Archive of April 28, 2013

Church commemorates Pope St. Pius V on April 30

Denver, Colo., Apr 28, 2013 (CNA) - A defender of Catholic doctrine and Christian civilization during the tumultuous 16th century, Pope Saint Pius V has his liturgical memorial on April 30.

The Dominican Pope is known for implementing the reforms of the Council of Trent, and for organizing the “Holy League” that defeated the Turkish naval fleet at the 1571 Battle of Lepanto.

Though St. Pius V’s pontificate was not extremely lengthy, it was a turning point in the history of the Church. In a 2004 letter for the fifth centenary of his predecessor’s birth, Blessed John Paul II mentioned some of St. Pius V’s groundbreaking achievements, which have continued to shape the liturgical and devotional life of the Christian West:

“He strove to apply faithfully the decrees of the Council of Trent: in the liturgical field, with the publication of the renewed (Tridentine) Roman Missal and the new Breviary; in the area of catechetics, by entrusting to parish priests in particular the ‘Catechism of the Council of Trent’; and as for theology, it was he who introduced St. Thomas' ‘Summa' into the universities,” Bl. John Paul II recalled in his tribute to St. Pius V.

“Conscious of the mission he had received from Christ the Good Shepherd, he devoted himself to tending the flock entrusted to him, encouraging daily recourse to prayer and making Marian devotion a priority. He contributed significantly to spreading it by giving strong encouragement to the practice of praying the Rosary, and he himself would recite the whole of it every day, despite his many exacting tasks.”

Born in the Italian region of Alessandria on Jan. 17, 1504, Michael Ghislieri belonged to a family that was living in poverty despite its distinguished past. He was taught by members of the Dominican Order, and chose to join them when he was only 14. After a decade of further study and formation, he became a priest in 1528.

In keeping with the Dominican tradition, Michael combined intense prayer and penance with intellectual rigor. He taught philosophy and theology, helped form new recruits, and led several houses of the order. His personal holiness and orthodoxy were acknowledged by Pope Paul IV, who made him a bishop in 1556 and a cardinal in 1557. During the same year he assumed leadership of the Holy Office of the Inquisition in Rome.

Against his own wishes, Michael was elected Pope in 1566. Taking the name of Pius V, the new Pope set an example for the faithful through acts of humility and charity. He visited the sick, washed the feet of the poor and suffering, and adopted a stripped-down lifestyle in accordance with his Dominican formation.

At the same time, the Pope had to address grave internal and external threats to the Church. Protestant forces had gained state support and were taking steps to extinguish the Catholic faith in some countries. Meanwhile, the Turks – having conquered Constantinople just over a century before – were advancing westward and asserting their sea power in the Mediterranean. Turkish forces attacked Malta in 1565, and conquered Cyprus in 1570.

While counteracting Protestantism through the Tridentine reforms, Pius also took steps to stop the spread of militant Islam. He brought together Spanish and Italian naval forces, together with those of the Papal States, under the command of Don John of Austria. Though seriously outnumbered, the “Holy League” won a dramatic and decisive battle against the Turkish fleet at Lepanto on Oct. 7, 1571.

Aided by the prayers of the Church, and particularly by the prayer of the Rosary, the Holy League’s victory secured Western Europe against Islamic domination for many centuries. Pius V instituted the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, each year on Oct. 7, to commemorate the victory and give thanks for the Blessed Virgin Mary’s intercessory role.

During 1572 Pope Pius V was working toward a new and broader alliance of Western Christian powers against expansionist Islam. The Pope did not live to carry out this plan, however, as he became ill and died on May 1 of that year.

Pope St. Pius V was canonized in 1712. Since that time, only one other Pope – St. Pius X – has been declared a saint.

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New film shows dramatic revival of Omaha parish

Omaha, Neb., Apr 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A new documentary tracks the gripping journey of how a priest and his community – through fidelity to Church tradition and Vatican II – turned a church with dwindling numbers into a thriving parish.

