Denver, Colo., Aug 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - On August 27, one day before the feast of her son St. Augustine, the Catholic Church honors St. Monica, whose holy example and fervent intercession led to one of the most dramatic conversions in Church history.
Monica was born into a Catholic family in 332, in the North African city of Tagaste located in present-day Algeria. She was raised by a maidservant who taught her the virtues of obedience and temperance. While still relatively young, she married Patricius, a Roman civil servant with a bad temper and a disdain for his wife's religion.
Patricius' wife dealt patiently with his distressing behavior, which included infidelity to their marriage vows. But she experienced a greater grief when he would not allow their three children – Augustine, Nagivius, and Perpetua – to receive Baptism. When Augustine, the oldest, became sick and was in danger of death, Patricius gave consent for his Baptism, but withdrew it when he recovered.
Monica's long-suffering patience and prayers eventually helped Patricius to see the error of his ways, and he was baptized into the Church one year before his death in 371. Her oldest son, however, soon embraced a way of life that brought her further grief, as he fathered a child out of wedlock in 372. One year later, he began to practice the occult religion of Manichaeism.
In her distress and grief, Monica initially shunned her oldest son. However, she experienced a mysterious dream that strengthened her hope for Augustine's soul, in which a messenger assured her: “Your son is with you.” After this experience, which took place around 377, she allowed him back into her home, and continued to beg God for his conversion.
But this would not take place for another nine years. In the meantime, Monica sought the advice of local clergy, wondering what they might do to persuade her son away from the Manichean heresy. One bishop, who had once belonged to that sect himself, assured Monica that it was “impossible that the son of such tears should perish.”
These tears and prayers intensified when Augustine, at age 29, abandoned Monica without warning as she passed the night praying in a chapel. Without saying goodbye to his mother, Augustine boarded a ship bound for Rome. Yet even this painful event would serve God's greater purpose, as Augustine left to become a teacher in the place where he was destined to become a Catholic.
Under the influence of the bishop St. Ambrose of Milan, Augustine renounced the teaching of the Manichees around 384. Monica followed her son to Milan, and drew encouragement from her son's growing interest in the saintly bishop's preaching. After three years of struggle against his own desires and perplexities, Augustine succumbed to God's grace and was baptized in 387.
Shortly before her death, Monica shared a profound mystical experience of God with Augustine, who chronicled the event in his “Confessions.” Finally, she told him: “Son, for myself I have no longer any pleasure in anything in this life. Now that my hopes in this world are satisfied, I do not know what more I want here or why I am here.”
“The only thing I ask of you both,” she told Augustine and his brother Nagivius, “is that you make remembrance of me at the altar of the Lord wherever you are.”
St. Monica died at age 56, in the year 387. In modern times, she has become the inspiration for the St. Monica Sodality, which encourages prayer and penance among Catholics whose children have left the faith.
Key West, Iowa, Aug 21, 2011 (CNA) - Three silver roses, carefully crafted in Mexico to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe, are traveling through North America, with one moving through Iowa.
Parishes in the Dubuque archdiocese are part of this unique international devotion led by the Knights of Columbus.
“In 21 days, it’s hitting 21 parishes (in Iowa),” said Levi Schmidt, the Knights of Columbus District 33 Deputy. His council, 8269, covers Maquoketa and Key West.
On July 25, the rose stopped at St. Joseph’s in Key West. That parish held a prayer service to mark the rose’s first stop in Iowa.
“We thought it was a great honor,” said Schmidt.
Deacon Tom Lang officiated the prayer service, which featured music, a procession, prayers to end abortion, and recitation of the rosary. During the service, Deacon Lang discussed the connection between Mary’s appearance and the conversion to Christianity by the native population of Mexico, many of them former Aztecs.
Our Lady appeared pregnant with Jesus, dressed as an Aztec princess with dark hair and skin. Many local people could relate to this form.
“You can force a person to do something, but you can’t change a person’s heart,” said Deacon Lang. “Mary spoke volumes to those people who couldn’t read or write.”
