Archive of February 12, 2012

Minnesota moms create chastity program for pre-teens

St. Paul, Minn., Feb 12, 2012 (CNA) - Two moms, who are also sisters, wanted a better program to help their children understand human sexuality and the teachings of the Catholic Church.

So, they created one. It’s called PUREly YOU, and it recently received the imprimatur from Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The packet of DVDs and printed booklets is designed to be simple, clear and user-friendly.

Parents can use it on their own with their children, or do it with the help of Catholic schools that choose to use it in their religion classes, with parents going over the material at home with their kids.

Primary educators

Sisters Sue Lewis of Epiphany Parish in Coon Rapids, Minn. and Gretchen Thibault of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in St. Anthony, Minn. started working on the program several years ago after feeling like a better offering was needed for their own children.

“It actually started when my oldest daughter (Dana, now 24) was approaching fifth grade,” said Lewis, 44, who lives in Andover, Minn. and has six children with her husband, Tom. “There just wasn’t a lot out there. But it made me uncomfortable that the schools seemed to be doing what parents, in an ideal world, should be able to do. I think that’s where it began. But, we never thought of creating a new program at that time.”

It was then that she realized that it really is the parents who are supposed to be teaching their children about sensitive topics like sexuality and they shouldn’t just hand over that task to the school.

Rather, the ideal is to have a program used both by the parents and the school together, with the parents taking on primary responsibility for this part of their children’s education.

With this realization, the two moms started moving forward with their goal of creating a program that would talk about puberty and the physical changes children experience during adolescence, but in the context of church teachings about chastity and God’s overall plan for creation.

A major component is the concept of love — love of self, love of others and God’s love for all people.

The program is geared toward fifth-graders, but can be used for older children as well. They like to call it Theology of the Body for preteens, based on Pope John Paul II’s teaching on human sexuality.

The six basic lessons, each of which takes only 10 minutes, are on DVD and in printed booklets, taking the children through fundamental church teachings, which are gleaned from several documents, including the U.S. bishops’ “Catechetical Formation in Chaste Living,” released in 2008. Not only do children get the information they need, but parents can receive instruction that they themselves may be lacking.

“You can’t teach what you don’t know,” said Thibault, 43, who lives in Shoreview, Minn. with her husband, Dan, and has eight children. “How many of these parents just don’t know the basic teachings of the church, be it contraception, chastity or celibacy and the difference between the (latter) two?”

Broader use

The first school to start using the program was St. Charles Borromeo in St. Anthony, Minn. Four years ago, teachers began incorporating the materials Lewis and Thibault were developing. Now, they are using the finished product. St. John the Baptist School in New Brighton, Minn. recently signed on and Lewis’ parish, Epiphany, is soon going to have an informational night for parents about the program.

In addition to schools, individual parents also are buying in. The program offers them scripts for how to describe sensitive things like specific physical changes that take place during puberty, and even offers DVDs about those topics that parents can watch with their children. There is a DVD for boys and one for girls.

“When my daughter was 11, I knew it was time to start talking about sexuality,” said Leslie Andry of St. Charles in Bayport, Minn. “I did some searching, but was unhappy with the resources out there … Then Sue told me about PUREly YOU, I jumped on it. And it’s perfect — just what I was looking for. The information is presented in a joyful way, yet modern.”

Posted with permission from The Catholic Spirit, newspaper for the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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St. Claude la Colombiere, Sacred Heart devotee, remembered Feb. 15

Denver, Colo., Feb 12, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Feb. 15 the Catholic Church honors Saint Claude la Colombiere, the 17th century French Jesuit who authenticated and wrote about Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque's visions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

When he canonized St. Claude in 1992, Blessed John Paul II upheld him as a model Jesuit, recalling how the saint “gave himself completely to the Sacred Heart, 'ever burning with love.' Even in trials he practiced forgetfulness of self in order to attain purity of love and to raise the world to God.”

Born in the south of France during 1641, Claude la Colombiere belonged to a family of seven children, four of whom entered the priesthood or religious life. He attended a Jesuit school in his youth, and entered the order himself at age 17.

