Tiffin, Iowa, Oct 14, 2012 (CNA) - Matt Wellendorf’s favorite prayer is the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in song. During the Liturgy of the Eucharist at Mass, he becomes reverent. And he won’t go to sleep before his mother prays with him.
Despite a chromosomal abnormality that left him unable to walk or talk, the 27-year-old has a sense of spirituality, said his parents, David and Regina Wellendorf.
Most people think those with developmental or mental disabilities have no faith life because they can’t understand religion, David said. “But they’re human beings.”
Members of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Iowa City, he and his wife have worked to help Matt encounter the richness of Catholicism and enjoy other life experiences that people without disabilities do.
Matt attends Mass at St. Wenceslaus and belongs to the Knights of Columbus there. With help, he played Little League baseball as a child. And he graduated from Clear Creek Amana High School at age 21.
Such accomplishments are especially significant to parents who weren’t sure what he’d be able to do when he was born Oct. 11, 1985.
“We could see he didn’t look quite right,” said Regina, already a mother to 7-year-old Allisa and 4-year-old Nathan, neither of whom have disabilities.
Matt’s feet were turned inward. His chin was receded and his ears were set low. He didn’t eat right. As he grew, he seemed oblivious to his parents’ presence, and they suspected he couldn’t hear.
Three months after his birth, a DNA test showed there was too much material on his eighth chromosome. But that knowledge didn’t answer the most important question the Wellendorfs had.
“We were asking, who can tell us what to do? Where can we get help? No one could answer us,” Regina said.
Then living in Boone, they finally heard about a local Area Education Agency six months after Matt’s birth. The agency later began providing some in-home therapy, Regina recalled.
Despite the assistance, she realized he wouldn’t make some milestones — such as dating or receiving the sacrament of confirmation. But David focused on the present. “Just don’t hurt him,” the father said.
A parents’ education panel helped him understand family members react differently to discovering a child has special needs.
But David and Regina agreed on the importance of faith in Matt’s life. The baby was baptized in a quickly arranged ceremony before he underwent surgery on a hernia. When Matt was less than a year old, his mother took him to Des Moines for a healing service that a priest from out of state was celebrating in the city.
At the service, she prayed her son would at least receive the ability to hear music. “We’ve been told he’s profoundly deaf,” she said. Scans from childhood show that nerves required for hearing are missing from his brain stem.
Yet today he responds with vocalizations to music, especially Catholic hymns, his parents said.
Matt enjoys listening to them while watching televised Masses on the Catholic cable TV network EWTN. Seeing the Liturgy of the Eucharist has a special effect on him, Regina said. “He could be antsy, but gets giggly when the Eucharist comes on TV because he knows what it is.”
Other highlights of his days include visits from his four nieces and nephews, Nathan’s children, who live in North Liberty. Matt also appreciates visits from Allisa, a physical therapist in Virginia. “He just loves being with family,” Regina said.
He lives with his parents at their Tiffin home. Both spouses work – Regina as a nurse in the operating room at Mercy Iowa City, and David as volunteer coordinator for Table to Table in Iowa City. So representatives of The Arc of Southeast Iowa help care for Matt during the day.
David and Regina acknowledged the challenges of caring for their youngest child. There are limits on where and for how long the family can travel – Matt can sit for only two-and-a-half hours at time. He needs help eating, and isn’t always agreeable to exercising with a walker.
His parent’s selflessness in caring for him is a model for others, said David Fetzer, a member of the Knights of Columbus at St. Wenceslaus. “Without a second thought, David and Regina exclude themselves from many things that you and I consider normal, because if Matthew cannot participate, neither do they. They devote their lives to their children, and thus their family is very close and happy!”
Fetzer said they inspire St. Wenceslaus, which in turn has supported the Wellendorfs. A parishioner once stayed overnight with Matt when his parents weren’t available. During coffee and doughnuts after Mass, Catholics talk to him. “He loves that fellowship,” David said. And Father Mike Phillips, pastor, has shown Matt such kindness, Regina said.
“The parish has been great. Part of the reason we go there is because they made a handicapped entrance” that accommodates Matt’s wheelchair, David said. The church added a west entrance with an elevator, handicapped-accessible restrooms and a new, wider wheelchair ramp in 2007.
Such accommodations reflect Catholics’ responsibility to people in need. “Without people to care for, how can you exercise your humanity?” David asked.