The Silver Rose Program was founded in 1960 by the Columbian Squires of North America, the Knights’ youth group. The intent was to honor Mary as “Patroness of the Americas.” Antonio Banuelos, Cultural Outreach Director for the Iowa Knights of Columbus, said respect for life is a key element of the program.
“The message of the silver rose is ‘One Rose, One Life,’ said Banuelos. “All prayer and liturgical services are offered for the respect for life and an end to abortion. I strongly believe in the silver rose, since it used the most powerful tool we have against abortion: prayer.”
This year’s effort began May 13 in Ontario, Canada and will end December 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in the cathedral of Monterey, Mexico. One rose will travel down the eastern part of
the United States, one down the West, and one down the center.
Iowa is a major destination along the central route. Parishes in Maquoketa, Muscatine, Burlington, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Tama, Ames, Ankeny, Des Moines, Panora, Webster City, Algona,
Spencer, LeMars, Sioux City, Onawa, and Council Bluffs hosted the rose.
The Dubuque archdiocese had six of the 21 Iowa stops.
The roses themselves are a symbol of the Guadalupe miracle. Originally, real roses were used, but later jewelers crafted silvers ones. A silver bouquet is on display at the final destination. Each year, more
roses are added to it.
“That silver is from Mexico,” said Grand Knight Roman Lampe, who attended the service at St. Joseph’s. “It was handcrafted.”
In 1531, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego and told him to tell the local bishop to construct a church near what is now Mexico City. The bishop, originally from Spain, was skeptical of Diego, a poor native American. He asked for proof. Our Lady then led Diego to Spanish roses growing in frozen soil. Diego, a devout convert to Catholicism, carried them to the bishop bundled in his “tilma,” a cloak made from local materials. When he unfurled the garment, the roses fell to the floor and on the cloth was an image of the Virgin Mary. The cloak is on display in a Mexico City cathedral to this day. This miracle, recognized officially by the church, brought many to the Catholic faith.
Printed with permission from The Witness, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa.
Washington D.C., Aug 21, 2011 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops' migration policy head, Kevin Appleby, said that the Obama administration's decision to suspend deportation of illegal immigrants who pose no threat to security is a humane advancement.
“From the Church's perspective this is a positive step,” Appleby told CNA in an Aug. 19 interview.
“We certainly would support the deportation of criminal aliens anyone who's a threat to society and we support the government's right to enforce the law,” he clarified.
“However, there are mitigating circumstances that need to be looked at in determining whether someone is a high priority or a low priority for deportation, and I think the government is acting within its rights in what it's doing with our limited resources.”
The Obama administration announced on Aug. 18 that it will review 300,000 cases of people in deportation proceedings to identify those who might qualify for relief and those who are a threat to security and should be expelled immediately.
The new policy is expected to help thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the United States as young children, graduated from local high schools and have ambitions of going to college or serving in the U.S. military.
Immigration officials said on Thursday that they would use “prosecutorial discretion” to target criminals and those who have brazenly defied immigration laws, the New York Times reported.
“It's significant because it could give relief to immigrants who've built equity in this country, who for example have family ties, whose children may have been here for 10 years or longer and have not really committed an offense other than being out of status,” Appleby said.
Although some argue that those without legal status should be deported regardless of mitigating circumstances, the U.S. bishops' immigration expert said, “the Church's view is that we need to look at all the positive factors that immigrants bring and what their family circumstances might be.”
This, he explained, will help “determine whether they should be allowed to stay, and pay a penalty, for example.”
“It's the most humane way to go – it prevents, for example, the separation of families, it helps young persons who came here with their families when they were younger and know only of America as their home.”
Appleby noted that the U.S. bishops are pleased by the move as many have been “advocating for comprehensive immigration reform for years now.”
He called the the new policy “in some part, a response to the bishops' requests of the administration to look at who they're deporting and to exercise some discretion.”
