Archive of October 16, 2012

Classical education enlivens Denver Catholic school

Denver, Colo., Oct 16, 2012 (CNA) - Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School based in Denver, Colo., has nearly doubled its enrollment in just one year by introducing a classical curriculum.

“This is something people want, and they've wanted it for a long time, and now it's available,” principal Rosemary Anderson told CNA Oct. 10.

Our Lady of Lourdes is a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade school. The parish's pastor, Monsignor Peter Quang Nguyen, had helped turn around a number of schools in the Archdiocese of Denver which had been in danger of closing. He was assigned to Lourdes five years ago.

When Msgr. Quang hired Anderson to be principal in June 2011, the school was in “quite a bit of debt” and had only 104 students enrolled. That figure is 180 today.

The school's capacity is 235 and Anderson believes that by the next school year, “we'll have to start wait-listing kids.”

“The biggest problem when I came on was that everyone thought the school was going under. The attitude has changed...Now people know this place will be there, and their kids are getting a phenomenal education, and parents don't have to worry that it will close in a few years.”

“I'm very grateful for Monsignor Quang's support. None of this would have happened if he wasn't completely on board,” she added. “We were right in this together.”

Anderson noted that classical education is meant to help students learn how to think, rather than merely teaching them “subjects.” The program at Lourdes school was inspired by 20th century author Dorothy Sayers' essay “The Lost Tools of Learning,” and the work of Laura Berquist, who was involved in the founding of Thomas Aquinas College – a Catholic university in southern Calif. which uses the classical model.

“She's a huge influence,” Anderson said, “she founded a homeschooling curriculum called 'Mother of Divine Grace' and is brilliant in the ways of classical education.”

The foundation of classical education is a set of three methods of learning subjects, called the trivium, which is made up of grammar, logic, and rhetoric.

Lourdes school will focus on the grammar and logic phases, and will introduce the eighth graders to rhetoric.

The trivium “happens pretty naturally” using the classical curriculum, and ideas of grammar and logic and integrated into the subjects taught to students: “it flows naturally from the way teachers are teaching,” Anderson expressed.

This year saw the hiring of five new teachers, in a faculty of 15 total. And out of those five, four have either had a classical education or taught in a classical school,  Anderson reported. “I brought in people who know what the vision is...they're confident in how to teach” classically.

Anderson noted that the school drew in numerous students who had previously been schooled at home. Several homeschooling parents enrolled their children as this type of education wasn't available before. “Now they know there's something that will sync up with what they've taught” their children.

Several non-Catholic families have also come to Lourdes just for the classical education, Anderson said. She expects that group to grow as well, “because it's a great education.”

Parents at the school are very invested in the classical model, which she “welcomes completely.” She pointed to the Catholic teaching that parents are the primary educators of their children, and that “we're just here to help them.”

Anderson was encouraged to differentiate her school, and with the “support and knowledge”of Bishop James D. Conley – former apostolic administrator of the archdiocese – chose to follow this approach to education as a way of imparting to students the art of learning.

“The classical approach is Catholic, through and through,” said Anderson. While “other schools are doing great things,” “no other Catholic schools in the diocese are doing this yet.”

The school's re-organization will be a three-year process. The first year, which is occurring presently, involves a re-vamp of the English department and the introduction of Latin classes.

Latin was introduced in place of Spanish because of its importance as the basis of all Romance languages. Students “logically process things better when they know Latin,” said Anderson. She pointed to high school freshmen who “test into honors French, without having had any French before, just by knowing the root language.”

Latin is important for the grammar stage of the trivium because its nouns decline, or change their ending according to function they are performing in a sentence. This helps students to better understand how languages work, and it is coupled with the memorization of poetry.

The second year of the school's rehabilitation will consist of a renewal of science and social studies.

“We're not necessarily changing the material we're teaching, but how it's given to the kids, which is a step away from dependency on textbooks,” said Anderson.

