Archive of October 20, 2012

Gift of personal Bible inspires students

Mendota Heights, Minn., Oct 20, 2012 (CNA) - Freshmen at Visitation School in Mendota Heights received a special gift from the religion department on the second day of the school year: their own Bibles.

The gift-giving ceremony that took place in the monastery chapel is part of an initiative begun six years ago to encourage more robust Scripture study. The Bibles are intended for their four years of high school and beyond.

Each freshman received a third edition of the Catholic Youth Bible published by St. Mary’s Press, which is ­sprinkled with vignettes that personalize Scripture passages, as edited by Catherine Cory, an associate professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas. Their study is informed by material from local Catholic Jeff Cavins, a national Bible expert, and well timed as Visitation’s religion program inaugurates the new curriculum designed by the U.S. bishops.

Received with gratitude

It was the first Bible Stephanie Puma, 14, a member of Holy Rosary in south Minneapolis, had ever been given. “It’s really special to me,” she said. “Now, whenever I feel sad, I can look at the word of God and be comforted.”

“Having these Bibles is going to be a great gift for us,” added classmate Anna Evans, 15, a member of St. Joseph in West St. Paul. “I really like the Psalms, especially Psalm 139 — ‘I praise you, God, that I am wonderfully, fearfully made.’” Those words are a source of encouragement for any teenager struggling with self acceptance, Evans added.

Colleen Scallen, 15, who belongs to Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul, said she’s looking forward to digging deeper into Scripture, especially after attending a predominantly Baptist summer camp where she was reminded of how well-versed Protestants tend to be with the Bible. “The Bible is way more important than a textbook because it shows us examples of how to live,” Scallen said.

Catholics may not be as adept at citing verse and chapter, said religion teacher Mary McClure, but she’s teaching her students to recognize patterns. For instance, if they’re seeking Scripture about the Virgin Mary, they should turn to the Gospel of Luke.

A solid foundation

The Bibles were presented to the freshmen by Sister Jane de Chantal Smisek and Sister Mary Paula McCarthy, who gave the students handwritten cards with various passages about the power of Scripture, such as Psalm 119: 105: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.”

Sister Jane de Chantal said she was pleased by the students’ response to the gift. “They are darling girls and eager to have their own Bibles. Their hearts are in it, and at this stage, when their lives are really beginning, you need a foundation,” she said.

The soft-spoken nun elaborated on the role of the Bible. “Scripture study is the basis of our religious belief,” she said. “We know we got it directly from the source, and I believe in going to the source.”

Scallen said she was struck by Sister Jane de Chantal’s message when she presented the gift. “She gave me the Bible and smiled at me and said: ‘You’d be surprised by how smart God is. You should go to him for everything, little or big.’”

Posted with permission from The Catholic Spirit, official publication of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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G.K. Chesterton a model for evangelism, author says

Minneapolis, Minn., Oct 20, 2012 (CNA) - The author of a new book on G.K. Chesterton says the 20th-century author and Catholic convert is a model for joyful evangelization who can help unify the fractured modern worldview.

“Chesterton is the model evangelist,” American Chesterton Society President Dale Ahlquist told CNA Oct. 18. He had a way to connect with “virtually any kind of audience.”

“He never lets his charity contradict his truth. He always puts them together,” Ahlquist said.

“That’s one of the great weaknesses of our world: you have some people who care only about truth and doctrine, others who care only about charity and pity, and they don’t let the two combine with each other. Chesterton always combines the two.”

Ahlquist’s new book, “The Complete Thinker: The Marvelous Mind of G.K. Chesterton,” was released this October (Ignatius Press, $17.95).

Chesterton lived from 1874 to 1936. Under the influence of his wife Frances, he became a devout Anglican Christian. He converted to Catholicism in 1922.

He wrote literary essays, novels, poetry, plays, philosophical works and Christian apologetics. His short stories include the Father Brown mystery series. He enjoys a reputation as a witty writer with a love of finding truth in apparent paradox. He influenced the thinking of many converts and writers.

“He wrote about everything,” Ahlquist said. “He has this amazing, wide reach.”

Ahlquist said his new book is intended to help get the reader “inside of Chesterton’s head.” He aims to help people “think in a consistent way” across disciplines and modes of life.

“The modern world, Chesterton points out, has become one wild divorce court where everything has been separated from everything else,” he explained.

“We have separated the arts from the sciences and the humanities from the sciences. We have separated religion from politics and religion from economics. We expect all these things to operate in their own watertight compartments, and yet we don’t see how anything fits together anymore.”

In Ahlquist’s view, Chesterton’s completeness is the “antidote” to this situation.

“People are hungry for the truth. The way he breaks through is with his great wit, his joy, his goodness. People are attracted to that,” he said. “When you read Chesterton, you know you are encountering someone who is thinking well. You are struck by his wisdom. But you are also struck by his goodness and his joy.”

Ahlquist hosts the EWTN Global Catholic Network television show “G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense.” He co-founded the Chesterton Academy, a private Catholic high school near Minneapolis, Minn.

He is himself a convert to the Catholic faith.

“I was an Evangelical before I started reading Chesterton,” he said. “Before I knew it, he just sucked me into the Church.”

Ahlquist is in favor of teaching Chesterton in high schools and colleges because the writer is “one of the great treasures of English literature” and “one of the great wordsmiths.”

