Archive of February 5, 2012

High school students show solidarity with needy in hometown and the world

Denville, N.J., Feb 5, 2012 (CNA) - Reaching from Dover in Morris County, N.J. to Malawi in Africa, students at Morris Catholic High School in Morris County, N.J. have partnered together to show their solidarity with those in need.

Recently, students hosted an Empty Bowls dinner to bring solidarity and awareness to those living in poverty in the African nation of Malawi and to also bring support to Hope House in Dover, N.J., an agency of diocesan Catholic Charities that serves the needy in Morris County. The Empty Bowls Project is a grassroots effort to fight hunger created by the Image Render Group.

For several weeks, students in Lauren Caruso's art class made clay bowls. The colorful and creative hand crafted clay bowls were then sold at the dinner fundraiser. For the dinner, members of the school's campus ministry volunteered to serve patrons a simple meal of soup and bread while Key Club members hosted a fair trade sale, featuring hand-made goods from artisans in developing nations. Proceeds helped both the Empty Bowls Project and Hope House in Paterson, N.J. in their service to the poor.

The purpose of the bowls, according to Jeanne Gradone, director of student services at Morris Catholic High School, was "for families to bring the bowls home and place the empty bowls on their dinner table. The empty bowls symbolize the many people around the world who don't have a meal that day. It is to bring awareness that the majority of people around the world have empty bowls. We don't want people to feel guilty about what they have, but we want them to consciously make a commitment to live in solidarity with the poor and have a constant reminder to pray for them."

During the process of making the bowls, students focused on those in Malawi, while having an awareness of their place in the world family and at the same time concentrate on its local family.

"We also wanted to support Hope House and help the local residents they serve. The agency supports many of our neighbors in Morris County and also the many people who were affected by the floods last August in the area," said Gradone.

For the past two years, the school has been immersed in a Global Solidarity school initiative, sponsored by Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. This year, the school is remembering orphans and vulnerable children around the world with Malawi as a focus. Last year, the school was centered on the theme of peace building and looked to examples from the Holy Land.

"The mission of CRS," said Gradone, "is to allow people to become self sufficient. The people in many of these nations know what they need; they just need the resources to succeed."

During Lent, which begins this year on Feb. 22, Ash Wednesday, the school will continue to support Catholic Relief Services through the agency's well-known Operation Rice Bowl program. The students will learn more about the countries featured in the program and learn to be an advocate for those around the world.

Gradone said, "We want the students at Morris Catholic to know their place in the world and make connections with people. We want them to say about others, 'I value the gift that you are.'"

Posted with permission from the Diocese of Paterson, N.J.

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Church celebrates 16th century Martyrs of Nagasaki on Feb. 6

Denver, Colo., Feb 5, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Feb. 6, the Catholic Church honors the 26 Martyrs of Nagasaki, a group of native Japanese Catholics and foreign missionaries who suffered death for their faith in the year 1597.

During the 16th century, the Catholic faith reached Japan by the efforts of the Jesuit missionary Saint Francis Xavier (1506-1552). Jesuit outreach to the Japanese continued after his death, and around 200,000 Japanese had entered the Church by 1587.

Religious tensions led to a period of persecution during that year, during which many churches were destroyed and missionaries forced to work in secret. But few episodes of martyrdom took place during this time, and within a decade 100,000 more Japanese became Catholic despite the restrictions.

During 1593, Franciscan missionaries came to Japan from the Philippines by order of Spain's King Philip II. These new arrivals gave themselves zealously to the work of charity and evangelism, but their presence disturbed a delicate situation between the Church and Japanese authorities.

Suspicion against Catholic missionaries grew when a Spanish ship was seized off the Japanese coast and found to be carrying artillery. Toyotomi Hideyoshi, an powerful imperial minister, responded by sentencing 26 Catholics to death.

The group was comprised of three native Jesuits, six foreign Franciscans, and several lay Catholics including some children. Sentenced to die by crucifixion and lancing, they were first marched 600 miles to the city of Nagasaki.

During the journey they underwent public torture meant to terrorize other Japanese believers in Christ. But all of the 26 held out courageously, even singing the hymn of praise “Te Deum” when they arrived at the hill where they would be crucified.

Three of the best-known martyrs of Nagaki are Saints Paul Miki, John of Goto, and James Kisai. Though none were priests, all were associated with the Jesuits: Miki was training for the priesthood, while Kisai was a lay brother and John of Goto was a catechist preparing to enter the order.

Paul Miki offered an especially strong witness to his faith during the group's month-long march to Nagasaki, as he joined one of the captive Franciscan priests in preaching to the crowds who came to mock the prisoners.

The son of a wealthy military leader, Miki was born in 1562 and entered the Church along with the rest of his family. He joined the Jesuits as a young man and helped many Buddhists to embrace Christianity. His last act of evangelism took place as he hung on his cross, preaching to the crowds.

“The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ,” he announced. “I thank God it is for this reason that I die. I believe that I am telling the truth before I die.”

“After Christ's example, I forgive my persecutors. I do not hate them. I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain.”

St. Paul Miki and his 25 companions were stabbed to death with lances on Feb. 5, 1597, at the site that became known as “Martyrs' Hill.” Pope Pius IX canonized the Martyrs of Nagasaki in 1862.

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Analyst: Obama could lose Catholic vote over HHS mandate

Washington D.C., Feb 5, 2012 (CNA) - The growing Catholic outcry against a recent health insurance mandate could threaten President Obama’s support “among a key group of swing voters that was critical to his victory in 2008,” political writer George Condon says. 

