Archive of March 17, 2012

Pro-life supporters to 'Bike for the Unborn' in California

Denver, Colo., Mar 17, 2012 (CNA) -

Organizers are encouraging cyclists to sign up for a 250-mile bike pilgrimage in southern California to raise money for pro-life organizations and pray for change in America.

“We're asking for divine intervention, and even a Pentecost on our country, for hearts to become pro-life,” said Fr. David Nix, an event organizer who serves as parochial vicar at St. Anthony of Padua Church in the northeast Colorado city of Sterling.

The “Bike for the Unborn” route intends to follow the missions of Bl. Junipero Serra, the 18th century Franciscan priest who evangelized colonial California. It begins in San Gabriel, California at the San Gabriel Mission.

It also runs through Topanga State Park and Point Mugu State Park along the Pacific Coast Highway, before continuing through Carpinteria State Beach to Santa Barbara Mission.

From there, bikers will return to San Gabriel.

“Like Bl. Junipero Serra whose steps we'll follow, we know that simple steps can call down God's grace to give the gift of faith and shine into our country,” Fr. Nix said. “We're literally asking for miracles.”

The idea for the June 12-16 event originated during pro-life work in Los Angeles with college men from Colorado, the priest told CNA March 14.

“God put together a remarkable team with a great zeal to make this not just a fundraising trip but a pilgrimage to change this country as only God Himself can do, because no celebrity can give the gift of faith,” he said. “Penance and pilgrimage seems to call down those gifts like nothing else.”

A rider can pick a pro-life organization to support, while donors can choose riders to help.

However, the focus of “Bike for the Unborn” is not necessarily fundraising but “a pilgrimage of prayer and penance,” Fr. Nix said.

Organizers are praying that God may grant the grace for “a changed country” and for “a culture of life.”

Planners have scheduled two to five hours per day for riding, with the rest of each day free for worship, prayer, bike maintenance and physical recovery. Riders will sleep “under the stars” while buying food and water at supermarkets along the way.

The route includes stops for Catholic Mass. However, the route is intentionally “in flux,” according to Fr. Nix.

“See, pilgrimages are kind of a providential event, and this one is too,” he said. “We'll just show up and let God do the heavy lifting, just like He did for Bl. Junipero Serra and his friends.”

The group also clarified that the event is open to everyone.

“We’re not looking for Olympic bicyclists, but they are more than welcome, of course! We’re looking for passionate lovers of Jesus Christ who want to see a radical change in society,” organizer Alyssa de la Torre told CNA March 15.

“It’s more than an effort to raise funds and awareness for this cause. Our vision for ‘Bike for the Unborn’ is that we will create revolution by seeking God’s divine intervention.”

De la Torre, a 24-year-old who works with at-risk youth in Fort Collins, Colorado, is the event’s webmaster and e-mail correspondent.

“We want riders who will expect the unexpected. This won’t be a predictable trip because we are choosing to rely on God’s provision for everything.”

She encouraged those who cannot participate to consider supporting a rider as a donor.

Grace Schneider, another organizer, said the event will be “an opportunity for refreshment and renewal in the pro-life movement.”

“It is a time for people to come together in pilgrimage and prayer for our country and for the lives of the unborn. There is hope for our country and for the pro-life movement. But we must act,” she said.

Schneider, a 21-year-old Minnesota native, currently works for the Respect Life Group at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is contacting religious orders for prayer support for “Bike for the Unborn.” She herself plans to enter the Dominicans of St. Cecilia in Nashville, Tenn. this August.

“We, as bikers, will be a visible sign, biking through California, fundraising for pro-life organizations.   However, our efforts will be for naught without the presence of prayer,” she told CNA March 15.

“Most importantly through this bike ride, we are begging God for mercy on our country and for spiritual renewal. Prayer is the backbone of this endeavor.”

Schneider said she doesn’t have any “prestigious” biking experience. “It's just my mode of transportation around Boulder, which is a beautiful place to bike!”

Several of the organizers have already ridden the route. Fr. Nix said he grew up mountain biking but is “not so good” at distance riding. “It’s time to start training,” he said.

Information for potential riders, donors and pro-life organization partners is available at the event’s website

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St. Patrick's Day means more than green beer

Denver, Colo., Mar 17, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

As the world celebrates St. Patrick's Day, it's important to remember that the fifth century bishop's feast day means more than an excuse to drink excessively and wear green.

“It's almost embarrassing that we talk about green beer and green sweaters,” said Fr. Kevin Gallagher, vocations director for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and chaplain for the city's annual St. Patrick's Day parade.

