Archive of May 8, 2011

St. Damien of Molokai's life of sacrifice remembered May 10

CNA STAFF, May 8, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Catholic Church will remember St. Damien of Molokai on May 10. The Belgian priest sacrificed his life and health to become a spiritual father to the victims of leprosy quarantined on a Hawaiian island.

Joseph de Veuser, who later took the name Damien in religious life, was born into a farming family in the Belgian town of Tremlo in 1840. During his youth he felt a calling to become a Catholic missionary, an urge that prompted him to join the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Damien's final vows to the congregation involved a dramatic ceremony in which his superiors draped him in the cloth that would be used to cover his coffin after death. The custom was meant to symbolize the young man's solemn commitment, and his identification with Christ's own death. For Damien, the event would become more significant, as he would go on to lay down his life for the lepers of Molokai.

His superiors originally intended to send Damien's brother, a member of the same congregation, to Hawaii. But he became sick, and Damien arranged to take his place. Damien arrived in Honolulu in 1864, less than a century after Europeans had begun to establish a presence in Hawaii. He was ordained a priest the same year.

During his ninth year of the priesthood, Father Damien responded to his bishop's call for priests to serve on the leper colony of Molokai. A lack of previous exposure to leprosy, which had no treatment at the time, made the Hawaiian natives especially susceptible to the infection. Molokai became a quarantine center for the victims, who became disfigured and debilitated as the disease progressed.

The island had become a wasteland in human terms, despite its natural beauty. The leprosy victims of Molokai faced hopeless conditions and extreme deprivation, sometimes lacking not only basic palliative care but even the means of survival.

Inwardly, Fr. Damien was terrified by the prospect of contracting leprosy himself. However, he knew that he would have to set aside this fear in order to convey God's love to the lepers in the most authentic way. Other missionaries had kept the lepers at arms' length, but Fr. Damien chose to immerse himself in their common life and leave the outcome to God.

The inhabitants of Molokai saw the difference in the new priest's approach, and embraced his efforts to improve their living conditions. A strong man, accustomed to physical labor, he performed the Church's traditional works of mercy – such as feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and giving proper burial to the dead – in the face of suffering that others could hardly even bear to see.

Fr. Damien's work helped to raise the lepers up from their physical sufferings, while also making them aware of their worth as beloved children of God. Although he could not take away the constant presence of death in the leper colony, he could change its meaning and inspire hope. The death-sentence of leprosy could, and often did, become a painful yet redemptive path toward eternal life.

The priest's devotion to his people, and his activism on their behalf, sometimes alienated him from officials of the Hawaiian kingdom and from his religious superiors in Europe. His mission was not only fateful, but also lonely. He drew strength from Eucharistic adoration and the celebration of the Mass, but longed for another priest to arrive so that he could receive the sacrament of confession regularly.

In December of 1884, Fr. Damien discovered that he had lost all feeling in his feet. It was an early, but unmistakable sign that he had contracted leprosy. The priest knew that his time was short. He undertook to finish whatever accomplishments he could, on behalf of his fellow colony residents, before the diseased robbed him of his eyesight, speech and mobility.

Fr. Damien suffered humiliations and personal trials during his final years. An American Protestant minister accused him of scandalous behavior, based on the contemporary belief that leprosy was a sexually transmitted disease. He ran into disagreements with his religious superiors, and felt psychologically tormented by the notion that his work had been a failure.

In the end, priests of his congregation arrived to administer the last sacraments to the dying priest. During the Spring of 1889, Fr. Damien told his friends that he believed it was God's will for him to spend the upcoming Easter not on Molokai, but in heaven. He died of leprosy during Holy Week, on April 15, 1889.

St. Damien of Molokai was beatified in 1995. Pope Benedict XVI canonized him in 2009.

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KC young adult ministry offers many opportunities to deepen faith

Kansas City, Mo., May 8, 2011 (CNA) - When the workday is over, many young professionals like to kick back, enjoy food and drink and the company of friends. And that’s just what the 20-and-30-somethings involved in City on a Hill Young Adult Ministry do, with an added touch – prayer, in the form of a liturgy or Holy Hour.

