Los Angeles, Calif., Jan 12, 2013 (CNA) - “This is in gratitude to what has happened in our lives this year that is about to end,” said Mexican singer Graciela Beltran, walking quickly through an ambulatory of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, followed by her entourage.
Only one hour was left to rehearse and rest before performing at the first midnight celebration and Mass in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels Dec. 11.
Beltran is no stranger to such events. During 25 years as a singer in the regional mexicano (Mexican Regional) genre, she has performed on several occasions at the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City during the virgin’s feast day, Dec. 12, together with other renowned Mexican interpreters.
Only a few times, she said, has she missed a celebration for the Virgin. She tries to adjust her schedule to make sure she is celebrating the Blessed Mother wherever she is invited. This was her second time at the Cathedral, having performed previously a few years after it was opened.
But Dec. 11, 2012 was very special to her because she would be the main performer during this celebration prior to Midnight Mass.
“I feel very thrilled; the tears are here in my throat, but I have to be careful because then I won’t be able to sing,” she smiled. “I feel very emotional because this helps recount memories of so many things, but it’s also nice because it offers an opportunity to strengthen your faith in this sacred moment.”
Her mother instilled in her six children the Catholic faith and love for God, “who is the main one in anything,” said Beltran, the youngest of the six. “I also believe in archangels, who are beings of light.
“Everything that comes from God is pure, good and it means salvation, and I know the Virgin of Guadalupe is someone who works directly with our Father God. She gives us that trust and inspires this beautiful faith in us.”
Her faith has kept her through thick and thin, she declared. “I didn’t know what I was getting into and my mom either,” she smiled, recalling her singing career that started when she was six. “Our faith is what keeps you strong, standing and moving forward despite what happens in your surroundings, especially the unpleasant events, and helps us keep fulfilling dreams and goals.”
In 2009 she went through a difficult time in her career when she had a fight (mostly fueled by Spanish media outlets) with another singer in her same genre, Jenni Rivera, who recently lost her life in a plane crash in Mexico.
“I want to thank her for the lessons I learned,” Beltran said quietly. “And particularly I want to ask for peace to the persons who died in that jet together with Jenni Rivera.”
Pedro Rivera, the head of the so-called Clan Rivera, was Beltran’s producer in the initial stages of her singing career.
She said she was deeply affected. “It is a terrible way to die, very sad. I still can’t believe it. It must be terrible for her mother, her father and her children and for the families of the rest of the people on the plane. I think of her mom because my mom went through something similar. I think about her younger boy.”
One of Beltran’s brothers was kidnapped (his body was never found) several years ago, and her mother never has recovered from the tragic event, she said. Her brother-in-law was killed and with other members of her family Beltran witnessed the killing of her stepfather when she was nine years old.
“It is valid to be grateful even for our setbacks and tribulations, which make us grow and mature and value what we have,” said the singer referred to by her fans as “Reina del Pueblo” (Queen of the People), or “Reina de la Banda.”
“The Virgin of Guadalupe keeps us united; she helps us keep our culture and traditions, which are very important. She is like a safe haven where one can cry and feel protected.”
In between the two songs she performed in front of the packed Cathedral, Beltran stopped for a few minutes to pray in front of the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe placed next to the altar.
“I pray for immigrants, for all those people who cross the border seeking for a better life. Virgin of Guadalupe, help them fulfill their dreams.”
Posted with permission from The Tidings, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Clearwater, Fla., Jan 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia offered encouragement to campus ministers this week, assuring them their mission “matters eternally because each human soul you touch is immortal.”
“For every Rich Young Man who turns away from Christ, there's another young woman or man who longs for something more than this world can give – something deeper, richer and lasting,” he said in his Jan. 10 keynote at the Catholic Campus Ministry Association's national convention.
“A single fruitful encounter with Jesus Christ can engage the deepest aspirations and change the entire course of a young adult’s life.”
The archbishop's comments were book ended with reflections on the relationship between 16th century Saint Thomas More and his daughter Meg. The saint formed his daughter well, and she herself was a model of courage and conviction.
“The importance of forming intelligent, committed young adults, as Thomas More inspired and formed his daughter, is the same today as it was then. Because most of you here today work with young people at a decisive time in shaping the direction of their lives, you have one of the most vital missions in the Church.”
Archbishop Chaput told the ministers that despite their differences, they share one vast pastoral problem, America's post-Christian pop culture.
He said this new culture “complicates” the task of evangelization, but that despite this, “too often in the Church we’ve held on to the same institutional patterns of organization, the same methods of preaching and teaching that worked in a religion-friendly past.”
A renewal of Catholic life is “crucial” to convincing young adults to “open their hearts to the Christian faith, the archbishop maintained.
