Archive of February 16, 2014

Olympic figure skating star hailed as example for Catholics

Washington D.C., Feb 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic Olympian and international skating superstar Kim Yuna is a role model not only of dedication and athleticism but also an example of how to live the faith publicly, a fan says.  

Seminarian for the Archdiocese of Detroit and blog writer Evan Pham told CNA on Feb. 11 that he was struck by Kim's simple act of praying on ice during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

He said that he was inspired when he and his family saw “a clip of her doing the sign of the cross” and bowing her head immediately before competing the finals for the ladies' skating title, which she won.

“There was this young woman out there on the Olympic ice and all these cameras are constantly on her,” Pham said. “She was not scared. She just wanted to pray: she didn't care who was watching.”

“What an inspiration,” he said of this simple act of public prayer.

In her home country of South Korea, Kim is regarded as one of the most famous celebrities, particularly after winning the 2010 Olympics in ladies' freestyle with a record-breaking score.  

Arguably one of the best in the history of modern figure skating, Kim holds world record scores in the ladies' skating short program, free skate and combined score, and has broken world record scores 11 times to date.  

However, in addition to using her celebrity in documentaries and ad campaigns for cosmetics, clothing, and electronics, Kim's renown has served as an opportunity for the skating star to share her Catholic faith.

Kim converted to the Catholic faith alongside her mother in 2008 after they came in contact with local nuns and Catholic organizations through her personal physician – also a Catholic – who was treating her for knee injuries.

At her baptism, Kim took the name “Stella” after Mary, Star of the Sea, and told a diocesan paper that during the baptismal rite she “felt an enormous consolation in my heart” and promised God to continue to “pray always,” especially before competitions.  

Since then, Kim has shown her faith to the international world, crossing herself as she steps onto the ice during performances and competitions. In 2010, she also joined with the Korean bishops in a national campaign to explain the rosary to the Korean public – and to explain the meaning of the rosary ring she herself wears to fans who mistook it for an engagement ring.

Kim has also been active in using her position as an opportunity for charitable works, volunteering and donating funds to Catholic Hospitals, Universities, and other charitable organizations, and working alongside the Catholic bishops in Korea as a spokeswoman for Catholic charities in Seoul.

Additionally, in 2012, Kim donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Salesian of Don Bosco to help support the missionary brothers in South Sudan and to establish Catholic Schools throughout the war-torn country, meeting with Salesian brothers in Seoul to personally deliver the gift.

She told Korean press that while visiting Africa in 2011 she “felt the need to help out children there,” and wanted “to offer what little support I can” to those in Africa.

This public witness, Pham said, has inspired him to be more open with sharing his own beliefs.

He explained that growing up, he was “very anxious about my faith” especially praying in public. “I didn't want them to think I was strange,” he said, adding that in some ways publicly expressing one's beliefs is “ basically painting a target on your forehead” for negative comments, jokes and even persecution.

When he saw Kim praying on the ice, however, his fear was challenged.

“It’s a regular thing for her,” he said of her pre-skating prayers. “Wow. What a way of witness,” Pham said, noting that her actions made him ask himself, “If she can do this, why can't I do this?”

Yuna Kim taught him about “the chances we have of manifesting” the Catholic faith to the public, Pham said.

“What would I choose,” he continued, “being afraid or not afraid? Being not afraid is so much more beautiful.”

Now, Pham said, he is much more open to praying in public and sharing his faith with strangers- including on his blog, but the skating star's example still comes back to him.

“If I'm ever second thinking about making a sign of the cross, I think about what I saw.”

Pham said that Kim is often in his prayers, and has inspired him to “take the time to pray” for other public figures who have “so much potential to do good.”

“I really hope that she continues to use her influence in a good way: to be an evangelist.”

For the 2014 Olympics, Kim will compete in the ladies' freestyle skate, beginning on Feb. 19.

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Texas candidate softens opposition to abortion ban

Dallas, Texas, Feb 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, who garnered national attention for her opposition to a 20-week abortion ban in the state, is now making headlines again by saying she might support such a ban in some instances.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, suggested in a Feb. 12 statement that Davis's apparent change in stance gives her “the appearance of moving with” pro-life voters in Texas “while at the same time maintaining abortion as her ‘sacred ground’.”

In September 2013, Davis gained national attention in her role as state senator after performing a nearly 11-hour filibuster against a Texas bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks into pregnancy and require abortion clinics to meet the same health and safety standards as other surgical clinics.

