Archive of August 5, 2012

Promoting life, one balloon at a time

Chicago, Ill., Aug 5, 2012 (CNA) - Eight years ago, Brother Chad McCoy of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius at St. John Cantius Parish called around to see who could take part in a trip to Washington, D.C. for the annual March for Life.

He had no idea that it was the beginning of a new chapter in Chicago’s pro-life movement and the birth of the St. John Cantius pro-life teen group in which a significant role is played by Chicago Crusaders for Life.

As he loaded 15 kids into the van for the 2004 march in D.C., he hadn’t dreamed that a few years later this group would organize “pro-life flash mobs” around the entire country; honor pro-life leaders in Hollywood style by unrolling the red carpet for them; pray on a gigantic rosary made of balloons in the middle of the city for numbers of occasions or turn a formal political rally on Federal Plaza in Chicago to a swing dance festival to “swing public opinion” on the HHS mandate.

Nor could he imagine the impact of yellow balloons with a black imprint: “LIFE.”

The first March for Life surprised everyone with its stillness, McCoy said.

“People walked, prayed and left. There was no intensity or urgency,” said McCoy.

His group broke the silence by rallying on Capitol Hill shouting: “We love babies, yes we do! We love babies; how about you?”

“We lost our voices again and again,” said McCoy. Subsequent trips involved teens from public and private schools as well as homeschooled kids. Soon the trip required a bus.

Since then, about every two years, Brother McCoy has to charter an additional bus to transport everyone who wants to go to the rally.

Dramatic and good

“I haven’t ever experienced anything this dramatic in a good way,” said Aaron Brown, the president of the McHenry County College pro-life student organization in Crystal Lake, who has been with the Crusaders for the last five years.

But going on Marches for Life wasn’t enough for McCoy, who said, “Everybody went home and as a group we weren’t doing a lot for the culture of life.”

As a result, the St. John Cantius leaders created a rule that “everyone who goes on the March for Life should be involved in any pro-life causes, not only the antiabortion (cause), but generally life-affirming causes,” said McCoy.

Many prayed in front of abortion clinics, some visited hospitals, others fasted and signed up for the 40 Days for Life initiative.

“When you see that after your prayers, women change their minds, you know that you are saving babies,” said Julia Wool, 14, a freshman at Downers Grove North High School, who calls praying in front of the abortion clinics the highlight of her pro-life experience.

This rule bore fruit.

“Everyone had a more mature understanding of the reality of abortion,” said McCoy.

Balloons earning fame

The idea of carrying balloons surfaced when the group wanted something positive, happy and cool to carry.

“We wanted to show the joy of kids who have the Holy Spirit and are fired with love for the Lord and the truth,” McCoy said.

He asked what would symbolize all of that and the group shouted an answer: “Balloons, balloons!”

The color yellow came naturally. “It goes back to the time when after the election of Pope Benedict XVI, we countered the group of protesters in front of Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, wearing the pope’s gold and yellow colors,” said McCoy.

The balloons made an enormous impact during the March for Life.

“It was not just one balloon per person but clusters of balloons. It became our symbol,” said McCoy.

They earned more fame with the pro-life flash mob in February 2011 at Daley Plaza. The group was peacefully protesting a Walk for Choice.

“We transported the helium balloons in black garbage bags and as the sound of the Lord of the Rings played from a stereo system built into a backpack, they popped out all around the plaza,” McCoy said.

The whole event was recorded and uploaded online.

“Before we knew it, all Catholic media were picking it up,” said McCoy. They received requests for yellow balloons and help organizing pro-life flash mobs all over the country.

They have been involved in pro-life rallies in Michigan, Ohio, California, Texas and Ireland. They have sent about 25,000 printed yellow balloons to different pro-life groups.

Crusaders for Life is the official pro-life St. John Cantius group but the pro-life teenage group includes many youth from surrounding parishes as well. They are committed to being educated on all life issues.

Once a month between 30 to 60 people show up to pray, play, dance, listen to a speaker, save time for confession, soccer, bonfires, sledding and ice skating.

