Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 26, 2011 (CNA) - The author of a landmark work on Saint Joseph says Christ's foster father offers believers a model for building trust in God during the newly-announced “Year of Faith.”
“This was a man of faith, like Abraham. He was being asked to believe the impossible,” said Father Joseph Chorpenning, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales who compiled two decades of research and lectures in his book “Joseph of Nazareth Through the Centuries” (St. Joseph's University Press, $60).
“We need to bring these figures down to earth for people,” Fr. Chorpenning told CNA on Oct. 18, two days after Pope Benedict announced the 2012-2013 “Year of Faith” that will begin Oct. 11, 2012.
“It's challenging, but that's what needs to happen. When you look at Joseph, you have to look at him as a man of faith.”
Fr. Chorpenning holds up the chaste husband of the Virgin Mary – who was asked to believe that his fiancee's unexplained pregnancy was not a catastrophe, but part of history's greatest miracle – as a figure of inspiration “in a world that's losing faith, at every level of society.”
The lectionary readings for St. Joseph's feast day in March draw a comparison between Joseph and the Old Testament patriarch Abraham, sometimes called the “father of faith.”
While Abraham waited decades for the unlikely birth of his son Isaac, Joseph made the leap of faith necessary to become the earthly father of God's son.
“This ties into the Church's liturgy,” said Fr. Chorpenning. “The second reading from Saint Paul, on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, talks about the faith of Abraham. So implicitly, Abraham and Joseph are compared.”
Blessed John Paul II also regarded Jesus' earthly father as a prototype for believers in their journey of faith.
“The lens through which Blessed John Paul II viewed the life of both Mary and Joseph, is the Vatican II theme of the 'pilgrimage of faith,'” Fr. Chorpenning explained.
Vatican II's document on the Church, “Lumen Gentium,” spoke of Mary's “pilgrimage of faith” as an example for all followers of Christ. It was only later that Bl. John Paul II spoke of St. Joseph in the same terms, in the apostolic exhortation “Redemptoris Custos” (Guardian of the Redeemer).
“In that apostolic exhortation, he takes that theme of the 'pilgrimage of faith' and applies it to St. Joseph,” Fr. Chorpenning pointed out.
“At the beginning of Mary's pilgrimage of faith, she meets Joseph – and his faith. So these two people are united in a pilgrimage of faith.”
“Her journey, of course, extends beyond Joseph's, since it's assumed he died before Christ's public life. But they were united, in the mystery of the Incarnation, in this common pilgrimage.”
Both Mary and Joseph, in different circumstances, encountered angels who described the mystery of God's arrival among mankind. But both saints, Fr. Chorpenning observed, needed years of life experience to deepen their understanding of what they believed by faith.
“Both of them were the recipients of an angelic annunciation which revealed the mystery to them. But to say that the mystery is revealed, does not mean that they totally comprehended it.”
“Mary may have apprehended the mystery more fully than Joseph. But the fact was, the two of them – after having lived in the closest possible human contact that any human persons ever lived, or ever would live, with the person of Jesus – still did not fully understand the mystery of his being.”
In later centuries, Christians became well-accustomed to the truth of what the angel told Joseph – about the child conceived by the Holy Spirit, who would “save his people from their sins.”
But for the first man to hear the message, it was far from traditional.
“What he's being told, in that annunciation, goes against everything that he's being told by the culture,” said Fr. Chorpenning.
“First of all, they were both probably relatively young. Joseph – as a devout Jew – would have expected to marry, and to have many children. A man's identity was defined by his family.”
“He's being told: 'You're going to give that up. You are to take Mary into your home; you are to surrender yourself, with all that involves, to taking Mary into your home and acting as a father to the child she is going to bear, even though you did not biologically generate him.'”
“Once the angelic annunciation takes place, we really don't get a sense of what's going on in Joseph – except that Matthew says, after the angel left, Joseph got up and did immediately what the angel said.”
“Now of course, that's a very brief way of saying it. I'm sure it took everything that was within him to do it.”
