Archive of November 6, 2011

Soldier-turned-bishop St. Martin of Tours celebrated Nov. 11

Denver, Colo., Nov 6, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Nov. 11, the Catholic Church honors St. Martin of Tours, who left his post in the Roman army to become a “soldier of Christ."

Martin was born around the year 316 in modern-day Hungary. His family left that region for Italy when his father, a military official of the Roman Empire, had to transfer there. Martin's parents were pagans, but he felt an attraction to the Catholic faith which had become legal throughout the empire in 313. He received religious instruction at age 10, and even considered becoming a hermit in the desert.

Circumstances, however, forced him to join the Roman army at age 15, when he had not even received baptism. Martin strove to live a humble and upright life in the military, giving away much of his pay to the poor. His generosity led to a life-changing incident, when he encountered a man freezing without warm clothing near a gate at the city of Amiens in Gaul.

As his fellow soldiers passed by the man, Martin stopped and cut his own cloak into two halves with his sword, giving one half to the freezing beggar. That night, the unbaptized soldier saw Christ in a dream, wearing the half-cloak he had given to the poor man. Jesus declared: “Martin, a catechumen, has clothed me with this garment.”

Martin knew that the time for him to join the Church had arrived. He remained in the army for two years after his baptism, but desired to give his life to God more fully that the profession would allow. But when he finally asked for permission to leave the Roman army, during an invasion by the Germans, Martin was accused of cowardice.

He responded by offering to stand before the enemy forces unarmed. “In the name of the Lord Jesus, and protected not by a helmet and buckler, but by the sign of the cross, I will thrust myself into the thickest squadrons of the enemy without fear.” But this display of faith became unnecessary when the Germans sought peace instead, and Martin received his discharge.

After living as a Catholic for some time, Martin traveled to meet Bishop Hilary of Poitiers, a skilled theologian and later canonized saint. Martin's dedication to the faith impressed the bishop, who asked the former soldier to return to his diocese after he had undertaken a journey back to Hungary to visit his parents. While there, Martin persuaded his mother, though not his father, to join the Church.

In the meantime, however, Hilary had provoked the anger of the Arians, a group that denied Jesus was God. This resulted in the bishop's banishment, so that Martin could not return to his diocese as intended. Instead Martin spent some time living a life of severe asceticism, which almost resulted in his death. The two met up again in 360, when Hilary's banishment from Poitiers ended.

After their reunion Hilary granted Martin a piece of land to build what may have been the first monastery in the region of Gaul. During the resulting decade as a monk, Martin became renowned for raising two people from the dead through his prayers. This evidence of his holiness led to his appointment as the third Bishop of Tours in the middle of present-day France.

Martin had not wanted to become a bishop, and had actually been tricked into leaving his monastery in the first place by those who wanted him the lead the local church. Once appointed, he continued to live as a monk, dressing plainly and owning no personal possessions. In this same spirit of sacrifice, he traveled throughout his diocese, from which he is said to have driven out pagan practices.

Both the Church and the Roman Empire passed through a time of upheaval during Martin's time as bishop. Priscillianism, a heresy involving salvation through a system of secret knowledge, caused such serious problems in Spain and Gaul that civil authorities sentenced the heretics to death. But Martin, along with the Pope and St. Ambrose of Milan, opposed this death sentence for the Priscillianists.

Even in old age, Martin continued to live an austere life focused on the care of souls. His disciple and biographer, St. Sulpicius Severus, noted that the bishop helped all people with their moral, intellectual and spiritual problems. He also helped many laypersons discover their calling to the consecrated life of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Martin foresaw his own death and told his disciples of it. But when his last illness came upon him during a pastoral journey, the bishop felt uncertain about leaving his people.

“Lord, if I am still necessary to thy people, I refuse no labour. Thy holy will be done,” he prayed. He developed a fever, but did not sleep, passing his last several nights in the presence of God in prayer.

“Allow me, my brethren, to look rather towards heaven than upon the earth, that my soul may be directed to take its flight to the Lord to whom it is going,” he told his followers, shortly before he died in November of 397.

St. Martin of Tours has historically been among the most beloved saints in the history of Europe. In a 2007 Angelus address, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his hope “that all Christians may be like St Martin, generous witnesses of the Gospel of love and tireless builders of jointly responsible sharing.”

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Couple’s prayers for a child are answered through adoption

Davenport, Iowa, Nov 6, 2011 (CNA) - Tom and Eileen Heinold thought of adoption, but didn’t fully start the process until a unique situation dropped into their laps.

The couple had a daughter who passed away not long after birth of a genetic defect. After their loss, the Heinolds didn’t pursue adoption seriously, but certainly were open to the idea. “We hadn’t started any steps toward the adoption process,” Eileen said.

The couple prays with the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bettendorf, Iowa every Tuesday — Tom during his lunch hour with a co-worker and Eileen at some point during her day.

Jeanne Wonio, coordinator of the Helpers, also prays outside the clinic every Tuesday. One day, praying beside her was a student from Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., who said that her step-sister was pregnant and considering adoption. “I heard the mom was thinking about releasing her baby for adoption. I knew Tom and Eileen were considering adoption, so I encouraged them to look into it,” Wonio said.

The Heinolds talked about it and a few weeks later learned that the pregnant woman was interested in having her unborn baby adopted. The mother-to-be wanted an autobiographical sketch and pictures of the potential parents. “We put it together,” Eileen said.

