Archive of February 23, 2013

A gold medal for his faith

Tucson, Ariz., Feb 23, 2013 (CNA) - When coaches and athletes are preparing to head to the Olympic Games, they certainly long for the thrill of victory and don’t even want to consider the agony of defeat. But what of the challenge of even going to the Olympics, period, when an immediate family member dies in the final weeks before the Games?

That was the case for current University of Arizona women’s softball head coach Mike Candrea, who held that same position with Team USA for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. Just prior to his leading the Americans on the world’s stage just over eight years ago, his wife, Sue, died suddenly of a brain aneurysm.

“I think your first inclination is ‘why me?’,” he says now. 

“Everyone has that thought when those things happen in your life. The thing that helped me understand things was, with my faith, I go back to my mom being the one that gave me that foundation early in life, so I always had it, but there are times when your  profession gets in the way of having that balance in your life. I thought there were times when your life revolved around whether you won a championship or not… When you get thrown a curve ball at 49 years old and don’t know the color of your checkbook or what your kids need you wake up and realize that everything doesn’t revolve around those championships. So I found that having a balance between my profession and my faith gave me a better balance and made me a better coach, a better person, and a better father, and you have to put your faith in God and we’ll all be together again.”

It also helped him through other tragedies.

“I do talk about my trials and tribulations in life, having lost a (softball) player at 21 years old to diabetes, and we’d lost a child early in life.  After (the latter) I thought I was prepared for anything that’d come my way.  If that hadn’t happened I don’t know how I’d have reacted (when Sue died).  We lost a three-week old and a nephew at three years old.  That was probably the time in my life that woke me up a bit and made sure that I grabbed on to the things we need to (in order) to get through tough times in life.”

Now it’s the start of 2013 and not only is Candrea still having success as a high-profile softball coach, but, he re-married and didn’t leave his faith behind once he got through his first wife’s passing.

“I say this quite frequently that the good Lord was looking out for me to unite me with Tina.  The one common thread we had was the same faith.  I remember going to Ash Wednesday Mass with her, and seeing her commitment to the Catholic faith sure comforted me.  We’ve been able to share that on a daily and weekly basis together.  It has got to be a big part of your life. Balance between family, spirit, and professional life brings happiness.  We all need to kind of slow things down and realize what’s important and I definitely live everyday like it’s my last.”

Strong words from obviously a strong Catholic. While Candrea’s strength comes from the Lord, he knows its roots, however.

“From a very young age, my mom had me on Saturday in catechism class and Sunday at Mass - no ifs, ands, or buts. Then going to Louisiana to see my grandparents, and getting up at 4 a.m. for 6 a.m. Mass. I’ve been blessed to have great role models in my life with my family in New York, New Orleans, and Phoenix. I remember visiting my dad’s sisters and there was a church at the end of the street where they said the mass in Italian and Fr. Julius asked me to be an altar boy and I was afraid I’d mess things up, but I did it. In Casa Grande I had Msgr. Ross who was getting up in age and was having trouble seeing at night so I’d pick him up and take him to the Knights of Columbus meetings.”

As a result, there comes a sense of responsibility to pass this down to the next generation, which Candrea found in a wake-up call from his son.

“In 1994 we were getting ready for the Olympics in Atlanta. I was (Team USA Coach) Ralph Raymond’s assistant and was in St. Johns, Newfoundland (Canada), for the world championship. It was a small dorm and I’d just won a (college) championship and now was with the top team in the world, feeling on top of the world, but I came home and instead of welcoming me my son asked me if we could talk.  He wanted me to quit so I could watch him play baseball, so I needed to look at my plans.  So I dropped out of the USA Softball coaching pool and was with him the next three years, and that’s when I really made the commitment to there being more in life than wins and losses.”

Now Coach Candrea is entering his 28th season as the head coach of the Wildcats, with eight national titles and 1,310 career wins under his belt. And the first place finish at the Olympics that resulted in Sports Illustrated calling the U.S. women’s softball team ‘The Real Dream Team’ on the cover of a 2004 issue.

“I think it definitely was right up there,” Candrea says, when asked if leading the Americans to the top in Athens was his crowning achievement. “It’s hard to say one is more special than another.  Anytime you can take a team and reach your ultimate goal, whether it’s a national championship or, for a high school coach, a state championship, it’s a good feeling and something you don’t forget.  But the 2004 Games because of the circumstances in my personal life was a strong moment that I’ll remember forever and I think that’s probably one of the reasons why it will always have a fond place in my heart.”

Asked about scripture passage, he says, “The one that I’ve become fond of is 1 Corinthians 16:13 (‘Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong’). We used it during Sue’s services and my dad’s, and Julie (the aforementioned player who died at age 21) liked it.  It really was a great way to connect everything.”

