Archive of October 30, 2011

St. Martin de Porres, first black saint of the Americas, celebrated Nov. 3

Denver, Colo., Oct 30, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Nov. 3 the Roman Catholic Church celebrates St. Martin de Porres, a Peruvian Dominican brother whose life of charity and devotion led to his canonization as the first black saint of the Americas.

Martin de Porres was born in Lima, Peru during 1579, the son of the Spanish nobleman Don Juan de Porres and the former Panamanian slave Ana Velazquez. His father at first refused to acknowledge the boy publicly as his own, because Martin, like his mother, was black. Though Martin's father later helped to provide for his education, his son faced difficulties because of his family background.

But Don Juan's son showed great gifts at a young age. Martin served as apprentice to a doctor, and before the age of 13 he had begun to learn the practice of medicine. The young man also spent hours in prayer, and practiced forms of physical mortification for the good of his soul and others.

During these years Martin had also become a member of the Dominican Third Order, which promoted the group's spiritual practices among laypersons. He lived in their quarters, and did manual work to earn room and board. But a law preventing people of mixed race from joining religious orders kept him from entering the Dominican Order as a religious brother until 1603.

Before his full admission to the order, Martin had earned the nickname of “the saint of the broom” for his diligence in cleaning the Dominicans' quarters. After becoming a religious brother, he worked in the order's infirmary serving the sick, a job he would perform until his death.

He also had the task of begging for alms that the community would use to feed and clothe the poor. Meanwhile, he established an orphanage, and an orchard from which those in need could freely take a day's supply of fruit.

Victims of medical misfortune began to suspect miracles behind some of the deeply prayerful physician's cures. Others claimed he had appeared to them supernaturally behind locked doors or under otherwise impossible circumstances. Martin reportedly also had the gift of bilocation, and some of his contemporaries said they encountered him in places as far off as Japan even as he remained in Lima.

Others, meanwhile, marveled at his serenity and generosity.

“Many were the offices to which the servant of God, Brother Martin de Porres, attended,” testified Brother Fernando de Aragones. “Each of these jobs was enough for any one man, but alone he filled them all with great liberality, promptness and carefulness, without being weighed down by any of them.”

“It was most striking, and it made me realize that, in that he clung to God in his soul, all these things were effects of divine grace.”

Martin also loved animals. The saint refused to eat meat, and ran a veterinary hospital for the sick creatures that seemed to seek out his help and protection. Portrayals of the saint often include cats, dogs, and even the rats to whom he showed compassion.

Many residents of Lima already spoke of Brother Martin de Porres as a living saint before his death at age 60 on Nov. 3, 1639. But his canonization did not occur until 1962, under Bl. Pope John XXIII. He is known as a patron of interracial harmony and care for the poor.

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Nebraska Newman Center to host Eucharistic Procession

Lincoln, Neb., Oct 30, 2011 (CNA) - On Thursday, Nov. 3, hundreds of students will gather at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish adjacent to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for the annual Eucharistic Procession.

This will be the fifth annual Eucharistic Procession held on campus, and it has grown tremendously every year. In addition to students, seminarians, the Marian Sisters, School Sisters of Christ the King, Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus and others join the procession.

“We usually have around three hundred and some,” said Father Robert Matya, director of the Newman Center and pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish.

The procession will begin and end at St. Thomas Aquinas Church. Along the way, they will stop at four outdoor altars, prepared at the Student Union, the edge of “Greek Row” at 16th and Vine and the Coliseum, a temporary replacement now that Memorial Stadium is under construction.

Back in 2006, Newman Center students were inspired to host a Eucharistic Procession after watching a video of other young people doing the same in New York City the year before. They approached Fr. Matya with the idea and he agreed to host the event.

Eucharistic Processions have long been part of Catholic history. In the year 150, Saint Justin wrote of deacons who were appointed to carry the Blessed Sacrament to those unable to attend the liturgy.

