Archive of March 28, 2014

New website encourages return to Confession during Lent

Atlanta, Ga., Mar 28, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The website aims to encourage Catholics to go to Confession more often, and to return to the “life-changing” sacrament if they have been away for some time.

“We, as practicing Catholics, need to help our brothers and sisters back to the sacramental graces that come through Confession,” Tom Peterson, president of Catholics Come Home, told CNA March 26.

“When we do, the results are miraculous. We’ve seen lives change. It’s like a weight lifted off your soul, but also off your back.”

The website offers an explanation of the sacrament, guides people through the process of confession, and discusses “struggles with sin,” providing an examination of conscience and confession times.

The website says that frequent confession advances one’s self-understanding, helps overcome vice, brings peace, and helps penitents become more saintly and “more like Jesus.”

The website includes testimonies from people “who took advantage of the sacrament and felt God’s healing grace and forgiveness and are free,” said Peterson, whose organization launched the website.

Peterson said that Confession might be “the most underutilized sacrament we have in the Church.”

Studies indicate that even many self-described practicing Catholics have not been to Confession in five years, he said.

Thompson cited Benedict XVI’s statement that the new evangelization begins in the confessional.

“I really want to encourage anyone of our readers who hasn’t been to the sacrament of Confession in a while, I’d say in more than two weeks, to take advantage of it again,” said Thompson.

“It’s life-changing. It’s eternity-changing.”

He said that people who go to Confession “with a contrite spirit and a pure heart” encounter a God who “wants to wrap his arms around us and love us.”

The website displays several videos on confession: “Sin separates us from God. But when we humbly repent in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God’s mercy forgives, and his grace sets us free,” says the video “Heavy Burdens.”

“So experience a fresh start today. Come home, to discover the healing and peace that only comes from God.”

Catholics Come Home hopes to broadcast the ad on television during Lent next year.

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Joy of forgiving, being forgiven are 'united' in confessional

Vatican City, Mar 28, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, said sinners should not be afraid of the Sacrament of Confession because in the confessional “the joy of forgiving and the joy of being forgiven are united.”

The Apostolic Penitentiary is the tribunal of the Roman Curia that deals with the internal forum – matters of Confession and spiritual direction – and with indulgences.

Cardinal Piacenza told Vatican Radio that the Sacrament of Confession is also a grace for the priest who absolves sins.

“It is a great gift also for us priests who, while called to exercise this ministry, have our faults to correct, so we are penitents and confessors at the same time.”

“It is more important than ever that confessors know how to welcome the penitent,” Cardinal Piacenza continued, emphasizing that priests need to sit in the confessional at times that are convenient for the faithful.

The Penitentiary is currently holding a weeklong course in the Palace of the Chancery in Rome for nearly 500 priests and seminarians – the 25th annual instance of the course.

The meeting will conclude Friday with an audience with Pope Francis. In the afternoon there will be a penitential liturgy at St. Peter’s Basilica, when the Pope will hear confessions and inaugurate the “feast of forgiveness,” during which parishes will stay open 24 hours for confessions.

According to Cardinal Piacenza, confessors need to develop their spiritual and pastoral sensitivity with serious theological, moral, and pedagogical preparation so they can understand the experience of the penitent.  

“They need to know where the penitent lives, the society that surrounds him, the family context. All of that should not only be part of the initial, but also the permanent, formation of the clergy.”

Cardinal Piacenza said Confession should be clear, simple, and complete, and include sincere repentance for true conversion: “In this way our existence is oriented again toward the path of love for God and for neighbour.”

The value of Confession lies in the grace of forgiveness that reaches the roots of sin committed after Baptism and that heals imperfections and deviations, giving the believer the strength for a real conversion.

“It is always a joyful celebration of the love of God who gives himself destroying our sin when we willing to recognized it with humility,” the cardinal said.

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Cardinal Burke stresses Catholic media’s 'supreme importance'

Rome, Italy, Mar 28, 2014 (CNA) - Cardinal Raymond Burke has praised the work of Catholic media, noting its importance in forming a pro-life culture that respects religious freedom and the nature of marriage.

“The culture of death advances, in large part, because of a lack of attention and information among the general public. What is more, the thoroughly galvanized anti-life and anti-family agenda of the pervasive secular mass media confuses and corrupts minds and hearts, and dulls consciences to the law written by God upon every human heart,” Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, said March 24.

Developing and supporting a “truly pro-life and pro-family media” is “of supreme importance” in an age characterized by its means of communication, he said. He also encouraged the organization of “public manifestations in support of the inviolable dignity of innocent human life and the integrity of the family.”