And it’s a good road map for how Mike Candrea, husband, father, son, and coach, continues to live each day – like it’s his last.

Posted with permission from the Catholic Sports Association, an organization dedicated to highlighting Catholic sports professionals and enriching junior high and high school student-athletes with Catholic sports articles, conferences, a Web series, and other programs.

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Castel Gandolfo prepares to receive first retired Pope

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Feb 23, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Residents of the town that is home to the Pope’s summer residence say they are happy Pope Benedict is returning to live there.

“When the Pope arrives he will find his apartment the same as always, but also the affection and devotion of everyone here,” Saverio Petrillo, director of the pontifical villas in Castel Gandolfo, told CNA Feb. 20.

Pope Benedict will officially end his ministry at 8:00 p.m. on Feb. 28, but at 5:00 p.m. he will leave the Vatican by helicopter and travel to Castel Gandolfo. When he arrives he will be greeted by the mayor, the pastor of the local parish and town residents. He will also offer a short greeting from the window of his residence.

Popes spend part of the summer in the town of 9,000 residents, which is located 18 miles southeast of Rome and looks over Lake Albano.

This will be the first time the building is used by someone who is not the Pope.

Pope Benedict will live there for at least two months before moving to Mater Ecclesiae monastery inside the Vatican, which is currently being refurbished.

Petrillo explained that Pope Benedict will be living in the same room that he has used the past eight summers.

The audience hall on the top floor, which is in a separate wing of the Pope’s apartment, is currently being restored.

According to the director, his flat includes a chapel, a bedroom and a dining room and “has the right dimensions” to accommodate the Pope, his secretaries and the staff that helps run the household.

“This is like all flats that just needs a bit of dusting, so there is nothing extraordinary being done now in preparation for his coming,” said the director of the pontifical villas.

Petrillo said that he is “in a state of confusion like everybody else because we have before us an unforeseen historical moment.”

“I’ve been working for the Vatican for a long time, since the papacy of Pius XII, but clearly I would have never imagined such a thing,” said Petrillo.

The pontifical villas occupy 136 acres, of which 74 make up a garden and 62 are used for farming.

Locals told CNA they are looking forward to having Pope Benedict stay with them during Easter, although there was a mixed reaction to his resignation.

“We are happy, although this is a very difficult situation,” said an elderly man sitting outside a coffee shop on the square outside the papal residence.

“I’m a practicing Catholic and his resigning has displeased me because to reach this point there are many things that the cardinals needed to fix and it will be very hard,” he added.

Another man said he was also happy his town will be hosting Pope Benedict.

The Pope has stayed in Castel Gandolfo for the past eight summers, which this Italian described as “full of a beautiful presence.”

“The step he has taken is important with everything that’s happening nowadays in society because he’s been more attached to problems than the previous Pope and he had a different sensitivity,” said the man in his mid-thirties.

“He will bring the most important presence we can have with us, and I hope others here will also be happy with this gift,” he added.

A coffee shop owner in the Piazza della Libertà said it is “a unique world privilege” for the town whenever Pope Benedict arrives and that it will greatly benefit local business.

“It’s a privilege because he could have simply returned to his hometown in Bavaria, but he chose to come here,” he said.

“There will probably be more movement here because he’s always an attraction and it’s an important event for all of us whenever he comes here,” he noted.

One local shopkeeper said locals are “Pope Benedict’s fans” and the eight summers he has spent here have been “a very positive experience” for him.

“It’s helped us, not only for our businesses, but also spiritually. And we’re very accustomed to his presence and he’s very accustomed to ours,” he said.

“We also hope he’s not always indoors and that we see him outside every now and then,” he added.

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US report shows increase in sexually-transmitted infections

Washington D.C., Feb 23, 2013 (CNA) - New governmental reports on sexual behavior in America show significant rises in both sexually-transmitted infections and use of emergency contraception in recent years.

Government estimates “show that there are about 20 million new infections in the United States each year,” said that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a new fact sheet released this month.

The report was one of two recent studies by the organization surveying the behavior of sexually active individuals in the U.S.

Based on surveys and public disease reports, the group estimated “that there are more than 19.7 million new STIs in the United States each year.”

Young people “shoulder a substantial burden of these infections,” it continued, estimating that “half of all new STIs in the country occur among young men and women.”

The number of new infections each year “is roughly equal among young women and young men,” it added.

The second study noted that about one in 10 women between the ages of 15 and 44 has used “emergency contraception.” This marks more than a 250 percent increase in the use of such drugs in the last decade and more than a 1000 percent increase since 1995.

So-called emergency contraceptives were approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1998 for use in the United States. These drugs – taken after sexual intercourse – can have a contraceptive effect by preventing ovulation or an abortive effect by preventing an already-conceived human embryo from implanting on the uterus wall.

