Mobile, Ala., Jan 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Martin Luther King Day is a time to promote racial harmony in America and honor the slain civil rights leader who was “inspired by the teachings of Christ,” says the head of the Knights of Peter Claver.
“Considering that so many 'church-going folks' were supporting segregation and Jim Crow laws during the civil rights movement, it is wonderful that King dedicated his life to employing Christ's teachings to resist and counter the very social sins of prejudice, racial discrimination and segregation,” Supreme Knight F. DeKarlos Blackmon told CNA Jan. 18.
He said Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. a Baptist minister, was “a man of faith and deep conviction” who studied Catholic theology and was “particularly impressed” with St. Augustine.
King’s famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” cited St. Augustine's saying “An unjust law is no law at all.”
Since 2010, Blackmon has headed the Knights of Peter Claver, a New Orleans-based Catholic fraternal order present in about 39 states and in South America. It takes as its model the Spanish Jesuit priest St. Peter Claver, who ministered to slaves in Colombia in the 1600s. Its membership is significantly African-American but the order is open to all practicing Catholics without regard to race or ethnicity.
The organization was founded in Mobile, Ala. in 1909 by four priests of the Josephite Fathers and three Catholic laymen to serve African-Americans and other racial minorities. Its founders were concerned the Catholic Church would lose black individuals to fraternal and secular organizations, at a time when local racism kept many out of the Knights of Columbus.
The order has six divisions: the Ladies of Peter Claver, two separate junior divisions for young men and young women, the Fourth Degree Knights and the Fourth Degree Ladies of Grace.
The Knights of Peter Claver and the Ladies Auxiliary opposed segregation and worked to transform how communities and cities thought about race, equality and justice, Blackmon said. They worked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Urban League.
The order's leadership and members were “intimately involved” in the civil rights movement. Civil rights attorney A.P. Tureaud, a national secretary and national advocate of the order, worked with future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to help overturn legal segregation.
The now demolished Claver Building in New Orleans, which was the Knights’ headquarters from 1951 to 1974, hosted early meetings “that ultimately launched the civil rights movement,” Blackmon added.
Today, members of the order organize Martin Luther King Day activities like Masses of Unity, prayer services, days of unity, and programs commemorating King's vision in addition to their other charitable works.
Blackmon said King challenged America “to live out its creed that all men are created equal.” He said the observance is an opportunity for American Catholics to remember King's life and work and to realize the challenge to work towards Jesus’ prayer that the Catholic Church “may all be as one.”
He said African-American Catholics should use the day to remember those who have accomplished “something for the larger community and the greater good.” He mentioned African-American Catholic bishops like the late New Orleans auxiliary Bishop Harold Perry and Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, former president of the U.S. bishops’ conference.
Blackmon praised the rise of African-Americans in professions like law, medicine, higher education and politics.
“We have realized numerous African-American and Hispanic cabinet officials, legislators, and federal judges. We have realized a black president in the White House,” he said.
However, he added, “there is still yet more to be effected.”
“By the grace of almighty God, by the arduous work of our hands, by the standing up to be a witness to the saving power of God, we will overcome prejudice, racism, intolerance, bias, narrow-mindedness, and chauvinism,” he said.
He said Christians must be “ever mindful of our role in not only welcoming, but also embracing and helping ‘the stranger’ among us.”
The Knights of Peter Claver aim to serve God and the Catholic Church. They assist the needy, the sick, and disabled, while developing their members through fellowship, recreational activities, scholarships, and charitable work. Their website is www.kofpc.org.
Denver, Colo., Jan 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Jan. 26, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the liturgical memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, close companions of the Apostle Paul and bishops of the Catholic Church in its earliest days.
Both men received letters from St. Paul, which are included in the New Testament.
Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians also venerate the saints, but do not combine their commemorations. Instead, the Byzantine tradition remembers St. Titus on Aug. 25 and St. Timothy on Jan. 22.
Pope Benedict XVI discussed these early bishops during a general audience on Dec. 13, 2006, noting “their readiness to take on various offices” in “far from easy” circumstances. Both saints, the Pope said, “teach us to serve the Gospel with generosity, realizing that this also entails a service to the Church herself.”
