CNA STAFF, Jul 25, 2010 (CNA) - On July 31, the Universal Church will mark the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The Spanish saint is known for founding the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits, as well as for creating the “Spiritual Exercises” often used today for retreats and individual discernment.
St. Ignatius was born into a noble family in 1491 in Guipuzcoa, Spain. He served as a page in the Spanish court of Ferdinand and Isabella.
He then became a soldier in the Spanish army and wounded his leg during the siege of Pamplona in 1521. During his recuperation, he read “Lives of the Saints.” The experience led him to undergo a profound conversion, and he dedicated himself to the Catholic faith.
After making a general confession in a monastery in Montserrat, St. Ignatius proceeded to spend almost a year in solitude. He wrote his famous “Spiritual Exercises” and then made a pilgrimage to Rome and the Holy Land, where he worked to convert Muslims.
St. Ignatius returned to complete his studies in Spain and then France, where he received his theology degree. While many held him in contempt because of his holy lifestyle, his wisdom and virtue attracted some followers, and the Society of Jesus was born.
The Society was approved by Pope Paul III in 1540, and it grew rapidly. St. Ignatius remained in Rome, where he governed the Society and became friends with St. Philip Neri.
St. Ignatius died peacefully on July 31, 1556. He was canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1622.
The Jesuits remain numerous today, particularly in several hundred universities and colleges worldwide.
On April 22, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI presided over a Eucharistic concelebration for the Society of Jesus. He addressed the fathers and brothers of the Society present at the Vatican Basilica, calling to mind the dedication and fidelity of their founder.
“St. Ignatius of Loyola was first and foremost a man of God who in his life put God, his greatest glory and his greatest service, first,” the Pope said. “He was a profoundly prayerful man for whom the daily celebration of the Eucharist was the heart and crowning point of his day.”
“Precisely because he was a man of God, St Ignatius was a faithful servant of the Church,” Benedict continued, recalling the saint's “special vow of obedience to the Pope, which he himself describes as 'our first and principal foundation.'”
Highlighting the need for “an intense spiritual and cultural training,” Pope Benedict called upon the Society of Jesus to follow in the footsteps of St. Ignatius and continue his work of service to the Church and obedience to the Pope, so that it's members “may faithfully meet the urgent needs of the Church today.”
New York City, N.Y., Jul 25, 2010 (CNA) - Discussing his recent and critically acclaimed book on Dietrich Bonhoeffer – the famed Lutheran theologian who was killed in the 1940s for opposing Nazism – author Eric Metaxas spoke to CNA in an interview, calling the pastor a man of “staggering” relevance for our time.
The late German theologian is the subject of Metaxas' recent work, “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy,” which was published in April.
Speaking with CNA via e-mail, the author reflected on the relevance of Bonhoeffer's life and writings in contemporary society. He noted Bonhoeffer’s “extremely pro-Catholic” stance and refuted common misconceptions by “liberal theologians” who have “hijacked” the pastor's writings in support of atheism.
Addressing the significance of Bonhoeffer to the lives of modern Americans, Metaxas explained that there are “powerful parallels” between how “the American government is today trying to bully the church on certain issues of sexuality,” as well as “abortion and euthanasia and stem-cell research.”
In the same way, he noted, the “Third Reich was bullying the German church at that time.”
“Bonhoeffer's relevance to us today is staggering, and I confess that when I began writing the book I had no idea I would stumble over so many powerful parallels to our own situation,” Metaxas told CNA. “For one thing, the story of Bonhoeffer is a primer on the burning issue of what the limits of the state are.”
At the time of Bonhoeffer's Germany, the “state was trying to take over the German church and only a few brave souls like Bonhoeffer were up to the battle. We would do well to take our lead from him in our own battle on that front.”
Although Bonhoeffer was formed by Reformation Lutheranism, Metaxas said that the late pastor “was extremely pro-Catholic and much of his own theology was specifically formed by Catholicism.”
The theologian's 1923 trip to Rome “was extremely important,” the author noted. “He eagerly attended Mass every day … and he bought a missal and was deeply taken with what he saw and experienced.”
“It was nothing less than life-changing for him. At St. Peter's that Palm Sunday he saw celebrants on the altar from every race and color and for the first time in his life he thought about the church universal, beyond the parochial borders of German Lutheranism.”
“This caused him to ask the larger question: 'What is the church?'” Metaxas explained. “He would spend the rest of his life answering that question. It was the subject of both his doctoral dissertations and it was what ultimately caused him to stand up against the Nazis who were trying to define the church on their own terms.”
