Archive of April 10, 2011

Catholics address spiritual roots of overeating

Anchorage, Alaska, Apr 10, 2011 (CNA) - Atkins. South Beach. Nutrisystem. Every new year brings a new diet. But St. Andrew parishioner Virginia Marquez of Eagle River, Alaska believes every one of them lacks the essential element for losing weight: God.

That’s because overeating has more to do with “the hole in your heart” than a bottomless stomach, Marquez told the Catholic Anchor in an interview.

Enter “Light Weigh” – a Catholic spiritual growth and weight loss program in which Marquez and a growing number of other repeat dieters in Alaska and across the U.S. and several other English-speaking nations are satiating spiritual hunger and keeping the pounds off in the process.

A Spiritual Diet

The ubiquitous problems of overeating and obesity are rarely connected to underlying spiritual issues – which makes Light Weigh unique. The program promises participants will learn “to attain peace with food” by following the example of Jesus and the saints.

Marquez, who runs a Light Weigh program at St. Andrew Church in Eagle River, calls it “divinely inspired.”

It may be the only diet plan that comes with a “spiritual tool kit” that consists of prayer books, holy water, rosaries and “sacrifice beads” – a strand of sliding beads by which participants track dieting sacrifices they make daily. Nineteenth-century Carmelite nun Saint Therese of Lisieux used them to make her “Little Way” – performing small acts of love and sacrifice to achieve holiness.

“That’s one of our goals,” said Marquez, “to adopt the ‘Little Way’ and to do little things, little lifestyle changes that bring about better health, and that’s what God wants for us – to be in optimum health.”

According to the Bible and the saints, “gluttony is a problem” for body and soul, Marquez explained.  Twentieth-century priest Saint Josemaria Escriva once observed that “overeating is the forerunner to impurity.”

The answer is to “ask Jesus to eat with you and to help you eat right,” said Marquez.

So, once a week for 12 weeks, adult and teen participants meet in small groups at a parish or at home for prayer, a reflection on Scripture and a video lesson on church teaching or the saints focused on a particular theme. Then, there’s a short talk on an area of food. On their own, participants listen to audio lessons and testimonies on CDs, journal and do workbook exercises.

There is a $135 fee for materials. The group at St. Andrew formed last summer; others have sprung up at St. Patrick in Anchorage and other parishes of the Anchorage Archdiocese.

"Heart Hunger"

Each week, there is an Ignatian-styled review – based on the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Participants choose one fault to work on in the coming week. At the end of each day, individually, they review how they did and whether they struggled. They consider what they will do in “prayer and action” next time, and if they succeeded, how Jesus helped them.

The spiritual inventory helps participants identify “stomach hunger versus heart hunger” and learn to respond appropriately, said Marquez.

“If you feel this longing and you think, ‘Oh, if I could just eat something and I’d feel better,’ that’s a spiritual hole,” she explained. “Other people fill it with alcohol or smoking…overeaters tend to fill it with food.”

But that “hole in your heart” is “a call from God,” Marquez observed. “He made us this way so we would want to call for him,” she explained. “So what we need is prayer…to be nourished by his Word.” In fact, one of Light Weigh’s mantras is, “The walk to the refrigerator is just as far as the walk to the Bible.”

Doughnuts in Moderation

Along with prayer, Light Weigh stresses moderation.

“Your body is a temple,” said Marquez. “God gave us these bodies. We didn’t make them. And our body gives us signals when we need things. You know when you’re thirsty, so you drink. And you wait until you’re hungry before you eat,” she said. But that’s “a discipline that most of us have, many of us, I know I have, overridden through habits early in life: eating because of stress, eating because of social situations.”

As with other addictions, she said, “You have to turn over your will to God and say, ‘God, help me with this. I don’t want to over-eat, I don’t want to abuse my body in any way.’ And ask him to guide you.”

Participants learn to eat proportionately-sized amounts of food and only until they are just satiated. And whenever the old overeating habits return, participants “turn to prayer to overcome the compulsion.”

“We’re trying to get back to that natural way of responding to our bodies’ needs,” explained Marquez.

