Archive of January 29, 2012

Church honors St. John Bosco's life of charity on Jan. 31

Denver, Colo., Jan 29, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Jan. 31, the Roman Catholic Church honors St. John Bosco (or “Don Bosco”), a 19th century Italian priest who reached out to young people to remedy their lack of education, opportunities, and faith.

John Bosco was born in August of 1815 into a family of peasant farmers in Castelnuovo d'Asti – a place which would one day be renamed in the saint's honor as “Castelnuovo Don Bosco.”

John's father died when he was two years old, but he drew strength from his mother Margherita's deep faith in God.

Margherita also taught her son the importance of charity, using portions of her own modest means to support those in even greater need. John desired to pass on to his own young friends the example of Christian discipleship that he learned from his mother.

At age nine, he had a prophetic dream in which a number of unruly young boys were uttering words of blasphemy. Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary appeared to John in the dream, saying he would bring such youths to God through the virtues of humility and charity.

Later on, this dream would help John to discern his calling as a priest. But he also sought to follow the advice of Jesus and Mary while still a boy: he would entertain his peers with juggling, acrobatics, and magic tricks, before explaining a sermon he had heard, or leading them in praying the Rosary.

John's older brother Anthony opposed his plan to be a priest, and antagonized him so much that he left home to become a farm worker at age 12. After moving back home three years later, John worked in various trades and finished school in order to attend seminary.

In 1841, John Bosco was ordained a priest. From that time, John was known as “Don” Bosco, a traditional Italian title of honor for priests. In the city of Turin, he began ministering to boys and young men who lived on the streets, many of whom were without work or education.

The industrial revolution had drawn large numbers of people into the city to look for work that was frequently grueling and sometimes scarce. Don Bosco was shocked to see how many boys ended up in prison before the age of 18, left to starve spiritually and sometimes physically.

The priest was determined to save as many young people as he could from a life of degradation. He established a group known as the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales, and became a kindly spiritual father to boys in need. His aging mother helped support the project in its early years.

John's boyhood dream came to pass: he became a spiritual guide and provider along with his fellow Salesian priests and brothers, giving boys religious instruction, lodging, education, and work opportunities. He also helped Saint Mary Dominic Mazzarello form a similar group for girls.

This success did not come easily, as the priest struggled to find reliable accommodations and support for his ambitious apostolate. Italy's nationalist movement made life difficult for religious orders, and its anti-clerical attitudes even led to assassination attempts against Don Bosco.

But such hostility did not stop the Salesians from expanding in Europe and beyond. They were helping 130,000 children in 250 houses by the end of Don Bosco's life. “I have done nothing by myself,” he stated, saying it was “Our Lady who has done everything” through her intercession with God.

St. John Bosco died in the early hours of Jan. 31, 1888, after conveying a message: “Tell the boys that I shall be waiting for them all in Paradise.” He was canonized on Easter Sunday of 1934, and is a patron saint of young people, apprentices, and Catholic publishers and editors.

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He stood for Catholic principles

Providence, R.I., Jan 29, 2012 (CNA) - Former Rhode Island Gov. J. Joseph Garrahy is being remembered for his calm leadership and strong devotion to his Catholic faith and pro-life issues.

Gov. Garrahy, 81, died Tuesday evening at a West Palm Beach, Fla., hospital with his wife Margherite at his side, according to his son John, who said his father succumbed to heart disease.

“He had very strong faith and a very strong commitment to the church,” said John Garrahy, in an interview Wednesday with Rhode Island Catholic.

John, a member of St. Augustine Parish, Providence – one of five children of the governor and Margherite, his wife of 55 ½ years – said his father was a family man with a firm sense of optimism and Catholic values.

“He was absolutely wonderful. He had such a positive attitude in everything he did. He was so excited by his children’s and grandchildren’s accomplishments.”

A former beer salesman for the Narragansett Brewing Company, Garrahy began his political career as a state senator in 1962. He held the seat until 1968, when he was elected Lt. Governor. After serving nine years, he was elected to the state’s highest office. He served for four, two-year terms, as governor, from 1977 to 1985.