“Bonhoeffer also worked on his book ‘Ethics’ at the Benedictine monastery at Ettal in the Bavarian Alps,” the author added. “He lived there for three months and was on friendly terms with the Abbot there and with other monks, who were at that time studying Bonhoeffer's own book, 'The Cost of Discipleship’.”
“Also, in 'Ethics' Bonhoeffer brings in Catholic Natural Law theology. There was no such thing in Protestantism and he was glad to have primary access to Catholic theologians on this subject.”
When asked what the biggest misconceptions are that individuals have of Bonhoeffer and how some, particularly atheists, have some attempted to use his works to support their stance, Metaxas said, “In my book I write that Bonhoeffer is perhaps the most misunderstood theologian who ever lived. That's because his legacy was hijacked by theological liberals, most notably the 'God is Dead' movement of the 1950s and 60's, and it's taken until now to begin to seriously set the record straight.”
Commenting on the reason behind this widespread misunderstanding, Metaxas said that in “a private letter to his best friend he used the phrase 'religionless Christianity' meaning a true Christianity that is not just tradition and church attendance, but the real thing: a life lived in total obedience to Jesus Christ.”
“But this was widely misunderstood as meaning that Bonhoeffer advocated a kind of post-Christian humanism,” he explained. “On the one hand this is knee-slappingly hilarious, because it's the precise opposite of what he actually meant. On the other hand, it's sad, because so many people have gotten the wrong idea about Bonhoeffer from this.”
Ultimately, said Metaxas, Bonhoeffer's life and works merit a revisiting by those in contemporary society as the theologian has “a certain authenticity about him that is incredibly fresh, that seems to speak to us today, as though he had lived and written ten minutes ago.”
“But I also think that his life was a life of such devotion to Jesus Christ that he is a true Christian hero, one from whom we might all learn many things,” Metaxas affirmed. “There's something about his life that speaks to us directly, and that gives us much-needed inspiration as Christians, and in a way that is inescapably beautiful and moving.”
“I feel profoundly humbled and privileged to have been able to tell this story to our generation and it's my hope and prayer that it will draw all who read it to a closer walk” with God.
Greensburg, Pa., Jul 25, 2010 (CNA) -
Sylvan Pinto IV biked 301 miles from West Newton, Pa., to Washington, D.C., biked 15 miles on another trip and ran 37 miles to help Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Greensburg defray medical costs for people in need.
A parishioner of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Greenburg, Pa., Pinto contacted Catholic Charities when he was 16 and a sophomore at Hempfield Area High School.
An avid runner, Pinto, now 20, wanted to "put a reason behind running" and help others. He got the idea after reading the book, "Ultramarathon Man," about a man who helped save people’s lives by running. The runner logged 200 miles to help pay for a liver transplant for one person and a heart transplant for another.
"It made me think I could do something to help people. I figured I could do it on my own, but it wouldn’t be as special if I didn’t help someone," said Pinto, an elementary education major who will be a junior this fall at Robert Morris University, Moon Township.
Pinto is on RMU’s cross country, indoor and outdoor track teams.
Pinto’s first run was 22 miles for families in Greensburg and Johnstown. The Greensburg family’s youngest son, 17 months old at the time and deaf, needed cochlear implants. Pinto raised $2,500, all of which went to defray medical costs.
He also raised the same amount for the Johnstown family, whose 8-year-old child was born with childhood arthritis, and for a girl in Indiana who needed reconstructive facial surgery after being in a vehicle accident when she was 5 years old.
When he biked to Washington this past May 22-26, he raised $2,500 for a 13-year-old and his father from Indian Head. In 2009, the 13-year-old was diagnosed with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of cancer that attacks the muscle and bone connection tissue. Later that year, his father was diagnosed with diffuse large b-cell lymphoma, an aggressive and fast-growing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Donna Hagan, coordinator of information and referral services for Catholic Charities, told Pinto about the people who needed assistance.
As he did for the others he helped, Pinto drafted a letter explaining that the costs the Indian Head family faces are astronomical.
"All of them were shocked that I wanted to do this for them. I never met (the Indiana girl) and her mom before. It was nice when I did meet them, knowing I helped in some way," said Pinto, who tries to live up to a verse from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians (9:24) that is tattooed above his right knee.
He explained its meaning: All runners run the race, but only one gets the prize. So run to win. And though his parents, Sylvan "Chip" and Diane Pinto of Greensburg, weren’t thrilled when he got the tattoo, he promised it would be his last.
