Archive of May 28, 2014

Scott Hahn explores power of saints, angels in modern life

Steubenville, Ohio, May 28, 2014 (CNA) - Noted Catholic convert and author Dr. Scott Hahn published a new book May 27 exploring the biblical roots and modern-day interventions of the angels and saints.

Hahn told CNA in a recent interview that his improved relationships with several saints inspired him to write the new book, titled “Angels and Saints: A Biblical Guide to Friendship with God's Holy Ones” (Image).

“When I became a Catholic back in 1986…the Catholic Church as the family of God struck me as absolutely true and biblical,” explained Dr. Hahn, a professor of Biblical theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. “Twenty-eight years later, I realize that it’s true because it’s real and biblical – but even more, it’s beautiful. It’s powerful.”

Dr. Hahn is the bestselling author of several other books, including “The Lamb's Supper” and “Rome Sweet Home.” He is also the founder and director of the Ohio-based Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology.

His latest 208-page book is divided into two parts. The first explores the roots of sainthood, angels and veneration of the saints. The second half offers reflections on saints who have influenced his own life.

Hahn opens “Angels and Saints” with a powerful story of the intercession of several saints during a recent pilgrimage to Assisi. During the pilgrimage, his son, Joseph, became very ill. He was taken to a local hospital, where doctors said they would have to operate if his condition did not improve.

That night, his son's health took a turn for the worse.

“I knew (Joseph) was facing the possibility of death and he was in absolute agony,” Dr. Hahn recalled to CNA. “I felt so helpless as a father…I got down on my knees around midnight and I began to try to connect with God.”

As he prayed and pleaded for his son's safety, Hahn said he became intensely aware of the presence of others in the room.

“That room got really crowded with Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Clare and the Blessed Virgin Mary,” he said. “If somebody had flipped on the (light) switch and I had seen the faces of the saints and the angels, it wouldn't have made them any more real.”

Hahn said his encounter with the saints that night reminded him that his “aloneness was really an illusion.”

“I realized how we are enveloped in divine love,” he said. “And not just God alone, but God drawing all of us into his family as his sons and brothers and sisters. I realized more powerfully that all this theory is true, and all this truth is real and all this reality is really beautiful and absolutely indispensable to get through everyday life.”

The theologian spends the second half of his book “Angels and Saints” delving into the lives of the saints who have helped him most in his everyday life. These saints include Therese of Lisieux, whom Hahn said provided him an example of living “as a little flower on the one side and a doctor of the Church on the other.”

He also explores the life and messages of Saint Josemaria Escriva, whom he credits for practical instruction on living as a contemplative in the middle of the world. Other saints discussed include Saint Michael the Archangel, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, St. Maximilian Kolbe and many others.  

Hahn said he hopes the new book will help the faithful foster a better understanding of the family of God.

“Nothing fulfills a father more than to see his sons and daughters becoming better and better friends,” he reflected. “And I think nothing glorifies God the father more than to see family members assisting each other.”

He said he also hopes the book will inspire Catholics to evaluate their own prayer lives and relationships with the saints.

“We live in a society where action is made a higher priority than prayer and contemplation,” Dr. Hahn said. “I think what we need to do – at least what I know I need to do – is stop acting, stop working and start sitting in quiet and prayer.”

“I think what the angels and saints show us is that when we're doing things for God, it's not as powerful, it's not as productive as when we allow God to do things in us, which is almost always in quiet, in the interior,” he said.

Also out this month from Hahn is the book “Evangelizing Catholics: A Mission Manual for the New Evangelization” (Our Sunday Visitor). Though the books published separately, Dr. Hahn said the works go hand-in-hand.

“To me, it's a lot like how we live in our own bodies; we inhale, and then we exhale,” he reflected. “We inhale when we receive the Holy Spirit, the breath of God. And we do that through the sacraments...also with the saints as we pray and receive more and more of God's life.”

“The point of that sort of prayer is to be sent out on a mission,” he continued. “And that mission is clear, it's the New Evangelization.”

“Angels and Saints: A Biblical Guide to Friendship with God's Holy Ones” is available through Image, a division of Random House. “Evangelizing Catholics: A Mission Manual for the New Evangelization” published last week and is available through Our Sunday Visitor.

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Religious tensions subside amid Balkan floods

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, May 28, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Amid the “inconceivable amount of devastation” caused by floods in Bosnia-Herzegovina, people are crossing ethnic and religious lines to help those affected.

