Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 29, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Christ did not limit himself to taking just the lowest place at the table, explained Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday. Jesus, taught the Pope, repeatedly offers humanity “a model of humility and of free giving” and showed the world “radical humility” by accepting the Cross.
Joining the many pilgrims and faithful in attendance in the courtyard at Castel Gandolfo for the Angelus were participants in the annual conference being held for members of the association of the Pope's ex-students. There was also a group from the Pontifical North American College, who were greeted specially by the Holy Father after the Angelus.
In his catechesis prior to the Marian prayer, the Pope reflected on the passage from St. Luke's Gospel read in Sunday's Liturgy. In the reading, Jesus is invited to the house of a leader of the Pharisees for a meal where, based on what he witnesses, he is inspired to tell the parable which teaches of humbling onesself and taking "the lowest place" at the table.
The Lord's words were not meant to be a lesson in etiquette or on the hierarchy of authorities, said Benedict XVI, "He insists rather on a decisive point, which is that of humility: 'everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted'."
The parable can also be read as a perspective of man's position in relation to God, explained the Pope, the "lowest place" representing "the condition of humanity degraded by sin, a condition which can only (be) liberated by the incarnation of the Only-begotten Son."
Citing his encyclical Deus Caritas Est, the Pope taught that "For this, Christ himself 'took the lowest place in the world - the Cross - and by this radical humility he redeemed us and constantly comes to our aid'."
Turning to Jesus' suggestion at the end of the parable that it should be the poorest and most excluded, those who have no way of repayment, who are invited as guests, Pope Benedict stated that the "true recompense, in fact, in the end, will be given by God, 'who governs the world ... We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength'.
"Once again, then, we look to Christ as a model of humility and of free giving: from him we learn patience in the midst of temptations, meekness amidst offenses, obedience to God in sorrow in the hope that He who invited us might say: "Friend, move up to a higher position.' the true good, in fact, is being close to Him."
Remembering Sunday's feast of the "greatest among the prophets of Christ," St. John the Baptist, the Pope closed by praying for his intercession and that of Mary "to guide us on the way of humility, to become worthy of the divine recompense."
Denver, Colo., Aug 29, 2010 (CNA) - Two Catholic bishops will take part in a Denver marathon in October. One is running to raise funds to pay off the $2.07 million debt on his diocese’s cathedral, while the other is joining local Catholics to increase prayers for and awareness of vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Bishop of Springfield, Ill. Thomas J. Paprocki, a longtime marathon runner, has announced he is training for the Oct. 17 event. In a statement from the Diocese of Springfield, the 58-year-old prelate said he enjoys running and has participated in 16 marathons.
“This year I have decided to dedicate my marathon effort to help pay off the debt of the recent restoration of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield,” said the bishop, who took over the diocese in June.
“Catholics in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois can take rightful pride in our beautiful mother church, especially the many people who have already contributed generously to help pay the restoration costs,” he commented.
However, he explained that “unexpected expenses” had caused the debt and he would like to “retire this debt completely.”
He invited tax-deductible pledge donations and asked for prayer intentions for him to include while he is running and praying.
“As sacred Scripture says, ‘Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us’ (Hebrews 12:1). Your support will be greatly appreciated by me and all Catholics who gather and pray at our magnificent Cathedral,” Bishop Paprocki wrote.
The “Rock ‘n’ Roll Denver Marathon” website says that the time limit for the full marathon is six hours, a pace of 13:45 minutes per mile.
Auxiliary Bishop of Denver James Conley will also take part in the event.
Natalia Fletcher, executive assistant in the office of priestly vocations, responded to a CNA inquiry about the bishop’s participation. She reported that Bishop Conley and Bishop Paprocki attended graduate school together in Rome. Conley later told CNA in an e-mail that the two had run together in Rome, but not in a marathon.
The Denver auxiliary bishop will join archdiocesan vocations director Fr. Jim Crisman and two St. John Vianney seminarians as part of a relay team to increase support for and awareness of vocations. He will run 8.9 miles of the course and is following a training regimen of 15 miles per week.
In the past he has run in the Colfax 1/2 Marathon, the Chicago Marathon, the Rome Marathon, the Monte Carlo Marathon, the Pikes Peak Ascent and the Rome-Ostca 1/2 Marathon.
According to Fletcher, the archdiocese asks other runners and teams of runners to sign up for the event. Rather than seeking financial donations, the archdiocese asks that runners seek pledges of prayers for vocations to holy orders and to the consecrated life within the Archdiocese of Denver.
“There is a great need in the Church and world today for men and women who are willing to lay down their lives in service to others,” Fr. Crisman commented in a press release. “Please pray for an increase in vocations to Holy Orders and Consecrated Life, and pray for those already living these heroic vocations.”
He encouraged participants to form their teams as soon as possible so they have time to train and to pray.
The Office of Priestly Vocations has set up a section for the marathon in the “Run” section of its website http://www.Priest4Christ.com.