Chesterton’s works are “great exercises in thinking that our students would have a great benefit from.”

Ahlquist said his own book aims to change how people “think about thinking.” Chesterton’s writings present a “complete and cohesive wisdom” that can be useful in the classroom as examples of “interdisciplinary, integrated thinking.”

Ahlquist’s book also aims to write about Chesterton the way he wrote about other people like St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Charles Dickens.

“When he writes about someone, it’s not a standard biography,” Ahlquist said. “He will get certain ideas and certain things that that character is associated with, and then use it as a launching pad to talk about bigger things and greater truths.”

“I try to write a Chestertonian book about Chesterton, where I use his ideas and his words and things about his life to point to larger truths.”

Ahlquist also noted the importance of Chesterton’s sense of humor.

“It’s great to be able to laugh. People want to laugh. Chesterton makes you laugh.”

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Ill. Catholic Charities seek new path without foster care, adoption

Chicago, Ill., Oct 20, 2012 (CNA) - The Catholic Charities agencies of Illinois are trying to meet society’s needs “in a different way” in their first year without the state contracts that supported their adoption and foster care services.

“It’s been an interesting year,” Robert Gilligan, Executive Director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, told CNA Oct. 17. He said agencies are “continuing to adapt very well.”

The agencies are “smaller” but are “continuing to try to meet the needs of the most poor and vulnerable in our midst.”

Last year Illinois Catholic Charities were forced to close their adoption and foster care programs.

In July 2011 the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services ended the contracts under the state’s new civil unions bill. The department said the agencies’ practice of placing children only with married couples discriminated against unmarried and homosexual couples. Lawsuits and legislative efforts attempting to preserve the decades-old collaboration between the Catholic agencies and the government failed.

The state contracts with the Catholic agencies totaled over $30 million annually and helped care for about 2,000 foster children.

The contracts’ end had major consequences.

Catholic Social Services, the Catholic Charities agency in the Diocese of Belleville, split from the diocese to become Christian Social Services. It now accepts couples in civil unions as foster parents.

Catholic Charities of Peoria, which received $14.8 million of its $24 million budget from the state, went from nearly 400 employees to fewer than 20. Most of its employees left to work for the Center for Youth and Family Solutions, which took over the foster care cases of nearly 1,000 children.

Peoria’s Catholic Charities is restructuring to operate without any funding from the state.

Liesa Dugan, Communications Coordinator for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Peoria, said there is “positive news” in the transition because the agency is reevaluating how to best serve the diocese’s communities.

“This reevaluation will result in a great renewal of Christ-centered service, uniquely providing assistance in each of our communities,” she told CNA Oct. 17. “We continue to be blessed with donors and volunteers dedicated to helping us grow in our mission to serve people of all faiths.”

Even though Catholic Charities agencies can no longer aid children in need of foster care and adoption,
Gilligan said they are focusing on other areas.

“There are a lot of needs in society,” he said. “Catholic Charities, as part of their mission, strove to try to meet those needs.”

“As we thought they would, they’ve been reaching out to their various communities. They’ve been creative. They’re raising money.”

One diocesan agency has expanded its capacity to help resettle migrants and serve their needs. Another agency has reached out to its diocese’s parishes and Catholic high schools after learning that counseling services were needed.

Another Catholic Charities agency sought and received a grant from Wal-Mart.

“They are now using that money to purchase a couple of vehicles where they go around and deliver food to people who are in need,” Gilligan said.

While some critics, including some Catholics, have questioned whether the Catholic agencies should be using taxpayer money, Gilligan endorsed the practice.

“In and of itself, taking money from the state to assist in helping the most poor and vulnerable is a good thing, and it continues,” he said. “But as we saw in the case of Catholic Charities, sometimes the state is encroaching upon our religious beliefs.”

“Where we can, we take public money. And if we can’t, and it seems like increasingly that is the situation, we don’t do it.”

Most of the diocesan agencies in the state are taking public money, Gilligan said.

However, he noted that the charities are not simply social service agencies.

“We provide services to the poor because it’s part of our Catholic mission,” he said.

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Hundreds evacuated from Lourdes due to flooding

Lourdes, France, Oct 20, 2012 (CNA) - Flooding in southwestern France has forced hundreds of pilgrims to evacuate the Marian apparition site and nearby hotels.

Busloads of pilgrims were taken to a nearby conference hall and a sports hall while about 40 people were evacuated from their homes Oct. 20, Radio France International reported.

The Gave River, which runs through the city where the Blessed Mother appeared several times to the peasant girl St. Bernadette Soubirous in 1858, burst its banks after days of heavy rain invaded the region.

A spokesperson for the Marian Sanctuary said the grotto itself is under about 3 feet of water and more rain is expected.

Only the basilica, which is built on higher ground than the grotto, is still accessible.

Local officials said that the flooding is the worst the region has seen in 25 years.

More rain was forecast for the evening, while 8,000 homes in the region were without power.

The grotto is home to the site where the Blessed Mother appeared 18 times to St. Bernadette as well as a spring of water that still flows today and is heavily visited by those in search of miraculous healing. The intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes is credited with 68 certified miracles since the apparitions took place.

Six million tourists and pilgrims flocked to Lourdes in 2011.

Relics of Blessed John Paul II are set to arrive in Lourdes Oct. 21 for veneration until Oct. 27 to mark the Year of Faith.

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