Denver, Colo., Jan 13, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
On Jan. 15, the Catholic Church remembers Saint Paul of Thebes, whose life of solitude and penance gave inspiration to the monastic movement during its early years.
Surviving in the Egyptian desert on a small amount of daily food, St. Paul the Hermit lived in close communion with God. Before the end of his life at age 113, he met with St. Anthony the Great, who led an early community of monks elsewhere in the Egyptian desert.
Born in approximately 230, the future hermit Paul received a solid religious and secular education, but lost his parents at age 15. During the year 250, the Roman Emperor Decius carried out a notorious persecution of the Church, executing clergy and forcing laypersons to prove their loyalty by worshiping idols. The state used torture, as well as the threat of death, to coerce believers into making pagan sacrifices.
Paul went into hiding during the Decian persecution, but became aware of a family member's plan to betray him to the authorities. The young man retreated to a remote desert location, where he discovered a large abandoned cave that had once been used as a facility for making counterfeit coins. He found that he could survive on water from a spring, and the fruit of a tree that grew nearby.
Forced into the wilderness by circumstance, Paul found he loved the life of prayer and simplicity that it made possible. Thus, he never returned to the outside world, even though he lived well into the era of the Church's legalization and acceptance by the Roman Empire. Later on, his way of life inspired Catholics who sought a deeper relationship with God through spiritual discipline and isolation from the outside world.
One of these faithful was Anthony of Egypt, born in the vicinity of Cairo around 251, who also lived to an old age after deciding during his youth to live in the desert out of devotion to God. Paul of Thebes is known to posterity because Anthony, around the year 342, was told in a dream about the older hermit's existence, and went to find him.
A similar knowledge about Anthony had been mysteriously given to the earlier hermit. Thus, when he appeared at Paul's cave, they greeted each other by name, though they had never met. Out of contact with the Roman Empire for almost a century, Paul asked about its condition, and whether paganism was still practiced. He told Anthony how, for the last 60 years, a bird had brought him a ration of bread each day – a mode of subsistence also granted to the Old Testament prophet Elijah.
After 113 years, most of them spent in solitary devotion, Paul understood that he was nearing the end of his earthly life. He asked Anthony to return to his own hermitage, and bring back a cloak that had been given to the younger monk by the bishop St. Athanasius. That heroically orthodox bishop had not yet been born when Paul first fled to the desert, and Anthony had never mentioned him or the cloak in question. Amazed, Anthony paid reverence to Paul and set out to fulfill his request.
During the return trip, Anthony was shown a vision of St. Paul of Thebes' soul, glorified and ascending toward Heaven. On returning to the first hermit's cave, he venerated the body of its inhabitant, wrapped him in Athanasius' cloak, and carried him outdoors. Saint Jerome, in his “Life of St. Paul the First Hermit,” attests that two lions arrived, demonstrated their reverence, and dug a grave for the saint.
Having given him Athanasius' cloak, St. Anthony took back to his hermitage the garment which St. Paul of Thebes had woven for himself from palm leaves. Anthony passed on the account of his journey and the saint's life to his own growing group of monastic disciples, and it was written down by St. Jerome around the year 375 – approximately 33 years after the death of the first hermit.
Venerated on the same day by Roman Catholics, Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians, St. Paul of Thebes is also the namesake of a Catholic monastic order – the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit – founded in Hungary during the 13th century and still in operation.
Washington D.C., Jan 13, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A Planned Parenthood report showing an increase in abortions and decrease in other health services is leading to questions over the federal funding that the organization receives.
“While government subsidies to Planned Parenthood have reached an all time high,” Marjoirie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List said in a Jan. 7 statement, “so too has the number of lives ended by this profit-driven abortion business.”
“Destroying nearly one million children in three years is not health care and does not reflect a concern for vulnerable women and girls,” she added. “As Planned Parenthood’s funding goes up, abortions increase and real health services for women go down.”
The largest provider of abortions in the U.S., Planned Parenthood faced staunch opposition in 2012, with several states working to limit its funding and numerous lawsuits launched across the country on charges of fraud, extortion and failure to report malpractice.
The organization recently released its 2011-2012 annual report, which showed a rise in the number of abortions performed for the first time in two decades, as well as a record amount of government funding.
The report indicated that Planned Parenthood performed a record-high 333,964 abortions during 2011.
An analysis by the Susan B. Anthony List, which works to support pro-life lawmakers, asserts that, based on this report, up to 92 percent of Planned Parenthood’s pregnant clients received abortions.
In contrast, the analysis observed, prenatal care patients accounted for only seven percent, and adoption referrals were less than one percent.
“For every adoption referral, Planned Parenthood performed 145 abortions,” it said.
This rise in abortions was coupled with a continued decrease in non-abortive services. Since 2009, the total number of contraceptive services has dropped by 12 percent, and cancer screening and prevention services have dropped by 29 percent.
This dip in “preventative services” was not for lack of funding, as the organization reported a record $542 million in government grants, contracts, and Medicaid reimbursements, totaling 45.2 percent of the group’s annual revenue.
