Colorado Springs, Colo., Jan 25, 2014 (CNA) - Not long before he resigned, Pope Benedict XVI had written several times about the need for evangelization of the rapidly growing “digital continent” of social media.
This got Katie Moore and Lindsay Olson thinking. Both have devotions to St. Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897), a cloistered Carmelite nun whose “little way” of finding God in everyday life inspired Pope John Paul II to the point that he declared her a doctor of the Church.
As publicist and marketing coordinator, respectively, for Image Books in Colorado Springs, Moore and Olson have been big fans of a book from the late Bishop Patrick Ahern, “Three Gifts of Therese of Lisieux” (Image), and were inspired with the idea to see if they could draw attention to St. Therese by getting #LittleWay to trend on the social media platforms of Twitter and Vine on Feb. 4, dubbed “The Day of the Little Way.”
“We like to think that Twitter is a tool that St. Therese would love because it is a simple, small way we can share our faith, potentially with enormous reach,” Olson said. “It’s 140 little — but powerful — characters. ‘The Day of the Little Way’ will call the shepherds forward (for the digital continent). Instead of hiding in the wings, Catholics be front and center on social media.”
Olson pointed out how Pope Francis continued the Twitter account @Pontifex started by Pope Benedict XVI, which with the push of a button reaches millions of followers around the world. . . . and that is before any retweets.
“Our hope for ‘The Day of the Little Way’ is that Catholics everywhere will recognize this powerful tool for their faith, and that they’ll choose to actively live their faith by the example of St. Therese in a little way on Twitter and Vine,” Olson said.
Participants will be asked in their posts to share stories of kindness from a stranger or a time when charity was practiced on another. They can also post, using the hashtag #LittleWay, their favorite quote from St. Therese, a passage from Bishop Ahern’s book or just a personal prayer.
In his book, former New York Auxiliary Bishop Ahern called St. Therese “a saint for our times.”
“It really hits on the fact that Therese is relatable, even in modern times,” she said. “St. Therese had a simple, yet powerful, faith that was rooted in her unconditional love for God. Her faith serves as a beautiful example of how we should all strive for sainthood.”
Moore said the #LittleWay event is in part a tribute to Bishop Ahern’s love for St. Therese.
“Bishop Ahern was always looking for new ways to share that love with others,” she said.
In “Three Gifts of Therese of Lisieux,” Bishop Ahern, who died in 2011, identified three gifts of St. Therese that were meaningful to him: her universal appeal, her conviction and her “little way.”
“It was his hope that these gifts would provide inspiration to others who are seeking to find more meaning in their faith and their journey to find God,” Moore said.
“The Day of the Little Way” also excites Olson and Moore because they are not sure what to expect when Feb. 4 arrives.
“One of the powerful things about Twitter is that you never know who you’re reaching when you Tweet,” Olson said.
One story of a stranger’s kindness that Moore can share occurred once when she was praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament in an adoration chapel. A stranger approached her and asked her to step outside, proceeding to give her a rosary.
“What he didn’t know was that I had been praying about a difficult decision and was looking for some kind of sign to let me know that I was on the right track,” she said. “This small gesture had a powerful impact on me because it reminded me of the closeness of God. I knew then that God wouldn’t abandon me in my time of need and that, if I remained open to His will, He would help me make the right choice.”
Olson recalled how, while once working in a public library, a man brought his son to her desk with a stack of DVDs that the son had stolen. The father went on to explain that he had been in prison for 10 years and missed out on key years for raising his son, but he did not feel it was too late to help him.
“He said, ‘I screwed up, but I’m here now and I know where the wrong path leads. I found the Lord in jail, ma’am, and he saved me,’” Olson recalled. “Now it’s my job to show that love to my son, even if it’s hard sometimes. I love my son. I want him to act like a man who is proud of himself. So he’s here to say he’s sorry for stealing. And I’m here to say I’m sorry to him for missing those 10 years.”
