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Archive of February 6, 2011

Hundreds of young Catholics hike, rally for life

Tempe, Ariz., Feb 6, 2011 (CNA) - Choosing to carry an unplanned pregnancy to term almost seven years ago proved to be a life-threatening decision for one young Catholic woman.

Edel Carrick, a Scottsdale Catholic, shared her story during the annual Youth and Young Adult Rally for Life Jan. 21 at the All Saints Catholic Newman Center. The annual gathering, hosted by the diocesan Office of Marriage and Respect Life, marks the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

Carrick detailed before a crowd of teens, young adults, “the young at heart,” at least two deacon candidates and a few priests and women religious from throughout the diocese, how a simple encounter at a party led to a sexual assault and pregnancy. Couple that with Carrick’s diabetes and that left the then 19-year-old fighting for both her life and the life of her unborn son.

It started with Carrick’s first ultrasound.

Afterward, the doctor told Carrick that she would resent the baby, and because of the coming complications due to Carrick’s diabetes, it’d be best for her to have an abortion.

“I looked at him and said, ‘You’re a doctor. You’re supposed to help save lives, not kill them, so if you’d like to help the next person, feel free, but I’m done here,’” Carrick recalled.

Further complications sent paramedics to Carrick’s home weekly during her pregnancy and landed her in the hospital when she was seven-and-a-half months along and facing congestive heart failure. Carrick’s son was born shortly after by c-section at 7 lbs., 15 oz.

The baby spent the next month in intensive care.

“I remember saying, ‘I fought for you. You need to fight for me,’” Carrick told an almost spellbound crowd.

Shortly after that, she introduced her 6-year-old son and happily reported that he’s learning to read and excels at sports.

“That little boy is the one who people were telling me, ‘throw him away’,” Carrick said.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted then had a brief pro-life message for those at the rally, but began by telling Carrick’s son that he is the “best message without words that we could have here this evening.”

He recounted the mystery of Christ’s birth and how Jesus’ government refused to protect him because it wasn’t convenient to have a child there — much like Roe v. Wade does for the unborn in the United States. He also affirmed that there would be a day when abortion is no longer legal.

“It will happen through prayer and penance and when we do our part to stand up for life,” the bishop said.

He also talked about how the annual rally for life was as much a rally for eternal life. Bishop Olmsted recalled a meeting outside of an abortion clinic with a Spanish-speaking woman that ultimately led not only to the birth of her child, but a return of the baby’s grandmother to the Church.

Damon Owens, founder of New Jersey-based Joy Filled Marriage, said the quest for eternal life is best met through sacrificial love. He was also among the night’s speakers.

“Our crisis in this culture of death and a call to return to the culture of life requires returning to agape love,” Owens said.

He reminded the college students, especially, that they weren’t just in school for an education, but for a period of formation of habit and their life’s vocation. Don’t just hear and accept the vocation, but love it, Owens said.

“Take the package called ‘you’ and place it at the service of mission. That will build a culture of life,” Owens said, calling abortion a personal problem first, not a political or social one.

It’s a personal problem that quickly went public after when the crowd filed out of the Newman Center and gathered in front of the Old Church immediately across from ASU for a eucharistic procession up A-Mountain.

A passing car honked in support. The procession spanned some 100 yards, following the bishop up the butte to recite the Pope’s new “Prayer for Life” over the Valley.

For high school freshman Angelica Castillo, her passion for the pro-life cause proved greater than her fear of heights. Castillo, who joined in the eucharistic procession, was among two busloads of teens from St. John Vianney Parish in Goodyear.

“I like to hope that my presence would show my support for life,” said James Fernando, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Lake in Lake Havasu City. He added that, if nothing else, the sheer visual presence of people during the eucharstic procession made a statement.

The rally continued with all-night adoration for the unborn, those considering an abortion and those in the abortion industry.

Printed with permission from The Catholic Sun, newspaper for the Diocese of Phoenix, Ariz.

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Egyptian Christians worry about possible radical Islamic takeover

Cairo, Egypt, Feb 6, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Protesters flooded the streets of Cairo on Feb. 4, aiming to make the tenth day of Egypt's popular uprising into the “day of departure” for President Hosni Mubarak. As the U.S. urges Mubarak to step down, Egyptian Christians worry that radical Islamic ideology may fill a void left by his absence.

