New Orleans, La., Sep 29, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A new policy for Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans aims to reclaim Sunday as a day focused on faith and family rather than sports matches and social events.
The policy is “rooted in the fact that people have a number of obligations and commitments. Our society is fast-paced,” Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond told the New Orleans Advocate.
“In living such a hectic life, people neglect sometimes, not purposefully, the very basics of faith and family.”
Archbishop Aymond started asking schools to reduce the number of events scheduled on Sundays during the 2012-2013 school year, alongside his declaration of 2013 as a “Year of Family and Faith.”
For the upcoming 2013-2014 school year, the archbishop is requiring Catholic schools run by the archdiocese and by religious orders to stop scheduling school events on Sundays. According to the Advocate, the rule will be the official policy for the archdiocese by the 2014- 2015 school year.
The new measure has met with support, although some coaches have voiced concern over scheduling problems and whether their teams will struggle from a lack of Sunday practices. In addition, Junior Varsity games, which are normally held on Sundays, have had to be rescheduled or cancelled.
But Father Charles Latour, principal of Archbishop Hannan High School in Covington, La., told the Advocate that although athletic and social events have had to be rescheduled, the changes have been welcomed.
“We’re always running,” he said. “At some point, it’s important to stop and recognize that God has blessed us.”
Cynthia Thomas, president of the all-girl’s St. Mary’s Dominican High School, explained why such a change is valuable to the school system.
“The success of our school depends on family life,” she told the local publication. “This is another opportunity to strengthen that, and in the long run I see it only benefiting everyone involved.”
Kaukauna, Wis., Sep 29, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The co-founder of a pornography addiction recovery program said that a recent Cambridge study showing identical brain activity in addicts to pornography, drugs and alcohol is “spot on.”
According to The Sunday Times of Sept. 22, neuropsychiatrists at Cambridge found that the portion of the brain stimulated in drug and alcohol addicts lights up in the same way as it does for porn addicts viewing explicit materials. The brains of those who are not in the habit of using porn did not react in the same manner to the same materials.
“That kind of brain research is spot-on, and there have been a number of different approaches and studies that have said the same thing,” said Bruce Hannemann, co-founder of Elizabeth Ministry International and its program Reclaim Sexual Health.
“It doesn't surprise me at all that more and more, people are finding out that there are patterns of addictions that are similar across the board,” he told CNA Sept. 25.
Hannemann, a retired chemistry professor, said that “whatever you have as a thought in your mind, actually changes the chemistry of your brain.”
Reclaim Sexual Health is an online recovery program that helps those addicted to, or in the habit of, unhealthy sexual behaviors. It utilizes the neuroscience of addiction to allow users to 're-program' the chemical pathways in the brain which result in, and subsequently foster, sexual addictions.
The program is based on the knowledge that “the brain truly changes with every thought that we have,” and was developed by a team which included neuroscientists, therapists, neuropsychologists, cognitive- behavioral scientists, and professional trainers.
Hannemann likened Reclaim to a “gym” for the brain, as it is a series of exercises which is meant to “re-train, re-wire your thought processes.” The exercises help people to “unlearn that (poor) habit, and how to re-learn healthy habits, in terms of their sexuality and relationships with other people; it's really a very comprehensive exercise program, and it has to be worked as an exercise program.”
“It all fits the pattern of what we would expect to have happen in human anthropology,” Hannemann explained, and indeed the pattern of breaking a vice by educating one's self about the good and habitually acting towards that good – developing the corresponding virtue – fits the description of vice and virtue described by Aristotle more than 300 years prior to Christ.
“It's our choice to put our brain cells to use to follow our old habits, or to wire them into new behaviors and habits, and really re-learn our lifestyle,” said Hannemann.
He said the mind “is really capable of telling the brain what to tell your body to do,” but that in the case of addictions, “your brain has become so habituated … that it starts to function on such an automatic level that you kind of take your mind out of the picture.”
When a pornography addict is presented with explicit materials, chemical signals from the senses “go directly to the brain's pleasure center and call up dopamine … without being processed by the mind any more.”
Reclaim's exercises are meant to re-train the brain so that the physical reaction to seeing provocative material will no longer be something that happens in the person, but can come under the person's control and be a personal act – a chosen act that can be controlled, rather than an automatic something-that-happens.
“It doesn't matter how hopelessly involved someone is with porn, and masturbation: if they start practicing putting their mind into the proper decisions and context, the brain chemistry will follow, because the mind controls the brain – you habituate yourself to a holy lifestyle,” Hannemann said.
Reclaim is a Catholic re-brand of another secular program, which was requested by Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay. Hannemann related that shortly after Bishop Ricken's appointment to Green Bay in 2008, he called the Elizabeth Ministry into his office and directed them to develop programs to deal with human sexuality and to start with pornography, as it as one of the biggest detriments to family life.