“Adversity brings people together,” Father Simo Marsic, rector of the St. John Paul II Youth Pastoral Center in Sarajevo, told the Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need.

“(I)t was impressive to see the extent to which people – whether Catholic, Orthodox or Muslim – were united by suffering,” the priest said May 26.

Floods caused by heavy rains have killed at least 40 people and displaced thousands more in Bosnia-Herzegovina and neighboring Serbia, the BBC reports. One quarter of the people in Bosnia-Herzegovina now lacks clean water. The country’s foreign minister has compared the physical damage to the damage of the 1992-1995 war during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, a war which was fought largely along ethnic and religious lines.

Fr. Marsic said it is impossible to assess the destruction so far. The floods are the worst in 120 years and have affected all 40 parishes of the Archdiocese of Sarajevo, which serves about 60,000 Catholics.

The priest said that the damage has particularly affected survivors of the war, many of whom lost all their possessions two decades ago.

Landslides pose a special risk to homes and individuals. The floods have also changed the position of unremoved land mines, while decaying animal cadavers pose a risk of epidemic disease.

However, the natural disaster has helped create solidarity among all people as these tensions were “forgotten,” Fr. Marsic said.

He said that “by the grace of God” people were “overcoming walls which exist between the ethnic groups and religions.”

He noted that after a saint’s statue was washed out of a church, a Muslim man found it in the street and returned it.

The employees of Fr. Marsic’s youth pastoral center have supported the Catholic relief organization Caritas by distributing aid to flood victims.

The European Union has also promised aid.

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India archdiocese launches suicide prevention helpline

Goa, India, May 28, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Metropolitan Archdiocese of Goa and Daman has launched a round-the-clock emergency suicide prevention helpline to proactively address the escalating suicide rates in the region.

“Life is given by God, and only he has the power to take it back,” said local archbishop Filipe Neri Sebastião do Rosário Ferrão at the May 24 announcement of the “God Saves Life-line” initiative.

“In today's society, we need to offer hope to the people that God has created them in love and that He still loves them…and this hope is what 'God Saves Life-line,' is expected to offer.”

Archbishop Rosário Ferrão inaugurated the project by leading a prayer service and imparting his blessing while commissioning the initiative to the Diocesan Center for Missionary Animation in Old Goa. Located about eight miles from the capital city Panjim, the center is near the renowned Basilica of Bom Jesus that holds a reliquary of St. Francis Xavier and draws daily an average of over five thousand devotees and visitors.  

“Life is important and its precious gift of God for we are created in His image and likeness,” Fr. Dr. Mario Saturnino Dias, creator of the project and director for the center told CNA May 25.

“It's concerning to witness while reading daily newspapers reports the scourge of modern times that people are undertaking extreme steps in committing suicide,” he said, adding: “Every human being has also an inner urge to live and also an urge to save life irrespective of caste, creed or religion.”

The director recounted that over the last two decades, the suicide rate in the country has been “mounting steadily.” Over 180,000 suicides were reported for 2010 and claimed a younger population between the ages of 15 to 29 years. According to the priest, many suicides also go unreported.

The National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs reports that the average suicide rate in Goa is 15.8 per 100 thousand – above the National Average of 11.4 – an “alarmingly distressing” fact putting the state in tenth position country-wide.

“To me saving one life is as important as saving thousand lives,” Fr. Dias said.  

“If somebody becomes aware of receiving hope in hopelessness; finds openness of love, care, affection, concern and positive energy, assistance of qualified counselors a depressed life situation can bring optimistic change.”

He noted that the challenges youth face in India range from family poverty, drug abuse and alcoholism, failure in love affairs, dowry disputes, rural illiteracy, ignorance, and superstitions, agricultural challenges, to bankruptcy loans and many other causes.

Fr. Dias strongly emphasized the “important of role of the parents” in upbringing of their children.

He urged parents, “Teach your children to appreciate life and be trained to accept gracefully the many frustrations which are part of life so that their tolerance level is increased.”

Callers are assured of confidentiality and can also be provided help through a state-wide network of government services like hospitals, law enforcement and legal bodies such as police, the fire department and associations like Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Caritas and other Church bodies.

“It is a good sign a helpline has been launched...such helplines act as a preventive measure to the members of the society to avert tragedy and save life,” Dr. Ivonne Pereira, head of the Dept. of Psychiatry for Goa Medical College told CNA.