Jesuit priest and historian John A. Hardon, S.J., said processions were instituted in Europe in the 11th century and encouraged by the Council of Trent in the 16th Century.

Eucharistic processions have been consistently observed during the Feast of Corpus Christi, although there is no limit as to the timing of this devotion. For the Newman Center, timing it alongside the feast of All Saints just makes sense.

“The Feast of Corpus Christi falls when the students are not in school,” Fr. Matya explained. “We picked All Saints as a good time. It resonates with the students and works out for us.”

He continued, “It’s just beautiful – a long procession, candle lit, in the fall with cool, crisp air. It’s really beautiful.”

Fr. Matya believes that students turn out for the Eucharistic Procession not only because of the beauty of it, but because it is an opportunity to demonstrate their faith in something deeper than typical college morality.

“Students are hungry not only for truth, but for something that’s really going to fill them in a way that will be lasting,” Fr. Matya said. “They know that there is more to life than just living for themselves, and they are discovering it in their faith.”

This event, and other activities are offered as opportunities for students to put their faith into action. Led by FOCUS missionaries, Lincoln’s university students attend 85 Bible studies each week, pray at the abortion facility in Lincoln, work with the homeless and so on.

As a result, their college years become a time of spiritual growth, rather than a period of uncertainty or outright rejection of Christ and His Church.

As one might expect, this Eucharistic Procession tends to draw attention. Invariably, passers-by and other onlookers grow quiet as the group passes reverently with the Blessed Sacrament raised above their heads in a monstrance.

“When we go by the different (Greek) houses and things, people are all respectful. We haven’t had any problems,” Fr. Matya said.

He said that during the first procession, a student approached the group’s photographer and asked what was going on.

“The photographer explained and said, ‘You can join us if you want.’ The student answered, ‘No that’s okay, but this is really beautiful…’ Our students see that too.”

Because of the procession, Fr. Matya has also had the pleasure of welcoming a handful of students to the Catholic faith.

“This was the thing that attracted them to the faith and led to find out more,” he said.

All are welcome to attend the Eucharistic Procession. Mass begins at 7 p.m., and the procession will follow immediately.

Printed with permission from the Southern Nebraska Register, newspaper for the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb.

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New book explores moral dimension of human cell research

New York City, N.Y., Oct 30, 2011 (CNA) - A new volume written by global scholars in science and bioethics touches on the moral issues surrounding human cells being used for experimentation.

“The central question of this book is whether or not particular cell entities of human origin ought to be considered human beings,” said the Social Trends Institute, a Spain and U.S.-based ethics foundation that commissioned the work.

“The answer is crucial for making moral decisions for or against research and experimentation.”

Released in August, “Is This Cell a Human Being? Exploring the Status of Embryos, Stem Cells and Human-Animal Hybrids” (Springer, $139) is the result of a 2009 meeting of several experts from around the world who each wrote on the ethical considerations of human cell use. 

The papers were compiled and edited by physicist and philosopher Antoine Suarez, a researcher in bioethics with the Center for Quantum Philosophy in both Zurich and Geneva.

Among the topics discussed in the book are the biological and moral status of different cell entities, such as human stem cells, embryos and human-animal hybrid embryos. The volume also works towards establishing final criteria for what constitutes a human being.

“The topic is challenging in nature and of broad interest to all those concerned with current bioethical thought on embryonic human life and its implications for society,” the institute said.

The volume contains chapters from scholars such as Manfred Spieker, a professor in Catholic Theology at Osnabrück University, whose paper is titled “Does a Human Being Have a Right to Life? The Debate on Embryo Research in Germany as a Case Study.”

Other experts include Dr. Maureen L. Condic, an Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine, who wrote on “Preimplantation Stages of Human Development: The Biological and Moral Status of Early Embryos.”

Headquartered in Barcelona and New York, the Social Trends Institute is a non-profit research center that offers support to academics who address emerging social trends and their cultural effects.

