31 August 2011

Poll Alert

The State Journal-Register has posted a poll on it's web site asking, "Who will prevail in the legal battle between Catholic Charities and the state of Illinois over adoption and foster care placements?"
Two possible answer are given:
Catholic Charities. They should be able to continue serving the state while upholding their religious beliefs.

We are Catholic

Capello tip to Mike at The Long Journey Into Light.

What is God's will for me? A guide to discernment.

The esteemed Dr. Peter Kreeft today asks the question:
When we pray for wisdom to discern God's will when it comes to choosing a mate, a career, a job change, a move, a home, a school, a friend, a vacation, how to spend money, or any other choice, big or little, whenever there are two or more different paths opening up before us and we have to choose, does God always will one of those paths for us?
Many people wonder the same and desire to know God's will for them, but aren't sure how to discern which way is in accord with the Lord's will.

To help discern the Lord's will, Dr. Kreeft proposing five principles of discernment and seven clues from life.

Blackbeard's ship confirmed found

Archaelogists can now confirm that a ship discovered in 1995 off the coast of North Carolina is the Queen Anne's Revenge, the ship of the famed pirate Blackbeard, which ran aground there in 1718.

A green - and appalling - way to dispose of the dead

The BBC reports on a new process of dealing with bodies of the deceased that is more eco-friendly than cremation: resomation.
Here's how the new process works, with my emphases:
The system works by submerging the body in a solution of water and potassium hydroxide which is pressurised to 10 atmospheres and heated to 180C for between two-and-a-half and three hours.

Body tissue is dissolved and the liquid poured into the municipal water system. Mr Sullivan, a biochemist by training, says tests have proven the effluent is sterile and contains no DNA, and poses no environmental risk.

The bones are then removed from the unit and processed in a "cremulator", the same machine that is used to crush bone fragments following cremation into ash. Metals including mercury and artificial joints and implants are safely recovered.
Is anyone else disgusted by this?  This demonstrates that little concern society today gives to the dead.  What happened to the time when the bodies of the deceased were honored and treated as temples of the Holy Spirit?

Read more if you can stomach it.

Paprocki: Catholic principles 'under attack' by State

In a recent interview, His Excellency the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop of Springfield in Illinois, sees, in light of the recent actions of the State of Illnois against Catholic Charities, a "growing secularism in our society."

From the State Journal-Register, with my emphases:
It seems as if the state is at war with the Catholic community, Springfield Bishop Thomas John Paprocki says.
“In many ways, it does certainly feel like our principles and our ways of acting within our religious beliefs are under attack,” Paprocki said in an interview.
The decision by the Department of Children and Family Services to sever its foster care and adoption services contracts with Catholic Charities is just one example, Paprocki said. He also cited an order by ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich requiring pharmacies and pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception.  The order was struck down by a Sangamon County judge in April.
“We have concerns down the line about requirements mandating contraception in insurance plans and ultimately even requiring Catholic hospitals to perform abortion,” Paprocki said.
Following Circuit Judge John Schmidt’s ruling that Catholic Charities does not have a legal right to extension of its state contracts to oversee foster and adoptive children, Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky said “important elements of the political establishment in the state of Illinois are now basically at war with the Catholic community.”
Asked last week if he agreed, Paprocki said, “It feels like it.
“We’re simply trying to continue to do the social services we’ve done for decades,” he said. “Suddenly, they are telling us we can’t do that anymore. We are concerned that this is not just an isolated case. We see a growing secularism in our society.”

Paprocki agreed that nobody has a right to a state contract. But that is only part of the argument, he said.
“The point is that, although nobody has a right to contract with the state, on the other hand, the state is not free to refuse to contract for basically illegal reasons,” Paprocki said.
Just as an employer can’t refuse a job to someone because of race, he said, the state can’t refuse to issue a contract to an organization because of the group’s religious beliefs.
Our argument is the state has chosen an illegal reason not to contract with us,” Paprocki said. “It’s our religious practice not to place children with unmarried, co-habitating couples. This is not aimed at the homosexual community. We believe that people who are co-habitating without marriage are living in a sinful condition.”
Attorneys representing Catholic Charities in its lawsuit have said they are going to ask Schmidt to stay his ruling pending further legal action. They also said they will ask Schmidt to reconsider “whether the state can refuse to contract on the basis of exercise of religion.”

30 August 2011

Cardinal George: The purpose of communism and of contemporary secularism is the same

Writing in the Catholic New World, His Eminence Francis Cardinal Geroge, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago, reflects on his experience of the World Youth Day 2011.
His text follows, with my emphases:
World Youth Day, a festival for young Catholics from around the world, took place this year in Madrid, Spain, from Aug. 16-21. The World Youth Day celebration is held every two or three years in a different city. The first World Youth Day I participated in was held in Denver in 1993. A few years before that event, I had become bishop of Yakima, Wash. When I saw the great spiritual impact the five days of catechesis, prayer and celebration with the pope had on the young people who attended from Washington State, I was much encouraged. When the young people returned home and reformed youth ministry in that small diocese, I was grateful to God and to them. I have gone to almost every World Youth Day celebration since Denver.

Hardworking youth ministers and volunteers in many parishes and schools of the archdiocese carefully did the preparation for Chicago’s participation in World Youth Day 2011 (See story on Page 7). The archdiocesan celebrations here and in Madrid were organized by the youth ministry section of our Office for Catechesis and Youth Ministry. We were a small part of the 1.5 million young people in Madrid, but the spiritual effects here will bear fruit in this Year of Teens and Young Adults, according to the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan. I was proud of our young people in Madrid, many of whom took part in catechetical sessions I was assigned to give. The weather was hot and the vigil ceremony on the last night before the pope’s closing Mass was rained on, but the Archdiocese of Madrid organized the many events efficiently and their volunteers demonstrated an enthusiasm that was contagious.

On my way to Madrid for the World Youth Day events, I stopped for a day in Fatima, Portugal. It was my first visit to the place where the Blessed Virgin Mary, as Our Lady of the Rosary, appeared to three shepherd children in 1917. It was a private pilgrimage, an occasion for personal prayer and for deeper study of the apparitions. The third edition of the Roman Missal, which we will begin using this coming November, includes for the Universal Church the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. It will be celebrated every year on May 13, the anniversary of the first apparition.

The apparitions of Our Lady in Lourdes, France, which took place about 70 years before the apparitions in Fatima, brought the Blessed Virgin Mary into the lives of many people who are sick. The apparitions of Our Lady in Fatima, Portugal, brought Mary into events marking the history of the world throughout the 20th century. In both apparitions, the Blessed Mother told the visionaries to pray the rosary to bring peace to the world and also to do penance for sinners who turn away from God’s loving mercy. Mary’s message is that of the Gospel of her Son: repent, do penance for your own sins and the sins of the world and come to understand how God is guiding the world and is present to all of us in every event, from personal sickness to wars and social movements that shape world history.

At Fatima, Mary spoke about the errors of communism, which had recently come to power in the Russian Revolution, and the persecution that the communist movement would inflict upon the church. She assured the children that the Great World War was ending but warned that a far greater war would come unless sinners repented. As I visited remnants of the fallen Berlin Wall that, at the Fatima shrine, bear mute witness to how Mary’s words spoke to the central events of the 20th century, I wondered what she would say today.