A month after the filibuster, she announced that she would be running for governor of Texas in the 2014 election.

On Feb. 11, Davis told the Dallas Morning News that she found the 20-week ban “the least objectionable” part of the bill she had filibustered.

“I would have and could have voted to allow that to go through, if I felt like we had tightly defined the ability for a woman and a doctor to be making this decision together and not have the Legislature get too deep in the weeds of how we would describe when that was appropriate,” she added.

Davis’ remarks drew criticism from both sides of the political spectrum, along with accusations that she was using vague answers in an attempt to please everyone.

Author Tarra Culp-Ressler, writing for progressive news source ThinkProgress, said in a Feb. 13 article that “Davis’ stance simply doesn’t make sense.”

Culp-Ressler argued that Davis’ statements advocating that the law “give deference” to women contemplating an abortion would be “directly undermined by the enactment of a ban.”

“Politically, however, Davis’ stance is all too understandable,” Ressler continued, noting that opposing 20-week bans is vastly unpopular in Texas, particularly after the trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, who last year was convicted of murdering babies after they had survived his late-term abortion attempts.  

Dannenfelser called Davis' move an act of “political desperation.”

“National and Texas-based polling shows Wendy Davis’ extreme abortion position is repellant to voters, including women, young people, and Hispanics,” Dannenfelser said. “Most Americans simply can’t stomach the brutality of late abortion and are moving towards compassionate, common ground limits.”

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Gossip is poisonous, insists Pope

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2014 (CNA) - Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus message emphasized the importance of avoiding all forms of slander in living a Christian life.

“It’s so rotten, gossip. At the beginning, it seems to be something enjoyable and fun, like a piece of candy.  But at the end, it fills the heart with bitterness and also poisons us,” Pope Francis said Feb. 16.

“I tell you the truth,” he preached to the crowds filling St. Peter’s Square. “I am convinced that if each one of us would purposely avoid gossip, at the end, we would become a saint! It’s a beautiful path!”

“Do we want to become saints? Yes or no?” he queried as the crowds replied, “yes!”

“Yes? Do we want to live attached to gossip as a habit?” Pope Francis continued, “Yes or no? No? Ok, so we are in agreement! No gossip!”

The Gospel reading at Sunday’s Mass contained the story of Jesus explaining to the disciples that he had come “not to abolish, but to fulfill the law” of the old covenant.

Jesus offers the example of the fifth commandment, “do not kill,” and goes on to add, “but I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be guilty before the court.”

“With this, Jesus reminds us that even words can kill!” explained the Pope. “When it is said that someone has the ‘tongue of a serpent,’ what does it mean? That his words kill.”

“Therefore, not only must one not make an attempt on the life of others, but one must not even pour on him the poison of anger and hit him with slander, nor speak ill of him. And here we arrive at gossip. Gossip can also kill, because it kills the reputation of the person,” stressed the Pontiff.

Jesus proposes another way to his followers, “the perfection of love: a love in which the only measure is not to measure, but to go beyond all calculating.”

This Christian path of loving one’s neighbor is “so fundamental that Jesus comes to say that our relationship with God can not be honest if we do not want to make peace with our neighbor.”

“We are called to reconcile with our brothers prior to showing our devotion to the Lord in prayer,” said Pope Francis, noting Jesus’ words to his disciples, “if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother.”

The Pope then summarized, “from all of this, one understands that Jesus does not give importance simply to disciplinary observance and exterior conduct. He goes to the root of the law, focusing above all on the intention and then on the human heart, from where our good or bad actions originate.”

“Good and honest behavior”, he said, does not come merely from “juridical norms” but rather requires “profound motivation, expressions of a hidden wisdom, the Wisdom of God, which can be received by the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

It is Holy Spirit who “renders us capable of living divine love” and following “the greatest commandment: love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Pope Francis then led the crowds in the Angelus prayer and greeted the various pilgrim groups present before wishing everyone a “good Sunday and a good lunch.”

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Two Salesian religious murdered during robbery in Venezuela

Caracas, Venezuela, Feb 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - During a suspected robbery at Don Bosco College in the Venezuelan city of Valencia the evening of Feb. 15, two Salesians were stabbed to death, and another was wounded.

Fr. Jesus Plaza, 80, and Brother Luis Sanchez, 84 were both murdered; and Brother David Marin, 64, was stabbed in the leg multiple times, but is reportedly out of danger after having been treated at a local clinic.

“Last night two Salesian brothers were killed in Venezuela,” Fr. Pascual Chavez, superior of the Salesians of Don Bosco, confirmed via Twitter Feb. 16.

