Denver, Colo., Jan 22, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Jan. 28, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates Saint Thomas Aquinas, the 13th century theologian who showed that the Catholic faith is in harmony with philosophy and all other branches of knowledge.
Blessed John Paul II, in his 1998 letter “Fides et Ratio,” said St. Thomas “had the great merit of giving pride of place to the harmony which exists between faith and reason,” knowing that “both the light of reason and the light of faith come from God … Hence there can be no contradiction between them.”
Thomas was born during 1225 into a noble family, having relatives among the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire. His father Landulph was the Count of Aquino, and his mother Theodora, the Countess of Teano. At age five, Thomas was sent to study at Monte Cassino, the abbey founded by St. Benedict.
The boy's intellectual gifts and serious disposition impressed the monks, who urged his father to place him in a university by the time he was 10. At the University of Naples, he learned philosophy and rhetoric while taking care to preserve his morals against corruption by other students.
It is said that a hermit, before Thomas' birth, told Theodora that she would have a son who would enter the Dominican Order “and so great will be his learning and sanctity that in his day no one will be found to equal him.” In his adolescence, Thomas' friendship with a holy Dominican inspired him to join them.
His family, however, did not envision the brilliant young man as a penniless and celibate preacher. His brothers kidnapped him from the Dominicans, took him to the family's castle, and at one point even sent a woman to seduce him – whom Thomas drove out by brandishing a poker from the fireplace.
Under pressure from both the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor, Thomas' brothers allowed him to escape from captivity. He traveled to Rome and received the Pope's blessing upon his vocation, which would soon take him to Paris to study with the theologian later canonized as Saint Albert the Great.
Thomas' silent demeanor caused other students to nickname him “the Dumb Ox.” Albert, however, discovered that the young man was a brilliant thinker, and proclaimed: “We call him the Dumb Ox, but he will give such a bellow in learning as will be heard all over the world.”
By the time he was 23, Thomas was teaching alongside his mentor at the university of Cologne. During 1248, he published his first commentaries on the pre-Christian Greek philosopher Aristotle, whose insights on nature, logic, and metaphysics would inform Thomas' approach to Catholic theology.
Around the middle of the century Thomas was ordained to the priesthood, in which he showed great reverence for the liturgy and skill as a homilist. In keeping with the Dominican order's charism for preaching, he strove to bring his own family to a sincere practice of the faith, and largely succeeded.
St. Thomas' best-known achievements, however, are his works of theology. These include the Summa Contra Gentiles, the Compendium Theologiae, and the great Summa Theologica – which was placed on the altar along with the Bible at the 16th century Council of Trent for easy reference during discussions.
In December 1273, however, the scholar proclaimed that he could write no more, following a mystical experience in which he said he had “seen things that make my writings look like straw.” But he complied with a request to attend the Council of Lyon to help reunite the Latin and Greek churches.
On his way there, however, Thomas became ill and stopped at a Cistercian abbey. The monks treated him with reverence, and it was to them that he dictated a final work of theology: a commentary on the Old Testament's Song of Songs.
The saint did not live to finish this commentary, however. Nearing death, he made a final confession and asked for the Eucharist to be brought to him. In its presence, he declared: “I adore you, my God and my Redeemer … for whose honor I have studied, labored, preached, and taught.”
“I hope I have never advanced any tenet as your word, which I had not learned from you,” he told God, before making his last communion. “If through ignorance I have done otherwise, I revoke everything of that kind, and submit all my writings to the judgment of the holy Roman Church.”
His last words were addressed to one of the Cistercians who asked for a word of spiritual guidance. “Be assured that he who shall always walk faithfully in (God's) presence, always ready to give him an account of all his actions, shall never be separated from him by consenting to sin,” he declared.
St. Thomas Aquinas died on March 7, 1274. He was canonized in 1323, and made a Doctor of the Church in 1568. In 1965, the Second Vatican Council taught that seminarians should learn “under the guidance of St. Thomas,” in order to “illumine the mysteries of salvation as completely as possible.”
Anchorage, Alaska, Jan 22, 2012 (CNA) -
Iraq war veteran Samuel Paul Albers had come across hard times and was living at Brother Francis Shelter in Anchorage, Alaska in March 2011 when he came down with a chest cold and sinus infection.
Thanks to a free clinic which is staffed by volunteers from Providence Alaska Medical Center also in Anchorage, Albers received much needed health care.
Albers, who has a degree in human services, now works at the shelter, is moving into a case management position there, and has lived in his own home since August of 2011.
As part of his new job, he counts heads after the shelter’s evening meal. The numbers are then relayed to Providence, which provides all dinners for the shelter every night of the year.