Mary’s message would be the same, but the enemies of God and the church would not be confined to followers of communism. The purpose of communism and of contemporary secularism is the same: to create a society where God cannot appear in public, to erase any evidence of religious belief from public life and to prevent the church from acting in history, confining the church’s mission to private worship, carrier of a belief system that can have no influence on society except on secularist terms. In this sense, secularists in this country and elsewhere are successors of the communists of the last century. Recently, they have driven the church out of adoption and child-care services in Illinois. In other states and at the federal level, legal constraints have been crafted to secularize the Catholic health care system and much of the outreach of Catholic Charities. But these external constraints are only witness to something far more chilling to those who cherish freedom: seeing to it that consciences informed by the Catholic faith are as unprotected in law as are the lives of unborn children. The historical irony now is that many of those who have passed laws that will be used to punish the church as a discriminatory organization would still identify themselves as Catholics. The church is no more discriminatory than is God, whose moral law the church is commissioned to preach and to carry out.

In Madrid, despite a few disgruntled protesters, young Catholics shaped the public life of a great city for five days. In between the public Masses and talks, the youth led the Way of the Cross. In a catechetical session on witnessing to Christ in the world, I had told the young people that, if they were to be missionaries of Christ in our society, they should be prepared to carry the cross. Catholics are persecuted violently in many places in Africa and Asia; they are persecuted legally, in ways sometimes obvious and sometimes not, in Europe and Canada and the United States. The persecution is always for a “good” reason, whether equal “justice,” as was the excuse under communism, or equal “rights,” as is the case here. In any case, young people who are serious about their life in Christ should realize that they will be the object of social disapproval or contempt or even legal punishment as our society continues to secularize itself in ever more aggressive ways.

Fatima and the Gospel itself remind us that God is not indefinitely mocked in any historical movement or moment. We should work and pray so that, a century from now, Catholics visiting Fatima will not stop before a memorial to another social experiment that, like communism, proved itself morally and financially bankrupt: American secularism.

The youth from around the world who gathered in Madrid reflected and prayed and sang about three themes: firm in the faith; established in Jesus Christ; witnesses to Christ in the world. The world is better for World Youth Day. The young people were open and joyful. They knew the One in whom they place their hope, despite the dangers and difficulties of the times. If they stay resolute, with the help of God’s grace, the human race need not be trapped in the hypocrisy and despair marking our historical moment. World Youth Day 2011 was a good week, and it bore the promise of better times to come.

Illinois paid convicted sex offenders to babysit children

Many within the media have criticized the actions of certain Churchmen for a lack of due diligence and caution in regards to the sexual abuse of abuse, but, I wonder: will the same media persons and outlets criticize - and even condemn - the State of Illinois for paying sex offenders to babysit children?

Sadly, I do not expect they will; after all, this story does not involve the Catholic Church and everyone knows the sexual abuse of children only occurs in the Catholic Church, right?

The Chicago Tribune has been updating their story this morning which has already undergone several name changes, so I will provide you with the coverage from the Daily Mail (with my emphases and comments):
Convicted rapists, child molesters and other violent felons have been paid [by the State of Illinois] to babysit the children of poor families.

The government programme has given sex offenders access to the children over the past decade [where is the outrage and the calls for firings, trials, imprisonments, etc.?], while paying them as much as $5,000 each in public money.

The money comes from a $750 million-a-year program that subsidises child care for more than 150,000 impoverished Illinois families.

The Child Care Assistance Program program, has come under scrutiny before, A law passed in 2009 forced the state's Department of Human Services to do a better job of vetting potential participants [So there's a history here and still no real outrage or condemnation of those involved?  We aren't even given the names of the officials involved.  Could this not be a cover-up?].

The aim was to prevent convicted rapists — like a man who earned $5,000 baby-sitting two children over a two-year period — from taking part.

But it took nearly 18 months to start the improved vetting procedures [this is simply inexcusable!], an investigation by the Chicago Tribune found.

Even today there are not sufficient safeguards to prevent people who live in homes with sex offenders and other felons from participating, the newspaper found.
State officials, after learning of the findings, have vowed to implement further reforms, the paper reported.
Republican Senator Matt Murphy said: 'You are talking about not only the state sanctioning, but the state creating an economic incentive for someone with a criminal record to be in a room with a kid.' '[So that State is providing the opportunity for the exploitation of children?]That's frankly not a situation that I find acceptable.'

Supporters say there are no problems with the vast majority of those who participate in the program [So they're ignoring the problem?].

Maria Whelan, the president of the non-profit Illinois Action for Children said: 'This is a program that is absolutely essential if we are going to, with a straight face, tell families that if they work and if they continue to develop themselves, we can help them make a difference for their families.'

The Department of Human Services did not do full background checks on sitters and instead depended on an honour system where it relied on criminals and sex offenders to be honest when applying for jobs with the programme [Have they learned nothing from the media's focus on the Catholic Church and from the John Jay Report?].
Cornelius Osborne had been convicted of raping two women and had been to prison repeatedly for a succession of felonies, from robbery to failing to register as a sex offender, state records show.
But when he filled in an application to babysit his sister's children he did not declare the full extent of his criminal record.
His response showed 'drug trafficking' but he didn't mention prison stints for rape, robbery and kidnapping which would have disqualified him from benefiting from the scheme.
The state did not check Osborne's record and over more than two years, the state paid Osborne nearly $5,000 [At the very least this should qualify for a charge of endangerment of children.  Where are the lawyers?  Where is Mr. Anderson?]. Eventually another conviction — for dealing drugs — put him back behind bars.
Darron Walker spent more than a dozen years in prison for his role an attempted sexual assault and a homicide, according to court records.

Yet the Department of Human Services sent him more than $3,600 in checks from 2006 to 2008 to care for a child who was not a relative, according to state and court records.
Officials later discovered Walker was a registered sex offender, and the agency sued him, demanding he pay back the money.

29 August 2011

In honor of the day

"She went and said to her mother, 'What shall I ask for?'  She replied, 'The head of John the Baptist'" (Mark 6:24).
A man of great courage, integrity and faith, the Forerunner of the Lord continually cried out, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 3:2).  A great many people heeded his words.  Indeed, "there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins" (Mark 1:4).

But there were some who refused to hear his words and take them to heart, most notably King Herod and his so-called wife Herodias (cf. Mark 6:17).

To the king John said, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife" (Mark 6:18).  His words, of course, were true and stung deep.  For this reason "Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him" (Mark 6:19).

Whereas Herodias wanted John dead, Herod was intrigued by him; he "feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe.  When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly" (Mark 6:20).

Certainly a prison is a peculiar place to keep a person in safety.  On the one hand, John would be safe there from the plotting of Herodias; but on the other hand, John was near enough for Herod to continue hearing him gladly.  I wonder: did Herod ever go to speak with John in the prison? 

We might well wonder why Herod was not filled with the same anger towards John as was Herodias.  She must have hardened her heart to the truth, but Herod must have remained at least somewhat open to it, else John would have been dead a long time before.

As much as we dislike it when others point our sins out to us and call us to repentence, we know their words are necessary for us to hear and good for our salvation.  Herod heard the truth of John's word, he recognized the sinfulness of his life, but he was not yet moved to conversion.