Posted with permission from The Catholic Messenger, official newspaper of the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa.
Denver, Colo., Oct 14, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
On Oct. 17, the Roman Catholic Church remembers the early Church Father, bishop, and martyr Saint Ignatius of Antioch, whose writings attest to the sacramental and hierarchical nature of the Church from its earliest days. Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate his memory on Dec. 20.
In a 2007 general audience on St. Ignatius of Antioch, Pope Benedict XVI observed that “no Church Father has expressed the longing for union with Christ and for life in him with the intensity of Ignatius.” In his letters, the Pope said, “one feels the freshness of the faith of the generation which had still known the Apostles. In these letters, the ardent love of a saint can also be felt.”
Born in Syria in the middle of the first century A.D., Ignatius is said to have been personally instructed – along with another future martyr, Saint Polycarp – by the Apostle Saint John. When Ignatius became the Bishop of Antioch around the year 70, he assumed leadership of a local church that was, according to tradition, first led by Saint Peter before his move to Rome.
Although St. Peter transmitted his Papal primacy to the bishops of Rome rather than Antioch, the city played an important role in the life of the early Church. Located in present-day Turkey, it was a chief city of the Roman Empire, and was also the location where the believers in Jesus' teachings and his resurrection were first called “Christians.”
Ignatius led the Christians of Antioch during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian, the first of the emperors to proclaim his divinity by adopting the title “Lord and God.” Subjects who would not give worship to the emperor under this title could be punished with death. As the leader of a major Catholic diocese during this period, Ignatius showed courage and worked to inspire it in others.
After Domitian's murder in the year 96, his successor Nerva reigned only briefly, and was soon followed by the Emperor Trajan. Under his rule, Christians were once again liable to death for denying the pagan state religion and refusing to participate in its rites. It was during his reign that Ignatius was convicted for his Christian testimony and sent from Syria to Rome to be put to death.
Escorted by a team of military guards, Ignatius nonetheless managed to compose seven letters: six to various local churches throughout the empire (including the Church of Rome), and one to his fellow bishop Polycarp who would give his own life for Christ several decades later.
Ignatius' letters passionately stressed the importance of Church unity, the dangers of heresy, and the surpassing importance of the Eucharist as the “medicine of immortality.” These writings contain the first surviving written description of the Church as “Catholic,” from the Greek word indicating both universality and fullness.
One of the most striking features of Ignatius' letters, is his enthusiastic embrace of martyrdom as a means to union with God and eternal life. “All the pleasures of the world, and all the kingdoms of this earth, shall profit me nothing,” he wrote to the Church of Rome. “It is better for me to die in behalf of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth.”
“Now I begin to be a disciple,” the bishop declared. “Let fire and the cross; let the crowds of wild beasts; let tearings, breakings, and dislocations of bones; let cutting off of members; let shatterings of the whole body; and let all the dreadful torments of the devil come upon me: only let me attain to Jesus Christ.”
St. Ignatius of Antioch bore witness to Christ publicly for the last time in Rome's Flavian Amphitheater, where he was mauled to death by lions. “I am the wheat of the Lord,” he had declared, before facing them. “I must be ground by the teeth of these beasts to be made the pure bread of Christ.” His memory was honored, and his bones venerated, soon after his death around the year 107.
Washington D.C., Oct 14, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Legendary referee Kerry Fraser is known for his trademark hairstyle and holds the record for most National Hockey League games called. However, Fraser’s life was most deeply touched by a different kind of call – one that led to his conversion to the Catholic faith.
“It was overwhelming and powerful,” he said, explaining that God reached out to him through his wife and never stopped calling.
Fraser told the story of his conversion at the second annual Courage Awards Reception, hosted by Catholic Athletes for Christ on Oct. 9.
The ceremony honored local athletes from Catholic high schools, and Fraser received the 2012 Courage Award for living and sharing his Catholic faith with others in an exemplary way.
The record-holding referee explained that he grew up in a household without a strong faith. Starting what would become a 30-year career in the NHL, he worked hard to be in control of his life.
“It was all about me,” he said, and that created problems. “It was me that needed to be fixed. I was broken.”
His wife, Kathy, was Catholic and prayed to the Blessed Mother for her husband.
“Through the Holy Spirit and the grace of God, I was led every step of the way,” he said, reflecting on the events that led to his conversion.
