Thursday, February 28, 2013

Benedict XVI on leaving Vatican: I am now a pilgrim entering last phase on Earth

February 28, 2013. ( It was the first time ever a Pope's farewell was televised live. Benedict XVI left his home inside the Vatican joined by cardinals Angelo Comastri and Agostino Vallini. At about 5 p.m., before getting in the car that would take him to the helicopter, he said goodbye to the staff at the Vatican.  

At 5:05 p.m., as the bells at St. Peter's Basilica rang out across the Square, the helicopter took off towards Castel Gandolfo. The ride took Benedict XVI across the Eternal City, taking a detour along some of the major landmarks, like the Colosseum and the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

Upon arriving at Castel Gandolfo, the Pope was welcomed by Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, the bishop of Albano, as well as the town mayor.

A small caravan took him to the the Apostolic Palace at Castel Gandolfo at about 5:30 p.m. Thousands of pilgrims, donned with banners, thank you signs and flags, cheered on the last few words of Benedict XVI as Pope.

“I am simply a pilgrim that begins his last phase on this Earth. I would like to, with all my heart, my prayer and my reflection, with all the strength inside me, work for the common good and the good of the Church and humanity. I feel very supported by your sympathy. Lets move forward together, with the Lord, for the good of the Church and the world. Let us go forward with the Lord for the good of the Church and the world. Thank you. I now wholeheartedly impart my blessing.”

At times, his speech was interrupted by thunderous applause and cheers in support. After giving them his blessing, Benedict XVI said goodbye. It was his last appearance as Pope.

He also said goodbye through Twitter, saying, “Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the center of your lives.”

Highlights of Pope Benedict's 2008 Apostolic Visit

Pope says farewell to the world in his last general audience

February 27, 2013. ( Benedict XVI led his last general audience, which is also his last public event as Pope. With more than 200,000 people in St. Peter's Square, he thanked everyone for their support during these last eight years and especially since he announced his resignation.  

“I am also deeply grateful for the understanding, support and prayers of so many of you, not only here in Rome, but also throughout the world.”

He made his way through St. Peter's Square in the popemobile, greeting pilgrims and even hugging a few newborns along the way. His speech was interrupted with applause a total of 17 times. The Pope then said that ever since he was elected Pope, back in 2005, he has asked one question to God.

“Lord, what do you ask of me? This mission is a great responsibility to have on my shoulders, but if You call me to it, with Your words I will launch the fishing nets, knowing that You will guide me.”

Benedict XVI said that even after he resigns, his life will forever belong to the Church. He said that once he became Pope he agreed to leave behind his privacy-and this he said, is a promise he plans to follow. He said he will still be active in the Church, through prayer.

“The decision I have made, after much prayer, is the fruit of a serene trust in God’s will and a deep love of Christ’s Church. I will continue to accompany the Church with my prayers, and I ask each of you to pray for me and for the new Pope.”

With thousands of people in St. Peter's Square, Benedict XVI said farewell, leading the way for a new chapter in the history of the Church.

Cardinals bid Pope farewell with hearts full of thanks

Via EWTN/CNA News:

Echoing the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, Cardinal Angelo Sodano told Pope Benedict that the cardinals’ hearts “burned when walking with you in the past eight years.”

“Yes, Holy Father, I know that our hearts that burned when walking with you in the past eight years. Today we want to once again express our gratitude. We repeat in chorus a typical expression of his dear native land ‘Vergelt's Gott,’ which means
 God reward you!” Cardinal Sodano said on behalf of the cardinals.

Read more

The town and monastery where Benedict XVI will retire

February 28, 2013. (   As a retired Pope, this is where Benedict XVI will live for about two months.  It's the town of Castel Gandolfo, about 25 miles southeast of Rome.  The property includes the Papal Palace, two convents, one school, farms, gardens and the Vatican Observatory.  

Only about 8,000 people live here and the Pope's summer residence is a key part of the town. In fact just a few feet away from the Papal Palace is this local ice cream shop, where John Paul II and Benedict XVI have ordered from.

Gelateria Carosi
“Benedict XVI would order ice cream for some of his visitors. Personally he liked the 'Fior de Latte' flavor and also vanilla.”

Benedict XVI spent his first summer here as Pope,  back in 2005 to avoid Rome's intense summer heat. He  would spend those months studying, reading and even writing books. The tradition itself goes back generations. The first Pope to use the summer residence in Castel Gandolfo was Urban VIII Barberini back in 1626.

The Papal residence also has a World War II connection. Since the Vatican was a neutral country, Pope Pius XII opened Castel Gandolfo, where about 12,000 Jews sought refuge. During that time the papal apartment was reserved for pregnant mothers to give birth.  At least 40 babies were born there.

Now Castel Gandolfo will become part of modern history as it welcomes a retired Pope.

 “For us he will always be The Holy Father. He was elected the Holy Father, so at least here he will continue to have that title. We will still refer to him as Pope.”