City on a Hill was founded in 2006 by a group of young adults who were passionate about their faith. Carrie Kafka, since 2006 the director of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocesan Young Adult and Campus Ministry, said that in the beginning, the ministry offered two or three events a month for faith and fellowship. The first was Third Thursday liturgies, an effort by the vocations office to reach out to young adults. Kafka said that 50-75 people usually attended. Eventually, Tuesdays at the Boulevard took over Third Thursdays. (Third Thursday liturgies are now offered by the Vocations office to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.)

“This is all about reaching souls for Christ,” she said. “It’s a misperception that folks are out of touch. Faith permeates everything we do. City on a Hill adults live in this world but not of this world. They are balanced between faith and worldly life.”

Where not so long ago, the ministry offered two to three events per month, now there are three or four each week for young people to get involved in.

Catholic Challenge Sports, a way of reaching out to young adults through the whole human image — body, mind and soul — was founded in 2007 by a group of young people who loved Christ, friendship and Frisbee, among other sports. One of the founders, Matt Maes, said that the sports challenge creates a community of young adults who feel welcomed by their church, a church that serves their needs. Founded on Ultimate Frisbee and softball, Catholic Challenge Sports now fields teams for dodge ball, kickball, sand volleyball and flag football. There are tournaments for basketball, miniature golf and bowling. And there’s still softball and Ultimate Frisbee.

The theme of Catholic Challenge Sports — mind, body and soul — has become the overarching theme for City on a Hill, Kafka said. “From Bible studies and prayer to outreach services to Liturgies to theological discussions, to pizza and beer and country dancing at Diamonds and Denims, we connect with others of our faith. We form and build intentional friendships, and relationships. Of course, organic fellowship, where you meet and get to know someone you never expected to meet, or unplanned parties, automatically happens, which is great!”

City on a Hill adults are growing in their faith, being inspired to come back to their faith, she said. “We are people at all stages of faith realization: we are Christmas and Easter Catholics, and we are those who attend daily Mass. City on a Hill strives hard to meet people where they are.”

Theology on Tap. Offered monthly at the Well in Waldo, Theology on Tap is an evening of food and drink, fellowship and a chance to learn about the relevancy of Catholic Church teaching in daily life. Beer, a bunch of buddies and talking about the Bible. How good can it get?

“When young adults learn what the Church really is, and what it really does, they get excited to explore their faith further,” Kafka said. “City on a Hill makes opportunities available for them to do so.”

Tuesdays at the Boulevard. On the third Tuesday of each month, young men and women gather at Sacred Heart Guadalupe Church for Mass after work or classes. They have the opportunity to pray the Rosary as a group or go to confession before the liturgy. On a recent Tuesday evening, the sun was lowering west of the church as about 100 young adults entered the church, some chatting and laughing quietly, others silent, lost in thought. Msgr. Brad Offutt, chancellor of the diocese, was the celebrant.

In his homily, Msgr. Offutt said, “We may not talk to ourselves out loud, but we do a lot of talking to ourselves inside — in the middle of the night or in the middle of the day. It’s the mainspring of consciousness.

“There’s a lot of interior noise in the world today,” he continued. “Prayer becomes more a way of ‘how can I pull God’s chain,’ than ‘How can I let him pull my chain?’”

He suggested that a better a way to pray would be to “Sit as quiet as possible and still yourself. Quiet and empty yourself if you would stand the slightest chance of hearing what God is trying to tell you.”

How much time are you giving God, the priest asked. “Try 10 minutes every day, if you can. Prayer won’t get boring. It becomes something you hunger for.”

After Mass, the young people flocked over to the Boulevard Brewery, about a block away, for an evening of spirited and spiritual conversation and fellowship. Waldo pizza supplied the food, Boulevard Brewery staff filled glasses with beer, and tables filled with young people. The deck outside beckoned, the lights of downtown glowing brighter as the sun set.

Inside, talk and laughter. “Finding out about Tuesdays at the Boulevard is a word of mouth thing,” said Michael, a frequent attendee. “It’s a great young adult ministry. I’ve been coming for about a year now. It’s a safe environment, no techno music blasting in your ears. It almost feels like a Catholic singles group at times, but it’s more than that.”

Joe, another regular, added, “I love crafted beer and being able to enjoy it where it is crafted is so cool. It’s about meeting people of like minds, Catholic individuals, it’s awesome. The dynamic is cool and laid back. We can socialize and meet new people.”