Moore and Olson suspect there are millions of such “hidden” stories out there that have not been told. They hope that, on Feb. 4, the digital continent will be awash in them.
Interested participants in “The Day of the Little Way” can learn more on the publisher's website.
Posted with permission from The Colorado Catholic Herald, official publication of the Diocese of Colorado Springs.
New York City, N.Y., Jan 25, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Catholic and pro-life leaders have criticized New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for suggesting that pro-life individuals are extremists who “have no place in the state of New York.”
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York said the governor’s remarks were “unfortunate at best; inflammatory and outrageous at worst.”
The cardinal, speaking on his Sirius Satellite radio show, said that extremists are in fact “those who want to radically expand abortion, are not happy with the way things are, resistant to the constitutionally legal restraints that have been reasonably placed on abortion,” CBS New York reports.
Gov. Cuomo’s controversial remarks came in a Jan. 17 radio show interview, while he described his view of the Republican party as trying to determine whether its identity will be moderate or conservative.
“Are they these extreme conservatives who are right to life, pro-assault weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are?” the governor stated. “Because if that’s who they are, and if they are the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York because that’s not who New Yorkers are.”
However, Molly O'Connor, communications director for the New York-based Chiaroscuro Foundation, suggested that Cuomo's comments do not reflect the views of many people in the state.
“New York thrives on its diversity, including diversity of opinion,” O'Connor told CNA. “If I could tell Gov. Cuomo one thing, it would be a reminder: he represents constituents of all beliefs and backgrounds who call New York home, not just the 17 percent of New Yorkers who agree with him on unlimited abortion.”
Last year, the Chiaroscuro Foundation commissioned a statewide poll in New York on attitudes towards abortion. It found that the vast majority support some abortion restrictions. Among respondents, 86 percent were in favor of regulating abortion clinics to the same standards as other medical facilities. More than 75 percent approved of parental notification for minors seeking abortion and a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion.
Gov. Cuomo, a Democrat and self-identified Catholic, gained national attention last year with his push for a state bill that would have expanded and secured legal abortion in New York state.
The proposal would have declared abortion a “fundamental right” and allowed any licensed “health care practitioner,” including non-doctors, to perform abortions. It would have barred abortion regulations such as parental notification for a minor considering abortion.
The proposed legislation, which would have also protected abortionists who kill women during abortion procedures from being charged with manslaughter, ultimately failed in the state Senate.
New York State Right to Life executive director Lori Kehoe pointed to the governor's record on abortion in response to his recent remarks.
“If he wasn't serious, it would almost be laughable that Governor Cuomo, who still advocates for no protective regulation on up-to-birth abortion, would consider the pro-life position to be extreme,” she said in a statement.
“The facts speak for themselves. It's clear who is too extreme for New York, and it's certainly not the majority of New Yorkers who are opposed to expanding our already-extreme abortion law.”
Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo said the governor’s Jan. 17 comment was “so outrageous” that he laughed at first.
“Then it made me deeply concerned,” he said in a Jan. 22 video reflection posted on YouTube.
“New York State already has the highest rate of abortions in the country. The governor and those who support him on this position want to make us the abortion capital of the country. I don’t want that, you don’t want that, Pope Francis doesn’t want that.”
While Gov. Cuomo “is speaking of extremism,” Bishop Malone said, “I think that comment is the best example of extremism I have heard in a long time.”
He lamented the human toll of abortion, saying that since 1973, “56 million unborn children have had their lives legally taken from them.”
He also noted the Pope’s recent statement that abortion is “a symptom of a throw-away culture.”
“Let’s work so that no more unborn children are thrown away,” he said.
Vatican City, Jan 25, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis’ celebration of an ecumenical vespers at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls Jan. 25, ending the Christian unity week, will also mark the 55th anniversary of the announcement of the Second Vatican Council.
On Jan. 25, 1959, Bl. John XXIII proclaimed his intention to call an ecumenical council at the end of a Vespers celebration held in the basilica, that concluded the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The decision by the late Pope renewed ecumenism: the following year, he established the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and his successor, Paul VI, met with the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople in 1964.
