Providence, R.I., Jan 9, 2011 (CNA) - Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence is warning that the “frenetic rush” to recognize “gay marriage” in Rhode Island is morally wrong and that Gov. Lincoln Chafee and other state leaders are pushing the legislation without adequate debate.
On Jan. 6, State Rep. Arthur Handy, a Democrat from Cranston, introduced his annual bill to recognize same-sex “marriage” in the state. Twenty-nine lawmakers co-signed the bill, including the openly homosexual House Speaker Gordon D. Fox.
Sen. Rhoda Perry, a Democrat from Providence, introduced similar legislation in the state Senate.
The legislation has strong support in the House but has poorer chances in the Senate, the Providence Journal reports. Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed opposes the proposal.
The bill has been introduced eight times in recent years but has never been put to a vote even in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Gov. Chafee, a former Republican who is now unaffiliated, supports same-sex “marriage.”
The proposal to redefine marriage is “an enormous decision with profound consequences,” Bishop Tobin said on Jan. 7.
He added that it was “particularly disturbing” that Gov. Chafee contradicted his stated desire for unity by adopting “a very divisive agenda item as one of his first priorities.”
“His proposal violates the sincere conscience of many of our citizens and inflames passions on both sides of the issue,” Bishop Tobin said.
The bishop reaffirmed Catholics’ respect for individuals with a homosexual orientation as “children of God and our brothers and sisters.”
However, he said Rhode Islanders must have the opportunity to vote on an issue “so basic to the social fabric of our community and the well-being of our families, especially our children.”
Rather than recognize “gay marriage,” he suggested, state leaders should work on job creation and economic improvement.
“The frenetic rush to legalize the marriage of homosexuals will accomplish none of the above,” he remarked.
Washington D.C., Jan 9, 2011 (CNA) - As the first anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti approaches, U.S. bishops are urging Catholics across the states to pray in solidarity with the ravaged country.
The Jan. 12 disaster that killed over 200,000 people and left millions homeless in 2010 will be remembered by U.S. bishops this month. They encouraged Catholics to keep Haiti in their prayers and consider sending fresh donations. In addition to the devastating earthquake, Haitians have also endured massive cholera outbreaks in recent months and many still live in temporary shelters.
“Haiti and its people still very much need our prayers and solidarity,” said Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, chairman of the Special Advisory Group for Haiti for the U.S. bishops' conference.
“As we approach the anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, we join together with parishes, Catholic schools, youth groups, colleges and universities from across the country to remember the tragic events of that fateful afternoon and to respond in a faith-filled way,” he said, Jan. 6.
Catholics are being invited by the bishops to pray a Novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of the Americas, from Jan. 12 to the celebration of Mass the weekend of Jan. 22-23 – the official date for the National Collection for Latin America, which includes Haiti and the Caribbean.
In addition to the novena, other catechetical and reflection resources from Catholic Relief Services can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/haiti/one-year-later.shtml, under the title One Year Later: Pray and Walk With our Sisters and Brothers in Haiti.
Denver, Colo., Jan 9, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - On January 13, Catholics will celebrate St. Hilary of Poitiers, a fourth-century philosopher whose studies made him a champion of orthodox Trinitarian theology during one of the most difficult periods of Church history.
Little is known about St. Hilary's life before he became a bishop. Fittingly, what historians do know about him derives mostly from personal details contained within his extensive theological works. Those remarks indicate that Hilary was born to a pagan family in present-day France, most likely around 310 – three years before the Roman Empire declared its official toleration of Christianity.
Hilary himself grew up apparently without any significant Christian influence, but received an otherwise comprehensive education in the Latin and Greek classics. Not unusual for his era, he rigorously studied both Greek philosophy and the Bible. Like many other early Church Fathers, he came to accept the truth of the Bible by recognizing its compatibility with philosophy and the sciences.