The group focuses its research on areas such as the family and bioethics and regularly brings scholars together from around the world to share their work in an academic forum.

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Catholics have to live the faith they teach, says Benedict XVI

Vatican City, Oct 30, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has urged Catholics to practice what they preach.

“Christ urges us to combine humility with our charitable service towards our brothers and sisters. Indeed, may we always imitate his perfect example of service in our daily lives,” said the Pope to pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday Angelus address Oct. 30.

The Pope reflected upon the gospel passage of the day in which Jesus tells the apostles to “do everything” the Pharisees teach as they “sit in Moses’ seat,” but not “to do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”

“In today’s passage,” he said, Jesus “reproaches the scribes and Pharisees” who were teachers of the community “because their conduct was clearly contrary to the teaching which they rigorously offered to others.”

Hence “good teaching must be accepted, but may be contradicted by inconsistent conduct,” said the Pope.

“Jesus’ attitude is exactly the opposite,” Benedict XVI noted.  “He practices the first commandment of love that teaches all, and can say that it is light and gentle because he helps us to carry it along with him.”

The Pope then warned against “masters who oppress the freedom of others in the name of their authority,” quoting the 13th century Italian theologian St. Bonaventure who said that no true teacher, “can teach or even work, or reach knowable truth without seeing the Son of God.” Thus it is Jesus who is our “one true and only teacher.”

“We, therefore, are called to follow the Son of God, the Incarnate Word, who expresses the truth of his teaching through fidelity to the will of the Father, through the gift of himself.”

The Pope also noted that Jesus “strongly condemns” vanity, as work that is “placed at the mercy of human approval,” can undermine “the values that underpin the authenticity of the person.”

“Dear friends,” the Pope concluded, “the Lord Jesus has been presented to the world as a servant” even to the point of being “giving himself totally on the cross,” which is our “most eloquent lesson in humility and love.”

After the Angelus Pope Benedict prayed for the victims of recent flooding in Thailand and Italy.

“Dear brothers and sisters,” said the Pope, “I express my closeness to the people of Thailand hit by serious flooding, as well as in Italy, to those of Liguria and Tuscany, recently damaged by the consequences of heavy rains.”

The floods in Thailand have already claimed almost 400 lives while in Italy nine people were killed last week in the northwest regions of Liguria and Tuscany.

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On anniversary of cathedral massacre, 42 Iraqis remembered as martyrs

Rome, Italy, Oct 30, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

On the first anniversary of the massacre at Baghdad’s Our Lady of Salvation Cathedral, the 42 worshipers killed were remembered as martyrs and their intercession was sought on behalf of Iraq’s still besieged Christian community.

Three children, two priests and a pregnant woman were among those killed when five Islamic militants linked to the terrorist group al-Qaida scaled an outer wall, entered the church and opened fire on Oct. 31, 2010.

Today, in an intimate memorial Mass held at Rome's Santa Maria della Concezione Church, Catholics prayed for the living — the “persecuted Iraqi Christians … that they never cease to give testimony to the truth, though it may cost their lives.”

Despite the sadness of the anniversary, the tone was hopeful.

During his homily, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the Vatican official in charge of Eastern Catholic Churches, spoke of the sacrifice of the deceased. “Our brothers by a mysterious way passed us in the chase for the award and the goal of our path, Christ himself,” he said.

The Mass was celebrated in the Syro-Catholic rite, but Iraqi Chaldean as well as Egyptian and Israeli priests came to show support.

Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, patriarch emeritus of the Syro-Catholic Church, and Archbishop Mikael Al-Jamil, the Syro-Catholic procurator in Rome, led the celebration.

Later, worshipers remembered the horrible events and spoke of their hope for an end to the persecution of Christians in Iraq.

An Iraqi priest, Father Mukhlis Shisha told CNA that his two best friends — both priests —were killed in the attack.

