Ayutthaya, Thailand, Nov 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Vietnamese Catholics living in Thailand gathered on Nov. 17 to celebrate the witness of 117 canonized martyrs of their homeland.
Remembering their country's martyrs is an imperative for Vietnamese expatriates, Fr. Anthony Le Duc, secretary of the Federation of Vietnamese Catholics in Thailand, told CNA, because they are “shining examples of faith, and remind expatriates the rich heritage of their faith which was hard fought for by our ancestors.”
More than 500 Vietnamese Catholics, joined by some Thais, gathered at St. Joseph’s parish in Ayutthaya, about 50 miles north of Bangkok, for Mass, a procession, and a play.
“It is important for them to continue living and witnessing to this faith in the predominantly Buddhist country of Thailand, and to share our faith with them,” Fr. Le Duc reflected.
Bl. John Paul II canonized 117 Vietnamese martyrs in 1998. There were many waves of persecution in Vietnam from 1600 to 1900, and both clergy and laypeople were killed for their faith.
Ayutthaya was chosen as the site of the commemoration because its parish was built in 1666 by Vietnamese fleeing persecution in their country. To this day, many local Catholics are of Vietnamese ancestry.
Vietnamese Catholics have contributed to the development of Church in Thailand in the past, and newcomers can do the same for the local churches into the future when they live out their faith “enthusiastically and courageously,” said Fr. Le Duc.
Fr. James Vu, chaplain of the Federation of Vietnamese Catholics in Thailand, told CNA that it is wonderful to see that the Vietnamese youth are so excited to make this pilgrimage and to “invest their time and effort to organize this event.”
“It’s their enthusiasm that served as a gift to offer up to the Vietnamese martyrs; and seeing their display of faith is a great source of encouragement and inspiration for us priests and religious who are journeying with them.”
Sr. Theresa Huyen added, “I am proud the youth, although busy, still having great devotion to the Vietnamese martyrs, and are proud to have the opportunity to express their faith in a visible way through the play and procession.”
The play depicted the martyrs' persecution, bringing to life a representation of their suffering and faith in Christ.
“I arrived in Thailand three weeks ago, and it’s amazing to see that even in Thailand, we saw celebrations of the Vietnamese martyrs that were deeply Vietnamese in character, from the liturgy to the procession, to the songs. It is proof that no matter where the Vietnamese people live, we are able to carry on our faith,” Deacon Joseph Nguyen Van Vuong said.
“I have lived in Thailand for 10 years, but this is my first time to join in a pilgrimage,” said participant Anton Phan Tan Dung, calling it “a special occasion for us to meet each other and … share in the faith handed down to us by our ancestors.”
Le Hoang Anh, another participant, said that in Thailand “it’s not always easy for us (Vietnamese) to find a church or to attend church celebrations, and attending this celebration today made me feel so happy, because I felt like I was attending a celebration in my own country.”
Washington D.C., Nov 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Catholics in the nation’s capital are opening their hearts – and kitchens – to the poor, hungry and homeless in their neighborhoods for Thanksgiving this year.
“Thanksgiving is a time of the year for all of us to reflect with gratitude on the many blessings we have received,” said Monsignor James D. Watkins, pastor of Immaculate Conception parish, who organizes a Thanksgiving ministry to the poor in the area.
“It is also a time for us to share those blessings with our neighbors who are the least among us so their families might share in the hope and joy of Thanksgiving.”
The 150-year-old parish, located in Washington, D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood, carries out an annual Turkey Basket tradition, donating over 100 baskets filled with turkeys, stuffing, and additional trimmings to the poor and needy in the area. The 50-year-old tradition was started by the parish’s previous pastor, Monsignor J. Joshua Mundell.
While the Shaw neighborhood has undergone a dramatic revitalization in recent years, Immaculate Conception parish still seeks to help those who are in need during the holidays.
The parish’s basket program is one of several projects helping to ensure that struggling families in the D.C. area receive a Thanksgiving meal.
Over the course of four days, the SHARE Food Network – a part of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington that helps needy families receive the groceries they need – distributed 13,000 turkey meals to local families.
The packages, which cost between $20 and $39, included turkey, chicken, potatoes, macaroni, vegetables and pie. They were distributed Nov. 22-25 to families across the archdiocese.
Helping with the collection and distribution of the food, said the Archdiocese of Washington, were “more than 300 local churches and community groups and more than 1,000 volunteers all working to ensure there will be plenty of food on everyone’s Thanksgiving table.”
SHARE continues its food aid monthly throughout the year, and distributed more than 113,000 affordable food packages in 2012.
On Nov. 26, more than 100 volunteers from the Washington, D.C. area served a Thanksgiving meal to hundreds of those in need.
The volunteers dined with their guests, many of whom are homeless, at a meal complete with china and tablecloths.
The dinner was sponsored by Catholic Charities, power company Pepco Holdings, and local caterer Ridgewells Catering. The location for the meal was donated, along with the food, china and silverware.
Volunteers served their guests “turkey and gravy, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, sweet potatoes, stuffing, rolls and pumpkin pie,” Catholic Charities said in a press release.
After the meal, the guests left “with a full belly and a gift bag with warm clothing items for the upcoming winter season.”
Vatican City, Nov 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A leading astronomer in the Vatican Observatory stated that the study of science provides a unique forum to discuss man’s deep and existential questions about the origins and meaning of life.
“We in the astronomical community give the permission to everyone else to talk about their religious legs, and we discover it’s not all that different,” Br. Guy Consolmagno affirmed in a Nov. 22 interview with CNA.