Eventually Benedict XVI will return to the Vatican. He will live in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, along with the so called 'Papal Family' that has accompanied him throughout this pontificate.

The building is undergoing repairs, but it's quite simple. The monastery was built in the 90's under the pontificate of John Paul II, so that contemplative nuns would have a place for retreat and prayer, inside Vatican Walls.

Now, 85 year old Benedict XVI will retire here to, as he says, serve the Church in prayer.

Pope Benedict and Me

I am blessed to have personally met Pope Benedict on my pilgrimage to Rome in February, 2006. If you asked him if he remembered me, I would be amazed, as there were approximately 1800 people in his audience that day – although it was considered to be a “private” audience with the Community of St. John. As an oblate with the Community, I was part of that large “private” audience, who were also celebrating the 30th anniversary of the founder of the Community of St. John – Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe.

While this day may be a blur in the mind of Pope Benedict today, it is a day that I will remember for the rest of my life. We were up at the crack of dawn and entered St. Peter’s Basilica three hours early to get the best possible view of the Holy Father. However, my view seemed to be slightly hindered by a pillar. I tilted my head from side to side as I stretched my upper body, hoping just to catch a glimpse of our new pope. I could see the papal chair, but that darn pillar was obstructing my view. When the Holy Father finally entered the basilica, I could not see him, but joined in the loud cheers and long applause of the crowd. We had been waiting a long time, but the wait proved to be well worth it. I heard his voice, but could not make out the words. The acoustics in that huge old building were very poor.  Then, suddenly, I spotted him on the opposite side of the room. We were all gathered in a huge circle around the front, filling the church. I was astonished to see that he was walking around the circle, shaking hands and greeting everyone in the audience. I was told that he wanted to show his appreciation to the Community of St. John for all that they were doing and had done for the Church by following in the footsteps of the beloved apostle, John. 

As he moved on the periphery of the crowd, I noticed the reactions of those in the audience – the faces which lit up, as he shook each hand.  People were overwhelmed by this great show of affection and became elated-- smiling, laughing, and cheering. I was standing in the front, feeling the weight of bodies pushing against my back. There was so much excitement that it was difficult to focus and plan what I might say or do when he got to me. I just kept snapping photos with my camera, taking shot after shot of him. As he drew closer, I noticed that he was shorter than I had expected, about 5’6”, slender, and refined, looking very dignified in his immaculately white simar with fringed fascia, and zucchetto.  He was also wearing his pectoral cross which was suspended from a gold cord.  I could not help but notice his distinctive red leather Gammarelli loafers. Before I knew it, he has shaking the hand of the person next to me, who said, “Holy Father, we love you and we’re praying for you.” As he moved to me, I was on cloud nine. He reached out for my hand and tenderly touched it, responding, “Grazie” in a soft, gentle voice.  This was better than anything I had ever imagined. I felt like the woman who had been hemorrhaging for many years and thought that if she just touched the hem of the garment Jesus was wearing, she would be healed. Our Holy Father, Christ’s Vicar on earth, had that same type of effect on me.  Like Jesus, he was kind and gentle, and he had a healing touch, which I prayed would literally rub off on me.  For, I needed healing at that time and still do, just as we all do. I knew that just being there, so close to him, would impact my life in the years to come.

Prior to that 2006 pilgrimage, I had retired early from a successful career that I loved, which required me to perform some activities that I was no longer physically able to do. Then in 2009, I read about an opportunity to earn a Master of Arts degree in Theology online and there were even scholarships available. For almost twenty years, I had wanted to do this, but the funds were not there. Now, this opportunity appeared out of nowhere.  My mind reflected back on the physically challenging pilgrimage I had made to Italy (which was a miracle in itself for several reasons) and the encounter I had with Pope Benedict. I knew that if God had let me meet the Holy Father, he could also perform another miracle in my life.  And, He did. This past December, I graduated with my Master of Arts in Theology, but not before studying the wonderful encyclicals and the writings of that great theologian, Pope Benedict XVI.

I am sad that he is retiring from his active position as pope due to health problems, but I understand.  It is time for him to rest and to pray for those whom he has met on life’s journey.  As he grows older and weaker, he can be an even more powerful instrument for the Lord, in his weakness, offering up his suffering for the salvation of souls. For, St. Paul tells us, “When I am weak, I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10)  We have also learned from the Holy Father himself that suffering is nothing to fear, for “God is on the side of those who suffer” (Jesus of Nazareth, Volume 2).

Today, on his final day as Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, I know exactly what I want to say to our dear Papa: “Grazie, Holy Father. We love you and we are praying for you.”

~ copyright Jean M. Heimann February 2013

Blessed Villana de’Botti

The saint of the day for February 28 is Blessed Villana de’Botti, a wife and a Third Order Dominican.

The daughter of a Florentine merchant, Villana was born in 1332. When she was thirteen she ran away from home to enter a convent but her attempts were unsuccessful and she was forced to return.

