Charlotte, N.C., Aug 13, 2011 (CNA) - There is a common misperception that Catholics don’t read the Bible. Tell that to the more than 200 people from around the U.S. who attended the Catholic Scripture Study International Bible Conference, and you’ll get a chuckle out of them. That’s because most of them spend countless hours leading or participating in CSSI Bible studies in their home parishes year after year.
The three-day CSSI conference, held Aug. 5-7 at the Renaissance Hotel Suites in Charlotte, N.C., attracted men and women of all ages from more than 33 states – some traveling from as far away as Hawaii. They met to talk about Sacred Scripture, learn about issues like sin, temptation and exorcism, and become more well-versed in apologetics.
Several converts to the Catholic faith were among the participants and received an enthusiastic round of applause during the conference.
Jane Brock, a former Anglican priest from Tennessee who now lives in North Carolina and converted to Catholicism in 2008, was among those who were recognized. She credits her conversion to the patience of Monsignor John McSweeney, pastor of St. Matthew Church in south Charlotte, and to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church “on a dare.”
“It has been a wonderful journey. It’s wonderful to be home,” Brock said.
Three keynote speakers anchored the event, all experts in their respective fields of Sacred Scripture, apologetics and evangelization.
Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa, the world-renowned biblical scholar who speaks 12 languages and appears regularly on the Eternal Word Global Catholic Network (EWTN) hosting both television and radio programs gave talks on “Sin in the Bible” and “The Penitential Psalms.” During both talks, Father Pacwa educated participants on the intricacies of language in the Bible and God’s will for our lives.
“God created us for the Truth,” said Father Pacwa. “We want truth from others and for ourselves… We desire Truth.”
Patrick Madrid, publisher of Envoy Magazine and director of Envoy Institute at Belmont Abbey College since 2007, has been working in the field of biblical apologetics for more than 24 years and spoke on how to provide answers to common questions posed to Catholics using Sacred Scripture.
“God gives us a great, powerful, necessary gift in Scripture,” Madrid said. “The Church and the Magisterium are whom God entrusted with His teachings. As Catholics we have something that is unique and different: Sacred Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium.”
Hector Molina, a bilingual lay Catholic evangelist who worked in pastoral ministry for more than 20 years, fired up the conference attendees with his engaging wit and infectious enthusiasm about the faith and his zeal for souls.
Molina spoke on “The Seven Habits of Highly Evangelistic Catholics,” drawing laughter and applause at his insightful approach to defending and practicing the faith.
“Our society is hostile to evangelization,” Molina said. “Our society conditions us that religion and politics cannot be talked about. We’re conditioned not to share our faith… We have a sacred obligation to share the precious gift we have received, namely Jesus Christ… Are we fishers of men or keepers of the aquarium?”
Gail Buckley, founder and president of CSSI and a convert to the Catholic faith, also spoke on the topic of “Typology in the Bible.” Typology is Buckley’s favorite way to study Scripture and focuses on the people, places, things and events in the Old Testament and how they foreshadow the New Testament.
She summed up her commitment to Scripture study, stating, “If you don’t really know Jesus, how can you commit to Him? The way to know Him is through His Holy Word. The whole of Scripture is what we need to study.”
Additional speakers included Dr. William Thierfelder, president of Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, N.C., who spoke on “The Perfection of the Present Moment,” encouraging conference attendees to live fully every moment of every day and to be thankful for every gift God has given them.
“God’s grace is raining down on us like Niagara Falls,” Thierfelder said. “We should be overwhelmed if we truly recognize what God has done in our lives.”
Father Patrick Winslow, pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Tryon, N.C., and a CSSI author and lecturer, also spoke, addressing the facts on the rite of exorcism and the Catholic Church. He explained the difference between private exorcism and the rite of exorcism, which only a Catholic priest can perform.
The Perpetual Hope Gospel Choir from Our Lady of Consolation Catholic Church in Charlotte, N.C., performed a concert during the event that brought participants to their feet.
Bishop Peter J. Jugis, bishop of the Diocese of Charlotte, celebrated Sunday Mass for conference participants, reflecting on the Gospel of Matthew in which St. Peter asks Jesus to allow him to come to Him on the water but then panics and begins to sink before Jesus reaches out to help him.
“We are reminded by the proclamation of this Gospel today of the greatness of our faith in Jesus,” Bishop Jugis said, “and not to fear when confronted with seemingly impossible obstacles which are arranged on every side against us.”
To request copies of the CSSI Bible Study Conference talks go to www.cssprogram.net.
