Archive of November 27, 2011

St. Francis Xavier's missionary zeal remembered Dec. 3

Denver, Colo., Nov 27, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Dec. 3 the Roman Catholic Church honors St. Francis Xavier, one of the first Jesuits who went on to evangelize vast portions of Asia.

Francis Xavier was born during 1506 in the Kingdom of Navarre, a region now divided between Spain and France. His mother was an esteemed heiress, and his father an adviser to King John III. While his brothers entered the military, Francis followed an intellectual path to a college in Paris. There he studied philosophy, and later taught it after earning his masters degree.

In Paris, the young man would discover his destiny with the help of his long-time friend Peter Faber, and an older student named Ignatius Loyola – who came to Paris in 1528 to finish a degree, and brought together a group of men looking to glorify God with their lives.

At first, personal ambition kept Francis from heeding God's call. Ignatius' humble and austere lifestyle did not appeal to him. But the older student, who had undergone a dramatic conversion, often posed Christ's question to Francis: “What will it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

Gradually, Ignatius convinced the young man to give up his own plans and open his mind to God's will. In 1534, Francis Xavier, Peter Faber, and four other men joined Ignatius in making a vow of poverty, chastity, and dedication to the spread of the Gospel through personal obedience to the Pope.

Francis became a priest in 1537. Three years later, Pope Paul III confirmed Ignatius and his companions as a religious order, the Jesuits. During that year, the king of Portugal asked the Pope to send missionaries to his newly-acquired territories in India.

Together with another Jesuit, Simon Rodriguez, Francis first spent time in Portugal caring for the sick and giving instruction in the faith. On his 35th birthday, he set sail for Goa on India's west coast. There, however, he found the Portuguese colonists causing disgrace to the Church through their bad behavior.

This situation spurred the Jesuit to action. He spent his days visiting prisoners and the sick, gathering groups of children together to teach them about God, and preaching to both Portuguese and Indians. Adopting the lifestyle of the common people, he lived on rice and water in a hut with a dirt floor.

Xavier's missionary efforts among them often succeeded, though he had more difficulty converting the upper classes, and encountered opposition from both Hindus and Muslims. In 1545 he extended his efforts to Malaysia, before moving on to Japan in 1549.

Becoming fluent in Japanese, Francis instructed the first generation of Japanese Catholic converts. Many said that they were willing to suffer martyrdom, rather than renounce the faith brought by the far-flung Jesuit.

St. Francis Xavier became ill and died on Dec. 3, 1552, while seeking a way to enter the closely-guarded kingdom of China. In 1622, both St. Francis Xavier and St. Ignatius Loyola were canonized on the same day.

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Encounter with Bl. Mother Teresa transforms woman's life

New Orleans, La., Nov 27, 2011 (CNA) - Love is patient. Love is kind. Familiar words to anyone who has attended a Catholic wedding Mass. Susan Conroy witnessed these words in action while working alongside Mother Teresa in the slums of Calcutta, India.

“I knew her throughout the course of 11 years,” Conroy said Oct. 22 during a stop at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Kenner, La. where she recounted extraordinary experiences in Calcutta that changed her priorities from wanting to get a good job, earn money and be a wife and mother to living a life of service.

“I was seeking a meaningful life instead of a comfortable life,” the staunch Catholic said, “to love as Jesus loved; to serve as Jesus served; to give as Jesus gave. That is the secret to life.”

Mother Teresa said people can experience heaven on earth by serving others, and that’s what Conroy set out to do.

“I came back without a desire for the corporate world,” Conroy said. “My heart was full. I wanted to keep helping people.”

A coffee table book

It was Conroy’s mother, Ruth Elizabeth Conroy, who introduced her to Mother Teresa by mailing Mother Teresa’s beautiful musings about joy being prayer, strength and love. Conroy said she displayed the quotes in her dormitory room, something unusual for a student studying economics at the secular Dartmouth College.