Former State Rep. Bill McKenna, who served as a former chairman of the Rhode Island State Right to Life Committee, and who worked on pro-life legislation with Garrahy when he served as governor, said that the governor worked very well with the late state Sen. Bob McKenna (who passed away last week), who was also well-known for his pro-life views.

“Those were the ‘Golden Years’ for pro-life legislation. We had a Democratic state pro-life platform,” said McKenna, a parishioner of St. Paul Church, Cranston.

He said Garrahy always remained true to the values instilled in him by his Irish-born parents at their home on Esten Street, a half-mile from the State House he would one day serve in.

McKenna said that perhaps Garrahy’s most important achievement in supporting pro-life issues came not through the passage of legislation, but rather through an administrative action he undertook.

Following a 1980 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Harris v. McRae case – which held that states receiving Medicaid funding were not required to fund abortions deemed medically necessary, but which did not qualify for federal reimbursement – Garrahy denied the use of Medicaid funds to pay for most abortions in Rhode Island, a policy that is still in effect today.

“That’s quite a legacy to know you did that,” McKenna said.

Diane Manning, a founding member of the Rhode Island State Right to Life Committee, and who now serves as board chairman, remembers Garrahy as a very calm and controlled leader who was comfortable with the decisions he took.

“He had a very even disposition, like the way he handled the storm of ’78,” she said, referring to the now iconic image of the governor – wearing a red plaid shirt – appearing fully in control of the state at the height of the “Blizzard of ’78.” The storm, one for the records books, dumped upwards of three feet of snow across much of the region, amid hurricane-force winds.

“He was a devoted family man and a very faithful Catholic,” Manning added.

Barth E. Bracy, executive director of the Rhode Island Right to Life State Committee, said the organization offered its heartfelt condolences to Margherite Garrahy and the entire family.

“Governor and Mrs. Garrahy have been part of the Rhode Island pro-life family for years,” he said, noting that their support continued long after the governor left public office.

The Garrahys live in Narragansett most of the year, and had been spending part of each winter in Florida.

At St. Thomas More Parish in Narragansett, the pastor, Father Marcel L. Taillon, said Garrahy would be remembered for “his fidelity to the church’s teachings and bringing them into the public square.”

Father Taillon said Garrahy never spoke ill of anyone.

“He remained always a graceful gentleman. He was very humble, but he always had a very strong presence in our church community.”

The governor humbly shared his lighter side when the occasion called for it.

When the parish celebrated St. Joseph’s Day last year with a dinner at the Village Inn, Father Taillon recalls the governor getting up to tell some jokes to entertain the gathering.

“He was a holy story teller,” he said. “It will be a big adjustment without him.

Father Carl B. Fisette, assistant pastor at St. Thomas More, ministered to members of the family during his previous assignment at St. Augustine Church, Providence.

“He’s a true Christian who cared about people, from the unborn to those the Lord had called home,” he said of Garrahy.

Kevin O’Neil, a lector at St. Thomas More who sought guidance from the former governor during a bid for a state senate seat in 2010, described Garrahy as “ a great mentor,” who always put “principle before party.”

“He was lovingly pro-life and he was not shy about it. He was committed to the church’s belief in the sanctity of life,” O’Neil said.

A humorous story about the governor that O’Neil has told through the years involved a trip to 1999 trip to Ireland with his wife Chantel and his aunt and uncle.

The group stopped one day for lunch at McMahon’s Pub – which had at one time been run by Garrahy’s mother – in the town of Lahinch. As he stepped up to the bar for a pint of ale, he noticed an old photo of Garrahy standing with Sen. Robert Kennedy.

When O’Neil pointed out to the bartender that they were from Rhode Island, the barkeep replied, “Who is that man standing there with Joe Garrahy anyway?

O’Neil said he later reminded the governor how famous he was on both sides of the Atlantic.

Kevin McDevitt, a parishioner at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in East Greenwich, worked with Garrahy at several Right to Life events, noting how proud he was to be pro-life.