Joe’s wife, Karissa, said, “In college there was a place you could go to be with friends and feel comfortable. After college, with Tuesdays at the Boulevard, there’s still a place you can go. You come together with other people who are into your faith.”

“It’s a Catholic underground,” Michael jumped in. “A tool for evangelization, aided by pizza and beer.”

“We’re celebrating life,” said Joe. “The pizza and beer is good, but sharing your Catholic faith is great — that’s why we go to Mass first.”

“Yeah,” Michael said, grinning. “You get communion, then you come here and commune.”

Reservoir. A relatively new initiative, Reservoir, a monthly holy hour for young adults, is held at St. Peter’s Church in the Brookside neighborhood. The first holy hour only received three days of advertising, yet 35 young men and women showed up for Mass and the holy hour, followed by small group discussions, dinner and night prayer. Kafka said then, “Young people are looking for opportunities to stop all the noise around them, so they can listen to what God is telling them.”

Now, 50-75 young adults gather at St. Peter’s monthly for the holy hour, which gives them a chance to enhance their prayer life and listen to what God is telling them.

Band of Brothers. Several years ago, two young men, Matt Maes and Greg Doring, saw the attraction of Catholic Challenge Sports, the way it helped unite young men and women in a common interest. Recognizing a need for an authentic model of Christian masculinity in society today, they came up with the idea of a Band of Brothers, a group that strives to develop virtue through spiritual and intellectual study, prayer, work and recreation, and socialization.

The name, Band of Brothers, immediately calls masculinity to mind: Shakespeare’s Henry V St. Crispin’s Day Speech, just before the king’s soldiers marched into war, and the 101st Airborne Division, again soldiers, in WWII. The focus of these young men, however, centers around Catholic manhood, the support and strengthening of men pursuing Godliness in their daily lives.

Now led by Ferd Niemann, 15-20 young men, students and professionals, meet regularly in the UMKC neighborhood twice a month on Tuesdays. Neimann said they come from all over the metro area, from north of the river to Gardner, Kan. Topics of conversation include accountability, ways of living a virtuous life, prayer and worship.

Father Rocha said, “Band of Brothers is a win for the Church. These guys stay close to God in the sacraments, and truly live their faith. They are accountable to each other.”

Neimann said that “Band of Brothers encourages a young man to be a Catholic man, the way you’re supposed to be a man. A real Catholic man is virtuous,” he said, “not just interested in drinking or sexual relationships with 25 women.”

The young men gather for prayer and discussion of their faith, often followed by a poker game or just hanging out.

Sisterhood. Women wanted their own small groups to enhance their faith. So, Sisterhood small groups was formed to give young women the opportunity to strengthen their faith and develop stronger virtues in their lives, as well as form genuine friendships with other young women though group study, fellowship and accountability.

Small groups of six to eight women, meet several Tuesdays each month.

The “first ever” fund raiser for City on a Hill ministry was held March 5 at the 89-year-old Vox Theater in Kansas City, Kan. “Mardi Gras, Last Hoorah,” was an evening of desserts and drinks, dancing and a silent auction attended by more than 100 young adults. There were flowers and feathered Mardi Gras masks and beads on each table, with a long table literally groaning with desserts. Men in suits and young women in flowing dresses perused the silent auction tables and mingled with others in fancy dress. There were items from the Roasterie Coffee Company, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Waldo Pizza, Marriott Hotels, Panera and Half Price Books, Boulevard Brewery, and a number of individuals. Father Richard Rocha, Father Steve Cook, pastor of St. Peter’s Parish, and Deacon Ralph Wehner, director of the diocesan office of Worship and a master chef, offered dinner for six on the new deck at St. Peter’s rectory.

Kafka said she was very pleased with the silent auction. “It was a great bunch of people who love to grow in their faith and party!”

Just talking about the evening brought a smile to her face. “It was most exciting. There was a heightened awareness among the people we serve that in order to keep our programs going and growing, we have to raise the money to support them and to keep costs low for our events. We now serve about 300-350 young adults each month through our programs.”

Kafka said she had never put on something like Mardi Gras before and so was uncertain as to how it would turn out. “It was a leap of faith. There is always a risk at the front end of something new, but I am elated with the result.”