After 20 years of research, Fr. Chorpenning still speaks with amazement about the humble man who served as a father to God.
“I mean, this was a carpenter from Palestine! And you see the pictures and the paintings, where he's sitting on a throne with a crown holding the Christ child – I say to people, 'Well, we certainly have come a long way from Nazareth.'”
“Obviously, there is a theological meaning to those images. But I think what we need to emphasize to people, is that Joseph and Mary were people who responded to what God was asking of them, as it was being revealed to them, in the circumstances of their daily life.”
“They are not just these untouchable figures up there, 'floating in the clouds' of the Church Triumphant. In their time, and in their day, they were people just like we are.”
“Did they feel it was beyond them? Absolutely. Who wouldn't?”
Fr. Chorpenning said St. Joseph not only displays the virtue of faith, but also illustrates what Bl. John Paul II meant when he spoke of the “civilization of love.”
“Joseph, in a sense, becomes the model of the 'civilization of love' – understood as a society which is not about having more, but about being more.”
His life, the priest said, represents an alternative to the “'me-centered' kind of narcissism” that has made society break down on many levels, from individual families to financial markets.
Fr. Chorpenning, who published a 1996 book on “The Holy Family as Prototype of the Civilization of Love,” says St. Joseph points the way to a life based on devotion to God, dedication to one's family, and work that serves the common good.
Joseph's life, he said, shows a “transcending of the self” in which the father of the Holy Family becomes defined by his relation to its other two members, while also making their life possible.
The result is a life that is “not about the individual, but about the community of persons” – as both the Church, and society itself, are meant to be.
Joseph's example also stands in opposition to a culture of irresponsibility and prolonged adolescence.
“This is what a responsible man looks like,” said Fr. Chorpenning, summing up the love and loyalty that generations of believers have found in the head of the Holy Family.
Washington D.C., Oct 26, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The newly-installed rector of Theological College in Washington, D.C. believes the priesthood in the U.S. has entered a period of renewal and that this will help revitalize the rest of the Church.
“I’m personally convinced that we have entered into a period of renewal of the priesthood in the United States,” Sulpician Father Phillip J. Brown told CNA during a recent interview.
Fr. Brown was recently appointed as the 15th rector of Theological College and was installed during an Oct. 12 Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Founded in 1971, Theological College is a national seminary affiliated with The Catholic University of America.
More than 1,500 diocesan priests across the country have completed their priestly formation at Theological College, which is operated by the Society of St. Sulpice.
Fr. Brown explained that his duties as rector will include both the formation of seminarians and the administration of the college.
“My foremost responsibility as rector is to get to know the seminarians,” he said, adding that he sees one of his most important duties as being “a good pastor for this community.”
He emphasized that by setting a good example for the seminarians, he would help form them to be good pastors after their ordination.
Fr. Brown brings with him a wide range of experience in various fields.
He worked as a lay attorney in North Dakota for several years before entering the priesthood. He was ordained in 1989 for the Diocese of Bismarck and served as a pastor and parochial vicar in multiple parishes in the diocese.
He also holds a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Georgian University in Rome and served as a Marriage Tribunal judge from 1999 to 2001.
Fr. Brown also has academic experience teaching and serving as the academic dean for St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore for several years. Before being appointed rector in July, he taught at The Catholic University of America’s canon law school.
Fr. Brown said that he has no plans to make significant changes in the seminary program, which he believes is already very strong.
What he would like to do, he said, is contribute to a renewal of priestly culture.
“Theological College has a very strong formation program based upon the Sulpician tradition,” he explained.
“One of the hallmarks of the Sulpician approach to formation is attention to human formation. We’ve always believed, and I believe very firmly, that the spiritual life is built upon the life of the natural human being.”
The Sulpician approach also includes elements of spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation.
Fr. Brown reported that Theological College is doing “sterling” in terms of both number and quality of vocations.
