Archive of October 31, 2010

No one excluded from Jesus' mercy, teaches Benedict XVI

Vatican City, Oct 31, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - God "sees a soul to save" in everyone, the Pope said before praying the Angelus on Sunday. The Lord's mercy, he taught, takes nothing away from the gravity of sins, but always seeks to save the sinner.

Pilgrims enjoyed a break from a morning of rain in Rome as they joined the Pope for the Angelus.

Referring to the Gospel reading from Luke that recounts the story of the chief tax collector Zacchaeus, he reflected on his conversion after contact with Jesus.

Jesus' encounter with Zacchaeus is one of several episodes where St. Luke talks about the merciful love of God and of Christ, said the Pope. In this case, Jesus directs his attention to Zacchaeus, considered a "public sinner" for his position.

The Lord "knew very well what he was doing" when he asked the publicly disliked man to host him in his home, and his "gamble" was rewarded with the man's conversion, Benedict XVI pointed out.

Citing Jesus' words from the Gospel, the Pope said, "today, salvation has come to this house" and "the Son of man has come to seek and to save what had been lost."

"God," the Holy Father said, "does not exclude anyone, rich or poor." Neither is He "conditioned by our human prejudices, but He sees in everyone as a soul to save and is attracted especially by those who are judged lost and who consider themselves to be such."

Jesus, he explained, demonstrates this immense mercy, "not taking anything away from the gravity of the sin, but looking always to save sinners, to offer them the possibility of rescue, starting over from the beginning, repenting."

Focusing on Zaccheus, Pope Benedict noted that he "accepted Jesus and was converted because Jesus accepted him first! He did not condemn him, but met his desire for salvation."

The Holy Father concluded his catechesis before the Angelus by praying for the intercession of Mary so that all people "might experience the joy of being visited by the Son of God, of being renewed by his love, and transmitting his mercy to others."

Following the noon-time prayer, he greeted the variety of pilgrims in their different languages. He made a special mention of Blessed Szilard Bogdanffy, a Romanian bishop who was martyred under communist rule in the country in 1953.

Jailed less than two months after his consecration as a bishop, he is remembered for his ability to continue loving despite torture and trial.

Thanking God for this "heroic Pastor of the Church," the Pope prayed that his testimony would be a comfort to all of those persecuted for the faith today.

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Middle East synod participant explains factors behind its controversial conclusion

New York City, N.Y., Oct 31, 2010 (CNA) - The Synod for the Middle East, a historic gathering of the region's bishops, concluded October 24, amid controversy over alleged bias in its concluding message. One expert on the region told CNA that the document reflected pastoral needs, not a political agenda.

The bishops' concluding “Message to the People of God” criticized Israel in detail, but omitted most of the criticisms made against Islamic governments during the synod. Some observers took remarks about using religion to “justify injustices” as a blanket rebuke of Israel, a charge participants denied.

Shortly after his return from Rome, synod participant Monsignor Robert Stern, secretary general of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, spoke with CNA about some of the considerations that shaped the synod's concluding message.

“The synod really didn't have a political focus at all,” Msgr. Stern said, recalling that its main purposes were to strengthen bonds between diverse groups of Catholics, and to ensure a continuing Middle Eastern Christian presence and witness.

As such, he said, the synod's final message did not contain “the same degree of detail about every situation where Christians have difficulties in the Middle East.” Rather, he said, the message reflected “two major concerns” that took priority as “the more compelling matters,” Palestine and Iraq. Migration has greatly diminished both regions' Christian populations in recent years.

In this context, he said, the bishops' choices of emphasis and restraint --which could appear to focus on Israel's treatment of Palestine, while treading lightly with Islamic regimes-- should not be interpreted as political statements, but as expressions of their pastoral priorities, and suggestions toward peace.

“They did list out several of the issues that are raised by (Muslim and Christian) Palestinians,” the monsignor said, noting that all of the specific criticisms of Israel were ongoing “issues of concern for the Christians who live in Palestine.” The synod fathers, he recalled, “also mentioned being conscious of the suffering and insecurity in which Israelis live” because of violence from some Palestinians.

