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Archive of August 28, 2010

Catholic commentators weigh in on Glenn Beck ‘Restore Honor’ rally and Tea Parties

Washington D.C., Aug 28, 2010 (CNA) - A well-attended Saturday rally in Washington, D.C. which linked U.S. patriotism and religiosity has sparked comparisons to a religious revival. Two Catholic commentators have offered different views of the rally’s possible effects while discussing the place of religion and social issues in the Tea Party movement.

The “Restoring Honor Rally,” organized by radio and Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck, was held at the National Mall in D.C. on Saturday. The rally featured prayers, Scripture readings, music and patriotic references to major figures and events in American history such as the Founding Fathers. It was reportedly inspired by the National Park Service’s alleged silencing of a group of young people who tried to sing the U.S. National Anthem at the Lincoln Memorial.

Early estimates of rally attendance ranged from the tens of thousands to 500,000.

Speaking at the rally, Beck claimed that the United States had “wandered in the darkness” of divisive politics, “but America today begins turning back to God.” He said the religious leaders in attendance disagreed on religion and politics. However, "what they do agree on is that God is the answer."

Alveda King, niece of civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., told the rally that America still suffers from racism. She called for prayer in the public square and in public schools. A pastoral associate of Priests for Life, she also alluded to her opposition to abortion.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin spoke to the massive rally about her son’s military service and said people should remember the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The rally helped raise funds for a group which assists military veterans and their families.

Beck gave out three awards with the respective themes of faith, hope and charity. One awardee was St. Louis Cardinals baseball star Albert Pujols.

The rally’s date coincided with the 47th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Rev. Al Sharpton and several other African-American leaders held a competing rally before an audience of thousands at a Washington-area high school. According to VOA News, some of the competing rally speakers criticized the chosen date of the rally and accused Beck of race-baiting.

A former Catholic, Beck is a convert to Mormonism. First Things magazine’s web editor Joe Carter recently criticized the commentator for expressing indifference toward same-sex “marriage” and towards a federal court’s overturning of California’s marriage-defining Proposition 8.

Two Catholic commentators took different views of the rally and the Tea Party movement, which some associate with Beck.

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of the conservative website National Review Online, commented on the rally in a Saturday e-mail to CNA.

“God and Caesar were very much appropriately represented on the National Mall on Saturday at that ‘Restoring Honor’ rally,” she commented.

In her view, much of the rally had a good focus: “challenging people to be good, to seek the good, sacrifice for the good, and pray for the good.”

“It was a bit of a mix of religious revival, country-music concert, and Independence Day celebration. And its end goal was to rally people to stay and be more engaged in politics, but to not get lost in it, as Beck put it. There was a clear balancing of the importance of politics while never ever losing sight of our real citizenship.”

Lopez said that the rally recognized “real threats” to the United States’ freedom and sustainability which are “fruits of messes of our personal lives and decisions and of bad policy.” It did this without being “explicitly partisan or political,” she claimed.

Seeing “prudence and humility” at the rally, she thought the event was “realistically positive” in acknowledging political and religious differences while seeking a “unified focus.”

She thought Beck’s focus on foundational issues should be encouraged without putting him “on a pedestal.”

CNA also discussed the rally and related issues in a Saturday phone interview with Mark Stricherz, author of the book “Why the Democrats are Blue” about the place of Catholics in the post-1968 Democratic Party.

Stricherz, who did not comment on the rally itself, questioned the characterization of Tea Party-related movements as religious revivals.

“It’s not led by religious leaders, its participants don’t say they’re religious. None of its tactics are claimed to be religious,” he commented.

The present-day action is not comparable to the civil rights movement, he also contended.

“The civil rights movement was the gold standard of social movements. Its marchers prayed for their enemies and sought equal justice.”

In contrast, Stricherz suggested, Beck’s political movement has been “the bronze standard” of social movements.

“Supporters exhibit disapproval and jeer at their enemies, and seek the end of runaway spending and domestic debt.

“They just want to tame federal domestic spending and don’t want to pay higher taxes through the health care bill. Sometimes federal intervention is godly, and sometimes it is not.”

Beck’s invocation of the U.S. Founding Fathers is “a little more complicated question,” Stricherz told CNA, saying the push for American independence from Britain incorporated elements of religion “but it certainly wasn’t a religious movement per se.”

