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Archive of September 25, 2011

Church celebrates Czech patron St. Wenceslaus on Sept. 28

Denver, Colo., Sep 25, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Sept. 28, the Catholic Church honors Saint Wenceslaus, a Central European ruler who died at the hands of his brother while seeking to strengthen the Catholic faith in his native Bohemia.

During his 2009 visit to the Czech Republic, Pope Benedict XVI called the country's patron saint “a martyr for Christ” who “had the courage to prefer the kingdom of heaven to the enticement of worldly power.”

St. Wenceslaus was born around the year 903. His father Duke Wratislaw was a Catholic, but his mother Princess Dragomir practiced the native pagan religion. She would later arrange the murders of both Wenceslaus and his grandmother Ludmilla, who is also a canonized saint.

During his youth, Wenceslaus received a strong religious education from Ludmilla, in addition to the good example of his father. He maintained a virtuous manner of living while attending college near Prague, making significant progress both academically and spiritually. But with the death of his father Wratislaw, the devout young nobleman faced a spiritual and political crisis.

His mother Dragomir, who had never accepted the Catholic faith, turned against it entirely. She seized her husband's death as a chance to destroy the religion his parents had received from Sts. Cyril and Methodius, through methods that included purging Catholics from public office, closing churches, and preventing all teaching of the faith.

Dragomir's Catholic mother-in-law Ludmilla urged Wenceslaus to seize power from his mother and defend their faith. His attempt to do so resulted in the division of the country into two halves: one ruled by Wenceslaus, advised by Ludmilla; the other ruled by Wenceslaus' younger brother Boleslaus, who had absorbed his mother's hatred of the Church.

Wenceslaus, who would have preferred to become a monk and not a duke, fortified himself in this struggle through fervent prayer, extreme asceticism, charitable service, and a vow of chastity. Meanwhile, his mother carried out a plot to kill Ludmilla, having her strangled in her private chapel. St. Ludmilla's liturgical feast day is Sept. 16.

The Bohemian duke also faced the threat of invasion from abroad, when Prince Radislaus of Gurima demanded that Bohemia submit to his rule. When Wenceslaus sought to avoid a war by challenging him in single combat, two angels are said to have appeared, deflecting the javelin thrown at Wenceslaus and immediately inspiring Radislaus to drop to his knees in surrender.

During his period of rule, Wenceslaus received the relics of several saints from the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I, who also conferred on him the title of “King Wenceslaus.” But some noblemen of his own country resented the saintly king's strict morals, and allied themselves with Dragomir and Boleslaus.

Wenceslaus' brother sought to appear as a peacemaker, inviting the king to his realm for a celebration. When Wenceslaus was praying in a chapel during the visit, Boleslaus' henchmen attacked and wounded him. Boleslaus himself delivered the final blow, killing his brother by running him through with a lance. St. Wenceslaus died on Sept. 28, 935.

Emperor Otto responded to St. Wenceslaus' death by invading Bohemia and making war against Boleslaus for several years. He succeeded in conquering the region, and forced Boleslaus to reverse the anti-Catholic measures he and his mother had taken.

There is no evidence that Dragomir, who died soon after the murder of St. Wenceslaus, ever repented of killing her family members. Boleslaus, however, came to regret his sin when he learned of the miracles that were taking place at his brother's tomb. He moved St. Wenceslaus' body to a cathedral for veneration by the faithful.

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Utah pastoral congress focuses on stewardship

Draper, Utah, Sep 25, 2011 (CNA) - More than 600 Catholics from throughout the Diocese of Salt Lake City gathered at the Skaggs Catholic Center in Draper, Utah on Sept. 17 for the 2011 Pastoral Congress. In keeping with the new effort that is underway in the diocese, most of the congress speakers focused on the topic of stewardship, which struck a chord with those who attended.

"I come to these congresses because I always need to learn and to grow," said Martina Villalpando, a parishioner of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in West Valley City.

Workshops were given in both English and Spanish. The keynote speaker in English was the Most Rev. Robert F. Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop of Green Bay, Wisc. For Spanish speakers, the keynote presenter was Dominican Sister Rosa Monique Peña, who for 20 years was director of the Archdiocese of Miami's Department of Religious Education.