Dr. Ivone also released the sixth issue of “Celebrate God's Love” a magazine published by the Centre as an effort to re-evangelize those whose faith is dwindling.

Ashok Menon, director of Goa Fire and Emergency Services, also released new promotional car stickers for the “God Saves Life-line.” He said the personnel assisting in the calls should be able to “know not just what to do but how to do as they offer their services in helping people in distress.”  

Local individuals experiencing suicidal feelings or those who want to prevent suicide by another person displaying such tendencies can call the “God Saves Help-line” at: +91832 22-8-44-33.

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Pope Francis meets with doctor who saved his life

Rome, Italy, May 28, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis met recently with Dr. Juan Carlos Parodi, the Argentinean surgeon who operated on him for gall bladder failure in 1980 and whom he attributes with saving his life.

Dr. Parodi recounted the story to the Argentinean daily La Nacion May 20.

“It was a surprise for me. In 1980 I was called by a doctor who said he was treating a humble priest who was very sick. He was a Jesuit and had taken the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and did not have any money. He asked me, ‘Are you able to help him?’ I was honored. I dropped everything and went to see this priest. He was very sick.”
“I operated on him, I don’t remember much else but that he came out okay and gave me a book. He insisted on paying me and of course I refused. He gave me a book which he signed. Later I found out that that humble and very sick priest was Bergoglio,” Parodi recalled.
Speaking on Radio Continental, he shared details about his recent visit with his former patient.

“On April 9 I was at a congress in London, and I was told I could have a private audience. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. First, because I learned many things that I did not know, and plus to see the Holy Father.”
“He was radiant as he came into St. Martha’s and he said to me, ‘Juan Carlo, you look the same as that night when I saw you and I thought I was dying. You saved my life.’ ‘What?’ I said. ‘Yes, you saved my life because I had gall bladder failure, and everyone knows that that is very deadly. You operated on me that very night. I will never forget your face, because when I saw your face I began to feel better, I got better’,” the Pope told him.
“He was very ill, and according to him, I saved his life. That made me very happy,” Dr. Parodi said.
The two men had “a very beautiful conversation for 40 minutes,” the Argentinean surgeon recalled, adding that he found the Pope to be in “perfect, incredible, very, very good health.”
“Obviously I gave him some advice, what all doctors do, but he looked great. With a lot of joy and peace,” he said. “It was a very enriching experience that changed my life.”
On March 19, 2013, a few days after the election of Pope Francis, Dr. Parodi sent a letter to the editor to La Nacion describing the pontiff as “a man who will be much loved and who will do great good for the world. He was my patient and I operated on him some years ago. His humility is a perfect example of his personality.”

“The Church does not need to be rich or ostentatious, but she needs to have resources in order to effectively carry out and fulfill her mission. Let us rejoice in the good fortune of having a good and intelligent man as the new pope of our Church,” he wrote.
Dr. Juan Carlos Parodi was born in Argentina in 1942 is known for his work in developing new techniques to repair the aorta. He studied medicine at the University of El Salvador and obtained his postgraduate degree at the University of Illinois. He is an honorary professor at the University of Buenos Aires and chief resident surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

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LA priest says he has lived his vocation 'from my mother's womb'

Los Angeles, Calif., May 28, 2014 (CNA) - A young Nigerian priest who serves the Hispanic community in California says he received his vocation in his mother's womb.

Father Kelechi Alzoie current serves at Holy Family Parish in Wilmington, Calif., which has a large Hispanic population, mostly of Mexican origin.

His story is recounted in Vida Nueva, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles' Spanish daily.

“From the time in my mother's womb I wanted to be a priest,” he said, explaining that his mother had five daughters before he was born.

In a culture that looked down on women who only bore girls, he explained that his mother “prayed to God with persistence for a son with the promise that she would dedicate him to his service.”

God heard her and in addition to Fr. Kelechi, his mother gave birth to two more boys later, one of whom is also a priest and is obtaining his doctorate at the Pontifical Urbanian University in Rome.

Fr. Kelechi's parents, Paul and Dorothy, have always supported him, as well as his seven brothers and sisters. One of his sisters is a nun who teaches English, and another is principal at a school in Ananbra, Nigeria.

