Anchorage, Alaska, Sep 25, 2010 (CNA) - “Sometimes the obvious needs to be stated: God is calling a sufficient number of men to be priests in the Catholic Church because he loves you and he loves your children and he loves your grandchildren. And the purpose of the priest is to bring people to Jesus and Jesus to people.”
With these words, Father Brett Brannen opened his Sept. 3 talk at the Serra International Convention in Anchorage, where more than 200 lay Catholics from nine countries gathered to learn how to better promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Father Brannen is the vice-rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland and former vocation director of the Diocese of Savannah, Georgia. His work in vocations has led him to the fundamental belief that God will find priests for the Catholic Church.
Not without prayer
“He is infinite in power. He can solve this problem for us,” Father Brannen told an attentive crowd at the Dena’ina Convention Center in Anchorage.
“When I was first named vocation director in Savanna, we had only two seminarians and it didn’t look good. There was very little happening to promote a culture,” he said. “Many of our priests were very discouraged, and everyone was throwing up there hands and saying, ‘We’re never going to have priests in Savannah.’”
He, too, was discouraged until his spiritual director rebuked him for his lack of faith and told him, “God could raise up priests by snapping his fingers.”
But that is not how God works, Father Brannen added.
“We must do our part. Not because God needs us, but because he wants to give us a chance to demonstrate our dignity by being a part of this great work,” he said. ““Running a vocation program is 99.9 percent God’s grace and .1 percent our human effort. I may be exaggerating our part, but that .1 percent is an enormous effort on our part.”
Mostly, that effort entails prayer, he added.
Quoting Blessed Hannibal DiFrancia, Father Brannen said, “‘Jesus teaches us that vocations in the church do not come by chance, nor by themselves, nor can we make them out of human effort alone. They come to us from the mercy of God. If we do not pray to obtain them, they will not be given us.’”
He noted that prayer must begin in the home.
Father Brannen especially highlighted the impact of families who pray together.
Specifically, he spoke of the role of the father and said that studies indicate that children are 45 percent more likely to grow up to be practicing Catholics if they pray with their father.
“Why is that? Because to a little, tiny child, the father of the family is the most authoritative person in the world,” Father Brannen explained. “Because of his large stature, his deep voice — he is the head of the family. When a little child sees their father kneeling and talking to Jesus, he says, ‘I don’t know who this Jesus is but I need him, too.’”
A New Discernment Guide
To aid young men in their vocation journey, Father Brannen wrote a book, published this year, “To Save a Thousand Souls: A Guide for Discerning a Vocation to Diocesan Priesthood.”
The book provides answers to nearly 200 questions about the priesthood and the process of discerning a call to the priesthood. It takes readers through the whole process of discernment, from the first inklings about the priesthood to ordination day.
“Young men need good information about priesthood because priesthood is a radical commitment and requires celibacy — it can be very intimidating,” Father Brannen said of his motives for writing the book.
He added that “most young men today, even Catholic young men who grew up in Catholic schools, do not have enough good information about priesthood to properly discern if that is their vocation.”
The book deals with questions like: Does God want me to be a priest? How do I know I can live celibacy? How is the priest’s soul changed when he is ordained? How do I overcome all these fears? How soon should I contact my vocation director? Should I date before I go to the seminary? What if a man has been sexually active in the past?
Other chapters deal with how parents can support their sons during the discernment process.
Despite the many challenges to the faith, Father Brannen said he has great hope for the priesthood and the future of the Catholic Church.
In recent years, he has seen younger men entering seminary and they are quality seminarians, he said.
“They love Jesus,” Father Brannen observed. “The church is raising up young men who are going to be wonderful, wonderful priests.”
To order a copy of Father Brannen’s new book, “To Save a Thousand Souls,” visit vianneyvocations.com
Printed with permission from CatholicAnchor.org.
Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Sep 25, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - God's forgiveness is the “fulcrum of every reform,” Pope Benedict told a group of Brazilian bishops on Saturday. It is in recognizing “true faults,” purifying herself and reflecting Christ in the world, said the Pope, that the Church might be the “youth of the world.”
The Holy Father met with bishops from the Brazilian Bishops' Conference's "East 1" region on Saturday morning at Castel Gandolfo. In his address to conclude their "ad limina" visit, he discussed the roots of the contemporary spiritual crisis in the "darkening of the grace of forgiveness."
In this darkened context, when the "real and effective" nature of forgiveness goes unrecognized, he told them, the person tends to be "liberated" of fault. But, the Pope observed, such "liberated" people "know it's not true, that sin exists and that they themselves are sinners."