As a young Jesuit recruit, Claude admitted to having a “horrible aversion” to the rigorous training required by the order in his day. But the novitiate of the Society of Jesus focused and sharpened his natural talents, and he would later take a private vow to obey the order's rules as perfectly as possible.

After completing his order's traditional periods of study and teaching, Claude became a priest in 1669. Known as a gifted preacher, he also taught at the college level and served as a tutor to the children of King Louis XIV's minister of finance.

In 1674, the priest became the superior of a Jesuit house in the town of Paray-le-Monial. It was during this time, in his role as confessor to a convent of Visitationist nuns, that Claude la Colombiere became involved in events that would change his own life and the history of the Western Church.

One of the nuns, later canonized as St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, claimed to have experienced private revelations from Christ urging devotion to his heart as the symbol and seat of God's love for mankind. Within the convent, however, these reports met with dismissal and contempt.

During his time in Paray-le-Monial, Father la Colombiere became the nun's spiritual director, giving careful consideration to her testimony about the purported revelations. He concluded that Sister Margaret Mary had indeed encountered Jesus in an extraordinary way.

Claude la Colombiere's writings, and his testimony to the reality of St. Margaret Mary's experiences, helped to establish the Sacred Heart as a feature of Western Catholic devotion. This, in turn, helped to combat the heresy of Jansenism, which claimed that God did not desire the salvation of some people.

In the fall of 1676, Father la Colombiere, was called away from Paray-le-Monial to England. During a time of tension in the religiously torn country, he ministered as chaplain and preacher to Mary of Modena, a Catholic who had become the Duchess of York.

In 1678, a false rumor spread about an alleged Catholic “plot” against the English monarchy. The lie led to the execution of 35 innocent people, including eight Jesuits. La Colombiere was not put to death, but was accused, arrested, and locked in a dungeon for several weeks.

The French Jesuit held up heroically during the ordeal, but conditions in the prison ruined his health before his expulsion from England. He went back to France in 1679 and resumed his work as a teacher and priest, encouraging love for Christ's Sacred Heart among the faithful.

In 1681, Claude la Colombiere returned to Paray-le-Monial, the site of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque's revelations. It was there, during 1682, that the 41-year-old priest died from internal bleeding on the year's first Sunday of Lent, Feb. 15.

St. Claude la Colombiere was beatified in 1929 – nine years after the canonization of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque – and canonized 63 years later.

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Catholic student helps relieve children's suffering in Myanmar

Naypyidaw, Myanmar, Feb 12, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Conditions in a Myanmar children's prison are causing major suffering and malnutrition among its young prisoners, says a Burmese Catholic student working to make a difference.

Chan Thawng, a student at Austria’s International Theological Institute, recently told the school of his visit to the Children’s Prison in Nahawsan, Kawh Hmuu Township. He said about 2,000 children between 10 and 18 are imprisoned there, where they are divided into groups of 500.

“Many children are put into prison because they are thieves, or because they killed their neighbors' (animals) as their parents cannot give them enough food. They are hungry and they steal and become thieves and they are put into prison,” said Thawng. “I am so sad to see them.”

Thawng, the founder of two charities in the country, reported that he and his co-workers had sought to visit the prison for over a year, but a local authority allowed him to secretly visit the imprisoned boys in October 2011.

“The government does not give them enough food in prison and they are thin and malnourished. We went and gave them food: rice, meat and chicken, potato, breads, and sweets.”

The visitors donated books, pens and pencils for the children’s basic education. They also shared the  message of Christianity with them and encouraged them by singing Gospel songs.

His group is now trying to visit the other children in prison and to visit the women’s prison.

Many young girls and women are imprisoned because of prostitution, which they take up because they are impoverished and cannot get jobs.

“Some young girls are asked by their parents to become prostitutes, as that is the only way they can get money for food,” Thawng said.

He prayed that God will help the suffering children and suffering young girls “more and more,” he told the International Theological Institute.