Bishop Morneau "has had extensive pastoral experience; he's been involved in many, many pastoral endeavors and all forms of administration: diocesan, parish, education and pastoral ministry," said the Most Rev. John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City, who introduced the keynote speaker. "He's somebody who has been a very faithful steward of God's gifts. His life and his ministry are a wonderful example to all of us of one who uses those gifts with gratitude and generosity. I consider Bishop Morneau one of the great leaders in the Church here in the United States of America."

Bishop Morneau, whose topic was "Receiving God's Gifts with Gratitude," is an author who gives retreats to priests and laity throughout the United States. He is considered an expert on stewardship.

In his keynote address, Bishop Morneau said stewardship and spirituality are words that are difficult to comprehend.

"Here is the best definition of spirituality that I have found: Spirituality is just staying awake," he said at the beginning of his talk, eliciting laughter from the crowd before adding, "Spirituality is the awareness that we are in God's presence."

As for stewardship, he confessed that as a young priest – he was ordained 1966 – he didn't practice stewardship as a way of life. "I always thought stewardship was primarily money; giving your 10 percent," he said.

That changed as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops began emphasizing stewardship and published a 1992 pastoral letter on the topic.

Then, in 2006, Bishop Morneau attended a retreat directed by Father Robert Barron, who said, "God gives us everything that we have. God is a giver. We have the challenge to give it back to God. We give back to God our time, talent and treasure, but God doesn't need it, so it comes back to us multiplied, overflowing, nourishing," Bishop Morneau said.

Stewardship consists of four aspects, he said: to receive God's gifts gratefully, nurture them responsibly, share them justly and charitably, and to return them abundantly.

Although stewardship is demanding, it also is joy-filled, he said, and it is a way of seeing and acting as Jesus did. Bishop Morneau quoted Michael Mayne's "Pray, Love, Remember, 33": "The vision of Jesus is of a world in which people are more concerned with giving than with having, with sharing than with possessing, with serving than with being served…."

In his homily at the Mass, Bishop Wester picked up this theme while reflecting on the Gospel reading of the vineyard owner who paid all the workers a full day's wages, whether they worked all day or only the last hour.

"The kingdom of God is about God's love and God's goodness and God's unfathomable richness and how He shares that with us without limits," Bishop Wester said. "God loves us. It's not so much a matter of us deserving the kingdom or salvation, it's a matter of our receiving it as a gift because God is good. And God is good right now."

This is a difficult message for people who want to focus on what they themselves do, Bishop Wester said, and for those who don't live in the moment with awe and gratitude. And trust in God "leads me to believe that this moment now is part of a larger piece, part of a larger gift that God has given me. As Bishop Morneau told us, spirituality is just staying awake, just being attentive, being aware of this moment and how God is working in it right now."

Printed with permission from Intermountain Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Salt Lake City, Utah.

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Researchers appeal embryonic stem cell ruling

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2011 (CNA) - Adult stem cell researchers have filed an appeal in a lawsuit seeking to end federal funding for embryo-destroying stem cell research.

“There is no question that from conception there is a human being who is a member of the species homo sapien,” Samuel B. Casey, general counsel for the Law of Life Project, told CNA.

Embryonic stem cell research, he added, is “clearly human subject experimentation.”

The lawsuit had been dismissed in July by a federal judge who said that he had no choice but to defer to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ April 29 opinion. That opinion held that research on embryonic stem cells does not qualify as Congressionally-prohibited “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed.”

Drs. James Sherley of the Boston Biomedical Research Institute and Theresa Deisher of AVM Biotechnology are the plaintiffs in the case. They contend that embryonic stem cell research funding violates the 1996 Dickey-Wicker Amendment, a provision included each year in the Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill.

The amendment prohibits federal funding for research in which human embryos are “knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.”

The Notice of Appeal was filed on September 19 by Jubilee Campaign's Law of Life Project and their co-counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

Casey told CNA in a Sept. 23 interview that the merits of the case are clear. The problem, he explained, is that “this case as far as the Court of Appeals is concerned has nothing to do with the merits.”