Students will be reading more primary sources for history, and in English classes, reading historical novels to tie-in with their history classes.

“All the classes are very intertwined. What they're reading in English should correspond to what they're learning in history, and in history should be able to carry over to the virtues they're learning about in religion, so it's all very integrated.”

Morgan McGinn is in her second year at the school, and teaches second grade. She discussed how the move to classical education has changed her teaching style.

“I have to read and discover knowledge on my own before I can share it with my kids...It's definitely changed my teaching; I can't just look at a book anymore and read the lesson, and be prepared for the next day.”

“I've had to almost flip everything I know about education upside-down to teach classically,” she said.

Her students are now “required to think more,” rather than having “the information they need to know fed to them.”

The holistic approach of classical education, meant to build up the whole person, translates to an emphasis on the fine arts. “We already had a great performing arts and speech department that was already very integrated,” said Anderson.

The school's music and performing arts teacher, Patricia Seeber, is a veteran of the school, having taught there for 13 years.

“The feel where we're at spiritually with the kids, that we're making that the most important part of the day, has shifted for the better,” she said.

“It just feels like they're really responding to it in a great way.”

In keeping with the introduction of Latin into the curriculum, Seeber has added Latin hymns among the songs prayed at the school's bi-weekly Masses.

“We raised the bar I think a step or two higher than a lot of schools do, and the kids really rise to the occasion.”

Lourdes' classical education is meant to help the students realize their full potential “spiritually, intellectually and socially,” and help draw them to God through the true, the good, and the beautiful.

The parish's maintenance director, Bryan Heier, reflected on Anderson's leadership at the school, saying “with enrollment as high as it is so quickly, she's doing something right.”

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Play tells story of death row inmate's Marian visions

Santa Monica, Calif., Oct 16, 2012 (CNA) - The story of a Mississippi death row inmate who admitted his guilt and converted to the Catholic faith after seeing apparitions of the Virgin Mary has come to the stage in a play that premiered in California last month.

Cathal Gallagher’s play “Claude Newman: A Miracle on Death Row” dramatizes the last days of Claude Newman, a convicted murder executed in Vicksburg, Miss. in 1944 for killing his grandmother’s abusive lover.

Gallagher explained to CNA on Oct. 15 that Newman’s alleged death row visions of the Virgin Mary changed him.

“On the night he was supposed to die, there was a reprieve from the governor, a two week stay of execution. Claude Newman didn’t want the stay. He said ‘if you looked into her eyes, and looked into her face, you wouldn’t want to live another minute’.”

“When I heard all that,” Gallagher said, “I thought ‘this sounds like a good play’!”

The play is running from Sept. 28 to Oct. 21 at Miles Memorial Playhouse in Santa Monica, Calif. under director Maria Vargo.

The play examines Newman’s incarceration, during which he got into an argument with a Catholic inmate about a miraculous medal of the Virgin Mary. The inmate threw the medal at him and told him to take it.

Newman put the medal on.

“That night, he had an encounter with the Virgin Mary and told the chaplain about it,” Gallagher said.

The chaplain, Fr. Robert O'Leary, SVD, didn’t believe Newman until the inmate told him about events that happened earlier in the priest’s life.

“And that was the beginning of the story,” Gallagher said.

Newman converted to Catholicism through the chaplaincy.

Gallagher’s play considers the apparition and its effects on Newman and those around him. Newman did not admit his crime until after the apparition, which Gallagher said was evidence in favor of the authenticity of the convict’s experience of the Virgin Mary.

The playwright said the available information on Claude Newman is sometimes contradictory. Fr. O’Leary recorded a tape about his experience with Newman about 20 years after the inmate’s execution, though Gallagher said he had given his own copy of the tape to someone else.

Marcia Stein, archivist at the Robert M. Myers Archives of the Society of the Divine Word’s Chicago province, said Newman’s story was “controversial” at the time.

