Denver, Colo., Jul 21, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - As huge crowds of youth flock to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day 2013, some participants from past years are currently living out vocations discovered at the global youth events.
Sr. Kathryn Maney of the Marian Sisters of Lincoln, Neb., says that at the 1993 World Youth Day in Denver, she saw the joy and peace of religious sisters and that it “drew my heart.”
Begun in 1986 by Blessed John Paul II, World Youth Day takes place every two or three years. Several million young people from across the globe are expected to attend the event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this year on July 23-28.
One of the events to take place at this year’s gathering is a four-day vocations fair, which will feature around 150 different religious organizations.
In the past, World Youth Day events have been credited with sparking vocations, with many young people saying that their eyes were opened to God’s call for their lives.
“That love of Holy Mother Church that was instilled and inspired within me by God’s grace at World Youth Day in Denver was definitely a stepping point in the direction of the Lord leading me closer to himself in the religious life,” Sr. Kathryn told CNA on July 12.
A sophomore in high school when she attended the event, she said that it led to her “falling in love with the Church.”
“Just seeing the universality of the Church and the spiritual fatherhood of Blessed John Paul II and the witness of the faith of the other young people with me was a great inspiration and a grace.”
Being able to attend World Youth Day again in 1997 in Paris, just before entering the community of the Marian sisters, was “a tremendous help in solidifying that sense of being called to be a spouse of Christ,” Sr. Kathryn said.
Fr. Scott Courtney, a priest of the diocese of Lincoln, was also inspired in his vocation by a pilgrimage to World Youth Day. A young seminarian at the time, it was the theme of Denver’s youth gathering that gave Fr. Courtney “the verse which I try to live by.”
That verse was John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal, slaughter and destroy, but I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.”
“That World Youth Day was the first that really inspired me to live that abundant life more,” Fr. Courtney said.
“Seeing the Holy Father vibrant and joy-filled was a great experience,” he recalled. “I think for the first time I experienced in Denver that mark of the Church which is ‘catholic.’”
Also nurtured at World Youth Day were the vocations of Joe and Karissa O’Hearn. Now married, the couple met on a pilgrimage to Cologne, Germany, in 2006.
The summer before their senior year of high school, the O’Hearns met at the airport on the way to Germany, their friendship developing over the period of the trip.
“From World Youth Day this huge conversion had sparked in him,” Karissa told CNA about her husband, who had been complacent in his faith before the pilgrimage.
She noted that “what I had with Christ didn’t conflict with what I had with Joe. The two never impaled each other…there was nothing I wanted to keep from Christ about our relationship.”
Reflecting on one night of the pilgrimage in particular, when they both spent time in adoration together, O’Hearn said that “there was just this warmth and this peace that came over me…I could totally focus on Christ. It was the first time I wasn’t making this happen, but God was laying this gift before me.”
Now married for four years and expecting their second child, O’Hearn observed, “Looking back and thinking about what Christ has shown me, there are many things, many gifts that have come through our marriage.”
“I’ve always been this really dorky, middle-school type romantic,” she explained. Thinking back on meeting her husband at World Youth Day, she said that “Christ really showed me – all those romantic desires, all of the things you created from sitcoms – those desires I’ve placed in your heart.”
Christ says, “I took you all the way to Germany just to meet your spouse and know and encounter me,” she said.
New Haven, Conn., Jul 21, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The story of the persecution of Mexican Catholics in the 1920s is being told anew, in an English translation of a book by a scholar of Mexican culture and history.
“This was a period of enormous suffering and loss of life, as the government of Mexico in the 1920s sought to all but extinguish the faith that was fervently practiced and loved by the people,” Joseph Cullen, senior communications specialist with the Knights of Columbus, told CNA July 19.
“Mexican President Plutarco Calles’ violent crackdown killed many, and many more fled north.”
