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Archive of May 29, 2011

Saying ‘yes’ changes history, bishop tells students

Gardner, Mass., May 29, 2011 (CNA) - The St. Paul Catholic School Consortium Mass, held earlier this month, ended with a May crowning of Mary.

But, first, in his homily, Bishop Robert J. McManus of Worcester, Mass. talked about the Annunciation, and how Our Blessed Mother said “yes” to the Angel Gabriel.

Walking part way down into the center aisle at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church, filled with 600 Catholic elementary school students, the bishop talked about the importance of keeping vows and promises, and about how this one “yes” changed the course of history.

The bishop spoke about the Gospel reading the students had just heard, from St. Luke, about how the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and asked if she would be the mother of Our Savior.

“It’s fitting it should be about Mary,” Bishop McManus said about the Gospel, read in a parish church dedicated to Our Lady.

He then talked about how married couples say “yes” to each other, and to God, and how priests say “yes” when they are ordained.

“Yes, is such a powerful word” in that it can change people’s lives, he added.

He spoke about the “central figure” in the Gospel passage, who is Our Blessed Mother, and how the Angel Gabriel told Mary not to be afraid, despite the fact she was, at the time, not married.

“Not only does Mary’s ‘yes’ change her life, but Mary’s ‘yes’ changed the history of the whole world,” explained the Bishop.

What goes after a date?” he asked the children seated in the pews.

A.D. One of them answered.

Bishop McManus explained that this means “Anno Domini,” the year of Our Lord, and also that B.C. means “Before Christ.”

All of this, said the bishop, is because of Mary’s “yes.”

Then he told the children gathered at the Mass about the selflessness of the saint of the day, Saint Damian of Molokai. This saint was born in Belgium in 1840.

Answering God’s call, and saying “yes,” St. Damian went to an island in Hawaii named Molokai. The only people who lived there were lepers.

“Leprosy is a horrific disease,” Bishop McManus noted. “It’s highly contagious.”

Bishop McManus told the students that 800 people with leprosy lived on the island of Molokai, and St. Damian spent years ministering to them.

One day, while shaving, he knocked over a container of scalding water, which landed on his feet. St. Damian realized this caused no pain, and, then, also realized he had contracted leprosy, as the inability to feel pain is one of the signs.

He asked the students to pray for what God wants them to do with their lives, said the bishop.

“God has a special mission for everyone in this church,” he added. “The key to being happy in life is to find out what that mission is.”

Toward the end of the Mass, Shelby Pelletier, a senior at St. Bernard Central Catholic High School spoke to the younger students.

“I can honestly say I would not have had it any other way,” she said of her Catholic education.

Pelletier spoke about how attending St. Bernard allowed her the privilege of working and interacting with a special needs teenager outside of class. Also, she noted, there were many programs and activities within the school.

And she talked about the strong friendships that were forged during her years at St. Bernard.

“Everyone in the school knows everyone’s name,” she noted, explaining that she shared lunch with students that had a variety of different interests.

“Catholic schools have molded me into the mature adult I’ve become today,” she said. “God is always with me and he will help me feel at home wherever I am.”

After Mass students left the church. Some boarded bright yellow school buses, which brought them that back to Fitchburg and Leominster.

The St. Paul Catholic School Consortium, formed in 2006, is comprised of six North County Catholic elementary schools. It is designed to strengthen the schools academically and economically.

Heather Wailes was standing outside Our Lady of the Holy Rosary after Mass. Her daughter, in fifth grade, attends St. Anna Elementary in Leominster.

Although initially unsure about the consortium model, she now supports it, and she said she liked the fact so many people had gathered in one spot last Tuesday.

“It gives more strength,” she said of the consortium. “It makes you feel part of a larger community. We’re not so isolated.”

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

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St. Justin Martyr, patron of philosophers, honored on June 1

Denver, Colo., May 29, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - On June 1, one day before 2011's celebration of the Ascension of Christ, the Catholic Church will honor the memory of the early Christian philosopher St. Justin Martyr.

Justin was born around the year 100 in the Palestinian province of Samaria, the son of Greek-speaking parents whose ancestors were sent as colonists to that area of the Roman Empire. Justin's father followed the Greek pagan religion and raised his son to do the same, but he also provided Justin with an excellent education in literature and history.