Although some currents of pyschology might find it difficult to admit, the Pope continued, amid people's feelings of fault, there may also be "true fault." And when a person is “so cold so as not to have feelings of fault even when he should,” he must seek to recover such feelings of fault because “in the spiritual order they are necessary for the health of the soul."
In fact, explained the Pope, Jesus did not come to save those who thought they were already liberated, but for the salvation of "all who feel themselves sinners and are in need of Him."
All people, he concluded, "need Him, the divine Sculptor who removes the layers of dust and filth that are place over the image of God inscribed in us. We need forgiveness which constitutes the fulcrum of every reform: renewing the person's heart, becoming also the center of renewal of the community."
Reminded of the words of St. Paul, who said that he no longer lived, but Christ lived in him, Pope Benedict said that in the same way a person can "insert" himself into His being and unite himself with the Lord and all people. "Only beginning from this profundity of individual renewal is the Church born, is the community born which unites and sustains in life and death," he said.
In this way, he explained, purification is realized and the path becomes ever more joyful, a "joy that shines through the Church and is contagious to the world, so that it is the youth of the world."
Tel Aviv, Israel, Sep 25, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Negotiations to decide the Holy See's status in the Holy Land are “cordial” and still moving forward to reach “the desired agreement,” according to a joint statement from the participating delegations.
Negotiations have taken place on and off since the 1993 Fundamental Agreement between the two States. They aim to reach an agreement on the judicial, fiscal and economic status of the Holy See in the Holy Land. Meetings take place every several months either in Israel or in the Vatican.
On Sept. 21, the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission met in Israel once again to work towards a settlement. According to a joint communiqué resulting from the meeting, the talks were held in a “cordial” atmosphere and produced “progress towards the desired agreement."
The communiqué seems optimistic, according to one the Vatican delegates in the negotiations, Fr. David-Maria Jaeger, who spoke to CNA in June. He said that although the process is slow, "the attentive reader of the joint communiqués must know that when the communiqué says 'progress' it's never an empty, ritualistic word in that context. It is very precisely made."
Pope Benedict XVI himself hoped for a "rapid conclusion" to the talks in speaking to Israeli president Shimon Peres at Castel Gandolfo during their meeting earlier this month.
No date for the next working-level meeting of the commission was announced in the Friday communiqué, but it is known that the next plenary meeting is being planned for Dec. 6 at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
St. Paul, Minn., Sep 25, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis has released a video, in which he explains how new definitions of marriage could seriously harm society. He also propossd that an amendment to his state's constitution be put before the state's voters, “to put the one-man, one-woman definition of marriage beyond the reach of the courts and politicians.”
A DVD incorporating the presentation was mailed to Catholics throughout Minnesota, in response to several bills that would redefine “marriage” to include homosexual partnerships.
Throughout the six minute presentation, Archbishop Nienstedt emphasizes that the definition of marriage, as a lifelong and potentially procreative union between one man and one woman, is not something exclusive to the Catholic Church or any other religious group.
Rather, he teaches, it is a matter of natural law-- which can be known even apart from faith, and which cannot be redefined, democratically or otherwise. Attempts to change such an essential human institution, he maintains, go against the grain of human nature itself, and will contribute to alarming trends toward family and social breakdown.
“What will happen to children,” he asks, “growing up in a world where the law teaches them that moms and dads are interchangeable, and that marriage has nothing intrinsically to do with the bearing and raising of children?”
Rejecting the argument that same-sex “marriage” is simply a private decision which cannot affect others or society as a whole, he states: “Defining marriage as simply a union of consenting parties will change the core meaning of marriage in the public square for every Minnesotan.”
The prelate then draws comparisons between current attempts to redefine the institution of marriage, and efforts to liberalize divorce law during the 1970s-- initiatives he acknowledges that were sometimes well-meaning, but disastrous in practice for families and children.
“The experts,” he recalls in the video, “told us that no-fault divorce would liberate women from bad marriages, without affecting anyone else.” Instead, he explains, “the divorce rate skyrocketed”-- and, contrary to the opinion of those predicting no broader consequences, “we now know that as a result of divorce, as many as one third of women fall into poverty with their children.”
Laws imposing an equality between traditional marriage and potentially any other consenting partnership, the prelate says, would likewise serve to weaken society's already damaged foundation.
“Marriage,” he affirms, “is the way a man and woman bind their love into a life-long commitment that is mutual, exclusive, and open to new life.” As an institution more fundamental than even government itself, marriage “exists in civil law primarily in order to provide communal support for bringing mothers and fathers together to care for their children.”
