Archive of June 19, 2011

St. Thomas More, martyr of the English Reformation, remembered June 22

Denver, Colo., Jun 19, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - On June 22, the Catholic Church will honor the life and martyrdom of St. Thomas More, the lawyer, author and statesman who lost his life opposing King Henry VIII's plan to subordinate the Church to the English monarchy.

Thomas More was born in 1478, son of the lawyer and judge John More and his wife Agnes. He received a classical education from the age of six, and at age 13 became the protege of Archbishop John Morton, who also served an important civic role as the Lord Chancellor. Although Thomas never joined the clergy, he would eventually come to assume the position of Lord Chancellor himself.

More received a well-rounded college education at Oxford, becoming a “renaissance man” who knew several ancient and modern languages and was well-versed in mathematics, music and literature. His father, however, determined that Thomas should become a lawyer, so he withdrew his son from Oxford after two years to focus him on that career.

Despite his legal and political orientation, Thomas was confused in regard to his vocation as a young man. He seriously considered joining either the Carthusian monastic order or the Franciscans, and followed a number of ascetic and spiritual practices throughout his life – such as fasting, corporal mortification, and a regular rule of prayer – as means of growing in holiness.

In 1504, however, More was elected to Parliament. He gave up his monastic ambitions, though not his disciplined spiritual life, and married Jane Colt of Essex. They were happily married for several years and had four children together, though Jane tragically died in childbirth in 1511. Shortly after her death, More married a widow named Alice Middleton, who proved to be a devoted wife and mother.

Two years earlier, in 1509, King Henry VIII had acceded to the throne. For years, the king showed fondness for Thomas, working to further his career as a public servant. He became a part of the king's inner circle, eventually overseeing the English court system as Lord Chancellor. More even authored a book published in Henry's name, defending Catholic doctrine against Martin Luther.

More's eventual martyrdom would come as a consequence o f Henry VIII's own tragic downfall. The king wanted an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, a marriage that Pope Clement VII declared to be valid and indissoluble. By 1532, More had resigned as Lord Chancellor, refusing to support the king's efforts to defy the Pope and control the Church.

In 1534, Henry VIII declared that every subject of the British crown would have to swear an oath affirming the validity of his new marriage to Anne Boleyn. Refusal of these demands would be regarded as treason against the state.

In April of that year, a royal commission summoned Thomas to force him to take the oath affirming the King's new marriage as valid. While accepting certain portions of the act which pertained to Henry's royal line of succession, he could not accept the king's defiance of papal authority on the marriage question. More was taken from his wife and children, and imprisoned in the Tower of London.

For 15 months, More's wife and several friends tried to convince him to take the oath and save his life, but he refused. In 1535, while More was imprisoned, an act of Parliament came into effect declaring Henry VIII to be “the only supreme head on earth of the Church in England,” once again under penalty of treason. Members of the clergy who would not take the oath began to be executed.

In June of 1535, More was finally indicted and formally tried for the crime of treason in Westminster Hall. He was charged with opposing the king's “Act of Supremacy” in private conversations which he insisted had never occurred. But after his defense failed, and he was sentenced to death, he finally spoke out in open opposition to what he had previously opposed through silence and refusal.

More explained that Henry's Act of Supremacy, was contrary “to the laws of God and his holy Church.” He explained that “no temporal prince” could take away the prerogatives that belonged to St. Peter and his successors according to the words of Christ. When he was told that most of the English bishops had accepted the king's order, More replied that the saints in heaven did not accept it.

On July 7, 1535, the 57-year-old More came before the executioner to be beheaded. “I die the king's good servant,” he told the onlookers, “but God's first.” His head was displayed on London Bridge, but later returned to his daughter Margaret who preserved it as a holy relic of her father.

St. Thomas More was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886 and canonized in 1935 by Pope Piux XI. The Academy Award-winning film “A Man For All Seasons” portrayed the events that led to his martyrdom.

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Love within Trinity overflows into forgiveness for man, Pope says

Vatican City, Jun 19, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The love that exists within the Holy Trinity overflows into love and forgiveness for man, as shown by Christ’s death on the cross. That was the message of Pope Benedict XVI in his Trinity Sunday sermon during his visit to the tiny European state of San Marino June 19.

“So, in the mystery of the cross, there are three Divine Persons,” he told the 25,000 strong congregation at the country’s Serravalle Stadium.

“The Father, who gave his only begotten Son for the salvation of the world, the Son, who carries out the will of the Father to the very end and the Holy Spirit - poured out by Jesus at the moment of his death - who comes to render us participants in divine life, to transform our lives, so that our lives are animated by divine love.”

San Marino is situated in the north-eastern part of the Italian peninsula and is one of just three independent states in the world to be completely surrounded by another country, in this case Italy. It has a population of only 30,000. Pope John Paul II also visited San Marino back in 1982. That visit was for just one day, as is Pope Benedict’s today.