Rather, he continued, the lawsuit has been bogged down with technicalities, first involving the legal standing of the plaintiff and now by a principle known as the Chevron deference doctrine, which holds that when a court believes the meaning of a statue to be ambiguous, it should defer to the government agency responsible for the statute for interpretation.

This doctrine was called into play when the Court of Appeals ruled that the meaning of the Dickey-Wicker Amendment was ambiguous. As a result, explained Casey, the court decided that each administration can determine the interpretation of the amendment, and these interpretations can change from one administration to another, even though the words of the law have not changed.

Casey said that the recent appeal is the latest step in an effort to “exhaust the judiciary possibilities” against the 2009 regulatory guidelines published by the National Institutes of Health, which allowed federal funds to be used for research on newly-created embryonic stem cell lines.

Under President Bush, taxpayer funding had been limited to 21 embryonic stem cell lines already in existence.

In August 2010, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that the new guidelines likely violated the Dickey-Wicker Amendment and issued a temporary injunction, suspending funding while the legality of the policy was challenged.

The U.S. Department of Justice immediately appealed Lamberth’s court order. It claimed that while Congress had prohibited funding that would risk the “injury or death” of human embryos, such a prohibition did not apply to funds used for research on the embryonic stem cells that were harvested from such the embryos.

In April 2011, a U.S. Court of Appeals panel reversed Lamberth’s injunction, holding that the meaning of the Dickey-Wicker Amendment was ambiguous. However, the original lawsuit was allowed to proceed before Lamberth.

In July, Lamberth issued a decision in which he said he must defer to the Court of Appeals’ opinion, accepting the Department of Justice’s claim that embryonic stem cell research did not knowingly subject human embryos to “risk of injury or death.”

Casey said that the case could go as far as the Supreme Court. He added that there was also a possibility of a nonjudicial alternative route after the next election, if a pro-life Congress and President decided to pass a law clarifying the ambiguities claimed to be in the current law.

While acknowledging that the plaintiffs would face “a really tough fight in the Court of Appeals,” Casey remains confident in the merits of the case.

“We still think that there is no ambiguity in the statute,” he said. “We still think we can win.”

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Pope Benedict dares young people to be saints

Freiburg, Germany, Sep 25, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Pope Benedict XVI has challenged young people to “dare to be glowing saints, in whose eyes and hearts the love of Christ beams and who thus bring light to the world.”

Addressing tens of thousands of young pilgrims gathered for a candlelight prayer vigil in the German city of Freiburg, the Pope explained that saints are those who never give up in the spiritual life despite setbacks.

“Christ is not so much interested in how often in your lives you stumble and fall, as in how often you pick yourselves up again,” he said.

The prayer vigil was the Pope’s final appointment of a busy day-three of his state visit to Germany. Drawing upon the theme of Christ as “the light the world,” the evening consisted of a series of prayers offered by young people carrying bowls of fire. The fire was then taken out into the crowd in imitation of the liturgy of the Easter Vigil. The service, held outside Freiburg’s exhibition centre, was also interspersed with Christian music and dance.

“Dear friends, again and again the very notion of saints has been caricatured and distorted, as if to be holy meant to be remote from the world, naive and joyless,” said the Pope in his address.

He added that this caricature portrays the saint as a somewhat unreal figure “who might well be revered, but could never be imitated in our own lives.” This is both false and discouraging, said the Pope. He reminded the young pilgrims that there is “no saint, apart from the Blessed Virgin Mary, who has not also known sin, who has never fallen.”

Pope Benedict then told the young people that Christ did not call them because they “are good and perfect,” but because Christ “is good and he wants to make you his friends.”

“Yes, you are the light of the world because Jesus is your light. You are Christians – not because you do special and extraordinary things, but because Christ is your life,” suggested the Pope. 

He also stressed that the Christian faith is lived in community as “light does not remain alone.” Thus Christians draw strength from fellow Christians which in turn also attracts others to Christ.

