Archive of April 21, 2013

Franciscan martyr St. Fidelis honored April 24

Denver, Colo., Apr 21, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A former lawyer who left his profession to become a Capuchin Franciscan priest, Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen has his liturgical memorial on April 24.

Fidelis' life bridged the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a time of religious conflict in Western Europe. He died at the hands of a mob while preaching in Switzerland, where he had gone to combat the Calvinist heresy.

The future “Fidelis” received the name of Mark Rey at the time of his birth, during 1577 in present-day Germany. Mark studied at the University of Freiburg, and worked for a time as a private tutor. Eventually he went back to the university and earned his law degree around 1611.

Though he had already shown signs of devotion to God and studied canon law alongside civil law, Mark opted for a secular career as an attorney. Within a year he was known as “the poor man’s lawyer” because of his concern for the needy. Just as quickly, he became disgusted with the corrupt ways of his chosen field .

Leaving his legal practice behind, Mark decided to give his life directly to the service of Christ and the Church. In short order he received ordination as a priest, and joined the Capuchin Franciscans in Freiburg.

With his entry into the order he received the name “Fidelis,” meaning “faithful” -- after the words of Jesus Christ in the Book of Revelation, “Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” As he embraced radical poverty and simplicity, the attorney-turned-Franciscan left his inheritance to a scholarship fund for poor seminarians, who also received his books.

Fidelis showed his love for God through prayer and fasting, while caring for his neighbors through preaching, writing, and the celebration of the sacraments. He showed particular care for the poor and sick, and was especially revered for his work among Austrian soldiers who were suffering from a plague epidemic.

During 1614 a Swiss Catholic bishop had sought help from the Capuchins, to restore the faith and counteract the spread of Calvinist Protestantism. In 1621, Fidelis was sent on the mission. He brought just four items: a Bible, a prayer book, a crucifix and a copy of the Capuchin rule.

The winter of 1621-22 was a busy period of preaching, instruction and theological disputation for the Franciscan priest. He preached not only in the pulpits of Catholic churches, but also in public places, and even in the meeting-places of the Calvinists themselves. Some Swiss Protestants responded with hostility, but many others were also brought back to the Church.

Like many cases of religious persecution during this time, Fidelis’ treatment at the hands of the Calvinists did not stem exclusively from doctrinal disagreement. National and cultural tensions also contributed, with many Swiss Protestants suspecting that the Catholic mission was part of an Austrian plot against their nation.

This volatile situation boiled over on April 24, 1622, when Fidelis’ preaching provoked a riot at a church in the village of Seewis. Some Austrian soldiers were killed in the uproar, and a would-be assassin shot at the priest.

After declining an offer of help from a Protestant, Fidelis was confronted outside the church by a mob, and told to choose between his Catholic beliefs and his life. Fidelis was defiant: “The Catholic religion is the faith of all ages. I fear not death.”

St. Fidelis was beaten and stabbed to death. The sight of his martyrdom, however, is said to have converted one of the Protestant preachers who led the mob. A succession of attested miracles led to his canonization in 1746.

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Catholic agency hopes for lasting food aid reform

Baltimore, Md., Apr 21, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic Relief Services is supportive of a proposal to make changes in the way that government food aid is delivered internationally, provided that it has long-term provisions that will not be subject to annual budget debates.

Recently, the Obama administration proposed shifting the model for international food aid. Under the current model, money is used to purchase food produced in the U.S. and ship it overseas. The new proposal would rely more heavily on purchasing food locally in impoverished and disaster-stricken nations.

“This set of reforms offers a great deal of flexibility and ways to make food programming more efficient and to enable us to use our local purchase mechanism to support the local farmer and the household which needs food,” said Lisa Kuennen-Asfaw, Catholic Relief Service's public donor group director.

“But the concern we are raising is that there's got to be an authorizing framework in place to make sure that it's a consistent program available year upon year....that the vehicle for this funding stays in place,” she told CNA on April 18.

The president's recent budget proposal suggests shifting funds from the Food for Peace Act to USAID, a government agency responsible for administering foreign aid. This would allow greater freedom in how the funds are utilized than at present.

A 2011 USAID report estimated that cash-based programs such as local purchasing could save 25-50 percent in food aid costs, and do so much more quickly.