The policy expert said that it's important to determine who “is the most urgent priority and get those who are a threat to us out of the country first and not put a high priority on those who are not a threat and are actually contributing to the country.”
Although most immigration advocates are praising the administration's new policy, some still take issue with the government's secure communities program.
“It's a program that was begun under the Bush administration and expanded in the Obama administration, which allows for finger print information to be shared between the justice departments and the Department of Homeland Security,” Appleby explained.
He gave the example of an immigrant who is taken in because she had a traffic violation or some other minor offense. This person is required to have copies of her fingerprints taken and sent to the Homeland Security department. She will also have her file flagged for not being a legal resident and could face immediate deportation.
“The goals of the program we would agree with and that is to target criminal aliens, those who have committed serious offenses,” Appleby said.
However, in reality, “the results have been much different – the majority of those who have been deported under this program have either no offense or a low level offense.”
“Again, the government has the right to pursue this,” he underscored. “Our only concern is that it's really not targeting criminal aliens – it's targeting the people that the bishops think should be legalized or put on a path to citizenship.”
Appleby said that the result of the program can often be “adverse” since it lowers the trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities and also has the effect of separating parents from their U.S. citizen children.
In response, he added, the U.S. bishops “have said, 'let's look at this program again and see if there are some changes that need to be made to help the program meet the goals that have been stated for it.'”
Madrid, Spain, Aug 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI told over a million young pilgrims to World Youth Day that the best way to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is through the Catholic Church.
“Following Jesus in faith means walking at his side in the communion of the Church. We cannot follow Jesus on our own,” he said in his homily at the event's closing Mass at Cuarto Vientos airbase on the outskirts of Madrid.
“Anyone who would be tempted to do so ‘on his own,’ or to approach the life of faith with the kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus.”
The Pope delivered his sermon in the searing heat of the morning, a contrast to the thunderstorm he’d endured during a prayer vigil at the same venue the night before.
“I hope you were able to sleep a bit,” said the Pope to the young people just before Mass. He encouraged them to leave Madrid “firm in the faith,” in keeping with the event's theme of becoming strongly rooted in Christ.
Remarkably, the young pilgrims seemed unfazed by both extremes of weather, greeting the Pope’s arrival with a sea of world flags and cheers of “El Papa! Viva!”
The Pope drew his message from the day's Gospel reading, in which St. Peter responds to Jesus’s question “Who do you say that I am?” with the answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Christ, in turn, proclaims: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.”
“The Church, then, is not simply a human institution, like any other. Rather, she is closely joined to God,” said the Pope.
“Christ himself speaks of her as ‘his’ Church. Christ cannot be separated from the Church any more than the head can be separated from the body. The Church does not draw her life from herself, but from the Lord.”
In the presence of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia of Spain, the Pope said the Catholic Church is the answer to a question that often arises today.
“There are many people today who feel attracted by the figure of Christ and want to know him better,” realizing that “he is the answer to so many of our deepest concerns. But who is he really? How can someone who lived on this earth so long ago have anything in common with me today?”
The answer, said the Pope, was Christ’s presence continuing through history in the Catholic Church.
The universality of that Church showed throughout the Mass, with readings and prayers delivered in an array of languages including Spanish, Italian, Polish, Arabic, Chinese, and the Church's traditional Latin. In fact, like many World Youth Day events, the Papal liturgy combined traditional and more modern Catholic elements.
The Pope told young people that they, like Peter, “have been given the extraordinary task of being disciples and missionaries of Christ” – in their case, missionaries to their peers who “are looking for something greater and, because their heart tells them that more authentic values do exist, they do not let themselves be seduced by the empty promises of a lifestyle which has no room for God.”
“The world needs the witness of your faith, it surely needs God,” said the Pope, “I think that the presence here of so many young people, coming from all over the world, is a wonderful proof of the fruitfulness of Christ’s command to the Church: 'Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation.'”
The only disappointment for many pilgrims was that most were unable to receive Communion during Mass. This was due to the fact that many of the 17 Eucharistic chapels around the venue had blown down in last night’s storm while others had to be dismantled due to safety fears.
