Follansbee, W. Va., Aug 12, 2013 (CNA) - Lou Holtz has put together one of the most distinguished coaching careers in college football.
He made his reputation taking underachieving programs and turning them into winners with perhaps his most famous stint being at the University of Notre Dame where he guided the Irish to a 12-0 won-lost record in 1988 and a national championship, but none of his accomplishments are as important to him as his Catholic faith.
The Follansbee, West Virginia, native is used to being not taken seriously due to his 5-foot, 10-inch frame and having a lisp. Yet his undersized stature has seen him fight for everything since his football playing days as a linebacker at Kent State University where injuries cut short his career. One cannot estimate success by the size of someone, especially when it comes to Holtz and the strong beliefs he has for his religion.
"Some people want to see the proof to believe," Holtz said. "The whole basis of faith is that you don't need to have something shown to you to believe in it."
Holtz grew up in East Liverpool, Ohio, where he attended St. Aloysius grade school for eight years. Holtz, 76, says that it was not the gridiron that would be his lifelong calling.
"I thought I would be a priest when I was a young kid because of my strong belief in the Catholic faith and in the Bible," Holtz said. "These were two very important things in my life, and they still are today."
What he learned in the Catholic grade school became the foundation of his faith and life. "I was taught by the sisters of Notre Dame, and I had nuns teaching me in each class for eight years at St. Aloysius," Holtz said. "We had religion taught to us every day and were taught the catechism. Plus, being an altar boy really influenced my beliefs. They gave me a great education, especially how to live."
Holtz started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at the University of Iowa in 1960 where he earned his Master's Degree. His first head coaching job occurred at William and Mary in 1969. He had other stints as a collegiate head football coach where he successfully turned around each program.
Holtz said his Catholic faith was once again tested when the University of Minnesota called him for its head coaching job in 1984.
"I immediately went to my family, where we prayed for a half hour on whether or not I should take the job, and I decided to take (it). I was able to come in and accomplish the goal of turning around the program and getting them into a bowl."
From 1986-96 Holtz posted a won-lost-tied record of 100-30-2 at Notre Dame and led the Irish to nine consecutive bowl games.
His success did not go unnoticed and made him attractive for other programs who wanted to turn around their fortunes. And so it was that the most storied program in college sports – the University of Notre Dame – approached Holtz to turn around its ailing program in the mid-1980s.
Holtz's contract at Minnesota contained a "Notre Dame clause" allowing him to leave if he was offered the Irish head coaching position. He seized the opportunity to coach at Notre Dame and accepted the position in 1986. Coaching Notre Dame football ranked high on the list of 108 things he wanted to accomplish in his lifetime. He has accomplished 102 of them. Among those on the list that stand out for Holtz was when he got to meet Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict.
"I really enjoyed coaching at Notre Dame and being on the campus," Holtz said. "It was nice to know that it was easy to be able to practice my Catholic faith and not have to worry about somebody calling the ACLU," Holtz said.
The most recent adventure for Holtz, who is now an analyst for ESPN, was just over three weeks ago when he visited the United States troops in Afghanistan. He was in the region for eight days where he visited several military outposts. Holtz called it one of the most satisfying things he has ever done.
"It was just an incredible experience where we had the opportunity to meet with several generals," Holtz said. "We were able to take gifts and toys and visit troops in the hospital."
In citing those that have made the biggest impact in his life, he says, "My wife Beth and I have been married for 52 years. She is a cancer survivor and has started a Bible study group in our neighborhood. She has been my greatest inspiration. Father Hesburgh and Father Joyce were very influential to me while I was at the University of Notre Dame, and I have not forgotten what they have taught me over the years."
The end of that statement is clear as Lou Holtz is not only an accomplished sportsman, but a great Catholic.
Posted with permission from the Catholic Sports Association, an organization dedicated to highlighting Catholic sports professionals and enriching junior high and high school student-athletes with Catholic sports articles, conferences, a Web series, and other programs.