“Buying food locally, instead of in the United States, costs much less,” Rajiv Shah, director of USAID, said at an April 10 meeting of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “That’s because the average prices of buying and delivering American food across an ocean has increased from $390 per metric ton in 2001 to $1,180 today.”

“We agree with the goals of the president's proposal,” said Kuennen-Asfaw. “We've been working for quite a few of these reforms over a long period of time, and we feel that the reforms being proposed would be very helpful as long as they are enshrined in some sort of a legislative authorizing mechanism.”

Without an authorizing framework giving “substantial long-term support to those programs,” she explained, the proposal would be “subject to the whims of every single budget year.”

“Presidential initiatives come and go, and support for specific budget lines may come and go. But the needs of the poor and vulnerable are ongoing.”

Catholic Relief Services says the flexibility of the new proposal is of the utmost importance. The kind of aid that will be most helpful in any particular situation is “very context-specific” and shouldn't be hampered by red tape.

The Catholic agency provides food aid using both food procured in the U.S. and local purchase programs.

Currently, much of U.S. government food aid is done by purchasing food from American producers and paying to have it shipped internationally. That system is perceived to be grossly inefficient in many sectors.

“Where there is the appropriate food available in the local market, it supports local agriculture and processing,” explained Kuennen-Asfaw. “The whole value chain for local development can be supported by providing cash instead of bringing food in.”

But when there isn't sufficient food available, as in an acute crisis situation, it can be better to avoid large-scale local purchasing lest aid agencies push food prices “above the reach of those who previously were able to afford it,” she remarked.

Typically, though, “we would be able to incorporate fresh fruit and vegetables and perhaps some animal proteins with a local purchase program, whereas it’s hard to do that kind of thing when we have something procured in the U.S. and shipped around the world,” said Kuennen-Asfaw.

“We would be able to utilize foods appropriate for local tastes and consumption habits, so when we build our nutrition messages around the program, we're talking about things people use on a daily basis instead of something foreign. So it's those kinds of considerations that have encouraged us … to procure food locally, where it's appropriate and feasible for us to do so.”

Catholic Relief Services makes a point of doing market analysis before and during food aid interventions, to protect against doing harm to local agricultural economies.

When doing food purchasing programs, the organization can provide vouchers to needy families so that they can purchase food from vendors whose food safety and quality has been verified.

Obama's proposal is supported by the head of USAID, but it has met with resistance on Capitol Hill. Both the shipping and domestic agricultural industries benefit from the Food for Peace Act.

To allay the fears of those groups, the proposal ensures that at least 55 percent of funding for emergency food assistance will continue to be used for providing goods produced in the U.S.

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Ask Jesus what he wants and be brave, Pope tells youth

Vatican City, Apr 21, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Just after ordaining 10 men to the priesthood, Pope Francis called on young Catholics to ask Jesus “what he wants from you and be brave!”

“There are many young people today, here in the square. Let me ask this: have you sometimes heard the voice of the Lord through a desire, restlessness, inviting you to follow him more closely? Have you had any desire to be apostles of Jesus?” Pope Francis asked the crowd in St. Peter’s Square.

He urged the youth present in the square for the April 21 Regina Caeli prayers to strive for high ideals. “Ask Jesus what he wants from you and be brave!” he exclaimed.

Pope Francis also encouraged people to pray for those who are discerning their vocation and wondering what God’s will is for their lives.

“Behind and before every vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life,” he said, “there is always strong and intense prayer from someone: a grandmother, a grandfather, a mother, a father, a community ... .”

“Vocations are born in prayer and prayer, and only in prayer can they persevere and bear fruit,” he remarked.

Pope Francis made his remarks after having ordained 10 men as priests for the Diocese of Rome in St. Peter’s Basilica, a celebration that coincided with the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which was created by Pope Paul VI.

In his remarks before reciting the Regina Caeli prayer, he emphasized the importance of the day and asked for prayers for the new priests.

He finished his words by invoking the intercession of Mary, that she would “help us to know better the voice of Jesus and to follow her to walk in the way of life.”

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Minister with constant joy, Pope Francis counsels new priests

Vatican City, Apr 21, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis ordained 10 men as priests this morning, reminding them that they should carry out their ministry with “constant joy and genuine love.”