Monsignor Stern also acknowledged that fear for the safety of Christians in some Muslim countries may have prompted the synod fathers to moderate their comments. This was, he said, a “prudential judgment,” since Christians throughout the region can suffer consequences of their leaders' remarks.

“Most of these bishops come from ... places where they're a very small minority, they're bishops of a very small community, and they feel a lot of social pressure living in an Islamic world,” he observed. “A lot of them are in politically very uncertain circumstances-- where they're at risk, and their people are at risk. So, they don't have quite so open and expansive of a way of talking about the situation.”

“Just the experience for them to come to Rome, and talk to one another, and experience a kind of free ambiance where anything can be said ... was a very powerful experience for them-- to have solidarity, to be gathered around the Pope, and to be able to reflect.”

He said that the Middle Eastern bishops' “Message to the People of God,” whatever its possible limitations might be, was a historic and crucial statement-- giving guidance to communities whose decisions in the near future could make the difference between their survival or disappearance.

“The whole thrust of it is saying, 'What's our ... situation in the Middle East, and what do we want to say to our people here, or our people abroad? How do we stick together as Catholics? ... How do we deal with our brothers and fellow citizens, the Muslims and Jews?'”

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Catholics prepare for celebration of gifted reformer St. Charles Borromeo

CNA STAFF, Oct 31, 2010 (CNA) - No age of the Catholic Church's history is without its share of confusion and corruption. Still, even in moments when disorder may seem overwhelming, individuals and movements eventually arise to propose the faith with clarity and demonstrate it in action. St. Charles Borromeo, a central figure in the Council of Trent, will be remembered on November 4, as a model of such leadership in difficult times.

The circumstances of Charles' birth, in 1538, could have easily allowed him to join the ranks of corrupt Renaissance-era clergy. He was born into luxury, the son of noble parents, with a guaranteed income comparable to modern “trust funds.” Early on, however, the young man signaled his intention to go against the cultural grain. He announced his desire to serve the Church with sincerity, asking his father to give away the majority of the fund's money to the poor.

Charles could not escape a certain degree of wealth and prestige, which were expected due to his social class. But he insisted on using these forms of leverage to benefit the Church, rather than himself. When he was 22, opportunity knocked: the young lawyer and canonist's uncle was elected as Pope Pius IV.
Charles soon assumed staggering responsibilities, serving as a papal diplomat and supervisor of major religious orders.

The young man relaxed from these tasks through literature and music, taking no interest in the temptations abounding in Rome during the late Renaissance. He considered renouncing even this temperate lifestyle, for the strict observance of a monastery-- but found himself more urgently needed in the work of concluding the Council of Trent.

The Church's nineteenth Ecumenical Council had begun in late 1545, but experienced many delays. Its twofold mission was to clarify Catholic doctrine against Protestant objections, and reform the Church internally against many longstanding problems. As a papal representative, Charles participated in the council's conclusion in 1563, when he was only 25. He also played a leading role in assembling its comprehensive summary, the Roman Catechism (or Catechism of the Council of Trent).

For his labors, Charles received the reward of even greater responsibilities. Ordained a priest during the Council, he was picked as an archbishop and cardinal only months later. He found his diocese of Milan in a state of disintegration, after two generations of virtually no local administration or leadership. The new bishop got to work-- establishing school, seminaries, and centers for religious life.

His reforms of the diocese, in accordance with the decrees of the council, were dramatic and effective-- so much so that a group of disgruntled monks attempted to kill him. His survival was called miraculous.

The new archbishop's efforts for catechesis and the instruction of youth were especially fruitful, initiating the work of the Confraternity for Christian Doctrine and the first “Sunday School” classes. He also gave important pastoral attention to English Catholics who fled to Italy to escape new laws against the Catholic faith.

St. Charles Borromeo's amazing diligence, frequent travel and ascetic living eventually took their toll. The onetime prodigy of the Papal Court also died young, at age 46. He was canonized quickly, as well-- just 16 years later, in 1610.

