Archive of October 16, 2011

St. Margaret Mary, 'Apostle of the Sacred Heart,' remembered Oct. 16

Denver, Colo., Oct 16, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Oct. 16, Roman Catholics celebrate the life of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the French nun whose visions of Christ helped to spread devotion to the Sacred Heart throughout the Western Church.

Margaret Mary Alacoque was born in July of 1647. Her parents Claude and Philiberte lived modest but virtuous lives, while Margaret showed herself to be a serious child with a focus on God. Claude died when Margaret was eight, and she suffered a paralyzing illness from the ages of nine to 13. A struggle over her family's property made life difficult for Margaret and her mother for several years.

During her illness, Margaret made a vow to enter religious life. During adolescence, however, she changed her mind. For a period of time she lived a relatively ordinary life, enjoying the ordinary social functions of her day and considering the possibility of marriage.

Her life changed in response to a vision she saw one night while returning from a dance, in which she saw Christ being scourged. Margaret believed she had betrayed Jesus, by pursuing the pleasures of the world rather than her religious vocation. At age 22, she decided to enter a convent.

Two days after Christmas of 1673, Margaret experienced Christ's presence in an extraordinary way while in prayer. She heard Christ explain that he desired to show his love for the human race in a special way, by encouraging devotion to “the heart that so loved mankind.”

She experienced a subsequent series of private revelations regarding the gratitude due to Jesus on the part of humanity, and the means of responding through public and private devotion. But the superior of the convent she dismissed this as a delusion.

This dismissal was a crushing disappointment, affecting the nun's health so seriously that she nearly died. In 1674, however, the Jesuit priest Father Claude de la Colombiere became Margaret's spiritual director. He believed her testimony, and chronicled it in writing.

Fr. de la Colombiere – later canonized as a saint – left the monastery to serve as a missionary in England. By the time he returned and died in 1681, Margaret had made peace with the apparent rejection of her experiences. Through St. Claude's direction, she had reached a point of inner peace, no longer concerned with the hostility of others in her community.

In time, however, many who doubted her would become convinced as they pondered what St. Claude had written about the Sacred Heart. Eventually, her own writings and the accounts of her would face a rigorous examination by Church officials.

By the time that occurred, however, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque had already gained what she desired: “To lose myself in the heart of Jesus.” She faced her last illness with courage, frequently praying the words of Psalm 73: “What have I in heaven, and what do I desire on earth, but Thee alone, O my God?”

She died on October 17, 1690, and was canonized by Pope Benedict XV in 1920.

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Former ‘sorority girl’ off to the convent

Anchorage, Alaska, Oct 16, 2011 (CNA) - As young girls, Anastasia Kenney and her little sister played Mass. They cloaked their heads in a white curtain, draped accordingly as a bridal veil or a nun’s habit, and served crackers and grape juice to each other as they pretended to receive Holy Communion.

Some 30 years later, Kenney is moving into a convent and aspiring to wear a white habit in earnest.

The religious vocation startled even her.

“I was horrified! I was the least nunnish person I knew,” said Kenney, 35, of her initial inclination. “I thought the last group of sisters I’d be living with was my sorority sisters.”

Now she’s settling in with the Dominican Sisters of Immaculate Conception, a Polish community that began accepting Americans five years ago.

Working in the world

The background on Kenney’s iPhone screen features three Dominican nuns in full white habits bounding across the Justice, Ill., campus where they operate ministries involving teaching, retreats and care of the elderly. In order to pay off $65,000 in student loans, Kenney will work outside the convent for a year before officially beginning formation as a religious sister.

After graduating from the University of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and completing master’s courses in social work and community mental health, she mounted a diverse career in social services. She has been youth director at Holy Family Cathedral, a volunteer political campaign organizer, teacher at Holy Rosary Academy, advocate for the homeless, child protective services specialist, missionary volunteer doing hospice in Kenya and a pregnancy support counselor.

“She’s been drawn to jobs that deal with really intense suffering,” said Kenney’s friend Tiffany Borges, who wrote a letter of recommendation for Kenney’s application. “The way she handles it is to bring it to [eucharistic] adoration. I’ve been impressed that her response is simply prayer and bringing it to God.”

Growing up in the faith

But Kenney had much to experience and overcome before heeding the call to serve as a religious sister.

Raised in several states and Europe by  Catholic parents who settled in Anchorage with the Air Force in 1987, Kenney felt expected to attend a Catholic college. She chose Loyola University because it was farthest from home. She was an inactive Catholic and self-described materialistic sorority girl with a free-spirited lifestyle. Within a year, however, New Orleans became “too crazy” for Kenney, and in 2000 she followed love to Idaho. She was planning to get married when a messy breakup left her venting on the phone to her mom. Her mother suggested she attend Mass to feel better.

“I was thinking, ‘What is that going to do?’ but I took her advice,” Kenney said. “I went to the Newman Center and met such active, vibrant young people there. To this day I’m still very good friends with the people I met there.”