John's cell proved to be none too safe when the wrath of Herodias reached him there.  She laid a trap for her husband and forced him to kill the one who spoke the truth.  John was an obstacle to her pleasure and so he must be silenced; the best silence, she thought, was death.

Hearing the request of his daughter, "the king was exceedingly sorry; but because of his others and his guests he did not want to break his word to her" (Mark 6:27).  Rather than face humiliation before the great ones of the world, Herod killed the one who spoke the truth; rather than repent, he chose to remain in sin.

At very times in our lives we likely find ourselves in similar situations to that of John, of Herod and of Herodias.  At times we are the one must confront another with his sin; at times, we are intrigued to hear such words spoken to us but are unwilling to change our lives; at times, we are completely closed off to correction and rebuke.

As we commemorate today the day the Baptist lost his head, let us beg him to intercede for us that we might hear and learn the power and grace of his words, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."  He gave his life for the truth; let us do the same.

27 August 2011

Could it be?! The Round Table?!

From the days of my childhood I have enjoyed the Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and few things lighten my heart even today as do these same legends.
This morning my heart took a childish and enthusiastic leap when I saw that archealogists may have found the round table!  From the Telegraph (with my emphases and comments):
The King's Knot, a geometrical earthwork in the former royal gardens below Stirling Castle, has been shrouded in mystery for hundreds of years.
Though the Knot as it appears today dates from the 1620s, its flat-topped central mound is thought to be much older.
Writers going back more than six centuries have linked the landmark to the legend of King Arthur.
Archaeologists from Glasgow University, working with the Stirling Local History Society and Stirling Field and Archaeological Society, conducted the first ever non-invasive survey of the site in May and June in a bid to uncover some of its secrets.
Their findings were show there was indeed a round feature on the site that pre-dates the visible earthworks.

Historian John Harrison, chair of the SLHS, who initiated the project, said: "Archaeologists using remote-sensing geophysics, have located remains of a circular ditch and other earth works beneath the King's Knot.
"The finds show that the present mound was created on an older site and throws new light on a tradition that King Arthur's Round Table was located in this vicinity" [I've long wondered if too much skepticism is used when reading old legends; by definition, they are, after all, based on some fact.  The lost city of Troy was discovered when Schliemann decided to follow the directions given in the Illiad to find city.  Everyone thought he was crazy but find the city he did].
Stories have been told about the curious geometrical mound for hundreds of years -- including that it was the Round Table where King Arthur gathered his knights.
Around 1375 the Scots poet John Barbour said that "the round table" was south of Stirling Castle, and in 1478 William of Worcester told how "King Arthur kept the Round Table at Stirling Castle".
Sir David Lindsay, the 16th century Scottish writer, added to the legend in 1529 when he said that Stirling Castle was home of the "Chapell-royall, park, and Tabyll Round".
It has also been suggested the site is partly Iron Age or medieval, or was used as a Roman fort [which also make sense since Arthur would have lived shortly after the Romans left the island to its own defenses].
Extensive work on the royal gardens was carried out in the early 17th century for Charles I, when the mound is thought to have taken its current form.
The first known record of the site being called the King's Knot is from 1767, by which time it was being leased for pasture.
Locals refer to the grassy earthworks as the "cup and saucer", but aerial photographs taken in 1980 showed three concentric ditches beneath and around the King's Knot mound, suggesting an earthwork monument had preceded it.
The new survey -- funded by Historic Scotland and Stirling City Heritage Trust -- used the latest scientific techniques to showing lost structures and features up to a metre below the ground.
It also revealed a series of ditches south of the main mound, as well as remains of buildings, and more recent structures, including modern drains which appear at the northern end of the gardens.
Mr Harrison, who has studied the King's Knot for 20 years, said: "It is a mystery which the documents cannot solve, but geophysics has given us new insights.
"Of course, we cannot say that King Arthur was there, but the feature which surrounds the core of the Knot could explain the stories and beliefs that people held."
Archaeologist Stephen Digney, who coordinated the project, said: "The area around Stirling Castle holds some of the finest medieval landscapes in Europe.
"This investigation is an exciting first step in a serious effort to explore, explain and interpret them. The results so far suggest that Scotland's monarchs integrated an ancient feature into their garden, something we know happened in other countries too.
"We are looking forward to the next stage in September when we hope to refine some of the details." 
Dr. Kirsty Owen, Cultural Heritage Adviser at Historic Scotland, added: "The project has the potential to add to our knowledge of the landscape context of the medieval and early modern occupation of Stirling Castle.
"The ditches identified may intriguingly be part of historically documented earlier garden features, or if prehistoric in origin could add to our scant knowledge of prehistoric activity at Stirling Castle.
"We look forward to seeing the results of the next phase of investigations."Futher work including a ground-penetrating radar survey, is now planned to take place next month to find out more.
A small display of the interim results can be seen close to the site at the Smith Museum.

If prayer can't change God, what good is it?

Today being the memorial of Saint Monica, the mother of Saint Augustine, Father Erlenbush asks the question, "If prayer can't change God, what good is it?"  Looking to the example of Saint Monica, he finds his answer.  Go have a read.

Rutter's Requiem to be played on 9-11

From the Catholic Times:
9-11-ColorAn ecumenical service to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, will be held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield on Sunday, Sept. 11 at 2:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend.
An ecumenical service to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, will be held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield on Sunday, Sept. 11 at 2:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend.
Those who lost their lives on 9/11 in the attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., will be honored at the commemorative service, as will all who have served, or who are serving, in the military and those who serve as firefighters, police officers and EMTs.

Msgr. Carl Kemme, vicar general of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, will preside at the prayer service along with ministers from other faith communities.
An ecumenical choir assembled for the event will present John Rutter's Requiem, under the direction of Nichol DelGiorno, the diocesan and Cathedral's music director. The setting will feature an instrumental ensemble consisting of organ, harp, cello, oboe, flute, timpani and glockenspiel.
"Requiem is a hauntingly beautiful set of seven movements combining texts from the Requiem Mass (funeral Mass) and the Book of Common Prayer," DelGiorno said.  
"Rutter's Requiem was used for many memorial services across America following the events of 9/11, undoubtedly because of his ability to musically juxtapose darkness with hope and the promise of light (and life) eternal."

