Archive of December 5, 2010

Rep. Smith: New women veterans’ bill says abortion is not health care

Washington D.C., Dec 5, 2010 (CNA) - A “Bill of Rights” for women veterans will help ensure their comprehensive and effective treatment while being “absolutely clear” that abortion is not health care, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said this past week.

On Nov. 30 the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5953, the Women Veterans Bill of Rights, by voice vote. It responded to recommendations to improve Veterans’ Affairs hospitals by expanding its gender-specific workforce to handle “the unique challenges that women face when transitioning to civilian life,” Rep. Smith explained.

“Every American has a duty to respect, honor and support our Veterans,” he stated in Nov. 30 comments on the House floor.

The congressman had successfully requested the addition of language clarifying that the legislation’s definition of a “medical benefits package” did not include abortions and abortion counseling, in vitro fertilization, gender alterations, and membership in spas and health clubs.

“Because abortion methods dismember, decapitate, crush, poison, starve to death and induce premature labor, pro-life Members of Congress, and according to every reputable poll, significant majorities of “Americans want no complicity whatsoever in this violence,” Rep. Smith said.

“Abortion hurts women’s health and puts future children subsequently born to women who aborted at significant risk,” explained Smith. He cited studies showing increased psychological problems and possible breast cancer risks for women who have had abortions.

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Dec. 7 brings feast of St. Ambrose, beloved fourth-century bishop

Denver, Colo., Dec 5, 2010 (CNA) - On Dec. 7, the Catholic Church will celebrate the memory of St. Ambrose, the brilliant Bishop of Milan who influenced St. Augustine's conversion and was named a Doctor of the Church.

Like Augustine himself, the older Ambrose (born around 340) was a highly educated man who sought to harmonize Greek and Roman intellectual culture with the Catholic faith. Trained as a lawyer, he eventually became the governor of Milan. He manifested his intellectual gifts in defense of Christian doctrine even before his baptism.

While Ambrose was serving as the governor of Milan, a bishop named Auxentius was leading the diocese. Although he was an excellent public speaker with a forceful personality, Auxentius also followed the heresy of Arius, which denied the divinity of Christ.

Although the Council of Nicaea had reasserted the traditional teaching on Jesus' deity, many educated members of the Church –including, at one time, a majority of the world's bishops– looked to Arianism as a more sophisticated and cosmopolitan version of Christianity. Bishop Auxentius became notorious for forcing clergy throughout the region to accept Arian creeds.

At the time of Auxentius' death, Ambrose had not yet even been baptized. But his deep understanding and love of the traditional faith were already clear to the faithful of Milan. They considered him the most logical choice to succeed Auxentius, even though he was still just a catechumen.

With the help of Emperor Valentinan, who ruled the Western Roman Empire at the time, a mob of Milanese Catholics virtually forced Ambrose to become their bishop against his own will. Eight days after his baptism, Ambrose received episcopal consecration on Dec. 7, 374. The date would eventually become his liturgical feast.

Bishop Ambrose did not disappoint those who had clamored for his appointment and consecration. He began his ministry by giving everything he owned to the poor and to the Church. He looked to the writings of Greek theologians like St. Basil for help in explaining the Church's traditional teachings to the people during times of doctrinal confusion.

Like the fathers of the Eastern Church, Ambrose drew from the intellectual reserves of pre-Christian philosophy and literature to make the faith more comprehensible to his hearers. This harmony of faith with other sources of knowledge served to attract, among others, the young professor Aurelius Augustinus– a man Ambrose taught and baptized, whom history knows as St. Augustine of Hippo.

Ambrose himself lived simply, wrote prolifically, and celebrated Mass each day. He found time to counsel an amazing range of public officials, pagan inquirers, confused Catholics and penitent sinners.
The people of Milan never regretted their insistence that the reluctant civil servant should lead the local church.

His popularity, in fact, served to keep at bay those who would have preferred to force him from the diocese, including the Western Empress Justina and a group of her advisers, who sought to rid the West of adherence to the Nicene Creed. Ambrose heroically refused her attempts to impose heretical bishops in Italy, along with her efforts to seize churches in the name of Arianism.