“People are getting back to the basics of the life of St. Patrick,” and the people he sought to evangelize, Fr. Gallagher told CNA on March 15.

Although St. Patrick lived hundreds of years ago, his mission is still relevant today, especially in light of difficulties the local church is facing.

“In Philadelphia, we're having our challenges economically, but also in the Church with clergy sexual abuse,” the priest said.

However, St. Patrick “really gave people hope...he brought them Christ,” which is the most important part of the saint's legacy that people need to focus on.

“Are there people who still get drunk? Sure,” Rev. Gallagher admitted, but said “that's a sin I don't think takes St. Patrick's Day to happen, not that I don't enjoy a good Guinness...”

As a priest, Rev. Gallagher said he'd like to challenge people not to “celebrate St. Patrick's Day unless you know who you're celebrating.”

This year, Rev. Gallagher said, the Irish Catholic community in Philadelphia has been diligent about voicing concerns over “attacks on the life and legacy of St. Patrick.”

Retail merchandiser Urban Outfitters, whose headquarters are in Philadelphia, has recently come under fire for selling clothing which stereotypes people of  Irish heritage as binge drinkers and St. Patrick as “someone who just brought green and beer to the people of Ireland,” Rev. Gallagher said.

“We get nailed with this stuff every year,” Mike McCormack, National Historian for the Ancient Order of Hiberians, a charitable organization dedicated to defending Irish culture in America told CNA March 13.

In order to“make sure the next generation doesn't grow up thinking that stuff is funny,” McCormack said his organization sponsors scholarships and educational programs to raise awareness about Irish culture.

Along with battling stereotypes, McCormack said the Ancient Order of Hibernians make a strong showing at the world's oldest St. Patrick's Day parade in New York.

“Most people will not realize that the Irish are on 5th Avenue,” due to the amount of publicity that the rowdy crowds along the parade route receive, McCormack said.

“The people (who are intoxicated) on the sidelines are not Irish,” McCormack asserted, “they may have Irish names...but they know nothing at all about the rich heritage of the Irish.”

McCormack pointed out that many St. Patrick's Day parades that still exist today once served as a type of protest march against persecution from native-born “white Anglo-Saxon Protestants.”

Associate professor of history and Irish history specialist, Dr. Matthew O'Brien of Franciscan University of Steubenville, said that St. Patrick's Day parades are actually an American invention that the Irish adopted as they “became more aware “about the money that comes in from tourism.”

Traditionally, the Irish celebrated their patron's feast day, which is a holy day of obligation in Ireland, with mass and perhaps a special dinner.

“I would say that up until 30 or 40 years ago, it was almost entirely a religious holiday” with “relatively little revelry,” Dr. O'Brien told CNA March 8.

The parades, which began as a procession to mass on St. Patrick's Day by Irish soldiers in the British Army some time before the American Revolution, have now become a tourist attraction in Ireland.

Last year, Tourism Ireland reported that the 7.3 million overseas visitors who came to celebrate St. Patrick's Day delivered $4.5 billion in new revenue.

This year, in order to promote Ireland to international visitors, Tourism Ireland lit up iconic landmarks, such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Niagara Falls, the London Eye and the Sydney Opera House, with the color green.

“Our aim is to capitalize on Ireland's heightened profile this week and to exploit the unique opportunity that is St. Patrick's Day,” chief executive of Tourism Ireland, Niall Gibbons said in a Feb. 16 press release.

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Philadelphia archdiocese to host National Catholic Bible Conference

Philadelphia, Pa., Mar 17, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Top Biblical scholars from around the country will gather in Philadelphia to help Catholics learn how to apply Scripture to their lives.

This year, the annual National Catholic Bible Conference is designed to help Catholics understand Scripture, live it out and proclaim its message in the world.

From June 15-16, Jeff Cavins, Scott Hahn, Tim Gray, Edward Sri and many others will present talks related to the conference's theme “Scripture: A Roadmap for Living.”

"There's a common conception that," says Jeff Cavins, one of the conference hosts.

One of the conference hosts, Jeff Cavins said that the “common conception that  the Bible doesn't have a lot to say to us today” is “far from true.”

“Scripture is full of relevant, practical wisdom that provides direction and speaks to everyday situations. Through this conference, we hope to help Catholics uncover the riches the Bible has to offer and learn how to live out its wisdom."

The National Catholic Bible Conference will offer over 15 talks to “anyone who wants to learn an authentically Catholic approach to the Bible,” Matthew Pinto, president of Ascension Press said. "And for the first time ever, priests, deacons, seminarians, and religious can attend for free."

The 2012 National Catholic Bible Conference is sponsored by Ascension Press, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the Augustine Institute, and Alpha.

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