Youth holds rosary drive

This week the Catholic Times carries a story about a local youth who is holding a rosary drive (with my emphases):
BISHOP CREEK — She may be heading off to her junior year of college at Illinois State University, but St. Isidore the Farmer parishioner Lindsey Probst can return to school knowing that she has made good use of her summer break. Probst not only attended Catholic HEART Workcamp (CHWC) in June, but she is also in the midst of holding a rosary drive for underprivileged individuals in Baguio City in the Philippines as well as clients of Catholic Charities in Chicago.
Probst was on the way home from CHWC when she decided to look for a way to bring the gift of the rosary to more people.
"I have always loved the rosary. A few years back I decided to start a rosary collection and study more about prayer," she says. "My collection never became too large, but I did have people come and go who asked me about my faith and prayer. I told them about the rosary and I ended up giving one to a girl I worked with; who I later found out was pregnant. Naturally, I gave her baby one, too.
"I was inspired by CHWC," Probst says, "but it more led me to the answer I was holding all along. It is always a challenge to bring that spirit of Christ back home to our communities. The focus of my trip was to do just that, to bring it home."
Probst found inspiration in prayer.
"I prayed a lot on that trip, and it wasn't until the bus ride home that I came to the realization: I have the start of a rosary collection. I want to help people. Why not continue to give rosaries to people who need them? So, that's how it started."
Once she was back in Bishop Creek Probst contacted The Catholic Volunteer Service Network via Facebook, but she didn't receive any immediate leads from them.
"However, about a week later a woman named Crystal Catalan commented, saying she would like to give her class some rosaries for their first Communions," Probst says. "She works at a school and with the Save Our Children Foundation, Inc., which is co-sponsored by the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, often known as the Cabrini Sisters."
Probst plans to send off the rosaries for the Philippines in September. She also hopes to ship some rosaries to Catholic Charities in Chicago. "They also said they could use some," she says.
"I am trying to collect from the parishes in my area as well as hosting a rosary-making party. I think with hard work and prayers I will reach this goal. I need help with buying beads and covering shipping costs."
As of mid-August, Probst had about 100 rosaries ready to go. "I was surprised about the number of my friends and classmates who pitched in," she says.
Probst says that although she has received some lovely rosaries, she doesn't expect anyone to give up their primary, personal rosary.
"It doesn't matter what kind of rosaries people can donate. I'm getting some nice ones, some that people's children made in Sunday school, even some cloth ones," she says. "The ones we are making are made of string and basically pony beads. I think the prayers will count even if the rosary isn't exactly beautiful — besides they were made with love."
Probst says the time to send the rosaries to the Philippines is nearing, but she would still appreciate any donation. For more information on the campaign, contact her at lindsey_probst@hotmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

25 August 2011

More children born to cohabiting mothers than to single mothers

From The Compass comes this story concerning a recent that found cohabition is more harmful to children than divorce.  With my emphases:
WASHINGTON — While studies have long shown the negative effects on children of divorce compared to those from two-parent households, a new study has determined that children born to cohabiting couples fare even worse than children from divorced families.

Despite a drop in the divorce rate, "family instability continues to increase for the nation's children overall, mainly because more than 40 percent of American children will now spend time in a cohabiting household," according to the study, "Why Marriage Matters," issued Aug. 16 by the Center for American Families at the Institute for American Values and the National Marriage Project, based at the University of Virginia.

"As marriage becomes less connected to childbearing, children are more likely to be exposed to a relational merry-go-round with adults coming in and out of their lives," the report said. "Now, approximately 24 percent of the nation's children are born to cohabiting couples, which means that more children are currently born to cohabiting couples than to single mothers."
The study found that children born to cohabiting couples are much more likely to experience a parental breakup compared to children born to married couples -- 170 percent in unmarried households with children up to age 12.

Not only is cohabitation less stable, it is more dangerous for children, according to the study. Federal statistics show that children are at least three times more likely to be physically, sexually or emotionally abused in cohabiting households, compared to children in intact, biological married-parent homes. They are also significantly more likely to experience delinquency, drug use and school failure.

"If Mom is living with a boyfriend, they may have less trust, less emotional security in their relationship, less sexual fidelity," said W. Bradford Wilcox, a researcher at the University of Virginia and lead author of the report.

"And all of these characteristics in a relationship, which aren't good, seem to bleed over into these kids' lives. If Mom and Dad are cohabiting," he added, "that's going to be corrosive to the kids' sense of security in their own lives."

Wilcox, who presented some of the report's findings Aug. 20 at the American Sociological Association's convention in Denver, told Catholic News Service the rate of cohabitation is rising.

"Yes, people have seen divorce in their own family lives and or seen friends get divorced or whatever, and that's made them gun-shy about getting married," he said. "But I also think that some people have responded to their parents' divorce by developing a kind of deepened dedication to marriage. For those getting married today they're trying to work harder on their marriages than their parents did."

Sheila Garcia, associate director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, said she looked askance at the notion of cohabitation as "an acceptable alternative to marriage. People today tend to be very individualistic and they look into what is good for them," Garcia said. "They enter into a cohabiting relationship based on what will make them happy, but it does not take into account what is good for the children."

Garcia cited another concern. "We've noticed for a few years now a marriage gap, which means that people who are better educated and wealthier are more likely to marry than those who don't have those advantages," she told CNS. "People who are considered working class are less likely to marry. There are economic benefits to marriage. And when married is not valued among the working class as it has been, that's a problem. Marriage is a wealth-building institution."

The "Why Marriage Matters" report concurred. "Marriage is an important public good, associated with a range of economic, health, educational, and safety benefits that help local, state, and federal governments serve the common good," it said. "The benefits of marriage extend to poor, working-class, and minority communities, despite the fact that marriage has weakened in these communities in the last four decades."

Msgr. Labib Kobti, pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in San Francisco, has a pastoral fealty to the sacrament of marriage. "Our (patron) saint has died defending weddings," he said. More was beheaded in 1535 for opposing Henry VIII's divorce and refusing to renounce papal authority.

The San Francisco priest was planning a mass Catholic wedding ceremony on Labor Day, Sept. 5, for 30 couples who have been only married civilly. But Msgr. Kobti hears from Catholics who are in cohabiting relationships as well. "During confession they tell you (about it) and you have to tell them, 'Look, get married, let me help you. We are not asking for money. We just want to help you. You are confessing you know this is not regular, this is not right ... and you want something better.'"

Outside the confessional, he told CNS, "they come when they have problems. Now we are organizing something like Marriage Encounters where we meet once a month with couples and to speak about marriage with the groups, and we tell them about the difficulties of life and we try to help them spiritually."

The church teaches that any sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful. If a cohabiting couple seeks to be married in the church, many diocesan marriage preparation policies suggest that pastoral ministers encourage the couple to live apart until the wedding.

Statistics on the webpage of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth say that "almost half the couples who come for marriage preparation in the Catholic Church are in a cohabiting relationship." It also notes that the Official Catholic Directory reported 406,908 couples married in the Catholic Church in 1974; in the 2011 directory it reported that 170,172 couples married in the church.

According to the "Why Marriage Matters" study, "Departures from the norm of intact marriage do not necessarily harm most of those who are exposed to them. While cohabitation is associated with increased risks of psychological and social problems for children, this does not mean that every child who is exposed to cohabitation is damaged," the report said.

"For example, one nationally representative study of 6- to 11-year-olds found that only 16 percent of children in cohabiting families experienced serious emotional problems. Still, this rate was much higher than the rate for children in families headed by married biological or adoptive parents, which was 4 percent."

However, it said, "the intact, biological, married family remains the gold standard for family life in the United States. Children are most likely to thrive, economically, socially, and psychologically, in this family form."

Surprise, surprise

Life News reports the findings of a recent study on birth control: It doesn't stop unwanted pregnancies or abortions.  Who knew?

With my emphases:
A new study conducted by a former research arm of Planned Parenthood shows the policies of the abortion business promoting contraception and birth control to poor women aren’t working, as unplanned pregnancy rates are rising.

The Guttmacher Institute released a new study Wednesday showing considerable decline between 1981 and 1994 in the overall unplanned pregnancy rate has continued recently and remains relatively stable at 5 percent of American women having an unintended pregnancy annually. However, the rate has increased dramatically among poor women, while among higher-income women it has continued to decrease substantially
With the Planned Parenthood abortion business, which the pro-abortion institute is formerly affiliated with, targeting lower-income women with contraception, birth control and abortion, the new study is a blow to its agenda.