“The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one, because God is love: the Father gives everything to the Son, the Son receives everything from the Father with gratitude, and the Holy Spirit is like the fruit of this mutual love between the Father and Son,” said the Pope. He described the Holy Trinity – the Christian proposition that God is three persons but one divine nature – as the “first and greatest mystery of our faith.”

To illustrate the Holy Trinity’s mercy for man, the Pope drew upon the first Bible passage read at today’s Mass. It recounted the disobedience of the Jewish people who, after being led out of slavery in Egypt by Moses, wanted a golden idol instead of God.

“All seems lost, all friendship broken,” said the Pope.

“Yet, despite having committed the gravest of sins, God, through the intercession of Moses, decides to forgive His people and calls Moses to ascend the mountain once more to receive His law, the Ten Commandments.”

God then describes himself to Moses as “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” In these words, said the Pope, “there can be no clearer revelation” of the Trinity’s benevolence towards man.

“We have a God who renounces the destruction of the sinner and wants to show His love in an even more profound and surprising way right in front of the sinner in order to always offer the possibility of conversion and forgiveness.”

The culmination of this divine offer said the Pope, drawing upon today’s Gospel reading, is the incarnation of God-made-man in the person of Jesus Christ.

“The evangelist John refers to this statement of Jesus: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life’.”

So while some may presume a God who would “come to judge the world, to destroy evil, to punish those who work in darkness,” instead, said the Pope, “He shows He loves the world, He loves man, despite his sinfulness, and sends what is His most precious possession: His only begotten Son.”

San Marino claims to be the oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world. It was founded in the early 4th century by two missionaries, Marino and Leo, who were fleeing anti-Christian persecution in what is now Croatia.

The Pope noted how “Marino and Leo with their faith in God revealed in Jesus Christ, brought new perspectives and values to the local context, resulting in the birth of a culture and a civilization centered on the human person.”

And he urged the people of St. Marino to stay true to the ancient Christian faith of Marino and Leo.

“The temptation has crept in to believe that the wealth of man is not the faith, but his personal and social power, his intelligence, his culture and his ability to manipulate scientific, technological and social realities.”

“Thus, in these lands, the Christian faith and values have begun to be replaced ​​with a presumed wealth, which in the end reveals itself inconsistent and incapable of containing the great promise of truth, goodness, of beauty and justice, which for centuries your ancestors identified with the experience of faith.”

Later on today the Pope will venerate the relics of St. Marino at the local cathedral before travelling back into Italy for a meeting with young people in the nearby town of Pennabili. He will then return to the Vatican by helicopter tonight. 

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Major conference on clerical abuse announced in Rome

Vatican City, Jun 19, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Organizers revealed new details about an international conference on clerical sex abuse slated for February of next year in Rome.

“We want to share the best practices” in combating the issue, Fr. Hans Zollner S.J., Head of the Preparatory Committee of the Symposium, told CNA on June 18.

“So we’ve invited speakers who are experts in the field of working with victims and also those who are experts in understanding the psychology of perpetrators.” 

The “Towards Healing and Renewal Symposium” will take place February 6-9, 2012, at the Jesuit-run Gregorian University in Rome.

The conference will invite over 200 representatives from bishops’ conferences and major religious orders around the world.

It is hoped the gathering in Rome will assist them in drawing up new guidelines to deal with the issue of clerical abuse – a requirement recently imposed by the Vatican upon church bodies who don’t yet have such charters. 

“We have to now put in action what the Pope has repeatedly asked for,” said Fr. Zollner, “that is to develop guidelines on how to deal with the issue of abuse in the Church.”

The three-day conference will hear from experts drawn from various fields - including psychology, canon law, moral theology and sociology – and also from around the globe. 

Baroness Sheila Hollins, who is Professor of Psychiatry at St. George’s University in London, England, helped announce the conference on June 18.

“My talk at the symposium will be jointly shared by a victim of abuse. The person who is going to accompany me - and we’ll do a joint presentation - is somebody who has agreed to come but is not ready today to disclose her name and photograph.”

Also taking part will be Monsignor Charles Scicluna, who is the Vatican’s sex crimes prosecutor.

“The symposium that was announced today organized by the Pontifical Gregorian University intends to put the word 'formation' into the equation of responding to sex abuse by clergy,” he told CNA.

“That will help with prevention, with an adequate response to sexual abuse when it happens, and with formation of the local communities – family, young people and also Church leaders.” 

A key legacy of the conference will be the establishment of an online educational resource called an “E-Center.”
“The E-Center will be a multilingual website that provides the most current information and resources on sexual abuse for Church leaders, not only for bishops and religious superiors, but also for Church leaders of dioceses,” said Monsignor Klaus Peter Franzl of the Archdiocese of Munich at Saturday’s press conference.