Lately, the shelter has served between 200 and 275 meals a night.
But many of the homeless also require basic medical care.
Heidi Hurliman, an advanced nurse practitioner and director of the shelter’s medical clinic, said volunteer health care workers aim to provide this needed medical care along with a dose of compassion.
“Everybody you treat is the face of Jesus,” Hurliman said. “I remind my folks I work with, it’s the face of Jesus you’re looking at and treating. And the guests we treat are grateful we’re there, and they thank us profusely.”
Providence provides medicine for the clinic as well as volunteer physicians on the first and third Tuesday of each month.
“Providence has been very generous,” Hurliman said. “They give us all brand-new medications.”
The clinic is open two to three times a week, based on volunteer availability. It is limited in scope, providing care and treatment for issues like colds the flu, and some wounds. The clinic also coordinates with other medical providers for people who need additional care.
At Providence, Monica Anderson, the hospital’s chief mission integration officer, said caring for the homeless goes to the heart of the Catholic hospital’s mission. Providence was founded in Anchorage by the Sisters of Providence in 1939.
“There’s no way we can be faithful to what we are called to be if we’re not reaching out to the poor and the vulnerable,” Anderson said.
The hospital’s official mission statement is simple: “As people of Providence, we reveal God’s love for all, especially the poor and vulnerable, through our compassionate service.”
Albers, who lived at Brother Francis Shelter for seven months, said the hospital’s contributions make a tremendous impact.
“As far as the clinic goes, I’ve known quite a few people that were sick and went there and were able to get help,” he said. “And there have been times that we’ve seen somebody that we knew wasn’t doing really good health wise, but didn’t realize how serious the situation was and they’ve gone to the clinic and the doctor or nurse has said, ‘I’m putting you in an ambulance.’ I’ve seen basic wound care that needed to be addressed that probably wouldn’t have been addressed otherwise.”
Through the Parish Nurse Program, which is supported through funds from Providence, guests at Brother Francis Shelter also receive care for their feet, which volunteer nurses do in imitation of Christ’s washing of his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper.
Anderson said it is this imitation of Christ’s love that ultimately allows Providence to carry forward the healing ministry of Jesus.
“You’ve got to love people,” she said. “If you’re going to be a revelation of God’s love, you’ve got to love people.”
Posted with permission from Catholic Anchor, newspaper for the Diocese of Anchorage, Alaska.
Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Members of the U.S. Congress reflected on the negative effects of almost forty years of legal abortion in America, but said they are encouraged that the pro-life movement continues to gain momentum.
The estimated thousands of people who will “descend upon Washington” for the Jan. 23 March for Life, remind the country of its obligation “to protect life and be stewards” of God's creation, said Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.).
Jan. 22 marks the 39-year anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States.
Rep. Ellmers told CNA on Jan. 20 that the protection of life is “a mission that is very near and dear to my heart.” The Congresswoman explained that she worked as a nurse for more than 21 years which taught her “that every life is a precious gift from God.”
“I’ve held the hands of newborn infants, and I’ve held the hands of elderly patients in the last moments of their lives,” she said. “I have witnessed firsthand how fragile and delicate our lives are and the miracles that take place every day.”
Rep. Ellmers said that the March for Life is important because it “serves as a powerful reminder of the injustice taking place in our country and the millions of lives lost but not forgotten.”
Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) said he believes that America’s “love for liberty” can be measured by how “the most innocent” members of society are treated.
“And the pro-life movement has played an extremely important role in fighting to make sure innocent life is protected,” he told CNA.
Rep. Paul, who is currently running for Republican presidential candidate, said that there is still “much work to do” to protect the unborn.
He said that he would work as president to effectively repeal Roe v. Wade and would support legislation defining life as beginning at conception.
Thirty-nine years after the Supreme Court decision “that opened the door for abortion in our country,” Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) called abortion “a very important issue” that needs to be addressed today.
He told CNA on Jan. 20 that the pro-life movement is fighting an “uphill battle” against the “culture of death” that permeates much of the secular media.
However, he also observed that progress had been made in recent years, particularly at the state level.
Rep. Lipinski said that he is always inspired by the number of young people at the March for Life, who remind him that “there is hope” for the future.
He believes the pro-life movement is “picking up more and more support” across the country and that progress will continue to be made “step by step.”
“When it really comes down to it,” he said, “what we need to do is change the hearts and minds of the American people.”
Vatican City, Jan 22, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI said that Christian unity can be achieved only through personal conversions rooted in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“We are called to contemplate the victory of Christ over sin and death, that his resurrection is an event that transforms those who believe in him and opens them up to them a incorruptible and immortal life,” said the Pope during his Sunday Angelus address from the window of his Apostolic Palace on Jan 22.