To prevent her from running away again, her father gave her in marriage to Rosso di Piero. The rejection at the convent and the marriage seemed to change Villana. She became lazy and worldly, concerned only with pleasure.

One day, as she was about to go out for entertainment, dressed in a gorgeous gown adorned with pearls and precious stones, she looked at herself in a mirror. To her dismay, the reflection that met her eyes was that of a hideous demon. A second and a third mirror showed the same ugly form.

Thoroughly alarmed and recognizing in the reflection the image of herself as her sinful soul, she tore off her beautiful clothes and put on in the simplest clothes she could find. Weeping, she ran to the Dominican Fathers at Santa Maria Novella to make a full confession and to ask absolution and help. This proved the turning point of her life, and she never again fell away.

Before long Villana was admitted to the Third Order of St. Dominic, and after this she advanced rapidly in the spiritual life. Fulfilling all her duties as a married woman, she spent all her available time in prayer and reading. She particularly loved to read St. Paul's Epistles and the lives of the saints.

So completely did she give herself up to God that she often went into ecstasy during Mass or at spiritual conferences, but she became the object of much ridicule and slander. Her soul was also purified by strong pain and by great bodily weakness. However, she passed unscathed through all these trials and was rewarded with wonderful visions the Blessed Virgin Mary and other saints and was also blessed with the gift of prophecy.

As she lay on her deathbed, she asked that the Passion be read to her, and at the words "He bowed His head and gave up the ghost", she crossed her hands on her breast and passed away. Her bereaved husband used to say that, when he felt discouraged and depressed, he found strength by visiting the room in which his beloved wife had died.

She died in 1361 of natural causes at the age of 30. Her body was taken to the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, which was under the care of the Dominican Fathers. The priests were unable to bury her for a month due to the constant crowd of mourners. She was beatified by Pope Leo XII in 1824.


O God, our merciful Father, you called Blessed Villana back from the emptiness of the world and aroused in her a spirit of humility and true penitence. Recreate in our hearts the power of your love and, filled by that same spirit, may we serve you in newness of life. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Thousands go to St. Peter's Square to say farewell and thank you to the Pope

February 27, 2013. (  They came to say farewell. Early in the morning, thousands of pilgrims made their way to St. Peter's Square to witness history during Benedict XVI's last General Audience.

“The truth is, this is a historic moment and its a beautiful opportunity to experience this with so many people. This is definitely a precious moment.”

“I am very greatful for the opportunity to be here, really and as he was talking and we were all waiting I was just praying for him and for the next Pope.”

Benedict XVI thanked the Church and its people for their support since announcing his resignation.  People from every corner of the world came to say farewell and to say thank you.

 “I'd like to thank him for all his work and honesty. For his courage. He has showed us many a things.”

 “It was very emotional knowing that this is the last time that we will ever see him in public and I was very moved to be here, I know that its a very special time and I'm really greatfull that I got the experience.”

“He speak about silence and i have a thinking sometime to make a promise to make a promise of silence for someone.”

 “What impressed me most was the fact that he said that he is not abandoning the Church, he's not abandoning the Cross that he's going to serve the Church in another way thru prayer and thru reflection.”

Flags waved, people cheered. Just a day before Benedict XVI officially resigns as Pope, he encouraged people to have faith, adding that the Bark of the Church, is guided by God.

Quote: Civil Rights activist Reverend Bill Owens on Marriage

Reverend Bill Owens

“Gay activists are wrong to claim the mantle of the civil rights movement in their push to redefine marriage for all – the most important civil right related to marriage is the right of every child to a mother and father."

~  Civil Rights activist Reverend Bill Owens, who has joined with the National Organization for Marriage to promote and lead the March for Marriage occurring in Washington, D.C. next month.

Pope Benedict's faith encyclical could appear in different form

Pope Benedict XVI's anticipated encyclical on faith will not be released before his resignation but it may appear in another form, according to the head of the Holy See's press office.

“It remains an awaited document, but one that we will not have in the way we expected, perhaps we will have it in a different way,” Father Federico Lombardi said at a Feb.12 press meeting.

The encyclical, he added, “will not be published before the end of the month, it was not in a state to be made public.”

An encyclical on faith was expected sometime in the first six months of this year, to coincide with the Year of Faith. It was to have formed a trilogy of encyclicals on the theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity.

Read more.

Benedict XVI rides Popemobile for last time

For the very last time Benedict XVI rode the Popemobile to greet the pilgrims gathered for the general audience at St. Peter's Square.

Blessed Maria Caridad Brader

Today the Church commemorates Blessed Maria Caridad Brader (1860-1943),  Foundress of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate.

She was an unusually intelligent child who had an intense love for Jesus Christ and devotion to Our Lady. Aware of her daughter's talents and ability, her mother took pains to give her a good education.

When all the world lay at her feet, to entice her, she followed Christ's call and decided to embrace the religious life. Initially, her mother predictably opposed this decision, since she was a widow and Maria was her only child.