The English-language edition of Jean Meyer’s book “La Cristiada: The Mexican People’s War for Religious Liberty,” published by Square One Publishers, was commissioned by the Knights of Columbus. Its author, the French-born historian Jean Meyer, has taught at the Sorbonne and at El Colegio de México.
The book tells the story of the “Cristiada,” the Cristero rebellion and uprising that lasted for three years. In the mid-1920s, a government crackdown severely restricted the freedom of the Catholic Church in Mexico, with laws banning public displays of religion and expelling foreign priests.
In July 1926, the Church reacted by suspending all religious services in Mexico.
The persecution included the summary execution of many clergy and lay Catholics. Several Knights of Columbus were martyred under the government, including six priests who were later canonized.
The violent crackdown led to further persecution, and provoked an uprising that grew into a civil war.
Some American groups such as the Knights of Columbus sought to end the persecution, while others, including the then-powerful Ku Klux Klan, favored the Mexican government’s actions.
“As bishops, priests, seminarians and lay people streamed north to escape the persecution and violence, it was, again, many American Catholics who helped open doors for these refugees and exiles, supporting their neighbors from the south,” Cullen said.
Cullen called Meyer’s book is “a fascinating piece of forgotten history,” adding that Americans don’t know more about the story because the “deep divisions” it caused in Mexico meant Mexicans did not discuss it openly for many years.
“However, in recent decades, as the Mexican government has at last rescinded many of the anti-clerical laws from this period, the story is once again coming to light,” Cullen said.
The Cristero uprising was the subject of the 2012 movie “For Greater Glory,” which starred Andy Garcia and Eva Longoria.
The foreword to the new edition of Meyer’s book was written by Carl Anderson, head of the Knights of Columbus.
Anderson said that United States citizens are “blessed to be in a country ruled by law where our differences are decided in courtrooms and voting booths.” However, Americans should not forget “that not all are so fortunate.”
“It is heartening that this forgotten chapter in North American history is finally getting the attention it deserves.”
Vatican City, Jul 21, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his Sunday Angelus message, Pope Francis told crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square to unite prayer and action in Christian life.
“Prayer that doesn’t lead to concrete action toward our brothers is a fruitless and incomplete prayer,” the Pope said July 21. “But at the same time, when ecclesial service only attends to work, not reserving time for dialogue with God in prayer, it risks serving itself rather than God who is present in the brother in need.”
He added, “prayer and action must always be profoundly united.”
Pope Francis reflected on the Gospel story of Martha and Mary, the two sisters and “faithful disciples” who welcomed Jesus into their home. Martha worked to prepare a meal, while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus “listening to his word.”
Jesus lovingly reproached Martha for her preoccupation with work because she was overly concerned with “doing,” which is only one aspect of Christian life.
Mary and Martha’s different responses to Jesus demonstrate two fundamental aspects of Christian life: action and prayer, the Pope said. Together, they are “essential.” Prayer and action “should never be separated, but lived in profound unity and harmony.”
The Pope reminded his audience of St. Benedict, the father of monasticism, whose motto was “ora et labora,” — “prayer and work.”
While the two are inseparable, prayer acts as the foundation for all charitable work. Pope Francis explained, “From contemplative prayer, from a strong friendship with the Lord, is born in us the capacity to live and carry forth the love of God, His mercy, and His tenderness toward others.”
Yet when we act in charity toward our neighbor out of love for Jesus, “our service towards those in need brings us to God.”
“In a Christian,” said Pope Francis, “the works of service and charity are never detached from the main source of all our actions: listening to the Word of the Lord, staying – like Mary – at the feet of Jesus, in the attitude of a disciple.”
As he greeted the various groups gathered in St. Peter’s square, Pope Francis tied his gospel reflection to the upcoming World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where young people from around the globe will gather in prayer and celebration this week.
“All those who are going to Rio want to hear to the voice of Jesus,” said Pope Francis. “Listen to Jesus. Ask, ‘Lord, what should I do with my life? What is the path for me?’ And you youth who are standing here in the piazza must ask the same questions of Jesus!”