Lawrence B. Finer and Mia R. Zolna conducted the new study, which compares the 1994 data to 2006 figures, and it found that, in 1994, the unintended pregnancy rate among women with incomes below the federal poverty line was 88 per 1,000 women aged 15–44. That increased to 120 in 2001 and 132 in 2006—a 50% rise over the period. At the same time, the rate among higher-income women (those with incomes at or above 200% of the poverty line) fell from 34 in 1994 to 28 in 2001 and 24 in 2006—a 29% decrease. 
Poor women’s high rate of unintended pregnancy results in their also having high—and increasing—rates of both abortions (52 per 1,000) and unplanned births (66 per 1,000). In 2006, poor women had an unintended pregnancy rate five times that of higher-income women, and an unintended birth rate six times as high,” the new report showed.

“Analyzing U.S. government data from the National Survey of Family Growth and other sources, Finer and Zolna found that of the 6.7 million pregnancies in 2006, nearly half (49%) were unintended. Although some unintended pregnancies are accepted or even welcomed, more than four in ten (43%) end in abortion,” the study indicates. The figures make it clear that the birth control and contraception Planned Parenthood and abortion advocates promote are not working to prevent either unplanned pregnancies or abortions.

This new study follows another Guttmacher Institute report, issued in January, showing the decline in abortions that had been taking place over the last two decades has finally stopped. The stoppage of the decline in abortions come as Planned Parenthood and abortion advocates successfully lobbied the Obama administration and Congress to shift taxpayer funding from abstinence education to family planning, arguing it will decrease abortions further. Yet, the report indicates a majority of abortions took place after contraception failure.

The Guttmacher report shows “54 percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method *usually condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant.” These figures are similar to those of a report in Spain showing abortions doubling despite increased family planning promotion.

And, of the women who say they did not intend to become pregnant, the report said “most of these women have practiced contraception in the past.”

The reasons women give for having an abortion are birth control in nature. Asked to check off a list with more than one reason, 75 percent say they can’t afford to have a baby, 75 percent say having a baby would interfere with work or school, and half say they don’t want to become a single parent or have issues of having a child with their husband or partner.

The obligation is to attend Mass, not to receive Communion

Sometime Sunday morning before the arrival of the Holy Father, an announcement over the loud speakers (which they were) to the effect that because the winds took down the Eucharistic adoration tents during the night it would not be possible for Holy Communion to be distributed to the 1.5 million pilgrims.
Something in this announcement - made in English - didn't make sense to me and my fellow priest secretaries and masters of ceremonies could also make little sense of it.  Together we devised an hypothesis that now seems to have been correct.

The Catholic News Service's Cindy Wooden has the details, with my emphases and comments:
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- More than a million young Catholics learned the hard way about a venerable Catholic tradition: "spiritual Communion" or the "Communion of desire."

After a wild storm Aug. 20 at World Youth Day in Madrid left six people injured -- including two with broken legs -- Spanish police collapsed the tents where most of the unconsecrated hosts for the next morning's Mass were being kept [it didn't make much sense to us why the hosts were already in the tents, but several things about Spanish liturgies didn't make sense to us].

Without the hosts in the tents, organizers had 5,000 ciboriums holding 200 hosts each; they were consecrated by the pope at Mass Aug. 21 and distributed to pilgrims in the section closest to the altar.

Distributing Communion to just 100,000 people wasn't a decision anyone took lightly, and apparently there were long discussions with World Youth Day organizers and Vatican officials trying to find a solution. In the end, it just wasn't possible logistically to locate another 1.5 million hosts.

A couple of hours before the Mass, organizers announced that most of the people present would not be able to receive; they asked the pilgrims to offer up that sacrifice for the pope's intentions and told them they could receive Communion later in the day at any church in Madrid [which seemed an unlikely solution for at least two reasons.  First, it isn't always easy to find a priest in the church on a Sunday afternoon (and the rectories are hard to locate).  Second, it would be very difficult to, I should think, to find 1.5 million consecrated hosts in the tabernacles of Madrid].

The decision to cancel Communion for most Mass participants was reached "with the greatest pain," Yago de la Cierva, director of World Youth Day Madrid, told reporters Aug. 21.

Whenever there is a huge crowd for a Mass, whether in St. Peter's Square or at a World Youth Day, there always are some people unable to get to the Communion distribution point in time to receive. But in Madrid, de la Cierva said, "almost everyone" was among those not receiving.

Obviously, receiving Communion is the way to participate most fully in the Mass, but it's not always possible for everyone to receive at every Mass, nor do many Catholics in the world even have regular access to Mass.

The idea of "spiritual Communion" -- inviting Jesus into one's heart and soul when receiving the actual sacrament isn't possible -- is part of Catholic tradition

In the 1700s, St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote a special prayer for spiritual communion: "My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament. I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you. But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul at least spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I actually receive you."

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said it would be a huge mistake to believe the Mass had no value for those who were unable to receive Communion.

"Communion is always an extraordinary gift, and one must be in awe of being able to receive it," he told
Catholic News Service Aug. 24.

"It is not something one can presume to have an absolute right to as if he'd bought a ticket for it by going to Mass. Someone who thinks that hasn't understood who is in the consecrated host and what the Mass is," the spokesman said.

The eucharistic adoration and benediction at the vigil in Madrid underlined that point, he said. Jesus is present in the Eucharist, which is why it is adored and why Catholics spend time in its presence, even outside of Mass.

The "eucharistic fasting" many of the young pilgrims in Madrid were forced to endure could also help them be in spiritual solidarity with other people who find themselves desiring the Eucharist, but unable to receive it, he said.

"I'm thinking of Catholics deprived of priests in many parts of the world for many reasons," he said, but there also are those "who would like to celebrate the Lord's Supper with other Christians, but don't have intercommunion out of respect for the norms of the church. Isn't it meaningful in these situations to know we can unite ourselves with Christ through love and desire?"

In an era when people are encouraged to receive the sacrament frequently, they don't hear the term "spiritual Communion" very often, but it is still mentioned in church documents.

The Vatican's preparatory document for the 2012 International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin said those who cannot receive the Eucharist can have spiritual Communion, declaring their desire to receiving the Eucharist and uniting "their suffering of that moment with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ."

The working document for the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist in 2005 addressed the idea of offering up the sacrifice of being unable to receive Communion. It said: "Spiritual Communion, for example, is always possible for elderly persons and the sick who cannot go to church. In manifesting their love for the Eucharist, they participate in the communion of saints with great spiritual benefit for themselves and the church. By offering their sufferings to God, the church is enriched."

In "Sacramentum Caritatis," the document he issued in 2007 reflecting on the synod, Pope Benedict cautioned people against thinking they had "a right or even an obligation" to receive the Eucharist every time they went to Mass.

"Even in cases where it is not possible to receive sacramental Communion, participation at Mass remains necessary, important, meaningful and fruitful. In such circumstances it is beneficial to cultivate a desire for full union with Christ through the practice of spiritual communion," Pope Benedict wrote.

Of busses and bishops

Being bussed around the city of Madrid and its environs was a unique experience.

For security purposes, we had a police escort wherever we went that - at least for the gatherings with the Pope - consisted of two police motorcycles in front, two on the side and two more following the busses.  For the gatherings without the Pope I think the escort was simply one police motorcycle both ahead of and behind the busses.