Front Royal, Va., Aug 29, 2010 (CNA) - A report issued on Friday showed the U.S. birth rate in 2009 falling to the lowest in a century. Experts, including president Steve Mosher from the Population Research Institute, (PRI) have cited the current economic recession as a significant factor in the recent numbers.
On Aug. 27, the Associated Press (AP) detailed a report issued by the National Center for Health Statistics which showed that the birth rate in the U.S. fell 2.7 percent in 2009 – an all time low in the last 100 years.
The AP cited the opinion of researchers that the current economic recession could be responsible for the drop in the numbers and also reported that the birth rate has been falling in the U.S. over the last century.
According to the report, the birth rate fell to 13.5 births for every 1,000 people last year. That number is down from 14.3 in 2007 and even further away from 30 percent in 1909, when it was more common for U.S. citizens to have larger families.
“The birthrate, after rising to near replacement a few years ago, is now falling dramatically because of the ongoing recession,” Steve Mosher, president of Population Research Institute wrote to CNA in an e-mail. “Young couples who may have lost jobs or income are putting off having children until the economic situation improves.”
Mosher explained that birth rates “have been dropping throughout the 20th century because of urbanization, industrialization, and increasing levels of education (which postpone marriage and childbearing), but the Great Depression of the Thirties saw a sudden and sharp decline in fertility, for the same reasons that we are seeing a decline now.”
“The baby boom of the Fifties was largely a Catholic phenomenon,” he added, “as Catholic couples, after curbing their fertility during the Great Depression and during World War II, began averaging four children.”
Mosher also made reference to “anecdotal evidence” showing “that rates of contraception, sterilization and abortion are probably all on the rise, sadly, as couples prevent or eliminate children that they do not now think they can afford.”
“The legalization of abortion by Roe V. Wade, caused about one-third of U.S. pregnancies to end in abortion, and dropped the U.S. birth rate below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman over her reproductive lifetime down to 1.7 or so,” the PRI president said. “The years since, until recently, have shown a gradual climb back up to replacement.”
“This decline in births is more evidence that the stimulus package, hailed by the current administration as the solution to our economic ills, is not working,” Mosher asserted. “Every drop in the birth rate affects the baby boomers as well, for it hastens the day that the social security trust fund goes insolvent.”
Wichita, Kan., Aug 29, 2010 (CNA) - Over 3,600 people from 17 states and Mexico attended this year’s Midwest Catholic Family Conference Aug. 6-8 in Wichita, Kansas. Kevin Regan, co-director of the conference, said 800 youth and teens also participated in the programs.
“We had rave reviews about all our speakers,” Regan said a few days after recovering from the event. “I get calls from people across the U.S. and they ask what we are doing because they hear great things about us.”
One couple from Sharon, Kan., said the weekend was one of the greatest experiences of their lives.
“We didn’t want to leave, especially after the beautiful Mass on Sunday,” they wrote in an evaluation. “It was awesome and we cannot wait to register for all three days next year.”
Regan is currently planning next year’s event which is scheduled for Aug. 5-7. The speakers should be contracted in about 60 days, he said.
Eduardo Verástegui, star of the pro-life movie Bella, talked about his rise to stardom and his realization that despite his success, something was wrong.
I was very confused, he said, “because I thought I had everything in my life. But at the same time I had nothing. I was very empty. Something was missing.”
That something, of course, was God.
He made that realization while studying English with a devoutly Catholic teacher. Verástegui also told those attending that he understood he was setting a bad example for young men and realized that he had hurt many women as his career ascended.
After reading “Rome Sweet Home,” a book by Scott and Kimberly Hahn about their conversion to Catholicism, Verástegui was considering becoming a missionary in the jungles of South America. His spiritual director told him “No! Hollywood is a bigger jungle.”
With the help of several other like-minded Catholics, Verástegui waded into the jungle that is Hollywood and co-founded Metanoia films to make movies that would change lives and hearts.
The prize-winning movie, Bella, was their first. The company is now working on a movie about the Mexican martyrs of the Mexican revolution of the 1920s that resulted in the persecution of Catholics.
Catholic apologist Tim Staples, a regular at the conference, talked about how society continues to slide the the slippery slope that began with the legalization of abortion. “When you allow people to kill in the womb there is no end to what you can do,” he said adding that the elderly in Denmark now fear for their lives because some cases that should be labeled murder are being overlooked as acts of euthanasia.
“A crime that would have gotten you a death sentence at the Nuremburg Trials is now a campaign slogan,” Staples said.
Catholics can change society he said. “All that has to happen is for Catholics to realize who we are. There is no power that can stand against us when we stand up and move in one direction. We are called by Almighty God!”
Another apologist, Jesse Romero, talked about how society is putting faith in everything other than God. “We must be people of prayer,” he said. “When we pray, God works.”
He suggested that whenever we hear about or see anything sinful we say, “Jesus, I trust in you!”