Msgr. Raymond E. Riffle, pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish and managing director of Catholic Charities, is impressed with what Pinto has done.
"In this day and age when young people get so some much bad press about irresponsibility, it’s refreshing to see a young man step up, where his efforts and actions help other people who are really very open to his help and appreciative of what he has done," Msgr. Riffle said.
He explained Pinto wasn’t "picky" about who he helped. He merely wanted to help.
"That is commendable," Msgr. Riffle said about Pinto’s "openness to help whoever needed it."
Printed with permission from The Catholic Accent, newspaper for the Diocese of Greensburg, Pa.
Sacramento, Calif., Jul 25, 2010 (CNA) - As part of a prayer vigil for life, Bishop of Sacramento Jaime Soto will celebrate a Mass and benediction and lead a pro-life apostolate’s Rosary procession to a nearby abortion center in August.
The prayer vigil is organized by the Sacramento Helpers of God’s Precious Infants. It will begin on Saturday, August 14 at 8 a.m. at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Sacramento.
Bishop Soto recorded two video messages about the event in English and Spanish, respectively. In a video posted at the Diocese of Sacramento’s website, he invited people to participate “in support of protecting the most innocent among us.”
“Please make that commitment to join many of your brothers and sisters in the faith in this wonderful expression of prayer and solidarity where we, in a very humble way, announce the good news of the Gospel of Life to our brothers and sisters … we become instruments, messengers, of that gospel which gives life and help to all,” the bishop said.
Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Jul 25, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The “Our Father” helps us to confront the difficulties in our lives, said the Holy Father on Sunday. In reciting the prayer, we never find ourselves alone as our voices are "intertwined with that of the Church."
This Sunday’s Angelus took place amidst the festive atmosphere of Castel Gandolfo’s "Sagra delle pesche," an annual festival celebrating the local peach production. For the occasion, the Holy Father was presented with a basket of local white peaches which were blessed at a nearby parish, shortly before the Angelus.
During his catechesis, the Pope reflected on Sunday’s Gospel from Luke in which Jesus is asked by the disciples to teach them how to pray. To this, Benedict XVI said, "Jesus does not make objections, He does not speak of strange or esoteric formulas, but with great simplicity He says: 'When you are praying, say, “Father...,' and he taught the Our Father, taking it from his own prayer, with which he addressed God, his Father."
We learn these words from St. Matthew's Gospel from the time we are young, he pointed out. "They imprint themselves in our memory, mold our lives, they accompany us up to our last breath. They reveal that we are not already completely children of God, but we must become them and be them ... through our ever deeper communion with Jesus.
"Being children becomes the equivalent of following Christ," he said, quoting a passage from the first "Jesus of Nazareth" book.
The Our Father prayer "takes and also expresses” our human and spiritual needs, he explained, alluding to the phrase "Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins."
The Pontiff noted that this “is not an 'asking' to satisfy one's own wishes, as much rather as gaining from it friendship with God, who - as the Gospel says - "will give the Holy Spirit to those that ask it of him.
People throughout history have become "friends of God" through prayer, he added, saying that among them was St. Teresa of Avila. And it was she, he pointed out, "who invited her sisters to 'beseech God to deliver us from these perils forever and to keep us from all evil! And although our desire for this may not be perfect, let us strive to make the petition. What does it cost us to ask it, since we ask it of One Who is so powerful?'
"Whenever we recite the Our Father, our voice is intertwined with that of the Church, so that he who prays is never alone.“
Concluding the thought with a quotation from a 1989 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Christian meditation, Pope Benedict said, "From the rich variety of Christian prayer as proposed by the Church, each member of the faithful should seek and find his own way, his own form of prayer.... therefore, let himself be led ... by the Holy Spirit, who guides him, through Christ, to the Father."
He ended his catechesis in prayer for the pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela, the location of the tomb of St. James, whose feast is celebrated on Sunday. He also asked that the Virgin Mary "help us to rediscover the beauty and the depth of Christian prayer."
Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Jul 25, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -
After Sunday’s Angelus, Pope Benedict remembered the victims of a tragic incident during a celebration in Germany this weekend.
Nineteen people died as a result of a “stampede” at a musical festival called the “Love Parade” in Duisburg, Germany on Saturday night. According to Reuters, after closing the only entrance to the festival, a tunnel, in an attempt to better organize the massive crowd, “mass panic” broke out.
Pope Benedict expressed his "sorrow" for the "tragedy," entrusting the deceased, injured and their relatives to the Lord. For all of them, he asked the "comfort and the closeness of the Holy Spirit."