I have to admit, it was rather fun being escorted in this fashion and helped our travels greatly since we didn't stop at any stoplights.

If you're ever travelled with a large group in a foreign place, you may know that - even as they do at home - people tend to travel in small groups within the large groups.  Even bishops.

It struck me several days into the World Youth Day that whatever bus - generally there were two busses - Bishop Paprocki and I rode on also carried His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago, and His Excellency the Most Reverend Clarence "Larry" Silve, Bishop of Honolulu.

I don't know that there's much meaning in this recurring coincidence, but it was interesting to notice.  I do know that neither Bishop Paprocki nor I planned it this way; we just hopped the bus that was usually the least full.

Paprocki: Young people are eager to receive God's mercy and forgiveness

In his bi-weekly column, His Excellency the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop of Springfield in Illinois, reflects of his experience of the World Youth Day 2011.  His text follows, with my emphases:
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
This column comes to you from Madrid, Spain, where I have attended World Youth Day with Pope Benedict XVI for a gathering of one and a half million pilgrims from 193 countries from around the world. Among those participating are almost one hundred young people and adult leaders from our Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, including Father Brian Alford, Father Chris Brey, Father Nnamdi Moneme, Father Daren Zehnle, and seminarians Steve Arisman and Hyland Smith.
The tradition of World Youth Days was started by our late Holy Father, Blessed Pope John Paul II. Skeptics scoffed that it wouldn’t work. They thought young people would not come to an event focused on religion being led by an elderly pope. Wow, were they wrong! Huge crowds of young Catholics have been gathering for these events now held every two or three years each time in a different part of the world.
The first World Youth Day that I attended was in Toronto when I was a pastor of a parish and drove with 15 young people and five adults from Chicago to Toronto. It was an experience I’ll never forget, especially the closing day. We had camped out in sleeping bags in the open field where Pope John Paul II would celebrate the closing Mass. At about 5 in the morning, it started to rain. We priests who were concelebrating had to arrive early at the Mass site to go through security and put on our vestments. By now it was raining very hard, but we had to sit and wait for a couple of hours for Mass to start. Even with plastic ponchos over our vestments and holding umbrellas over our heads, we were totally soaked by the time Mass started. Instead of a Penitential Rite, the Mass booklet said, “Rite of Sprinkling.” Pope John Paul II looked out at the crowd in the pouring rain and declared, “Today we will have the Rite of Sprinkling by natural means!” Then after he said the prayer, the rain stopped and the sun came out as we began singing the Gloria. No wonder he has been beatified and will likely be declared a saint!
Here in Madrid it has been mostly hot and dry, typical for Spain in August. I have been beating the heat by running early in the morning before the sun comes up. At that hour it is still cool and I had the park mostly to myself before the crowds of people started pouring in. I’m training to run the Kansas City Marathon on Oct. 15 with the LIFE Runners. I’ll write more about that in my next column.
World Youth Day is really a week-long series of events, which began on Tuesday, Aug. 16, with an outdoor Opening Mass for the pilgrims in the Plaza de Cibeles that I concelebrated with the many other bishops and priests from all over the world. The principal celebrant was the Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Ruoco Varela. During the week, there were many scheduled activities, including catechesis led by several bishops in various languages, opportunities for the sacrament of penance, plenty of music, and time just to meet and be with other people.
On Friday I celebrated Mass for the group from our diocese and preached on the invitation of Pope Benedict XVI to join him in here in Madrid to pray together, to reflect together and to learn together how to be “planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith” (cf. Colossians 2:7). I noted how we from the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois come from a part of the country where farming is very important and we can appreciate the Holy Father’s metaphor of being firmly planted in the faith. Earlier this week, Father Zehnle and I were driving to Alton for Mass with the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George. I noticed that the corn had already grown very tall. It was a visible reminder that the seed firmly planted bears fruit in abundance.
I then did a question and answer session with our group for about an hour, covering a wide range of topics including the church’s teaching on sexuality and marriage, devotional prayer, eucharistic adoration, vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and how Christianity came to Spain through the apostolic work of St. James. Afterwards Father Zehnle was asked to hear confessions by some of our pilgrims and I was asked by some Spanish people to hear their confessions. Fortunately I remembered the words to the Prayer of Absolution in Spanish from my years as a parish priest working with Mexican immigrants. Going to confession is something we might think young people are not interested in, but actually they are eager to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Afterwards Father Zehnle and I walked back to our hotel. On the way, crowds were already gathering for the Way of the Cross, and many of them stopped me to ask for a picture, since I was wearing my bishop’s cassock. I met people from across the United States and Canada, as well as from a variety of other countries, greeting them in English, Spanish, Polish and Italian. The most enthusiastic people to greet me and have their picture taken with a bishop were from Taiwan. I don’t speak Chinese, but fortunately they spoke English very well.
On Saturday morning the bishops and priests of the United States celebrated Mass for thousands of American youth at the local sports arena, led by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago as the main celebrant and Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York as the homilist. Archbishop Dolan gave an inspiring homily about St. Peter’s life being turned around and upside down by Jesus and how we are called to do the same as we gather with the pope, the successor of St. Peter. His words were just the right preface that we needed for the culmination of the trip, the Saturday evening Prayer Vigil and the closing Mass with the pope on Sunday morning.
The rains came on Saturday evening and interrupted the pope’s homily, but everyone just waited patiently for the rain to stop and then we continued. Sunday morning was sunny and bright. For me the most powerful moments were the periods of silent prayer during eucharistic adoration on Saturday evening and during Mass on Sunday. The silence of one and a half million people adoring God and meditating together in silence is a powerful witness of faith.
I’m sure this will turn out to be not only a memorable week but also a lifechanging experience for many of the participants, as they deepen their faith and commitment to the Lord.
May God give us this grace. Amen.

Benedict's Army

World Youth Days are always filled with pleasant surprises and these often come in the persons one unexpectedly meets.

The US Bishops celebrated Mass for the US pilgrims Saturday morning and invited the US priests to concelebrate.  At the sign of peace, I turned around and was surprised to see a familiar face: Fr. Robert Barron, who recently reflected on the Pope's young army.

His text follows, with my emphases:
I have just completed one of the most extraordinary weeks of my life. For the past eight days, I participated in World Youth Day in Madrid, a gathering of some 1.5 million Catholic young people with Pope Benedict XVI. I met enthusiastic teen and 20-something Catholics from the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Netherlands, Sweden, Nigeria, England, Australia, New Zealand, China, the Philippines, India, Denmark, and many other countries. The universality of the Church has never been, for me anyway, on fuller and more thrilling display. My Word on Fire team and I were especially encouraged to see so concretely the outreach that the Internet and the new media provide. To hear, over and again, and in dozens of different accents, that our videos and podcasts have made a difference in people’s lives was deeply gratifying.