Luke Drong, a recent graduate from Lockport High School who is thinking about an engineering career, said the Crusaders made him a better person over all but the mission alone inspires him.

“The people who are in it know what they are doing, and they get the job done,” he said.

For more information about the Crusaders for Life, email Brother McCoy at [email protected] or call (312) 243-7373.

Posted with permission from the Catholic New World. Officials newspaper for the Archdiocese of Chicago, Illinois.

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Order of Preachers founder St. Dominic celebrated Aug. 8

Denver, Colo., Aug 5, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Aug. 8, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of St. Dominic Guzman, who helped the cause of orthodoxy in the medieval Church by founding the Order of Preachers, also known as Dominicans.

“This great saint reminds us that in the heart of the Church a missionary fire must always burn,” Pope Benedict XVI said in a February 2010 General Audience talk on the life of St. Dominic. In his life, the Pope said, “the search for God's glory and the salvation of souls” went “hand in hand.”

Born in Caleruega, Spain around the year 1170, Dominic was the son of Felix Guzman and Joanna of Aza, members of the nobility. His mother would eventually be beatified by the Church, as would his brother Manes who became a Dominican. The family's oldest son Antonio also became a priest.

Dominic received his early education from his uncle, who was a priest, before entering the University of Palencia where he studied for ten years. In one notable incident from this period, he sold his entire collection of rare books to provide for the relief of the poor in the city.

After his ordination to the priesthood, Dominic was asked by Bishop Diego of Osma to participate in local church reforms. He spent nine years in Osma, pursuing a life of intense prayer, before being called to accompany the bishop on a piece of business for King Alfonso IX of Castile in 1203.

While traveling in France with the bishop, Dominic observed the bad effects of the Albigensian heresy, which had taken hold in southern France during the preceding century. The sect revived an earlier heresy, Manicheanism, which condemned the material world as an evil realm not created by God.

Dreading the spread of heresy, Dominic began to think about founding a religious order to promote the truth. In 1204 he and Bishop Diego were sent by Pope Innocent III to assist in the effort against the Albigensians, which eventually involved both military force and theological persuasion.

In France, Dominic engaged in doctrinal debates and set up a convent whose rule would eventually become a template for the life of female Dominicans. He continued his preaching mission from 1208 to 1215, during the intensification of the military effort against the Albigensians.

In 1214, Dominic returned to Tolouse and obtained the bishop's approval of his plan for an order dedicated to preaching. He and a group of followers gained local recognition as a religious congregation, and Dominic accompanied Tolouse's bishop to Rome for an ecumenical council in 1215.

The council stressed the Church's need for better preaching, but also set up a barrier to the institution of new religious orders. Dominic, however, obtained papal approval for his plan in 1216, and was named as the Pope's chief theologian. The Order of Preachers expanded in Europe with papal help in 1218.

The founder spent the last several years of his life building up the order and continuing his preaching missions, during which he is said to have converted some 100,000 people. After several weeks of illness, St. Dominic died in Italy on August 6, 1221. He was canonized in 1234 by Pope Gregory IX.

Corrected on August 10, 2012 at 12:23 MST. Removes reference to St. Dominic experiencing vision of Mary, which was based on what later proved to be forged documents.

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Portland charity celebrates 25 years of serving disabled community

Portland, Ore., Aug 5, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Portland, Oregon branch of an international charity that uses interpersonal relationships to serve people with developmental disabilities will celebrate its 25th year of service in the area.

“L'Arche is about creating a world where it is not just an act of charity to befriend a person with developmental disabilities but where it is an act of connecting with one’s own humanity,” Tamara Yates told CNA.

L'Arche Portland, which is just one of the 137 communities in 40 countries around the world, will commemorate over two decades in the community with a benefit concert and a new fund development campaign.

The Development and Communications Coordinator of L'Arche Portland said that by supporting the charity, she hopes that people will be opened up “to something more profound.”

The Sept. 22 concert, which will feature local musician Julianne Jonson and pianist Michael Allen Harrison, will be held at Madeleine Parish in Portland and will help support local the staff who live in community with those who have developmental challenges.

