Cranston, R.I., Apr 1, 2012 (CNA) - Mabel Smith never imagined that one day she wouldn’t be able to pay her bills and be forced to ask other people for assistance.
“I’ve always worked two jobs since I was 16 years-old,” Smith recalled, adding that she and her late husband had saved their money, lived modestly and achieved the American dream by purchasing a modest home in the suburbs where they hoped to enjoy a happy retirement.
That dream was shattered two years ago when Smith’s husband died in a state hospital, where he had been a patient for more than two years. Using the couple’s life savings to pay outstanding medical bills, she fell behind on her mortgage. After several months of nonpayment, the bank foreclosed on the property.
“You have to carry on, but it’s difficult,” Smith said, adding that she works more than 30 hours per week at a call center, but still struggles to pay her rent and purchase medications and groceries. When she discovered that a medication she was recently prescribed required a $200 co-pay, she refused the medication and asked her physician to order a less expensive generic drug.
Smith shared that one of her biggest fears is losing her job because of absenteeism. A chronic, debilitating medical condition makes it difficult to perform her job some days, forcing her to stay home.
“It’s one day at a time,” she continued. “I’m scraping to get by. I don’t live high.”
Smith, who worships at St. Peter Church in Warwick, R.I., noted that after she pays her bills, there is often little money left to buy groceries. She has visited the parish food pantry and has also benefited from the generosity of a relative, who generously stocked her home pantry as a Christmas gift, which helped her throughout the winter.
“It’s nerve wracking when you have to watch every penny,” Smith continued. “This is not living — it’s existing — but it’s what I have to do. I’m still very grateful for the many blessings that I have received throughout my life.”
When Smith’s oil tank nearly ran dry last week, she called the Office of Catholic Charities and Social Ministry in Providence, R.I, recalling the assistance she has received two years ago from Bishop Thomas J. Tobin’s Keep the Heat On program.
After completing an application over the telephone, Smith was informed that she would receive 50 gallons of heating oil the next morning.
“I was panic stricken,” Smith recalled, adding that earlier this winter she also had received oil deliveries from two community agencies. Without the heating assistance, Smith said she couldn’t keep her apartment warm when temperatures dropped.
“I’m very grateful for the oil and for the help that I have received from the diocese,” Smith acknowledged.
She added that she also struggles to maintain her dignity and only had sought heating assistance because it was a dire emergency.
“Every time the furnace goes on, my stomach does a little flip,” she said.
“I’m hoping that the 50 gallons will get me through the winter and into April. I hope that we don’t get another snowstorm.”
Posted with permission from Rhode Island Catholic, official newspaper for the Diocese of Providence, R.I.
Denver, Colo., Apr 1, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
On April 4 the Catholic Church honors Saint Isidore of Seville, a bishop and scholar who helped the Church preserve its own traditions, and the heritage of western civilization, in the early middle ages.
In 653, less than two decades after his death, a council of bishops in Spain acclaimed St. Isidore as “an illustrious teacher of our time and the glory of the Catholic Church.” He is regarded as being among the last of the early Church Fathers, who combined Christian faith and classical education.
Isidore was born in Cartagena, Spain, in approximately 560. Three of his siblings – his brothers Leander and Fulgentius, who became bishops, and his sister Florentina, a nun – were later canonized as saints along with him.
As the Archbishop of Seville, Leander was an important influence on his younger brother, helping Isidore develop a commitment to study, prayer, and intense work for the good of the Church. Isidore, in turn, joined his brother's mission to convert the generally heretical Visigoths who had invaded Spain.
When St. Leander died around the year 600, his brother succeeded him as Seville's archbishop. Isidore inherited his brother's responsibility for Church affairs in an intense period of change, as the institutions of the Western Roman Empire gave way to the culture of the barbarian tribes.
For the good of the Church and civilization, Isidore was determined to preserve the wisdom and knowledge of the past, maintaining the fruitful synthesis of classical Roman culture and Christian faith. He was also intent on preventing false teachings from shattering the unity of the Church in Spain.
Responsible above all for the good of the Church, Isidore also sought the common good by encouraging study and development in areas such as law, medicine, foreign languages, and philosophy. He compiled the “Etymologiae,” the first encyclopedia written from a Catholic perspective.