The most importantly factor at the conference though, says Msgr. Sciclula, will be the voice of the victims.

“That is a voice that we need to hear. It is a voice that has been silent for quite some time but we need to hear from victims because we need to learn the effects of sin, delicts and crimes.”

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Despite divorce and other threats, fatherhood remains foundational

Denver, Colo., Jun 19, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - In an era of family breakdown and easy divorce, there is still hope for Catholic families to grow and develop under the leadership of fathers – both biological and spiritual. But men today must confront new challenges to their traditional roles.

“The greatest force pulling apart fathers and children is divorce,” said Brian Caulfied, editor of the website Fathers for Good. He told CNA that over time, children of divorce “generally have little or no contact with their biological fathers.”

“It's tough to put a broken glass back together, and the pieces never again quite fit,” said Caulfield, the father of two children.

An analysis released in June 2011 by the Pew Research Center shows that in 1960, 11 percent of children in the U.S. did not live with their fathers. The number increased in 2010, with 27 percent living away from their paternal figure.

Father Gerald Murray, a priest in the Archdiocese of New York, also pointed to divorce as “a big deal,” even if many Americans now accept it.

“The union of husband and wife, leading to children, is meant to be a stable unit to the benefit of all involved,” said Fr. Murray in a June 17 interview with CNA.

But there is good news, as well. The Pew Research Center's recent study also found that fathers who do live with their children are spending more time with them, in interactions such as helping with school work, playing and having meals together.

In 1965, fathers who lived with their children spent about 2.6 hours per week with taking care of them – whereas, by 2000, they spent an average of 6.5 hours with them.

Caulfield believes many dads are reacting against four decades of family breakdown. “We are all tired and disillusioned with our divorce culture,” he said.

Reaching one's full potential as a father, he said, requires a personal relationship with God the Father.

“You can't do it on your own, and that's where faith comes in,” he observed. “Without my Catholic faith, I don't know how I could live through the many trials of fatherhood with a sense of hope.”

Priests, who take their traditional title from the notion of spiritual fatherhood, have an even higher calling in this regard. Fr. Curtiss Dwyer, director of pastoral formation at Denver's St. John Vianney Seminary, said that the priesthood is also all about being a “provider, protector and guide to people.”

“To be able to stand in a position to help protect God’s children is a very fulfilling aspect of priesthood,” Fr. Dwyer said. “Celebrating Mass, you are providing and giving nourishment to God’s family.”

Another gratifying aspect of being a spiritual father, Fr. Murray observed, is being able to see children grow in their faith.

“You realize that, through God’s providence, you were the instrument for the beginning of their Christian life,” by baptizing them.

All three men agree that fathers have to be an example of serious faith for their children. They have to “pray, go to Confession, and go to Mass,” Fr. Murray said.

Caulfield says this good example, or lack thereof, can make or break a child's faith. “Unless dad is seen to be involved in the faith and showing his kids that it's important, the children will tend to fall away.”

The examples of both biological and spiritual fathers set the foundation for children to grow and develop – on earth, and hopefully, in heaven.

“Your child is really God's child,” Caulfield said.

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Bishops' committee okays early introduction of some new Mass responses

Washington D.C., Jun 19, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Diocesan bishops will be allowed to gradually introduce the musical settings for Mass parts from the new Roman Missal beginning in September, Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans announced June 16.

“I ask you to encourage this as a means of preparing our people and helping them embrace the new translation,” Archbishop Aymond told the bishops during their Spring Assembly near Seattle.

This announcement primarily affects the “Gloria,” the “Holy, Holy, Holy” and the “Memorial Acclamations” of the liturgy. The change will allow parish communities to learn the various parts of the new translation “in a timely fashion and an even pace.”

The bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship, which Archbishop Aymond chairs, made the decision in response to several bishops’ requests to allow early preparation ahead of the full-scale implementation scheduled for Nov. 27, the first Sunday of Advent.

Some bishops suggested that the various acclamations could be more effectively introduced throughout the fall so that when the full Missal is implemented the congregation will already be familiar with the sung prayers.

The new English translation of the Roman Missal – the official book of prayers and instructions for the celebration of the Eucharist – follows the original Latin more closely while using richer and more accurate language. The new version involves the most significant changes to the liturgy since 1974.

Bishops in the U.S. have also made efforts to prepare for the upcoming implementation of the revised missal by offering workshops to priests and diocesan officials throughout the last year, as well as launching a website dedicated to the new translation.

The Catholic Church in England and Wales has also planned an early start. Catholics there will begin using the changed portions of the Mass in September.

