Archive of August 6, 2011

Deacon Craig’s ‘one-year shot’ for God turns into vocation to the priesthood

Duluth, Minn., Aug 6, 2011 (CNA) - You could say Deacon Anthony Craig had everything going for a priestly vocation.

“My parents showed me the way of charity, the way of loving God and neighbor above myself,” he said. He said he watched his father, Deacon David Craig, minister to people in hospitals and through food shelves and in parishes. He watched his mother sacrifice for her family, giving up things like new shoes for a period of years to enable the children to get them. He had faithful and joyful priests who led by example and also sometimes with prodding questions about whether he had considered the priesthood.

He had good Catholic friends, went to vocations dinners and had gone on a seminary visit to St. John Vianney, where he was impressed. “I saw the lives of these normal guys in the seminary and they were following Christ as best they could,” he said. “I wanted to be a part of that life, which brought these men such vitality and strength. I was attracted to live that life.”

Yet Deacon Anthony, who was ordained to the priesthood July 15 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, said he entered high school and “rarely gave the priesthood half a thought.” And at the end of high school, the captain of his high school football team, recruited by several universities, he decided on joining the Division II football team at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minn.

So he went and talked to his dad.

“He agreeably responded, ‘If that’s what you want to do with your college years, that’s fine,’” he said. “That phrase, ‘if that’s what you want,’ struck me for some reason. I reconsidered my decision and discovered that I did not want to play football anymore.”

More than that, at the end of three days of praying and reconsidering things, his surprising first thought was of that weekend at St. John Vianney, something he knows now was the Holy Spirit’s inspiration.

“It was a delightful surprise in the end,” he said. “I gave the Lord, basically, a shot.”

He went to the diocesan vocations director, filled out the application forms and soon was accepted as a diocesan seminarian.

That one-year shot for God turned into a journey that has led him to study at St. John Vianney Seminary at the University of St. Thomas, to the Pontifical North American College in Rome and soon will be serving as a priest in a Minnesota parish.

His first assignment will be at Blessed Sacrament in Hibbing as parochial vicar.

St. John Vianney Seminary was of particular importance, he said. “That seminary is the place truly where I believe the Lord saved my life by changing it in a radical way,” he said.

The particular influence there came from the rector, Father Bill Baer, who attracted Deacon Anthony by his joy and energy. “That was a very attractive thing, when I look back,” Deacon Anthony said. “He drew us forward by his own joy.”

He said Father Baer taught seminarians to be leaders and men of the church.

At the Pontifical North American College, Deacon Anthony has studied “just a few football fields away” from Pope Benedict XVI and had a chance to participate in Masses with him and pray the Angelus with him on Sundays. “I was blessed to have greeted him on two different occasions,” he said. “He is so very kind and genuine.”

Deacon Anthony also cites his seminary spiritual directors and diocesan priests, especially his pastor, Father George Zeck, for assisting him.

“I attribute all the good in my life to the grace and presence of our God,” he said.

And for all those many experiences, the ordinary life of a pastor is what Deacon Anthony is longing for. He said serving at parishes in Crosslake, Emily and Duluth as a seminarian only whetted that appetite. He is especially eager to visit the sick and homebound.

“I remember visiting with a man in the hospital several years ago,” he said. “He was dying of cancer in his 80s. After chatting a bit about fishing and other topics, I asked him if he would feel comfortable if we prayed together. I did not know if he was even Catholic, but I was just going to pray an Our Father with him. He said, ‘You know, I haven’t been to church since I was 18 years old. I left and never went back. Why would God want me to speak to him?’

“I told him the Lord has been with him his entire life and was eager to hear him that moment. He made the sign of the cross with his weak arm and we prayed the Our Father together. His eyes welled up as I departed after that.”

He’s “happy as a clam” to come back and begin pastoral work and become a spiritual father to many.

Deacon Anthony said that sometimes young men like him who don’t give the priesthood half a thought may miss the call of God in their lives, and he urged sincere young men to reflect on what God is saying to them. “Do not be afraid of what you hear in your heart, if there is a possible call,” he said.

Instead, he recommended praying about it and talking to a priest.

Printed with permission from The Northern Cross, newspaper for the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota.

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Haitian amputee soccer team show their skills in Denver

Denver, Colo., Aug 6, 2011 (CNA) -

Team Zaryen, a group of amputee soccer players who lost limbs in the devastating Haiti earthquake last year, demonstrated their impressive skills at the Knights of Columbus' convention in Denver, Colorado on August 1.

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, who visited Haiti in the earthquake’s aftermath, praised the players for their determination on Aug. 1 and noted the “greatness of the people of Haiti” and their “faithfulness and generosity of spirit.”

Port-au-Prince's Team Zaryen is made up of players who received prosthetic devices through a partnership between the Knights of Columbus and Project Medishare.