In addition to his defense of marriage as a matter of both faith and basic human reason, the Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis carefully articulates the Church's position of compassion toward individuals forced to bring up children alone, as well as those who experience same-sex attractions.
“The Church's teaching on marriage,” he affirms, “is not a condemnation of homosexual persons as human beings. It is simply a reflection, not only of the Scriptures, but of the unique, procreative nature of the male-female bond.”
Huntington, Ind., Sep 25, 2010 (CNA) - The CNN special “What the Pope Knew” repeats “widely debunked” inaccuracies while trying to link Pope Benedict XVI to sexual abuse scandals, two authors say. They contend that the evidence in fact shows then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was not “in any way tolerant of, or insensitive to, the actions of abusers."
Gregory Erlandson and Dr. Matthew Bunson, authors of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing’s book “Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis: Working for Reform and Renewal,” discussed in an OSV press release a preview of the CNN special set to air on Sept. 25 and 26.
"How exactly does CNN have so little journalistic integrity that it can repeat inaccuracies that were widely debunked seven months ago, and for which there is clear, incontrovertible documentary evidence available?" Erlandson and Bunson asked, discussing the show preview posted on CNN’s Belief Blog on Sept. 23.
The special focuses on the case of Fr. Lawrence Murphy, a priest who is accused of molesting about 200 deaf children in Milwaukee in the 1950s and 1960s.
Earlier this year, the New York Times claimed that evidence from the Murphy case shows that the Vatican declined to defrock Fr. Murphy. The OSV press release claims that the article sought to depict then-Cardinal Ratzinger as obstructing the prosecution of the priest in the mid-1990s when he headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The New York Times report used dozens of internal church documents provided by a lawyer who is suing the Vatican. Erlandson and Busnon said the documents show that the Vatican had approved the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s effort to investigate the charges and proceed with a church trial.
When informed that Fr. Murphy was seriously ill, a Vatican official working under Cardinal Ratzinger recommended that the priest be stripped of any ministerial duties in order to expedite the process. The priest died soon afterward.
"While the Murphy case is a glaring example of the poor oversight and inadequate communication that typified many abuse cases in the U.S. dioceses in the past 50 years, it does not show Cardinal Ratzinger in any way tolerant of, or insensitive to, the actions of abusers," the two authors commented.
"There is an important story here to be told about the Church's attempt to address the abuse scandal, but getting to it will require news organizations to strip off ideological blinders and pay closer attention to the facts.”
The authors have posted what OSV calls a “document by document” rebuttal on their blog at the website http://www.osv.com/abusecrisis.
Rome, Italy, Sep 25, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican spokesman urged that the same attitude taken to confront the economic crisis must be applied to boost development and combat hunger and poverty in the world. Making reference to the Pope's words from his landmark speech to the British parliament last week, Fr. Federico Lombardi said these objectives are "too big too fail."
In his weekly "Octava dies" editorial, Fr. Federico Lombardi recalled Pope Benedict's words at London's Westminster Hall on Sept. 17, when he employed an expression that was coined as world governments allocated large sums to save major financial institutions from failing.
The Holy Father then applauded the U.K.'s commitment to aiding development in the world and said he was encouraged by signs of increased solidarity in the international commitment to the poor.
Pope Benedict noted that "fresh thinking" is needed "to turn this solidarity into effective action" to improve people's lives in areas of basic need. He added: "Where human lives are concerned, time is always short: yet the world has witnessed the vast resources that governments can draw upon to rescue financial institutions deemed 'too big to fail.'
"Surely," he concluded, "the integral human development of the world’s peoples is no less important: here is an enterprise, worthy of the world’s attention, that is truly 'too big to fail'."
By these words, said Fr. Lombardi on Saturday, the Pope meant that "if we were capable of such interventions to save big financial institutions, why are we not when it is about development of the peoples of the earth, or hunger, or poverty?
"This," he underscored, "is truly too big of an objective that we might fail in it!"
Referring then to the recent UN "Millennium Development Goals" summit, Fr. Lombardi said that "the enterprise is gigantic and calls on the collaboration of not only governments, but all of the active forces of society, both in the developed and developing worlds."
The Church, he assured, is committed to this through her many component parts "in light of a spiritual and moral perspective, aware and attentive to fundamental values ..."
Making reference to the words of the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Kodwo Appiah Turkson, to the New York summit this week, Fr. Lombardi concluded, "the human person must be at the center of research for development, he must never be seen as a weight, but as an active part of the solution."