, he implored that Mary keep watch over families, the "world of work" and those who have lost their faith and hope.
Benedict XVI also asked for her intercession in comforting the sick, those in jail and all who suffer.
"Sustain, oh Help of Christians, young people, the elderly and people in difficulty," he continued, asking also that the Mother of the Church watch over pastors and all believers "so that they may be 'salt and light' in society."
He reflected on the Virgin Mary as "she who more than any other has contemplated God in the human face of Jesus.
"She saw him just after birth, while wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger; she saw him just after death, when after being taken from the cross, they wrapped him in a cloth and took him to the tomb."
“The image of her tormented son was imprinted within her; but this image was then transfigured by the light of the Resurrection,” Pope Benedict said. “In this way, the mystery of the face of Christ, mystery of death and glory, was kept in the heart of Mary.
"From her," he taught, "we can always learn to look at Jesus with love and faith, to recognize in that human face the Face of God."
The Holy Father concluded by thanking all who have worked to prepare for his visit and the special exposition of the Shroud, which he personally called for in 2008. He said he hoped that it would bring about a "profound spiritual renewal."
After the celebration of Mass and the recitation of the Regina Caeli, the Holy Father was scheduled to have lunch with Cardinal Archbishop of Turin, Severino Poletto, and the bishops of Turin at the archbishop's residence.
The pontiff's visit to the Shroud was scheduled to take place later on Sunday afternoon.
Vatican City, May 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Following the apostolic visitors' meeting on Saturday, the Legionaries of Christ expressed gratitude and promised to embrace the provisions of the visitors' statement with “faith and obedience.”
The statement resulted from nearly a year of investigations by the five bishops involved in the apostolic visitation. It was released on May 1 after their findings were officially presented during two days of meetings at the Vatican.
The vistors’ statement highlights the Pope's support for the Legion and provides three observations based on the results of their investigations.
They note the need to “redefine the charism of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, preserving its true core."
Next, they list the need to “review the exercise of authority, which must be joined to the truth, to respect the conscience, and develop itself in the light of the Gospel as authentic ecclesial service."
Lastly, they say it is necessary to "preserve through appropriate formation the enthusiasm of the faith of young members, their missionary zeal and their apostolic dynamism."
In their brief Saturday statement acknowledging the arrival of the message, the Legionaries wrote that they thank the Holy Father and “embrace his provisions with faith and obedience."
"We appreciate the hard work and dedication of the Apostolic Visitors," continues the message, according to an unofficial translation published by the Legion-run National Catholic Register.
"We are grateful for the prayers of so many people of good will who have supported us at this time," the message concludes.