No foods are off-limits. “It’s not what goes into you that’s evil, it’s what comes out of you,” said Marquez, referencing Christ’s spiritual maxim from the Gospel.

“You can eat anything you want, as long as you just eat a finite amount of it,” she continued. In the videos, participants learn how to consume “very delectable foods in very reasonable quantities” – including doughnuts and pizza, which makes Marquez happy. Even with those carbohydrates and fats, since the first session in June, the 46-year-old has lost 20 pounds – and other participants have lost in the “double digits,” as well.

The Narrow Way

Although most are first drawn to Light Weigh to lose weight, they find the weight loss to be a “fringe benefit,” Marquez noted. As it turns out, these dieters are becoming spiritual heavy weights. The Light Weigh program, she said, means a “deepening of our faith.”

So is the Light Weigh program the answer to the never-ending cycle of diet fads? Marquez thinks so, precisely because it’s not the “world’s diet.”

Jesus Christ said that neither he nor his Kingdom is “of this world,” said Marquez, so “we know through our faith, the way the world is going is not the way we are called to go. We are called to go the narrow way. And that’s what this is. It’s very simple. It’s very truthful.”

Printed with permission from the Catholic Anchor, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska.

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Christ’s resurrection conquered 'wall' of spiritual death, Pope explains

Vatican City, Apr 10, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The resurrection of Lazarus showed Christ’s victory over physical death, but Jesus' crucifixion defeated the “spiritual death” of sin, said Pope Benedict XVI at the Sunday Angelus.

Death, the Pope said, is like "a wall" that impedes man from seeing what lies beyond. "Our heart pushes out beyond this wall, and even if we cannot know what it hides, we still think about it, we imagine it, expressing ... our desire for eternity."

Christ, in his resurrection, destroyed this "wall of death," the Pope told those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
Sunday's Gospel reading from St. John recounted Jesus’ words to Martha in the moments before he raised her brother Lazarus from the dead.

Pope Benedict explained that Jesus proposed a complete "novelty" when he proclaimed himself "the resurrection and the life" and said "whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live."

This new conception of the resurrection "breaks down and goes beyond every barrier."

"Christ destroys the wall of death. In him dwells all the fullness of God, who is life, eternal life," the Pope said.

Christ had thus conquered physical death and Lazarus' resurrection was "a sign of his full dominion over (it)."

The "spiritual death" of sin, however, posed "the toughest fight" for Christ, who paid "the price of the cross" to defeat it.

"To conquer this death, Christ died, and his resurrection is not the return to the former life, but the opening to a new reality, a 'new earth,' finally joined together again with the heaven of God."

The Pope cited the words of St. Paul to the Romans, "If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you."

Each person, said the Pope, aspires to this "personal resurrection" made possible through Christ's death.

Although faith in the resurrection and eternal life may be accompanied by doubt and confusion, even from Christians, "it is always about a reality that goes beyond the limits of our reason, and requires an act of faith," he said.

Pope Benedict concluded his Angelus address with a call for everyone to turn to the Virgin Mary in prayer that she might assist them in discovering salvation in Christ.

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Ambassador Kmiec rejects claim he neglects Malta duties

Valletta, Malta, Apr 10, 2011 (CNA) - U.S. Ambassador to Malta Doug Kmiec has rejected a State Department report’s claim that he neglects his duties and spends too much time writing.

The State Department’s inspector general report, released on April 7, reflects the views of a “handful” of officials who don’t like his activities, Ambassador Kmiec told the Associated Press. He said his work was part of President Obama’s efforts to promote understanding among different religions and he will stay ambassador as long as he has the president’s confidence.

The government’s 41-page audit said the ambassador’s outside activities “have detracted from his attention to core mission goals” such as promoting maritime security and American business, trade and investment.

The report acknowledged wide respect for Kmiec in Malta, an overwhelmingly Catholic country. However, it said his unofficial writings distract him and embassy officials by requiring them to review his writing carefully.

“Based on a belief that he was given a special mandate to promote President Obama’s interfaith initiatives, he has devoted considerable time to writing articles for publication in the United States as well as in Malta,” the report said.

He spends “several hours of each work day” in his residence, most of which time appears to be devoted to his unofficial writings.