Nearly 60 percent of women who had used emergency contraception reported doing so only once, while 17 percent reported using it “three or more times.” 

Nearly equal percentages of women reported using emergency contraception “because of fear of method failure and because of unprotected sex.”

Use was most prevalent among young women aged 20-24, with about one in four reporting use of such drugs.

This discrepancy was expected for several reasons, the Centers for Disease Control said.

The method was not approved during the “early reproductive years” of older women, and younger women are less likely to be married. In addition, “the use of sterilization as a contraceptive method increases with age, consequently decreasing the potential demand for emergency contraception.”

In its report on sexually-transmitted infections, the governmental organization promoted “correctly using condoms” as a mode of infection reduction alongside abstinence and “reducing the number of sexual partners.”

“The high incidence and overall prevalence of STIs in the general population suggests that many Americans are at substantial risk of exposure to STIs, underscoring the need for STI prevention,” the group said.

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Pope spends final retreat exploring truth, beauty connection

Vatican City, Feb 23, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Benedict XVI finished his final Lenten spiritual exercises as Pope by thanking his collaborators for support and help these last eight years and by reflecting on the relationship between truth and beauty.

“I would like to thank you all, not only for this week, but for the past eight years, in which you have borne with me, with great skill, affection, love, faith, the weight of the Petrine ministry,” Pope Benedict said Feb. 23 in his closing remarks for the week-long retreat.

“This gratitude remains within me and even if this visible exterior communion is now ending - as Cardinal Ravasi has said - the spiritual closeness, a deep communion in prayer, remains.

“In this certainty let us go forward,” the Pope stated, “confident in the victory of God, sure of the truth, of beauty, and of love.”

The Holy Father offered his words of thanks and his thoughts on the week of meditation at 9:00 this morning in the Redemptoris Mater chapel of the Apostolic Palace. He spoked to Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, who led the retreat, and the rest of the Curia who took part in the exercises.

He began by recalling the theme of the retreat – “The art of believing, the art of praying” – and said it reminded him that medieval theologians “translated the word ‘Logos’ not only as ‘Verbum’ (Word), but also as ‘ars’ (art, skill): ‘Verbum’ and ‘ars’ are interchangeable.”

Medieval theologians understood that the Word of God “is also love. The truth is beautiful and the true and beautiful go together: beauty is the seal of truth,” the Pope stated.

Cardinal Ravasi based his meditations on the Psalms, and in one section he pointed out how God’s Creation was made good but evil constantly attacks it.

“It’s almost as if wickedness wills permanently to spoil creation, to contradict God and make its truth and its beauty unrecognizable,” the Pope observed.

“In a world so marked even by evil, the ‘Logos,’ the eternal beauty and the eternal ‘art,’ must appear as a ‘caput cruentatum’(bloodied head). The incarnate Son, the incarnate ‘Logos’ is crowned with a crown of thorns and nevertheless is just that: in this suffering figure of the Son of God we begin to see the deepest beauty of our Creator and Redeemer; in the silence of the ‘dark night’ we can, nevertheless, hear the Word.

“And believing is nothing other than, in the darkness of the world, touching the hand of God, and in this way, in silence, hearing the Word, seeing love,” Pope Benedict said.

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Vatican slams media for trying to influence papal vote

Vatican City, Feb 23, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - As the conclave to elect a new Pope approaches, the media has ramped up its speculation about why the Pope is resigning, causing the Secretariat of State to warn about “completely false and unverifiable” news stories aimed at swaying public opinion to influence the vote. 

“It is deplorable that as we draw closer to the time of the beginning of the Conclave … that there is a widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories, that cause serious damage to persons and institutions,” the Feb. 23 statement from the Secretariat of State said.

Italian newspapers and the international press have been filled in recent days with theories about both the reasons Pope Benedict XVI is stepping down and about how he will spend his last days.

One prominent example is a story run on Feb. 22 by the Italian daily La Repubblica. It alleged that a commission of three cardinals uncovered a gay network of priests at the Holy See who were being blackmailed.

Another report asserted that Pope Benedict would meet with the commission of cardinals in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major on his last day in office, a claim that Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi denied.

The Vatican state department noted that the cardinals who elect the new Pope “have had to face many forms of pressures exerted upon individual electors or on the College of Cardinals.

“Such pressures had as their goal to condition the decisions, following a political or worldly logic.”

In the past it was usually States or politicians who “exerted pressures on the election of the Pope,” the department said.

But “today there is an attempt to do this through public opinion that is often based on judgments that do not typically capture the spiritual aspect of the moment that the Church is living.”

The Secretariat of State urged Catholics to focus in these moments on “what is essential: praying for Pope Benedict, praying also that the Holy Spirit enlighten the College of Cardinals, pray for the future Pope, confident that the future of the barque of Peter is in the hands of God.”

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