As a young man, Justin became interested in philosophy and looked for truth in the various schools of thought that had spread throughout the empire. But he became frustrated with the professional philosophers' intellectual conceits and limitations, as well as their apparent indifference to God.

After several years of study, Justin had a life-changing encounter with an old man who urged him to study the Jewish prophets. He told Justin that these authors had not only spoken by God's inspiration, but also predicted the coming of Christ and the foundation of his Church.

“Above all things, pray that the gates of life may be opened to you,” the old man told Justin, “for these are not things to be discerned, unless God and Christ grant to a man the knowledge of them.” The aspiring philosopher began to take the claims of the Christians more seriously, and he eventually decided to be baptized around age 30.

After his conversion, Justin continued to wear the type of cloak that Greek culture associated with the philosophers. Inspired by the dedicated example of other Catholics whom he had seen put to death for their faith, he embraced a simple and austere lifestyle even after moving to Rome.

Justin was most likely ordained a deacon, since he preached, did not marry, and gave religious instruction in his home. He is best known as the author of early apologetic works which argued for the Catholic faith against the claims of Jews, pagans, and non-Christian philosophers.

Several of these works were written to Roman officials, for the purpose of refuting lies that had been told about the Church. Justin sought to convince the rulers of the Roman Empire that they had nothing to gain, and much to lose, by persecuting the Christians.

In order to fulfill this task, Justin gave explicit written descriptions of the early Church's beliefs and its mode of worship. In modern times, scholars have noted that Justin's descriptions correspond to the traditions of the Catholic Church on every essential point.

Justin describes the weekly Sunday liturgy as a sacrifice, and speaks of the Eucharist as the true body and blood of Christ. He further states that only baptized persons who believe the Church's teachings, and are free of serious sin, may receive it.

Justin also explains in his writings that the Church regards celibacy as a sacred calling, condemns the common practice of killing infants, and looks down on the accumulation of excessive wealth and property.

His first defense of the faith, written to Emperor Antonius Pius around 150, convinced that emperor to regard the Church with tolerance. In 167, however, persecution began again under Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

During that year Justin wrote to the emperor, who was himself a philosopher and the author of the well-known “Meditations.” He tried to demonstrate the injustice of the persecutions, and the superiority of the Catholic faith over Greek philosophy. Justin emphasized the strength of his convictions by stating that he expected to be put to death for expressing them

He was, indeed, seized along with a group of other believers, and brought before Rusticus, prefect of Rome. A surviving eyewitness account shows how Justin the philosopher became known as “St. Justin Martyr.”

The prefect made it clear how Justin might save his life: “Obey the gods, and comply with the edicts of the emperors.” Justin responded that “no one can be justly blamed or condemned for obeying the commands of our Savior Jesus Christ.”

Rusticus briefly questioned Justin and his companions regarding their beliefs about Christ and their manner of worshiping God. Then he laid down the law.

“Hear me,” he said, “you who are noted for your eloquence, who think that you make a profession of the right philosophy. If I cause you to be scourged from head to foot, do you think you shall go to heaven?”

“If I suffer what you mention,” Justin replied, “I hope to receive the reward which those have already received, who have obeyed the precepts of Jesus Christ.”

“There is nothing which we more earnestly desire, than to endure torments for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he explained. “We are Christians, and will never sacrifice to idols.” Justin was scourged and beheaded along with six companions who joined him in his confession of faith.

St. Justin Martyr has been regarded as a saint since the earliest centuries of the Church. Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians also celebrate his feast day on June 1.

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Knights of Columbus, Sisters of Life to host WYD center for English-speakers

New Haven, Conn., May 29, 2011 (CNA) - The Knights of Columbus and the Sisters of Life are sponsoring and hosting a pilgrim center for English-speaking participants at World Youth Day in Madrid.

Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson said the center will provide “a place of rest, prayer and fellowship for English-speaking pilgrims from around the world” where they can join friends and participate in “a spectacular outpouring of faith.”

Activities at the center will be free and scheduled around the World Youth Day event program. Events include Masses and devotions, catechesis sessions, concerts, speakers, witness testimonies, prayer and movie screenings.