This was a gradual process for him, however, and it was not until 345 – by which time he was already married, and had a daughter– that Hilary committed himself to full membership in the Catholic Church by receiving baptism with the rest of his family. His rise within the Church, however, was not gradual at all: around 353, the people of Poitiers called for him to be made their bishop.
By its nature, the position involved tremendous responsibility, as well as significant personal sacrifice. While the early church permitted some married men to become bishops, they were traditionally required to practice celibacy within marriage, and many adopted a radically simplified lifestyle akin to monasticism. There are indications that Hilary followed this ascetical path, once ordained.
Moreover, Hilary's election as the Bishop of Poitiers coincided with the second wave of the Church's first great doctrinal controversy, in which he would play a significant role. Although the Council of Nicaea in 325 had confirmed the Church’s rejection of Arianism – which claimed Jesus was only human, not divine – powerful forces within both the Church and the empire clung to the heresy.
Only a few years after his assumption of episcopal rank, Hilary found himself virtually alone in defending Jesus’ deity before a hostile crowd of bishops in the southern French region of Gaul. The bishops appealed to Emperor Constantius II, who favored a modified version of Arianism and declared Hilary’s exile from Gaul.
Constantius II did not likely suspect that by banishing Hilary to Phrygia he would inspire the bishop to mount an even greater defense of orthodox theology. There, he wrote his most important work, “On the Trinity,” showing the Bible’s consistent witness to the central mystery of Christian faith.
Remarkably, this staunchly orthodox bishop also showed great charity toward those he believed were honestly mistaken. He worked closely with groups of clergy and faithful whose formulations of dogma he perceived to be merely imperfect or imprecise, but not intentionally heretical, to support what was correct in their understanding and lead them into full adherence with tradition.
Hilary even traveled to Constantinople during his exile, to explain to the city’s bishops why their emperor was not orthodox. After the death of Constantius II in 361, Hilary was able to return to his diocese at Poitiers. Once exiled for opposing Arianism in Gaul, he lived to see it squarely condemned in the local church after his return.
Although deeply committed to the leadership of his own diocese, Hilary took steps late in his life to support orthodox teaching in other regions. Most significantly, he denounced Auxentius, the Arian bishop of Milan. Subsequent opposition to Auxentius led to his succession by St. Ambrose of Milan, who, in turn, greatly influenced the conversion of St. Augustine.
St. Hilary died at Poitiers in 367, after having passed on his teachings and way of life to a number of students, including St. Martin of Tours.
Long regarded and celebrated as a saint within the Church, St. Hilary was also declared a Doctor of the Church in 1851.
Biloxi, Miss., Jan 9, 2011 (CNA) - For one east Biloxi parish, the New Year signifies a new beginning.
Bishop Roger Morin will re-consecrate the "Fisherman's Church," as St. Michael Church is commonly known, on Jan. 27 at 6:30 p.m.
The cylindrical church with the scalloped shell roof suffered extensive wind and water damage as a result of Hurricane Katrina.
St. Michael pastor, Father Greg Barras, said the church building, much like the people who worship in it, is a powerful symbol of resiliency.
“The most important thing in my mind is simply the resilience of the community as is symbolized in this architecture, which is resilient to major hurricanes” said Father Barras, who was assigned to St. Michael in Jan. 2006.
“The community still exists and supports the parish. It still comes to worship. We’ve drawn a very diverse community since the storm. We’re growing more now than they were before the storm.”
Before Katrina, St. Michael had 180 registered families. Today, the parish has 300 families.
Father Barras sees the increase in membership as another powerful symbol of that resiliency.
“It is the resilience of the people,” he said. “This icon of a church draws from the casinos. We’re drawing from D’Iberville, Ocean Springs, Gulfport and Latimer. It’s a welcoming, warm community with good liturgy and good music.”
But, undoubtedly, the main draw is the building itself.
“When people walk in this space, a common comment is ‘I just feel so lifted up.’ There’s a circular energy. It does that,” Father Barras said.
