Madrid, Spain, Aug 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A Spanish women's religious order that has welcomed in pilgrims traveling on the Way of St. James for over thirteen years, is now burgeoning with new vocations.
The Augustinians of Conversion began their journey in 1999, when Mother Prado left the country's Augustinian convent where she had been living for several years.
Together with three other sisters, she founded a growing religious community in Becerril de Campos, in northwestern Spain, near the Way of St. James.
Mother Prado felt “a very strong calling to a more contemplative life,” which led her to begin a community in a small town in the region of Castilla and Leon.
Thirteen years later, the Augustinians of Conversion now number 26, with eight more sisters who are in the process of discernment and who may fully join the community in September.
According to Religion en Libertad, one of their primary apostolates is to welcome pilgrims who are traveling on the Way of St. James to the city of Santiago de Compostela.
Emma, a pilgrim from Ireland who had been on the Way for seven days before reaching the hostel operated by the nuns, said that at every other hostel she has been to, “You come in, you pay, they put you up and the next day you go. It seems like it is only a business. Here it is different.”
During their stay at the nuns' hostel, pilgrims get together for a Mass, receive the pilgrim's blessing, and share a special dinner at night.
It didn’t take long for these encounters to begin to have an effect on the pilgrims.
Erika, a young Spanish teacher at the University of Budapest, joined the Augustinians of Conversion after her experience with the nuns.
Elizabeth, a young woman from Germany, had a similar experience at the hostel and discovered her vocation to the religious life.
Recently the community moved to a new home, made possible through the donations of benefactors, in the town of Sotillo de la Adrada in Avila.
More information on the Augustinians of Conversion can be found at:
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI is calling on Argentineans to be generous during a special collection to be held in the country on Sept. 9.
Locals should “bring a word of encouragement and an effective display of charity to those most in need,” he said in a message to the country's bishops.
The Pope's appeal was sent to the president of the Bishops' Committee on Aid to Regions Most in Need, Bishop Adolfo Uriona, who is organizing the collection that will be taken up in all parishes in Argentina on the second Sunday of September.
In his message, Pope Benedict XVI invited Argentineans to “intensify their love for Christ, so that by identifying themselves more and more with the one who, though he was rich, became poor for us, they may bring a word of encouragement and an effective display of charity to those most in need.”
The Pope entrusted the fruits of the special collection to the intercession of Our Lady of Lujan – the patroness of Argentina – and he bestowed his apostolic blessing upon all those who participate in it.
Vatican City, Aug 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Vatican Observatory director Fr. José Gabriel Funes thinks that “everybody” should be happy with the successful landing of the Mars science rover Curiosity.
Fr. Funes said he liked the rover’s name because curiosity is “a driving force to do science, to do research.”
“Human beings are basically curious,” he told Vatican Radio Aug. 6. “We want to know how many things in the universe work, the logic, the ‘logos’ in the universe.”
The priest explained that this drive for knowledge has a basis in the nature of creation.
“Because there is rationality in the universe, we can do science,” he said.
After a 36-week flight from Earth, the rover touched down on Mars early Monday morning near the base of a three-mile-tall mountain inside Gale Crater. The Curiosity rover has sent back wide-angle images of the Martian surface. It will send back more images and scientific measurements throughout its operations.
The $2.5 billion mission is run out of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
For almost two years, the rover will explore whether the crater area ever had favorable conditions for microbial life, according to NASA.
Fr. Funes said that the search for extraterrestrial life is one of the things that has motivated humanity to explore space.
“Until now, we do not have any evidence for life. But still, the search for life is worthwhile and we can learn many things,” he said, acknowledging that scientists may not find signs of life.
The Vatican Observatory director rejected the idea that Catholics have anything to fear from the search for extraterrestrial life or from scientific exploration.
“(W)e are not afraid of science, we are not afraid of new results, new discoveries,” he said.
“That’s the reason why the Catholic Church has an observatory,” he explained. “We are not afraid of the truth. Whatever the truth might be, we are open to new results, once they are confirmed by the scientific community.”
The Vatican Observatory is headquartered at the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, Italy. Its origins date back to Pope Gregory XIII’s reform of the calendar in the 16th century. Pope Leo XIII formally refounded the present observatory in 1891.
Vatican City, Aug 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The new head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says he wants the department to play a positive role in the New Evangelization, rather than simply responding to doctrinal problems as they arise.
“The task of this congregation is not only to defend the Catholic faith but to promote it, to give the positive aspects and possibilities of the whole richness of the Catholic faith,” Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller told CNA in a July 20 interview.