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Holy Father praying for drug addicts in November

Vatican City, Oct 31, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has announced his prayer intentions for the month of November, calling for an increased focus on victims of drug and other substance addictions as well as prayers for the well being of the Church in Latin America.

Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for November is: “That victims of drugs or of other dependence may, thanks to the support of the Christian community, find in the power of our saving God strength for a radical life-change.”

His mission intention is: “That the Churches of Latin America may move ahead with the continent-wide mission proposed by their bishops, making it part of the universal missionary task of the People of God.”

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California woman has family connection to new saint

San Marcos, Calif., Oct 31, 2010 (CNA) - San Marcos resident Aurora Albright remembers spending lazy, berry-picking summers at her grandparents’ two-story farmhouse in AuSable Forks, N.Y.

Each season, she would help feed the chickens and pigs and try not to eat more berries than she picked. Since she lived in the city, the summers spent with her “Ma-mere” and “Pa-pere” opened her eyes to the nonstop labor involved in living on a farm.

Her hardworking grandparents didn’t own a washing machine and had no indoor plumbing. Her grandfather, Frederick Akey, always “walked funny” and her grandmother, Laura Akey, had a rosary or a missal in her hand at all times, Albright remembered. The religious couple raised 10 children in the rural town near the Canadian border.

Each adolescent summer before Albright moved to California at age 18, she would listen to stories that her grandfather would tell about Brother Andre Bessette and how he healed her very own “Pa-pere.”

When you’re a kid, stories about adults don’t hold much meaning, especially when they are retold time and time again, Albright emphasized. But today, she is a great-grandmother at 82, and gets visibly emotional when she recounts the story of her grandfather and his week-long healing encounter with Brother Andre in 1913.

Brother Andre, who died in 1937, recently became the first Canadian-born man and first member of the Congregation of Holy Cross to become a canonized saint. His canonization took place Oct. 17 in Rome.

Albright was cheering from home when Brother Andre was canonized, but some of her extended family members made the trek to Rome to honor the small-statured Brother Andre who devoted his life to hospitality, charity, tireless work and prayer.

Before Albright was born, her “Pa-pere” suffered a serious work accident when he fell more than 40 feet from a mill conveyer belt, driving his left leg into his hip and leaving a six-inch leg discrepancy. Crutches were the only way he could mobilize himself, and a surgery in Montreal was a failure.

Her grandmother Laura had heard stories of miraculous healings with Brother Andre, also in Montreal, and his intercession to St. Joseph. She decided to write him a letter about her husband’s condition. Brother Andre replied and invited the couple to St. Joseph’s Shrine (now St. Joseph’s Oratory).

After a week of conversation and prayer, Brother Andre had Albright’s grandfather carried to the altar, at the foot of which he told him to stand up and walk. When the disabled New Yorker stood up for the first time in years without crutches and began to walk, it was indeed a miracle.

Albright stated that Brother Andre handed her grandfather a cane, and he left his crutches at the shrine along with the hundreds of others abandoned by individuals who were rewarded by the powerful intercession of Brother Andre and St. Joseph.

This month, Albright feels a special connection to the legacy of Brother Andre as she recalls how her family was rewarded with his miraculous healing of her grandfather.

After his week-long visit with Brother Andre, Albright’s grandfather eventually returned to the workforce, had more children and died at the age of 89. Albright attributes his long life to his Catholic faith and personal experience with St. Andre. Her own faith-filled life is a testament to the foundation started by her grandparents.

Albright herself is no stranger to hard work and family tragedy. She plans to seek St. Andre’s intercession as her younger daughter continues to battle cancer. The strawberry-haired San Marcos resident already lost her only son to cancer two years ago.

She never expected to outlive her own children, and this vibrant parishioner of Escondido’s Resurrection Parish prays daily for strength to build upon her faith. She regularly serves as a lector at Resurrection and has no imminent plans to retire. Now, with St. Andre’s help, she hopes to continue.

Printed with permission from the Southern Cross, newspaper for the Diocese of San Diego.

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