The play on Newman’s life is being produced by the G.K. Chesterton Theatre Company, a Catholic non-profit Gallagher and others founded three years ago.

Gallagher said Catholics “have to put out our own entertainment.”

“A Hollywood producer once said that entertainment has more influence on young people than parents do. I think that if as Catholics we allow the culture, the Hollywood culture especially, to dictate what entertainment we are going to get, we are going to lose an entire generation,” he said.

“That’s one reason that we decided to establish the theater company.”

The company does not have its own space. It rents out theaters rather than use church halls.

“That way, the secular society comes to us,” Gallagher said. “If we want to engage the culture, we have to go out to them.”

The company is “lucky to break even” and lacks major benefactors, the playwright said.

“We’ll keep going as long as we can.”

The company has staged four other productions of plays with Catholic themes, including a play about the British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge’s encounter with Mother Teresa, a play about the Mexican martyr Bl. Miguel Pro, and a play about Franz Jagerstatter, a conscientious objector in Austria who refused to fight in World War II.

Gallagher’s son Peter heads the G.K. Chesterton Theatre Company. He said the company is considering extending its performances of “Claude Newman: A Miracle on Death Row” through Oct. 28.

The theater company’s website is

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Campaign against New Orleans violence recalls 1815 prayers

New Orleans, La., Oct 16, 2012 (CNA) - “Thou shalt not kill” is the message on yard signs being distributed to parishes in the Archdiocese of New Orleans this week.

“I want area Catholics and non-Catholics who wish to join us to be able to proudly display the signs and in doing so, tell their neighbors, we are a people of peace, we do not accept or want violence in our neighborhoods,” Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond said in an Oct. 15th press release.

They are there “to serve as a reminder to the community that we must respect life and one another.”

Parishioners will be able to pick up the yard signs at their parishes to display in their yards. Five thousand signs have been made and depending on demand, more may be distributed at a later date.

The initiative is part of the “New Battle of New Orleans,” meant to help with the problem of violence, murder and racism affecting the New Orleans area.

The 'new battle' was launched in 2011 on Ash Wednesday by Archbishop Aymond as a prayerful effort to end the violence in the city.

It echoes the 1815 Battle of New Orleans, when Ursuline nuns in the city prayed to Our Lady of Prompt Succor to intercede that the city would be saved from approaching British troops. The city was spared from the battle and devotion to Our Lady has been strong there ever since.

Archbishop Aymond has compared the murder and racism in the city to the original battle, and considered prayer to again be the appropriate response.

The archdiocese is also working to strengthen family life as a way to combat violence. Mentoring programs have been started to help provide parenting skills and to help young people in high risk neighborhoods. The decision was also made to give archdiocesan employees extended vacation time at Christmas, so employees can concentrate on “who is most important in our lives.”

In addition to the yard signs, three large banners carrying the same message will be displayed on archdiocesan property. One will be displayed at St. Louis Cathedral.

New Orleans has among the highest rates of violent crime in the United States. In 2010, the city had 49 homicides per 100,000 residents. The 2009 rate was more than 4 times that of similar-sized cities.

The murders are highly concentrated in impoverished neighborhoods, and both victims and perpetrators are characteristically young, African-American males.

A 2011 Bureau of Justice Assistance report noted that most murders in the city are “escalations of  arguments and disputes,” rather than being gang- or drug-related.

“I want these signs to serve as a reminder to people that violence and murder are not the answers to a problem,” Archbishop Aymond said.

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Leader of rescued Chilean miners visits Pope for Year of Faith

Vatican City, Oct 16, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - On the second anniversary of the historic rescue of 33 workers from a mine in Chile, the group's leader  attended a Mass opening the Year of Faith at the Vatican on Oct.11, thanking Pope Benedict for his prayers.

Luis Urzua Iribarren, 54, was shift leader at time of the collapse in the San Jose Mine in Atacama. He was the last to reach the surface during the rescue effort that began on Oct. 11, 2010, and ended two days later.