Fr. Kelechi finished elementary and high school in Nigeria and studied philosophy at the Claretian Seminary in Nekede. Afterwards he studied theology at the Pontifical Xavierian University in Colombia.

Although he arrived in Bogota not speaking a word of Spanish and found his studies difficult, he said that within four months, he was able to follow conversations and classes in the language.

“It was a like a miracle,” he said, noting that in his native country of Nigeria, more than 250 languages are spoken, although English is the official language.

“Ever since I was little,” he continued, “I wanted to be a priest and I loved everything that had to do with the Church: Mass, celebrations, etc.” He became an altar boy when he was 10, and soon after, he told his mother that he desired to become a priest.

Fr. Kelechi was ordained a priest June 25, 2008, and returned to Nigeria where he worked as associate pastor in two parishes. Eventually he was named pastor of Regina Pacis Parish in Amaudara and served for one year as a school principal.

He arrived in Los Angeles a little over a year ago, serving at a parish with 99 percent Hispanics.

“I love it here… I feel like I am part of the Hispanic family,” he said, adding that he draws strength from the community “because they are humble, simple and courageous people who work hard in the Church.”


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Pope Francis says Holy Land visit aided Christian unity

Vatican City, May 28, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis on Wednesday said his pilgrimage to the Holy Land fed the desire for Christian unity and he encouraged Catholics to pray that God may help “heal the wounds” that divide the faithful.

“I give thanks to God. He led me to that blessed Land, that has seen the historical presence of Jesus and where events fundamental to Judaism, Christianity and Islam took place,” the Pope said in St. Peter's Square May 28.

Speaking to thousands of pilgrims gathered for his Wednesday general audience, he reflected on his meeting with Orthodox Christian leaders at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

At the tomb where Jesus Christ’s body was laid to rest and resurrected, he said, “we all felt the bitterness and suffering of the divisions that continue to exist between Christ's disciples, and this has really done great harm, harm to the heart.”

Pope Francis described his encounter with Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople as “the culmination of the visit,” recounting their prayers at the Holy Sepulchre with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem, the Armenian Apostolic Patriarch Nourhan, archbishops and bishops from various Churches, and many lay faithful.

“We are still divided; in that place, where the proclamation of the Resurrection resounds, where Jesus gives us life, we are still divided,” the Pope said. “But above all, in that celebration so rich in mutual brotherhood, esteem and affection, we strongly heard the voice of the Risen Good Shepherd who wishes to bring together all His sheep in one flock; we felt the desire to heal the wounds that are still open and to follow with tenacity the path to full communion.”

“Once more, like my predecessors, I ask forgiveness for what we have done to promote that division, and I pray that the Holy Spirit may help us to heal the wounds we have inflicted on other brethren,” he continued.

“We are all brothers in Christ, and with the Patriarch Bartholomew we are friends, brothers; we have shared the desire to walk together, to do what we are able to do today: to pray together, to work together for God’s flock, to seek peace and protect creation, the many things that we have in common.”

The Pope explained to attendees at his general audience that the pilgrimage commemorated the 50th anniversary of the meeting between Pope Paul VI and Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople.

“This prophetic gesture on the part of the Bishop of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople constituted a milestone in the arduous but promising path towards unity among all Christians, which has taken important steps since then.”

Pope Francis also spoke about efforts to encourage peace in the region. He said peace is “both a gift from God and a commitment for humankind.”

He voiced “great compassion” for natives of the Holy Land, saying they have lived in war conditions “for too long.” He said he had encouraged Christians to make gestures of humility, fraternity and reconciliation.

“The (Holy) Spirit enables us to assume these attitudes in our daily life, with people of different cultures and religions, and to thereby become peacemakers,” the Pope said. “Peace is crafted day to day, and with an open heart to allow God’s gift to enter.”

He praised Jordan’s effort to welcome war refugees and he voiced his encouragement for peace in Syria and a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Pope Francis expressed the Church’s gratitude for Christians in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East, whom he called “courageous witnesses of hope and charity, 'salt and light' in the land.”

While he had hoped to be “the bearer of a word of hope,” he said he received hope from those who are refugees or suffer derision or discrimination because of their Christian faith.  
“Let us stay close to them! Let us pray for them, and for peace in the Holy Land and in the Middle East,” he said, calling for prayers for full Christian unity “so that the world may believe in God's love that in Jesus Christ came to live among us.”