At a press conference on Aug. 1 at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Denver, the players moved around on crutches kicking a soccer ball with a strength and swiftness that surpasses most average players. 

Coach Cedieu Fortilis told CNA that the team formed in September of 2010 and since then, has attracted about 40 members.

He said the community in Haiti, as well as everyone they encounter in their travels, are fascinated watching them play since “no one expects amputees to be able to do this.”

“There are no words,” he added, “to describe the blessing that the Knights of Columbus have been for us.”

Fortilis noted that the players chose the word “Zaryen” as their team name since it is the Creole word for Tarantula – a spider known to keep thriving even after the loss of a leg.

The team also announced that they will tour the U.S. this fall to run soccer clinics for wounded members of the U.S. Military.

“Following the earthquake there was a tremendous outpouring of support from the people of the United States, much of it coordinated by America's armed forces,” said Dr. Robert Gailey, director of rehabilitation services for Project Medishare.

“Team Zaryen is now looking to return the favor by running clinics for wounded American services members this fall in the United States,” Gailey said, “and we are honored to be working together with the Knights of Columbus to assist these young people in Haiti and to be providing these clinics for the U.S. Military.”

Gailey noted that a primary reason the soccer team was formed was to help remove the social stigma associated with being an amputee in Haitian society. The players also hope that their example will inspire local youth to overcome obstacles and view their lives as filled with limitless opportunities. 

The tour will be co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and Project Medishare's “Healing Haiti's Children” program. The knights have donated more than $1 million to the program since its inception.

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Professors say Air Force's 'Christian Just War' course needs revision

Lompoc, California, Aug 6, 2011 (CNA) - Two military ethicists agree that a controversial Air Force ethics course, incorporating Bible passages and Christian theology, presents appropriate subject matter but needs revision.

“As clumsy as this lecture seems to be, it would be equally bad to try to drive out, from any presentation about just war theory, its intellectual history,” said Monsignor Stuart Swetland, a former Naval officer who has taught military ethics courses and now holds the Endowed Chair for Christian Ethics at Mount St. Mary's University in Maryland.

In late July, California's Vandenberg Air Force Base suspended its Nuclear Ethics and Nuclear Warfare course after students and activists objected to its section on “Christian Just War Theory.” Msgr. Swetland has his own criticisms of the course, but says the Church's just war tradition has its place in a secular classroom.

Rutgers Professor James Turner Johnson, a specialist in just war thought, also expressed “serious concerns about the course” after reviewing its materials. But his concerns differ from the objections of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a secular group whose agitations prompted a review of the contents.

Foundation president Mikey Weinstein has called the course's “Christian Just War Theory” section “an outrage and a deliberate attempt to torture and distort our constitution.” He claims the course violates the First Amendment's establishment clause, and imposes a “religious test” on officers.

Johnson, who believes secular institutions can legitimately present religious perspectives on war, presented his own critiques of the material to CNA on Aug. 5.

“The Vandenberg course misrepresents the nature of the idea of just war,” he said. “It not only presents just war as a specifically Christian idea, but its way of describing its Christian nature is at odds with the teaching on just war of major strands of Christianity.”

“Medieval just war thinking was 'Christian' in a broad, undifferentiated sense as a product of a Christian culture and as having been contributed to by Christian canonists and theologians,” Johnson explained. “But that is not the same thing as calling it 'Christian' in the narrow sense used in the Vandenberg course.”

Weinstein says that the group of Air Force officers who brought the course to his attention consisted mostly of Catholic and Protestant Christians, rather than atheists or agnostics.

Its PowerPoint slides contained material likely to raise suspicion among both believers and nonbelievers – including implicit comparisons of modern warfare to the religious wars of the Old Testament, and a presentation of Jesus Christ as “the mighty warrior.”

Johnson said the presentation, despite its use of St. Augustine's writings, did not present the Church Fathers' and medieval theologians' synthesis of faith and reason.

These writers, he said, “were working from secular sources as well as Christian ones, and the conception of just war they produced was set squarely within the frame of natural law and the moral responsibilities of temporal government.”

“They emphatically did not develop this conception out of the Bible itself, though they saw it as consistent with biblical revelation. The only Bible verse they cited with any regularity was Romans 13:4,” used to explain “that the responsibility for using armed force lies with the temporal ruler and follows from the ruler’s obligation in the natural world” to maintain order, justice, and peace.

Johnson said that St. Augustine and the medieval theologians, unlike the authors of the Vanderberg course, had no need to make references to Old Testament wars, or draw on metaphorical descriptions of Christ as a “warrior” – because these earlier authors believed that “the requirements of just war could and should be understood and followed by anyone simply by use of natural reason.”

The Rutgers professor maintains that a careful and thorough presentation of “specifically Christian teachings and arguments” can be appropriate matter for a military classroom.

