Archive of June 2, 2013

St. Norbert's conversion and reforms remembered June 6

Denver, Colo., Jun 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - On June 6 the Catholic Church honors Saint Norbert of Xanten – who started out as a frivolous and worldly cleric, but was changed by God’s grace into a powerful preacher and an important reformer of the Church during the early 12th century.

He is the founder of the Norbertine order.

Born around the year 1080 in the German town of Xanten, Norbert belonged to a high-ranking family with ties to the imperial court. As a young man he showed a high degree of intelligence and sophistication – which marked him out as a contender for offices within the Church, the state, or both. None of this, however, was any guarantee of a holy life. On the contrary, Norbert's gifts and advantages would prove to be a source of temptation even after he joined the ranks of the clergy.

Norbert was ordained as a subdeacon, and enrolled with a group of clerics in his town, before moving on to an appointment with the powerful Archbishop of Cologne. He went on to serve the German Emperor Henry V, in a position which involved the distribution of aid to the poor. In all of this, however, Norbert displayed no particular piety or personal seriousness, living a rather pleasurable and luxurious life.

His worldly outlook had been called into question in 1110, when he accompanied Emperor Henry V on a trip to Rome. The Pope and emperor were involved in a long-running dispute over the right to right to choose the Church's clergy and control its properties. As their negotiations failed, Norbert was moved by the Pope's argument that the Church must govern itself. At the same time, he saw his master Henry V take the extreme measure of imprisoning the Pope in order to have his way in the matter.

This was not enough, in itself, to prompt a reform of Norbert's own life. That change would come from a brush with death, in approximately 1112: while riding on horseback near Xanten, he was caught in a storm and nearly killed by a lightning bolt. The frightened horse threw Norbert off, and he lay unconscious for some time. Sobered by the experience, he left his imperial post and began a period of prayer and discernment in a monastery. At age 35, he heard God calling him to the priesthood.

Radically converted to the ideals of the Gospel, Norbert was now set against the worldly attitude he had once embodied. This made him unpopular with local clerics, who responded with insults and condemnation. But Norbert was not turning back. He gave all of his wealth to the poor, reducing himself to a barefoot and begging pilgrim who possessed nothing except the means to celebrate Mass.

Pope Callixtus II gave Norbert permission to live as an itinerant preacher, and he was asked to found a religious order so that others might live after his example. He settled in the northern French region of Aisne, along with a small group of disciples who were to live according to the Rule of St. Augustine. On December 25, 1121, they were established as the Canons Regular of Premontre, also known as the Premonstratensians or Norbertines.

Their founder also established a women’s branch of the order, before returning to Germany for a successful preaching tour. He founded a lay branch of the Premonstratensians (the Third Order of St. Norbert), and went on to Belgium, where he preached against a sect that denied the power of the sacraments. His order was invited into many Northern European dioceses, and there was talk of making Norbert a bishop.

Though he avoided an earlier attempt to make him the Bishop of Wurzburg, Norbert was eventually chosen to become the Archbishop of Magdeburg in Germany. The archdiocese was in serious moral and financial trouble, and the new archbishop worked hard to reform it. His efforts were partly successful, but not universally accepted: Norbert was the target of three failed assassination attempts, made by opponents of his reforms.  

When a dispute arose over the papal succession in 1130, Norbert traveled to Rome to support the legitimate Pope Innocent II. Afterward he returned to Germany and became a close adviser to its Emperor Lothar. In a sense, his life seems to have come full-circle: the first hints of his conversion had come on a trip to Rome two decades earlier, when he accompanied a previous emperor. This time, however, Norbert was seeking God’s will, not his own advancement.

With his health failing, Norbert was brought back to Magdeburg. He died there on June 6, 1134. Pope Gregory XIII canonized St. Norbert in 1582. As of 2012, the Premonstratensians are present in 25 nations around the world.

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'Blindside' mom launching show to help adoptive families

New York City, N.Y., Jun 2, 2013 (CNA) - The mother whose story inspired the hit movie “The Blindside” has taken on a new television series to assist families in navigating the process of adoption.

“We are taking one family at a time and we are trying to make a difference,” said Leigh Anne Tuohy, adoptive mother of Super Bowl champion and offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens, Michael Oher.

Ever since her family’s real life story of taking in – and eventually adopting – a teen from the streets has captured the public’s attention, Tuohy said members of the family have been offered spots on numerous shows, from “The Amazing Race” to “Undercover Boss.”