“All around, other lights are flaring up. In their gleam, space acquires contours, so that we can find our bearings,” he said.

The converse is also true, said the Pope. Throughout history, “keen observers have pointed out that damage to the Church comes not from her opponents, but from uncommitted Christians.”

Hence the challenge of Christ: “Repent! Be the light of the world! Change your life, make it bright and radiant!”

This way young people can overcome those sins which can sometimes threaten to engulf them “like a thick fog” such as “sloth, or laziness in willing and doing good,” said Pope Benedict.

“Dare to be glowing saints, in whose eyes and hearts the love of Christ beams and who thus bring light to the world,” concluded the Pope.

“I am confident that you and many other young people here in Germany are lamps of hope that do not remain hidden. ‘You are the light of the world.’ Amen.”

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Pope exhorts Germans to fidelity, criticizes ‘routine’ faith

Freiburg, Germany, Sep 25, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Pope Benedict XVI has encouraged German Catholics to remain faithful to the unity of the Church. He warned that those Catholics who view the Church as a mere institution are often further from God than agnostics.

“The Church in Germany will continue to be a blessing for the entire Catholic world: if she remains faithfully united with the Successors of St. Peter and the Apostles,” the Pope said at an open-air Sept. 25 Mass in the German city of Freiburg.

Pope Benedict updated the warning of Christ that “tax collectors and harlots” were closer to God than the Pharisees, offering a version “translated into the language of our time.”
 
“Agnostics, who are constantly exercised by the question of God, those who long for a pure heart but suffer on account of our sin, are closer to the Kingdom of God than believers whose life of faith is ‘routine’ and who regard the Church merely as an institution, without letting their hearts be touched by faith,” said the Pope.

Sunday was Pope Benedict’s last day of his state visit to Germany. Unlike Berlin and Erfurt, his previous destinations over the past four days, Freiburg is overwhelming Catholic. This was evident in the huge numbers at this morning’s Mass, held beneath blue skies and sunshine. Concelebrating with the Pope were the bishops of Germany’s 27 dioceses.

Predicted anti-papal protests have largely failed to materialize during the four-day visit, but the Pope still seemed acutely aware of those Catholic voices in Germany who dissent from Church teaching.

“The Church in Germany will overcome the great challenges of the present and future, and it will remain a leaven in society, if the priests, consecrated men and women, and the lay faithful, in fidelity to their respective vocations, work together in unity,” he said. He added that “the baptized and confirmed, in union with their bishop,” should “lift high the torch of untarnished faith and allow it to enlighten their abundant knowledge and skills.”
 
This renewal of the Church in Germany will “only come about through openness to conversion and through renewed faith,” said Pope Benedict. Jesus Christ “is always close to us, especially in times of danger and radical change, his heart aches for us and he reaches out to us,” he added.
 
“We need to open ourselves to him so that the power of his mercy can touch our hearts. We have to be ready to abandon evil, to raise ourselves from indifference and make room for his word,” he said.
 
In practical terms, the Pope suggested that each person ask themselves some basic questions about their personal relationship with God in prayer, in participation at Mass, in exploring his or her faith through mediation on Sacred Scripture and through study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The papal liturgy itself was suffused with Germanic grandeur. Both the Mass settings and hymns were accompanied by a full orchestra. Meanwhile, the consecration of the Eucharist was welcomed in unison by the bell towers of local churches.

In his Angelus address immediately after the Mass, Pope Benedict held up Mary, the mother of Jesus, as a model for the Christian conversion who had said “yes” to God’s plan in her life.

"As we pray the Angelus, we may join Mary in her ‘yes,’ we may adhere trustingly to the beauty of God’s plan and to the providence that he has assigned to us in his grace,” said the Pope.

“Then God’s love will also, as it were, take flesh in our lives, becoming ever more tangible. In all our cares we need have no fear. God is good.”

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Church troubles can help purify and reform, Pope says

Freiburg, Germany, Sep 25, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Troubled times in the Catholic Church and increasing secularization can be an opportunity for renewal, Pope Benedict XVI said in Germany.

