CNA STAFF, Jul 4, 2010 (CNA) - On Friday, July 9, the Church will celebrate the feast of the 120 Martyrs of China. Religious persecution has a long history in China, especially persecution of Christians, thousands of whom have died for their faith in the last millennium.
On October 1, 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized 120 men, women, and children who gave their lives for the faith in China between the years 1648 and 1930. The martyrs include 87 native Chinese and 33 foreign missionaries. The majority were killed during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900.
“Chinese men and women of every age and state, priests, religious and lay people, showed the same conviction and joy, sealing their unfailing fidelity to Christ and the Church with the gift of their lives,” said the Holy Father during the canonization.
“Resplendent in this host of martyrs are also the 33 missionaries who left their land and sought to immerse themselves in the Chinese world, lovingly assimilating its features in the desire to proclaim Christ and to serve those people.”
Of the 33 foreign-born missionaries, most were priests and religious, including members of the Order of Preachers, Friars Minor, Jesuits, Salesians and Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.
One of the more well-known native martyrs was a 14-year-old Chinese girl named Ann Wang, who was killed during the Boxer Rebellion when she refused to apostasize. She bravely withstood the threats of her torturers, and just as she was about to be beheaded, she radiantly declared, “The door of heaven is open to all” and repeated the name of Jesus three times.
Another of the martyrs was 18-year-old Chi Zhuzi, who had been preparing to receive the sacrament of Baptism when he was caught on the road one night and ordered to worship idols. He refused to do so, revealing his belief in Christ. His right arm was cut off and he was tortured, but he would not deny his faith. Rather, he fearlessly pronounced to his captors, before being flayed alive, “Every piece of my flesh, every drop of my blood will tell you that I am Christian.”
Augustine Zhao Rong was the first native Chinese priest to become a martyr. Born in 1746, he was served as one of the soldiers who escorted Bishop John Gabriel Taurin Dufresse to his martyrdom in Beijing. The witness of the bishop led Augustine to seek baptism at age 30. He was ordained a priest five years later and was martyred in 1815.
During the canonization Mass, Pope John Paul II thanked God for blessing the Church with the heroic witness of the 120 martyrs, whom he called “an example of courage and consistency to us all.”
Edinburgh, United Kingdom, Jul 4, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a statement released on July 1, Cardinal Keith O'Brien of Edinburgh launched Scotland's official logo for the Holy Father's upcoming visit to the U.K. and exhorted the local faithful to recognize the trip as a “rare opportunity for us to strengthen our faith and to show it to others.”
The cardinal wrote that he is “very pleased to be able to launch the logo, which the Scottish Bishops will use for the Papal Visit.” The design by Scottish designer Gregory Millar “is both striking and symbolic, it is a fitting emblem for a historic visit,” he said.
Commenting on the Holy Father's slated itinerary in the country, Cardinal O'Brien noted that the “Pope will arrive in Scotland on Thursday, September 16, the Feast of St. Ninian.”
“Ninian was the 4th century Scottish saint who was one of the first to bring the Gospel of Christ to our land,” he recalled. “Following his arrival at Edinburgh airport, that morning, the Pope will be driven to Holyrood Palace where he will be welcomed by Her Majesty the Queen.”
“On leaving the palace,” the prelate continued, “he will be driven in the Popemobile through the center of Edinburgh. Part of his route will include Princes Street, perhaps the most iconic cityscape in Scotland.”
“Here in the hour preceding his motorcade a celebratory pageant will have taken place comprising: Pipe Bands, schools with special emphasis on children attending schools named after St. Ninian and a historic pageant comprising characters dressed as historic figures in our national life.”
“I hope as many people as possible will attend and line the Pope’s route,” Cardinal O'Brien urged.
“Following lunch at my home, the Holy Father will travel to Bellahouston Park in Glasgow to celebrate a public Mass on the same site that his predecessor Pope John Paul II said Mass in 1982.”
“Finally,” the cardinal underscored in his statement, “we should remember that Apostolic visits provide a rare opportunity for us to strengthen our faith and to show it to others.”
“A generation of Scots of all faiths fondly remember and benefited from the last such visit in 1982. As we commemorate the Feast of St. Ninian who sowed the seeds of faith in our country, it is my hope that a new generation will be revitalized and strengthened in bearing witness to the message of the Gospels.”
Davenport, Iowa, Jul 4, 2010 (CNA) - Roger Holck retired as community president with F&M Bank last July. But the member of St. Mary Parish in Grinnell, Iowa is still making use of his financial knowledge — albeit a bit farther from home.