“Therefore, carry out the ministry of Christ the Priest with constant joy and genuine love, attending not to your own concerns but to those of Jesus Christ. You are pastors, not functionaries. Be mediators, not intermediaries,” the Pope told the newly ordained.

The Mass of Ordination began at 9:30 a.m. in St. Peter’s Basilica, and the crowd was large enough that it spilled out into the square where the crowd followed along on large screen TVs.

The ceremony fell on the 50th anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which was first instituted by Pope Paul VI.

The men who were ordained came from Rome’s Major Seminary, the diocesan college Redemptoris Mater and the seminary of the Oblates of Divine Love.

Pope Francis’ homily based on the one found in the Italian edition of the Pontificale Romano, with a few personal additions. He was joined in celebrating the ceremony by the Vicar General of Rome Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Bishop Filippo Iannone, the diocese’s auxiliary bishops, and the rectors of the various seminaries.

An English translation of the Pope’s homily follows:

Beloved brothers and sisters: because these our sons, who are your relatives and friends, are now to be advanced to the Order of priests, consider carefully the nature of the rank in the Church to which they are about to be raised.

It is true that God has made his entire holy people a royal priesthood in Christ. Nevertheless, our great Priest himself, Jesus Christ, chose certain disciples to carry out publicly in his name, and on behalf of mankind, a priestly office in the Church. For Christ was sent by the Father and he in turn sent the Apostles into the world, so that through them and their successors, the Bishops, he might continue to exercise his office of Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd. Indeed, priests are established co-workers of the Order of Bishops, with whom they are joined in the priestly office and with whom they are called to the service of the people of God.

After mature deliberation and prayer, these, our brothers, are now to be ordained to the priesthood in the Order of the presbyterate so as to serve Christ the Teacher, Priest, and
Shepherd, by whose ministry his body, that is, the Church, is built and grows into the people of God, a holy temple.

In being configured to Christ the eternal High Priest and joined to the priesthood of the Bishops, they will be consecrated as true priests of the New Testament, to preach the Gospel, to shepherd God’s people, and to celebrate the sacred Liturgy, especially the Lord’s sacrifice.

Now, my dear brothers and sons, you are to be raised to the Order of the Priesthood. For your part you will exercise the sacred duty of teaching in the name of Christ the Teacher. Impart to everyone the word of God which you have received with joy. Remember your mothers, your grandmothers, your catechists, who gave you the word of God, the faith ... the gift of faith! They transmitted to you this gift of faith. Meditating on the law of the Lord, see that you believe what you read, that you teach what you believe, and that you practice what you teach. Remember too that the word of God is not your property: it is the word of God. And the Church is the custodian of the word of God.

In this way, let what you teach be nourishment for the people of God. Let the holiness of your lives be a delightful fragrance to Christ’s faithful, so that by word and example you may build up the house which is God’s Church.

Likewise you will exercise in Christ the office of sanctifying. For by your ministry the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful will be made perfect, being united to the sacrifice of Christ, which will be offered through your hands in an unbloody way on the altar, in union with the faithful, in the celebration of the sacraments. Understand, therefore, what you do and imitate what you celebrate. As celebrants of the mystery of the Lord’s death and resurrection, strive to put to death whatever in your members is sinful and to walk in newness of life.

You will gather others into the people of God through Baptism, and you will forgive sins in the name of Christ and the Church in the sacrament of Penance. Today I ask you in the name of Christ and the Church, never tire of being merciful. You will comfort the sick and the elderly with holy oil: do not hesitate to show tenderness towards the elderly. When you celebrate the sacred rites, when you offer prayers of praise and thanks to God throughout the hours of the day, not only for the people of God but for the world—remember then that you are taken from among men and appointed on their behalf for those things that pertain to God. Therefore, carry out the ministry of Christ the Priest with constant joy and genuine love, attending not to your own concerns but to those of Jesus Christ. You are pastors, not functionaries. Be mediators, not intermediaries.

Finally, dear sons, exercising for your part the office of Christ, Head and Shepherd, while united with the Bishop and subject to him, strive to bring the faithful together into one family, so that you may lead them to God the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit. Keep always before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd who came not to be served but to serve, and who came to seek out and save what was lost.

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