"We pray for peace and for the restoration of the rule of law in the nation,” he exhorted.

According to police investigations, the alleged perpetrators are two minors, between 13 and 15 years of age, and they stole computers, money, mobile phones, and liturgical objects from the rectory.

In a statement released through the Facebook page of Don Bosco College, Fr. Luciano Stefani, provincial general of the Salesians in Venezuela, said, “as this tragedy leads our province to mourn, and moves us to seek a reason, let us raise our prayers to the Lord, asking eternal rest for these our brothers.”

Fr. Stefani also called for "peace and spiritual tranquility " for Brother Marin and for Fr. José Luis Salazar, both of whom were gagged by the delinquents as they entered the college.

The vicar general of the Archdiocese of Valencia noted via Twitter the “immense pain for the blood of the Salesians of Valencia who lived for our people.”

"Lord, in the midst of pain and confusion, thank you all the Salesians do for us in your Name,” he said, going on to say Fr. Plaza is now “with Mary, Help of Christians in heaven.”

Fr. Fernando Santana, director of the Don Bosco house in Guaparo, a suburb of Valencia, asked the Venezuelan press that the murders not be politicized, saying this is “a social reality” of the nation.

“There are no elements which link this with the events going on in the country; this is a situation of insecurity. There are not groups who came here to produce chaos,” he said.

Valencia is located 100 miles west of Caracas, the capital of Venezuela.

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Examine your conscience well, Pope tells Roman parishioners

Rome, Italy, Feb 16, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - While making a pastoral visit to Rome's St. Thomas the Apostle parish today, Pope Francis emphasized to the community the importance of making a good examination of conscience.

As Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis said the evening Mass at the parish Feb. 16 to mark the 50th anniversary of its dedication. St. Thomas the Apostle is located on Rome's southern periphery, near Ostia. Nearly 400 parishioners filled the church, while others lined the sidewalks to welcome their bishop.

Pope Francis took the opportunity to meet with various small groups from St. Thomas the Apostle, including children making their first communion this year, young people in religious education, the disabled and sick with their families, those children who were baptized this year and their parents, and the members of the parish council. He also heard confessions prior to saying Mass.

During his homily, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of examining one’s conscience well, beginning by recalling the Gospel passage in which Christ's disciples are criticized for disobeying the law of Moses by picking and eating grain on the Sabbath, which was forbidden.

Christ reminds the Pharisees that “it is not that which comes from the outside that dirties the soul, but that which comes from the inside,” preached the Bishop of Rome.

He then went on to encourage the congregation to consider the condition of their own hearts.

“I think that it will do us good today to think not whether the soul is dirty or clean, but what is in my heart … what is inside that I know, but no one else knows?”

Such honest self-knowledge “is not easy” he acknowledged, “because we always seek to cover it, when something that is not good is in our hearts.”

Still, we must ask ourselves, “what is in our hearts? Is it love, for our parents, our children, our husband, our wife, people around us … or do I hate someone?”

“Many times,” Pope Francis noted, we say: “I love everyone except for that person and that person and that person.”

“That is hatred!”

Moreover, in today’s Gospel, Christ explains that anyone who is angry with his brother “kills in his heart.”   The Pope added that is is also true for the sins of “gossip, calumny, and detraction.”

“Anyone who insults his brother kills his brother in his heart. Remember that words kill. Evil desires toward others also kill.”

“To speak ill of another is a sin, because I have in my heart hatred, ill-will, for another.”

For these reasons, it is important, he said, “to know what is inside me. What is inside my heart?” We must ask ourselves if our hearts contain “an attitude of forgiving someone who has offended me, or an attitude of revenge.”

“Let us ask the Lord for two graces,” he encouraged the congregation. First, “to know what is in our hearts to not deceive ourselves,” and second, “the grace to do that which is good in our hearts, and not do that which is evil.”

Concelebrating Mass were Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar general of the Diocese of Rome; Bishop Paolo Schiavon, an auxiliary of the diocese; Fr. Antonio D’Errico, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle; and several other local priests.

The territory of St. Thomas the Apostle includes 20,000 persons. The parish itself has several outreach programs, including an association responsible for the distribution of clothing, furniture, household and baby products to those who need it; activities for families with children with various disabilities; and regular blood donation drives.

Fr. D’Errico, who has been pastor of the parish since 2002, invited Pope Francis in anticipation of the parish’s celebration of its dedication, Feb. 19, 1964.

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