Archive of December 16, 2012

St. Peter Canisius, influential early Jesuit, honored Dec. 21

Denver, Colo., Dec 16, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - An important figure in the Catholic counter-reformation that responded to the 16th century spread of Protestantism, the priest and Doctor of the Church Saint Peter Canisius is remembered liturgically on Dec. 21.

His efforts as a preacher, author, and religious educator strengthened the Catholic faith in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and parts of Central Europe during a period of doctrinal confusion.

Writing about St. Peter Canisius in 1897, Pope Leo XIII noted similarities between the late 19th century and the saint's own lifetime, “a period when the spirit of revolution and looseness of doctrine resulted in a great loss of faith and decline in morals.”

More recently, in a 2011 general audience, Pope Benedict XVI taught that the Jesuit saint found success in ministry by living as “a personal witness of Jesus and an instrument at his disposal, bound to him closely by faith in his Gospel and in his Church.”

Peter Kanis – his name later Latinized to “Canisius” – was born in the Netherlands during May 1521. His father Jacob was a wealthy public official, but his mother Aegidia died soon after his birth. Peter began his university studies in Cologne around age 15, and obtained his master's degree before he turned 20. His friends during this period included several men who held to the Catholic faith in opposition to the Protestant doctrines then gaining ground in Germany.

Despite his father's preference that he should marry, Peter made a decision in 1540 to remain celibate. Three years later he entered the Society of Jesus under the influence of Blessed Peter Faber, one of the first companions of Saint Ignatius Loyola. He founded the first Jesuit house in Germany, became a priest in 1546, and was involved in a successful effort to force the resignation of Cologne's Archbishop Hermann of Wied after the archbishop's shift from the Catholic faith to Protestant teachings.

Only one year after his ordination, Peter accompanied the Bishop of Augsburg to the Council of Trent as a theological adviser. He spent a portion of his time in Italy working directly with Saint Ignatius Loyola, before leaving for Bavaria where he would serve as a university professor as well as a catechist and preacher. This combination of academic and pastoral work continued at Vienna from 1552, allowing him to visit and assist many Austrian parishes which found themselves without a priest.

During the mid-1550s Peter's evangelistic journeys took him to Prague, where he eventually founded a Jesuit school along with another in Bavaria, and later a third in Munich. The year 1555, in particular, was a landmark for Canisius: St. Ignatius promoted him to a leadership position within the order, which he held until 1569, and he published the first and longest version of his Catholic catechism. This work, and its two shorter adaptations, went through hundreds of printings and remained in use for centuries

Involved in discussions with Protestants during 1557, Peter made a strong case for the Church by showing how the adherents of Protestantism could not agree with one another in matters of doctrine. Meanwhile, he maintained his commitment to religious instruction on the popular level – teaching children, giving retreats, and preaching carefully-crafted, doctrinally-rich sermons to large crowds.

Canisius' service to the Council of Trent continued during the early 1560s, though mostly from a distance. He kept up a demanding schedule of preaching and establishing universities, while also working to ensure that the council's decrees were received and followed in Germany after it concluded. His tireless efforts over the next two decades contributed to a major revival of German Catholicism. In the 1580s, he shifted his focus to the Swiss region of Freibourg, spearheading a similar revival there.

A mystical experience in 1584 convinced Canisius that he should cease his travels and remain in Switzerland for the rest of his life. He spent his last years building up the Church in Fribourg through his preaching, teaching, and writing. Peter suffered a near-fatal stroke in 1591, but recovered and continued as an author for six years. The Dutch Jesuit saw writing as an essential form of apostolic work, a view supported by the continued use of his catechism long after his death on Dec. 21, 1597.

St. Peter Canisius was simultaneously canonized and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI in 1925. In a famous saying, the Jesuit priest revealed the secret behind the accomplishments of his energetic and fruitful life: “If you have too much to do, with God's help you will find time to do it all.”

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Communications think tank promotes family in media

Rome, Italy, Dec 16, 2012 (CNA) - Family and Media is celebrating its seventh year of studying the impact of the media on the family and offering advice to parents on how to form the Christian character of their children.

“The catalyst for its starting was John Paul II’s message ‘The Media and the Family: a Risk and a Richness,’ delivered in 2004,” Family and Media's project coordinator Norberto Gaitano told CNA Dec. 14.

“Some scholars from different universities already had an interest and a preoccupation, for the media effects on family. At that point, some of us thought: we have to do something in this field to help families.”

Gaitano is a professor of communications and public opinion at the Pontifical University Santa Croce, and the organization includes communications professors from universities in Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Argentina, and Chile.

In his words, “we don't pay too much attention to the influence media is having on our lifestyles,” and so he and his fellow teachers made this a focus of Family and Media.

The group assists other family associations in developing media education tools for parents and helps promote a pro-family agenda in the media, rather than merely being reactive to media.

It also assists family organizations with improving their own communication outreach, acts as a think tank, and is interdisciplinary, including advisers in the fields of philosophy and theology, Gaitano explained.

At the practical leve, he said it is important that parents be aware of their childrens' use of media and social networks.

“Young people are searching to affirm their identity, to discover a world beyond the family, and to establish relationships that are different from their filial and fraternal ones … new technologies open a window to such new relationships.”

Since children are using these technologies, but have not had time to develop prudence, Gaitano said it is important that parents supply this virtue and help their children to develop it.

We must begin with children and education – “through caring for children,” said Gaitano.

“We want to offer our little contribution to help rebuild the symbolic and social value of the family. Communications is a key of doing this. This field leads you to think strategically and not just tactically. Isolated and temporary, casual actions aren’t enough to win the battle. A long-term cultural design is needed.”