“Their martyrdom was more valuable for having taken place within the church. It is more beautiful to be killed within the church than outside it,” he said.

Large posters emblazoned with the images of the two priests adorned either side of the altar during the celebration.

“Fr. Thair Sa’adallah was just beginning his homily after having read the Gospel," Fr. Shisha remembered. "When he saw the terrorists enter, he took the Gospel in hand and held it up, saying, 'In the name of the Gospel, leave them and take me. Me for them!"

The attackers quickly killed Fr. Sa’adallah before turning on the rest of the congregation. Witnesses say they aimed particularly to kill the young men of the parish. In addition to the dead, more than 100 people were wounded.

Fr. Wasseem Sabb'ieh was hearing confessions at the time of the attack. He managed to rush two families to safety through a secret door before turning back to face the attackers.

“Before he closed the door, one of the people he helped said to him, ‘Father, leave them and come with us and you will be saved,’” Fr. Shisha recounted. “He answered, ‘I won't leave them like this,’ and he locked the door.”

Fr. Sabb’ieh proceeded directly to the attackers, shouting: “What do you want from us?”

He was killed with a bullet to the head while at the same time one of the attackers detonated a suicide bomb beside him.

Fr. Shisha is very aware of how close he himself was to death. He would have been at the Mass had he not been called back to his hometown in northern Baghdad to speak at a conference that day.

Stories of those saved are remarkable.

A little girl – Fr. Sa’adallah's niece – survived the attacks in a cupboard, where she was hidden during the more than four hours of terror. Many took refuge in the sacristy. Another 80 were saved as they packed themselves into a tiny side room that measured just 9 feet by 12 feet.

The memory of the dead is still graphically present in the cathedral. The bloody handprint of a pregnant woman who was killed has been conserved as a reminder of her martyrdom.

“There are too many stories to tell,” Fr. Shisha told CNA. “Essentially, those who died, who lost their lives in the church gave themselves for the cause of the others.”

In some ways, he said, his priest friends were prepared for the moment.

Just one day before the attack, Fr. Sa’adallah sent a text message to all of his friends which read simply: “My life is Christ.” Fr. Sabb’ieh was known to say out loud to God, “My heart beats with your love. May my tongue speak your glory.”

Their lives were taken by five radical Muslims, two from Syria and one each from Yemen, Libya and Iraq.

The Islamic State of Iraq, a reported al-Qaida associate, claimed responsibility for the massacre.

During the attack, Fr. Shisha received cell phone calls from people trapped in the cathedral. They said the attackers told them they were “infidels” and that they “had to be killed.”

The terrorists killed themselves, but others who planned the attacks were later detained. Fr. Shisha was given the chance to speak with them, and he asked them simply, "(w)hy did you do this?"

“Their response,” he said, “was that you (Christians) are all ‘kafara,’ that is, ‘infidels,’ and we (Muslims) cannot coexist with you."

According to the Vatican's representative to Eastern Catholics, the attack should not be forgotten.

“The memory of the past is very important for the future of the Church in the Middle East,” Cardinal Sandri told CNA.

“This situation in the Church is difficult — being a minority and being the object of terrorist attacks and violent acts even within the very church walls. But, it has also brought with it, on the other hand, the fact that the blood of those who have died will certainly be the seed of hope and life for the future.”

Today’s Mass, Cardinal Sandri said, honors the memory of the victims and expresses hope for better days.

“Today's reflection is to pray for them but at the same time to ask that they – through their death, with their oblation – intercede for the Church in Iraq, so that there might be peace in Iraq and all the Middle East and that there might be greater awareness to security,” he said.

“In the future, we cannot forget the blood of the martyrs which has to give us a feeling of hope, hope against everything. Christ will conquer all,” he added.

A memorial Mass will be held Oct. 31 at Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad. The cause for the beatification of the martyrs is now being pursued in Rome.

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