In addition to the powerful witness of his wife and other people that God placed in his life, Fraser said that he experienced several “mystical events” that he attributes to God’s love and mercy, including one instance while driving to Pittsburgh, in which he saw an image in the sun of a baby in its mother’s womb and two joined hearts.
He converted to Catholicism in 1995, developed a deep devotion to the Rosary and began attending daily Mass, despite being on the road frequently for work.
As he began living his new Catholic faith and allowing the Lord to take control of his life, Fraser started to experience a profound peace.
“My life changed,” he said. “My heart changed.”
Despite the new challenges and obstacles that arose, Fraser always found an abundance of grace. His conversion touched both his family and his professional relationships.
“I was carrying the armor of Christ with me onto the ice,” he said.
Fraser told about how his faith influenced him in an encounter with player, Theo Fleury, a talented but “troubled” star who was known for his physical style of play.
In one 1996 game, Fleury showered Fraser with foul language and threw his helmet at him, calling for a fight.
Fraser said that his human reaction would have been to kick the helmet back in Fleury’s face, but instead, he looked for “a better way,” maintaining his temper and disciplining the player according to the rules of the game.
A few years later, Fraser recalled, Fleury came to him during a break in a game with tears in his eyes. A player on the opposing team, Tyson Nash, had been mocking Fleury about his drug and alcohol addictions, which he had been desperately working to treat, and he was overwhelmed.
While Fraser could have brushed him off or even ridiculed him, given Fleury’s attack on him in 1996, he chose instead to look upon the hockey player with the eyes of Christ.
“I saw a wounded human being there,” he said, explaining that he convinced Nash to apologize for his remarks.
Years later, he said, Nash confessed that the encounter had been a “life-altering situation” that prompted him to re-evaluate who he was and how he was acting on the ice.
“We never know what kind of effect we might have on people; how we can make a difference,” Fraser observed.
He explained that truly living out the Catholic faith will make a difference in the lives of those around us, even if we don’t always see the result. This is why we need to proudly “carry our Catholic faith with us and live it” in our schools, businesses and families, not acting ashamed or hiding it, he said.
Fraser encouraged student athletes to use their sports to glorify God, whether it is noticed or not.
“Continue to stay in the light. Lead by example,” he said. “Christ set the bar very high. But the reward is incredible.”
Vatican City, Oct 14, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI said that although riches should pose no barrier to serving the Kingdom of God, Christ's love fulfills humanity's deepest needs in a way that wealth is unable to.
“God can win the heart of a person who has many goods,” the pontiff said during his mid-day Angelus from his window overlooking a sunny St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 14.
The Pope addressed a crowd of thousands, packed with Church leaders and pilgrims here in Rome since last week’s start of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization and the Church’s Year of Faith.
He based his remarks upon today’s Gospel reading about the young rich man who wanted to follow Christ but walked away sorrowful.
“He was a person who from his youth faithfully observed all the commandments of God's law, but had not yet found true happiness, and for this he asks Jesus how to ‘inherit life eternal,’” said the Pope.
“On the one hand he is attracted, like everyone else, to the fullness of life; and on the other, being accustomed to rely on their own wealth, he thinks that eternal life can be in somehow ‘bought’” by following the forms of God’s law.
Yet the rich young man turned down Christ’s invitation to give all that he had and give it to the poor and come follow Jesus to store up riches in heaven.
“Instead of joyfully welcoming Jesus’ invitation, he goes away grieved because he cannot be detached from his wealth,” the Holy Father said. This attachment “will never give him happiness and eternal life.”
The Pope said that wealth should pose no barrier to salvation, the caveat being doing so with God’s help.
Citing the Gospel reading, the Pope noted Christ’s warning: “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
This statement shocked Christ’s disciples, the Pope noted, reminding the assembly in St. Peter’s Square of Christ’s follow-up: “This is impossible for men but not for God; everything is possible with God.”
The Church is “filled with examples of rich people who have used their assets in an evangelical way and reached holiness,” he added. “Just think of St. Francis, St. Elizabeth of Hungary or St. Charles Borromeo.”
Returning to the Parable of the Rich Man, the pontiff quoted the 2nd century Church Father, St. Clement of Alexandria:
“The parable teaches that the rich should not neglect their salvation as if they were convicted, nor should they jettison wealth nor condemn it as insidious and hostile to life, but they must learn how to use wealth and obtain the life.”