Ambrose also displayed remarkable courage when he publicly denied communion to the Emperor Theodosius, who had ordered the massacre of 7,000 citizens in Thessalonica. The chastened emperor took Ambrose's rebuke to heart, publicly repenting of the massacre and doing penance for the murders.

“Nor was there afterwards a day on which he did not grieve for his mistake,” Ambrose himself noted when he spoke at the emperor's funeral. The rebuke spurred a profound change in Emperor Theodosius. He reconciled himself with the Church and the bishop, who attended to the emperor on his deathbed.

St. Ambrose died in 397. His 23 years of diligent service had turned a deeply troubled diocese into an exemplary outpost for the faith. His writings remained an important point of reference for the Church, well into the medieval era and beyond.

At the Catholic Church's Fifth Ecumenical Council –which took place at Constantinople in 553, and remains a source of authoritative teaching for both Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians–  the assembled bishops named Ambrose, along with this protege St. Augustine, as being among the foremost “holy fathers” of the Church, whose teaching all bishops should “in every way follow.”

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Pope urges Catholics to prepare hearts for Jesus’ birth

Vatican City, Dec 5, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Thousands of families gathered in St. Peter’s Square this morning to hear Pope Benedict speak about preparing their hearts for “He who comes” and to see the Vatican’s Christmas tree.

As the crowd listened to Pope Benedict’s address, little children tried to peek through the barriers surrounding the Vatican’s unfinished Nativity scene for this year.

The Pope offered those present a reflection on today’s Gospel, Matthew 3:1-12, which features St. John the Baptist being called into the wilderness to urge repentance to prepare for the coming of the Lord.

St. Gregory the Great, the Pope said, taught that “the Baptist preaches the true faith and good works ... so that … the pathways to God are straightened and honest thoughts are born in souls after listening to the Word that leads to all good.”

The Pope then connected the mission of John the Baptist to Advent. “(W)e too are called to hear God's voice, echoing in the wilderness of the world through the Holy Scriptures, especially when they are preached with the power of the Holy Spirit.”

He pointed Catholics to the Virgin Mary as the model of listening, saying, “As we contemplate in the Mother of God a life totally shaped by the word, we realize that we too are called to enter into the mystery of faith, whereby Christ comes to dwell in our lives.

“Every Christian believer, St. Ambrose reminds us, in some way interiorly conceives and gives birth to the word of God,” the Pope said.

Situations around the world that cry out for the coming of Christ were also on the Pope’s mind as he reflected on the phenomenon of waiting that is associated with Advent. He asked everyone to pray for “all situations of violence, intolerance, suffering in the world, that the coming of Jesus may bring consolation, reconciliation and peace.”

In particular, the Pope mentioned “the continuous attacks that occur in Iraq against Christians and Muslims,” election-related violence in Egypt, and a dramatic situation in the Sinai desert where Bedouin human traffickers have taken hundreds of people hostage, subjecting them to torture to extract payments from their relatives living abroad.
Pope Benedict finished his address by praying: “We ask the Virgin Mary in whose womb the Son of the Most High dwelt, and who we celebrate next Wednesday, Dec. 8, in the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, to support us on this spiritual path, to welcome in faith and love the coming of the Savior.”

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Worcester's Deacon Sullivan shares healing story

Worcester, Mass., Dec 5, 2010 (CNA) - St. Paul Society dinner-goers in Worcester, Mass. got a bit closer to Blessed John Henry Newman last month.

Not only were the 90 people blessed by the diocese's Bishop Robert J. McManus using a relic of Cardinal Newman, but they were blessed by the presence of Deacon Jack Sullivan whose healing led to Cardinal Newman’s beatification this past September.

Msgr. Thomas J. Sullivan, chancellor and director of the Office of Stewardship and Development, introduced Deacon Sullivan, recalling that the last time they were together was in England at Cardinal Newman’s beatification Mass with Pope Benedict XVI.