The techno dance festival drew an estimated 1.4 million young people from all over Europe. It was originally an event to promote peace, with the first parade taking place in the German capital city just months before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Reuters reported that police have opened an investigation to determine the cause of the panic that led to the fatal stampede which also injured more than 300 people.
Allenspark, Colo., Jul 25, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Members of the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL) gathered this weekend at St. Malo Retreat and Conference Center near Denver, Colo. to evaluate their first four years of existence and set new, ambitious goals for their future growth.
CALL was founded in Denver in 2006, under the auspices of Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., and by then Auxiliary Bishop Jose H. Gomez. Archbishop Gomez was recently appointed as Coadjutor Archbishop of Los Angeles.
The CALL annual members meeting opened on Friday evening, July 23, with a greeting from Archbishop Chaput.
“In my 22 years as a bishop, being part of CALL has been - and still is - one of the important and enjoyable tasks I’ve had,” the Archbishop of Denver wrote. “The leadership of Archbishop Gomez has been outstanding; without his vision and guidance, CALL would not exist.”
“CALL is now poised to play an even more effective role in mobilizing Latino Catholic leaders and renewing American society with the values of family, faith, hard work and moral character,” Archbishop Chaput's greeting concluded.
“The idea of CALL is very simple,” Archbishop Gomez explained during the first working session. “There is a need to reach out to Latinos that have been successful, because of the growing importance of Latinos in the Catholic Church and in the country.”
The Pew Hispanic Center conducted a major study last year on the way Hispanics are covered in the news media. Researchers looked at 55 different news outlets in the country—newspapers, cable and broadcast news, websites, and radio talk shows—from February 2009 to August 2009.
Out of almost 34,500 stories during that six-month period, only 645 contained substantial references to Hispanics. Of those, only 57 stories focused directly on the lives of Hispanics in the United States.
“This means that most Americans do not know well what Latinos are about. And if there is someone, some group that can help understand the Latinos and change their perception, it is an organization such as CALL. There is no doubt in my mind that our mission is to bring the reality of the Catholic Latino culture to the American culture, Archbishop Gomez continued.
“What CALL has to offer is what accountants like to call an ‘intangible good or service,’” said the coadjutor of Los Angeles, joking about his CPA background. “What we offer is spiritual growth and a way of helping other people. These are not things that you can ‘see’ or measure.”
“What is the ‘return on investment’ we offer to our members? I hope we will be able to say that it is this: Friendship, meaningful relationships," he listed, adding, "the regular chance for husbands and wives to grow in their faith, to hear engaging speakers, the opportunity to get away and go on pilgrimage. A means to get involved in their communities and in our nation’s political life."
“To create these opportunities is a practical, ‘do-able’ objective for us in the coming year,” Archbishop Gomez said.
CALL’s president and CEO, Robert B. Aguirre, offered information about the current demographic trends of the Hispanic community in the U.S. Numbering more than 47.7 million, Hispanics are 15% of the nation’s population and 15 million larger than all of Canada’s population. Hispanic buying power is growing at three times the Consumer Price Index, while the number of Hispanic-owned businesses grew by 31% and produced 222 billion in revenue over the last 10 years.
“CALL has been very aware of these trends in these past years, through its many initiatives. We have done an excellent job of branding the organization and establishing it within the Church but this day … this moment ... is filled with opportunities to evangelize and to speak out on issues important to our community, our country and our Church,” Aguirre said.
Among other measures discussed by CALL members was the creation of new CALL chapters in the U.S.
“There will be difficulties down the road, but these difficulties do not mean that this should not be happening or that God does not want it,” said Most Reverend Thomas Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix, Ariz., commenting on CALL’s plans for expansion and growth.
“On the contrary, the Gospel teaches us that difficulties and the opposition of the Evil One are part of our Christian pilgrimage,” Bishop Olmsted added during his homily on Saturday.
“We are at the beginning of a new journey for Latino leaders, and we are starting the same way we start everyday events: with the first step,” CALL Chairman Ruben Escobedo explained.
Escobedo will be responsible for increasing fundraising among Catholic Hispanics and leading the Catholic Latino organization in its projected expansion in areas such as in Northern California, Arizona, Northern Texas and New York.
“The Latino presence in our country is growing every day. And that means that every day the need for this organization, for CALL is growing too,” Archbishop Gomez on Sunday, during the closing session.
“We are a part of something great here. We are part of a movement that is bigger than any one of us. America is changing and we are in the vanguard of the next America. We are pioneers, leaders for a new generation.”