Cardinal Burke’s comments came in his address to Alliance Defending Freedom’s Catholic Media Symposium, held in Rome from March 24-27.

Alliance Defending Freedom, a U.S.-based legal group with almost 2,300 allied attorneys across 37 countries, organized the conference to help inform media professionals about its work in support of religious freedom.

Cardinal Burke said the gathering had a “critical importance” for “the future of our society and culture.”

He said communications media, with God’s grace, help Christians “overcome any separation of the Gospel from life.” This is especially true for “the heart of the Gospel,” which includes safeguarding and promoting human life, freedom of conscience and the right understanding of marriage and the family.

“Catholic media contribute in a most significant way to the work of a new evangelization,” he said. Citing Bl. John Paul II’s encyclical “Evangelium Vitae,” he called for “a united ethical effort to activate a great campaign in support of life.”

Every threat to human dignity and life “must necessarily be felt in the Church’s very heart,” he said.

“The truth, the goodness, and the beauty of human life, of marriage and the family, the cradle of human life, and of religious faith and practice as the font of stability and direction for marriage and the family have their only source in God Who is all true, all good, and all beautiful,” the cardinal continued.

He said these transcendentals are opposed by a society and culture that “pretends to be self-made, without reference to God and to his law written into creation.”

Such a society does not recognize conscience, “the privileged place of the human heart in which the law of God is known and observed.” Rather, its authority becomes “subject to the will of those who have the greatest power.”

Witnessing to the “inviolable dignity” of all human life, the “integrity of marriage,” and to the rights of conscience are “the first and most fundamental way of radiating the living truth which Our Lord Jesus communicates to us in His Mystical Body, the Church.”

He said he hoped that his words would encourage those in Catholic media “to take new courage and new energy from the Heart of Jesus.”

Alan Sears, president of Alliance Defending Freedom, said the media symposium “comes at a pivotal point for liberty and for people of faith all around the world.”

“At every level there are direct efforts to stifle and limit human dignity – to limit the free exercise of faith and religion, to obscure the exercise of rights of conscience, to suppress the natural family, and to interfere with the educational choices of parents,” he said in his opening remarks March 24.

He said there are “serious efforts” to limit religious freedom and the rights of conscience and growing efforts to “punish those who dare disagree.”

He cited the threat of “international judicial activism,” cultural indifference to the sanctity of life, and “a concerted legal and cultural effort to redefine marriage and family.”

He said the organization opposes “those that seek to cleanse society of our faith, our values, and the proclamation of God’s Truth to achieve their totalitarian aims.”

The legal group has supported conscience rights for pro-life medical professionals and midwives who are being ordered to participate in abortions.

It has defended the presence of crucifixes in Italian classrooms and the rights of parents who wish to homeschool their children or to opt out of school courses that have explicit sexual content or have derogatory messages about Jesus and the Church.

Sears noted a Spanish prosecutor’s investigation of Cardinal Fernando Sebastian Aguilar after a homosexual advocacy group accused him of “hate speech” for affirming the catechism’s teaching on human sexuality.

The legal group is defending the cardinal, as well as religious ministers in Canada and Sweden who have faced legal action for criticizing homosexual behavior.

Sears said similar trends are evident in the U.S. He cited remarks from Chai Feldblum, head of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, saying she believes that even private beliefs condemning homosexual behavior “should not be tolerated.”

He said that many people “of sincere faith” face “relentless legal attack” for protecting life, preserving marriage and family, and manifesting their faith “with their words and their deeds.” He rejected complacency in the face of “formidable opponents.”

“As we face these daunting challenges, it’s imperative that we strengthen our understanding and our existing relationships ... and establish new ones with you,” Sears told the media professionals in the audience.

Sears said he looked forward to a day “when our legal systems and our cultures, no in so many ways so set against the Truth of God, are transformed and protect the sacredness of life, marriage, family, and religious liberty.”

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Pope Francis: confession is not condemnation, but mercy

Vatican City, Mar 28, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a speech given to priests and seminarians attending a course on the Sacrament of Confession, Pope Francis spoke about the mercy of God, stating that it is the most important aspect of their ministry.

“Confession is not a court of condemnation, but an experience of forgiveness and mercy!” the Pope expressed in his March 28 speech to those attending the annual Course on the Internal Forum.

The Internal Forum part of the Apostolic Penitentiary, which is one of the three tribunals of the Roman Curia and is responsible for issues relating to the forgiveness of sins in the Catholic Church, particularly sins involving some types of grave matter which require a special form of absolution that only certain priests can administer.