“We have a full house this year,” he said, explaining that the college even had to turn men away because there was not enough room for them.
“Theological College has never in my memory been in better condition,” he said.
And in his assessment, seminaries across the country are experiencing a similar influx in vocations that is bringing men of “outstanding quality” to their doors.
Despite fear and cultural pressures, these men have shown “a certain kind of courage to step up to the plate and at least try to discern.”
Fr. Brown believes that priestly vocations coming out of strong seminaries are an important part of strengthening the Church.
“We indeed will be able to help to renew the Church through the renewal of the priesthood,” he said.
Washington D.C., Oct 26, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Abortion was a key issue for Republican presidential candidates at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual dinner on Oct. 22.
The dinner, which took place at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, featured speeches by six major GOP candidates.
“It is a liberal canard to say, ‘I am personally pro-life, but government should stay out of that decision,’” said Texas Governor Rick Perry. “That is not pro-life. That is pro-having-your-cake-and-eating-it-too.”
“Being pro-life is not a matter of campaign convenience. It is a core conviction,” he added.
“I’ve raised 28 children. I am the old woman in the shoe,” said Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, referencing the several years that she and her husband spent as foster parents.
“I want you to know quite firmly, I stand for life – from conception to natural death.”
The emphasis on the candidates’ pro-life positions came days after Republican candidate Herman Cain’s stance on abortion was called into question. Cain made headlines with seemingly contradictory comments about his pro-life views last week.
In an Oct. 16 interview on Meet the Press, Cain said, “I do not agree with abortion under any circumstances.”
He went on to explain that he opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest, but when asked about instances when the mother’s life is at risk, he responded, “(t)hat family is going to have to make that decision.”
In an Oct. 20 interview with Piers Morgan of CNN, Cain was asked what he would do if a family member was raped and whether he would want that family member to raise the child. Cain said that it was “not the government's role or anybody else's role to make that decision.”
Cain later responded to the interview with a statement that his answer “was focused on the role of the president.”
“The president has no constitutional authority to order any such action by anyone,” he said. “That was the point I was trying to convey.”
"I am 100% pro-life, period."
At the Iowa dinner, Cain emphasized his commitment to the pro-life cause. He said he believes abortion should be “illegal” in the United States and vowed that he would not sign legislation that provided government funding of abortion.
“I would not sign any legislation that in any way allowed the government to be involved in it,” he said. “I believe that abortion should be clearly stated as illegal across this country and I would work to defund Planned Parenthood.”
Cain elaborated on his position in an Oct. 22 interview with David Brody of CBN News. He said that as president, he would sign a constitutional amendment overturning Roe v Wade.
Cain said that his previous comments had been taken “out of context” and that the experience has shown him that he needs to “beware of being pigeonholed.”
Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 26, 2011 (CNA) -
In an article for First Things, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles pointed to several recent examples of religious freedom being suppressed in the U.S. and warned that the basis of the country's democracy is at stake.
“There is much evidence to suggest that our society no longer values the public role of religion or recognizes the importance of religious freedom as a basic right,” Archbishop Gomez said on Oct. 25.
“America’s founders understood that our democracy depends on Americans' being moral and virtuous,” he wrote. “They knew the best guarantee for this is a civil society in which individuals and religious institutions were free to live, act, and vote according to their values and principles.”
Archbishop Gomez, who leads the largest diocese in the U.S., said that Catholics have always believed that they are equipped to be the best citizens when they follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Church.
Since before the founding of our country, he noted, members of the faith have worked to provide “vital” social services, education, and health care for surrounding society.
“But lately, this is becoming harder and harder for us to do,” he said.
Archbishop Gomez cited the example of the government denying funding to the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services agency, which since 2006 has helped thousands of women and children who are victims of human trafficking.
“Recently, the government had been demanding that our agency provide abortions, contraception and sterilizations for the women we serve,” he said.
“We hope our application was not denied because we refused to provide these services that are unnecessary and violate our moral principles and religious mission.”