The Church must be presented to young adults “as the living presence of Jesus Christ,” he said, and “not merely as an institution or a collection of moral rules.”
Archbishop Chaput used the Gospel account of the rich young man, who was too attached to comfort to follow Christ, to critique the naiveté of the Second Vatican Council's assumption that the “visible Church would serve as a lamp, drawing the modern world out of darkness into God’s light.”
At the same time, he said that while there are many examples of the “rich young man” on campuses today, there are also young people who do yearn for truth.
“Young people want to make a difference. And therein lies our reason to hope. Regardless of distractions and obstacles, detours and traps, young people in every age do resonate with a longing for greatness, which means they can be reached,” he said.
“The idealism, striving and seeking in the hearts of so many young adults instinctively order them toward God. No matter how black the darkness is, no matter how deep the cultural confusion, no matter how ignorant persons are of the Creator who made them, young adults at their core long to give themselves to Someone higher than themselves.”
Archbishop Chaput reminded the assembled campus ministers that their task is not merely to bring young people to “religious activities,” but to “the beauty of interior silence that enables a person to hear the will of God and entrust his or her life to Jesus Christ.”
Eucharistic adoration was offered as a central means to bring young adults to the beauty of prayerful silence.
The archbishop also exhorted his listeners to count success not only in the number of persons attending activities, but with a focus on conversion of life, “a disciplined focus on the needs of others,” and “an ongoing hunger for knowing and doing God's will.”
Archbishop Chaput concluded by encouraging campus ministers to reflect the love of Christ, as did St. Thomas More to his daughter.
“Our job is live what we preach, and to preach...the good news of Jesus Christ to the young adults we serve. God loves us with the tenderness and zeal of a father. We need to reflect that same love to others. No one is immune to the power of being loved, least of all the young.”
Washington D.C., Jan 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Religious leaders from across the United States asked the Obama administration to make peace efforts between Israel and Palestine a priority over the next four years.
“American political leadership is needed now more than ever to support both Israelis and Palestinians in creating a resilient and just peace,” said representatives of 35 Christian denominations.
In a Jan. 7 letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, they warned that allowing the status quo to continue could prolong the conflict and bring greater violence to the region.
“As you embark upon your second term, there is an unprecedented opportunity for your Administration to play a catalytic role in the resolution of this conflict,” they told the president.
Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, was one of the signatories of the letter. Other signers included representatives of Episcopalian, Baptist, Greek Orthodox, Lutheran and other religious communities in the United States.
“As faith leaders deeply committed to peace and reconciliation in this land held sacred by so many, we write to ask that you now bring the full energies of your Administration to bear toward facilitating a just, durable, and final negotiated agreement to end the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” they said.
The signatories acknowledged the challenges and cost associated with peace efforts, as well as the opposition faced from those on both sides.
An environment of fear and lack of trust make negotiations difficult, they said, “but another generation cannot wait as prospects for peace grow dimmer.”
Offering prayers that the president may be guided with courage and wisdom, the religious leaders urged the U.S. to place “the full weight of its support behind the long-term well-being of Israelis and Palestinians.”
“Proposals put forward must be feasible and convincingly address their separate national aspirations for security and justice,” they stressed.
Leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have also spoken out on the importance of American leadership in the region.
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the bishops’ conference, joined Bishop Pates in calling for “a high profile envoy” to work for peace and justice in the area.
In a Jan. 9 letter to President Obama, the two bishops observed that “our nation has a special obligation to exercise vigorous leadership for Israeli-Palestinian peace.”
Echoing the Holy Father’s calls for peace in the region, they encouraged efforts towards a two-state solution, comprised of “a secure and recognized Israel living in peace alongside a viable and independent Palestinian state.”
The bishops acknowledged that actions by both Palestinians and Israelis “perpetuate an unsustainable status quo” that endangers the entire region.
Recent rocket attacks from Gaza into southern Israel are “morally unjustifiable uses of indiscriminate force against civilians” that undermine the trust needed for negotiations, they said, while Israeli occupation and expansion in the West Bank “compromise the territorial viability of a future Palestinian state.”
At the same time, they emphasized that the lack of peace is taking “a heavy toll on both Israelis and Palestinians, and especially on the indigenous ancient Christian community of the Holy Land that is emigrating at alarming rates.”
“What is urgently needed is indefatigable and insistent leadership,” the bishops said. “The United States, as a consequence of its relationships and potentially significant influence, is poised, in our estimation, to be the most effective arbiter in this tangled situation that portends enormous risk for the world.”
Pledging their support to the U.S. government’s efforts for peace, Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Pates urged leadership that gives both Israelis and Palestinians “hope for a different future free of the shadows of violence and open to the light of peace.”