“There is an argument that the Founders were linked to the First Great Awakening, but the Founders’ appeals were much different than Martin Luther King, whose appeals were explicitly religious and spiritual.

Asked about the possible political consequences of the rally and related movements, Stricherz responded:

“There’s no question that Tea Party supporters will vote disproportionately in the fall midterm elections, but whether those Tea Party supporters are voting out of religious convictions is doubtful. There’s some evidence, based on the statements of Tea Party supporters, that they don’t care about social issues. They care about economics.”

While economic issues also can incorporate religious appeals, he told CNA, these appeals are “not as strong.”

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St. Augustine's life shows troubled youth how to 'soar,' says cardinal on feast day

Vatican City, Aug 28, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - St. Augustine's life is still a strong witness for youth in the search for truth today amid life’s distractions, Cardinal Angelo Comastri has told Vatican Radio. He added that the fourth-century saint offers an example of how to rise above one’s circumstances and find meaning.

Cardinal Comastri spoke to Vatican Radio in a Saturday morning report to mark the feast of St. Augustine. The Archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica and Vicar General of the Vatican City-State will also celebrate the day at Mass in Ostia, Italy where St. Augustine's mother, St. Monica, lived.

"St. Augustine is a model of humanity with an impressive modernity," said the cardinal to Vatican radio, noting that his story is like that of a young person today.

His life was a constant search for meaning, recalled the cardinal. "Even when he walked in the mud," he preserved the need for meaning and was never content until he "recognized Jesus Christ as the light that illuminates life."

Many youth, he observed, are in need of this ideal because they live at "a very low level" influenced by alcohol, drugs and "uncontrolled" entertainments. In this context, Augustine "always sought to soar above," searching passionately for the truth until it brought him "to the arms of God," said Cardinal Comastri.

Thus was born “the great Augustine," he said.

The element that gave St. Augustine an edge to rise above the "mud," according to the prelate, was his "courage to seek the truth," his conviction that there was a truth and his inability to give up the search until he found it.

To young people who are "dreadfully empty" and "dreadfully unhappy," the cardinal said "don't give in to drugs, to alcohol, to entertainment, to night clubs, to make of this the meaning of your lives. Life is greater!

"St. Augustine understood this, for this he was an inexhaustible seeker of light, an untirable seeker of an ideal."

Asked for more reflection on the saint, Cardinal Comastri quoted the contemporary writer Luigi Santucci, who said that "we must take back from Satan" the idea that he invented fun.

"It's not true!"

"We believers wish to say to the pleasure-seekers of this world: we avoid your orgies not so much for fear of hell, as much as because by being honest, transparent, clean and generous one enjoys infinitely more!"

This, said Cardinal Comastri, is the "message of St. Augustine."

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More details released on Ambassador Kmiec car accident

Los Angeles, Calif., Aug 28, 2010 (CNA) - Authorities released more details surrounding a car accident earlier this week which killed a 74-year-old religious sister and caused serious injuries to a priest and Ambassador Doug Kmiec.

Preliminary Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and California Highway Patrol reports state that at about 1:40 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 25, Ambassador to Malta Doug Kmiec, Our Lady of Malibu pastor Msgr. John Sheridan, and Sister Mary Campbell were involved in a one car collision at Mulholland Highway and Malibu Canyon Road.

Sr. Mary Campbell, who, according to Malibu Surfside News taught generations of  Our Lady of Malibu students, died at the scene.

Ambassador Kmiec, along with 94-year-old Msgr. Sheridan suffered injuries. After surgeries at the UCLA Medical Center Trauma Center, the ambassador is reported to be in good condition and  improving. Although doctors have been able to stop most of Msgr. Sheridan's internal bleeding, he has been treated for several broken ribs and remains in critical condition. The priest is also being carefully monitored for pneumonia and infection.

California Highway Patrol Officer Leland Tang said Ambassador Kmiec was driving westbound on Mullholland when his 2009 Hyundai Accent crashed into a drainage ditch after veering off the road.

Tang reported that the cause of Kmiec losing control of the vehicle is unknown.

Authorities have said the accident remains under investigation and that dashboard control adjustment may be a factor in the collision.