Lasting for four days, the conference is held every year in Rome and is attended by around 500 seminarians in the third year of studies as well as various priests who wish to participate. It is designed to educate attendees on the Canon law regarding Confession, as well as what the Internal Forum does.

Highlighting how the Apostolic Penitentiary is one of the oldest offices of the Church as well as the importance of having well-formed confessors, the Pope thanked participants for their “valuable service” and encouraged them “to take it forward with renewed commitment.”

Pope Francis also pressed attendees to build upon their “experience gained and with skilful creativity, to always help the Church and confessors to better carry out the ministry of mercy, which is so important!”

Reflecting on the theme of mercy, the Pope pointed out that “the protagonist of the ministry of reconciliation is the Holy Spirit,” adding that “the forgiveness that the Sacrament confers is the new life sent by the Risen Lord by means of His Spirit: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”

“Therefore, you are called to always be ‘men of the Holy Spirit,’ witnesses and heralds, joyful and strong, of the resurrection of the Lord.”

Explaining how this witness is “read on the face,” the pontiff explained that it is also “heard in the voice of the priest” who administers the sacrament with “faith and with ‘unction,’” and welcomes the penitents who come, rather than treating them “with the attitude of a judge.”

Observing how “the heart of the priest is a heart that knows how to be moved, not by sentimentality or mere emotion, but to the ‘tender mercy’ of the Lord,” the Pope drew attention to the dual role of a confessor as both “doctor and judge,” adding that “we must never forget that as a doctor he is called to heal and as a judge, to absolve.”

In a second point, the pontiff noted that if the sacrament “transmits the new life of the Risen Lord and renews baptismal grace,” then the task of a priest “is to give it generously to others.”

“A priest who does not attend to this part of his ministry, both in the amount of time spent and in the spiritual quality, is like a shepherd who does not take care of the sheep that were lost; he is like a father who forgets the lost son and neglects waiting for him.”

Reminding those in attendance how many persons often experience “difficulty” in “approaching the sacrament” for various reasons, the Pope expressed the necessity “to work hard on ourselves, on our humanity, never to be an obstacle but always to favor drawing near to mercy and forgiveness.”

He also cautioned participants to guard against the two extremes “rigorism and laxism” in administering Confession, observing that “neither is good, because in reality they don’t take charge of the person of the penitent.”

“Instead, mercy truly listens with the heart of God and wants to accompany the soul on the path of reconciliation.”

Bringing up a final point in his discourse, Pope Francis stated that although many know of the difficulties encountered in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we also know that “the Lord wanted to give this immense gift to His Church, offering to the baptized the security of the Father's forgiveness.”

“For this reason” he said, “it is very important that in every diocese and in the parish communities, particular care is taken of the celebration of this Sacrament of forgiveness and salvation.”

Encouraging attendees to make clear times available for the sacrament in their parishes and to let their congregation know, the Pope emphasized that “when there is fidelity, the fruits are seen.”

Concluding his speech, the pontiff entrusted the priestly ministry and all Christian communities to “the Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy,” praying that “that they might always grow in understanding the value of the Sacrament of Penance.”

“I entrust all of you to our Mother and I bless you from the heart.”

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Napa Institute seeks to prepare Catholics for hostile culture

Napa Valley, Calif., Mar 28, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - As the California-based Napa Institute enters its fourth year, its upcoming conference aims to continue engaging Catholics in response to a U.S. culture that is increasingly antagonistic to their faith.

“We need to prepare Catholics to defend themselves and to be prepared for this more hostile environment which we live in,” Tim Busch, the institute’s chairman of the board, told CNA March 27. “We have to stand for our faith.”

The Napa Institute hopes that the conference “invigorates” participants’ faith and “gives them hope,” he said.

Busch described the conference as a “call to action” for Catholics to “reengage in their faith and get involved.”

The institute and its conference aims to prepare Catholics for “the next America,” a reference to a 2010 phrase used by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput about the new secular culture of the U.S.

The July 24-27 gathering this year will take place at the Meritage Resort and Spa in California’s Napa Valley. There will be opportunities for worship, prayer and sacraments, educational speeches, and fellowship and networking.

Busch said Catholics need to “live their faith” and become associated with other like-minded people. He hopes that many attendees will encounter and take interest in Catholic sponsoring organizations like Legatus, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, the Denver-based Augustine Institute, Wyoming Catholic College, Ave Maria University, and Thomas Aquinas College.

He said these organizations are “really changing the Church and re-evangelizing the Church.”

Busch reflected on the cultural changes that have created “the Next America.”