The Pope looked back on the history of the Church during Sept. 25 remarks to a group of Catholics involved in German civil society. He observed that times of persecution and difficulty have often contributed “significantly” to the Church’s “purification and inner reform.”
 
“Secularizing trends – whether by expropriation of Church goods, or elimination of privileges or the like – have always meant a profound liberation of the Church from forms of worldliness, for in the process she has set aside her worldly wealth and has once again completely embraced her worldly poverty,” he said. 

The Pope suggested that once freed from her “material and political burdens,” the Church can “reach out more effectively and in a truly Christian way to the whole world.”

Thus the Church avoids giving greater weight to “organization and institutionalization (rather) than to her vocation” which is to be “a tool of salvation, in filling the world with God’s word and in transforming the world by bringing it into loving unity with God.”

This, however, doesn’t not mean that the Church should or can change her teachings. Pope Benedict recounted an anecdote from the life of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta who was once asked what was the first thing that would have to change in the Church.

“Her answer was:  you and I,” recalled the Pope.

Today’s gathering took place in the south western city of Freiburg on, this, the last day of Pope Benedict’s state visit to Germany. The Pope praised those attending the address, held in the local diocesan seminary, for standing up for the “faith and for the Church something that is not always easy at the present time.” He recognized that the scandal of clerical abuse was often obscuring the Church’s preaching of the “scandal of the cross.”

“A dangerous situation arises when these scandals take the place of the primary scandal of the Cross and in so doing they put it beyond reach, concealing the true demands of the Christian Gospel behind the unworthiness of those who proclaim it.”

Earlier in the afternoon Pope Benedict also met with the judges of Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court. Established wake of the Second World War, the court’s 16 judges operate as Germany’s supreme court and adjudicate on the interpretation of the “Grundgesetz,” Germany’s basic law.

The Pope also met briefly with the organizing committee, benefactors and security teams who have made his four-day state visit to Germany possible in order to thank them for their efforts.

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As he departs, Pope is hopeful for Germany's Christian future

Freiburg, Germany, Sep 25, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Pope Benedict XVI used his departure from German soil to reflect upon his four-day state visit to his homeland and to express confidence in the future of Christianity there.

“I encourage the Church in Germany to pursue with resolute confidence the path of faith which leads people back to their roots, to the heart of the Good News of Christ,” said the Pope at Lahr Airport on Sept. 25.

Pope Benedict said that he hoped the past four days would reverse the societal trend of the past few decades to “remove religion from people’s lives.”
 
“This gives me confidence for the future of Christianity in Germany. As in previous visits, it was clear how many people here are bearing witness to their faith and making its transforming power present in today’s world.”

He said that he had particular cause for optimism given the presence of “large numbers of young people” at Saturday’s youth vigil in Freiburg.

At the airport he received a farewell from German President Christian Wulff, who was accompanied by the country's civil and religious leaders.

Reflecting upon his four-day state visit, Pope Benedict outlined his personal highlights. He mentioned his opportunity to address the Bundestag and present “some reflections on the intellectual foundations of the state.”

He also said that building bridges with other Christian churches, communities and non-Christian faiths had meant a great deal to him.

“Here in the land of the Reformation, Christian unity was naturally a high point of my journey.  I would mention in particular my meeting with representatives of the Lutheran Church in Germany, which took place in the former Augustinian convent of Erfurt,” said the Pope.

“I am profoundly grateful for our fraternal exchange and common prayer. Significant too were my meetings with Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians, as well with Jews and Muslims.”

The past four days have constituted Pope Benedict’s first state visit to Germany. His previous two visits since his 2005 election to the papacy were made in a pastoral capacity.

Predictions of protest and lack of interest prior to this weekend’s visit have largely proved unfounded. Both crowds and public support exceeded the hopes of the organizers.

“With vivid memories of these days spent in my native land, I now return to Rome,” the Pope concluded before boarding the plane that would take him back the Vatican.

“With the assurance of my prayers for all of you, and for a future of peace and freedom for our country, I bid you farewell with a heartfelt ‘Vergelt’s Gott’: May God reward you.  God bless you all!”

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First Reading:: Jer 14: 17-22
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