The “Sign of Hope” campaign, which will launch this fall, is seeking to raise $250 thousand a year for the next three years to work towards financial sustainability and to be able to pay staff “just and livable salaries.”

Their founder, a French Canadian named Jean Vanier, began the community over 45 years ago after visiting his mentor in Paris, who introduced to him the suffering of people with developmental disabilities in local institutions.

Vanier then decided to quit his job, relocate to France and invite two of the men from one of those institutions to live with him.

“Back then it was a really radical thing for him to do,” Yates said.

She explained that Vanier recognized that the suffering of the men he visited was not necessarily due to their disabilities, but rather as a result of the “isolation they were experiencing from being housed in these asylums.”

Yates said that, unfortunately, it is often the case that people with development challenges often lack strong interpersonal relationships even if they have caretakers.

As a result, “every L'Arche community is about creating home,” Yates said, rather than just providing care.

“Core members,” or those with developmental disabilities, live in community with their caretakers and are considered an integral part of L'Arche's work.

“The core members are at the heart,” Yates said, “and we build our community around them and their needs.”

To build on the family aspect of the home, community members participate in weekly outings and volunteer throughout the Portland area through a program dubbed “L'Arche Lends a Hand.”

A favorite project among residents and staff is the bi-monthly birthday parties they throw for the local Maybelle MacDonald homeless shelter.

L’Arche Portland is discerning possible options for growth in the near future. 

One possibility could be to open one or more additional homes.

Another possibility may emerge from a model currently being explored by the State of Oregon known as “lifesharing.” This model, which exists on the East Coast, consists of single families inviting a person with a developmental disability to live with them in their home as family.

If this model emerges in Oregon, L’Arche would be uniquely suited to providing formation and guidance for the families and the adults with disabilities whom they welcome.

“We are really excited about getting our financial ducks in a row so that we can step into this new growth with enthusiasm and confidence as it emerges,” Yates said.

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Pope Benedict challenges believers to put God before worldly cares

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 5, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - God's promise of a new and eternal life deserves priority over earthly desires for things that can never satisfy the heart, Pope Benedict XVI taught in his Aug. 5 Sunday Angelus address at Castel Gandolfo.

“Jesus wants to help people move beyond the immediate satisfaction of their material needs, although they are important too. He wants to open a horizon of existence which is not simply that of the daily concerns of eating, dressing and career,” the Pope told pilgrims at his summer residence.

The true “center of existence,” giving “full meaning and firm hope” to life, “is faith in Jesus … our encounter with Christ,” the Pope reflected.

Thousands of enthusiastic visitors listened from the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace as the Pope discussed Sunday's reading from the “Bread of Life” discourse in the Gospel of John.

In it, Christ tells the multitude not to labor for the “food that perishes” but “for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” Jesus proclaims himself as “the bread of life,” declaring: “Whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Pope Benedict stressed that this encounter with Christ goes far beyond “an idea” or “a project,” to reach Jesus “as a living person” who wants everyone “to be fully involved with him and his Gospel.”

In the midst of everyday concerns, Christ calls humanity to “look ahead and to open the human horizon to the horizon of God, the horizon of faith.”

During their journey of faith, believers are sustained by something infinitely greater than the miraculous manna given to the Israelites in the Old Testament. Jesus, the Pope said, does not merely “give something,” but instead “gives himself” to the faithful in Holy Communion.

“Let us put our faith in him, and let us put our trust in his promises, so that we may have life in abundance,” the Pope urged the crowd, before leading them in reciting the traditional midday Marian prayer.

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Guadalupe message resounds at Los Angeles' massive Marian festival

Los Angeles, Calif., Aug 5, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Virgin Mary will accompany the Church in the New Evangelization, just as she did during the first preaching of the Gospel in the Americas, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez told around 100,000 devotees at the Aug. 5 Guadalupe Celebration.

“Our Lady of Guadalupe is calling us today, my brothers and sisters,” the archbishop said in his keynote address to one of the largest Catholic gatherings in U.S. history at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. “She is calling us to greater faith, to greater love, to greater hope.”