Throughout the waiting process, the couple continued to pray outside Planned Parenthood. On their own, they also prayed for all pregnant women to make the decision to give birth to their unborn children. There are plenty of couples eager to adopt a baby rather than to see the unborn child aborted, Eileen said.

While traveling with friends, the Heinolds stopped at a cemetery in Brooklyn, Iowa. Father Charles Gannon is buried there and they prayed to him. “At his grave I asked Fr. Gannon to pray for us,” Eileen said. Tom said he asked Fr. Gannon to help them conceive a child or to assist them with an adoption. “That next Monday we got the call,” Tom said.

In June of that summer, the birth mother said she wanted to meet the couple. The Heinolds started the necessary steps for adoption immediately. They met with a social worker, had interviews, home visits, and completed paperwork so that they could adopt the child that fall.

On Sept. 8, 2004, Meredith was born by c-section in the Chicago area. “That is the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” Eileen said. “It was a signal of grace for us.”

The Heinolds were traveling to the Chicago area that weekend because Tom had to report for reserve duty. That Saturday the couple met their new daughter and stayed at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Ill., for the weekend.  That first night they attended adoration in the chapel on campus with the seminarians. “It was a grace-filled experience for the three of us starting out together,” Eileen said.

After an appearance before a judge in Cook County regarding parental rights, the paperwork process wove its way through Chicago, Springfield, Ill., and Iowa. The couple had to remain in Illinois with Meredith until that process concluded. What normally was a 10-day process lasted five weeks. “We have very gracious friends who hosted us for five weeks,” Tom said.

“Adoption is a wonderful institution,” he added. “There are loving people out there who want to care for children and raise them as their own — even though they are not their own flesh and blood.

“It’s easy to forget that Meredith is not our own flesh and blood. She’s our daughter.”

Today Meredith, 7, attends first grade at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School in Davenport. The family attends St. Paul the Apostle Parish.

Eileen said Meredith knows she is adopted. “We didn’t want to hide the fact she is adopted.” Although Meredith may not fully comprehend the whole idea, Eileen said, “We will answer the questions as they come.”

Eileen said for those who might be hesitant to consider adoption: “love is ultimately an act of the will and though there is a definite bonding that occurs between a pregnant woman and her child and the father — bonding is solidified when you take care of the baby or child.

“You wipe the child’s messy nose, change his or her messy diapers, get up in the middle of the night to feed him or her or take care of him or her when they are sick …. It’s ultimately not the sharing of DNA that bonds you, but the love you give and are open to receiving.”

Eileen observes: “We are all God’s adopted children and that can only connote something beautiful about being adopted.”

Printed with permission from The Catholic Messenger, newspaper for the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa.

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Pope: modern-day nihilism stems from despair over death

Vatican City, Nov 6, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Pope Benedict XVI told pilgrims to Rome on Sunday that a loss of faith in Jesus Christ has led many people to despair in the face of death.
“If we remove God, if we take away Christ, the world will fall back into the void and darkness,” he said in his Nov. 6 Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square.
 “And this is also reflected in the expressions of contemporary nihilism, an often subconscious nihilism that unfortunately plagues many young people.”
The Pope charted the impact that the Christian message had upon the ancient world where “the religion of the Greeks, the cults and pagan myths were not able to shed light on the mystery of death.” He noted that ancient inscriptions read “In nihil ab nihilo quam cito recidimus,” meaning “How quickly we fall back from nothing to nothing.”
Thus, St. Paul reminded the Christians of Ephesus that they were “without hope and without God in the world” before their conversion to Christianity, whereas afterwards they no longer grieved “like the rest, who have no hope.”

“Faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ,” said the Pope, is “a decisive watershed.” It is the “definite” difference between “believers and non-believers,” or “those who hope and who do not hope.”

The attainment of this eternal life with Christ, the Pope said, is depicted in today’s Gospel reading where Christ recounts the parable of the ten maidens invited to a wedding: five wise ones who were readied with oil in their lamps upon the groom’s arrival and five foolish ones who were not.
He explained how St. Augustine, the great theologian of the fourth and fifth centuries, along with many other ancient authors, saw the maiden’s oil as “a symbol of love, which you cannot buy, but is received as a gift, conserved within ourselves, and practiced in our deeds.”
Our Last Judgment, therefore, will be “based on the love we practiced in our earthly life.” That is why it is “true wisdom” to take advantage of mortal life to carry out works of mercy, because “after our death, it will no longer be possible.”
Our model and guide along the way, he concluded, is the Virgin Mary, the Seat of Wisdom. For this reason, he said, the Church speaks to the Mother of God with the words: “vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra – life, sweetness, and our hope.”

“May we learn from her how to live and die in the hope that never disappoints.”
After the Angelus, Pope Benedict appealed for an end to violence in Nigeria, following a series of attacks by an Islamist terror group that have left over 100 dead in the northeastern part of the country.
“I follow with apprehension the tragic events reported in recent days in Nigeria,” said the Pope.
An Islamist sect known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the attacks that have included suicide bombings and shootings in the cities of Maiduguri and Damaturu.
“While I pray for the victims, I ask for an end to all violence, which does not resolve problems but increases them, sowing hatred and divisions, even among the faithful.”

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