Pope Benedict ended by telling the young people that he prayed for them “with heartfelt affection,” that they would “grow in holiness of life” and “be effective witnesses to the truth that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God, the savior of all mankind and the living source of our hope. Amen.”
Madrid, Spain, Aug 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Rio de Janeiro in Brazil will host World Youth Day in 2013, Pope Benedict XVI told a million young pilgrims after celebrating Mass at Mardrid’s Cuarto Vientos airbase on August 21.
“Even now, let us ask the Lord to assist all those who will organize it and to ease the journey there of young people from all over the world, so that they will be able to join me in that beautiful city of Brazil,” the Pope said in comments following his midday Angelus prayer.
Brazilians who had come to Spain for World Youth Day 2011 felt overjoyed after hearing the morning announcement.
“We are very happy because the Papa has announced this,” said 18-year-old Felipe Vilvert of Parana, Brazil, to CNA.
“This is more important than the World Cup, Rock in Rio or the Olympics. So we Brazilians are all very happy, very happy today.”
Rio will host the soccer World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games two years later.
Vilvert's fellow pilgrim, 17-year-old Maiara Siquera, agreed. “It is going to be amazing to have the Pope in our country. Many people who were not here will be able to see him in Brazil.”
“I am so, so glad!” said 21-year-old Brazilian seminarian Vinicius de Lima Podda, “World Youth Day is always so far away and very expensive, but this time it will be at home.”
The World Youth Day cross – a fixture at the events since 1984 – changed hands after the announcement, as Spanish young people gave it to a group from Brazil.
“I hope to see you again in two years’ time at the next World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,” said the Pope, bidding farewell in Brazil's native Portuguese language.
“Till then, let us pray for each other, witnessing to the joy that brings forth life, rooted in and built upon Christ. Until we meet again, my dear young people! God bless you all!”
Madrid, Spain, Aug 21, 2011 (CNA) -
Corrected Oct. 14, 2011 12:59 MDT. Changes number of Chinese pilgrims from zero to 60 and corrects name of Zeng's university.
The final Mass of World Youth Day was a sea of national flags. In the million-strong crowd, however, it was hard to find one particular flag – China. That’s until CNA bumped into Thomas Zeng.
“This week has been absolutely fascinating,” said the university student who’s traveled all the way from Shanghai to be at World Youth Day in Madrid. Thomas says he met with 60 other pilgrims from mainland China.
“It is wonderful that I can meet so many Catholics, more than one million. That could never happen in my country, but I believe with the grace of God that it will one day.”
Thomas is actually one of 8 to 12 million Chinese Catholics. About half of them, though, have ties to the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, a state agency founded in 1957.
Many bishops now belong to the Patriotic Association while maintaining communion with the Holy See, but the association's principles of independence and strong nationalism make this position difficult. The Patriotic Association has recently ordained several bishops without Vatican approval.
Thomas says it's “not difficult to be a Catholic in China.” But to be “a good Catholic,” he notes, might be a different matter: “If you want to proclaim (Catholicism), you will maybe be in trouble.”
“I think after today I think I will be more brave to proclaim Jesus Christ to my friends, my classmates,” says the student of management science at his home city’s University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, adding that he will no longer “be so afraid.”
“People in the Middle East, they have a worse situation than us,” he observed. “So we must be brave. We need not bear with fear, because God is with us and we have a lot of opportunities – especially in Shangai, as it is a very open, international city.”
Madrid, Spain, Aug 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI took time on August 21 to thank World Youth Day 2011 volunteers, saying they made pilgrims feel at home in Madrid by serving in the spirit of the Gospel.
“Everyone did (their) best, by work and prayer, to weave, stitch by stitch, the magnificent, colorful tapestry of this World Youth Day,” the Pope told 12,000 volunteers at the INFEMA exhibition center.
After leaving the Apostolic Nunciature amid cheers and applause, the Pope greeted the thousands of volunteers awaiting his words.