Printed with permission from the Catholic News Herald, newspaper for the Diocese of Charlotte, N.C.
Denver, Colo., Aug 13, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic novelist Michael D. O'Brien is criticizing the “false compassion” of British fantasy author Terry Pratchett, whose early-onset Alzheimer's disease has spurred him to advocate for assisted suicide.
“No matter what a person may tell themselves about the unjust taking of human life for supposedly 'compassionate reasons,' the inner conscience of man does not let him live easily with this falsehood,” O'Brien told CNA on August 12.
O'Brien, an author and painter best known for his near-future “Children of the Last Days” novels, said lawmakers “must be made aware that, directly or indirectly, they will be participants in murder if they legalize yet another expanding field of the culture of death.”
Pratchett, whose 39 books include the bestselling “Discworld” series, recently told National Public Radio that “everyone should have a good death,” even if this requires recourse to suicide. Pratchett prefers to use different terminology, however, “because suicide is an irrational thing, whereas I think that for some people asking for an assisted death is a very rational thing.”
“People who I have met who have opted for it are very rational in their thinking,” the 63-year-old Pratchett told Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep, in a profile story broadcast August 11. “And indeed so are their families, quite often, because they know they are in the grip of a terrible disease for which there is no cure and they do not want to spend any more time than necessary in the jaws of the beast.”
The Discworld author's wife and daughter “understand the situation and, like me, are waiting to see how things go.” For now, he wants to continue living – so that he can keep promoting a right to die: “I'm gonna fight for that one, and I can't fight for that one if I'm dead.”
NPR's profile of Pratchett acknowledged the controversy over assisted suicide – but it passed over the objections of many medical ethicists, who maintain that life itself is never a disease in need of a fatal “treatment.” In the original version of the Hippocratic Oath, which also condemns abortion, doctors swore not to “give a lethal drug to anyone” nor “advise such a plan.”
O'Brien, whose novels chronicle many disturbing contemporary trends, said the modern West has established “a culture saturated with the notion that death is a handy tool for solving social problems,” as shown by the “vast number of human lives” destroyed through abortion and other means.
He explained that the legalization of suicide would establish in law the notion that life has no inherent worth, such that it can be discarded at will.
“To kill a person with Alzheimers, for example, or mentally handicapped infants and children, or to assist a person taking his own life, is saying yes to a deadly lie, and at the same time it permits us to escape a painful situation,” O'Brien noted.
“In the modern age we have been programmed to flee suffering of any kind, or to drug it, to avoid it at all costs.
“I underline the phrase 'at all costs,' because that is where the erosion of the ultimate dignity of man will lead us.”
“In the end,” he predicted, “we will see that the incidents of assisted suicide now occurring in the world, if given legitimization under law, will play a role in leading us all to widespread euthanasia—in other words, compulsory death.”
“The very people who are now chanting 'compassion' may very well find themselves at the receiving end of a lethal injection in the not too distant future.”
O'Brien cited the words of the late British Catholic convert and social critic Malcolm Muggeridge, who reflected during the 1970s that “the delay in creating public pressure for euthanasia has been due to the fact that it was one of the [Nazi] war crimes cited at Nuremberg.”
In his NPR interview, Pratchett spoke of his ideal death scenarios, giving a poignant and superficially appealing portrait of the “death with dignity” that suicide advocates claim as a right.
“You know, with your grandchildren around you, a bit of sobbing,” he imagined. “And you say goodbye to your loved ones, making certain that one of them has been left behind to look after the shop.”
Pratchett also spoke about a real suicide he witnessed in Switzerland, while working on a BBC documentary. “This gentleman, being a very English gentleman, thanks everybody who was there for coming. And he drunk of the drink, and very shortly after he died.”
But O'Brien insisted that it was never right for friends and family to become accomplices to this taking of life, just as it could never be right for individuals – of any religion, or none – to treat their own lives as a disease.
He emphasized that friends and family, out of love for the terminally ill, must never give spoken or silent consent to suicide.
“I feel sympathy for (Pratchett's) sufferings,” O'Brien reflected. “If he were a family member, friend, neighbor, or acquaintance I would do all in my power to ease his sufferings, but I would not take it upon myself to destroy him or to cooperate in his self-destruction.”
“To be a suicide advocate in any way is to be a participant in murder. Not to act in defense of life, is to act (in complicity). There are no innocent bystanders when the unjust taking of human life occurs.”
In many of Pratchett's own comedic novels, “Death” appears personified as a recurring and sympathetic character – fond of cats and Indian food, tending to his routine of ushering characters out of the imagined universe of “Discworld.”