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Florida woman reflects on letters received from Mother Teresa

St. Augustine, Fla., Jun 19, 2011 (CNA) - Nearly 20 years ago, St. Augustine, Fla. resident Jean Hinson never imagined that something as simple as mailing a get well card would change her life. Yet the mere cost of a 29-cent postage stamp touched the life of the recipient of that card – Mother Teresa of Calcutta – so much that the two began exchanging letters over the next few months. Looking back on the experience, Jean, who is now 83, calls it “priceless.”

Jean knew Mother Teresa like most of the world – from afar, learning only bits and pieces about her life and ministry through books and articles. She had a great admiration for her tireless work with the poor and the sick. 

On a rare visit to the United States in January 1992, Mother Teresa was hospitalized in La Jolla, Calf. with pneumonia and congestive heart failure. After reading the report in the St. Augustine Record, Jean felt she should mail a card to the hospital in La Jolla hoping to brighten the day of Mother Teresa. Less than a month later, Jean was nonetheless overjoyed when she received a reply and the first of several letters from her new “pen pal.”

“I thought to myself ‘I bet no person of her stature ever receives a get well card,’” said Jean. “People are sometimes hesitant to send anything to a person with celebrity-like status. But I found a card for her and wrote a short note telling her how much she meant to the world. I forgot about it and never dreamed I would hear from her.”

Jean almost threw the envelope away, dismissing it as another relief organization seeking money. But when she saw the Missionaries of Charity on the return address, she knew that someone from Mother Teresa’s religious order had seen the card. When she opened the letter, she got an even bigger surprise.
Now displayed in a simple picture frame in her St. Augustine Beach home, Jean struggles with a crack in her voice and tears in her eyes to read the heartfelt response from Mother Teresa.

Jan. 30, 1992

Dear Mrs. Hinson,
With deep appreciation, I thank you for you remembering me in your prayers. My gratitude will be my prayer for you that you may become humble like Mary, so as to become more and more holy like Jesus. Together, let us thank God for all his tender love and care. He has been so good to me. The care that I received while in the hospital has been something great and beautiful. I am spoiled. Now that I have left the hospital and I am feeling better, I ask for you to pray much for China. We have been invited to bring Jesus to the people there, who are hungering so much for God.

Continue to pray for me and my sisters that we may not spoil God’s work. Always be one heart full of love in the hearts of Jesus and Mary by loving one another with a most tender and forgiving love.

God Bless You,
Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa included a gift for Jean – a medal of the Blessed Virgin Mary – that Jean has worn ever since. 

Jean was especially struck by Mother Teresa’s reference to China in the letter. China was a country that Mother Teresa visited three times and longed to establish a mission there to help the poor. Her dream in China was never realized before her death.

The correspondence continued and even though Mother Teresa never asked for money in any of her letters, Jean began to send $25 checks to Calcutta hoping they would find their way to Mother Teresa. Later that spring, just in time for Easter, the second letter arrived:
Dear Mrs. Hinson,

This brings you my prayers and wishes for a holy and joyous Easter. 
Your gift brings hope to the lives of many. Let nothing so fill you with pain and sorrow so as to make you forget the joy of the risen Lord.

God Bless You,
Mother Teresa.

Jean smiles as she recalls that her checks were always personally endorsed with Mother Teresa’s signature. “She was a hands-on woman. That’s for sure,” said Jean. Her third of six letters from Mother Teresa arrived a couple of months later.

“I finally began thinking that this is not fair to Mother Teresa,” said Jean. “Maybe she feels she has to write back every time I write her. One day, I just stopped. In many ways, I’m sorry I did.”  
Jean admits that being able to exchange letters with Mother Teresa has changed her. “Even though I’m not Catholic, there’s a lot about the Catholic faith that appeals to me,” said Jean who was baptized a Baptist as a small child in Dallas, Texas.
Mother Teresa died on Sept. 5, 1997 at the age of 87. “I remember thinking the world had lost a great person that was on the fast track to sainthood,” said Jean. “It was a very sad day for me and I hated that the event was eclipsed by Princess Diana’s fatal car crash, which happened a week earlier. Both women were tremendous losses, but I just thought that Mother Teresa’s passing did not get the attention it should have. Maybe that’s the way she would have wanted it because she never wanted to be at the center of attention.”

If Jean had her wish, she would have liked to have met her pen pal, and she knows exactly what she would have said to Mother Teresa:

“You meant everything to the world. It was so wonderful the things you did – working with the sick, eating the food that the poor ate on the streets – not wanting anything better for yourself. The whole world loved you and I think most did no matter what denomination they were. I’m sure there are others that never got any publicity, but you are the most wonderful woman I’ve ever known.”

As she safely places the framed-letter back on the dusty table in her small, rustic beach cottage, Jean tears up again and thinks about the friend she never knew.

Printed with permission from the St. Augustine Catholic, magazine for the Diocese of St. Augustine, Fla.

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