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Pope 'deeply saddened' by Connecticut shooting

Vatican City, Dec 16, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Pope expressed sorrow over the Sandy Hook school shooting that massacred 20 children and offered prayers for the victims' families.

“I was deeply saddened by Friday's senseless violence in Newtown, Connnecticut,” said Pope Benedict XVI Dec. 16.

“I assure the families of the victims, especially those who lost a child, of my closeness in prayer,” he told thousands gathered at St. Peter's Square for the Angelus prayer.

“May the God of consolation touch their hearts and their ease pain,” he said, adding that he “invoked God's blessings upon those affected by this tragedy.”

Marking the third Sunday of Advent, Pope Benedict spoke of the compatibility of love and  justice.

“Justice and charity are not opposed, but both are necessary and complement each other,” he noted.

He stated that the gospel of Gaudete Sunday talks again about John the Baptist, who was at the Jordan River baptizing people and preparing them for the coming of Jesus.

“Justice calls to overcome the imbalance between those who have too much and those who lack basic necessities,” he said looking out from his window of the Apostolic Palace.

He noted that “charity urges us to be attentive to each other and face their needs, instead of finding excuses to defend one's own interests.”

“Love will always be necessary, even in the most just society, because there will always be situations of material need where help is indispensable in the form of concrete love of one's neighbor,” added the Pontiff.

The 85-year-old then blessed children from the Centro Oratori Romani, an association of lay catechists who promote pastoral public speaking in Rome, and their Baby Jesus statues, that will be taken later to schools, homes and parishes.

“I give a special greeting to the children who came to Rome for the traditional blessing of the Baby Jesus,” said Pope Benedict.

“As I bless the little statues of Jesus that you will put in your crib, I cordially bless each of you and your families as well as those from Centro Oratori Romani,” he added.

Pope Benedict said that John the Baptist gave three answers to people who asked him how they should prepare for the coming of Jesus.

The first was “he who has two coats, let him share with him who has none, and whoever has food must do likewise.”

The second answer John the Baptist gives is for tax collectors to change jobs.

“The prophet, in God's name, doesn't ask for exceptional gestures, but the honest fulfillment of duty above all,” said the Pope.

“The first step to eternal life is always keeping the commandments and in this case it's the seventh, thou shall not steal,” he stated.

John the Baptist gives a third order to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, which is to not abuse power that has been given to you.

“Again, the conversion starts with honesty and respect towards others, an indication that applies to everyone and especially for those with more responsibility,” said Pope Benedict.

“Things would be much better in our complex world if everyone observed these rules of conduct,” he added.

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Elementary school massacre 'not part of God’s plan,' Newtown priest says

Newtown, Conn., Dec 16, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The motive behind the gunman whose Dec. 14 shooting rampage took the lives of 28 people, including 20 children, is not something that can be answered, Newtown’s local Catholic priest said.

“This was not part of God’s plan,” Msgr. Bob Weiss of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church told ABC News Dec. 15.

Msgr. Weiss, who accompanied police while they informed parents of their child’s death following the Sandy Hook school massacre, said gunman Adam Lanza’s actions show he was “a man who had serious issues in his life.”

“Why he’d want to destroy innocent children, no one can figure out.”

Archbishop Henry J. Mansell of Hartford called the shooting a “a senseless act of violence that claimed the lives of many innocent people,” in a recent statement.

"Although we will never understand the motivation behind such a heinous act, we must turn to prayer and reflection for the victims and their families during this time of need," he said.

"Keep them in your hearts, let them know that they are not alone in their grief and suffering, and pray that the comfort of God's love will help them through this difficult time."

The Archdiocese of Hartford, along with Catholic Charities, has offered to support for Newtown and its parish in “any way that we can.”

Msgr. Weiss said although many victim’s family members “knew in their hearts” that their child or spouse had been killed in the attack, he said in an interview with NBC that their grief was still “overwhelming” when he travelled with police to confirm that information early on the morning of Dec. 15.

When he broke the news, parents asked him what the last moments of the victims’ lives must have been like.

“Of course, no one can answer that question,” he said.

Parents of the victims recalled fond memories of their children as he consoled them late into Friday evening.

“One mother told me her daughter was going to be an angel in our Christmas pageant next Tuesday,” the priest said, “and another one told me how excited (her daughter) was getting because she was making her First Holy Communion this year.”

“It was really an amazing time for parents to bring back memories,” he said.

He said the prayer vigil that packed St. Rose of Lima Parish to capacity on the evening of Dec 14. really showed what “kind of town Newtown is.”

“People came together to care and to support,” he said. “Hopefully we can just keep the community together and they can console each other.”

He shared that “many of the families” he spoke with following the shooting found consolation in the knowledge that even though their child was killed, “at least they know their child is safe, they know where they are.”

“And that’s a terrible thought for any parent raising a child today to think that they might have to grow up in a world like this.”

“I pray that the Lord just lift up these families and that they know especially their children are safe,” he said.

Even in the face of such violence, Msgr. Weiss said, “if we work together, good things can happen.”

The victims of the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre have now been identified as Charlotte Bacon, 6; Daniel Barden, 7; Olivia Engel, 6; Josephine Gay, 7; Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6; Dylan Hockley, 6; Madeleine F. Hsu, 6; Catherine V. Hubbard, 6; Chase Kowalski, 7; Jesse Lewis, 6; James Mattioli, 6; Grace McDonnell, 7; Emilie Parker, 6; Jack Pinto, 6; Noah Pozner, 6; Caroline Previdi, 6; Jessica Rekos, 6; Aviele Richman, 6; Benjamin Wheeler, 6; Allison N. Wyatt, 6; Dawn Hochsprung, 47; Rachel Davino, 29; Ann Marie Murphy, 52; Lauren Rousseau, 30; Mary Sherlach, 56; and Victoria Soto, 27.

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