The evening, including the auction and donations, grossed $5,370.50.

Father Richard Rocha has a vested interest in the group of mostly single young adults. While he lets God do the talking when it comes to vocations, Father Rocha is there to provide the sacraments to the young folks. “Even if I’m not the main celebrant at Mass,” he said, “it’s important to make connections, to have a priest presence, with young people in a community.”

Several of the guys, four or five, have expressed an interest in a religious vocation, Father Rocha said. “I’ve been there, and so I’m available to them. They are growing in their faith. Whether or not they embrace priesthood or religious life, they will be strong, good husbands and wives, and replenish the community with children in the future.”

Band of Brothers, Sisterhood, Tuesdays at the Boulevard, Reservoir— all the City on a Hill programs, are wins for the church, Father Rocha said. “They’re taking the bar and raising it up a notch to truly live their Catholic faith. There will be good fruit, a strong young adult community in our diocese. And it will grow. New people are coming in and want to be plugged into the ministry, what it has to offer.”

His brother priests willingly sacrifice their time to come late in the evening to hear confessions and celebrate Mass for Tuesdays at the Boulevard and Reservoir, Father Rocha said. “It’s hard to miss or ignore something like City on a Hill and we want to be a part of it.”

City on a Hill ministry also offers strong campus ministry programs and opportunities for retreats twice a year.

Joe at the Boulevard summed up City on a Hill Young Adult ministry succinctly when he said, “It is the Catholic Church beyond the doors of the church.”

Printed with permission from the Catholic Key, newspaper for the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph, Missouri.

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Young seminarian reflects on the 'gift' of mothers

Lincoln, Neb., May 8, 2011 (CNA) - A soon-to-be ordained priest noted that mothers serve an irreplaceable role in society. He reflected on his own mother's influence in discerning his call to the priesthood. 

“It is so important we honor motherhood today because to be a mother is a beautiful vocation and gift from God,” said 26-year-old Deacon Craig Clinch, who will be ordained a priest for the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska on May 28.

As the nation celebrates Mother's Day on May 8, Deacon Clinch recalled how his own mother's faith helped foster in him a deep willingness to serve God in whatever capacity. 

“I remember my mom bringing me to daily Mass as a small child and how she would remind us to pray the Rosary in the car on longer trips – she still does today,”  he told CNA in a May 6 interview.

“She helped me in discerning my vocation to the priesthood in that she was supportive from the beginning.”

Deacon Clinch said that along with teaching him how to pray, “my parents taught me to be open to God’s will, to say yes whether He was calling me to the priesthood or to be a husband and father.” 

“They showed me the beauty of these two vocations both through their own marriage and through their great respect and love for priests and the priesthood.”

The deacon reflected on the invaluable contribution that mothers give to the world, saying that they “cooperate most intimately in bringing forth life and they fulfill an essential role in forming who we are.”

“I think we tend to forget the significance of the mother’s vocation in our society where the focus is oftentimes career-oriented,” he added.

“The question is asked, 'what do I want to do with my life, how can I be successful,' rather, than asking the question, 'who is God calling me to be?'” 

“While being a 'stay at home mom' might be difficult in some families due to economic circumstances, we must not let the opinion rule that being a full-time mom is somehow second best.”

Deacon Clinch noted that “being a full-time mom is a great and beautiful calling and the responsibilities and rewards of bringing up children to love and serve God and one another are better than any career could offer.”

The soon-to-be priest offered his encouragement to today's mothers, who often give of themselves to a heroic extent, yet at times are under appreciated.

“In the moments where you experience challenges and difficulties in your families and in your lives as a mother, remember the graces Jesus continues to offer you in the Sacrament of Marriage and remember to draw near to Him in the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance,” he said.

“Remember the Lord is calling you to be a saint through your motherhood and to help those He has entrusted to your care, your husband and your children, to become saints too.”

“All of us, but especially mothers, can look to our Blessed Mother for prayers, help, and encouragement in their vocation,” Deacon Clinch added.

“The Blessed Virgin Mary shows us how we are to respond to the Father’s will, with a complete and total yes from the beginning of life to the end of our earthly pilgrimage.”