At the age of 20, she entered the Franciscan convent. Several months later, she was clothed with the Franciscan habit and was given the name of "Mary Charity of the Love of the Holy Spirit". Because she well-educated, she was assigned a teaching position at the convent school.

Sr Caritas volunteered to do missionary work in Ecuador. After catechizing countless groups of children there, she was sent to Tùquerres, Colombia, where her missionary zeal knew no bounds. She was concerned above all with the poor, the outcast and those who did not yet know the Gospel.

With the backing of Fr Reinaldo Herbrand, she founded the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate. The Congregation was first made up of young Swiss girls who followed the example of Mother Caritas. They were immediately joined by local vocations, above all from Colombia.

In her apostolic activity, Mother Caritas took care to combine contemplation and action. She encouraged her daughters to acquire effective academic qualifications, but without permitting the spirit of holy prayer and devotion to be extinguished, "Do not forget", she told them, "that the better educated, the greater the skills the educator possesses, the more she will be able to do for our holy religion and the glory of God, especially when virtue is the vanguard of her knowledge. The more intense and visible her external activity, the deeper and more fervent her interior life must be".

She focused the apostolate mainly on the education of the poor and the marginalized, wherever need called.

Her great love for Jesus in the Eucharist prompted her to ask and obtain permission for Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the convent. She left this most sacred treasure to the Congregation along with great respect for priests.

She was Superior General of the Congregation from 1893-1919 and from 1928-1940. In 1933, she had the joy of receiving pontifical approval of the Congregation.

On February 27, 1943, she died in Pasto, Colombia. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on March 23, 2003.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

St. Paula Montal Fornés

Today is the feast of St. Paula Montal Fornés, foundress of the Daughters of Mary, Sisters of Pious Schools.

Paula was born in a small seaside village near Barcelona, Spain in 1799 to Ramon and Vicenta Fornes Montal. She was the oldest of five daughters and was only ten when her father died. To help support the family, Paula went to work as a seamstress and lace-maker and helped her mother raise her younger sisters. She also taught catechism in her parish and, in doing so, discovered her gift for teaching. Denied an education herself, Paula promised God that she would devote her life to the Christian education of girls and young women.

Paula believed that women needed an education to prepare them for life. Women in society at that time were treated as subordinate to men, which Paula and her followers perceived as a factor in the breakdown of the family unit and other social maladies. They were determined to advance women and their status in society through education -- a comprehensive Catholic education.

At the age of 30, Paula and her friend, Ines Busquets, opened a school in  Figueras (Gerona), a border city between Spain and France, which provided girls with a Catholic education to advance the role of women, to rescue families, and to transform society.

Paula founded a second school in her hometown of Arenys del Mar and opened a third school in Sabadell. After the third school was built, she founded  the Daughters of Mary, Sisters of Pious Schools, who were devoted to the Blessed Mother and to the education of young women. In addition to the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, these sisters took a fourth vow -- that of teaching. When she made her vows, she took the name Paula of Saint Joseph of Calasanz, as she had been greatly influenced by  Saint Joseph of Calasanz, and desired to live by the Calasanz spirituality and rules.

When the community gathered at the General Chapter meeting in 1847, Paula was not elected General Superior, or even Assistant General. This was quite unusual, as she was the foundress of the order.

From 1829 to 1859, she was intensely active, founding 7 schools. The last school she personally founded was in Olesa de Montserrat (Barcelona) in 1859. This was her favorite school, where she remained for thirty years, until her death in 1889.  Pope John Paul II beatified her in Rome in 1993 and canonized her in 2001. Today, her community is active on more than four continents.

The message of Saint Paula is one of love and service. We are put here on earth to love God and neighbor and reflecting on St. Paula's life, serving others through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy is one way that we can emulate her during this season of Lent.

~ Copyright Jean M. Heimann, February 2013


Lord, strength of the humble,
You chose St. Paula Montal
To give testimony by her words and deeds
Of your saving love for the family and society.
Through the integral promotion of women
And the Christian education of children and youth,
Grant us through her intercession, the grace
To imitate her in following Christ the Master
And reaching the eternal happiness of Your kingdom.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Obama Undermines Marriage and Family with Brief on DOMA

Source: U.S. News & World Report

Last Friday, the Obama administration filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down the federal Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Marriage as the union of one man and one woman is the first foundation of a stable and healthy government. The federal Defense of Marriage Act affirms the commonsense definition of natural marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Same-sex unions would establish an irresponsible and dangerous policy that children do not need moms and dads.

The Obama administration brief alleges that DOMA is discriminatory because it does not extend federal benefits to same-sex couples. President Obama and his Administration have been the most hostile in American history towards marriage and the family. Obama’s radical policies will undermine marriage and morality and ultimately will harm children and society. Obama’s advocacy of anti-family policies is shameful.

Read the News Release for more details.

What characteristics is Cardinal Pell looking for in the new pope?