“We must speak about God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and also about Holy Scripture, the great Tradition of the Church, our Creed and our belief. In this way our hearts will be more open and our thinking more profound,” he said.
The 64-year-old former Bishop of Regensburg, Germany was appointed to his new Vatican post by Pope Benedict on July 2.
“The Holy Father did not ask me. He nominated me without discussion,” he laughed. The Pope said, “‘you have to do it,’ and you cannot give a negative answer to the wishes of the Holy Father!”
The two German theologians have had a long association. Archbishop Muller hesitates to use the word “friendship,” since in German it usually refers to someone of the same age bracket, whereas Pope Benedict “is one generation older than me.”
However, Archbishop Muller does still consider their relationship “a friendship ... but he has the role of father and I have the role of son.”
Archbishop Muller still recalls the intellectual impact of Father Joseph Ratzinger’s “Introduction to Christianity,” published in 1968 at the height of the campus rebellions across the western world. “He re-vindicated our faith and convinced us of the reasonableness of Catholic belief; he re-established our confidence in the Church,” the archbishop remarked.
He is now in charge of editing the writings or “Omnia Opera” of Pope Benedict XVI, a grand project that will stretch to 16 volumes.
He described Pope Benedict as “a great intellectual and an important thinker for today,” particularly when it comes to “explaining the depth and richness of our Christian faith” to contemporary society.
“It’s too early to speak about the legacy of this papacy, but in a certain sense we can compare our present Holy Father with the great intellectual pontiffs of history, such as Pope Leo the Great in 5th century and Benedict XIV in the 18th century.”
Archbishop Gerhard Muller was born in 1947 in the Mainz region of Germany into a family of four – one brother and two sisters. He is still very much a family man, and boasts of being an uncle to 22 nephews and nieces, with “number 23 coming soon.”
He studied philosophy and theology in the German cities of Mainz, Munich, and Freiburg, producing not one but two doctorates. The first focused on the work of the 20th-century Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, while the second explored the veneration of saints, “a very Catholic subject,” he noted.
After his studies, he was named a professor of dogmatic theology at the University of Munich “for 16 happy years,” he recalled with a laugh. A decade ago, Pope John Paul II appointed him the Bishop of Regensburg.
His trajectory in life has been almost identical to his mentor Pope Benedict – an academic career followed by an episcopal appointment, followed by a transfer to the Roman Curia. In fact, he now occupies the same Vatican job that Pope Benedict fulfilled from 1981 to 2005.
Archbishop Muller’s latest appointment, however, has been met with a degree of criticism from some who allege he holds unorthodox views on a range of issues – from the perpetual virginity of Our Lady, to the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, to the relationship of non-Catholic Christians to the Church.
“These are not criticisms, they are provocations. And not very intelligent provocations at that,” he said. “Either they have not read what I have written or they have not understood it.”
“Our Catholic faith is very clear,” he explained,“that at the consecration during Mass a change occurs so that the whole substance of the bread and wine is changed into the whole substance body and blood of Jesus Christ, and that this change is rightly called transubstantiation. And we have refused to accept all the other interpretations, consubstantiation, transignification, transfinalisation and so on.”
The Church is also equally clear on the “virginity of Mary, mother of Jesus, mother of God, before, during and after the birth of Christ,” Archbishop Muller stated.
As for inter-Christian relations, the archbishop noted that in his 4-5th century debates with the Donatists, St. Augustine underscored that the Church recognizes“everybody who is validly baptized is incorporated into Christ,” even if they are not in full communion with the Catholic Church.
But on a more pressing note, Archbishop Muller has to deal with the issue of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the United States. In April 2012 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith called for a reform of America’s largest female religious group, after a four-year audit or “doctrinal assessment” concluded there was a “crisis” of belief throughout its ranks.
Earlier this month group’s president, Sister Pat Farrell, suggested that the key question in their discussions with the Vatican is, “Can one be Catholic and have a questioning mind?”
Archbishop Muller’s answer is a clear: “Because faith and reason belong together, it is obviously not incompatible to be Catholic and to have a questioning mind - but we cannot have negotiations about revealed truth,” he said. “We are in communion with the Church only in so far as we accept the whole and the complete revelation of Jesus Christ, all the doctrine of the Church.”
He is extremely reluctant, though, to go to war with the American religious sisters. Instead, Archbishop Muller wants to “come together and not to struggle against each other or be suspicious of each other.”