Other events at the site include a Eucharistic procession and an outdoor Way of the Cross.

Eucharistic adoration and Confession will be available continuously at the site throughout the week.

The center, named “Love and Life: A Home for English-Speaking Pilgrims,” is co-sponsored by Holy Cross Family Ministries, Canada's Salt and Light Television, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, the Apostleship of Prayer, the World Youth Alliance and the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family.

The Knights and the Sisters hosted a smaller pilgrim center at World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney.

More than one million pilgrims are expected to participate in the Madrid World Youth Day gathering, which begins on Aug. 16 and ends Aug. 21. Pope Benedict XVI will also celebrate Mass at the event.

A smartphone application for the “Love and Life” center is available through its website, http://wydEnglish.org.

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Maltese voters opt for legal divorce in national referendum

Valetta, Malta, May 29, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Citizens of the island of Malta have voted to legalize divorce, making a choice that the country's Catholic bishops have warned will lead to family breakdown and a loss of religious identity.

“Even though the result is not what I wished for, now it is our duty to see that the will of the majority is respected,” said Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi in a speech on Sunday, acknowledging the outcome of the May 28 referendum.

Labor Party leader Joseph Muscat praised the result as “the birth of a new Malta.”

Initial counts showed the pro-divorce side coming out ahead by a narrow margin, winning between 52 and 54 percent of the vote. Nearly three-quarters of all eligible voters participated in the referendum.

The divorce bill will now go before Parliament for a final decision.

Prime Minister Gonzi's Nationalist Party has a small majority in the legislature. However, some members of the party, who were instrumental in bringing the divorce question before the public, now seem poised to give their approval and turn the bill into law.

Catholics account for the vast majority – up to 98 percent – of Malta’s 400,000 people. For decades the island has remained one of the few countries in the world that did not permit divorce, although it did allow for the annulment of illegitimate marriages.

Malta’s Catholic bishops made their opposition to divorce clear in the run-up to the referendum, particularly in their May 21 pastoral letter.

“A choice in favor of permanent marriage is an act of faith in the family, built upon a bond of love which cannot be severed,” they wrote.

“Whereas a choice in favor of divorce leads to the further destruction of marriage and the family and, as a consequence, the destruction of values and the quality of life.”

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Pope says life flourishes wherever the Gospel is embraced

Vatican City, May 29, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Christian Gospel brings a flourishing of life wherever it is embraced. That was the message of Pope Benedict XVI at his midday Regina Coeli on May 29.

Drawing upon the first-century story of Philip the Deacon, who preached Christ and cured many in the city of Samaria, the Pope noted that the New Testament records that “there was great joy in that city.”

“Every time we hit this expression,” said the Pope to pilgrims in St. Peters Square, “in its essence it conveys a sense of hope, as if to say: it is possible! It is possible that the world will know true joy, because wherever the Gospel arrives, life flourishes, just as a barren land, watered by the rain, immediately revives.”

Essentially, the Pope suggested, Philip and the other disciples did in the villages of first-century Palestine just what Jesus himself had done in their recent past – “preached the Good News and worked miraculous signs” because “it was the Lord who acted through them.”  

As it was in that time and place, said the Pope, so it has been down through the centuries of Christian history.

“It is natural to think of the healing power of the Gospel, which over the centuries has ‘flowed’ as a beneficial river, through many populations.”

“Some great saints have brought hope and peace to entire cities - we think of St. Charles Borromeo in Milan, at a time of plague, or Blessed Mother Teresa in Calcutta, and many missionaries, whose name is known only to God, but who gave their lives to the proclamation of Christ and to allow a deep joy to flourish among men.”

“While the powerful of this world were trying to conquer new territories for political and economic interests, the messengers of Christ went everywhere with the aim of bringing Christ to men, and men to Christ, knowing that only He can give true freedom and eternal life.”

And this, concluded the Pope, is still the job of the Catholic Church in the 21st century.

“Even today the vocation of the Church is the evangelization of those people who have not yet been ‘irrigated’ by living the Gospel,” and that includes “those who, despite their ancient Christian roots, need new blood to bring new fruits and rediscover the beauty and joy of faith.”

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