Then, Conroy devoured three books about Mother Teresa that her mother had lying on a coffee table at home. Mother Teresa’s words about seeing Jesus in the distress of the poor roused a desire in Conroy to travel to India.

“Mother Teresa believed that when you reach out to those who are poor and hungry and sick, you reach out to Jesus,” Conroy said. “I wanted to see Jesus, to serve Jesus. She was called a living saint, and I wanted to see what a saint is. I wanted to learn to love. She loved people that most of us couldn’t even look at.”

Got sponsors for her trip

Being the seventh of 10 children, Conroy had to find a way to pay for the excursion. She learned about the William Jewett Tucker Foundation that funded Dartmouth student service trips and created a fellowship program to Calcutta that survives today. Within nine weeks after applying to the foundation, Conroy – then a 21-year-old rising college senior – was on a plane to Calcutta in the summer of 1986.

Death and disease surrounded Conroy in Calcutta as she witnessed poverty and human disfigurement beyond imagination. Conroy said she ministered to babies in an orphanage and to dying adults alongside Mother Teresa 24 hours a day. With Mother Teresa, she prayed and ate, participated in Mass and Holy Hour, and even held her hand. It wasn’t always easy, but it was one of the happiest experiences of Conroy’s life. She tried to absorb all the lessons as she witnessed Mother Teresa’s ideal holiness.

Love surpasses fear

“I had never seen such frightening sights, but Mother Teresa didn’t care what people looked like,” Conroy said. “She had love greater than fear. How did she love that way? She looked within with the eyes of love the way God looks at us. She was seeing the dignity of the human being. I longed to learn that. ... Love is the most important thing. We should be striving eagerly for love.”

She said she felt as if she was journeying with Jesus on his way to Calvary as she served the distressed.

“This is Jesus suffering in his agony again,” Conroy said. “Calcutta was like being there in the agony of the garden and being with him.’’

Her life changed overnight

Upon returning home, she finished her degree in economics and, in 1987, met Mother Teresa again in New York City at her Missionaries of Charity convent. There, Mother Teresa asked her to discern becoming a religious in the order. While it was spiritually enriching to live among nuns who lived true vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and service to the poor, Conroy decided against entering.

“There was something out there that God wanted me to do in this world,” she said. She would return to India several times; she last saw Mother Teresa in 1997, shortly before she died.

Doing small things with love

Inspired by Mother Teresa – who chose her religious name after St. Therese of Lisieux – Conroy read St. Therese’s autobiography, “The Story of a Soul,” and found grace in learning to complete small things with great love yet find satisfaction.

She worked with the Maine Children’s Cancer program, helping dying children. She worked in soup kitchens, homeless shelters and with AIDS patients in the south Bronx. She taught religion to poor children.

Although she professes not to be a writer, Conroy was led to write a book about her time with Mother Teresa and received her blessings on the project. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the book, “Mother Teresa’s Lessons of Love and Secrets of Sanctity,” go to the Missionaries of Charity’s work in Haiti and to EWTN, the Catholic television station that offers spiritual nourishment to Catholics, especially those who are ill and shut in.

“My writing this book and giving it to the world was meant to be,” Conroy said. “God chooses the weak and makes them strong.”

She also wrote “Praying in the Presence of Our Lord with Mother Teresa,” and translated five additional books from French into English.

She has been interviewed on EWTN and completed a 13-part series “Speaking of Saints” that airs on EWTN.

Cared for her aging mother

Conroy is currently working a highly anticipated book about her mother, whom she describes as “being full of light and full of love,” someone who taught her to be kind, loving and gentle. She said she was privileged to care for her parents until the day they died, and currently lives in her familial Maine home.

 “I can see the hands of God guiding this,” Conroy said. “The number one thing in my life is to fulfill God’s will. God’s plans are perfect.”

Her avocation to help others has become her vocation, which is why she travels the country discussing her faith experiences, especially with Mother Teresa.

“If these talks make people want to be a saint and love God even more, then I must keep talking,” she said. “God is not loved enough.”

Kenner resident Michael Varino worked for a year to get Conroy to speak in Kenner after seeing her on EWTN.