When Reclaim was launched in May 2012, Bishop Ricken sent letters to his fellow American bishops “telling them about this program and endorsing it; he's been a very strong backer.”
Hannemann described Bishop Ricken as “a man of action. He doesn't like to sit around, he likes to get things done.”
The program of exercises, which is recommended to be followed for at least six months, includes video training, a calendar to track progress, a forum, an online journal, assessments, and a personal trainer, all of which are used anonymously. The program is $49 a month, but if users commit to staying for six months and pay up-front, they are given a discount worth one month's use.
“In terms of what we've seen out there in healthy and unhealthy behaviors, we know this is working, really making a difference in people's lives,” Hannemann said. “If they follow the prescription, the program, and make the necessary changes, it will change their life.”
He recommended using the program in concert with prayer and the Sacraments, but stressed that if people use only prayer and the Sacraments, if they are in the state of a sexual addiction, they will often be unsuccessful.
“That's why were so excited about this – we have one more thing we can give them, some tools to work on the biology and biochemistry, as well as the theology, and that's where the real success lies, I think. We have a real integrated approach here.”
Pornography addiction is not only a problem among adults, Hannemann noted, an observation that has been made increasingly by scholars and other authorities as well.
The British government intends to filter pornography off of internet connections by default, to “protect our children and their innocence,” prime minister David Cameron said in July.
And a Sept. 25 report by the Daily Mail records the shock of a former soft core pornography magazine editor at finding how much, and how graphic, pornography 13 and 14 year-old children have been exposed to through the internet.
Hannemann said that Reclaim has received many requests for help from youth – children in middle school and high school – who realize they need help with a burgeoning addiction to pornography.
“They're begging us for help.”
He noted that Reclaim hopes to develop a program “that would be available for teens, that would be completely free to them, anonymous, that they could work on doing the brain chemistry and changing their behaviors, but not have to spend the money they don't have.”
“That's our biggest project right now,” he said, and Reclaim is currently trying to raise funds to produce such a program for teens.
Vatican City, Sep 29, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis celebrated Mass in cloudy St. Peter’s Square this morning, cautioning the faithful against the danger of losing their personal identity to materialism.
“Whenever material things, money, worldliness, become the center of our lives, they take hold of us, they possess us; we lose our very identity as human beings,” he said on September 29.
Sunday’s Mass was held at the close of an international weekend conference in Rome for catechists during the year of faith.
The Pope explained that Christians must be on guard against “the danger of complacency, comfort, worldliness in our lifestyles and in our hearts, of making our well-being the most important thing in our lives.”
When materialism takes over, we “end up becoming self-absorbed and finding security in material things which ultimately rob us of our face, our human face.”
The human person is “made in the image and likeness of God, not in the image and likeness of material objects, not in that of idols!” he exclaimed.
Too much concern for material things can lead us to “lose the memory of God.” With this forgetfulness, Christians “become empty; like the rich man in the Gospel, we no longer have a face!”
Mary serves as an example for all because she maintains the remembrance of God.
Moreover, Mary “sees God’s wondrous works in her life but doesn’t think about honor, prestige or wealth; she doesn’t become self-absorbed,” noted the Pope.
Instead, she goes to help others.
When Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth after the Annunciation, Pope Francis said, she recalls “God’s work, God’s fidelity in her own life, in the history of her people.”
Christian catechists should seek to be like Mary, putting the remembrance of God “at the service of proclamation, not to be important, not to talk about himself or herself, but to talk about God, about his love and his fidelity.”
“The catechist, then, is a Christian who is mindful of God, who is guided by the memory of God in his or her entire life and who is able to awaken that memory in the hearts of others,” explained the Pontiff.
Yet, “this is not easy!” he acknowledged. “It engages our entire existence!”
The work of the catechist is not merely his or her own work, Pope Francis reminded the congregation.
Rather, the gift of faith in our lives “contains our own memory of God’s history with us, the memory of our encountering God who always takes the first step, who creates, saves, and transforms us.”
An estimated 600 priests were vested for the mass, as well as cardinals and bishops from around the world, including Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, and Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, who is part of the group of eight cardinals appointed to advise the Pope on possible reforms to the Roman Curia.
Pope Francis concluded Mass with the traditional noon Angelus prayer and greeted the various groups present.
He particularly thanked His Beatitude John X, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, for his presence at the liturgy. He called the Patriarch “my brother.”
The Pope then greeted the cheering pilgrims from his Popemobile, stopping to bless babies and the disabled.
The crowds were so large that they spilled out of St. Peter’s Square, filling Via della Conciliazione, the street leading to the square. Hand-painted flags waved with messages like “thank you for having called us” and “we go to serve without fear.” Many people wore “Year of Faith” scarves around their necks.