The Chilean miner traveled to Rome to attend the opening Mass of the Year of Faith and to thank Pope Benedict XVI for his prayers and support during the ordeal that lasted 70 days.

In an interview with CNA, Urzua said that without the help of their Catholic faith, “we would not have survived that harsh trial.”

“I made this visit to thank the Pope for his care, for being an ambassador of faith to the entire world, which is most important,” he said. “The Holy Father has asked us, and we must all do our part.”

During the Mass, Urzua and other workers from around the world received a copy of the documents of the Second Vatican Council from the pontiff. In return, he gave the Pope a letter and a photo signed by each of the 33 miners.

The group was trapped underground after a collapse occurred in the mine on Aug. 5, 2010. Thanks to the meticulous efforts of rescue workers, they were taken out one at a time Oct. 11 and 12 through a special capsule which brought them to the surface from a depth of more than 600 meters.

At the time, Benedict XVI encouraged them to remain calm as the rescue effort progressed, and he invited them to embrace the word of Christ to grow in faith.  

He also sent the trapped miners 33 blessed rosaries to encourage them to pray to Our Lady of the Candelabra and to St. Lawrence, the patron of miners.

Urzua recalled that more than 1 billion people worldwide followed the rescue but said he wants to help rescue the world by encouraging all to live the Year of Faith.

“We need to bear witness to the marvels of God, to how we were rescued, especially during these times in which faith is scarce and needs to be revived with our hearts and souls,” he said.

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Mexican cardinal urges ill to offer suffering for country's youth

Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 16, 2012 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, called on the sick to offer their sufferings so that the country's young people might open their hearts to the Gospel.

The cardinal made his remarks on Oct.13 during Mass for the Annual Pilgrimage of the Sick to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. He encouraged those struggling with illnesses to offer their suffering for the 2013 Youth Mission that will take place in Mexico.

“In the Archdiocese of Mexico City, we wish to participate in this Year of Faith proclaiming this faith to young people especially, but we know that our work will be fruitless without your prayers,” he said, according to the News Service of the Archdiocese of Mexico City.

Offer your sufferings, your pains and your anxieties for our young people, that they might open their hearts to the proclamation of the Gospel.”

The cardinal said God allows suffering, first of all, for our own salvation, since “when we continuously experience it, it purifies us, changes our outlook and the way in which we see and appreciate life.”

Although it is hard for the human being to see the “connection” between suffering and salvation, “God does know this secret, this intimate relationship, but moreover, it is something we can continuously sense,” he said.

Amid pain and suffering, many people come to understand things they were unable to grasp while in perfect health.  

And that is because “eternal life begins here, when amidst our pain we appreciate life, we discover aspects about it we had not understood, and this makes us feel a joy that others cannot understand.”

For this reason, he called on the sick to discover the joy of knowing not only that their suffering is for their own purification and hope for eternal life, but also that they are intimately united to Christ, to that “Man of sorrows, accustomed to suffering, who by his wounds has healed us.”

Cardinal Rivera thanked those who care for the sick and the members of the Order of Malta, which organizes the pilgrimage of the sick to the Basilica of Guadalupe each year.

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Pope believes Christianity will rekindle in Europe

Vatican City, Oct 16, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI granted a rare interview to the creators of a documentary in which he said that he is “convinced” that “there will also be a new springtime for Christianity” in Europe.

The bishops, experts and observers at the synod on the New Evangelization were treated to a screening of the new documentary at the Oct. 15 afternoon session.

“(T)he desire for God…is profoundly inscribed into each human soul and cannot disappear. Certainly we can forget God for a time … but God never disappears,” Pope Benedict said on screen, though he was not in the audience. “This restlessness … is an expression of the hope that man may, ever and anew … start to journey towards this God.”