“She is calling us to dedicate our lives to the loving plan of God. To everything for his glory,” he said, stressing the Virgin Mary’s message to honor God “in our homes, in our families, in our neighborhoods and communities, in our political life.”

“Let’s ask Our Lady of Guadalupe – the bright star of the first evangelization and the Mother of the New Evangelization – to help us all to be better instruments of the love of God, so that everyone in our world may come to love him,” the archbishop told the coliseum crowd.

Sunday’s event, co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was one of the city’s largest Catholic celebrations in recent memory. It is the Knights' second such gathering, following the 2009 Guadalupe Festival in Arizona.

From 3 p.m. onward, the Los Angeles stadium was filled with prayer, music, and talks in honor of Jesus Christ and his mother, who appeared to Saint Juan Diego in 1531 to herald the evangelization of the world’s Western Hemisphere.

Speakers at the Guadalupe Celebration included Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus, and Monsignor Eduardo Chavez, who oversaw the canonization cause of St. Juan Diego.

On display at the celebration, for veneration by the faithful, was the only U.S.-based relic of the Tilma of Guadalupe – the saint's garment that was imprinted with a miraculous image of the Virgin.

Though that image has become an unmistakable part of Hispanic culture, its meaning transcends ethnic and geographical boundaries, as Archbishop Gomez stressed in his keynote address.

“Our Lady of Guadalupe is not only the Mother of the people of Mexico,” the Los Angeles Church leader observed. “She is the Mother of all the peoples of the Americas! She is the New Eve. She is the Mother of all the living!”

He pointed out that Mary’s message to St. Juan Diego, given at the now-famous Tepeyac Hill, is the same Gospel message that the Church proclaims to all nations and peoples.

“My brothers and sisters, we are all children of Our Lady’s mission at Tepeyac! All of us! We are all Guadalupanos!” 

As she appeared to St. Juan Diego, Mary announced herself as both “the mother of the true God” and “your compassionate Mother, yours and that of all the people that live together in this land, and also of all the other various lineages of men.”

St. Juan Diego, an indigenous peasant and Catholic convert, “heard her voice and carried out the will of God,” Archbishop Gomez recalled. Nine million Mexicans are said to have become Catholic in the seven years that followed the apparition.

Present-day believers, in Mexico and elsewhere, “received the gift of faith because our ancestors kept our faith alive and passed it on to us – through generations and generations, even in the darkest times,” Archbishop Gomez observed.

To illustrate this devotion to the faith, and the international nature of the Guadalupe message, he told the story of Blessed Maria Ines Teresa Arias.

Beatified last April in Mexico City, the 20th century blessed fled Mexico during the time of the Cristero War – “when it was a crime to believe in Jesus Christ and to want to worship him,” Archbishop Gomez noted.

Having joined the Poor Clare sisters in Mexico City, Maria Ines came to the U.S. in 1929, receiving her habit as a novice in Los Angeles. On the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1930, she had a mystical experience in which she heard the Virgin Mary promise to accompany her in doing God’s work.

Though she returned to Mexico in 1931, “she heard her missionary calling here,” the L.A. archbishop recalled.

Bl. Maria Ines founded the Poor Clare Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, sending women to proclaim the Gospel through consecrated life in 14 countries.

She charged her sisters “to carry the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, so that she – through her maternal tenderness –  would bring her Divine Son to live in the hearts of those who hunger for God without knowing it.”

Archbishop Gomez addressed that same advice to the crowd at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, encouraging Guadalupe Celebration participants to deepen their faith and pass it on to others.

“Jesus Christ wants to make use of us. Just as he made use of St. Juan Diego. Just as he made use of Blessed María Ines,” he reflected. “He wants us to be apostles and missionaries. And Our Lady of Guadalupe will accompany us in all our endeavors.”

“My brothers and sisters, now it is our turn. The mission of Tepeyac continues today. It continues in you and me! Our Lady of Guadalupe is counting on us now!”

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