The church was nearly flattened by an errant casino barge that was washed across Hwy 90 during Katrina. Luckily, the wayward barge avoided the church. However, there was no escaping Katrina’s massive tidal surge, which shattered portions of the church’s unique windows, causing extensive interior damage. Katrina also destroyed the parish hall and rectory.
When Father Barras came to St. Michael in early 2006, he said “little or nothing had been done” to the church in the way of repairs.
However, after sending out an SOS to the diocese and to volunteers, the parish was able to move back into the church the following March.
“People from all over the country helped clan up – kids, adults and elderly,” Father Barras said. “It was marvelous.”
The church’s north wing, which once housed a mechanical room, sacristy and the choir, has been converted into office and meeting space. Also added were a sacristy and restroom. Future plans include construction of a parish life center. However, Father Barras said construction of a new rectory is “a distant possibility.”
“We have to be really good stewards of our money. (Building a new rectory) is really not necessary,” said Father Barras, who currently resides at the cathedral rectory.
As he stands in the newly refurbished sanctuary and thinks about what he discovered when he arrived on the scene in 2006, Father Barras is truly awed by the transformation.
“It’s a wonderful experience of community and a wonderful experience of faith – people responding, people determined and tapping into the creativity and determination that’s here,” he said.
“It’s what church is about – dealing with life and finding God’s presence in the midst of it. No easy answers, no easy solutions, but a determination. And it’s centered on the Eucharist. That is a constant source of focusing, hope and grace.”
Printed with permission from Gulf Pine Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Biloxi.
Vatican City, Jan 9, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The gift of faith is the “most beautiful reason to live,” said Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Faith is sought through baptism and brought to maturity within the Church community, he added.
The Pope celebrated Sunday's feast with a rare Mass in the Sistine Chapel followed by the Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square. During the celebration of the Mass, which has become a tradition in the Vatican every Jan. 9, he baptized 21 children.
With baptism, he said during his homily, the child is inserted into the "mutual exchange of love" between God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
"The love of God is poured out over them, inundating them with his gifts."
The Pope told the parents that in the sacrament their children join in the life of Christ, who was crucified to free man from sin and resurrected to conquer death. They are thus "immersed spiritually in His death and resurrection" and "freed from original sin and a life of grace begins in them, which is the very life of the Risen Jesus," he said.
The parents and godparents ask the Church to pass on the gift of faith, "that which is most precious in life, and that is the truest and most beautiful reason to live," he explained.
He explained that through baptism, children are consecrated and called to follow the Lord and to realize the vocation he has for them. Education in the faith is important, he told parents and godparents, so that "the seed of faith that they receive today will grow in them and they might reach full Christian maturity."
During the Angelus that followed in St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI explained that through Christ's own Baptism by John the Baptist, he "established the regeneration in the Spirit and opened, to all who want it, the opportunity to become children of God.
"Not by chance, in fact, every baptized person acquires the character of 'son' starting with their Christian name, an unmistakable sign that the Holy Spirit gives birth 'anew ' to man from the womb of the Church."
Blessed Antonio Rosmini wrote that man is "raised to the supernatural order" through the sacrament, thus renewing his communication with God, noted the Pope.
Baptism marks the beginning of the spiritual life that finds fulfillment in the Church. The community welcomes the child and entrusts him to God and parents and godparents commit themselves to the child's Christian formation and education.
"This is a great responsibility that comes from a great gift!" said Pope Benedict.
With those words, he encouraged all Christians "to rediscover the beauty of being baptized and to give joyful witness of their faith, so that it may generate fruits of good and harmony."
After the Angelus prayer, the Holy Father remembered last year's earthquake in Haiti and the nation's continuing problems with cholera. He announced that he has sent Cardinal Robert Sarah to represent him in Haiti for the one-year anniversary. On Jan. 12 in Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone will celebrate Mass in memory of the disaster.
He also thanked the estimated 200 Italian politicians who were present for the prayer to express their solidarity with the Pope on protecting religious freedom in the world. Coptic Christians from Rome were also present to protest violence against their community in Alexandria, Egypt.