Rome, Italy, Aug 12, 2013 (CNA) - An Italian man who has struggled to forgive God after the murder of his brother recently received a personal phone call from Pope Francis, who offered him words of comfort.
Michele Ferri was devastated when his brother, who owned several gas stations in the city of Pesaro in northern Italy, was shot and killed by two employees last June. The employees are now serving prison sentences.
Overcome with grief and frustration, Ferri had written a letter to Pope Francis, but never thought that he would receive a personal response.
On Aug. 7, however, Ferri “got an unexpected call,” according to the newspaper Il Messagero. After saying “Hello,” he heard the response, “Hi Michele, It's Pope Francis.”
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime feeling,” Ferri said on his Facebook page.
After his brother’s death, he had written on his Facebook page, “The more time that passes, the more the sorrow grows.”
One month later he wrote, “I have always forgiven you for everything God, but not this time, this time I won't forgive you.”
It was around that time that the 51 year-old Ferri wrote a letter to the Holy Father.
He was shocked last week to receive a phone call from Pope Francis, and initially thought it was a prank. However, his disbelief turned into excitement as the caller began referencing the contents of the private letter, which no one else would have known.
Father Mario Amadeo, the pastor at Ferri's parish, said the Pope's phone call was “a very beautiful act that testifies to the kindness and greatness of this Pontiff.”
Bogotá, Colombia, Aug 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Bishops’ Conference of Colombia has announced that the capital city of Bogota will be the site of the third World Apostolic Congress on Divine Mercy, to be held Aug. 15-19, 2014.
Bishop Julio Hernando Garcia of Istima Tado, who heads the committee charged with organizing the event, made the announcement during a press conference on Aug. 8.
He said the congress will be “a platform for healing the wounds of the conflict that has shaken the country for more than 60 years.”
“All of the problems that we are living through and experiencing in the country pose an enormous challenge, such that the congress can’t be simply a pious experience. It also must have a social transcendence that implies political and economic commitments and very concrete realities,” the bishop said.
The announcement was made amid ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and the rebel group FARC after half a century of armed conflict that has resulted in more than 600,000 deaths.
Previously, the World Congress on Divine Mercy has been held in Rome in 2006 and in Poland in 2011.
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, president of the congress, called the 2014 gathering a “great opportunity for Colombia because the country is in the process of reconciliation and peace, and the more the message of the mercy of God is made known, the more people are able to live out all of this.”
The secretary of the Colombian bishops’ conference, Bishop Jose Daniel Falla Robles, said that forgiveness is an important aspect of the faith and that “there needs to be peace, reconciliation and forgiveness in the heart, and this demands that we show mercy.”
“We don’t know how the peace process will end,” he said. “I hope we could all know, but the congress on mercy will come after this, and without or without a signed accord, the Church has the duty to work for mercy. It is our duty to draw near to the suffering of each person.”
“In fact,” he continued, “the word mercy comes from drawing near in heart to those who suffer, to human misery, to injustices, to those families that have been divested of everything because of the violence in our country.”
“We need to create a mentality of closeness to those who suffer.”
Jefferson City, Mo., Aug 12, 2013 (CNA) - The mysterious Missouri priest who gave anointing to a woman in her wrecked car near Center, Mo. has been identified as Father Patrick Dowling, of the Diocese of Jefferson City.
“I thank God and the amazingly competent rescue workers,” Fr. Dowling stated today in a comment on CNA's original article on the Aug. 4 incident.
“I thank them for making me welcome in such a highly charged situation and allowing me to minister as a priest.”
Katie Lentz was trapped in her older-model Mercedes, which had been struck by another vehicle which passed into her lane. That car's driver has been charged with DWI.
Rescue workers spent an hour trying to get Lentz out of her car, but the solid materials of its construction were dulling the fire department's emergency equipment.
Though the highway was blocked off, “I did not leave with the other cars,” Fr. Dowling commented. He parked as close as he could, “and walked the remaining 150 yards. I asked the Sheriff if a priest might be needed … on checking, he permitted me to approach.”