According to an analysis released by the Pew Research Center on Feb. 2, Catholics have shifted away from the Democratic Party since the 2008 election.

George E. Condon, Jr., a political writer for the nonpartisan National Journal, wrote in a Feb. 1 article that although Obama won the Catholic vote in the 2008 election, recent dissatisfaction among Catholics could be detrimental to his 2012 efforts for a second term. 

Condon tied Obama’s change in political fortune to the Jan. 20 announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services that virtually all employers will be required to purchase health insurance that includes coverage for sterilization and contraception, as well as the drug Ella, which can cause early abortions.

The very narrow religious exemption to the mandate requires an organization to exist for the purpose of inculcating religious values and to restrict employment and its services primarily to fellow believers.

The administration refused to broaden the exemption despite thousands of complaints from religious hospitals, schools and charitable agencies that objected to the mandate but were open to serving members of all faiths. 

In less than two weeks, the decision has been denounced in thousands of Catholic churches across America, and several bishops stated that they would refuse to comply with the “unconscionable” and “unjust” regulation.

According to Condon, the mandate provoked an “explosion of anger” and has left many Catholics feeling disappointed with President Obama.

Many Catholics who supported Obama in the 2008 election and defended his controversial appearance at Notre Dame in 2009 are also now left disillusioned by the realization that Obama does not understand “Catholic sensitivities,” as they had thought.

Condon said that although not all Catholics follow the Church’s teaching on birth control, the “American Catholic backlash” against the mandate has united the Church in a fight against a government attempt to regulate its ministries and employees.

The united Catholic opposition could be damaging to Obama’s chances for reelection, he said, observing that in 2010, Catholics made up 25 percent of the American population and were a “big swing vote in the key political states.”

Surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center over the last year show a significant shift in the Catholic electorate away from the Democratic Party. 

In 2008, 37 percent of Catholic registered voters either identified with or leaned towards the Republican Party, while 53 percent favored the Democratic Party.

By 2011, those numbers had changed significantly, with 43 percent favoring the Republican Party and 48 percent identifying more closely with the Democratic Party.

An even further shift has occurred among white Catholics who attend Mass every week.
In 2008, this demographic was evenly split, with 45 percent favoring each political party.

But in 2011, 52 percent favored the Republicans and just 40 percent identified more with the Democrats.

The Pew analysis indicates that Catholic voters are not alone in this trend. It finds that “the share of voters identifying with or leaning toward the GOP has either grown or held steady in every major religious group,” including those that have traditionally tended to align more closely with the Democratic Party.

Condon explained that Catholics being upset at the Obama administration over the new mandate could play a significant role in the upcoming election.

He stated that “the clout of the Catholic vote is unquestioned,” with only one candidate winning the presidency without it since 1972. 

He also pointed out that over 50 of the bishops who have spoken out “represent dioceses in what will be battleground states in the election” and that many of these states have large Catholic populations.

Catholics are also highly concentrated in about a dozen battleground states, including New Jersey (41 percent), Wisconsin (30 percent), Pennsylvania (28 percent), and Ohio (18 percent).

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God's love overcomes the misery of illness, Pope teaches

Vatican City, Feb 5, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Faith in the love of Jesus Christ can overcome the suffering of long-term illness, Pope Benedict XVI said in his Sunday Angelus address on Feb. 5.

Just as Jesus faced the devil “with the power of love that was from the Father,” the Pope explained, so also a sick person can “overcome and defeat the test of disease with a heart immersed in the love of God.”

Indeed, he noted, “we all know people who have endured terrible suffering because God gave them a deep serenity.”

Pope Benedict addressed his remarks to thousands of pilgrims braving the cold and snow in St. Peter’s Square. From the window of the papal apartments, he reflected on the day's Gospel, in which Jesus “healed many who were sick with various diseases” and “cast out many demons.”

He observed how the four evangelists – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – all describe “freedom from disease and illness of any kind, together with preaching, as the main activities of Jesus in his public life.”

While disease is “a sign of the evil in the world and in man,” Christ’s healings show that “the Kingdom of God is near,” and they serve as “a foretaste of his victory obtained by his death and resurrection.”

The Pope recognized that if healing does not arrive swiftly and suffering is prolonged, those who are sick “can remain crushed, isolated,” and even “depressed and dehumanized.”

Appropriate medical treatment is in order and, as the Pope pointed out, “medicine in recent decades has made great strides.”

But he also noted that the “Word of God” teaches “a decisive attitude” toward illness, an attitude which is “that of the faith.”

Even in the face of death, “faith can make possible what is humanly impossible.”

“But faith in what?” the Pope asked, answering that faith in God's love “is the true answer, which radically defeats evil.”

As an example of how to bear illness through the love of God, Pope Benedict highlighted the life and death of Blessed Chiara Badano, an Italian teenager who died in 1990 from an aggressive and painful bone cancer.

Although she was struck “in the bloom of youth,” those who visited her during her illness saw that she manifested “light and trust” through her love for Christ.

The Pope concluded by noting that next Saturday, Feb. 11, is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and also the World Day of the Sick.

On that day, he suggested, believers should imitate people of Jesus' time and “spiritually present to him all the sick people, confident that he wants to and can heal,” while also invoking the intercession of the Virgin Mary “especially in situations of immense suffering and abandonment.”

“Mary, Health of the Sick,” he declared, “pray for us!”

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