Denver, Colo., Nov 13, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Nov. 16, Roman Catholics celebrate the feast of St. Margaret of Scotland, the queen whose devotion, charity and defense of the faith made her one of the land's patron saints.
Margaret was born around 1045, into an English royal line that had fled to Hungary after a Danish conquest caused them to lose power. Their new homeland had only recently accepted the Catholic faith, under the influence of King Stephen – later St. Stephen of Hungary – during the late 10th century.
Though the Hungarian royal saint died seven years before Margaret's birth, his legacy as a strong Catholic monarch probably shaped Margaret's vision of life as she grew up in the court over which he had recently presided. In 1057, at the request of King Edward the Confessor – another monarch later canonized by the Church as a saint – her family returned to England.
St. Edward's court was then experiencing a religious and cultural revival, which would also form Margaret's ideal of Catholic nobility as a force for the common good. But the king's death in 1066 brought a succession dispute in which Margaret's brother Eadgar lost out, causing the family to set sail for Hungary the following year.
But Margaret, her mother, and her siblings did not manage to return. Poor sailing weather forced them to land in the Scottish town of Dunfermline, home of the brutal warrior King Malcolm. He welcomed the family, and joined with Eadgar in making war on England's new French-descended Norman rulers.
When Margaret was 23, King Malcolm sought to marry her. The young woman said no, insisting that she wanted to become a nun. Eventually, however, his desire to unite the Celtic and Saxon royal lines won out, and they married in 1070.
Through the same spirit of devotion that might have made her a suitable nun, Margaret emerged as an exemplary Catholic queen. Her education, refinement, and faith made her a civilizing influence not only over King Malcolm, but over the entire country.
“The prudent queen directed all such things as it was fitting for her to regulate: the laws of the realm were administered by her counsel; by her care the influence of religion was extended and the people rejoiced in the prosperity of their affairs,” wrote her confessor and biographer and confessor, a monk named Turgot.
Within the Church, Margaret worked to restore liturgical beauty, moral order, and authentic Catholic teaching, in keeping with the disciplinary reforms of Pope Gregory VII. Margaret also succeeded in reforming her husband, who came to follow her example of charity and frequent prayer. Known as a strict but loving mother, she raised her eight children to keep God's commandments.
As for the queen herself, her confessor wrote that “of all living persons I know or have known she was the most devoted to prayer and fasting, to works of mercy and almsgiving.” Queen Margaret frequently served Christ through the daily personal aid she offered to poor people, orphans, and the elderly.
Queen Margaret's married life turned out well, but ended in sorrow. Her own last illness came during a war between Scotland and England, in which her husband and her oldest son both died.
Margaret heard the news from her second-oldest son, and afterwards declared: “All praise be to Thee, Almighty God, Who hast been pleased that I should endure such deep sorrow at my departing, and I trust that by means of this suffering it is Thy pleasure that I should be cleansed from some of the stains of my sins.”
Soon after receiving this news, St. Margaret of Scotland died on Nov. 16, 1093. Pope Innocent IV canonized her in 1249, and her relics were transferred to an elaborate shrine the following year. In 1560, a Protestant mob attacked the shrine, desecrating the site of St. Margaret's relics. A group of monks preserved the relics, which later ended up in Spain and France.
In response to a 1673 petition, Pope Clement X named St. Margaret a patroness of Scotland. She shares the honor with the land's historic patron, the Apostle St. Andrew.
Huntington, N.Y., Nov 13, 2011 (CNA) - Facing an “eclipse in the sense of God” in Western society today, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl contends, the Church must revitalize the faith “in countries where the Gospel has already been preached.”
This “new evangelization” will counteract a culture that increasingly seeks to deny its Christian origins or attempts to preclude faith from a place in the public square, Cardinal Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, told an audience at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, N.Y. on Oct. 30. The cardinal gave the seminary’s ninth annual Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua Lecture in Pastoral Theology.
“What brings a new urgency to our mission is the recognition of just how widespread and profound is the new secularism,” said Cardinal Wuerl, who was named by Pope Benedict XVI as recording secretary for next year’s Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization.
In the words of Pope Benedict, the new evangelization is a “re-proposing of the Gospel” to people who have drifted from practice and even belief.
Unlike evangelization efforts that began with the apostles and continued for centuries with missionaries going out to foreign lands where the Gospel had never been heard of, Cardinal Wuerl noted, the new evangelization begins right in believers’ own backyards, preaching to “those who are convinced they already know the faith and it holds no interest for them.”
Bishop William Murphy, citing their long acquaintance, introduced Cardinal Wuerl. The bishop also thanked Cardinal Wuerl at the end. “You have certainly given us reason to pray” for the insight and strength “so that we may evangelize.”
Evangelization, or proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, was described at the Second Vatican Council as being at the very heart of the Church, a “solemn mandate of Christ to proclaim the saving truth” to the very ends of the earth, Cardinal Wuerl said.
Pope Paul VI wrote on the need for a new period of evangelization in his 1975 apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Nuntiandi.” Pope John Paul II first used the expression, “new evangelization,” and Pope Benedict has established a pontifical council for new evangelization.
