Archive of June 20, 2010

Indiana student commits names of popes to memory

Granger, Ind., Jun 20, 2010 (CNA) -

Eleven-year-old John Paul Fitzmaurice has completed a project so difficult that few lay men and women even attempt it.

The Granger boy has committed the names of all 265 popes to memory. From St. Peter to Benedict XVI he can recite them, in order of their ascension to the apostolate of Peter. They roll off his tongue so quickly that it’s hard to keep up with him on a “Popes Throughout History” wall chart. Just 20 seconds into an impromptu recitation, he’s already down to Pope No. 31, St. Eusebius.

The Fitzmaurice family attends Queen of Peace Parish in Mishawaka, where John Paul and his brother, 8-year-old Gregory Benedict, are altar servers at daily Mass.

Father Dan Scheidt has been the pastor at Queen of Peace since 2007. It was his arrival at the parish that precipitated John Paul’s memorization project.

“My cousin told me that Father Scheidt set this challenge when he was at Marian. His challenge was to memorize all the popes, but no one ever did it. I thought, ‘I want to try that,’” he said.

Mom Rebecca home schools John Paul and his younger brother Gregory in both religious education and regular academics. At first, she and John Paul’s father, Mike, thought he was too young to take on such a large project. But in 2009 they agreed and added the project to his daily lessons.

He began in March by memorizing 10 popes a week. Quickly realizing the size of the task, Rebecca and John Paul decided to use a memorization system laid out by Kevin Vost in his book, “Memorizing the Faith.”

First drawing maps of rooms in their home, neighborhood and church, they added symbols that would cue John Paul to the name of a pope. For example, any pope numbered “the eighth” wears sunglasses on the drawing, because sunglasses look like a sideways eight. Then the drawings and cues were committed to memory at the rate of 10 popes every two weeks.

His best time for repeating the list is down to a mere six minutes. Although he’s discovered that it’s not quite as rare an accomplishment as he first thought, he’s still proud that he’s in select company.

“I thought before I’d be maybe one of 10 people who could do it. Then I learned that all priests have to do it. So now maybe I’m one of hundreds,” John Paul said.

The project fit in well with the Fitzmaurice family’s deep and traditional Catholic religious practices. In addition to daily Mass, both boys practice daily prayers both in English and Latin and have memorized other precepts of the faith, such as the corporal works of mercy and the Marian dogmas.

“Kids this age just soak it in so much I think this is the time when they can do something like this the best,” Rebecca said.

Last month, John Paul gave his first public popes’ recitation at a Queen of Peace first Communion Mass. He was nervous at the time, John Paul said. But now, he can tell the story of the recitation and laugh.

“Father’s point was how long the Eucharist has been with us, so he listed all of the U.S. presidents — and of course it’s been with us even longer. Everybody thought that was great. I think they clapped. Then Father (Scheidt) says, ‘Oh, you haven’t seen anything yet.” With his back to the audience to steady his nerves, John Paul then ran down all 15 rows of 18 or so pontiffs.

Vost traveled to South Bend to see the young man’s second recitation, for a Catholic home school talent show last month. The family says that he subsequently mentioned John Paul’s accomplishment on the Catholic television network, ETWN.

John Paul wants to give a recitation for Pope Benedict XVI at World Youth Day, but mom won’t let him go before he’s 14, so he’s set his sights on attending the 2014 event.

Printed with permission from Today's Catholic News, official web publication of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

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Andrea Bocelli clarifies that his message is pro-life, not merely anti-abortion

Rome, Italy, Jun 20, 2010 (CNA) - Following the popular video in which he recounts how his mother ignored the advice of doctors to have an abortion, tenor Andrea Bocelli said he does not want his testimony to be considered as merely anti-abortion, but also in support of life.

“Because of my personal convictions as a devout Catholic, I am not only fighting against something, I am fighting for something - and I am for life,” he told the Italian newspaper, Il Foglio.

Bocelli said he wants his video “to help comfort those who are in difficult situations and who sometimes just need to feel that they are not alone. Life is hard, but we need to listen, we need to open our ears” to embrace them.

Bocelli said he has been surprised by the calls he has received following the video.  “I said those things a year and a half ago in a video message for Father Richard Frechette, a missionary who works with children in Haiti and deserves to have a book written just about him. I gave a concert to help him build the Home of the Angels and he asked me to say a few words of hope for mothers in difficult circumstances and I decided to tell the story of my birth.”

“I did so recounting the private experience of my mother without asking her permission, but she didn’t admonish me. I wasn’t ready for all the uproar it has created,” Bocelli said.

 As a young boy, he continued, “I was very hyper and quite naïve.” He said he has loved music ever since he was a boy. “My mother tells me that I would cry whenever I heard a song, even through the wall from another room in the hospital.  I would turn towards the sound and listen with glee.”