“If we don’t have that burned in our soul, we will go crazy,” Romero said.
After talking about the remarks attributed to Luthern pastor Martin Niemoller about a person’s silence as the authorities rounded up various persecuted groups, Romero related the World War II era pastor’s remarks to society’s reaction today to the unborn, to the disabled, to the mentally handicapped, and to the sick and elderly. “Then they came for me and there was no one else to speak for me!”
He said if the anti-life tide is not stopped, “like a tsunami the tide will wash across America and wash us away.”
Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, a leading spokesman for the church on the issue of embryonic stem cell research, talked about the objectification of women and of babies at the conference.
“Contraception is sex without babies,” he said, “and invitro fertilization is babies without sex.”
Couples today want to have “control” over whether they have children or not, a desire which contributes to the objectification of babies, he said.
Invitro fertilization leads to several ethical and moral questions: What do couples do with the frozen embryos? Is it moral for a woman to have an embryo implanted in her to “save” it? What about the selective “reduction” in multiple birth situations? What about the higher number of birth defects that result from IVF?
Dr. Ray Guarendi
Dr. Ray Guarendi, a psychologist and Catholic radio host, talked about his 10 adopted children and the challenges of raising children today.
“It is difficult to raise a grateful child today because life is so easy,” he said. “Grandma drives the Toys-R-Us truck up in front of the house very two weeks.”
The answer is simple, though, Guarendi said. “The less you have, the more of it that you share. If you want a more generous kid, remove 75 to 90 percent of what they have.”
It isn’t the children that have changed in the last few generations, he said, the authority has. “We have strong-willed children because parents have lost their will.”
CNA STAFF, Aug 29, 2010 (CNA) - St. Gregory the Great, a central figure of the medieval western Church and one of the most admired Popes in history, will be commemorated in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Catholic liturgy on September 3.
Born near the middle of the sixth century, into a noble Roman family, Gregory received a classical education in liberal arts and the law. He also had strong religious formation from his devout family, particularly from his mother, Silvia, also a canonized saint. By around age 30, Gregory had
advanced to high political office in Rome, during what was nevertheless a period of marked decline for the city.
Some time after becoming the prefect of the former imperial capital, Gregory chose to leave the civil administration to become a monk during the rise of the Benedictine order. In reality, however, the new monk's great career in public life was yet to come.
After three years of strict monastic life, he was called personally by the Pope to assume the office of a deacon in Rome. From Rome, he was dispatched to Constantinople, to seek aid from the emperor for Rome's civic troubles, and to aid in resolving the Eastern church's theological controversies. He returned to Rome in 586, after six years of service as the Papal representative to the eastern Church and empire.
Rome faced a series of disasters caused by flooding in 589, followed by the death of Pope Pelagius II the next year. Gregory, then serving as abbot in a monastery, reluctantly accepted his election to replace him as the Bishop of Rome.
Despite this initial reluctance, however, Pope Gregory began working tirelessly to reform and solidify the Roman liturgy, the disciplines of the Church, the military and economic security of Rome, and the Church's spreading influence in western Europe.
As Pope, Gregory brought his political experience at Rome and Constantinople to bear, in the task of preventing the Catholic Church from becoming subservient to any of the various groups struggling for control of the former imperial capital. As the former abbot of a monastery, he strongly supported the Benedictine movement as a bedrock of the western Church. He sent missionaries to England, and is given much of the credit for the nation's conversion.
In undertaking these works, Pope Gregory saw himself as the “servant of the servants of God.” He was the first of the Bishops of Rome to popularize the now-traditional Papal title, which referred to Christ's command that those in the highest position of leadership should be “the last of all and the servant of all.”
Even as he undertook to consolidate Papal power and shore up the crumbling Roman west, St. Gregory the Great maintained a humble sense of his mission as a servant and pastor of souls, from the time of his election until his death in 604.
Vatican City, Aug 29, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Remembering the 32 Chileans and one Bolivian trapped for nearly a month in copper mine in northern Chile, the Holy Father prayed on Sunday for the intercession of the patron saint of miners for their safe extraction.
The 33 miners have been stuck underground since the shaft collapsed on Aug. 5, enclosing them nearly 2,300 ft. underground. First contact with them was made 17 days after the accident cut them off from the world above.
Since Aug. 22, they have been receiving vital supplies, including air and water, and communicating through what has been called an "umbilical cord," a 6-inch wide supply channel from the surface.
In his Spanish-language greeting after the Angelus on Sunday, the Holy Father remembered them "with particular affection," commending them and their relatives to the intercession of St. Lawrence.
He assured his "spiritual closeness" and continued prayers that they "maintain serenity in the hope for a happy conclusion to the work being carried out for their rescue."
According to a Sunday report from the Spanish-language news provider elperiodico.com, psychologists are in contact with the miners, working with them to confront the difficulties posed by the situation. The paper also reported that the miners could be freed before the end of October, much sooner than the original estimate of four months.