Some images that will be forever burned in my memory: a twenty-thousand seat arena, absolutely filled with young Catholics rocking, stomping, and singing; Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, striding the stage like a pro, delivering one-liners worthy of David Letterman, and sharing the unvarnished Gospel with his youthful audience; giving a talk in a very hot room, jammed to the rafters with kids eager to hear about the process of discerning a vocation; hordes of young Catholics, wearing their distinctive yellow World Youth Day t-shirts, carrying overloaded backpacks, and marching through the streets of Madrid like a non-violent army; hundreds of fresh-faced religious in their distinctive habits, joyfully making their way through the various venues; tens of thousands of people kneeling in silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; the successor of Peter presiding over a crowd of one and a half million at an airfield southwest of Madrid; a steady stream of kids asking where they could find the adoration chapel or how they could arrange for confession; Benedict XVI himself, drenched with rain, but willing to stick it out with the giant crowd that was enduring a downpour in order to hear him. All of it rich, splendid, unforgettable.

But I would like to focus my reflections on a phenomenon that would actually be funny if it weren’t so tragic. I’m talking about the mainstream media’s extraordinary capacity to miss the point. Every night that I was in Madrid, I would return to my room after an incomparably rich day moving among the throngs of pilgrims and I would watch the news on CNN and the BBC. World Youth Day was, invariably, among the top stories, but the coverage was, not to put too fine a point on it, just bizarre. “Protestors descend on Madrid as the Pope arrives,” the BBC announcer would gravely intone; “The Pope was met today with strong opposition from secularists, gay rights activists, and Spaniards angry over World Youth Day’s cost to taxpayers,” the CNN anchorwoman would say, frowning into the camera. By the admission of the news reporters themselves, the number of protestors never reached beyond a few thousand, and not one event of World Youth Day was interrupted in the least by their demonstrations. There were, at most, a few scuffles between pilgrims and the protestors. But judging from the tone of the coverage, the average listener in the UK or the United States would have concluded that the Chicago riots of 1968 had broken out in the streets of Madrid. I actually laughed out loud when I focused in on some video of a “confrontation” between protestors and World Youth Day participants and noticed that at least half of the people in the picture were camera crews and reporters!

A million and a half young Catholics from all over the world come to celebrate their faith and to declare their solidarity with the Pope—and the networks obsess over a handful of protestors! I know that controversy sells papers and pleases sponsors, but anyone who was on the ground for World Youth Day couldn’t help but conclude there was something more at work in the gross discrepancy between reality and reportage. The dirty little secret is that the actual World Youth Day doesn’t fit the standard secularist narrative, according to which Catholicism is a corrupt, backward-looking, moribund ideology, destined to fade away as science advances and subjectivist moral relativism becomes normative. A small percentage of priests engage in sexually deviant behavior? Blanket coverage. An international army of young people marches through the hot sun and then sits patiently through a rainstorm to see the Pope? Ho-hum. That’s called reporting the news according to a set of fairly rigid ideological assumptions and imperatives.

The Catholic Church—at least in the West—is passing through a dark period, largely of its own making. But has the Catholic Church lost the future? The mainstream media wants you to think so. But any of those who experienced World Youth Day first hand would say, “Don’t you believe it.” 

Faith of our Fathers

This morning I had the pleasure of Skyping with a relative in Germany (I suppose it's one of the benefits of jet lag).  My ancestors came from the Black Forest of Germany, in Baden-Baden, and many Zehnles are still there today.  In fact, in centuries past as today, the Zehnles have not been a family to move around too much; they live today in pockets where they have lived for centuries.

At any rate, my relative very kindly sent along this picture of St. Romanus church in Schweighausen where my ancestors worshipped the Lord and in whose cemetery many have been laid to rest.

My great-great-grandfather, Ambrose Zehnle, emigrated in 1866.  He settled in New York for nine months and then moved to Quincy, where the Zehnles have remained.

Schweighausen is in the Archdiocese of Freiburg, where the Holy Father will soon be visiting.

Of jet lag and oceans

It is an irritating thing, jet lag.

Two days in a row now I have been exhausted by 9:00 p.m. and have awoken at 3:00 a.m., wide awake and ready to go.  The difficulty is that while my body was largely recovered a couple of days ago, my mind is still catching up.

I thought I was in good shape Wednesday morning.  That is, until I went to put on my shoes to go into the office.  I was certain that my right shoe belonged on my left foot and it took some time before I realized why it was working.  Then I knew I was in trouble.

Yesterday my mental faculties were much improved, but still not in such a state as to make any real decisions or plans.  Today, I think my intellectual capabilities are up to speed.  Now if only I could correct my sleep cycle.

There seems to be someting in flying westward over the Atlantic Ocean; returning from Europe nearly always wipes me out, but going to Europe doesn't effect me nearly so much.  Curiously, flying east or west across the Pacific Ocean does not seem to effect nearly as badly, either.  Might there be a reason for this?

24 August 2011

Looking for a good magazine to help grow in faith and knowledge?

I've often recommened The Catholic Answer for just such a purpose.  Today the Anchoress has a good post about the magazine.  If you don't already subscribe, you really should.  It would be a good gift for students going off to college.

Benedict XVI's guide to youth ministry

Using the Pope's words to the youth of the world gathered with him in Madrid, Amy Welborn summarizes Pope Benedict XVI's approach to youth ministry in five simple steps:
  1. Teach them who they are
  2. Continually hold up Christ as the answer
  3. Seeking Christ?  He gave us the Church so we can find him
  4. The Way of the Christian is the Way of the Cross
  5. Go out to all nations
He's right, you know.  Nothing less will satisfy the youth or answer their questions.  Be sure to read all of Amy's article.

Normalizing pedophilia?

Several decades ago there was a movement to decriminalize sexual contact between adults and children.  Believe it or not, such a movement still exists, even among phsychiatrists and health professionals.

One of the push advocating for pedophiles held a conference last week in Baltimore:
If a small group of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals have their way at a conference this week, pedophiles themselves could play a role in removing pedophilia from the American Psychiatric Association’s bible of mental illnesses — the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), set to undergo a significant revision by 2013. Critics warn that their success could lead to the decriminalization of pedophilia.

The August 17 Baltimore conference is sponsored by B4U-ACT, a group of pro-pedophile mental health professionals and sympathetic activists. According to the conference brochure, the event will examine “ways in which minor-attracted persons [pedophiles] can be involved in the DSM 5 revision process” and how the popular perceptions of pedophiles can be reframed to encourage tolerance.

Researchers from Harvard University, the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Louisville, and the University of Illinois will be among the panelists at the conference.
If you can stomach it, you can read more here.

Once again I ask: where is the outrage from the media and from society?

Memories and images of WYD 2011

I have now been to two World Youth Days, the first in 2008 in Sydney, Australia and the second in 2011 in Madrid, Spain. Both have been memorable experiences in their own rights. Because I have previously blogged about the WYD 2008 – to which I accompanied nine students and two other chaperones – I will now offer a few memories and reflections about the WYD 2011 – to which I accompanied Bishop Paprocki.

Certainly the primary differences in the experiences of World Youth Day stems from the nature of the two pilgrims; it is a much different experience accompanying the youth than accompanying the Bishop, but each are good.

Bishop Paprocki went to the World Youth Day with 60-some other Bishops from the United States, several of whose priest-secretaries also accompanied them. Travelling with the Bishops gave me the opportunity to meet many Bishops whom I not otherwise have the privilege of meeting and it also allowed me to meet other priest secretaries to the Bishop. There is a natural fraternity among priests and it struck me that there is likewise a strong natural fraternity among priest secretaries.

We stayed in a hotel a few miles from the main events; walking to the main venues generally took about 30 minutes, but we always rode a bus to them for purposes of security. Just one block from the hotel was the United States Embassy; this may have simply been coincidental, but it might also have been planned; I’m not certain and never thought to ask.