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US bishops encourage diocesan relief effort for gulf oil spill victims

Washington D.C., Jun 20, 2010 (CNA) - In response to the recent catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that has ravaged wildlife and decimated seafaring jobs for many in the area, the U.S. bishops have started diocesan wide network relief efforts and encouraged Catholics to respond.

Bishop J. Kevin Boland of Savannah, Georgia, who serves as bishop promoter of the Apostleship of the Sea – which provides spiritual assistance for seafarers – urged Catholics to participate in the efforts already underway by the Church to address the disaster.

The prelate announced that the Apostleship of the Sea is setting up a network of diocesan relief efforts along the Gulf Coast and recommended Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese and New Orleans as a starting place for the faithful to get involved.
“It is God’s creation,” Bishop Boland said, speaking of the environment. “He has given it to us to take care of it. We must do all that we can, both as individuals and as a Church and as a community to restore to its proper dimensions and its proper beauty what God has given to us.”

Bishop Boland also offered and encouraged prayers for the victims of the oil rig explosion and their families and for all individuals whose livelihoods have been threatened by the spill. He also urged Catholic to pray for the success of relief and clean up efforts.

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Universal Church to honor life and witness of St. Thomas More

CNA STAFF, Jun 20, 2010 (CNA) - This Tuesday marks the feast day of St. Thomas More – husband, father, lawyer, politician and the first  layman to serve as Lord Chancellor of England. St. Thomas is best known for being a devout and faithful Catholic whose staunch defense of the rights of conscience and unshakeable fidelity to the Church’s teachings - most notably the indissolubility of marriage and the supremacy of the pope – cost him his life.

Thomas More was born in London in 1478. As a young man, he was quick to show his brilliant mind, quick wit and dedication to the service of truth. His intellectual passion took him to Oxford and London to study law and letters, where he excelled and was well noted for his eloquence and moral integrity. Less well known was the rigorous asceticism which he practiced all his life, and his detachment from success and wealth.

During his youth, he considered entering a religious order, either the Carthusians or the Franciscans, but with the help of his confessor, he finally discerned that his calling was to the married life.

In 1505, Thomas married Jane Colt. They had four children, whom they raised with great care.  Jane died in 1511, and Thomas later married widow Alice Middleton.

Thomas had been active in political life since his 1504 election to parliament. With a glowing reputation for learning and integrity, he quickly advanced, becoming Lord Chancellor in 1529.

It was in his post as chancellor that he was to encounter the great trial of his life, in which he was faced with the choice between his conscience or his security.

King Henry VIII wished to be rid of his wife, Catherine of Aragon, because she could not bear him an heir, but the Pope would not annul the marriage. Therefore, in 1532, parliament passed the Act of Supremacy, which recognized the king as the head of the Church of England.

Thomas resigned that same year. Not willing to betray his conscience and the Church, he refused to sign the Act. He was forced into a life of poverty and abandonment by many of his old friends. However, not wishing to provoke his own martyrdom, he maintained total silence over the question of supremacy.

To the public, this silence was seen as an eloquent denunciation of Henry's actions. So in 1534, the king had Thomas imprisoned in the Tower of London in an effort to coerce him to take the oath. Thomas did not waver and was subsequently tried for high treason.

When the court condemned him on false evidence, he finally broke his silence, affirming his belief in the indissolubility of marriage, the supremacy of the pope, and the inviolable freedom of the Church in her relation with the state.

Thomas was beheaded on July 6, 1535, with his now famous last words expressing his devotion to both his country and his faith: “I have been ever the king’s good and loyal servant, but God’s first.”

He was canonized in 1935 by Pope Pius XI and named “The Martyr of the Papacy.”

Pope John Paul II declared St. Thomas More patron of statesmen and politicians on October 31, 2000, noting “the witness which he bore, even at the price of his life, to the primacy of truth over power.”

The Holy Father pointed to holiness as the key to the saint’s life and martyrdom:

“His profound detachment from honors and wealth, his serene and joyful humility, his balanced knowledge of human nature and of the vanity of success, his certainty of judgment rooted in faith: these all gave him that confident inner strength that sustained him in adversity and in the face of death. His sanctity shone forth in his martyrdom, but it had been prepared by an entire life of work devoted to God and neighbor.”

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Marquette controversy reveals conflict between status and Catholic identity, writer says

New York City, N.Y., Jun 20, 2010 (CNA) - The controversy over Marquette University’s offer and subsequent withdrawal of a deanship to a homosexual university professor helps show the present conflict in Catholic academia between status and Catholic identity, one writer on Catholic higher education says.

In a Friday essay in the Wall Street Journal, Anne Hendershott, a professor at The King’s College in New York, discussed the case of Jodi O’Brien, the Seattle University professor who was initially offered the deanship of Marquette’s College of Arts and Sciences.