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Bring hope to modern man, Pope tells Venetians

Venice, Italy, May 8, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Sunday Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass near Venice for a congregation of 300,000, telling them to give hope to modern man by “listening to and loving the Word of God.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! I have come among you as the Bishop of Rome and successor of Peter's ministry to confirm fidelity to the Gospel and communion,” he told those gathered in San Giuliano Park in Mestre, an industrial town on the other side of the lagoon from the famous island city of Venice.

“As in the past, when those churches were known for apostolic zeal and pastoral dynamism, so today we need to promote and defend the truth with courage and unity of the faith. You must give an account of Christian hope for modern man, often overwhelmed by vast and disturbing issues that arise in crisis and shake the very foundations of his being and his activity.”

In a grand pastiche of the byzantine splendor of the city’s St. Mark’s basilica, the organizers of today’s Mass had erected a domed sanctuary draped with golden mosaics printed on cloth.

There, the Pope gave a commentary on today’s gospel, which recounts the disappointment of two disciples after the crucifixion of Jesus. They shared their gloom while walking towards the town of Emmaus near Jerusalem.

Pope Benedict connected these disciples’ feelings to present attitudes.

“The disciples of today are moving away from the Jerusalem of the Crucified Jesus and the Risen Lord, no longer believing in the power and the living presence of the Lord,” he explained. The problems of evil, pain and suffering, of injustice and oppression, lead today’s Christians to similarly say, “we were hoping that the Lord deliver us from evil, pain, suffering, fear, injustice.”

The Pope suggested that the solution to such despair was the same today as it was for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus – listening to Jesus and receiving him “in the breaking of bread.”
First, he said, it is necessary to be “listening to and loving the Word of God, reading it in light of the Paschal Mystery, for it warms our hearts and enlightens our mind, and helps us to interpret the events of life and give them meaning.

“Then, you must sit at the table with the Lord, to become his guests, so that his humble presence in the Sacrament of his Body and his Blood we restore our eyes of faith, to look at everything and everyone through the eyes of God, in light of his love.”

The Pope concluded by calling upon the Catholics of the region to uphold the Christian values of their forebears and to set “new missionary objectives” for themselves including building “bridges of dialogue between peoples and nations.”

After the Mass, in scenes reminiscent of Pope John Paul II’s visit to Venice in 1985, Pope Benedict crossed Venice’s Grand Canal in a gondola river boat. His destination was the church of Our Lady of Good Health, where he delivered a speech to leading figures from civil society.

Sunday was the second and final day of the Pope’s first papal visit to Venice and surrounding areas, where tradition holds that Saint Mark the Evangelist brought the Christian gospel.

On Saturday Pope Benedict visited the historic town Roman port town of Aquileia. He’ll return to the Vatican by plane this evening.

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John Paul II beatification inspired ‘days of grace’

Vatican City, May 8, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - “These have been days of grace,” Vatican Radio director Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., said in his reflection on the John Paul II beatification events.

“For the believer, John Paul II had always been alive and present but it cannot be denied that the days of his Beatification have represented a powerful return for him amongst the people of God in prayer and celebration. So these have been days of grace. And for this reason we understand the meaning and importance of every beatification but in particular, of this one, in the life of the Catholic Church,” he wrote in his May 7 editorial.

The past week has seen an estimated two million pilgrims descend on Rome to witness the beatification of Pope John Paul II. Fr Lombardi said he noticed that among the crowds he could clearly witness the legacy of the late Pope.

“Among the innumerable people who had waited from the previous night, waiting to get to St. Peter’s Square, there were many young families, with children born in the last decade, children who certainly didn’t know Pope John Paul II, but who are heirs of the generation of ‘his’ young people.” 

Fr Lombardi, who also heads the Vatican Press Office, concluded by encouraging people to continue to ask for the intercession of Bl. Pope John Paul II as the world moves into the 21st century. 

“John Paul II knew he had the mission of taking the Church into the third millennium, and at the end of the Great Jubilee he said to us, he said to all of God’s people: ‘Duc in altum! Put out into the deep!’

“The Church goes into the deep sea of the third millennium but knows it can continue to count on the support of an effective Intercessor who invites us not to be afraid,” Fr. Lombardi wrote.

He noted that Pope Benedict XVI echoed his predecessor in his own prayer: “Continue, we implore you, to sustain from heaven the faith of God’s people. You often blessed us. Today we pray: Holy Father, bless us!”

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