O'Brien, who is currently preparing a novel with fantasy elements, said all fiction writers have a duty “to maintain what J.R.R. Tolkien called 'the moral order of the universe'” in their imaginary worlds, no less than in their own lives. In that moral order, the intentional taking of innocent life is always wrong – and the patient endurance of suffering is a test of heroic virtue.
“To die with authentic dignity is a true heroism,” O'Brien said, noting that it can also “evoke another kind of heroism from those who are suffering with a dying person through the dying process.”
While Pratchett and others present the question of suicide purely as one of individual rights, O'Brien believes the real question is one that confronts the whole of humanity: Are all people worthy of love and care, or are some lives disposable?
“In essence, that is the choice before mankind at this stage of history,” the Catholic author stated. “Will we become people of authentic love, or will we become a race of murderous sentimentalists?”
Ottawa, Canada, Aug 13, 2011 (CNA) - The Canadian bishops' conference announced the launch of a new website aimed at educating the country's faithful on changes to the Roman Missal.
The National Liturgy Office for the Canadian bishops said organizers are “pleased” to announce the online resource, www.romanmissal.ca, to “help parishes, missions and institutions across Canada in understanding the contents of this new book.”
Copies of the new missal are scheduled to be shipped to Canadian parishes on Nov. 10, with the official implementation date to be held on Nov. 27, the first day of Advent this year.
Organizers said local Church leaders have been working around the clock to prepare the clergy of the country for the new edition of the Roman Missal by holding seminars from coast to coast.
“It is our hope that the local clergy and diocesan offices will take a prominent role in the implementation process in our churches and schools,” the website reads.
The new site includes materials for parish bulletins and workshops as well as links to Roman Missal-related materials from the Publications Service of the Canadian bishops' conference, which is helping produce the book.
Viewers can also find links to Roman Missal implementation sites from the numerous English-speaking bishops’ conferences including, the U.S., Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales, India, Australia and New Zealand.
Organizers announced that the prefaces and other prayers for the Sundays of Advent edition will soon be posted “to facilitate the efforts of Priests in preparing to proclaim these new translations.”
The site also has resources for musicians, such as links to recordings of the three settings for the Ordinary of the Mass that were composed specifically for Canada.
The latest version of the Roman Missal incorporates the most significant changes in the liturgy since 1974. While the essentials of the Mass have not changed, the new translation is considered a richer way to explain and proclaim the Catholic faith.
Madrid, Spain, Aug 13, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - World Youth Day in Madrid will help many young people find “a foundation on which to build their lives” in a time of crisis, says one of the key Vatican organizers of the event.
“The postmodern world is going through a difficult and deep crisis. Relativism creates a dangerous vacuum of common values and meaning,” Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, told Vatican Radio on Aug. 13.
“World Youth Day in Madrid aims to be a clear and persuasive answer to those needs of people today: that the foundation exists and is a living Person who has a name, Jesus Christ!”
World Youth Day is actually several days of events beginning this Tuesday August 16. It concludes with Mass with Pope Benedict on Sunday August 21.
Cardinal Rylko said that the event can help rescue young people from a “culture with no fixed points of reference” that consequently produces “rootless people, who are deprived of safe and sound foundations in their lives.”
For that to happen, he said, each local diocese has to make sure that their preparation and follow-up to the event is adequate to the task. Otherwise the week in Madrid could become just “a flash in the pan.”
He also feels that the location for this year’s World Youth Day provides a microcosm of the contemporary clash of cultures: post-modernism versus orthodox Christianity.
“Spain is like a vast laboratory where the serious problems and challenges of post-modernity have manifested themselves with particular force ... such as the phenomenon of secularization, the trends towards a radical secularism, the laws of the state which are clearly opposed to natural law (the right to life, the nature of marriage and the family),” the cardinal explained.
Spain is presently in an economic crisis and has the highest rates of unemployment in the industrialized world. The cardinal said this means “without doubt” that Spanish society is “hungry for hope, it urgently wants to find prospects for the future.”
Therefore the Church of Spain, thanks to World Youth Day, is “called to rediscover its prophetic vocation and a new evangelistic courage.”
The cardinal concluded by echoing Pope Benedict’s call to “all young people – those who share our faith in Jesus Christ, but also those who are wavering or uncertain, or who do not believe in him” to share in World Youth Day. They should participate in the hope that it can prove “decisive for their lives” and can be “an experience of the Lord Jesus, risen and alive, and of his love for each of us.”