The movie, entitled “Bells of Europe: A Journey into the Faith in Europe,” considers Christianity, European culture, and the future of the continent. In addition to the Pope, it features interviews with leaders of the other main Christian confessions in Europe, as well as leaders in politics and culture.

To emphasize Europe’s common Christian roots, their reflections are bound together by the sound of bells ringing out from around the continent, the casting of a bell in the ancient foundry of Agnone, and the music of Estonian composer Arvo Part.

Based on an idea by Jesuit Father Germano Marani, the film was produced by the Vatican Television Center.

In his interview, the Pope expressed several reasons for hope for the future of Christianity in Europe.

“The Gospel … is true and can therefore never wear out. In each period of history it reveals new dimensions … as it responds to the needs of the heart and mind of human beings, who can walk in this truth and so discover themselves,” the Pope said. “It is for this reason, therefore, that I am convinced there will also be a new springtime for Christianity.”

Another reason he offered is that “faith in Jesus Christ is quite simply true; and the truth never ages.”

No ideology can prevail against Christianity in the long run, he stated.

“Ideologies have their days numbered. They appear powerful and irresistible but, after a certain period, they wear out and lose their energy because they lack profound truth. They are particles of truth, but in the end they are consumed.”

Young people are another source for the Pope’s hope.

“Young people have seen much – the proposals of the various ideologies and of consumerism – and they have become aware of the emptiness and insufficiency of those things.

“Thus, among the new generations we are seeing the reawakening of this restlessness, and they too begin their journey making new discoveries of the beauty of Christianity; not a cut-price or watered-down version, but Christianity in all its radicalism and profundity. That is Christianity. It is true and the truth always has a future,” the Pope said.

The future will not be easy, especially in Europe, since it suffers from a spiritual bipolarism, he explained.

“(I)n Europe today we see two souls,” he said toward the end of the interview.

“One is abstract anti-historical reason, which seeks to dominate all else because it considers itself above all cultures … and intends to liberate itself from all traditions and cultural values in favor of an abstract rationality. Yet we cannot live like that and, moreover, even ‘pure reason’ is conditioned by a certain historical context, and only in that context can it exist.”

The other soul is Europe’s Christian one. This soul is “open to all that is reasonable, a soul which itself created the audaciousness of reason and the freedom of critical reasoning, but which remains anchored to the roots from which this Europe was born, the roots which created the continent's fundamental values and great institutions, in the vision of the Christian faith,” the Pope said.

“The challenge for Europe,” he asserted, is for its Christian soul “to find a shared expression in ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Churches” and then “encounter this abstract reason. In other words, it must accept and maintain the freedom of reason to criticize everything it can do and has done, but to practice this and give it concrete form on the foundations and in the context of the great values that Christianity has given us.”

“Only by blending these elements can Europe have weight in the intercultural dialogue of mankind today and tomorrow. Only when reason has a historical and moral identity can it speak to others” and “find a fundamental unity in the values that open the way to the future, to a new humanism. This must be our aim. For us this humanism arises directly from the view of man created in the image and likeness of God.”

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Cardinal apologizes for video perceived as calling Christians to arms

Vatican City, Oct 16, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council on Peace and Justice, has apologized for rankling brother bishops with a video making alarmist predictions about the growth of Islam in Europe.

“This was never meant to call Christians to arms. I sincerely apologize. I never meant to do this,” Cardinal Turkson told yesterday afternoon’s free discussion period of the synod on the New evangelization, according to Father Thomas Rosica.

Fr. Rosica relayed the comments at an Oct. 16 briefing for English-speaking journalists covering the synod.
Cardinal Turkson showed the seven-minute YouTube clip, entitled “Muslim Demographics,” at another free discussion period last Saturday evening. The term “free discussion” is used by the synod to mean free-wheeling and off-the-record, versus the prepared statements typical of the formal sessions.