“People need to be nourished,” he said. “She glows from inside. She’s full of love and shows it.”

Printed with permission from the Clarion Herald, newspaper for the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

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For old Mass books, tradition decrees burial or 'cremation'

Denver, Colo., Nov 27, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - After the switch to a new Mass translation, old liturgical books should be respectfully buried, either intact or after being burned, according to the U.S. bishops.

“Whether or not the Sacramentary has been blessed by an official rite, it is appropriate to treat it with care,” the bishops' Secretariat for Divine Worship said in a recent response to several queries from U.S. Catholics. “Its disposal should be handled with respect.”

The bishops' liturgy office recommends “burying the Sacramentary in an appropriate location on church grounds, or perhaps in a parish cemetery,” after the switch to a new liturgical translation on Nov. 27.

“Some have even suggested following a custom used in various Eastern churches,” they noted, “whereby liturgical books or Bibles are placed in the coffin of the deceased as a sign of devotion and love for the liturgy.”

Some Catholics may be surprised to learn that it is appropriate – and even customary – to burn or bury old liturgical books and other religious items.

According to the U.S. bishops' secretariat, the ashes of liturgical books should be collected and “placed in the ground in an appropriate location on church grounds.”

Catholic tradition offers these means of disposal in order to ensure that objects used in worship are not casually discarded or mistreated, even when they are no longer needed for use or reference.

The liturgy office advised parishes to keep a copy of the old liturgical translations in their archives or libraries, after the switch to the Third Edition of the Roman Missal.

Hymnals and hand missals are also among the types of items that would traditionally be blessed, and should therefore be replaced respectfully after the changeover.

But the secretariat acknowledged it “might be difficult to appropriately dispose of a large number of copies of such books.”

If burning and burial are impractical, non-archived hymnals and hand missals “could be stored for use by prayer or study groups in the parish, offered to parishioners for their own private devotional use, or donated to other small communities that could effectively make use of them.”

The secretariat also noted that the new liturgical books ought to be blessed, using the rite provided in the Church's official “Book of Blessings,” before their first use on 2011's first Sunday of Advent – possibly at a weekday Mass the preceding Saturday, or outside Mass at a separate parish gathering.

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Creation is not man's property, Pope teaches as Advent begins

Vatican City, Nov 27, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Advent offers a chance to remember that all things belong to God, Pope Benedict XVI told pilgrims in his Angelus address on Nov. 27.

"In reality, the true 'owner' of the world is not man but God," said the Pope to the thousands gathered in St. Peters Square on the first Sunday of Advent.

The Pope reflected on the day's scripture reading in which the Prophet Isaiah tells God there is "none who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to cling to you; for you have hidden your face from us and have delivered us up to our guilt."

"How can we not be impressed by this description?" asked Pope Benedict, who spoke of its relevance to today's world.

The prophet's description "seems to reflect certain views of the postmodern world where life becomes anonymous and horizontal," he said, "where God seems absent and man is the only master, as if he was the creator and director of everything: construction, employment, economy, transport, science, technology, everything seems to depend on man alone.”

In such a world, the Pope indicated, God can even appear to have "withdrawn" when catastrophe strikes.

It is for this reason, he said, that Jesus reminds believers to "be watchful" and "alert," in the day's Gospel reading.

The Pope said Christ's words were "a salutary reminder to us that life has not only the earthly dimension, but is looking forward to ‘a beyond’ as a seedling that sprouts from the earth and opens up to the sky."

Each person must be alert toward eternity, because he is "endowed with freedom and responsibility," and will "be called to account for how he has lived, how he used his abilities: if he kept them to themselves or put them to use for the benefit of his brothers and sisters."

While entering a new liturgical year and heading toward Christmas, the Pope said, "let us heed the message in today’s Gospel by entering prayerfully into this holy season, so that we may be ready to greet Jesus Christ, who is God with us."

He wished the pilgrims a "good Sunday," before giving his apostolic blessing.

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