According to Malibu Surfside News, Archbishop of Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahoney visited the hospital Wednesday night and issued a statement asking the local community and those elsewhere to “please keep all three of these wonderful and devoted disciples of Jesus Christ very much in your prayers.”

Our Lady of Malibu announced plans to schedule a blood drive in Msgr. Sheridan's name.

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Fr. Euteneuer to leave HLI, return to Palm Beach diocese

Front Royal, Va., Aug 28, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Human Life International (HLI) announced on Aug. 27 that president Fr. Thomas Euteneuer has stepped down from his position and will return to work in his Palm Beach diocese at the request of his bishop.

In a press release on Friday,  the HLI board of directors wrote “that after nearly 10 years of meritorious service to HLI as president, Reverend Thomas J. Euteneuer has stepped down from his position after being asked by his bishop to return to his Diocese in Palm Beach, Florida.”

In a letter posted on HLI's website Friday, Fr. Euteneuer stated that nearly “ten years ago I answered the call of the Lord to come to Human Life International and work full-time in pro-life work with the permission of my bishop.”

“I have been utterly privileged to serve this great mission for a decade, and now I am called back to my diocese to continue my priestly service in parish work, which was the original calling of my vocation,” the priest explained. “I have great peace about the road that lies ahead and about all that has been accomplished up to this point.”

Commenting on his position at the Palm Beach diocese, Fr. Euteneuer said, “I do not have a parish assignment in my diocese as of yet, but I hope to take some time out before I go back into full-time parish work.”

“I expect that some time of rest and renewal will help me to make the transition,” he noted. “It has been 15 years since I last had any significant time for renewal, and after traveling more than 1.1 million miles, authoring two books, visiting 58 countries and making thousands of public appearances, I am ready for a break!”

“I ask for your kind prayers as I move forward and for your continued support of HLI and the new leadership that will come soon.”

The board of directors added in their statement Friday that while “Fr. Euteneuer’s leadership at HLI and his influence on the pro-life movement around the world will be greatly missed, we are blessed to have gifted staff who will continue to carry out our mission while a search for a new president is undertaken.”

The group added that Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro Carámbula, director of HLI’s office in Rome, will take over Fr. Euteneuer’s responsibilities until a replacement is named.

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New Mother Teresa exhibition gets thumbs up from Cardinal Ouellet

Rome, Italy, Aug 28, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -  

For the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Mother Teresa's birth a "very moving" exhibition dedicated to the life and works of the blessed has been opened all over the planet. The Vatican's new head of bishops, who was on hand for last Thursday's inauguration in Rome, stated his appreciation for the exhibit and hoped that many would be able to see it.

"Mother Teresa: Life, Spirituality and Message" is not only open for viewing in Rome, it has been reproduced in a number of sites in at least 10 nations including the United States. The Roman exhibition was inaugurated on Aug. 26 at the Palace of the Chancellery, where the Church's "supreme court," the Apostolic Signatura, is located.

The visit begins with a biographical tour through the Missionaries of Charity (MC) foundress' life and the history of the order supported substantially by photos and copies of documents from the their official archives.

Among the most striking items reproduced on large placards is a copy of Mother Teresa's final vows, written on a single sheet of wide-ruled paper, now brown with age. Incidentally, MC sisters continue this tradition today, writing the same vows for themselves on the same style of paper.

Authentic treasures adding to the display in Rome were a handwritten prayer book from the blessed, one of her saris, a habit and a pair of worn leather sandals that she wore in the 1970s. All of these items were loaned to the display from Mother Teresa's nearby archives.

Particularly powerful to the presentation is Mother Teresa's own description, drawn from her writings, of the "darkness" she experienced during the final 50 years of her life, dating back to even before the proclamation of her final vows in 1953.

The exhibition also recounts her beatification and highlights her spirituality and the message she offered to the world through the extensive presentation of citations from her writings, a representative example being that "God works through the person who allows himself to be worked through."

Having thoroughly examined the Roman exhibition, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who recently arrived in Rome to take up the reigns at the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, told CNA that, in a word, the exhibition is "moving ... very, very moving.

"I hope many people will come to Rome and be touched," he said.

For those who will not be able to make it to Rome before the exhibition closes on Oct. 7, it is also on display in the U.S., Mexico, the Philippines, India and even Albania in addition to other European locales.