“I was saddened to hear the news,” McDevitt said. “He was a great man and a great statesman.”

He said Garrahy’s faith was evident in both his public and private life.

McDevitt had the pleasure of playing golf with the governor on occasion, and said Garrahy was always gracious to everyone he met.

“Joe was as nice to the head pro as he was to the guy cutting the grass. He always had a kind word to say about everyone.”

The diocese released a statement Wednesday, extending its sympathies and prayers to Mrs. Garrahy and the members of the Garrahy family.

“We applaud the outstanding and dedicated service Governor Garrahy extended to the state of Rhode Island during his time as governor. He was an exemplary example of a faithful and involved Catholic who made a significant contribution to his parish and the Diocesan Church. May Governor Garrahy’s soul rest in the peace of God.”

Posted with permission from Rhode Island Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Provedince.

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Scholar punctures illusions of pro-cohabitation study

Boise. Idaho, Jan 29, 2012 (CNA) - A new study touting the “benefits” of cohabitation is based on deeply flawed ideas about human nature and fulfillment, according to a leading scholar on the social role of families.

“It's garbage-in, garbage out,” said Dr. Scott Yenor, the Boise State University political science professor whose book “Family Politics: The Idea of Marriage in Modern Political Thought” (Baylor University Press, 2011) surveys changing ideas about society's fundamental institution.

CNA spoke with Yenor about a paper published in the February 2012 installment of the Journal of Marriage and Family, entitled “Reexamining the Case for Marriage: Union Formation and Changes in Well-being.”

The study, Yenor says, “uses the 'thinnest' understanding of human happiness – one that requires the least of any human being – and judges relationships on that basis.” 

Lead author Dr. Kelly Musick, a Cornell University professor of policy analysis and management, says her research “shows that marriage is by no means unique in promoting well being, and that other forms of romantic relationships can provide many of the same benefits” to individuals.

“While married couples experienced health gains,” Musick says of her findings, “cohabiting couples experienced greater gains in happiness and self-esteem. For some, cohabitation may come with fewer unwanted obligations than marriage and allow for more flexibility, autonomy, and personal growth.”

But Yenor says Musick's study, coauthored with University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Larry Bumpass, reveals more about the authors' flawed assumptions, than it does about marriage and cohabitation.

“The standard that they're judging institutions by, is the self-assessment of individual happiness,” Yenor explained. “The questions that they ask these people are along the lines of: 'Do you feel good about yourself?' They use such low standards to judge these situations.”

“The lower the bar, the easier it is to hop over. They asked questions like whether married and cohabiting people were 'satisfied with themselves.' That's a very low bar.”

Musick and Bumpass used data from the National Survey of Families and Households to examine the difference between married and cohabiting couples in seven areas: happiness, symptoms of depression, health, self-esteem, relationship with parents, contact with parents, and time with friends.

The authors of “Reexamining the Case for Marriage” focused exclusively on benchmarks for the well-being and social lives of individual adults. Their work is a response to other sociologists who have attempted to base pro-marriage arguments on findings about individual adult well-being.

Children thus receive few mentions from Bumpass and Musick, though it is noted they “tend to be part of the marriage package.”

As Yenor pointed out, none of the benchmarks they used to judge the “benefits” of marriage against cohabitation actually involved the respondent's evaluation of the relationship itself.

Many kinds of questions, he said, could gauge the quality of a relationship between two people – rather than just the reported happiness of the individuals involved.

He suggested asking: “Do you trust the other person? Are you more 'one' with the other person? Do you pool your resources? Do you share labor? Do you share goals? Do you talk about the things you hold in common, and try to make them better?”

“Those are the things I would expect marriage to be better for, than cohabitation – not things like, 'Taken altogether, are you happy?'”

But Yenor observed that the authors of “Reexamining the Case for Marriage” were responding, in large part, to pro-marriage studies that may have made the same kinds of troubling omissions.

In his opinion, these defenders of marriage may have given too much ground to their opponents' assumptions, by focusing on marriage as a source of individual fulfillment for adults.