In an article from The Telegraph, Cardinal Pell,  The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, described what he will look for in the next pope:

"We want somebody with vision, able to plan for the future, who can take charge with the media and speak to the world, especially to those who half believe or don't believe at all'' Cardinal Pell told the Inner West Courier during his visit to St Vincent’s Catholic Primary School in Ashfield today.

Cardinal Pell said he was also looking for someone with "managerial” skills in the papal role.

"It's far and away from the most important task but it's one the tasks,'' he said.

Read the article.

Cardinal Wuerl: Next pope must confront secularism

Ahead of the conclave that will elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington said that the next pope must confront the challenge of secularism.

What is love?

It looks like this:

Cardinal O'Brien will not take part in conclave, number of electors down to 115

February 25, 2013. ( Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien gave up his right to take part in the upcoming conclave, lowering the number of papal electors to 115. As of today, O'Brien will no longer be archbishop of Edinburgh, having reached the retirement age of 75. More recently, he's been accused of “inappropriate behavior” dating 33 years back.  

In a press release, Cardinal O'Brien asked for forgiveness for his failures, and explained he will not take part in the conclave to avoid drawing attention from Benedict XVI and his successor.

Jakarta Cardinal Julius Riyadi Darmaatmadja will also miss out on the conclave for health reasons.

Pope issues law to allow conclave to start earlier

February 25, 2013. ( On Monday the Vatican announced that Benedict XVI made a few modifications to the rules of the coming Conclave and the Sede Vacante. The changes were made to apply to the Pope's resignation, since before that, the rules were mostly based on a Papal death.  

The change itself could only be approved by the Pope. The first change allows the dates of the Conclave to be moved up, before the 15th of March, if all cardinal electors are in Rome.

Vice Camerlengo
“The Motu Proprio still notes this window of 15 days, but it gives the College of Cardinals, the power to move the date of the Conclave before this window. That is, if all cardinal electors are in Rome."

Before this modification, the Conclave could only begin 15 days after the death or resignation of a Pope.

Once the Pope resigns, cardinals will begin to meet on a daily basis, starting on March 1st. It's a time to discuss the state of the Church, its strengths and challenges.

Vatican spokesman
“First cardinals need to have their General Congregation meeting, and they will probably not decide the date of the Conclave in their first meeting on March 1st. I think they will wait a few days, before making a formal decision.”

Other modifications to the constitution, have to do with the seal of secrecy and the sanctions for those who break it. It's not only cardinals who have to maintain a vow of secrecy during the Conclave, but also those who are indirectly involved in the Conclave, like security or health technicians. Not doing so could result in ex-communication.

Through a message the Holy See's Secretary of State Cardinal, Tarcisio Bertone called on all those who lead a consecrated life to pray for the Church during this special time.

How can I forgive?

At Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction, Fr. John Bartunek and Dan Burke discuss forgiveness, and ways that we can overcome the challenges we face when wounded by others.

If someone has an abortion and regrets it, will God forgive them?

Monsignor Eric Barr, Episcopal Vicar for Clergy and Religious for the Diocese of Rockford, IL, responds to the frequently asked question - "If someone has had an abortion and regrets it, is there any chance God will forgive them?"

Favorite Quotes for Lent 2013

"Look at His adorable face.
Look at His glazed and sunken eyes.
Look at His wounds.
Look Jesus in the Face.
There, you will see how He loves us."

~ St. Therese of Lisieux

"My beloved Jesus, Your face was beautiful before You began this journey; but, now, it no longer appears beautiful and is disfigured with wounds and blood. Alas, my soul also was once beautiful when it received Your grace in Baptism; but I have since disfigured it with my sins. You alone, my Redeemer, can restore it to its former beauty. Do this by the merits of Your passion; and then do with me as You will."
~St Alphonsus Liguori

"Yes, I love the cross, the cross alone, because I always see it behind Jesus' shoulders."
~ St. Pio of Pietrelcina

"How can we complain when He Himself was considered 'as one struck by God and afflicted'." (Isa. 53:4)
~ St. Therese of Lisieux

"Are you capable of risking your life for someone? Do it for Christ."
~Pope John Paul II

"We all suffer for each other, and gain by each other's suffering; for man never stands alone here, though he will stand alone hereafter; but here is he is a social being, and goes forward to his long home as one of a large company."
~Cardinal John Henry Newman

"Nothing, how little so ever it be, if it is suffered for God's sake, can pass without merit in the sight of God."
~Thomas a Kempis

"As Lent is the time for greater love, listen to Jesus' thirst...'Repent and believe' Jesus tells us. What are we to repent?  Our indifference, our hardness of heart.  What are we to believe?  Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor -- He knows your weakness. He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you."  ~ Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

"Lent is like a long 'retreat' during which we can turn back into ourselves and listen to the voice of God, in order to defeat the temptations of the Evil One. It is a period of spiritual 'combat' which we must experience alongside Jesus, not with pride and presumption, but using the arms of faith: prayer, listening to the word of God and penance. In this way we will be able to celebrate Easter in truth, ready to renew the promises of our Baptism."
~ Pope Benedict XVI