The son of a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father, Timothy came from Lystra in present-day Turkey. His mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois, are known to have joined the Church, and Timothy himself is described as a student of Sacred Scripture from his youth.
After St. Paul’s visit to Timothy’s home region of Lycaonia, around the year 51, the young man joined the apostle and accompanied him in his travels. After religious strife forced Paul to leave the city of Berea, Timothy remained to help the local church. Paul later sent him to Thessalonica to help the Church during a period of persecution.
The two met up again in Corinth, and Timothy eventually journeyed to Macedonia on Paul’s behalf. Problems in the Corinthian Church brought Timothy back for a time, after which he joined Paul and accompanied the apostle in subsequent travels.
Like Paul, Timothy endured a period of imprisonment in the course of his missionary work. His release is mentioned in the New Testament Epistle to the Hebrews.
Around the year 64, Timothy became the first bishop of the Church of Ephesus. During that same year, he received the first of two surviving letters from St. Paul. The second, written the next year, urges Timothy to visit St. Paul in Rome, where he was imprisoned before his martyrdom.
Ancient sources state that St. Timothy followed his mentor in dying as a martyr for the faith. In the year 93, during his leadership of the Church in Ephesus, he took a stand against the worship of idols and was consequently killed by a mob. The pagan festival he was protesting was held Jan. 22, and this date was preserved as St. Timothy’s memorial in the Christian East.
In contrast with Timothy’s partial Jewish descent and early Biblical studies, St. Titus – who was born into a pagan family – is said to have studied Greek philosophy and poetry in his early years. But he pursued a life of virtue, and purportedly had a prophetic dream that caused him to begin reading the Hebrew Scriptures.
According to tradition, Titus journeyed to Jerusalem and witnessed the preaching of Christ during the Lord’s ministry on earth. Only later, however – after the conversion of St. Paul and the beginning of his ministry – did Titus receive baptism from the apostle, who called the pagan convert his “true child in our common faith.”
St. Paul was not only Titus’ spiritual father, but also depended on his convert as an assistant and interpreter. Titus accompanied Paul to the Apostolic Council of Jerusalem during the year 51, and was later sent to the Corinthian Church on two occasions. After the end of Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, the apostle ordained Titus as the Bishop of Crete.
Paul sent his only surviving letter to Titus around the year 64, giving instructions in pastoral ministry to his disciple as he prepared to meet up with him in the Greek city of Nicopolis. Titus evangelized the region of Dalmatia in modern Croatia before returning to Crete.
Titus is credited with leading the Church of Crete well into his 90s, overturning paganism and promoting the faith through his prayers and preaching. Unlike St. Timothy, St. Titus was not martyred, but died peacefully in old age.
Vatican City, Jan 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI asked for more prayers of world peace as part of the Christian Unity week celebrated this week.
"For the prayer of Christian unity I would like to add again that one for peace, because, in the ongoing diverse conflicts, and end to the massacres of unarmed civilians, an end to all violence, and that courage to dialogue and to negotiate is found," he told thousands of pilgrims from his Aposotolic Palace window at St. Peter's Square today.
The Church is now celebrating its annual week of prayer for Christian unity, which began Jan. 18 and will end Jan. 25.
The Pope detailed the importance of unity during his Sunday Angelus at the Vatican.
"One of the most serious sins that disfigures the face of the Church is against its visible unity, especially the historical divisions the have separated Christians that haven't yet been overcome," said Pope Benedict.
"It's a moment always welcome to believers and communities, which awakens in all the desire and spirit of commitment to full communion," he added.
The pontiff also recalled last month's vigil, which he celebrated with thousands of young Europeans and with the Taizé ecumenical community, and called it "very significant" and "a moment of grace in which we experienced the beauty in the form of one Christ."
"I encourage everyone to pray together so that we achieve this year's theme, which is, 'What does the Lord require of us?'" the Pope said.
The theme was proposed by Christian communities in India, which he asked "to walk with determination towards the visible unity of all Christians to overcome, as brothers in Christ, any kind of unjust discrimination."
The Holy Father also spoke of today's liturgy on the wedding at Cana.
"Jesus reveals himself as the Bridegroom Messiah, coming to establish the new and eternal covenant with his people," he added.