“At one time 50 years ago, many of us went to a church that was homogeneous. We grew up in a culture that was very friendly to Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. Today our culture and our society is hostile not just to Christianity and Catholicism, but to any form of organized religion,” he said.

He added that there is a feeling that faith should be spoken of only in one’s home or one’s church and “shouldn’t be involved in any part of the public square.”

The upcoming event will include dozens of educational seminars. A panel of bishops will discuss the new evangelization and Pope Francis. The panel will include Cardinal William Levada, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, and Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami.

Curtis Martin, president of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, will deliver the event’s keynote address.

Mass celebrants and speakers for the event include Cardinal James Harvey, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, and Cardinal Levada, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The conference will host daily Masses in various rites at the Meritage Resort’s Estate Cave, as well as Eucharistic adoration at Our Lady of Grapes Chapel. There will also be opportunities for confession.

The gathering will feature a performance of the play “Faustina, Messenger of Divine Mercy” from St. Luke Productions. Musician Eric Genuis will perform during a Trinitas Cellars wine reception and dinner.

Speeches at the Napa Institute will be published on the website and televised through the Eternal Word Television Network throughout the year.

Speech topics include economic justice, faith and reason, and beauty and the arts.

Busch, a businessman involved in the hotel industry and grocery stores, noted Pope Francis’ call to address economic justice. If business people don’t want the government to be involved in welfare systems and health insurance, he said, “then we need as corporate citizens, to take care for the less fortunate.”

“We have to employ them. We have to get them health insurance. We have to support our churches and our non-profits to take care of the poor and needy,” he said.

Busch added that the Church has been involved in art for centuries.

“A lot of people find their faith through art,” he noted.

The conference is targeted for both lay and ordained Catholic leaders who are “involved in the Church in some way,” Bush explained.

He said people who are leaders in a school or university, a parish finance council or a religious movement can use the Napa Institute event to help grow and form their faith while meeting other Catholic leaders with similar interests.

Registration fees for the 2014 event run at $1,700 per person. More information is available at the Napa Institute website is at

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God never tires of forgiving us, Pope reflects

Vatican City, Mar 28, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis dedicated his homily at Friday’s Mass to the mercy of God, emphasizing that while God is firm in his call for conversion, he is always waiting to receive the sinner with open arms.

“The God of mercy; he does not tire of forgiving. We are the ones who tire in asking for forgiveness, but he does not tire,” the Pope observed in his March 28 Mass.

Speaking to those gathered in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse chapel, the Roman Pontiff began by calling attention to the day’s first reading, taken from Hosea, in which the prophet encourages the people of Israel to return to the true God, and revealing to them the Lord’s desire to make them prosper and bear fruit.

From this book we are able to see how God always speaks to his people with tenderness, the Pope reflected.

Even when God is strict in his invitation to convert, Pope Francis observed, his words always include “this loving longing” which reflects the father’s words to the prodigal son, “Come back. It is time to come back home.”

“This is the heart of our Father. God is like that: he does not tire, he does not tire. And God did this for many centuries, with so much apostasy… among the people. And he always returns, because our God is a God who waits.”

Recalling how “Adam left paradise with a punishment but also with a promise,” the Roman Pontiff explained that “the Lord is faithful to his promise because he cannot deny himself.”

“He is faithful. And, in this way, he waited for all of us, throughout all of history. He is the God who waits for us always.”

Shifting his thoughts to the parable of the prodigal son, the Pope noted how Luke’s Gospel reveals to us that the father was waiting for his son’s return and that he “went onto the terrace every day to see if his son would return. He waited.”

“When he saw him, he went out in haste and ‘threw himself on his neck,’” Pope Francis noted, emphasizing that although “the son had prepared some words to say,” his father “did not let him speak; his embrace covered his mouth.”

Observing how there are some who are far from the Church who might say, “But father, I have so many sins, I do not know if he will be happy,” Pope Francis echoed the words a priest might say in response, encouraging the person “But try!”

“If you want to know the tenderness of this Father, go to him and try. Then come and tell me.”

Noting that God will not tire of forgiving us our sins, the Pope said: “Seventy times seven, always.”
“Let us go forward with forgiveness,” Pope Francis stated, adding that “from a business point of view, the balance is negative. He always loses: he loses in the balance of things, but he wins in love.”

However, God “is the first to fulfill the commandment of love,” he noted, highlighting that “he loves and does not know how to do otherwise.”

Pope Francis concluded his homily by drawing attention to the miracles of healing which Jesus performed, explaining that the curing of the sick is “a sign of the great miracle that every day the Lord does with us when we have the courage to get up and go to him.”