“We are sisters and brothers of Christ and we want to work together, not like a political party or a human organization, but we are the family of God, the body of Christ,” he said.
Another matter that has raised questions is his long standing friendship with the Peruvian theologian Father Gustavo Gutiérrez, one of the principle founders of “Liberation Theology,” Archbishop Muller was similarly robust.
He explained that there are various schools of “Liberation Theology,” stressing that “we have to make differences between them” as some are “in the line of a Marxist and communist analysis of reality” which the Catholic Church would condemn.
“I think that Gustavo Gutiérrez, I know him personally, he is not of this line. He is a very good Catholic,” said Archbishop Muller, who spent 15 summers teaching and working in South America.
He sees the matter as one of not dividing or separating “the love (of) God and the love towards our neighbor.”
As a native of Mainz, Archbishop Muller said he takes great inspiration from the region’s 19th-century bishop, Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler, a pioneer of modern Catholic social thinking. His work subsequently influenced the pontificate of Pope Leo XIII and, in particular, his 1891 social encyclical “Rerum Novarum.”
It is this vision of Catholic social teaching, the archbishop believes, that “helped to rebuild a democratic Germany after the war” and which has been repeatedly reflected in more recent Church documents such as the Second Vatican Council’s “Gaudium et Spes” and Pope Paul VI’s 1967 encyclical “Populorum Progressio.”
Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Groups of choirs, dancers, artists, poets and horn blowers from Pope Benedict XVI’s native Bavaria visited the pontiff at Castel Gandolfo on Friday as a belated birthday present.
Over 1,000 pilgrims from Bavaria visited the papal summer residence under the leadership of Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Vatican Radio reports.
Men, women and children dressed in colorful lederhosen and summer dresses for a Bavarian Hour in honor of the Pope’s 85th birthday this past April.
Pope Benedict said that their folk songs and their Bavarian dialect reminded him of his homeland, which he gave high praise.
He said that God has made it easy for Bavarians because he gave them “a land so beautiful that it is easy to recognize that God is good and be happy.”
God enabled Bavarians to give their land its full beauty through their culture, their faith, and their songs, music and art, the Pope continued. Bavarian culture is not “rude” or “rowdy” but cheerful and “imbued with joy, born from an inner acceptance of the world, from an inner yes to life that is a yes to joy.”
This joy, he said, is “based on the fact that we are in harmony with the Creation, in harmony with the Creator himself and this is why we know it is good to be man,” he said.
The Pope connected this joy with the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
“The world is beautiful and God is good and He became man and entered into us, suffers and lives with us,” he said. “God is good and it is good to be man.”
The Pope added that despite the suffering, darkness, and pain of the world, it is legitimate to be “defiantly joyful” because denying this joy “benefits no one, it only makes the world darker.”
Those who do not love themselves cannot love or help their fellow man, he noted.
“We live in this joy, and try to bring this joy to others, to reject evil and to be servants of peace and reconciliation,” he told the Bavarian delegation.
Pope Benedict thanked Cardinal Marx, Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, the performers and his other visitors.
“I was deeply touched by everything and I am very happy and grateful,” he said.
He joined in the traditional Bavarian farewell folk song before departing.
Milwaukee, Wis., Aug 6, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki expressed sorrow and promised prayers after a gunman killed six people at a local Sikh temple before he was shot and died.
“Our prayers go out to the congregation at the temple and to the entire Sikh community,” Archbishop Listecki said in an Aug. 5 statement responding to the Sunday morning murders, committed by Wade Michael Page at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin.
“It is in times like these that we turn to God who is the consolation and hope for all of us,” the Milkwaukee archbishop reflected.
The archdiocese expressed its closeness to victims as well as families, friends, and emergency responders involved in the shooting.
Several dozen adherents of the Indian religion were reportedly gathering for a service when Page began shooting with a 9mm handgun, killing six people and seriously wounding three including one police officer. A fourth victim has been treated and released from the hospital.
Page died after being shot by police. He was later identified as a 40-year-old U.S. Army veteran who had served for six years before being discharged for misconduct in 1998. His motive for the shootings is unknown.
The FBI is investigating the murders as a case of domestic terrorism. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks white supremacists and others it classifies as “hate groups,” said on Monday that Page was “a frustrated neo-Nazi who had been the leader of a racist white-power band.”
Sikhism, founded during the late 15th century, is one of India's main religions and the majority religion in the Punjab region. It has around 27 million members, around 500,000 of whom live in the U.S.