Issam Bishara, Vice President for Pontifical Mission activities in Egypt, detailed the concerns of Coptic Orthodox and Catholic Christians in a Feb. 3 report provided to CNA by the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

“Though some of the primary opposition leaders in this revolt appear to be modern secular reformers, church leaders believe the main engine fueling and organizing the demonstrators is the Muslim Brotherhood,” Bishara wrote. “They fear that the brotherhood intends to seize power through future elections, compromising all patriotic and ideological parties participating in the protests.”

The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Shenouda III, has maintained his support for the Mubarak regime, and urged Coptic Orthodox Christians not to join the street protests. The Coptic Orthodox patriarch, whose church claims 95 percent of Egypt's Christians, has instead advocated a program of internal reforms.

So far, most of the demonstrators opposing President Mubarak have kept religion out of the picture. However, the prominent role of the Muslim Brotherhood – considered to be the best-organized opposition to Mubarak's National Democratic Party – is causing concern among Egyptian Christians.
The group's stated aim is to make Islam the “sole reference point” for Egypt's government and society.

“Coptic Christians — as well as Egypt’s Armenian, Greek Orthodox, Latin, Maronite and Melkite Greek Catholics — all fear a fate similar to that of Iraq’s Christians,” Bishara stated, recalling how a power vacuum in that country “left its minorities, especially the Christians, marginalized and exposed to the terror of Islamic extremists and criminals.”

Anxiety was already running high among Egyptian Christians, after a Jan. 1 church bombing that killed or injured more than a hundred worshipers. On Jan. 24 – one day before protests broke out against President Mubarak – a report by Human Rights Watch detailed “widespread discrimination” against Christians, who comprise about 10 percent of the 90-percent Muslim nation.

The Muslim Brotherhood officially describes itself as a non-violent movement, and has stated its commitment to democracy. But the brotherhood's connections within the Arab world have caused many to question its professions of peace. Its historical role as the source or inspiration for virtually every radical Islamic political movement now in existence is well-established.

Nina Shea, an international human rights lawyer who directs the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C., urged Westerners to regard the Muslim Brotherhood with extreme caution – both on account of the group's history, and because of the recent trend toward radicalization in Egyptian religious culture at large.

“The Muslim Brotherhood started off in Egypt, during the 1920s, with violent tendencies and violent tactics,” Shea recounted. “It shifted those tactics, as it was repressed, to moderate ones. In other places where it flourished – like in Gaza, or Sudan – it's been anything but moderate.”

“They're very tactically-minded,” she acknowledged. “In the short term, for tactical reasons, I would expect them to be moderate. But in the medium-term, they would revert to their roots” – including their core principle of imposing Islamic law throughout Egypt.

Westerners who choose to support the protesters unreservedly are playing “high-stakes poker,” Shea said – and should take into account that no popular uprising in the Middle East has ever resulted in a more democratic or pluralistic system of government.

“There are no precedents for it,” Shea said. “On the other hand, there is the precedent of Iran” – where the 1979 populist revolt, against a U.S.-backed authoritarian leader, ended with his replacement by the Ayatollah Khomeini and the nationwide institution of Islamic law.

In the event of a takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood, she said, Christians could expect to live as “dhimmis,” a traditional Islamic designation that strips non-Muslims of many legal protections.

In this arrangement, Shea explained, the government does not need to terrorize Christians at any official level. Rather, officials can simply ignore, or even tacitly permit, religiously-motivated violence and repression by other segments of society.

About two-thirds of Christians in the Middle East now live in Egypt. For this reason alone, Shea said, a takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood could have drastic consequences for Christians throughout the region.

“We could see the virtual end of Christianity's native presence in the Middle East, faster than anyone thought, if they come to power.”

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St. Scholastica, sister of St. Benedict, remembered Feb. 10

Denver, Colo., Feb 6, 2011 (CNA) - On Feb. 10, the Catholic Church will remember St. Scholastica, a nun who was the twin sister of St. Benedict, the "father of monasticism" in Western Europe.

The siblings were born around 480 to a Roman noble family in Nursia, Italy. Scholastica seems to have devoted herself to God from her earliest youth, as the account of Benedict's life by Pope Gregory the Great mentions that his sister was "dedicated from her infancy to Our Lord."

The twins' mother died at their birth. When Benedict was old enough he left home to study in Rome leaving Scholastica with her father to tend the Nursian estate. In time, Benedict left his studies to live first as a hermit, and then as the head of a community of monks in Italy.

When Scholastica learned of her brother's total dedication to the Lord, she was determined to follow his example. It is not certain that she became a nun immediately, but it is generally supposed that she lived for some time in a community of pious virgins.  Some biographers believe she eventually founded a monastery of nuns there.