New evangelization seeks to reach “those who have been baptized but never really evangelized,” or brought into a full, mature relationship with Christ, Cardinal Wuerl said. These are the people who were raised in the faith, often received their sacraments, but for whom “the Gospel doesn’t mean anything in particular.”
Cardinal Wuerl cited “decades of poor catechesis” and a period of theological confusion following the Second Vatican Council. The result, he said, is the “rocky ground and overgrown fields where we now try to sow the seeds of new life in Christ.”
The cardinal recalled sitting on a plane next to a man going to his nephew’s first Communion. The man seemed antagonistic about going, and was only bowing to family pressure.
Though raised Catholic, “he didn’t have the foggiest notion of what the Eucharist is.” After Cardinal Wuerl explained the Church’s understanding to him, the man concluded that the Eucharist is “pretty cool,” even “great.”
The new evangelization tries to “re-propose the Gospel” to people like that.
“It is not a program,” one more thing that busy clergy and laity are required to do, Cardinal Wuerl said. Rather, it is a lens to see new opportunities to proclaim the Gospel and to see where the Holy Spirit is working in the Church.
Such evangelization requires “solid catechesis,” or “knowing what we’re talking about,” as well as a level of confidence in what the Church believes and its value for others.
“We cannot simply believe,” Cardinal Wuerl said, but we must have the willingness to share the Gospel by speaking about it and by engaging the larger culture to transform it in Christ.
Such efforts face the obstacles of materialism, individualism and secularism, which can seem overwhelming, Cardinal Wuerl said.
Secularism in the U.S., though less virulent than in Europe, tends to tell Catholics, “you have some good ideas and it’s OK to believe what you believe,” but rails against any attempt by Catholics to argue the truth of their beliefs or to make a case in the public square.
“I’m glad that the U.S. bishops have formed the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty,” to counter a secularist mindset that seeks to “erode the very concept of religious liberty,” attempting to limit religious belief to inside the walls of a church, Cardinal Wuerl said.
“Tolerance is a wonderful thing,” protecting the religious diversity of the people of the U.S., Cardinal Wuerl said, but respecting others’ beliefs “does not mean I lose the right to say who I am.”
Cardinal Wuerl recalled a group of teens at which a girl asked: “What exactly does the Church offer me?” a question that revealed honest searching.
His reply was that the Church offers “an encounter with Christ,” the risen Lord.
“We have a wonderful message.” The Sermon on the Mount offers a new way of life for those who are merciful, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, who mourn, who are peacemakers, and who are poor in spirit.
Later in the Gospel of Matthew, Cardinal Wuerl continued, “we hear the extraordinary dictum that we should see in one another the very presence of Christ,” and the challenge to envision a world where the hungry are fed, the stranger is welcomed, and the naked are clothed — along with the promise of eternal life.
The Church offers the living word of God, through which God speaks to the world today, not only in the pages of Scripture but also in the living body of the Church, Cardinal Wuerl said.
Through the help of the Holy Spirit, Cardinal Wuerl said, the new evangelization challenges the Church in “helping this generation hear the God who speaks.”
Printed with permission from the Long Island Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y.
Chicago, Ill., Nov 13, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Representatives of the Thomas More Society and the Pro-Life Action League say the defeat of Mississippi's “personhood” initiative does not mark a serious defeat for the pro-life movement.
“The number one argument we hear, is that this is the 'silver bullet' that is going to overturn Roe v. Wade and end abortion in America. I'm not convinced that is at all the case,” said Pro-Life Action League Executive Director Eric Scheidler.
“If one were to be passed, would it survive a federal court challenge? There's really no good reason to think it would,” Scheidler told CNA on Nov. 11.
The Pro-Life Action League's executive director supports the intentions of the “personhood” movement, which seeks to end abortion by extending legal rights to all humans from the moment of conception.
But he is skeptical about the personhood approach. So were Mississippi's Catholic bishops, who did not take a position either for or against the recent personhood initiative “Proposition 26.”
Supporters of that proposition lost their bid to amend Mississippi's constitution, when 58 percent of voters opposed it on Nov. 8.
But even if such a measure succeeded, Scheidler noted that it could only serve to overturn Roe v. Wade if a majority of Supreme Court justices were willing to question that ruling.
Without such a majority, the court could end up re-affirming a constitutional “right” to abortion as it did in the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
“It seems unlikely that Justice Anthony Kennedy would join a five-vote majority in upholding the personhood of the unborn,” Scheidler observed. Justice Kennedy upheld a right to abortion in the 1992 case.
Some personhood proponents have told Scheidler that such calculations show a lack of faith. But he pointed out that God calls believers to be prudent and careful.
“God gives us the wisdom to look at the tools available to us, in the time in which we live, and choose what we think are the most appropriate tools to use for the task at hand,” he reflected.
In the view of Thomas More Society Special Counsel Paul B. Linton, personhood proposals are the wrong tools for the task of ending abortion.
“No justice on the Supreme Court – including the justices who dissented in 'Roe,' and Justices Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito – has ever expressed the view that the unborn child is, or should be regarded as, a 'person' as that word is used in the 14th Amendment,” Linton said in a Nov. 11 interview.