As disconcerting as it is, however, this situation is “not an isolated case,” he said.
Archbishop Gomez drew attention to the Health and Human Services Department's proposed rule that would force private employers to provide insurance coverage for sterilizations and contraception—including medications that cause early abortion.
“This not only violates the consciences of Catholic business owners, it also undermines the religious autonomy of Church employers,” he said.
The LA archbishop also pointed to the nationwide push to legalize “same-sex marriage,” which has already caused Church adoption and foster-care ministries to shut down rather than “submit to government demands that they place children with same-sex couples or provide benefits for same-sex employees.”
Although the Catholic belief in marriage is held “by many Protestants, the Orthodox, and also by Jews and Muslims, among others,” many people fear “that this belief might now be labeled as a form of bigotry and lead to new challenges to our liberties,” he said.
“All of this is troubling and represents a sharp break with our history and American traditions,” Archbishop Gomez noted. “Religious liberty has always been 'the first freedom' in our Bill of Rights and in our national identity.”
He added that because of their concern over this issue, the U.S. bishops founded a new Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, announced by president Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York earlier this month.
“My brother bishops and I are deeply concerned that believers’ liberties—and the Church’s freedom to carry out her mission—are threatened today, as they never have been before in our country’s history.”
“We need to help our leaders today rediscover the wisdom of America’s founding,” he underscored. “At stake are not just our liberties but also the future character of our democracy.”
Bogotá, Colombia, Oct 26, 2011 (CNA) - The bishops of Colombia have released a pastoral letter, calling Colombians to vote on Oct. 30.
The bishops called on Colombians to act “heroically” in turning out to vote. They warned that some regions of the country are plagued by fraud and corruption, making it difficult for voters to freely cast their ballots.
Voters will elect governors in 32 provinces as well as mayors and city council members across Colombia.
At an Oct. 25 press conference, the president of the Colombian bishops’ conference, Archbishop Ruben Salazar of Bogota, called for an end to voter intimidation and to the “political machinery of buying and selling votes.”
While the political situation facing the country is “very complicated,” he noted, the Church has the courage to denounce anything that goes against the gospel.
Voters should choose a candidate who is committed to the development and inclusion of all in society, the archbishop said, adding that the candidate must be dedicated to fighting poverty and protecting human dignity.
According to the director of the Commission on Election Observation, Alejandra Barrios, many municipalities are subject to voter intimidation, and 41 candidates have been killed in recent months.
Barrios said one out of every three municipalities has received threats from rebel groups and other criminal organizations.
San Juan, Puerto Rico, Oct 26, 2011 (CNA) - The Puerto Rico Senate passed a new penal code on Oct. 24 that keeps in place the territory's prohibition against abortion.
The code will now be sent to the House of Representatives for debate.
Article 99 of the penal code stipulates that “any woman who procures and consumes any medicine, drug or substance, or who undergoes any operation, surgery or any other procedure for the purpose of causing an abortion, except in order to save her health or her life, shall be punished with a fixed prison sentence of two years.”
Abortion supporters argue the new code would be unconstitutional because it would violate the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade (1973) and the Puerto Rico Supreme Court’s ruling in Pueblo v. Duarte (1980), which legalized abortion.
If passed by the House, the code would be sent to Governor Luis Fortuno to be signed into law.
Vatican City, Oct 26, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - One day before the gathering of religious leaders from around the world in the town of Assisi, Pope Benedict XVI declared that the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus ushered in a new kingdom of peace of which Christ is king.
“The Cross is the new arch of peace, a sign and instrument of reconciliation, of forgiveness, of understanding, a sign that love is stronger than all violence and all oppression, is stronger than death: the evil is overcome with good, with love,” the Pope said to pilgrims gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on Oct. 26.
“This new reign of peace in which Christ is the king, is a kingdom that extends over the whole earth.”
The Pope’s comments came at his weekly general audience which also served as a prayer vigil ahead of tomorrow’s “Day of Reflection and Prayer for Peace” with other world religious leaders in the Italian town of Assisi.