 “Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your etition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others, you open God’s ear to yourself.” ~ St. Peter Chrysologus

"Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works. By what kind of works? If you see a poor man, take pity on him. If you see an enemy, be reconciled with him. If you see a friend gaining honor, do not be jealous of him. If you see a beautiful woman, pass her by. And let not only the mouth fast, but also the eye and the ear and the feet and the hands and all members of your bodies." ~ St. John Chrysostom

“…but for a long time I have understood that we must not depend (‘on beautiful thoughts which nourish the soul’).  The most beautiful thoughts are nothing without good works.” ~ St. Therese of Lisieux

A Digital Retreat for Lent

Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction offers a digital retreat for Lent presented by Fr John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D. Check it out here.

Saying Farewell to Benedict XVI in his last Angelus

Ask Fr. Barron: What's the relationship between faith and reason?

Pope's Last Angelus: I will not abandon the Church. I will serve in a different way.

February 24, 2013. ( It was the last time that Benedict XVI appeared before his studio window to lead the Angelus as Pope. It's estimated that about 200,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square to thank the Pope for his eight year Pontificate.

Some came with banners to thank the Pope and be part of history. With only days left as Pope, Benedict XVI clearly spoke about his retirement. In Italian he said, God is asking me to serve the Church in a way that's more appropriate for my age and strength. 

“The Lord is calling me 'out to the mountain' to devote more time to prayer and meditation, but this does not mean I'm abandoning the Church. In fact, if God is asking this of me, it's precisely to continue serving the Church with the same dedication and love with which I have served so far, but in a way that's more suited for my age and strength.”

The Pope's Angelus was repeatedly interrupted by applause and cheers. Before completing the last Angelus of his Pontificate, the Pope said he will always be close to the Church and its people.

“Thank you, I will always be near you.”

This Angelus was the Pope's first public appearance, following a spiritual retreat which ended on Saturday. On Monday he will meet with Cardinals of the Roman Curia and on Wednesday, he will celebrate his last General Audience in St. Peter's Square.

Conclave expected between March 9 and 11

This story via CNA:

The conclave to choose the next Pope will likely begin between March 9th and 11th.

A Vatican official speaking on background to CNA said Feb. 24 that the dates being discussed for the start of the conclave to elect Benedict XVI’s successor are somewhere between March 9th and 11th.

The possibility of foregoing the normal 15-day waiting period for opening a conclave has been raised by Pope Benedict announcing that he will resign on Feb. 28, giving everyone 17 days advanced notice of his intention.

The cardinals are not able to choose a date earlier than March 15 as the rules currently stand, but Pope Benedict will publish a declaration tomorrow clearing the way for an accelerated timeline.

Before the conclave begins, the cardinals will hold a series of General Congregations, at which they will take up any administrative items, discuss the needs of the Church and talk about who can best respond to those needs as the next Pope.

During the conclave, the 117 cardinals who are under 80 years-old will gather behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel and determine who the Church’s next Pope will be.

If a new Pope is elected, the faithful waiting in St. Peter’s Square will see white smoke coming from the chapel’s chimney, if a vote is inconclusive the smoke will be black.

Blessed Maria Adeodata Pisani

Today, February 25, the Church commemorates Blessed Maria Adeodata Pisani.

Blessed Maria Adeodata Pisani was born into a noble family in Naples, Italy in 1806. Her father was an alcoholic and was exiled after being involved in a revolt. Maria's grandmother raised her. When her grandmother died, the 10 year-old was sent to a boarding school until she was 17.

During these years, Maria declined several marriage proposals because she preferred to lead a quiet life of prayer.

When she turned 21, she entered the Benedictine Community in St. Peter's Monastery and took the name Maria Adeodata. She made her solemn profession two years later.

In the cloister, Maria was a seamstress, sacristan, porter, teacher and novice mistress. Her fellow nuns and many people outside the cloister benefited from her charity.

Maria Adeodata wrote various works, the most well-known of these is a collection of her personal reflections between the years 1835 and 1843 titled “The mystical garden of the soul that loves Jesus and Mary”.

She was an abbess from 1851 to 1853 but had to retire from her duties because she suffered from heart problems.

On Feb. 25, 1855, at the age of 48 and in poor health, she dragged herself to the chapel for Mass, against her nurse’s advice. After receiving Communion, she had to be carried back to bed where she died soon afterward.

She had a simple funeral and was buried in the monastery’s crypt the following day.

Maria was remembered for her sanctity, love of the poor, self-imposed sacrifices, and ecstasies so complete that she was seen levitating.

She was beatified by Blessed John Paul II in 2001.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Father Kapaun To Receive Congressional Medal Of Honor

This just in, from KAKE News:

The Secretary of Defense has recommended to President Obama that Kansan and Korean War hero Father Emil Kapaun receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.