Deacon Sullivan, of Marshfield, Mass. shared his knowledge of Cardinal Newman with those present and told the story of his own miraculous healing through the intercession of Cardinal Newman.

A little more than 10 years ago, on June 6, 2000, Jack Sullivan awoke with tremendous pain in his back and legs. He said his legs seemed to be on fire and he could hardly walk. His doctor told him his vertebrae and discs had turned inward and “were literally squeezing the life out of his spinal cord.” He had suffered no accident, no trauma and he would never know what caused the condition. It appeared that his lower body would soon cease to function and that he would be paralyzed.

In late July a spinal surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston told him: “Jack, your spine has been reduced to almost the circumference of a piece of string.” A normal spine is about the size of a quarter.

They scheduled surgery for Sept. 12.

“I had just finished my second year of diaconate studies in a four-year formation program. ... I loved the program and had my heart set on being ordained,” he said. He was supporting his family working in the court system and had two children in college and one in high school. He was devastated and discouraged.

He went home and turned on the television to take his mind off things. He tuned in to EWTN and an expert on Cardinal Newman, Father Ian Ker, was talking about the difficulties and trials Cardinal Newman had faced in his life, especially in terms of his vocation. Cardinal Newman was one of the preeminent Anglican priests in the mid-1800s who, at the height of his ministry, converted to Catholicism. “For this he was severely condemned. Even his friends abandoned him. …He became one of the most celebrated theologians of the Church,” Deacon Sullivan said.

At the end of the TV program an address flashed on the screen asking anyone who had received any divine favors through Newman’s intercession to contact postulators of his cause for sainthood.

“So, naturally, I prayed to him,” Mr. Sullivan said. He prayed a simple prayer: “Please Cardinal Newman, help me to walk so that I can return to classes and be ordained.” Then he went to bed.

“The following morning I woke up for the first time in months without any pain,” he said. He had been walking in a jackknife position for weeks and that morning he could stand up straight, had strength in his legs and in his back.

“I attribute this to Cardinal Newman,” he said.

He was able to return to diaconate classes with a warning from his doctor that his improved condition was not likely to last long.

Nine months later he said he found out that Cardinal Newman gives you just what you ask for. The day after the last class, “the pain returned in all its fury,” he said.

Surgery was scheduled for Aug. 9, 2001 with the chief of spinal surgery at New England Baptist Hospital, Dr. Robert Banco, the best in the United States, he said.

“I prayed to Newman daily,” he said.

His doctor told him recovery would be months, possibly years, because the dura mater in his spine was not only compressed but torn up.

It was three weeks before the fourth-year diaconate classes were to begin. “I’ve got to try to walk,” Mr. Sullivan told his nurses.

“It took me 10 minutes to get myself to the edge of the bed. … the pain was constant,” he said. “I couldn’t get up. I was in agony. … I was brought to prayer. The same simple prayer. ‘Please Cardinal Newman help me to walk so that I can return to classes and be ordained.’

“Then something unbelievable happened. You talk about the communion of saints ... that experience I had approached that concept.

“Suddenly, I felt tremendous heat ... and a tingling feeling all over my body. I also felt a tremendous sense of peace and joy. … I was totally consumed, totally engulfed in what I have believed and will always believe was God’s presence. I had no willpower of my own. I was just totally captivated.

“I realized I was standing up, standing with no pain … I could walk normally,” he said.

The nurse offered him a walker, then a cane; but he needed neither. He walked up and down the corridors of the hospital with the nurse telling him to slow down. “How could I slow down?” he asked with a chuckle.

He was discharged that day, went on to diaconate classes, and was ordained a year later, on Sept. 14, 2002, the feast of the triumph of the cross.

On the same day as his ordination he was notified by email that the fathers at the Birmingham Oratory had voted to formally initiate the beatification process for John Henry Newman and they would take his case to Rome.
Deacon Sullivan said he took that as a sign.

Printed with permission from the Catholic Free Press, newspaper for the Diocese of Worcester, Mass.

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