“We're trying to do everything as faithfully as we can, as beautifully as we can, to what the Church has given us,” Father Damien Cook, pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in Omaha, told CNA April 24.

St. Peter's is “dedicated to the restoration of the sacred,” he said, with Masses sung with Latin and chant, liturgies celebrated both facing the people and facing the altar, altar boys, Eucharistic adoration, evening prayer sung every day, processions, and distribution of Communion at the altar rail.

“This is what we should do, if we're going to be a fully faithful church according to Vatican II and the whole tradition of the Church,” said Fr. Cook.

“Where Heaven Meets Earth” is a 30 minute documentary produced by the StoryTel Foundation, which will be premiered on EWTN on Tuesday, April 30. A DVD of the documentary is also available for pre-order at the foundation's website.

Don Carney, the director of StoryTel Foundation, told CNA that his family began attending St. Peter's in 2006 because “we were completely blown away by Fr. Cook and his approach to the liturgy...the music really grabbed us.”

“I had no plans to do a story on this place, but as we attended Mass, and then they had their annual Corpus Christi procession, I was so amazed by this huge outpouring of's a really beautiful thing,” Carney said.

St. Peter's Corpus Christi procession attracts over 1,000 people, including for the second year in a row, Omaha's archbishop, George J. Lucas. The procession goes through the parish's downtown neighborhood, which has drawn people back to the Catholic Church.

“If the truth is the truth...we want everyone to find and embrace that truth. It does them no act of kindness to keep the very truth that will free them, from them,” Fr. Cook explains in the documentary.

St. Peter's was founded in 1886 and did well until the 480 freeway was constructed within a block of the church in the early 1960s. The construction razed many homes and businesses, and Omaha experienced a massive population move to the suburbs and west Omaha.

The parish was impoverished and experienced dwindling attendance until Fr. Cook was assigned as pastor in 2004.

Fr. Cook says he didn't come to St. Peter's with a program or plan to bring more people in. Instead, he asked the question of himself: “What do I think it means to be a priest, and a pastor?”

Although this includes “all components of charity and catechesis,” he said, “first and foremost it has to start with the's the source and summit. So the first thing that happened, that I could do, was liturgical formation.”

The decisions Fr. Cook made “drew a lot of people back to the Church, which in turn re-vitalized our ministries, so now we've got all kinds of outpourings.”

The parish is home to a vibrant Catholic culture, with a St. Vincent de Paul society, a food pantry, Boy Scouts, music ministry, four choirs, lay Carmelites, and a host of other organizations.

“People get drawn by the liturgy, and they've then given back to the Church in terms of evangelization, charity, and's beautiful to behold.”

“It's been a real blessing. I always pinch myself that I'm here, because I keep thinking God must not love me very much because there's very little suffering,” Fr. Cook jested. “The people are really nice, and very passionate about their faith.”

The beauty Fr. Cook has brought to the liturgy at St. Peter's is not about “spectacle for its own sake, but to convey the grandeur of God.”

“We can only desire to give God our best. So it's not so much to give back to us, in the sense of that's a nice concert or that's so pretty, but what can we give back to God,” he said.

“This is the worship of Jesus to God the it deserves that our display be its best with our meager resources, to convey what's happening invisibly.”

“That is absolutely beautiful, and liturgical rites are ordered towards truth, so there's a goodness and symmetry to them.”

Fr. Cook believes beauty is particularly important in our age, because “we've lost so much in this very functional age, in terms of idolizing efficiency.” He said the Gregorian chant sung at the parish transcends cultures and “brings people back to beauty.”

Between the chanted psalms at the Mass and the gorgeous stained glass windows made in Germany in the 1920s, at St. Peter's “everything goes together to make this beautiful symphony of truth, of goodness.”

The adoption of chant has even affected the reverence of parishioners at St. Peter's. “I'm blessed with the congregation that comes,” Fr. Cook said. “We have a lot of big families, in both the English and Spanish-speaking communities, so they make noise, but I don't have to get up and remind them after Mass to be quiet.”