When a sinner returns to God, he does not celebrate “like the banquet of the rich man, who had the poor Lazarus at his door,” the Roman Pontiff observed, but rather, “he holds a banquet, like the father of the prodigal son.”

Each person who has the courage to approach God “will find the joy” of his feast, the Pope stated, praying that all would “think of our Father, who waits for us always and who always forgives us and celebrates our return.”

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Churches answer Pope's call for 24 hours of Confession

Vatican City, Mar 28, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - As many dioceses the world over begin to offer special round-the clock periods of Confession, Pope Francis stressed that conversion is “a commitment that lasts a lifetime.”

“Who among us can be assumed not to be a sinner? No one,” the Pope said at a March 28 penitential service at St. Peter’s Basilica which stressed the power of forgiveness through Christ.

“The love of Jesus Christ lasts forever, will never end, because it is the very life of God. This love conquers sin and gives strength to get up and start anew, because with pardon the heart is renewed and rejuvenated.”

He said that many participants in the penitential service will make themselves “missionaries to the experience of reconciliation with God.”

“To everyone you meet, you will communicate the joy of receiving the Father’s forgiveness and regaining full friendship with him,” the Bishop of Rome told his flock.

On March 24, he had called for churches around the world to join Rome’s parishes in “24 Hours for the Lord,” a “celebration of forgiveness” to make Confession available for a full day.

The Friday penitential service at St. Peter’s Basilica included Psalms, scripture readings, and hymns about repentance and the mercy of God.

Deacon Pat Rogers, the Archdiocese of San Antonio’s communications director, said the worldwide celebration is “the opportunity to extend God’s forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation and through prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.”

Deacon Rogers told CNA March 28 that San Antonio’s Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller responded to the Pope’s call.

The archbishop has opened San Antonio’s San Francesco di Paola parish for Confessions for a 24-hour period beginning Saturday, March 29, at 6:30 p.m.

“With love and respect I invite all those who seek God’s mercy to come to the sacrament of confession,” the archbishop said in a statement.

“I promise you will be received with the joy that comes when our hearts are freed from the heavy weight of sin. I also pray that these 24 hours will be a time when we can forgive those in our lives who have wounded us and make reparation with those we have hurt.”

Several U.S. dioceses already hold special Confession periods through campaigns such as “The Light is On For You.” The Boston archdiocese has set aside six days during Lent to make select parishes especially available for confession, and the Archdiocese of Denver opened nearly all its parishes for confession the evening of March 20.

In Canada, the Diocese of Saskatoon is hosting a 24-hour period of Confession and Eucharistic Adoration at St. Paul’s Co-Cathedral from 1 p.m. March 28 through midnight, and continuing through the night. It will also adoration and Confession at the Cathedral of the Holy Family from 12 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

The Diocese of Hamilton opened its Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King for 24 hours of Confession beginning at 4:30 p.m. Friday, while the Diocese of Calgary opened its St. Anthony’s parish for round-the-clock Confession at the same time.

In England, the Diocese of Middlesbrough will open three parishes for Confession from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday. Over a dozen parishes in the Diocese of Shrewsbury set aside special periods for Confessions.

The Archdiocese of San Jose de Costa Rica is holding a “Feast of Pardon” shortly before Easter, on April 9. Its cathedral will be open for Confessions from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., with more than 30 priests available for penitents.

In Peru, the Archdiocese of Piura is providing six parishes for "24 Hours for the Lord"; the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Trujillo is also being kept open for Confessions.

And in Argentina, the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires is holding two days of Confessions at its cathedral, on both March 28 and 29. It includes a Mass said by Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo Garcia, petitioning God for repentance and conversion for the entire Church of Buenos Aires.

Dn. Rogers said Catholics go to Confession because “it is the sacrament of love and mercy and reconciliation,” and a “great sign of God’s unconditional love and mercy.”

The “first step” in turning away from sin and being faithful to the Gospel is “a turning toward God,” he said. Confession helps “prepare our hearts for the joy of Easter.”

He encouraged those who need guidance about Confession to look at resources on the websites of the San Antonio archdiocese, or the U.S. bishops’ conference.

Catholics can also walk into the door of the confessional and talk to the priest about it, he noted.

“I assure you that our priests will … do all they can to gently guide you through the steps of the sacrament so that you may feel that you have celebrated it well and have received the forgiveness of God.”

Archbishop Garcia-Siller encouraged all Catholics to “celebrate this opportunity to gain the peace and reconciliation that comes through a personal encounter with Jesus Christ in this sacrament of mercy and love.”

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