The encounter began with the volunteers singing the World Youth Day anthem. On a stage adorned with flowers, 25-year-old Spaniard Javier Reyes spoke for the young volunteers, saying the Pope’s “commitment, evidenced in this trip to Madrid, was an inspiration to the youth.”
Giselle Azevedo, a 22-year old Brazilian, thanked the Pope for choosing Brazil to host the next World Youth Day. She added that her pilgrimage to Cologne for the 2005 event had “confirmed that the Church is where I am supposed to be.”
The Pope addressed the youth with gratitude, pausing occasionally as applause broke out.
“This sacrifice was itself a beautiful and evangelical way to take part in the celebrations: you gave yourselves to others,” Pope Benedict said.
Volunteers often gave up participating directly in the events, in order to make sure everything ran smoothly.
The Pope assured them that God will use the “weariness, the worries and the burdens of these days” to help volunteers grow in “patience, meekness, joy in self-giving, and eagerness to do God’s will.”
“To love means to serve,” he said, “and service increases love.”
As the volunteers return to their everyday lives, the Holy Father asked them to treasure the week's experiences, letting God guide them in lives of service. They should “respond in love” to Christ, “who, for love, gave himself up for us.”
If they do, the Pope promised, their lives “will achieve fulfillment in ways you cannot imagine.”
Madrid, Spain, Aug 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI left Spain on the evening of August 21, after giving a challenge to the million-plus young people who came to World Youth Day in Madrid over the past six days.
“Now I ask you to spread throughout the world the profound and joyful experience of faith which you had here in this noble country,” said the Pope, on the tarmac at Madrid’s Barajas Airport.
“By your closeness and your witness, help your friends to discover that loving Christ means living life to the full.”
Pope Benedict led nine events during his four-day visit for World Youth Day. The peak moment was Sunday's Mass at Cuarto Vientos airbase, with a congregation said to contain up to 2 million people.
Spain’s King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia came to Barajas to bid the Pope farewell on behalf of the Spanish nation.
“Holiness, you have addressed words of love and hope, encouragement and confidence to a youth that treasures values like solidarity,” said King Juan Carlos.
“I give the most heartfelt thanks for your visit to Spain. Thank you for the hope and the vision that you have given to our youth.”
In response, the Pope told them that “Spain is a great nation whose soundly open, pluralistic and respectful society is capable of moving forward without surrendering its profoundly religious and Catholic soul.”
The Pope thanked World Youth Day 2011's organizers, giving special mention to Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity; Madrid's Cardinal Archbishop Antonio Rouco Varela; and the event's General Coordinator, Monsignor Cesar Augusto Franco Martinez.
About two hundred young people got to come onto the tarmac to wave goodbye to the Pope. As with his arrival at the same location, he was “protected” by a line of mini-Swiss Guards, Spanish schoolboys dressed in the uniforms of the illustrious Vatican army.
“I leave Spain very happy and grateful to everyone,” said the Pope.
“But above all I am grateful to God, our Lord, who allowed me to celebrate these days so filled with enthusiasm and grace, so charged with dynamism and hope.”
He said the past week's “feast of faith” should inspire “great confidence” in God's love and care, keeping the Church “young and full of life, even as she confronts challenging situations.”
“This is the work of the Holy Spirit, who makes Jesus Christ present in the hearts of young people in every age and shows them the grandeur of the divine vocation given to every man and woman.”
The Pope said that young people respond when “one proposes to them, in sincerity and truth, an encounter with Jesus Christ, the one redeemer of humanity.”
He concluded by urging the bishops of the world, and teachers of the faith at every level, to build on the lessons that young people have received in Madrid.
“Do not be afraid to present to young people the message of Jesus Christ in all its integrity, and to invite them to celebrate the sacraments by which he gives us a share in his own life.”
The Pope then departed on his chartered Alitalia flight which will return him to Rome this evening.
And so ended World Youth Day 2011. Its effects around the world may have just begun.