“They stay in the pew for their thanksgiving, and go outside to the vestibule to talk. And even the dress, what people wear has really changed. Guests comment on how nicely people dress for Sunday Mass.”

Fr. Cook reflected that “you never realize how much one person affects the person next to them, and we can bring each other down or really raise each other up.”

“Even if we're not physically talking to someone, but just by what we wear and by deciding to stay after and pray at the altar rail or in our pew, it really reminds people. It really has helped here.”

Each Sunday, the parish has two Masses in English and two in Spanish, before and during which confessions are heard, with the assistance of Fr. Cook's parochial vicar, Fr. Rheo Ofalsa.

St. Peter's is also host to a Vietnamese community which has a Mass there each Sunday. Were the parish more than its 1.6 miles away from a church dedicated to the celebration of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite – how the Mass was said prior to 1962 – Fr. Cook would be offering that as well.

Some parishioners attend Mass at both parishes, he said, and his people appreciate that he celebrates the ordinary form by “following Vatican II as best we can – still using Latin, chant, organ, the communion rail, all those kind of things, even ad orientem. I think people do experience beauty in that.”

Fr. Cook also made a conscious decision to allow altar serving to be done by boys, in an effort to provide the young boys of the parish with “some solidarity” and to promote vocations. From the nine altar servers the parish had when he arrived in 2004, the parish is now served by 75 altar boys.

The altar boy program is divided into degrees, so the children can experience accomplishment and progress in their time there. The boys start out wearing albs, and once they have proved themselves as reliable, they receive a “Seraph Server” award and they are allowed to wear cassock and surplice.

Some of these then become masters of ceremonies and take on responsibilities in training the younger boys. The ethos at St. Peter's has already inspired one parishioner, already an adult, to pursue a consecrated vocation. Nathan Hall is a seminarian of the Omaha archdiocese now studying theology.

Fr. Cook also wanted a “motherly role” at the parish, and said God granted him two religious sisters, who are beginning an order of “active Poor Clares,” in the Franciscan tradition.

The Seraphic Sisters of the Eucharist bring the “poverty, joy, and love” of Saint Clare to St. Peter's. The sisters serve as sacristans, teachers, give retreat days, and do counseling work with the parish's Latino population.

“It's great to actually have two sisters here who day in and day out are praying for the parish and working with the youth,” said Fr. Cook. “Even if they don't have vocations here to the Seraphic Sisters, I know it's inspiring the girls to look for consecrated life in a particular way.”

StoryTel Foundation's mission is to create compelling films which tell of those who work to restore the sacred in their communities, and their goal with “Where Heaven Meets Earth” was to share how establishing reverence for God has helped a parish that was going under to now do well.

“If your parish is suffering in any way, maybe you might try some of the things that Father's doing here that might help the parish, and bring people closer to their faith,” Carney said.

The non-profit spent $100,000 producing the documentary, which shows in its high quality. Carney said that a positive message is not sufficient for Catholics to make a great film. Quality imagery, sound, and story, still matter.

StoryTel strives to produce excellent documentaries because “everything you put on the screen is in competition with everything a viewer has seen on the screen. So you're competing with Lincoln, and with Lawrence of Arabia, so you need to take that into account,” Carney explained.

“What's really good, true, and beautiful is timeless, so it's always new.” He said Fr. Cook's restoration of the timeless elements of the Church's tradition is “like rediscovering buried treasure of the Church.”

St. Peter's church building is in the process of being restored. It suffered damage in its years of dwindling parishioners and money, and Fr. Cook has already had the roof replaced.

The parish is in the process of further restoration, switching from carpet to marble flooring, getting new pews, painting and brightening the church, and getting new lighting, all to “make a vision of heaven,” Fr. Cook said.

All the efforts made at St. Peter's have been in conformity with the heritage of the Church and with Vatican II.

Fr. Cook explained, “I've done nothing that wasn't prescribed in Sacrosanctum concilium (the council's constitution on liturgy) and the documents since. It's not because of me, because I like it...but this is what the documents say.”