The Holy Father recalled a Bible passage that says "as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you."
"The wine is a symbol of this joy of love, and it also alludes to the blood that Jesus will pay in the end which will seal his marriage covenant with humanity," said the head of the Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict explained that the Church is the Bride of Christ, who makes her holy and beautiful with his grace.
However, he said, this Bride managed by human beings is always in need of purification.
The Pope will close the week of prayer for Christian unity by presiding vespers in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls alongside representatives of other churches and communities.
Dublin, Ireland, Jan 20, 2013 (CNA) - Fine Gael, the majority party in the Irish coalition government, will have “awoken a sleeping giant” if they move to legalize abortion, say organizers of a massive pro-life vigil.
Unofficial observers estimated numbers in excess of 35,000 people, which packed Dublin's city center in the largest pro-life rally ever seen in Ireland to oppose government plans to legalize abortion.
The government has said it will move to introduce abortion on suicide grounds, sparking widespread concern and protests from the strongly pro-life nation.
The Vigil for Life, which was organized in just three weeks saw tens of thousands of people converge from all over Ireland, into Dublin's Merrion Square, with police estimates at 30,000 while unofficial tallies suggest some 50,000 attended.
Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute, a key organizer of the Vigil, said that “the government had no mandate to legalize abortion, or to ignore the expert evidence which tells them that abortion is never a treatment for suicide.”
She reminded the huge crowd that Fine Gael had given a commitment not to legalize abortion in Election 2011.
She said that, “Fine Gael are pressing to legalize the direct and intentional killing of children on the grounds of suicide” and that “we are here to remind them that votes are transferable things – because on the issue of abortion the people are not for turning.”
“If Fine Gael don't protect life, they will truly have awoken a sleeping giant. They will have crossed the line for the pro-life majority. And today we pledge to Fine Gael that if they break their pro-life promise they will never get our votes again,” she said to applause and cheering.
The pro-life spokeswoman told the crowd that the British David Steele, who is described as the architect of the British Abortion Act recently said, “I never envisaged there would be so many abortions.”
“Is that what Fine Gael want? To be the party that looks back and says,'We never envisaged there would be so many abortions'?” she asked.
She urged Fine Gael to take the opportunity to do the right thing. “To stand with the people, to stand for mothers and babies, to have the courage to stand on the world stage, and be leaders in protecting human life.”
Youth Defence, one of Ireland leading pro-life groups, called the Taoiseach's (Prime Minister) constituency office live from the Vigil.
The massive pro-life event went quiet as Dr Eoghan de Faoite of Youth Defence called an Taoiseach's constituency office, and Enda's voice could be heard asking the caller to leave a message.
“Hello an Taoiseach, this is the Vigil for Life, and I have 30,000 people here to give you a reminder of the pro-life promise you made in 2011,” said Dr de Faoite.
To which the 30,000 strong crowd chorused “Enda, Keep Your Promise.” The phone call followed more than an hour of speakers, crowd participation, and pro-life messaging at the Vigil.
The Vigil heard from one of Ireland's leading sports figures, Tyrone Gaelic Athletic Association county manager, Mickey Harte who said “I speak to you as an ordinary person, a citizen, a husband, a father. I come from a sporting background, as you know, and I am proud of our sporting traditions.”
“But there is no tradition of which I am prouder than the respect for both women and their unborn children that has been the hallmark of our medical services in Ireland,” he said. “Ireland, without abortion, is one of the safest countries in the world for a woman to be pregnant.”
“There is no issue more important than the protection of human life. There's no point saving an economy if a child's right to life is compromised or forgotten,” said the popular sports manager.
“The Vigil has been a tremendously powerful and historic event, and the voice of the majority has been heard for the protection of both mother and baby,” said Eoghan de Faoite.
“We've reminded Fine Gael that abortion is not a treatment for suicide, and that the government needs to look at the evidence given before the Oireachtas Committee which confirms that fact,” the Youth Defence spokesman said.
He added that the ban on abortion had made Ireland a safe place for both mothers and babies and that was something worth protecting.
A pro-life pledge which aims to sign up 100,000 people who say they will never vote for Fine Gael again if abortion is legalized, was also launched at the Vigil.