Under Isidore's leadership, a series of local councils solidified the orthodoxy of the Spanish Church against errors about Christ and the Trinity. Systematic and extensive education of the clergy was stressed as a necessary means of guarding the faithful against false doctrine.
Prolific in his writings and and diligent in governing the Church, Isidore did not neglect the service of those in need.
“Indeed, just as we must love God in contemplation, so we must love our neighbor with action,” he declared. “It is therefore impossible to live without the presence of both the one and the other form of life, nor can we live without experiencing both the one and the other.”
In the last months of his life, the Isidore offered a moving testament to these words, intensifying his charitable outreach to the poor. Crowds of people in need flocked to his residence from far and wide, as the bishop offered his final works of mercy on earth.
St. Isidore of Seville died on April 4 of the year 636. Later named a Doctor of the Church, he was more recently proposed as a patron saint of Internet users, because of his determination to use the world's accumulated knowledge for the service of God's glory.
Havana, Cuba, Apr 1, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - For Alina Buda, a recent pilgrimage to Cuba was not only a chance to see the Pope but an opportunity to reconnect with the country of her birth.
“It’s really been an incredible experience,” Buda told CNA on March 29. “Spiritually, it’s been amazing.”
Buda, who lives in River Vale, N.J., fled Cuba with her family in 1962. She was only two years old at the time and has no memory of the country.
A recent 6-day trip to Havana marked Buda’s first time returning to the country where she had been born.
Choking up with emotion as she talked about her visit – which coincided with the 50th anniversary of the day that she and her family fled – she described the experience as “phenomenal.”
Buda initially found out about a pilgrimage opportunity to go to Cuba for the Pope’s March 26-28 visit through a fellow parent at the local Catholic school.
While she was immediately eager to participate, there was a good chance that she would not be able to go. With the trip just three weeks away, she was required to present her Cuban passport, which she had not seen for years and was not sure that she could still locate.
“I was scrounging, looking for it,” she said.
Although she did find the passport, she was left with a short amount of time to submit a visa application and have it processed.
In the end, the visa was approved in time, and Buda said that she felt blessed just to “have the opportunity” to go.
Arriving in the country was an emotional experience for Buda, particularly because she landed at José Martí International Airport, the same airport that her family had fled from 50 years ago.
Not sure what to expect, she said that she had been “afraid” and was not sure if she was “emotionally ready” to come back.
At the same time, she was “apprehensive,” fearing that the people may resent her for fleeing.
But her anxiety was quickly eased as she was “embraced” by a people who were “gracious” and “very warm.” By the end of the trip, she had even decided that she wants to come back with her husband, who is American, and her 15-year-old son.
As Buda got to know the people of Cuba, she found that “their spirit is incredible.”
“They’re very proud of who they are,” she said.
Growing up in a Cuban family in the U.S., Buda can relate to that spirit. She explained that her parents had always told her, “Don’t forget your heritage. Always be proud that you’re Cuban.”
During her days in Havana, she saw that same spirit that she remembers from the stories that her family used to tell.
“They stayed with me, and now I understand,” she said. “Their spirit keeps them alive.”
At the heart of this spirit, she explained, is a “passion for music and religion.” She described Cubans as “very faithful individuals.”
“Their faith is so important to them,” she said, explaining that it keeps their spirit “intact” in difficult times.
Buda said that she saw how the Cuban “spirit comes alive” throughout her trip. She said that she talked to numerous individuals who are “seeking some sort of transformation.”
She also noted that the Pope’s comments on change during a March 28 Mass in Havana drew hushed applause from the crowd.
Buda had seen the Pope at a public Mass in Rome two years ago. However, she said, this was different. She described the experience of seeing the Pope being welcomed in her homeland as “incredible.”
“It can’t get any better than that,” she said, adding that it was also amazing to be able to receive the Eucharist at the Papal Mass.
One of the most touching moments for Buda came at the end of the Mass, as someone in the crowd yelled out to the Pope, asking him not to leave, but to stay with the Cuban people and bring change.
As the individual was quickly hushed, Buda said that she started crying, deeply aware that her native land is in “desperate need of change.”
During his visit, Pope Benedict emphasized the need for spiritual renewal in order to bring about peaceful change in society.