Today’s vigil was due to take place in St. Peter’s Square but inclement weather forced a change of venue. This resulted in the majority of pilgrims being sent to the Paul VI Hall and the overflow being shepherded into St. Peter’s Basilica.
Pope Benedict briefly greeted those in the basilica and imparted his apostolic blessing upon them. He then proceeded to the audience hall where Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Vicar General of the Diocese Rome, read several passages from sacred scripture, to which the Pope responded with his speech.
The incarnation of Jesus Christ as king of peace, said the Pope, was foreshadowed in the Old Testament reading from the Book of Zechariah. “Behold, your king comes to you. He is just and victorious,” the Old Testament prophet said to the Jewish people.
“But the announcement does not refer to a king with human powers and force of arms,” said the Pope, “this is a gentle king who reigns with humility and gentleness before God and man, a king quite different from the great sovereigns of the earth.”
The unfolding of Zechariah’s prophecy first becames apparent at the time of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, Pope Benedict said, recalling how the angels proclaimed “Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.” Thus, he said, “the birth of that baby, who is Jesus, brings a proclamation of peace throughout the world.”
Similarly, the apostles would have recalled Zechariah’s words after “Christ’s passion, death and resurrection,” when “with the eyes of faith, they reconsidered their Master's joyful entry into the Holy City.”
“He did not enter Jerusalem accompanied by a mighty army of chariots and horsemen. He is a poor king, the king of the poor of God,” said the Pope, “he is a king who will make the chariots and steeds of battle disappear, who will break the weapons of war, a king who brought peace on the Cross, uniting heaven and earth and building a bridge between all mankind.”
And the kingdom of Jesus, the Pope noted, is universal. Its horizon is not “the territorial horizon of a State,” but “the confines of the world,” and wherever Christ is to be found “in the great network of Eucharistic communities covering the earth, wherein the prophecy of Zecheriah re-emerges in splendor.”
Christians can help expand the bounds of this kingdom of peace “not with the might of war or force of power,” but “with the giving of self, with love carried to its extreme consequences, even towards out enemies,” said the Pope.
He then turned the pilgrims’ attention to a physical reminder of that attitude, pointing to a statue of St. Paul with a sword in hand—the means by which he was executed in Rome—located on the front of St. Peter’s Basilica.
St. Paul’s strength “lay in the fact that he did not seek a quiet life,” said the Pope, but rather in the fact that “he was consumed by the Gospel” and “gave all of himself without reserve.” This led to him becoming the “great messenger of peace and reconciliation in Christ.”
Similarly, he said, Catholics today must be willing “to pay in person,” even if that means suffering “misunderstanding, rejection and persecution.”
“It is not the sword of the conqueror that builds peace, but the sword of those who suffer and give up their own lives.”
The Holy Father concluded by asking everybody to pray that “tomorrow’s meeting in Assisi might favor dialogue between people from different religions,” so that “rancor may give way to forgiveness, division to reconciliation, hatred to love, violence to humility, and that peace may reign in the world.”
Ercis, Turkey, Oct 26, 2011 (CNA) - A 14-day-old baby was found alive amid the rubble of her home 46 hours after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Turkey.
The baby was found in the arms of her mother, who also survived the quake but was trapped in her apartment. Rescuers found the mother clutching her baby as well as the baby’s grandmother, who also survived. There was no word on the whereabouts of the father, who was also in the building at the time the earthquake struck on Oct. 23.
Sevim Yigit, the baby’s grandmother, told Reuters, “I am overwhelmed, that’s all I can say. May God protect them.”
She added that the baby, named Azra, was born two weeks ago.
Rescue workers applauded as the baby was lifted out of the rubble, and family members quickly surrounded her as she was loaded into an ambulance.
A number of families were trapped in the building when it collapsed during the earthquake. “We were waiting for 48 hours,” said one teen, whose mother is still missing. “I hope my mother and my aunt are found as well,” he said.