He would like to see the reforms made at the church “in any parish. St. Peter's shouldn't be unique.” The priest added that he is glad that the people of St. Peter's have been open to the beauty that was asked for by the Second Vatican Council.  

They didn't condemn the changes, or have preconceptions about it such as “this is old, or won't be interesting,” he said,“but they let themselves experience what this creates in the Church – the music, the altar rail, the incense, all these things – you do really do associate them with reverence and the sacred.”

“The experience itself teaches people,” Fr. Cook reflected, “if they allow themselves to experience the beauty, and be open to it.”

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Pope confirms young people, calls them to be 'steadfast'

Vatican City, Apr 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - At a Mass where he confirmed 44 young people, Pope Francis encouraged the youth of the world to persist in their faith even in the midst of obstacles.

“Remaining steadfast in the journey of faith, with firm hope in the Lord, is the secret of our journey,” he told over 70,000 young people gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

“There are no difficulties, trials or misunderstandings to fear, provided we remain united to God as branches to the vine, provided we do not lose our friendship with him, provided we make ever more room for him in our lives,” he said during the 10:00 a.m. Mass on April 28.

The Mass marked the ending of a two-day celebration as part of the Year of Faith, which gathered thousands of youths from around the world.

The day before, the young people had met with teachers of faith, or catechists, at Saint Peter's Square for a pilgrimage to the tombs of Saint Peter and Blessed John Paul II.

The Eucharistic celebration was dedicated to the 44 young people from around the world to whom the Pope imparted the sacrament of Confirmation, and to those who had already received the sacrament earlier this year.

“To go against the current, this is good for the heart, but we need courage to swim against the tide,” Pope Francis noted.

“Jesus gives us this courage,” he stressed.

Examining the day's Gospel reading, the Pontiff observed that the Holy Spirit “makes all things new” and “changes us.”

“The Holy Spirit is truly transforming us, and through us he also wants to transform the world in which we live,” explained the Pope.

“How beautiful it would be,” he said, “if each of you, every evening, could say: Today at school, at home, at work, guided by God, I showed a sign of love towards one of my friends, my parents, an older person!”

He noted that when God makes all things “new,” they are not like “the novelties of this world, all of which are temporary,” but are “lasting, not only in the future but today as well.”

Pope Francis also explained that “we must undergo many trials if we are to enter the Kingdom of God.”

“To follow the Lord, to let his Spirit transform the shadowy parts of our lives, our ungodly ways of acting, and cleanse us of our sins, is to set out on a path with many obstacles, both in the world around us but also within us, in the heart,” he said.

He explained that trials are “part of the path that leads to God's glory” and told the pilgrims that they will always encounter difficulties in life.

“Do not be discouraged,” the Pope emphasized. “We have the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome these trials!”

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Pope stresses workers' dignity after Bangladesh factory collapse

Vatican City, Apr 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis offered condolences and prayers, along with calls for worker safety, after a factory collapsed and killed more than 350 people in Bangladesh.

“I express my solidarity and deepest sympathy to the families mourning their loved ones,” he said at Saint Peter's Square on April 28.

In his Regina Caeli address, the Holy Father offered prayers “for the many victims” of the tragedy.

On April 24, an eight-story building collapsed in the Rana Plaza complex in Savar, just north of Dhaka, killing at least 352 people.

Around 30 survivors were found yesterday, but police say nearly 1,000 are still missing, trapped under the building's remains.

Rescue teams were still searching for survivors on the night of April 27, using electric drills, shovels and their bare hands.

Police have detained two of the factory's owners as well as two engineers involved in issuing the building's permits.

The building collapsed just a day after warnings had been given saying it was unsafe. A petition has been launched calling for compensation to be given the victims and their families.

A demonstration outside a Primark retail store was held in London after it was revealed that the company had used a floor of the building that collapsed.

Pope Francis appealed in his address for “the dignity and safety of the worker” to always be respected.

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