Pope Francis will follow in these footsteps, first with the celebration of ecumenical Vespers, and in May, he too will meet with the Patriarch of Constantinople.
He has consistently referred to himself as “Bishop of Rome” in favor of “Pope,” seen as a conciliatory gesture to the Orthodox, who object to some expressions of papal primacy.
The Church unity week was established as the Octave of Christian Unity by Fr. Lewis Wattson in 1899, who at the time was an Anglican priest. The previous year, he had co-founded an Anglican Franciscan religious community, the Society of the Atonement.
The Octave is observed between Jan. 18, the feast of Chair of St. Peter at Rome, and Jan. 25, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.
The Society of the Atonement sought to join the Catholic Church, and in 1909 its members were corporately received into the Church.
Fr. Wattson's church unity octave was indulgenced by both Benedict XV and Pius XII.
In the 1930s, Fr. Wattson's conception of the octave was largely supplanted by that of Fr. Paul Couturier, who saw the week as a prayerful request for reconciliation among all the baptized, believing, “we do not pray for the conversion to a Church, but for the conversion to Christ.”
This new impetus led further ecclesial communities to join the week.
The conclusion of the week for Christian unity is traditionally held at St. Paul's Outside the Walls, since it is the feast of St. Paul's conversion which draws the week to its end.
The basilica has long been entrusted to the Benedictines, and its link with St. Paul has made it known for its ecumenical commitment. At the beginning of his pontificate, Benedict XVI gave the basilica's Benedictines a particular mandate to work for ecumenism.
Irondale, Ala., Jan 25, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - News that the U.S. Supreme Court has granted an exemption from the contraception mandate to the Little Sisters of the Poor is a hopeful sign for other cases challenging the contraception mandate, EWTN says.
“This decision to intervene, reached after a full court review, provides welcome relief to the Sisters and encouragement to the other plaintiffs who continue to challenge the mandate,” CEO Michael Warsaw of Eternal Word Television Network said Jan. 25.
On Jan. 24 the entire Supreme Court granted an injunction to the Little Sisters of the Poor, saying that the Department of Health and Human Services is prohibited from enforcing its mandate on the sisters while they are challenging it in court.
“The fact that organizations like EWTN or the Little Sisters of the Poor are not deemed to be religious enough to qualify for a full exemption from the mandate shows how senseless the government’s rules have become,” Warsaw said.
He recognized that even though the Supreme Court’s recent ruling has no immediate impact on EWTN’s lawsuit against the federal government, it is encouraging to see that the sisters have been granted relief from the mandate while their case remains in court.
“While the decision of the Supreme Court in the Little Sisters’ case has no direct impact on the current legal challenge of the mandate by EWTN and the State of Alabama, it is very helpful that the Court has seen fit to intervene in the matter,” he said.
Just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, the network joined the State of Alabama in filing a petition seeking a judgment on their lawsuit against the federal government from the U.S. District Court in Mobile.
If the Catholic network refuses to comply with the mandate, they could face millions of dollars in fines.
While the network waits for a decision in their case, they “remain hopeful that the courts will ultimately provide EWTN with relief from this unjust government mandate.”
In the mean time, the network asked for continued prayers from the “EWTN Family” on the matter.
Vatican City, Jan 25, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis met with a group of Italian women today, expressing his desire for women to participate more widely in the Church and in society without neglecting the family.
“I have been pleased to see many women share some pastoral responsibilities with priests in accompanying people, families, and groups, (just) as in theological reflection; and I hope that more spaces are widened for a feminine presence in the Church that is more widespread and incisive,” he said on Jan. 25 to members of the “Centro Italiano Femminile,” a women's group founded to promote democracy in Italy based on respect for the human person and Christian principles.
“These new spaces and responsibilities that are open, and that I vividly hope can further expand to the presence and activity of women, as much in the ecclesial sphere as in that of civil and professional, can not make us forget the irreplaceable role of women in the family,” Pope Francis emphasized.