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Holy Land: Vandal tries to set fire to Dormition Abbey

Jerusalem, Israel, May 28, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - As Pope Francis concluded his trip to the Holy Land on May 26, an unknown man attempted to set fire to the Abbey of the Dormition, the place where according to tradition the Virgin Mary fell asleep before being assumed into Heaven.

Witnesses told the EFE news agency that an unknown man set fire to a book and placed it on top of a small pile of wooden crosses in between the pews. The fire was immediately extinguished.

“We called the police right away and fortunately the security team for the papal visit was still in place. Firefighters arrived and were able to control the flames,” one of the Benedictine monks at the abbey told EFE.

Israeli police are investigating the incident.

Another witness told EFE that after the Pope's Mass, a group of young ultra-Orthodox Jews accompanied by their rabbi, began verbally confronting the Franciscan friars and accusing them of perverting the Jewish holiness of the building where the Upper Room is located, believed to be the site of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus' apostles

Since the 12th century, Jews have held that the tomb of King David is located beneath the building. For this reason, Israeli officials do not allow Mass to be celebrated there except on Holy Thursday and Pentecost. Special permission was granted for Pope Francis' visit.

Located on Mount Zion, the Upper Room was under the care of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land for 200 years, but Suleiman the Magnificent expropriated it in the 16th century, and it came under the control of the Israelis after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

The building has been the target of repeated vandalism and protests in recent years by extremist Jews who demand the expulsion of Christians.

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European Commission rejects pro-life citizens’ initiative

Brussels, Belgium, May 28, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The European Commission has rejected the pro-life citizens’ initiative “One of Us,” which sought to ban E.U. funding for research and other activities that destroy human embryos.

The leadership committee of One of Us expressed “deep disappointment” in the decision, which it characterized as a “veto” that is “contrary to ethical and democratic requirements.”

“Such veto power is illegitimate and anti-democratic since politically, it is the European legislature that may give a verdict on the content of the Initiative, and not the commission,” the committee said May 28.

Otherwise, it said, the citizens’ initiative process would be “meaningless.”

“The commission wishes to continue financing non-ethical and outdated biotechnological practices, as well as abortion in developing countries including countries where this is prohibited by criminal law,” the committee charged.

On May 28, the commission’s final day in office the 28-member body “decided not to submit a legislative proposal.” It said that E.U. member states and the European Parliament only recently discussed and decided E.U. policy.

The commission said it decided that the existing funding framework “is the appropriate one.”

Citizens' initiatives are intended to allow E.U. citizens to introduce proposed legislation into the E.U. parliament.

In order to win a hearing, initiatives must receive 1 million signatures from E.U. citizens and a minimum number of signatures from at least seven of the E.U.'s 27 member states within a year of the initiative being introduced.

The One of Us petition received 1 million signatures in early September 2013, nearly two full months before its deadline, and passed the minimum per country requirement in Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain.

It was only the second citizens’ initiative ever to receive the required support. Continued petition gathering later increased the signature total to nearly 2 million.

The initiative organizers met with the European Commission April 9, and had a public hearing in the European Parliament April 10.

The initiative organizers said the commission’s refusal to make a legislative proposal based on the initiative was “unjustified” and “does not even to take the purpose of the request into account.”

Pope Francis and Benedict XVI have voiced support for the campaign, as did many other bishops. Pro-life leaders, politicians, doctors, and academics were among the initiative’s backers.

“I am pleased to recall the petition to support the One of Us initiative to ensure legal protection to the embryo, protecting every human being from the first moment of its existence,” Pope Francis said at Italy’s March for Life in May 2013.

And Benedict had said that February, “I greet the Movement for Life and wish it success on the One of Us initiative so that Europe might always be a place where every human being's dignity is safeguarded.”

The European Commission said that its research funding rules respect national legislation; E.U. funds may not be used to derive or procure new stem cell lines or to support research that destroys embryos.

However, it acknowledged that between 2007 and 2013, it spent about $213 million on research involving the use of human embryonic stem cells.

The European Commission said that it rejects the promotion of abortion as a method of family planning and that abortion should be “performed in safe conditions” where it is not against the law.

The One of Us Citizens’ Committee said the European Commission’s decision is likely to be appealed before Luxembourg’s Court of Justice, where the laws recognize respect for human life from conception.

The next E.U. parliament could also change the fate of the initiative by changing the makeup of the European Commission.

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