“We’ve turned them all down because that’s just not who we are,” she said in a recent press call.

However, Tuohy recently decided to get involved with UP’s “Family Addition” because “it just enhances our platform and our message” that “every child is valuable” and “every kid in every country of this world is valuable and worth having a forever family.”

Premiering June 7 on the cable television network UP, “Family Addition” will feature a different family each episode that is facing the challenges that come with adopting children.

From reorganizing homes to navigating the “maze of red tape” that is the adoption process, Tuohy wants to help parents all over the United States who are making the transition of bringing in new family members.

So far, the show has only filmed six episodes, but Tuohy said she hopes the network will pick up more so that they can help other families and “bring awareness” to how difficult the adoption process is in the United States.

Drawing the public’s attention to the situation will “hopefully help change some of the laws” and “at the same time make sure that every single child gets a chance,” she explained.

“We’re very simple people and God has picked us to tell a message,” she said.

“That is why we’re putting ourselves out there; because we want to make sure that people realize there are valuable kids in every city in the United States of America and all they need is a chance.”

While the process of adopting is “very difficult,” she said, so is “everything in life that’s worthwhile.”

“Stop thinking it’s the ‘Pollyanna’ perfect situation,” she advised. “We want people to know that it’s difficult, but all good things in life worth working for are difficult.”

Even if viewers are not looking to adopt children, Tuohy said they can still learn how to help adoptive families.

For example, one family on the show – the Jacksons from Los Angeles – adopted seven siblings in addition to their own biological kids. As a result, even the simplest household chore like laundry is a huge undertaking.

“You can show up and help somebody fold clothes,” Tuohy said. “You can make a difference and we want to make sure people are aware of the options.”

Ultimately, Tuohy said she hopes the show will drive home the message that “there are no unwanted kids; just unfound families.”

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Faith requires sharing, Pope teaches

Vatican City, Jun 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The multiplication of the loaves and fish highlights our need to share our faith with others as part of a conversion to a deeper unity with Christ, Pope Francis says.

“The feast of Corpus Christi asks us to convert to faith in Providence, to share the little that we are and that we have, and to not ever close ourselves in,” said Pope Francis June 2.

During his Sunday Angelus address on the Feast of Corpus Christi, which celebrates the Institution of the Eucharist, Pope Francis reflected on Jesus' multiplication of the fish and loaves found in Luke 9.

Something that “always strikes me and makes me think,” the Holy Father said of the Gospel passage, is the way that Jesus involves his disciples in the process of feeding the multitudes.

When the crowds who had followed Jesus to the Sea of Galilee became hungry, he says to his disciples “'you give them something to eat,'” the Pope said.

“The disciples are baffled and they said, 'We have only five loaves and two fish' as if to say just enough for us,” he added.

The pontiff explained that Jesus “knows what to do” but wants to involve his disciples and wants to educate them.

According to him, the disciples seek a “realistic solution” by wanting to send them away to find their own food.

“Jesus' attitude is distinctly different, and is dictated by the union with the Father and compassion for the people, but also by the desire to give a message to the disciples,” the Pope said.

“With those five loaves, Jesus thinks 'here is providence!' and from this little God can satisfy everyone's needs,” he remarked.

The pontiff noted “Jesus totally trusts the heavenly Father and knows that in him all things are possible.”

He stated that when Jesus asked his disciples to sit in groups of fifty, this was“not accidental”and that it meant they “become a community” and no longer simply a crowd.

Pope Francis explained that then Jesus took the loaves and fishes and raised his eyes to heaven adding that this “is a clear reference to the Eucharist.”

“He begins to give it to the disciples, and the disciples distribute the bread and fish and do not stop!” he exclaimed.

“Here's the miracle, that it is more a sharing than a multiplying, animated from faith and prayer,”said the Pope.

He underscored that it “is the sign of Jesus, the bread of God for humanity.”

Pope Francis also took time to pray for the victims of the conflict in Syria, especially the civilians and the victims of kidnappings.

“My concern is always alive and suffering at the persistence of the conflict which for more than two years inflames Syria and affects especially the civilian population, who aspires to peace in justice and understanding.”

“This troubled war situation brings with it tragic consequences: death, destruction, massive economic and environmental damage, as well as the scourge of kidnapping,” he said.

He assured those kidnapped and their families of his prayers and sympathy and asked their captors to have “humanity” and to release the victims.

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