“What a lot of conservative scholars have done with the family – and this is what the journal article's going against – is to say: 'Even given the pitifully thin goal of modern self-esteem, marriage is better than cohabitation.'”

“Usually you want to judge marriage on other grounds: 'Is it good for the kids? Is love present? Are people living more virtuous lives?' But since society's rejected those kinds of standards, conservative defenders of marriage are willing to use the standard: 'Does it provide happiness and self-esteem?'”

“What I try to argue in my book, is that defenders of marriage and family life need to defend it on 'thicker' grounds,” said Yenor.

“Once we give up, and say marriage is about promoting individual happiness and self-esteem, we've already lost most of the battle. The marriage that exists to promote those goals is already going to be a weak marriage.”

“We need to defend marriage as a serious community that requires commitment, time, and investment – getting away from the goals that modern autonomy has set, and back to what the family's true goals are.”

Pro-family sociologists, Yenor warned, will find the institution of family “increasingly difficult to defend” on the basis of their opponents' own assumptions about mere individual happiness.

Although Yenor is himself Lutheran rather than Catholic, his book “Family Politics” concludes with a discussion of Pope John Paul II's ideas about love, marriage, the family, and society.

He told CNA that sociologists, like other scholars, can learn much from the late philosopher-pope.

“What he does is defend necessary connections,” Yenor recounted. “There are things that are connected, in the created order – and there are many attempts in the modern world, to sever those things that are connected.

“Love and marriage are connected – and when you try to disconnect them, you end up with less love, and bad relationships. Likewise, contraception severs the connection between sex and procreation. When you sever that connection, you end up with people using each other, and neglected children.”

“In a way, he's a great sociologist,” Yenor said of Pope John Paul II. “The original French sociologists of the 1800s were trying to establish, through social science, the connections that exist as sources of order in the world.”

“What John Paul does, is show that those sources of order and fulfillment” – particularly the lifelong marriage of a man and a woman – “are rooted in human nature, which can't be changed and manipulated.”

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Pope: Christ displayed his power in humble deeds

Vatican City, Jan 29, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The power of Jesus Christ is manifested in humble service and love, Pope Benedict XVI said in his Sunday Angelus address on Jan. 29.

“For man, authority often means possession, power, control, success,” the Pope said to thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.

“For God, however, authority means service, humility, love,” he continued, “it means entering into the logic of Jesus who stoops to wash the disciples’ feet, who seeks the true good of man, who heals wounds, who is capable of a love so great as to give up his life, because he is Love.”

The Pope’s made his comments as part of a reflection on today’s Gospel reading in which an unclean spirit identifies Jesus Christ as the “Holy One of God,” during his travels in Galilee. The Pope observed how Jesus heals both spiritually and physically through his teaching and miracles.

“In a short time, his fame spread throughout the region, which he travels announcing the Kingdom of God and healing the sick of all kinds: word and action.”

He then quoted the fifth-century Church father St. John Chrysostom, who noted that Jesus “alternates the speech for the benefit of those who listen, moving on from wonders to words and again passing from the teaching of his doctrine to miracles.”

The Pope suggested that Jesus’ use of words immediately opened up most of those listening to “the will of the Father and the truth about themselves.” However,  the scribes who “struggled to interpret the Holy Scriptures with countless reflections” were not open to his words.

Therefore, Jesus also united to his words to miraculous actions as “signs of deliverance from evil,” the pontiff explained.  He further recalled how St. Athanasius, the third-century Church father, would say that the “commanding and driving out demons is not human but divine work” and demonstrates how Jesus “distanced men from all diseases and infirmities.”

“Divine authority is not a force of nature." Instead, it is “the power of the love of God who created the universe and, in becoming incarnate in His only begotten Son, in coming down to our humanity, heals the world corrupted by sin.”

Pope Benedict finished with a quotation from Romano Guardini, the 20th-century Italian-German philosopher and theologian, who wrote that “the whole life of Jesus is a translation of power in humility ... Here is the sovereignty that lowers itself to the form of a servant.”

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