“While there is no place for Christian indoctrination as a part of American military professional education,” Johnson stated, “it is going too far, as sometimes argued by critics, to seek to deny any place for consideration of religious teachings and arguments in the course of such education.”

Msgr. Swetland told CNA on Aug. 5 that such critics were applying a “false understanding of the separation of Church and state,” in attempting to argue that religious material has no place in a military ethics course.

“To show intellectual patronage, to show the lineage of an idea, to present objective facts about how these ideas developed – that's not evangelizing or proselytizing,” the priest and professor pointed out. “That's just showing the development of intellectual history.”

“Anyone who's intellectually honest, if they present the just war tradition and its intellectual heritage, will have to admit that it's rooted in a Judeo-Christian tradition.”

“It intellectually developed, especially beginning with Saint Ambrose and Saint Augustine, in the late fourth and early fifth century, as Christians began to deal with the question, 'Can you fight for the Roman Empire, in defense against the invading barbarians?'”

Reflection on this question led to the larger question of whether Christians could fight in wars at all. The Church answered in the affirmative, but took care to distinguish between just and unjust wars – and also between moral and immoral actions within war. In subsequent centuries, Msgr. Swetland noted, these same principles became a part of secular reflection and law.

He criticized the Vandenberg course for its heavy reliance on Biblical allusions – which he said were helpful in a limited way, but largely extraneous to the Church's just war tradition.

“A just war presentation is about ethics that anyone should have access to, through reason alone. You don't need to proof-text with Scripture. I think that's not the best way of teaching in any setting, let alone in a multi-faith setting like the military. Pedagogically, it's not the best method.”

Classroom time spent on Old Testament references, he said, could be better spent solidifying officers' knowledge of the just war theory's important distinctions.

“The presentation, as given in those slides, left out a lot of the just war tradition when it came to the requires of both the 'ius ad bellum' – the justice of war – and the 'ius in bello,' the justice in war. There are a lot more criteria there, than the ones they were presenting on the slides.”

A revised course, he said, “should present the just war theory in its entirety – as far as the criteria for a war itself to be just, and the criteria for action in war to be justified.”

Msgr. Swetland also noted that the Catholic Church's just war teaching rules out any use of nuclear weapons that would indiscriminately kill both civilians and combatants, such as the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

Vandenberg's course in nuclear ethics is partly intended to guide students toward a signed, formal commitment, saying they would authorize nuclear launches of this type under certain conditions.

“One of the problems that the chaplain instructor at Vandenberg might have, is that the very weapons he's talking about are the kinds of weapons that, more than likely, if ever launched, would be both disproportionate and indiscriminate,” Msgr. Swetland said, explaining why most possible uses of nuclear weapons are intrinsically evil.

“It's hard to even imagine a scenario where they would be proportionate and discriminate,” he stated.

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A papacy rooted in the Eucharist - Pope Paul VI remembered

Vatican City, Aug 6, 2011 (CNA) - Catholics in Rome paid tribute to Pope Paul VI who died 33 years ago today on August 6 1978, after holding the office of the papacy for 15 years.

“Paul VI built his spirituality on the Eucharist both celebrated and adored,” said Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi of Trieste at a Mass held in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome this evening.

“Every Sunday afternoon, when not engaged in apostolic travel or a visit to a Roman parish, was spent in his chapel – made dear by works by artists he knew and appreciated – in front of the tabernacle, where in long and prayerful worship, he would entrust the problems and solutions for the spiritual and pastoral renewal of the Church to the Eucharistic Christ,” the archbishop recalled. 

Pope Paul VI was born Giovanni Montini in the village of Concesio in the province of Brescia in northern Italy. His father was member of the Italian parliament while his mother hailed from a family of rural nobility.

After a career in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, he became Archbishop of Milan in 1954 before being elected to the papacy upon the death of Pope John XXIII in 1963.

“Pope Paul VI, with a respectful attention to every cultural social and religious reality, was well aware of the mission that the Lord had given him,” Archbishop Crepaldi said.

“At Geneva, in an ecumenical meeting, before the representatives of sister churches and ecclesial communities he said, 'I am Peter and by virtue of this weight of office, I point and search with you on the path of truth and unity.'”

Among others things, Pope Paul VI’s reign was defined by the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council in 1965 and it’s legacy, his reaffirmation of traditional Christian teaching on artificial contraception in Humanae Vitae in 1968 and his introduction of a new rite of Mass in 1970.

He was also the first pope to travel extensively and made particular effort to build bridges with other Christian churches and communities. Presently a Servant of God, his cause for beatification was opened in 1993. 

“I offer this humble invitation,” concluded Archbishop Crepaldi before leading his fellow celebrants to pray at the tomb of Pope Paul after Mass.

“Follow, listen to Christ, pastor and teacher, leaving us accompanied in the faith in the Eucharist of Servant of God Paul VI, who we hope will soon be venerated among the blessed.”

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