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.
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.”
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.”