With renewed faith Kenney enrolled in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and received the sacrament of confirmation. She joined her family in Anchorage in 2001 and there discovered a rich community of faith centered around Holy Family Cathedral, both with the resident Dominican friars and in the young adult scene. She immersed herself in Catholicism, meeting with a close circle of friends to devour papal encyclicals and collaborate on the establishment of a lecture and discussion series known today as Theology & Brew.

“We were just so hungry to have our faith fed,” Kenney said. “That helped us deepen our faith and develop such a love for it.”

Need for healing

Kenney first explored a religious vocation in 2002. Overriding her parents’ objections that she wasn’t ready, she participated in an inquiry at a Dominican convent.

“When I came back, I thought I didn’t have that calling,” Kenney said. “A call can be authentic and get thwarted the first time around. I didn’t have the maturity I needed and the healing I needed. God had to heal me of a lot of things first.”

Healing was critical. Kenney estimates she was 10 or 11 when she developed destructive eating habits that rapidly mutated into acute anorexia and bulimia. Despite two hospitalizations with therapy plus fervent prayer and support from loved ones, she could not overcome the affliction. It took an act of God.

Kenney finally found peace through a healing Mass by Father Santan Pinto, a priest whose mission is to form laity as disciples. Her roommate and best friend, Kate Collins, persuaded her to see him during a stop in Anchorage in 2010. Kenney’s parents accompanied her.

As Father Pinto laid hands on her head, “It was awesome in the true sense of awe,” marveled Kenney’s father, Matthew Kenney. “She cried out in anguish and kind of collapsed. Then she stood up, bewildered, and ran off. When she came back, she was changed.”

She went home and prayed earnestly. And then, she ate. As Kenney ate her first real meal in over three months, Collins entered and wept at the sight.

“I tend to be very objective and analytical. I’m the kind of person where God needs to hit me on the side of the head with a 2×4,” Matthew Kenney said. “Seeing something so manifest and physical occur — there was no way to explain, physically, what I saw. It was a purely spiritual event.”

“The Gospel came alive for me in such a profound way,” said Kenney, who now enjoys a primarily vegetarian diet. “Healing is possible. It shouldn’t seem supernatural to us. We have the Eucharist. We have the sacraments. The Gospels are rich with stories of healing and being made whole.”

As instantly as the healing eliminated her eating disorders, it also quelled any lingering doubts as to her religious calling.

“God meets us in our brokenness and suffering, and his love and his healing of a soul witnesses to his power,” she said. “A lot of us have different forms of brokenness to surrender to the Lord and to overcome with his grace. It doesn’t mean that we’re not able to serve God.”

A vocation emerges

In fact, Kenney believes her struggles and recovery will enable her to even better serve as a religious sister.

“I’ve always had the heart for it. I’ve always been drawn to prayer and to people who were really in need and needed someone to care for them and help them and give them a sense of hope,” she said. “The key to conversion is to love people where they’re at. Find Christ in everyone, and meet them where they are.”

So she’s packing up all that love with a cherished relic of Saint Gemma Galgani and many photos of a well-traveled life, leaving her golden retriever Henry to her parents and shipping her Ford F-150 to a convent outside Chicago. She will miss Alaska’s outdoors, especially the ski slopes and her special prayer spot at Beluga Point, and she’ll miss swimming, as the Dominican Sisters of Immaculate Conception wear their habits perpetually. She’ll also miss her family.

Today Kenney laughs heartily regaling the pretend Masses of her childhood. One of her two younger sisters is married, and she anticipates the other also will serve in the married vocation. As for Kenney, her bridal veil and nun’s habit will be one and the same. She is impassioned to be the bride of Christ.

“I feel like the Lord has wooed my heart. That love is so firing, I can’t imagine not responding,” she said. “This is a profound and beautiful love relationship. It’s a love story.”

Printed with permission from CatholicAnchor.org.

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Wisconsin Catholics urged to promote life and living wage

Madison, Wis., Oct 16, 2011 (CNA) - The Wisconsin Catholic Conference has backed measures to raise workers' minimum wage and to ban the sale of fetal body parts, describing both as efforts to protect human dignity.

“Whether in the womb of the marketplace, human beings are not commodities,” Wisconsin Catholic Conference Executive Director John Huebscher stated in his Oct. 7 “Eye on the Capitol” update.

“The economy is made for people, not the other way around,” observed Huebscher, whose organization represents the state's bishops in matters of public policy. He went on to explain their support for “two bills that recognize the dignity of human beings in the marketplace.”

Assembly Bill 214, authored by Representative Andre Jacque, would ban the sale and use of body parts obtained from aborted children.

Huebscher said the bill affirms the “powerful truth” that “human organs and tissue are not 'spare parts' to be bought and sold in the marketplace.” Rep. Jacque's proposal, he said, “reminds us that our humanity endures even after our death and even when it is not recognized during our life.”

“Few of us want to think about the fact that the lethal impact of abortion on a child in the womb might be followed by the commercial exploitation of that child’s remains,” wrote the conference director.