According to Hendershott, the deanship was withdrawn not because O’Brien is homosexual but because she showed a “minimal” publication record.

Hendershott, author of the book “Status Envy” on the politics of Catholic higher education, said that although O’Brien’s supporters maintain that she is “the victim of homophobia,” critics of the job offer cited not her sexual orientation but rather her writings which disparage Catholic teachings on marriage, sexuality and the family.

While each of the other two final candidates had received funding for many major research grants or had published an award-winning history book, O’Brien published articles such as “How Big is your God? Queer Christian Social Movements” and a piece on “gender switching” which described online homoerotic behavior.

After Marquette withdrew the offer to O’Brien, the university said the offer was made “prematurely” and the appointment process “should have had more careful scrutiny.” However, the school reached a settlement with O’Brien.

In reaction to the university’s decision to withdraw the offer, About 100 Marquette faculty members out of a total of more than 1,100 took out a full-page ad in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel demanding that O’Brien be appointed dean.

According to Hendershott, the publication Inside Higher Ed published an article asking whether homosexuals face “a stained glass ceiling” at Catholic colleges. The essay quoted homosexual Seton Hall University political science professor W. King Mott, who claimed “There is no way the current hierarchy will allow a gay person to hold a position of authority… unless they are closeted and self-loathing.”

Hendershott pointed out that Prof. Mott is “hardly a marginalized man,” being a tenured full-professor and former chair of Seton Hall’s faculty senate. Prof. Mott also serves on the search committee for Seton Hall’s next president.

“There are openly gay men and women in leadership positions at a number of Catholic universities and colleges,” she reported.

She also said that Marquette has “a long history of respect for academic freedom.” As evidence, she noted that tenured philosophy professor Daniel Maguire has defended abortion as “a sacred choice” and has suggested that sometimes “ending incipient life is the best that life offers.”

For Hendershott, the O’Brien case showed the “upside-down world” of Catholic academia. She remarked that some observers see faculty members with views dissenting from Catholic doctrine as “a kind of fashion statement.”

“There is more status in hiring a sexuality scholar who denigrates Catholic teachings on sexuality and marriage than in choosing a serious scholar who might actually support Catholic teachings,” she charged.

She quoted Marquette University professor John McAdams, who claimed O’Brien’s appointment was “pushed by some faculty and administrators as adding the right kind of diversity to the school.”

Meanwhile, Marquette emeritus professor Christopher Wolfe has lamented that the school has moved “quietly but consistently away from its distinctively Catholic roots.”

Hendershott closed her Wall Street Journal essay by saying that unless Marquette addresses the question of whether candidates for senior leadership need to respect the identity of Catholic higher education, hiring decisions like O’Brien’s will continue to be contested.

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Priests are a sign of God's love for all mankind, Pope Benedict declares

Vatican City, Jun 20, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - After celebrating the Mass of ordination for 14 deacons of the diocese of Rome in St. Peter’s Basilica this morning, Pope Benedict prayed the Sunday Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Before the prayer, he explained that priests are a sign of God’s love for all mankind.

“The Sacrament of Holy Orders manifests, on the part of God, his caring closeness to man, and on the part of him who receives the sacrament, the full availability to change oneself into an instrument of that closeness, with a radical love for Christ and his Church,” said Pope Benedict.

Reflecting on today’s Gospel reading, the Holy Father referred to the affirmation of Peter in which he says that Jesus is the Christ, the chosen one of God. He noted that, with this response, “all earthly opinions that consider Jesus to be one of the prophets are overcome.”

“According to St. Ambrose,” he continued, “with this profession of faith, Peter ‘has embraced the totality of all things, because he has expressed the nature and the name’ of the Messiah. And Jesus, in front of Peter’s profession of faith, renews his invitation to Peter and the other disciples to follow him on the hard path of love which leads to the cross.”

The Holy Father also cited St. Maximus the Confessor, who said, “The distinctive sign of the power of Christ is the cross. To take up the cross means committing oneself to conquer those sins which are obstacles in the journey towards God. It means to welcome God’s will for one’s life on a daily basis, and to increase in faith when faced by life’s problems, difficulties and suffering.”

Pope Benedict concluded his remarks by commending the newly ordained priests to the protection of the Virgin Mary. “May they always be faithful disciples, valiant in the proclamation of the word of God, and administrators of his gifts of salvation.”

Following his remarks, the Benedict XVI prayed the Angelus, greeted the gathered pilgrims in various languages and imparted his apostolic blessing.

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, he noted that in today’s Gospel Jesus calls us “to carry our cross in union with him.”

“May we always give ourselves to him and thus discover anew the joy that he promises to those who follow him,” he commented. “Upon you and your loved ones at home, I invoke the blessings of Almighty God.”

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