Viewed over 13 million times on YouTube since it was anonymously uploaded in 2009, it makes questionable demographic claims about various European countries, such as, "In just 39 years France will be an Islamic republic” and that "Islam will overwhelm Christendom unless Christians recognize the demographic realities, begin reproducing again, and share the gospel with Muslims."

“I didn’t hear anybody defend the film” yesterday, Fr. Rosica said. “There were questions, and most of the concern was the facts were not right. And if you’re going to present something like this, we need a fuller picture.”

Asked if Cardinal Turkson explained why he gave the video presentation, he said no.

“He didn’t explain why he showed the film. But he did offer a serious apology for upsetting people. I think he realizes that it upset people. He didn’t say, ‘I meant to do this to stir up a discussion,’ but in fact it stirred up a discussion, and it was a lively discussion.”

The Oct. 15 afternoon free discussion period, attended by 19 bishops, featured discussions which were “not heated but animated,” Fr. Rosica said.

But the session did end “on a very positive note,” he added.

“Air needed to be cleared, there was no question, and in the beginning there were references to (the film), especially by those who are working in the area and also working with Muslims. Some of the religious bishops – Dominicans, Jesuits, and Franciscans – who are on the ground in those places have an immense amount of wisdom to bring to the discussion.”

In his capacity as the CEO of the Toronto-based Salt and Light Television, Fr. Rosica said that back when the video first appeared on YouTube, he “had people send it to us who wanted to show it on TV. I said, ‘No, I don’t want the network shut down.’ Such unfounded nonsense.”

One of the film’s disputed claims is that French Muslim women have 8.1 children compared to non-Muslim French women having 1.8. But France does not collect statistics by religion, making the claim suspect if not unprovable.

After the film’s showing, prelates from the European bishops’ conference promised to send statistics from a recent study they conducted that would correct some inaccuracies from the film.

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Rome sabbatical course revised to allow more US priests

Vatican City, Oct 16, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Rome-based sabbatical program for priests from the U.S. is being overhauled to allow even more American clerics to take time out to pray, relax and study in the Eternal City.

“I think this sabbatical course is so, so essential. Priests come here, I think, tired. They come here perhaps having lost of some of that initial zeal,” course director Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo, told CNA.

“And what we find is that in those weeks by praying together, eating together, traveling together, studying together, that priests again receive a sense of that initial spark that lead them into the seminary, and in which they were formed, and ordained.”

At present the Institute for Continuing Theological Education at Rome’s Pontifical North American College has offered two 12-week courses each year, one in the spring and another in the fall.

Now the spring semester will be offered as four three-week modules. The hope is that those priests who cannot find a spare 12 weeks in their diary will be able to make time for a three, six or nine week break in Rome. The modules will explore themes such as priestly leadership, art history, homiletics and sacred scripture.

“It says in the Gospel of Mark that Jesus says ‘come by yourself to an out of the way place and rest awhile’,” said Father Larry Richards of the Diocese of Erie, Pa., one of the 33 participants in the 2012 Fall program which is running from Sept. 4 to Nov. 17.

“And so, to come to the heart of the Church in Rome, and to be able to rest with Saints Peter and Paul and all the saints and all the churches around us, to be able to rest in the arms of the Church for 12 weeks, so we can be re-energized to go forth from here and do God’s will more perfectly. That’s why I’m here anyway.”

“My goals here are to pray and get to know God a little more. To keep my eyes fixed on Him,” added Father John Dolan of the Diocese of San Diego, Calif. “It has been working beautifully. I would say this is really more a retreat than a sabbatical.”

While Fr. Dolan has loved the “fantastic statues, beautiful paintings, murals and icons” of Rome the one thing that has struck me him more than anything is that “in every church there is always a presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.”

Since it’s inauguration in 1971 over 2,400 priests have attended the Institute for Continuing Theological Education at the Pontifical North American College.

“We say to the priests, ‘come and see,'” said Msgr. Figueiredo, “It is a wonderful program, and it is always full, so we say, ‘Come and see’ and you will not be disappointed.”

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