In greeting the cheering crowds, the Pope spotted one particular banner wishing him safe travels in Italian.
“I see written there, ‘buon viaggio.’ Thank you!” he said. “I ask you to accompany me spiritually in prayer on my first Apostolic Journey, which I will leave for tomorrow.”
Pope Francis will depart on Monday July 22, for the 28th World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The events begin on Tuesday, July 23, but do not end until Sunday, July 28.
The Pope joked with the crowds, “I think this could be called World Youth Week!”
Rome, Italy, Jul 21, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Two days before his departure to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil for World Youth Day, Pope Francis made a surprise trip Saturday to Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major in order to ask for Mary’s intercession.
The Pope entered through the side door of the basilica. He spoke a few words to the faithful gathered there. He asked them to accompany him “with prayers, trust and penance” for World Youth Day.
Pope Francis spent over thirty minutes of his one hour and fifteen minute visit praying before the image of the Virgin Mary known as “Protectress of the Roman People.” The large Byzantine icon of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child is traditionally held to be a creation of St. Luke the Evangelist.
The Pope left flowers and lit a candle with the World Youth Day logo in front of the image.
This was not Pope Francis’ first time praying before the historic image. On March 14, the day after his election, he traveled to the basilica’s chapel early in the morning to ask for Mary’s protection over his new papacy. In May, the month traditionally dedicated to Mary, he visited again.
On Monday, July 22, Pope Francis will travel to Brazil for the 28th World Youth Day, a gathering of young Catholics from across the globe. The pilgrims celebrate their faith along with the Pope.
In keeping with the Year of Faith declared by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the theme of this year’s World Youth Day is “Go and make disciples of all nations.”
Pope Francis has expressed his desire to aid young people in living out this theme by permitting participants to receive partial or plenary indulgences under the usual conditions: sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer for the Pope’s intentions.
Santiago, Chile, Jul 21, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Forty Australian World Youth Day pilgrims made a special stop in Chile on Saturday to help rebuild a 200-year-old church that was totally destroyed in a massive earthquake three years ago.
“We have been bringing youth to help rebuild this parish ever since the 2010 earthquake,” said Matías Quer, Missions Coordinator for the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae in Chile. “Although we have made a lot of progress, there is still so much to do.”
On Saturday the Australian pilgrims, accompanied by Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Terrence Brady, made a special stop in the province of Maipo near Santiago to lend a hand in the reconstruction of a two-hundred year old church utterly destroyed in 2010.
In February 2010, Chile suffered one of the worst earthquakes in modern history. The magnitude 8.8 earthquake and tsunami killed more than 500 people and damaged hundreds of thousands of homes and buildings.
The quake heavily damaged some of the oldest and most beautiful churches in the region, including Maipo’s Immaculate Conception Church, which dates back to 1775.
Father Domingo Muñoz, the parish’s pastor, told the pilgrims that during the earthquake, the walls of his parish fell down, destroying all but one of the dozens of unique statues of saints that adorned the church.
As he walked around the reconstruction project, he explained that his church is the center of most of the social services for the very poor people who live in the area.
After an intense morning of repairing church walls and painting the exterior of the church, the pilgrims were greeted by local townspeople who had been busy all morning preparing a traditional Chilean lunch.
“We walked a few blocks away from the church and were received in a house decorated with Chilean flags, balloons, a band and wonderful hospitality,” Quer said.
Following lunch, local San Bernardo Bishop Juan Ignacio González met with Bishop Brady and Father Peter Hosking, S.J., the Rector of St. Aloysius’ College in Sydney. The Australians discussed their mission experience and presented Bishop González with a donation for the community and the reconstruction effort of the parish.
The day concluded with a Mass concelebrated by both bishops, Father Hosking and Father Muñoz. They offered the Mass for the World Youth Day pilgrims from Australia and for the pilgrims from Maipo.