“Whatever you, or I, or anyone else, thinks about whether unborn children should be regarded as persons, what's important is what the justices think,” Linton pointed out. “And not one of them has ever expressed the view that the unborn child should be regarded as a 'person.'”
“That's why there's no support on the court for personhood – they just don't think the Federal Constitution addresses the issue one way or the other.”
Even the court's most conservative justices, he said, view the Constitution as neutral on the matter of personhood and conception.
“Justice Antonin Scalia filed a partial dissent in the 'Casey' case in 1992,” Linton said, recalling a dissent joined by others including Justice Clarence Thomas.
“In the opening paragraph, he said: the states may allow abortion on demand, if they so choose, but the Constitution does not require them to do so.”
Linton also said it was “naive” for personhood supporters to imagine they could “force the court to revisit” the abortion question.
“You cannot force the court to do anything. Their jurisdiction is almost entirely discretionary, and it would be with respect to any case like this. So I don't see a case like this even getting up to the Supreme Court.”
“If you had a state that passed a Mississippi-style measure, and it were challenged and struck down by a federal district court, that could be appealed to the court of appeals for that particular district,” he explained.
“However, once you're past that initial appeal, you no longer have a right to further review. You can only seek discretionary review from the Supreme Court.”
And Linton shares Scheidler's view that a review of Roe v. Wade might end badly in the current court.
“I think the court would reaffirm 'Roe.' It would be the fourth time for them to reaffirm it.”
Linton also criticized personhood supporters' inconsistency on the question of what their proposals would actually do if passed.
“Does this 'personhood' language have any effect in and of itself on state law? Or does this require the legislature to enact specific pieces of legislation to give it effect?” he asked.
“That's unclear. We don't know if it's self-executing or if it requires some sort of implementing legislation. If it's not self-executing, then what does it do? Does it do anything?”
“No one really knows what these amendments would do,” said Linton. “And the supporters of these measures don't seem to have a consistent position on that.”
Despite these concerns, the push to enact personhood has momentum. Alabama State Senator Phil Williams is already working on a similar proposal in his state legislature.
Scheidler remains unconvinced. “Maybe a better method is needed,” he said.
“Maybe we need to bring people first to recognize the humanity of the child at 20 weeks, at 10 weeks, at 5 weeks, and save all the babies we can right now.” Such measures, he said, have been “successful in backing the abortion industry into a corner in many states, especially since the 2010 election.”
Scheidler says these incremental methods are not a form of compromise, but a realistic way of working toward the pro-life movement's goal.
“We are all fighting for the same goal, which is an end to abortion,” he said.
He hopes activists focused on personhood can maintain good relations with those who choose other strategies.
“The folks working for personhood, and those in the pro-life movement who have expressed opposition to these measures, all share a common goal,” Scheidler said.
“If we can't agree on that, then I think the movement's in big trouble.”
“But we can. We need to respect the fact that there are going to be differing opinions about the best strategy to use, to achieve that common goal.”
Vatican City, Nov 13, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI used his Sunday Angelus address Nov. 13 to remind people that God has given everybody both talents and a mission in life.
“God calls all men to life and bestows him with talents, while entrusting him with a mission to accomplish,” said the Pope from the window of his apostolic palace to the crowds gathered below in St. Peter’s Square.
“It would be foolish to think that these gifts are due to us, just as our failing to use them would be a dereliction of the goal of our very existence.”
The Pope drew his observations from Sunday’s Gospel passage from St. Matthew in which Jesus tells the parable of the master who goes on a long journey and gives talents to three servants. Upon his return, two have invested their talents and provide an enhanced return while the other does not and is condemned as “wicked and slothful.”
Pope Benedict said the passage should remind everybody of the “transience of earthy existence,” given that “our final destiny” and “meaning of life” is “death followed by Final Judgment.”
The third servant lost sight of this, he said, and “behaved as if his master would not to return, as if there was not a day when he would ask him to account for his activities.” To refuse to use our gifts or from embarking on our mission “would be a dereliction of the purpose of their (our talents’) existence.”
Given that the apostle St. Paul reminds us that the Lord will call us to account “like a thief in the night,” the Pope advised that we should live “in an attitude of watchfulness,” waiting for the second coming of Christ “in the constant memory of his first coming.”
The Pope then quoted from his 6-7th century predecessor, Pope Gregory the Great, who said that the primary virtue that needs to be preserved and enhanced throughout life is love—both love of friends and enemies.
“If one lacks this virtue, he loses all good that he possessed he is deprived of the talent he received and is thrown out, in darkness,” warned Pope Gregory.
Pope Benedict said that “only by practicing charity, can we also take part the joy of our Lord,” adding that “the Virgin Mary is both an active and joyful teacher supervising our path to union with God.”
Summing up his thoughts in his address to English-speaking pilgrims after the Angelus, the Pope said that the words of Sunday’s Gospel call us to “an ever deeper conversion of mind and heart, and a more effective solidarity in the service of all our brothers and sisters.”
“Upon you and your families I invoke the Lord’s blessings of wisdom, joy and peace!”