“We may be comfortable donating our own organs after we die, but are we really at peace with selling the organs of an unborn child who had no voice in the choice that ended his or her life?”

Rep. Jacques' bill, he said, “compels us to address such questions.”

The Catholic conference also supports Representative Cory Mason's proposal in Assembly Bill 281, to increase most workers' minimum wage to $7.60 per hour.

That bill, Huebscher noted, “seeks to restore the purchasing power lost by minimum wage earners in recent years” due to inflation. He reminded Wisconsin Catholics of the Church's teaching that “workers should always earn a wage adequate to earn a decent living for themselves and their families.”

This teaching, affirmed in Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical “Rerum Novarum,” has often served as the basis for Catholic support of a legal minimum wage. In 1981, Bl. John Paul II wrote that payment of a living wage was “the concrete means of verifying the justice of the whole socioeconomic system.”

“Mandating a living wage for workers reminds us that labor is not just another commodity in the production process, the value of which is determined by supply and demand,” Huebscher observed in his update from the state capitol.

“Rather, it furthers the truth that the human beings who do the work are more important than the machines and processes that produce the goods and services.”

Huebscher predicted that both the minimum wage bill and the ban on selling fetal parts would be “'tough sells' in the current economic climate,” since both could be labeled as “harmful to economic development.”

“But both bills reflect a deeper truth – that prosperity cannot be purchased by sacrificing the lives and dignity of the vulnerable,” he countered. “They both recognize that true economic development fosters human dignity and enriches life.

“Both make our marketplace more human and both deserve our support.”

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Pope Benedict declares a 'Year of Faith'

Vatican City, Oct 16, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Pope Benedict XVI has declared a “Year of Faith” which will begin in October 2012, the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.

“It will be a moment of grace and commitment to a more complete conversion to God, to strengthen our faith in Him and proclaim Him with joy to the people of our time,” said the Pope, making his announcement during Sunday Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Year of Faith will run from October 11, 2012, until November 24, 2013, which is the Solemnity of Christ the King.

The Pope said in his Oct. 16 remarks that it will give “new impetus to the mission of the whole Church to lead men out of the desert in which they often find themselves, to the place of life, of friendship with Christ.” He also said that “reasons, purposes and guidelines” for the year will be set out in an Apostolic Letter to be published “in the coming days.”

The vast congregation at this morning’s Mass largely consisted of those involved in the “new evangelization,” who were in Rome for a summit organized by the recently formed Pontifical Council for Promotion of the New Evangelization The new evangelization aims to revivify Catholicism in traditionally Christian countries which have been particularly affected by secularization in recent decades.

Unusually, the 84-year-old pontiff was wheeled both in and out of the Mass on a mobile platform. Normally Pope Benedict would walk the approximately 110 yards down the central aisle of St. Peters.  “This is just not to tire him,” papal spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., told reporters, adding that “nothing else should be read into the general state of his health, which is good.”

Drawing upon the Scripture readings for today, the Pope outlined a roadmap for the new evangelizers.  In the first reading, the Prophet Isaiah recounts how King Cyrus, the Persian Emperor in the 6th century B.C., played his part in fulfilling a divine plan despite that fact that he “did not know” God and was not even Jewish.

“Even the mighty Cyrus, the Persian Emperor, is part of a greater plan, that only God knows and carries forward,” observed the Pope.

This demonstrates, he said, the need for a new “theology of history” as an “essential part” of the new evangelization  “because “the men of our time, after the disastrous season of totalitarian empires of the 20th century, need to find a comprehensive vision of the world and time,” more compatible with the vision of the Church.

In the second reading, taken from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians, the Pope said new evangelizers are reminded that “it is the Lord who touches hearts by His Word and His Spirit, by calling people to faith and communion in the Church.” 

The fact that it is God and not the evangelist who touches hearts, shows the importance of recognizing God as the prime mover in any apostolic activities which “must always be preceded, accompanied and followed by prayer,” he said.

Pope Benedict also highlighted the importance of having collaborators like St. Paul who had Silvanus and Timothy as his companions in his work, and said today’s new evangelizers should also seek coworkers in spreading the Gospel.

He then turned today’s Gospel and said that it provides the key message the new evangelizers must bring to the world. In it, Christ tells the Pharisees to “render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” This is a reminder that the Church’s message is not primarily a political one, the Pope said.

“The mission of the Church, like Christ,” he said, “is essentially to speak of God, to commemorate His sovereignty, reminding everyone, especially Christians, who have lost their identity, of God’s right over what belongs to Him, which is our lives.” 

Later in the morning, the Pope used his Sunday Angelus address to further explain his plans for a “Year of Faith” to over 40,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peters Square. He summed up the initiative as “proclaiming Christ to those who do not know him or have, in fact, reduced him to a mere historical character.”

He finished his address by placing all those involved in new evangelization under the protection of the Virgin Mary who “helps every Christian to be a valid witness to the Gospel.”

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