Although the Associated Press said the State Department report rebuked Kmiec for speaking about subjects such as abortion and his religious beliefs, the report did not cite any particular comments from Kmiec.

His articles have allegedly upset administration officials in Washington.

The audit also criticized Kmiec’s “unconventional approach,” his reluctance to accept the guidance and instructions of State Department officials, and the low frequency of his meetings with senior government officials, business executives and diplomatic colleagues.

Kmiec, 59, is a pro-life Catholic who was a prominent and controversial backer of President Obama. He is a law professor at Pepperdine University and he served in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.

He has written extensively about personal issues such as his involvement in an August 2010 accident in California. The car he was driving veered into a drainage ditch, killing a 74-year-old religious sister who was a close friend. The accident also injured another passenger, a 94-year-old priest who later died of a heart attack.

The ambassador also gave an interview to the Times of Malta, published on Sept. 20, 2009, in which he explained his disagreements with President Obama’s pro-abortion rights stand on abortion.

Abortion is illegal in Malta but faces few restrictions in the U.S.

CNA sought comment from Ambassador Kmiec but did not receive a reply by deadline.

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Pope St. Martin's exile and martyrdom commemorated April 13

Denver, Colo., Apr 10, 2011 (CNA) - Catholics will celebrate the memory of Pope St. Martin I on April 13. The saint suffered exile and humiliation for his defense of orthodoxy in a dispute over the relationship between Christ's human and divine natures.

Martin was born in the Italian city of Tuscany, during either the late sixth or early seventh century. He became a deacon and served in Rome, where he acquired a reputation for education and holiness. Pope Theodore I chose Martin as his representative to the emperor in Constantinople during a period of theological controversy between the imperial capital and the Roman Church.

The dispute in which Martin became involved, first as the papal nuncio and later as Pope himself, was over Christ's human nature. Although the Church had always acknowledged the eternal Son of God as “becoming man” within history, some Eastern bishops continued to insist that Christ's human nature was not entirely like that of other human beings.

During the seventh century, authorities within the Byzantine Church and empire promoted a version of this heresy known as “monothelitism.” This teaching acknowledged that Christ had two natures –  human and divine – but only one will, the divine. Pope Theodore condemned the teaching, and excommunicated Patriarch Pyrrhus of Constantinople for holding to it.

Martin inherited this controversy when he succeeded Theodore as Pope. At the Lateran Council of 649, he followed his predecessor's lead in condemning Pyrrhus' successor, Patriarch Paul II, who accepted Emperor Constans II's decision to forbid all discussion of whether or not Christ had both a human and a divine will. Pope Martin condemned monothelitism completely, and denounced those who held to it.

He insisted that the teaching which denied Christ's human will could not be glossed over as an irrelevant point. To refuse to acknowledge Christ's distinct divine and human wills, he believed, was to deny the biblical teaching that Christ was like humanity in everything other than sin.

The Byzantine emperor retaliated against Pope Martin by sending his own representative to Italy during the council, with orders either to arrest the Pope or have him killed. A henchman of the emperor, who attempted to assassinate the Pope while he was distributing Holy Communion, later testified that he suddenly lost his eyesight and could not carry out the death sentence.

In 653, the emperor again sought to silence Pope Martin, this time by sending a delegation to capture him. A struggle ensued, and he was taken to Constantinople before being exiled to the island of Naxos for a year. Those who tried to send help to the exiled Pope were denounced as traitors to the Byzantine empire. Eventually he was brought back to Constantinople as a prisoner, and sentenced to death.

The Pope's appointed executioners stripped him of his clothes and led him through the city, before locking him in a prison with a group of murderers. He was beaten so severely that he appeared to be on the verge of death. At the last moment, however, both the Patriarch of Constantinople and the emperor agreed that the Pontiff should not be executed.

Instead he was kept in prison before being banished again, to an island that was suffering from a severe famine. Pope Martin wrote to a friend that he was “not only separated from the rest of the world,” but “even deprived of the means to live.”

Although the Pope died in exile, in 655, his relics were later brought back to Rome. The Third Ecumenical Council of Constantinople eventually vindicated Pope St. Martin I, by confirming in 681 that Christ had both a divine and a human will.

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