Women’s particular qualities of sensitivity toward other people “represent not only a genuine strength for the lives of families, for the irradiation of a climate of serenity and harmony, but a reality without which the vocation human would not be able to be realized.”
Thus, urged the Pope, it is important that women be involved in both the public and domestic sphere. In fact, he said, one influences the other.
“If in the world of work and in the public sphere, a more incisive contribution by the feminine genius is important, this contribution remains essential in the environment of the family, which for us Christians is not simply a private place, but that of the 'domestic Church,' whose health and prosperity are the conditions for the health and prosperity of the Church and of society itself.”
Particularly in recent decades, the Pontiff acknowledged, “the identity and role of woman, in the family, in society, and in the Church, have experienced significant changes, and in general the participation and the responsibility of women has grown.”
While this is a positive development, the changes in women’s roles raise new issues, he noted.
“At this point the question arises: how you can grow in the effective presence of many areas of the public sphere, in the world of work and in places where the most important decisions are adopted, and at the same time maintain a presence and preferential attention and everything unique in and for the family?”
The Pope’s answer to the question of work-life balance hinged on the virtue of prudence: “here is the field of discernment which, in addition to reflection on the reality of women in society, requires constant prayer and perseverance.”
Because each woman has different circumstances, she must “always seek anew to respond to the Lord, in her concrete conditions,” through “dialogue with God, illuminated by his word, irrigated by the grace of the sacraments.”
Pope Francis also encouraged the women to turn to Mary as an example.
“She, who cares for her divine Son, has gained his first miracle at the wedding at Cana, she who was also present on Calvary and at Pentecost, indicates to us the way to go to better understand the meaning and role of women in society and to be totally faithful to the Lord Jesus and to your mission in the world.”
Washington D.C., Jan 25, 2014 (CNA) - Scholars from a variety of fields challenged the notion of abortion as a private matter at a recent panel discussion, saying that the issue affects all of society rather than just a woman and her unborn child.
Charmaine Yoest, President and CEO of Americans United for Life, said that the language surrounding the abortion debate – particularly the framing of the pro-life movement as engaging a “war on women” – “helps to show us why we cannot accept that they would like this to be a private issue."
“A war is an extremely public event,” Yoest said, “particularly for us as women.”
Christopher Tollefsen, a Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina, said that “abortion is the most public wrong in excising a person from the human community” because it involves taking a human life.
There is, he continued, “nothing more centrally public than the taking of human life.”
Yoest and Tollefsen spoke on Jan. 20 at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. They took part in a panel discussion entitled “Publicly Pro-Life: Why Abortion Is Not a Private Issue” at Cardinal O'Connor Conference on Life, the nation's largest student-run, pro-life conference.
Speaking along with Yoest and Tolleffson were Hadley Arkes, the Edward Ney professor of jurisprudence at Amherst College, and Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.
Arkes criticized the current legal approach to abortion, noting that most of the arguments in favor abortion can apply to living people too – including to the old, the young and the elderly.
He emphasized a need to have concern for the “pain of the child,” saying that in situations of abortion “there is a real human being there suffering pain,” which should be a human- not private issue.
Tollefsen explained that the “taking of human life” is a necessarily public issue because it “disrupts the fabric of the human community.”
“Abortion is the most public wrong, it seems to me,” he said, because it concerns a “matter of what binds us together as a human community.”
A pre-born human is a human being because it contains “all the genetic and endogenic information” as persons in other stages of life. The question of abortion raises the question of if a human being deserves "the same fundamental forms of moral protection" as other persons.
“Each of us here should be immune to arbitrary forms of violence,” Tollefsen said, because “you and I are beings that have capacity for rational and free choice,” and there is a “special dignity in the forms of those capacities.”
However, he said “abortion interferes with that capacity,” by categorically denying it to one kind of person.
Yoest continued, adding that abortion raises the very question of "what does it mean to be a human" and to be a woman.