Holck, 63, has traveled twice in the past year to Africa, where he helped farmers set up informal credit unions, get business financing and learn improved farming methods. And he hopes to continue volunteering in the Farmer-to-Farmer program that’s organized through CNFA, a not-for-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., that works to stimulate economic growth around the globe.
His first trip, which began the day after he retired last summer, was a three-week journey to the southeastern African country of Malawi. There he helped the owner of a produce shop improve record-keeping and put together a proposal for a loan to install an irrigation system for his 10-acre garden. Holck said the owner, Bobby Mlongoti, loved growing fruits and vegetables and was thrilled to discover he’d be able to buy the irrigation system. “Bobby was very thankful for my help.”
The Grinnell parishioner’s second trip took him to Uganda in central Africa in March. There, he discovered, “unemployment is about 20 percent and there is no unemployment compensation, no welfare system and no national retirement income. The majority of people are self-employed, so if they can’t work, they can’t eat.”
To help improve residents’ economic situation, he assisted a farmers’ association in establishing informal credit companies. He later discovered that residents also were interested in learning how to improve crop production. The Ugandans were farming as U.S. farmers did in the late 1800s, he observed.
So Holck, who grew up on a farm and has a degree in agricultural business, held meetings to discuss fertilizer and higher-performing seeds. He said residents absorbed the information “like a sponge.” But now they need the resources to buy supplies — such as plows and oxen — that will help them use that knowledge, he added. Over time, the credit companies ideally will generate new wealth.
What many African residents already are rich in, Holck discovered, is faith. In Uganda, attending Easter Mass with about 800 people was “quite a moving experience” thanks to Catholics’ enthusiasm. A two-hour procession to church on Good Friday also was memorable, even though participants weren’t speaking English, he said.
In fact, a penchant for the unfamiliar was partly what motivated Holck to travel abroad. He said he has long been involved in volunteer efforts, and the adventure and challenge of serving in another country appealed to him.
He appreciated the fulfillment of helping people, too. Though he hasn’t communicated with Ugandans since leaving, he’s heard that the irrigation system in Malawi is working, and residents there want him to return. He undoubtedly will volunteer through the Farmer-to-Farmer program again in some country, he said.
Holck made the trips “hoping I could make a difference for an individual or a group of people. I felt both times I was able to do that.”
Printed with permission from The Catholic Messenger, newspaper for the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa.
New York City, N.Y., Jul 4, 2010 (CNA) - As Americans across the country celebrate the nation's Independence Day this weekend, they should humbly remember their dependence on their Creator, said Archbishop Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York.
In a column written this week, he reflected on the celebration of Independence Day and called on the faithful to proclaim a “spiritual Declaration of Dependence” on God that is “downright revolutionary” in American society today.
The archbishop then spoke of the false contemporary understanding of freedom “as the right to do whatever we want, whenever we want, wherever we want, however we want, with whomever we want.” Our culture has lost the true understanding of freedom as “the liberty to do what we ought,” he said.
He observed the modern trend of “freeing” oneself from “any sense of obedience to God, His revelation and the basic code of right and wrong He has engraved upon the human heart.”
This false understanding of freedom has devastating consequences, he continued. “The Ten Commandments become a list of suggestions, the Eight Beatitudes a set of nice ideas, the Bible mere literature, the Church unnecessary, religion a crutch for the unenlightened, objective truth an outmoded oppression.”
By adopting this distorted mindset, we elevate ourselves to the level of gods, the archbishop said. This is evident in today's culture, which claims dominion over life in matters such as abortion, euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research, he explained. Focused on consumption and convenience, the culture presumes to re-define marriage and family as it sees fit, revels in violence in its movies and music and resorts to war and terrorism without regard to the demands of morality.
This phenomenon is “curious,”Archbishop Dolan said, because the very culture declaring itself independent of God and morality has become “terribly dependent” on “money, insurance, gas, weapons, security systems or even upon alcohol, pornography, lust, gambling and drugs.”
The archbishop contrasted this false sense of freedom with the true independence that the founders of America fought so adamantly to gain.
“The patriots who won independence for us in 1776 had no trouble at all acknowledging their total dependence upon God,” he said. “In fact, the normative documents of our beloved country presume the existence of a providential God, objective truth, moral duty and the right to life itself.”
This acknowledgment of total dependence on God is something we must preserve, he said. We must boldly admit to the world “that every breath we take, each day we have, every opportunity we are given, come from an omnipotent God.”