In the U.S. at various times during 2010, the exhibition is being presented in at least four places: at the Knights of Colombus Museum in New Haven, CT; the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C.; the St. Jude Shrine in San Diego and at St. Rita of Cascia Parish in the Bronx.

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New missionary community serves the spiritual needs of the Catholic minority in Russia

Arlington, Va., Aug 28, 2010 (CNA) - According to the U.S. Department of State, there are more than 100 million Orthodox Christians in Russia. Contrast that with about 600,000 Roman Catholics and you can appreciate the difficult task of tending to the spiritual needs of Catholics in the former Soviet Union.

Sister Maria Stella Whittier came to Holy Trinity Church in Gainesville, Va. last week to speak about the history of Catholic priests and sisters in Russia from 1917 to the present. She also spoke about her work in Vladivostok, in far-eastern Russia, and that of her community, the Sisters in Jesus the Lord.

Sister Maria Stella is the daughter of Holy Trinity parishioners Hank and Donnita Whittier. She graduated from Oakton High School in Vienna and went on to receive a degree from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, a master’s in sacred music from Emory University in Atlanta and a master’s in Catholic studies from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.

Donnita said that her daughter started to realize her vocation when she was 19 years old and went on a mission to a homeless shelter in Philadelphia with others from the Catholic Campus Ministry of William and Mary. Then she went to World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002.

“That’s what really did it,” Donnita said.

In 2004, Sister Maria Stella was the first postulant to join the Sisters in Jesus the Lord. It’s a very new and small order — only five sisters. The order was declared a Public Association of the Faithful in July by Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo.

The order is focused on pro-life work and on reviving the Catholic Church in eastern Russia.

Sister Maria Stella said she became interested in Russia because her mother had a degree in Russian and it was a common topic in the Whittier household.

Persecution

“Can you imagine all the Catholic priests in America being sent to concentration camps, killed or exiled? Imagine living without the Mass, the Eucharist, Confession and the other sacraments for as many as 74 years,” said Sister Maria Stella at the start of her talk.

When the Bolsheviks overthrew the czar in 1917 they established what author Michael Rose called in his book Priest: Portraits of Ten Good Men Serving the Church Today “a land without churches in a country that had vanquished God.”

Hundreds of thousands of Orthodox priests, monks and nuns were killed, another half-million were exiled, and tens of thousands of Orthodox churches were closed or converted for secular use.

Catholics didn’t escape the religious persecution. Thousands of priests were killed before 1939 and when the Soviet Union began its expansion into traditionally Roman Catholic countries like Poland, more than 7,000 priests were imprisoned or killed and hundreds of parishes were destroyed. Many Catholics were imprisoned in gulags — Soviet labor camps — where Catholic priests celebrated Mass in secret using prison bread and wine made from raisins.

All in all, 20 million Christians were murdered during Joseph Stalin’s era.

End of the Soviet Union

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, religious persecution ended and people came back to the Church. But according to the State Department many of those who identify with a particular religion in Russia rarely, if ever, attend religious services.

Priests and sisters are working to change that behavior in Catholics.

The sisters work in conjunction with Fathers Daniel Maurer and Myron Effing of their brother community — the Canons Regular of Jesus the Lord.

Sister Maria Stella said the two priests came to Vladivostok in 1992. There was no underground Catholic community in place to build from because, according to Father Maurer, “the persecution lasted too long.”

The duo founded or re-founded 12 parishes. They worked to return the Most Holy Mother of God Catholic Church, the oldest surviving Catholic Church in far-eastern Russia to survive the revolution, from government ownership to parish ownership.

Sister Maria Stella said that even though persecution of the Church ended with the fall of the Soviets, it is often difficult for Catholic organizations to get the necessary permits to build.

The sisters pray the Liturgy of the Hours in Russian every morning, work on various projects around the parish, dialogue with local Orthodox clergy and nuns, and conduct Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats.

Sister Maria Stella concluded her talk by asking the audience to pray for the priests, sisters and the faithful in Russia. Her community needs women, “to be sisters in the harsh vineyard of Russia today.”

Printed with permission from the Catholic Herald, newspaper for the Diocese of Arlington, Va.

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