Br. Guy Consolmagno SJ is an American research astronomer and planetary scientist at the Vatican Observatory, which is an astronomical research and educational institution supported by the Holy See.
Having received a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in planetary science, the religious brother entered the Society of Jesus in 1989 and currently serves as curator of the Vatican Meteorite collection.
Recalling the time when he decided to leave his career in science in order to pursue his vocation to religious life, Br. Consolmagno stated that when “I came back as a Jesuit and all of my friends in the astronomy world came to me and said, ‘You are a Jesuit? That’s so wonderful. Let me tell you about the church I belong to.’”
“I discovered so many of my friends were fellow church goers,” he noted, adding that there were “many Catholics, many Protestants, many belonging to churches you’ve never heard of” with whom he began to discuss his faith.
Of those who share his same field of study, the brother stated that “we are really all in this field of astronomy for the same reasons.”
“Astronomy is not going to make you rich, it is not going to get you powerful, astronomy is not going to get you girls, didn’t work for me anyway, but astronomy does connect you up with that same moment of joy that I also experience in prayer.”
Reflecting on his time teaching at a Kenyan university while in the Peace Corps before he entered the Jesuits, Br. Consolmagno recalled the amazement of local villagers when they looked through his telescope and saw the images of space.
“Everybody in the village would come out and take a look through the telescope and they'd go, ‘Wow,’” he noted.
Highlighting how it was not his “cat” that wanted to look through the lens, the brother observed that this experience of wonder at creation speaks about man’s constant search for God, because “this is something human beings do, this is something human beings ask about.”
“They want to know what are those stars, why are there stars, why are we here, what is this all about, where did we come from,” he explained.
“This is what makes us more than just well fed cows and if you starve somebody from being able to ask those questions, you are denying them their humanity.”
Speaking of the link between science and religion, Br. Consolmagno observed that “it is an important part of being human to ask, who are we, how do we fit into this big universe, and it is an important part of being of human to recognize in this creation the hand of the one who made it.”
“The astonishing thing to me about astronomy is not only that the universe makes sense and I can come up with equations and explain it,” he continued, “but the way it makes sense is beautiful.”
“God chose to create a universe that was at the same time logical and beautiful, one that I can enjoy with my brain and enjoy with my heart,” he stressed, going on to say that this “tells me something about who God is and how He creates and how He's expecting me to relate to Him.”
Addressing the fact that many are surprised at the existence of the Vatican Observatory, Br. Consolmagno stated that “that’s part of the reason we exist; to surprise people.”
“To make people realize that the church not only supports science, literally… but we support and embrace and promote the use of both our hearts and our brains to come to know how the universe works.”
The religious brother also spoke of the “special relationship” that the observatory has with Pope Francis, who is also a Jesuit, stating that “he understands the spirituality that drives us.”
Highlighting how the director of the observatory is also from Argentina, Br. Consolmagno revealed that “they knew each other when they were both Jesuits together in Argentina, so there is a personal connection as well.”
In a recent visit of the pontiff to the observatory, Br. Consolmagno noted that “it was clear” that the Pope “was delighted to be here and he was delighted to support the work that we were doing.”
Vatican City, Nov 28, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In his daily homily Pope Francis reflected on the end times, saying that faith will be increasingly pushed out of the public square and that persecution of Christians is a “prophecy” of what is to come.
The Pope directed his comments to those gathered in the chapel of the Vatican's Saint Martha guesthouse for his daily Mass on Nov. 28.
Reflecting on the day's reading taken from the Gospel of Luke, in which Jesus speaks of the trials and tribulations that will precede the end times, the pontiff explained that when the Lord refers to this in another passage, “he tells us that it will be a desecration of the temple.”
It will be “a profanation of the faith, of the people,” he continued, and “it will be an abomination, it will be desolation and abomination.”
“What does this mean?” the Pope asked the Mass attendees, responding, “It will be like the triumph of the prince of this world: the defeat of God.”
“It seems at that final moment of calamity, it seems like he will take over this world, he will master of the world,” the pontiff observed, adding that in that time we will become aware this apparent victory over God would be more devastating than a great natural disaster.
These worldly powers which seek to destroy God, noted the Pope, also manifest in the contemporary desire to keep religion as “a private thing,” alluding to the fact that today many religious symbols have become taboo.
“You must obey the orders which come from worldly powers. You can do many things, beautiful things, but not adore God. Worship is prohibited. This is at the center of the end of time.”
Once we “reach the fullness of this pagan attitude,” the Pope continued, “then yes, he will come…’ truly the Son of Man will come in a cloud with great power and glory.’”
Christians who “suffer times of persecution, times of prohibition of worship” because of their beliefs, are a prophecy of what will happen to us all,” he emphasized.
Speaking of the prophet Daniel in the first reading who was thrown into the lion’s den because he refused to denounce his faith, Pope Francis encouraged those in attendance not to be afraid, saying that God “only asks of us faithfulness and patience.”
“Fidelity like Daniel, who was faithful to his God and adored God until the end. And patience, because the hairs of our heads will not fall out. The Lord has promised this.”
Urging those present at the Mass to continue reflecting throughout the week on this “general apostasy” which “is called the prohibition of worship,” the Pope challenged them to ask themselves “Do I worship the Lord?”
“Do I adore Jesus Christ, the Lord? Or, a little half and half, do I in some way play game of the prince of this world?”
“Worship until the end,” the Pope concluded, “with confidence and fidelity: this is the grace we must ask for this week.”