“It is completely indisputable that before we are born we are human,” she said, pointing back to the biological facts concerning pre-born life. However, she continued, the promotion of abortion places what it means to be human in conflict with what it means to be a woman.
“What does it mean to be a woman is very much in play in our culture today,” Yoest said, explaining that those who have promoted abortion "have defined being a strong, successful woman of the century,” in having the ability to abort her child.
These activists “say you have no hope of succeeding in our culture without abortion,” she said, and that “we will be less feminine if men take away abortion rights.”
This language, she said, goes against both the state's interest in a healthy, inclusive society, as well as a broad acceptance of humanity in all forms.
"Moving to talk about humanity is important," Yoest said, urging students to talk about abortion as more than just a women's issue. Talking about abortion as a human issue "is deeply important," she said. "It is the opposite of patriarchal."
Farr discussed the threats abortion places to religious freedom and human liberties – and thus society as a whole.
He explained that the founders of the United States did not intend for religious beliefs to be separate from public life, but instead “designed to invite religion into public life and protect it from the power of the state.”
However, recent political shifts have created an atmosphere in which "personal beliefs are privatized," he said. The believe that persons have a right to life has been one of these views that has been and discounted as a "dogma of a religion."
"They believe that because they hold these views religiously, it is somehow unconstitutional to make those views publicly," he continued, allowing opponents to dismiss them as irrational and trivial.
This understanding, Farr said, "is simply preposterous."
"We no longer understand what religious freedom means – health of the individual and health of society,” he said, urging students "to make those arguments" against abortion and from religious principles.
Vatican City, Jan 25, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis celebrated evening prayer at the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity tonight, stressing the nature of ecumenism as a journey that requires perseverance.
“Christ, dear friends, cannot be divided! This conviction must sustain and encourage us to persevere with humility and trust on the way to the restoration of full visible unity among all believers in Christ,” said the Pope in his homily at Vespers on Jan. 25.
“As we look with gratitude to the progress which the Lord has enabled us to make, and without ignoring the difficulties which ecumenical dialogue is presently experiencing, let us all pray that we may put on the mind of Christ and thus progress towards the unity which he wills,” he urged.
Christian leaders, including representatives from the Orthodox Church and Anglican communion, as well as faithful from around the world, gathered in prayer at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome on Saturday evening as the Bishop of Rome reflected on the journey of ecumenism traveled by his predecessors.
“Tonight I think of the work of two great Popes: Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II. In the course of their own lives, both came to realize the urgency of the cause of unity and, once elected to the See of Peter, they guided the entire Catholic flock decisively on the paths of ecumenism,” noted Pope Francis.
“With them, I think too of Pope Paul VI, another great promoter of dialogue; in these very days we are commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of his historic embrace with the Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople,” recalled the Pontiff, referring to the 1964 meeting between the leaders of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches which the lifted the centuries-long excommunications issued against one another.
Such efforts “enabled ecumenical dialogue to become an essential dimension of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, so that today the Petrine ministry cannot be fully understood without this openness to dialogue with all believers in Christ.”
It is “Christ alone” who is “the principle, the cause and the driving force behind our unity,” stressed Pope Francis.
“This evening, as we gather here in prayer, may we realize that Christ, who cannot be divided, wants to draw us to himself, to the sentiments of his heart, to his complete and confident surrender into the hands of the Father, to his radical self-emptying for love of humanity.”
Christ’s total love allows his followers to “realize all the more that we may not regard divisions in the Church as something natural, inevitable in any form of human association.”
Rather, the Pope emphasized, “our divisions wound Christ’s body, they impair the witness which we are called to give to him before the world.”
Closing with a prayer, Pope Francis requested, “Dear brothers and sisters, let us ask the Lord Jesus, who has made us living members of his body, to keep us deeply united to him, to help us overcome our conflicts, our divisions and our self-seeking, and to be united to one another by one force, by the power of love which the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts. Amen.”