“When the young lady asked that I pray her leg stop hurting, I did so. She asked me to pray aloud and I did briefly … the rescue workers needed space, and would not have appreciated distraction. I stepped to one side and said my rosary silently until the lady was taken from the car.”
Once Lentz was removed from her vehicle, he explained, “I then shook hands with the Sheriff, and thanked him, as I left. I have to admire the calmness of everybody involved.”
“The Highway Patrol sergeant was amazingly calm and completely in control. Everybody worked with the harmony of a Swiss watch.”
CNA spoke with Fr. Dowling Aug. 12, and he explained that he gave Lentz Anointing of the Sick as well as absolution.
He affirmed that it was in the normal duties of a priest, “except that there was something extraordinary it sounds like, in the sequence of events that coincided in time with the Anointing.”
“You must remember, there were many people praying there, many, many people … and they were all praying obviously for healing and for her safety.”
“I was probably part of the answer to their prayers, I came by and Anointed and absolved, (but) I didn't say another word … I did not say anything like the machinery would begin to work or they would succeed in getting her out of the car.”
“That did not come from my lips, though two people heard it.”
Fr. Dowling was driving by Center while on his way from having said Mass in Ewing. A native of Ireland, Fr. Dowling was ordained a priest for the Jefferson City diocese in 1982. He has served at several parishes in the diocese, as well as its two mission parishes in Peru.
Fr. Dowling currently serves in prison ministry and serves the Spanish-speaking population of the Diocese of Jefferson City.
Washington D.C., Aug 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pro-life leaders from around the country are calling on major media outlets to do a better job of informing society about the reality of abortion, rather than obscuring the facts in their coverage choices.
“The media has flinched from the reality of abortion for decades,” said Lila Rose, president of Live Action, which has worked through undercover videos to expose abuses within the abortion industry.
“We call on the press to end the censorship of what abortion actually does to our smallest children and women, and end the lionizing of abortion advocates.”
The Aug. 8 protest accused major media sources of bias in favor of abortion, particularly in underreporting stories of corruption, fraud and abuse within the abortion industry.
Protestors gathered in front of ABC’s offices in Washington, D.C. Speakers included Christian Robey, political director for the Media Research Center; Jill Stanek, a former nurse and pro-life activist; Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life; and Ryan Bomberger, founder of the Radiance Foundation, which works to educate the public on the scope of abortion.
Media bias “is a case where ideology trumps reason,” Robey told CNA, and society is willing to “accept that ideology blindly.”
He pointed to the case of Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortion doctor who was convicted on several counts of murder and manslaughter for the wrongful death of a patient and the deliberate snipping of infants’ spinal cords after birth.
The Gosnell story “had all of the elements of a story that would attract attention,” Robey explained, yet it was only covered by major media outlets after a very strong grassroots push from pro-life columnists and commentators.
“There’s no other way for me to think of this than deliberate censorship,” he said.
According to Bomberger, bias is “a soft term” for major media outlets’ approach to abortion.
He told CNA that Planned Parenthood receives financial contributions from media conglomerate companies such as the New York Times Company and the Gannett Company.
“When people get to see those connections, you’ve got to say, ‘I’m not getting anything objective here, there is something completely amiss.’”
He added that because of the financial links between media outlets and abortion providers, it is easy to see “why we’re not getting an objective report on abortion.”
“We should be upset that the truth is being hidden from us,” he charged.
Bomberger warned that in the wake of widespread abortion acceptance, “we see the desensitization of human life” that can be expected to continue if people do not speak out on the topic.
Abortion “illuminates a truth” about humanity, showing “how we treat the weakest among us,” he stressed. “It can easily be described as the human rights issue of our day.”
Those who recognize abortion as an offense against human rights need to work to expose the practice for what it is, he said.
“I don’t think we have any choice but to act,” he explained. “Act with compassion and act with boldness.”