He told the pilgrims gathered in St. Peters Square to “recognize and accept the transforming power of faith in Jesus Christ that sustains Christians also in the search for full unity among themselves.”
The Pope’s comments come in the middle of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which runs from Jan. 18-25. It is being marked by over 300 churches and Christian communities around the world.
Pope Benedict paid particular attention to the words of St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians, which state that “we will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The phrase was chosen as the motto for this year’s Christian Unity Week by the Polish Ecumenical Council.
“Poland has known a long history of courageous struggles against various adversities and has repeatedly shown great determination, animated by faith,” the Pope observed.
“Over the centuries, Polish Christians have instinctively perceived a spiritual dimension in their desire for freedom,” and have realized that “true victory can only come in accompanied by a profound inner transformation.”
The experience of the Polish nation should illustrate to everybody, the Pope suggested, that “our search for unity can be conducted in a realistic manner if change occurs primarily within ourselves.”
Christian unity can be more readily achieved if “we allow God to act, if we let ourselves be transformed in the image of Christ, if we enter into new life in Christ, which is the real victory,” he said.
The “visible unity,” of all Christians “is always a work that comes from above, from God, by asking for the humility to recognize our weakness and to accept the gift.”
The Pope then reminded pilgrims of the words of his predecessor, Blessed Pope John Paul II, who used to say that “every gift also becomes a commitment.”
Thus, he added, “our daily commitment is to be open to one another in charity.”
The Pope concluded by looking forward to the Vespers of the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul which he will preside over at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls on Jan. 25. There he will be joined by the leaders of numerous other Christian Churches and communities.
Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - An 80 percent abortion rate of those with disabilities shows the need to restore a fundamental respect for human dignity in America, said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia.
He underscored that the plight of disabled babies highlights “a struggle within the American soul” that will shape the future of the nation.
“These children with disabilities are not a burden; they’re a priceless gift to all of us,” the archbishop said. “They’re a doorway to the real meaning of our humanity.”
Archbishop Chaput delivered the keynote address at the thirteenth annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life on Jan. 22.
The conference, which was held at Georgetown University, took place one day before the March for Life, at which hundreds of thousands of Americans annually gather in the nation’s capital to protest abortion and show their support for the dignity of all human life.
“Abortion kills a child, it wounds a precious part of a woman’s own dignity and identity, and it steals hope,” the archbishop said. “That’s why it’s wrong. That’s why it needs to end. That’s why we march.”
He warned that without a strong foundation of faith and morals, America becomes “alien and hostile” to its founding ideals. This threat is clearly demonstrated in the country’s treatment of the poor and disabled, which the archbishop said “shows what we really believe about human dignity.”
In his talk, Archbishop Chaput focused on children with Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects development, appearance and cognitive function, and can cause other health problems.
He observed that prenatal testing is now able to detect up to 95 percent of pregnancies that have a strong risk of Down syndrome, and more than 80 percent of the unborn babies who are diagnosed with the disorder are aborted.
These babies are killed because of a flaw in their chromosomes that is “neither fatal nor contagious, but merely undesirable,” he said.
The archbishop lamented the growing tendency of medical professionals to emphasize the possible defects of Down syndrome, thus steering expectant mothers of children with the disorder towards abortion.
Parents and doctors should be realistic about the challenges, understanding that raising a disabled child will involve “some degree of suffering,” he said. However, they should also see the potential and beauty of children with special needs, realizing that no child is perfect.
Archbishop Chaput noted that today, individuals with Down syndrome have longer life expectancies than ever before and can generally “enjoy happy, productive lives.”
“The real choice in accepting or rejecting a child with special needs is between love and unlove; between courage and cowardice; between trust and fear,” he said.
This is a choice that must be faced on both an individual level and as a society, he added, emphasizing that “God will demand an accounting” of how we have used our freedom.
If we really “take God seriously,” we will work to uphold the sanctity of human life and dignity of sexuality in our daily lives, he said.
This means that public officials should live out their Catholic faith in the laws that they support; doctors in the procedures they perform and the drugs they prescribe; and citizens in their actions on public issues, he explained.
He praised the work of people and organizations who aid those with disabilities, recognizing in them “an invitation to learn how to love deeply and without counting the cost.”
Archbishop Chaput urged those present at the conference not to be afraid as they persevere in being an apostle to those around them.
“Fear is beneath your dignity as sons and daughters of the God of life,” he said. “Never give up the struggle that the March for Life embodies,” he added. “Your prolife witness gives glory to God.”
Although changing the culture is “a huge task,” we must recognize that we are being called by God to do so, the archbishop said. “He’s waiting, and now we need to answer him.”