Two World Youth Day volunteers, both Spaniards, accompanied the two busses of Bishops wherever we went and helped to coordinate the logistics of our travels and also provided helpful advice and guidance in planning side visits to various churches and enjoyable sites in Madrid.

The Bishop and I arrived at the hotel just after Noon on Tuesday and took a little rest before hopping on the bus to concelebrate the Opening Mass at Cibeles Square.

We entered first into what seemed to be a basement level to Cibeles Palace; the Bishops were taken to a large lobby area with albs, stoles and chasubles and the priests were sent outside. Afterwards I learned the priest secretaries were allowed to stay with their Bishops, but for some reason I was sent outside to the section for the “normal” priests.

Apparently I don’t look intimidating enough when I ask questions and point out that other priest secretaries remained with their Bishop; this became a routine difficulty for me throughout the World Youth Day. I’m not quite sure what to do about it except to suggest to the organizers in Rio that the area volunteers be better instructed about priest secretaries.

The priests were situated in such a way that from our chairs we could see nothing of the Mass, which made it a curious and straining thought to concelebrate such a Mass.

On Thursday afternoon we joined the Bishops and gathered again at Cibeles Square for to welcome Pope Benedict XVI to the World Youth Day. The Bishops were placed in a section in front and slightly to the right in front of the main stage and the priest secretaries were placed in a similar position, but to the left of the main stage; this afforded an excellent view.

Friday afternoon we gathered in the church of San Jeronimo el Real just behind the Prado Museum with the four groups of pilgrims from the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Bishop Paprocki celebrated Mass for the pilgrims and Fathers Brian Alford, Chris Brey and Nnamdi Moneme, O.M.V. concelebrated. After the Mass the Bishop answered questions from the pilgrims before dismissing them for the Via Crucis, which I attended with the pilgrims from St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Effingham.

By far, the most impressive and memorable moment of the World Youth Day was Saturday’s Prayer Vigil with the Holy Father at the Cuatro Vientos Air Base. We arrived to the field several hours early and took our places on the main stage, where the Holy Father would be seated. Naturally, the priest secretaries were seated towards the back of the stage. I took a seat with several other priest secretaries from the United States in the second to last row of chairs at a spot where I would have a good profile view of the Pope.

As we waited for the arrival of the Holy Father, I noticed clouds gathering in the west and I became a little concerned. Umbrellas were provided for the Bishops and priests at the events in Cibeles Square, but, for some reason were not present at the air field. We pulled our Blackberries – which I abhor – and checked the forecast, which said it would be cloudy but there was a 0% (zero) chance of rain. With minds at ease, we continued our wait.

The edge of the stage was maybe 20 feet behind us as I began to watch the massive crowed of pilgrims I noticed a number of volunteers were forming a line along the drive behind us. Then I noticed several groups of policemen along the same drive. Then I noticed a cameraman with a security guard, who wore a bullet-proof vest; he meant business. It occurred to me then that the Pope would be arriving just behind us.

We still had a good hour or so before the Pope would arrive so I took it upon myself to investigate the rest of the stage. There was a ramp off of the drive behind us leading up to the stage, but there seemed to be no other way to the platform itself.

The World Youth Day Cross and Icon that travel the world prior to each WYD arrived behind us on the ground level with the volunteers who would carry it to the Pope and hand it off to the next group of youth from the next WYD’s host city.

It was then that I became certain, and I suggested to my companions that we took our places at the very edge of the stage to get excellent pictures of the Holy Father’s arrival.  At one point one of the secretaries - who knew where his Bishop was seated (individual Bishops tend to get lost in a sea of identical chasubles and mitres) went to bring him to the stage; he was kind to bring Bishop Paprocki, too.

Then Monsignor Marini and his entourage arrived to await the Holy Father's arrival and I knew I was in the right spot.

Sure enough, shortly after we did so the Crown Prince arrived and, shortly after him the Holy Father himself.

Despite the forecast, the clouds darkened, the winds picked up, the lightening flashed and rain poured from the heavens, drenching Pontiff, Bishops, priests and pilgrims alike. As Father Dan Flens remarked, it certainly proved that the rain in Spain does indeed fall mainly on the plain.

It was this downpour and these winds that made the night so touching.

As volunteers scattered to find hats and umbrellas to distribute to whomever they could, a few of the Bishops, concerned for their cassocks – which are not cheap – ran for the cover of a nearby security tent. Meanwhile, Pope Benedict XVI, with the assistance of Msgr. Guido Marini remained in the wind and the rain.

He gave his blessing to the Deacon who proclaimed a passage of Saint John’s Gospel in Spanish. At one point, the youth erupted in spontaneous applause and great cheers of gladness, crying out “Be-e-ne-de-to!” and “Esta es el juventud del Papa!” I turned to the secretary next to me, who understood spoken Spanish better than me, and asked what the deacon said: “Remain in my love” (John 15:9).

Through their enthusiasm, the youth of the world taught us how to weather every one of life’s storms: remain in the love of Jesus Christ. As some Bishops fled for safety, the youth remained with their Papa, gathered in the love of Jesus Christ. Their shouts of glad confidence in the love of Christ lifted my heart, brought tears to my eyes and moved me profoundly. It was a moment I shall never forget.

As his assistants did their best to keep the Pope dry, Pope Benedict XVI smiled more widely and longer than he has smiled throughout his entire papacy; clearly, he, too, was moved deeply by the faith and trust of the youth who had gathered to be strengthened in the faith by the Successor of Peter.

After some time, Pope Benedict XVI spoke a few words and then went backstage for what seemed a long time. Meanwhile, firefighters checked the safety of the scaffolding behind him and a large monstrance emerged from the stage in front of the altar.

I can’t remember quite clearly when the rain stopped, but I think it stopped while the Pope was backstage. Because Spain has almost no humidity, our cassocks were dry again within twenty minutes; the continued winds certainly helped. The rain cooled the temperature quite a bit, which was a certainly a blessing for the pilgrims who had been in the hot sun all day.

The Pope returned in cope and mitre and lead some 1.5 million youth, with their Bishops and priests, in silent adoration of the Eucharistic Lord.

This, too, was a profound moment of grace. To be in the presence of the Lord with so many of his people was certainly a foretaste of heavenly glory. And to be silent with them – absolutely silent – in the humble praise of God is a grace beyond words.

The faith of the youth is strong. This prayer vigil confirmed the truth of the words Pope Benedict spoke during his first homily as Pope: “The Church is alive…the Church is young!”

After a few hours of sleep, the Bishops returned to the air base for the Closing Mass of the World Youth Day. This time, the Bishops were on the platform joined with a great many more Bishops than were present Saturday night. The priests were placed on the ground level immediately in front and to the left of the stage. This time our location was good.

Their Majesties the King and Queen arrived and shortly afterwards Pope Benedict XVI arrived and rode through the massive gathering of pilgrims prior to the celebration.

A time of silence was again observed by the more 1.5 million pilgrims as they prepared for the Mass. The announcement that the next World Youth Day will take place in Rio de Janiero was, of course, no surprise since the mayor of Rio foolishly announced some days ago.

With the memories of this WYD still fresh in my mind I pray I will be able to attend the World Youth Day 2013.