Denver, Colo., Jun 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Celebrated by Eastern Catholics of the Byzantine tradition on July 4, Saint Andrew of Crete was a seventh-and eighth-century monk, bishop, and hymn-writer.
Among Eastern Christians he is best known as the author of the “Great Canon,” a lengthy prayer service traditionally offered as a penitential practice during Lent. He is also venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, where he is better known for his writings on the Blessed Virgin Mary.
He should not be confused with a different “Saint Andrew of Crete,” celebrated on Oct. 17, who suffered martyrdom while defending the veneration of icons during the eighth century.
The author of the “Great Canon” was born in the Syrian city of Damascus in the mid-seventh century. He is said to have remained mute for the first seven years of his life, gaining the power of speech at age seven after the reception of Holy Communion.
Devoted to God from that time on, Andrew went to Jerusalem and entered the Monastery of Saint Sava when he was 15 years old. He went on to serve as a cleric of the Jerusalem Patriarchate, and was sent as a representative to the Sixth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople (680-681).
The council took up the monothelite controversy, a disagreement as to whether Christ had both a divine and a human will (as the Church teaches), or only a divine will. Though the question may seem abstract to modern ears, it was an important point, bearing on the reality of Jesus' full humanity.
In 685 Andrew returned to Constantinople, where he did charitable work for orphans and the poor, and served as a deacon in the great Hagia Sophia church. Around the year 700 he became archbishop of the city of Gortyna, on the island of Crete.
In 712, during a resurgence of the monothelite heresy, Andrew was forced to attend an illegitimate gathering in which the Byzantine emperor Philippicus Bardanes tried to reverse the decisions of the Sixth Council. Andrew's coerced attendance was questioned, but forgiven, by the reigning Pope Constantine.
Little is known about the rest of the archbishop's life, which ended peacefully, probably in 740. While his participation in the historic Sixth Council is important, St. Andrew of Crete’s legacy has more to do with his outstanding sermons and liturgical hymns, reflective of a deep interior life of faith.
The Great Canon, his most ambitious known work, takes around three hours to chant. It incorporates more than 200 full-body prostrations along with its many litanies, odes, and refrains. Surveying the Old and New Testaments, it stresses the urgency of repentance and conversion.
The service begins: “Where shall I begin to lament the deeds of my wretched life? What first-fruit shall I offer, O Christ, for my present lamentation? But in Thy compassion grant me release from my falls.”
“Come, wretched soul, with your flesh, confess to the Creator of all. In future refrain from your former brutishness, and offer to God tears in repentance.”
Interspersed throughout, is the Great Canon’s defining plea: “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me!”
Denver, Colo., Jun 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A 22-year-old single mom who chose life during an unplanned pregnancy says that she has found “purpose and love” in the joys and trials of motherhood.
“Being a mom is definitely the road to sainthood for me; it requires total self-sacrifice, but dying to oneself through motherhood has only brought me closer to Christ,” Raquel Kato told CNA in a recent interview.
Kato’s story spread on the internet last year, after she experienced God’s unconditional love in a powerful and life-changing way.
When her 21st birthday led to an unplanned pregnancy, she felt terrified and alone as a single college student. Keeping her pregnancy a secret, she scheduled an abortion, even though she knew in her heart that it was wrong.
However, a week before her scheduled abortion, Kato attended daily Mass and felt God’s merciful love touching her heart. She cancelled the abortion and gave birth to a baby girl, whom she named AveMarie Rose, in October 2012.
She went on to share her story through online venues including Catholic Exchange, FOCUS blog and One Billion Stories. In the nine months since AveMarie was born, she has received positive, supportive reactions.
“In general, I would have to say I have gotten a great response,” she told CNA, explaining that she has received many comments from people who were “very grateful” for the perspective that she had to share.
Kato described motherhood as “the greatest blessing” in her life.
“I've never been so challenged, grown so much, or been so joyful,” she said. “I love making my daughter smile, rocking her to sleep, and watching her reach different milestones.”
“Seeing how much joy she has brought to my parents, friends, and community is so rewarding. My daughter brings a deeper sense of purpose and love to my life and I can't imagine my life without her.”
While she acknowledged that “being a single mom has its hard moments,” she added that “it’s all worth it” when her daughter is “peacefully sleeping, or giggling uncontrollably, or cuddling in my arms.”
Kato said the most important thing she hopes that people are able to take from hearing her story is an understanding of “how to love mothers who are found in unplanned pregnancy.”
These women, she explained, “are broken and scared and they need to be reminded that they are loved in the midst of brokenness.”
Reflecting on her own journey, she said that the loving support of those around her – and particularly offers to babysit for free – have been crucial.
“Because of the support of my friends, family, and neighbors I have been able to complete my undergraduate degree, maintain a part-time job (at a pregnancy resource center), and begin graduate school,” she said, explaining that this support is paving the way for her to be able to support her daughter with a stable job.
“None of this would be possible without those people helping me with childcare,” she stressed.
This type of support is the most valuable resource that can be given to a single mom, Kato advised, emphasizing the need to show compassion and love to women facing unplanned pregnancies.
“If the women in a crisis pregnancy don't understand their own worth and dignity, they will have a hard time understanding the dignity of their unborn child,” she said.
Vatican City, Jun 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
During his Sunday Angelus address to thousands of pilgrims, Pope Francis said that Jesus does not want Christians to succumb to either extreme of being self-absorbed or overly-dependent.
“Jesus wants neither selfish Christians, who follow their egos and do not speak with God, nor weak Christians, without will, 'remote-controlled,'” he said.
The latter are “incapable of creativity...seek ever to connect with the will of another, and are not free,” he told the crowds packed into Saint Peter's Square on June 30.
The Pope based his remarks on Luke 9 which tells how Jesus made the concrete decision to travel to Jerusalem, where he would be crucified.
“Jesus, in his earthly life, was not, so to speak, 'remote-controlled,'” he said. “He was the Word made flesh, the son of God made man, and at one point he made a firm decision to go up to Jerusalem for the last time.”
During his reflection, Pope Francis also emphasized that Jesus never imposes his will on anyone but “extends invitations,” and “invites us.”
The pontiff added that what Jesus wants is for Christians to be free and that the way to do this is through “the inner dialogue with God in conscience.”
“If a Christian does not know how to talk with God, does not know how to listen to God, in his own conscience, then he is not free,” he stressed.
The Pope underscored that the faithful must learn to listen more to their consciences, but that “this does not mean we ought to follow our ego, do whatever interests us, whatever suits us, whatever pleases us.”
Conscience, he explained, is “the interior space in which we can listen to and hear the truth, the good, the voice of God.”
“It is the inner place of our relationship with Him, who speaks to our heart and helps us to discern, to understand the path we ought to take, and once the decision is made, to move forward, to remain faithful.”
In this sense, he observed, Benedict XVI “has given us a great example.”
Pope Francis recalled how Benedict had prayed and realized that resigning from the papacy was the step he had to take. “He followed his conscience with a great sense of discernment and courage.”
“This example of our father does much good to all of us, as an example to follow.”
Concluding his remarks, Pope Francis also touched on Italy's June 30 celebration of the day of Charity of the Pope.
“I desire to thank the bishops and all the parishes, especially the poorest ones, for the prayers and offerings that support the many pastoral initiatives and charitable activities of the Successor of Peter in every part of the world,” he said.