During the Korean War, Father Kapaun served as a chaplain of the 8th Cavalry Regiment of the First Army Division. Amidst the devastating Battle of Unsan, Kapaun pulled wounded soldiers to safety and attended to their injuries. He was taken prisoner along with other American soldiers and carried severely injured fellow soldiers on his back, while rallying others to help in a similar fashion.

While in the prison camp he served his comrades by escaping to steal food from nearby farms to bring back to the starving prisoners. He cared for sick soldiers, washed them, shared his food with them, and inspired them with his unfailing faith and acts of generosity until his death in May 1951. Father Kapaun was from Pilsen, Kansas.

Fellow soldiers who benefitted from or witnessed the many examples of Father Kapaun’s service shared the stories of his heroism after their release.

"Today is a great day for Father Kapaun’s family and the many Kansans and other Americans whose lives were touched by him and who cherish his memory,” said Congressman Mike Pompeo. “This announcement means that Father Kapaun finally will be properly recognized for his bravery and selfless acts of compassion for his fellow soldiers during their time of captivity.

A Kansas congressional delegation offered legislation in both the House and the Senate to waive the time limitation and award the Medal of Honor to Father Kapaun. The legislation was included in the final fiscal year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.

The ceremony is set for April 11.

To those of you who are not familiar with Fr. Kapaun, his cause for canonization is in now in Rome. 

St. Polycarp

The saint of the day for February 23rd is St. Polycarp (- 155), a disciple of the apostles, bishop of Smyrna, and a friend of St Ignatius of Antioch. He is one of the earliest Christians whose writings still survive.

St. Polycarp was one of the immediate disciples of the Apostles, in particular St. John the Evangelist. He embraced Christianity very young and was named bishop of Smyrna, a post which he held for 70 years. He was greatly respected by the faithful, wrote many letters and formed many holy disciples. His epistle to the Philippians - the only one to be preserved - demonstrates his apostolic spirit, his profound humility and meekness, and his great charity.

St. Polycarp fought against heresy. He was a staunch defender of orthodoxy and an energetic opponent of heresy, especially Marcionism and Valentinianism (the most influential of the Gnostic sects). He also taught that Christians must walk in truth, do God’s will, keep all of His commandments, and love whatever He loved. Christians must refrain from all fraud, avarice, detraction, and rash judgment. They must repay evil with forgiveness and mercy. He taught that one must pray all the time, so as not to be led into temptation, fast, persevere and be joyful.

During his episcopate, a violent persecution broke out in Smyrna against the Christians. During this time, though fearless, the bishop retreated to a neighboring village, spending most of his time in prayer.

A boy betrayed the bishop, and horsemen came by night to arrest him. He met his captors at the door, ordered them a supper, and prayed for two hours before he went with them.

He was led directly to the proconsul, who ordered him to blaspheme Christ. St. Polycarp refused and he was to be burned alive.

The executioners would have nailed him to the stake, but he convinced them that it wasn’t necessary. So they simply tied his hands behind his back. At the end of his prayer, the executioners set the fire, but the large flames formed into an arch, gently encircling but not burning his body. Exasperated, officials ordered a spearman to pierce him. Such a quantity of blood flowed from his left side that it put out the fire. The Christians wanted St. Polycarp’s body but the centurion burnt it to ashes. The bones were kept as relics.

Patronage: St. Polycarp is the patron against ear aches and dysentery.

Quote: “Stand fast, therefore, in this conduct and follow the example of the Lord, ‘firm and unchangeable in faith, lovers of the brotherhood, loving each other, united in truth,’ helping each other with the mildness of the Lord, despising no man” (Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians).

Friday, February 22, 2013

Jesuit Professor Describes His Pro-Life Conversion

This is a great example of why it is important for us to persist in our prayers for those who are ensnared in the culture of death.

Via Tim Drake at the Cardinal Newman Society:

Reflecting on the 40th anniversary of the Roe v.Wade decision, Jesuit Father John J. Conley, Knott Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Loyola University Maryland took the occasion to write an article in America magazine. In "An Unwelcome Anniversary," he describes how he went from a “personally opposed, but abortion should be legal” position to a pro-life position.

“As the pro-life movement continues its resistance, the case against abortion has become stronger than ever,” he writes. “The omnipresent sonogram has graphically advanced it.”

Advancing the pro-life argument, Father Conley also talks about the very real threats of euthanasia and infanticide.

“For those of us called into the pro-life movement, the defense of the right to life of the innocent can never become just one cause among others. It is the great cause, as compelling as our ancestors’ struggle against slavery or on behalf of labor,” wrote Father Conley. “…the struggle to protect the lives of the vulnerable at the dawn and dusk of existence is the pre-eminent civil rights issue of our age.”

Friday Fun: Why Shouldn't Men Go to the Grocery Store?