Asked if she believes that the pontiff’s visit will inspire a transformation in the country, Buda responded, “Absolutely,” adding that she had met numerous people who asked her for prayers.
“They want change, and they want it badly,” she said. “It’s time.”
Vatican City, Apr 1, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Christians should welcome Jesus by laying down their lives for him in the same way the people of Jerusalem once laid down their coats and palm branches, Pope Benedict XVI said in his Palm Sunday homily.
“Before Christ, we must spread out our lives, ourselves, in an attitude of gratitude and adoration,” he said April 1.
The Pope presided at Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square. Tens of thousands of pilgrims joined him beneath a cloudy Roman sky to mark the beginning of Holy Week. The ceremonies opened with the traditional procession of cardinals carrying braided palms, followed by the Pope himself.
The Pope told the open-air congregation that the next seven days should call forth two sentiments: praise and thanksgiving. This is because “in this Holy Week the Lord Jesus will renew the greatest gift we could possibly imagine: he will give us his life, his body and his blood, his love.”
“But we must respond worthily to so great a gift,” he said. Christians must respond “with the gift of ourselves, our time, our prayer, our entering into a profound communion of love with Christ who suffered, died and rose for us.”
The Pope explained why the “great multitude” who accompanied Christ’s arrival into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday reacted the way they did.
Jesus, he said, arrived in Jerusalem from Bethphage and the Mount of Olives, which was “the route by which the Messiah was supposed to come.” The crowd’s sense of expectation was raised further when Christ paused near Jericho to heal the blind beggar Bartimaeus, who acclaimed him as the “Son of David.”
“And so it was that, after this miraculous sign, accompanied by the cry ‘Son of David,’ a tremor of Messianic hope spread through the crowd, causing many of them to ask: this Jesus, going ahead of us towards Jerusalem, could he be the Messiah, the new David?”
So when Jesus reached Jerusalem, the crowd tore branches from the trees and began to shout passages from Psalm 118. These “ancient pilgrim blessings” took on the character of messianic proclamation:
“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!” the Pope summarized.
Pope Benedict said this festive acclamation, which is recorded by all four Gospels, is “a cry of blessing, a hymn of exultation” which “expresses the unanimous conviction that, in Jesus, God has visited his people and the longed-for Messiah has finally come.”
In the person of Jesus Christ the cheering crowds saw the fulfillment of the ancient promise, given by God to Abraham, that “by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves.”
“Thus, in the light of Christ, humanity sees itself profoundly united and, as it were, enfolded within the cloak of divine blessing, a blessing that permeates, sustains, redeems and sanctifies all things,” Pope Benedict said.
The “first great message” of Palm Sunday is an invitation to adopt a proper outlook on humanity and its different cultures and civilizations.
“The look that the believer receives from Christ is a look of blessing,” he said. It is a “wise and loving look, capable of grasping the world’s beauty and having compassion on its fragility.”
Quickly, however, the excitement of the Jerusalem crowd turned to disappointment as Jesus did not fit their own idea of how “the long-awaited King promised by the prophets should act.” And so, only a few days later, “instead of acclaiming Jesus, the Jerusalem crowd will cry out to Pilate: Crucify him!”
The Pope said that this question of Jesus’ identity is at the heart of today’s feast.
“What idea do we have of the Messiah, what idea do we have of God?” he asked. “It is a crucial question, one we cannot avoid, not least because during this very week we are called to follow our King who chooses the Cross as his throne.”
“We are called to follow a Messiah who promises us, not a facile earthly happiness, but the happiness of heaven, divine beatitude.”
Pope Benedict urged pilgrims, and particularly the young people present for today’s diocesan level World Youth Day, to make the decision to “say yes to the Lord and to follow him all the way, the decision to make his Passover, his death and resurrection, the very focus of your Christian lives.”
He promised them that this decision is one that leads to “true joy.”
At the conclusion of Mass, the Pope prayed the traditional midday Angelus with the gathered pilgrims and wished them well for the next seven days.
“This Holy Week, may we be moved again by Christ’s passion and death, put our sins behind us and, with God’s grace, choose a life of love and service to our brethren,” he said.
As the dark clouds above St. Peter's Square turned to sunshine, he then made his way around St. Peter’s Square by popemobile and blessed the cheering crowds as he went.