Offering a courageous witness to a hostile culture, we should “bask in the fact that we are totally dependent upon Him,” the archbishop said. “He is sovereign, He is Lord, He has power and dominion.”
Emphasizing Christ's teaching that “the Truth shall make you free,” Archbishop Dolan invited the faithful to take seriously the words they pray at every Sunday Mass: “We believe in God, the Father Almighty...” Recalling a comment from Cardinal Francis George, he explained that this opening line of the creed is “perhaps the most revolutionary statement we can make these days.”
L'Aquila, Italy, Jul 4, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy Father dedicated his Sunday homily to reflections on the life of St. Celestine as he visited the Italian city where the relics of the 13th century saint and Pope are kept. In a message filled with lessons on life, the Pope especially highlighted the importance of silence to finding God, the fact that faith is a gift and the lasting power of holiness.
Pope Benedict XVI began his pastoral visit to Sulmona, Italy by flying over the grotto, now a hermitage, where Peter of Morrone spent years in contemplation and prayer as a monk. Peter later became Pope Celestine V and was canonized relatively shortly after his death. St. Celestine's life is being celebrated this year, declared by the Pope a "Jubilee Year" for the 800th anniversary since the saint's birth.
In his words during the Eucharistic Celebration in the open air of the city square, Pope Benedict XVI remembered the St. Celestine as a "seeker of God," a man who turned to interior and exterior silence in his life as a hermit to perceive His voice.
This example is important also for us today, said the Pope, as "we live in a society in which every space, every moment seems like it must be filled by initiatives, by activities, by sounds; often there isn't even time for listening and speaking.
"Dear brothers and sisters," he said, "if we wish to be able not only to perceive the voice of God, but also that of who is alongside of us, of others, let us not be afraid to create silence outside and inside of ourselves."
Benedict XVI added that the hermit's "discovery of the Lord" was not a product of his own efforts, "but it was made possible by the very Grace of God, that precedes it (...) everything essential in our existence has been given without our contribution."
And it is for this very reason, he explained, that "we must be aware, keeping our 'interior eyes,' those of our hearts, always open. And if we learn to know God in his infinite goodness, then we will be able also to see, with amazement, in our lives - as the saints (have) - signs of the God that is ever near to us, is always good to us, (and) who says to us: 'Have faith in me!'"
Remembering the lasting quality of St. Celestine's holy life, Pope Benedict said that "holiness, in fact, never loses its attractive force, it does not fall into oblivion, it never goes out of style, actually, with the passing of time, it shines with ever greater brightness..."
The Holy Father concluded his homily by making an exhortation that we remain firm in the faith we have received, "which gives sense to life and gives us the strength to love."
L'Aquila, Italy, Jul 4, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Before leading the Angelus prayer from the Italian city of Sulmona he visited on Sunday, the Holy Father proposed Mary as "the perfect model of obedience to the divine will." He hoped also for increased appreciation of the simple life, as St. Celestine lived it, and the subsequent freedom of heart and mind that opens us up to sharing.
During the visit for the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the birth of St. Celestine, the Holy Father led thousands of faithful in the recitation of the Marian prayer after Mass in the town square.
He prayed that the people of God would be able to "walk joyously and united on the path of faith, hope and love" and that, "faithful to the inheritance of St. Celestine, we may always know how to put evangelical radicality and mercy together, so that all who seek God may find him."
St. Celestine was a13th century hermit that became Pope Celestine V. His remains are now housed in the crypt of Sulmona's Cathedral of San Panfilo, where Benedict XVI will pay a visit Sunday afternoon to host an encounter with area youth.
Turning to Mary, "Virgin of silence and of listening," Benedict XVI said that, in her, St. Celestine "found the perfect model of obedience to the divine will," as he lived a simple and humble life, seeking the "truly essential" and thanking the Lord always as he recognized "in everything the gift of His goodness."
Turning to the present, the Pope said "also we, who live in an age of greater comforts and possibilities, are called to appreciate a sober lifestyle, to keep our hearts and minds freer and to be able to share our possessions with our brothers."
He prayed that "Holy Mary, who encouraged the first community of disciples of Jesus with her maternal presence, help also the Church of today to give good witness to the Gospel."
Following the Angelus prayer the Pope met with the bishops of the local Abruzzo region for lunch at a newly restored house for elderly and sick priests inaugurated as the "Benedict XVI" house. After lunch he was scheduled to meet with a delegation from the local prison.