The death toll from the 7.2 magnitude earthquake has risen to 459, with 1,352 injured. Over 2,000 buildings were destroyed, mostly in the city of Ercis, which has a population of 100,000.
Officials say hundreds are still missing.
Washington D.C., Oct 26, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. bishops’ point man on religious liberty urged the U.S. Congress to protect the right to religious freedom in America because of several actions taken by the Obama administration.
“Religious liberty is not merely one right among others, but enjoys a certain primacy,” Bishop William E. Lori said in his Oct. 26 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution.
“Not coincidentally, religious liberty is first on the list in the Bill of Rights, the charter of our Nation’s most cherished and fundamental freedoms,” he said.
Bishop Lori was announced as the first chairman of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty on Sept. 29, 2011.
Bishop Lori said that his brother bishops are greatly concerned by recent attacks on religious freedom. In his testimony, he outlined several recent “threats to religious liberty” in the United States.
Bishop Lori criticized regulations issued in August by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to require coverage of sterilization and contraception, including abortifacients, in nearly all private health insurance plans. He explained that the religious exemption included in the regulations is too narrow to apply to most Catholic organizations.
The bishop also called attention to new requirements for contractors who work with human trafficking victims. Due to these regulations, he said, the bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services, which previously worked with the government to aid victims of trafficking “will be barred from participation in the program because they cannot in conscience provide the ‘full range’ of reproductive services – namely, abortion and contraception.”
Likewise, Bishop Lori noted, the State Department’s U.S. Agency for International Development is increasingly requiring contractors to provide contraception in relief and development programs across the world. Doing so, he explained, will exclude organizations such as Catholic Relief Services from “helping to prevent and treat AIDS in Africa and other developing nations.”
The bishop also criticized the federal Department of Justice for not only failing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act but also “filing briefs actively attacking DOMA’s constitutionality, claiming that supporters of the law could only have been motivated by bias and prejudice.”
He said the Department of Justice has further undermined religious liberty in the “ministerial exception” case, Hosanna Tabor v. EEOC, which is currently before the Supreme Court. He said that the department “needlessly attacked the very existence of the exception, in opposition to a vast coalition of religious groups urging its preservation through their amicus curiae briefs.”
Bishop Lori also expressed disappointment in a failure to adequately protect religious liberty at the state level. He gave the example of county clerks in New York who are facing legal action for refusing to take part in granting same-sex unions, and a case involving Catholic Charities in Illinois being prevented from providing foster care because they recognize “the unique value of man-woman marriage for the well-being of children.”
The bishop acknowledged that the underlying problem is rooted in American culture, which must ultimately be addressed. In the meantime, he said, Congress must make an effort to “treat the symptoms immediately, lest the disease spread so quickly that the patient is overcome before the ultimate cure can be formulated and delivered.”
Bishop Lori applauded three bills currently in Congress to fight the insurance contraception mandate and other health care concerns.
He said that the Protect Life Act, the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act and the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act all “go a long way toward guaranteeing religious liberty and freedom of conscience for religious employers, health insurers, and health care providers.”
“United with my brother bishops, and in the name of religious liberty, I urge these three bills be swiftly passed by Congress so they may be signed into law.”
In response to the regulations placed on religious human service providers, Bishop Lori urged “a congressional hearing or other form of investigation to ensure compliance with the applicable conscience laws, as well as to identify how these new requirements came to be imposed.”
Regarding the Defense of Marriage Act, he called on Congress to “resist legislative efforts to repeal the law.” He added that the Department of Justice’s “decisions to abandon both DOMA and the ‘ministerial exception’ seem to warrant congressional inquiry.”
The bishop urged Congress to immediately take these measures to protect the religious freedom that belongs to individuals as well as “churches and other religious institutions.”
Religious liberty, he said, is endowed by our Creator and is therefore “prior to the state itself.”
“Thus government has a perennial obligation to acknowledge and protect religious liberty as fundamental, no matter the moral and political trends of the moment,” he said.