The brother and sister communities were about five miles apart. St. Benedict seems to have directed his sister and her nuns, most likely in the practice of the same rule by which his own monks lived.

Unlike her brother, St. Scholastica was never the subject of a formal biography. As such, little is known of her life apart from her commitment to religious life which paralleled that of her brother. Pope Gregory wrote that Scholastica used to come once a year to visit Benedict, at a house situated halfway between the two communities.

St. Benedict's biographer recounted a story which is frequently told about the last such visit between the siblings. They passed the time as usual in prayer and pious conversation -- after which Scholastica begged her brother to remain for the night, but he refused.

She then joined her hands together, laid them on the table and bowed her head upon them in supplication to God. When she lifted her head from the table, immediately there arose such a storm that neither Benedict nor his fellow monks could leave.

"Seeing that he could not return to his abbey because of such thunder and lightning and great abundance of rain," Pope Gregory wrote, "the man of God became sad and began to complain to his sister, saying, 'God forgive you, what have you done?'"

"'I wanted you to stay, and you wouldn't listen,' she answered. 'I have asked our good Lord, and He graciously granted my request, so if you can still depart, in God's name return to your monastery, and leave me here alone.'" St. Benedict had no choice but to stay and speak to his sister all night long about spiritual matters -- including the kingdom of heaven for which she would soon depart.

Three days later in the year 543, in a vision Benedict saw the soul of his sister, departed from her body and in the likeness of a dove, ascend into heaven. He rejoiced with hymns and praise, giving thanks to God. His monks brought her body to his monastery and buried it in the grave that he had provided for himself. St. Benedict followed her soon after, and was buried in the same grave with his sister.

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Pope prays for peace, tranquility in Egypt

Vatican City, Feb 6, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Benedict XVI acknowledged that he has been closely following the “delicate” situation in Egypt.

After the Sunday Angelus prayer on Feb. 6, the Pope expressed his hopes and prayers for the Egyptian people to find peace on the 13th day of protests in Cairo.

He said, “In these days, I follow with attention the delicate situation in the dear Egyptian nation.

“I ask God that that land, blessed by the presence of the Holy Family find tranquility and peaceful coexistence, in the shared commitment for the common good.”

The protests began on Jan. 25, when citizens took to the streets of the capital to demand the resignation of their president, Mr. Hosni Mubarak. He has agreed to step down, but not until September.

Church leaders are praying for a peaceful transition of power.

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True wisdom gives meaning to life amid darkness, says Benedict XVI

Vatican City, Feb 6, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

"True wisdom" can be spread by Christians to eliminate "darkness," said Pope Benedict XVI during the Sunday Angelus.

The Pope was joined by a crowd of pilgrims who covered much of St. Peter's Square on Feb. 6 for the Sunday Angelus prayer. Many of those in attendance were members of different Catholic associations for the defense of life and the family. Some had brought large green balloons that flew overhead to mark Italy's national "Day for Life."

In his address before the prayer, the Pope spoke about Christ's words from the day's Gospel which he refers to the disciples as the "salt of the Earth" and "the light of the world."

Christ sought to transmit a sense of mission and witness to the disciples through this image, he explained. In their culture, salt evoked values such as alliance, solidarity, life and wisdom.

Light, on the other hand, was "the first work of God the Creator and the source of life. The very Word of God is compared to light, as proclaimed by the psalmist: 'Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path'," said the Pope.

Sunday's first reading from the Book of Isaiah also refers to light rising up from the darkness when one assists the hungry and satisfies "the afflicted soul."

"Wisdom," said Pope Benedict "sums itself up in the beneficial effects of salt and light. In fact, the disciples of the Lord are called to donate new 'flavor' to the world, and to preserve it from corruption, with the wisdom of God, who shines fully on the face of his Son, because He is the 'true light, which enlightens everyone'."

"United to Him, Christians can spread the light of the love of God, the true wisdom that gives meaning to the existence and action of men, in the midst of the darkness of indifference and selfishness."

The Pope made an appeal for the dignity of sick persons as the World Day for the Sick approaches. "The Lord takes care of man in every situation, he shares in suffering and opens hearts to hope," he said.

He exhorted all who work in health care to see the sick "not only a body marked by fragility, but first of all a person, to which to give all solidarity and offer adequate and competent answers."

The day for the sick is celebrated worldwide on Feb. 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

For the Italian Day for Life, the Pope also called every person to "put at the center, in every circumstance, the value of the human being."

He concluded with the prayer that “parents, grandparents, teachers, priests and all who are dedicated to education might form the young generations to wisdom of heart, so that they might reach the fullness of life.”

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