“Planned Parenthood has spent much of the last few years demanding that taxpayers add millions more to their coffers, citing their non-profit status and so-called focus on women’s health,” stated Dannenfelser. “What have we received for our money?”
Furthermore, observed Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, Planned Parenthood is now “requiring every affiliate to operate at least one clinic that performs abortions.”
“Planned Parenthood’s story in 2013 reveals an abortion-centered business model,” she said. “The nation’s largest abortion provider continues to make ever-more money from the suffering of women and girls as the leader of Big Abortion.”
This news, combined with the ongoing controversies surrounding the organization, has led to legislative pushes to end federal funding of the abortion provider.
In a Jan. 8 press release, Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) asserted that “Planned Parenthood’s blatant misuse of taxpayer dollars to fund its big abortion business is an attack on life and women’s health.”
On Jan. 4, Black helped to re-introduce legislation to prohibit abortion providers from receiving federal funds. As a nurse for more than 40 years, she said that she is fully dedicated to protecting life and access to women’s health services.
“It is long past time for Congress to respect the will of the American people and stop taxpayer funded abortions – a heinous abuse of the law and destruction of innocent life,” she emphasized.
Anchorage, Alaska, Jan 13, 2013 (CNA) - Byzantine Catholics marched through the streets of Anchorage on Jan. 6 to Chester Creek near Valley of the Moon Park in Anchorage to celebrate the baptism of Jesus.
Led by Father James Barrand, several dozen parishioners of St. Nicholas of Myra Byzantine Catholic Church bundled in winter coats and walked a quarter mile along Arctic Avenue singing hymns and carrying liturgical banners and sacred icons. The procession ended at the creek for the Great Blessing of Water. The yearly observance is considered to be one of the most solemn blessings of the church year.
In the Byzantine Catholic tradition, the Feast of the Theophany is part of the cycle of winter feasts that highlight the coming of the Messiah into the world and the beginning of his work of redemption.
This Great Blessing of the Water is performed on the eve of the feast, where water is first blessed in the church. The next morning, after Divine Liturgy, the priest and people walk to a body of living water — a river, stream, or lake to bless the water.
After the blessing the faithful may take some water home for use in blessings throughout the year.
The water blessing is viewed as a culmination of the Feast of the Nativity in which the church celebrates the birth of Christ. This revelation is seen as more private — to those who were near Christ’s birth. In fact, the first 30 years of Christ’s life were mostly private. His public ministry, however, began with his baptism in the Jordan River, which the Byzantine Catholic Church commemorates on the feast of Theophany (Jan. 6).
According to Scripture, Jesus was baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist. Immediately on coming up out of the water, he saw the sky rent in two and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. Then a voice came from the heavens: “You are my beloved son. On you my favor rests.” (Mark 1: 9-11)
The hymns sung on the Feast of the Theophany speak of the Lord’s baptism as a victory over sin and the effects of sin in creation. It is not only mankind that is enlightened, but the natural world as well. The Lord’s baptism in the Jordan is seen as leading to the cleansing and blessing of the very waters of the Jordan, and outward to the entire created world.
Posted with permssion from Catholic Anchor, official publication of the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska.
Vatican City, Jan 13, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI baptized children at the Vatican Sunday to mark the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, encouraging Christians to remember their own baptism and the “beauty of being born again.”
“I would like to extend my prayer and my blessing to all newborns,” he said Jan. 13 after baptizing numerous babies aged three to four months in the Sistine Chapel.
“I especially invite everyone to remember your baptism, that spiritual rebirth that has opened the way to eternal life,” Pope Benedict said during his Angelus remarks in St. Peter’s Square. “May every Christian rediscover the beauty of being born again from above, from the love of God, and live as a child of God.”
The Pope said being a Christian means having a kind of life which involves a rebirth from God by grace.
“This rebirth is baptism, which Christ has given to the Church to regenerate men to new life,” he said.
He reflected on Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist, calling it Jesus’ “first public act.”
The Pope explained that, although Jesus had never sinned, he wanted to be baptized to make a gesture of penance and conversion, along with many others who wanted to prepare themselves for the coming of the Messiah.
“That gesture, which marks the beginning of Jesus’ public life, takes the same line of the Incarnation, of God’s descent from high heaven into the abyss of hell,” said the Pope. Jesus’ baptism is a “downward movement” that has love at its root.
“This Jesus is the new man who wants to live as a son of God and who, in the face of evil in the world, chooses the path of humility and responsibility,” said the Pope.
Sunday also marked the 99th observance of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, a celebration which Pope Pius X began in 1914.
Pope Benedict extended his greetings “with a special prayer and blessing, particularly to the Catholic communities of migrants in Rome.” He entrusted them to the protection of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini and Blessed Giovanni Battista Scalabrini.
“In this year’s message I compared migration to a pilgrimage of faith and hope,” said Pope Benedict, noting that “whoever leaves his land, it is because he hopes for a better future.”
“But he does so because he trusts God, who guides his steps, and so migrants are bearers of faith and hope in the world,” said the pontiff.