The institute, a Catholic school of theology, grants degrees from the Holy See for the study of theology and for specialized studies on marriage and the family. The institute says it aims to be a “living experience of the Church universal” and a place of exchange between diverse cultures. Its students come from around the world.

The Greek Fathers and Thomas Aquinas serve as the institute’s central points of reference, appealing to both the Eastern and Western traditions of the Church.

Thawng said he went to study at the institute because of the many divorces in his country, even among Christian families.

“I see the number of suffering children increase day after day. It is not easy to find a happy family, especially in villages.”

He thinks his studies will help him solve these problems.

Since his deceased father was Catholic and his mother is Protestant, Thawng reported, he had “grown up between two beliefs.” His studies will help him learn more about Catholic doctrine, he said.

Thawng began the Shelter for Suffering People and New Eden Education Help after his summer holiday journeys in Myanmar when he traveled from village to village to speak about the Word of God.

“In many villages, I saw that there were no Christians, no school, and the children were poor and uneducated. Often there were no toilets and the villagers would take a bath once a week without soap.”

In some villages with schools, children were too poor to attend.

Thawng himself comes from a “very poor family” and his father died when he was ten.

“As the only son of a widow, I had to overcome many difficulties and problems in order to study and graduate. When I was seventeen years old, I heard God’s call and followed Him,” he said. “I could not go on living without sharing the Gospel with others.”

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Jesus cured leper to show man’s salvation, Pope says

Vatican City, Feb 12, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Jesus Christ’s healing of the leper in the Gospel of Mark encapsulates the whole history of salvation, said Pope Benedict XVI in his Sunday Angelus address for Feb. 12.

When Jesus met the leper, he came into contact with a form of illness “considered at that time the most serious, enough to render a person ‘impure’ and to exclude them from the society,” the Pope explained to pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.

There was even special legislation that reserved to Jewish priests “the task of declaring the person leprous, that is impure,” he said. It was the job of the Jewish priests to decide if and when to re-admit the sufferer to society after they had been deemed cured.

It was in this context that a leper came to Jesus beseeching him and telling him “‘If you will, you can make me clean,'” according Mark’s account of the event.
Contrary to the legal bans, noted the Pope, “Jesus does not avoid contact with this man, indeed, he is driven to an intimate participation in his condition, stretches out his hand and touches it.” He responds to the man’s plea by telling him “I will it, be cleansed.”

“In that gesture and those words of Christ is the whole history of salvation,” stated the Pope, “there is embodied the will of God to heal us, to cleanse us from evil that disfigures and that disrupts our relationships.”

This contact between the hand of Jesus and the leper “knocks down every barrier between God and human impurities, between the Sacred and its opposite.” The actions of Jesus do not deny the reality of “evil and its negative force,” but shows that “the love of God is stronger than any evil, even of the most contagious and horrible.” In doing so, “Jesus took upon himself our infirmities, became the ‘leper’ because we were purified.”

The Pope recalled the words of the 13th-century saint, Francis of Assisi, who spoke about lepers and ministered to them.

“When I lived in sin, it was very painful to me to see lepers,” wrote St. Francis, “but God himself led me into their midst, and I remained there a little while.” By the time he left, “that which had seemed to me bitter had become sweet and easy.”

The Pope said that in learning to literally embrace lepers, St. Francis had been healed of his “leprosy,” namely his pride. That breakthrough “converted him to the love of God.”

“This is the victory of Christ, which is our deep healing and our resurrection to new life!” proclaimed Pope Benedict.

Before leading pilgrims in praying the Angelus, the Pope urged those present to direct their prayers towards the Virgin Mary. He noted that yesterday marked the 154th anniversary of her first appearance in the French town of Lourdes to the local miller’s daughter, Bernadette Soubirous.

“To St. Bernadette, Our Lady gave a timeless message: the call to prayer and penance,” said the Pope.

“Through his mother it is always Jesus who comes to us, to deliver us from all sickness of body and soul. Let us allow ourselves to be touched and purified by him, and show mercy towards our brothers!”

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