Why Shouldn't Men Go to the Grocery Store? This Hilarious Comedian Will Tell You!
from yabbadabbadoo on GodTube.

Top ranking cardinal reveals future title for Benedict XVI

February 22, 2013. ( There is finally an answer to one of the most popular questions. Once the resignation of Benedict XVI goes into effect on February 28 at 8 p.m. local time in Rome, he will still be addressed as “Your Holiness Benedict XVI.”  

According to Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, the president for the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, the same procedure will apply to the Pope as with other bishops and archbishops. After that date, Benedict XVI will be referred to as the Bishop Emeritus of Rome.

Mother sues Planned Parenthood over forced, botched abortion

Via Live Action News:

When Ayanna Byer scheduled an appointment at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains to take an abortion pill to end her pregnancy, there was no way for her to foresee the horrors ahead of her.  Earlier this month, Byer, through the assistance of the attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom, brought a lawsuit to hold Planned Parenthood liable for the botched abortion that she did not consent to.

According to that complaint, when Byer arrived at the Planned Parenthood clinic, it was determined that her pregnancy was too far along to be terminated through the use of a pill, therefore a surgical abortion was recommended. Ms. Byer agreed upon the condition that she would receive IV anesthesia, for which she would be charged extra.  Although the employees could not get the IV started, the doctor came to start the procedure anyway.

The complaint states:

At this time, Plaintiff immediately told the Planned Parenthood Doctor to stop and that she did not want to go through with the abortion procedure because she had not received any anesthetic.  Plaintiff also informed Planned Parenthood Doctor and agents or employees of Planned Parenthood Defendants that she believed this to be a sign she should not go through with the abortion.  The Planned Parenthood Doctor did not stop despite Plaintiff’s request, and assured Plaintiff the I.V. would be administered and the procedure would only take a few minutes.

At this time, the Planned Parenthood Doctor turned on the vacuum machines and told Plaintiff it was too late to stop.

Seven minutes later, due to Ms. Byer crying from pain, the procedure finally stopped. She received an apology and a prescription for a painkiller and antibiotics and was sent on her way. Planned Parenthood never followed up with her.

About two days later, Ms. Byer went to the hospital due to pain and bleeding, where it was found that part of the aborted baby was still inside her, resulting in an infection. She had to have emergency surgery.

Dr. Foley, who preformed Ms. Byer’s emergency surgery, accused Planned Parenthood of abandoning their patent:

It is not acceptable to refer your patients to the emergency department and assume the on-call doctor will take care of any complications and assume all the risk associated with the complications.

No practicing physician can maintain privileges to practice and perform surgery if they do not provide specific coverage for their patients in case of a complication.  It is considered abandonment of your patient

The complaint alleges seven different claims for relief:

Negligence – alleging that the abortion was negligently performed, causing pain, suffering, and medical expenses to Ms. Byer
Battery – alleging that the medical procedure without consent caused harm
Uninformed Consent – alleging that the procedure went on even though Ms. Byer did not consent to an abortion without anesthetics
False Imprisonment – alleging that Ms. Byer was kept against her will
Extreme and Outrageous Conduct Causing Emotional Distress – alleging that as a result of a botched surgical abortion that Ms. Byer did not want to have, Ms. Byer suffered from emotional distress
Breach of Fiduciary Duty – alleging that the doctor and clinic negligently performed the abortion, negligently stopped the abortion, and did not follow up with the client
Breach of Contract – alleging that Ms. Byer agreed only to a surgical abortion with anesthesia, and no anesthesia was given to her
Michael Norton, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, believes that taxpayer dollars should not be used to support this type of organization:

Is this the type of organization American taxpayers should be funding to the tune of $540 million per year?

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

Altar of the Chair of St. Peter

Today, February 22nd, is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter. The Church has celebrated this occasion since at least the mid-4th century. It is a commemoration of St. Peter, the first pope, and his primacy over the Church as well as an acknowledgment of the primacy of the pope today. Before giving a history of the Chair itself, a little background on St. Peter is necessary.

St. Peter

St. Peter is consistently shown in the Scriptures to be the head or Vicar of Christ's Church on earth after Christ's Ascension. Peter's primacy over the rest of the apostles is clearly delineated. Peter presided over the election of Matthias as an apostle replacing Judas the traitor. After the Holy Spirit came among the apostles on Pentecost, it was Peter who first went forth to preach to the crowd that day. And it was he who worked the first miracle.

In fact, so great was his power that merely his shadow falling upon the sick as he passed by healed their maladies. It was Peter also who excoriated Simon Magus for trying to buy the apostles' power. On another occasion when Ananias and Saphira attempted to deceive him, Peter pronounced fatal judgment upon them. And when Peter and John were arrested by the Jewish authorities, it was Peter who spoke in their defense.

Whereas in the Acts of the Apostles, we read how the apostle Paul visited only those places where he actually preached, Peter visited the churches everywhere in Palestine. Peter was the first to accept Gentile converts and to end the distinction between Jewish and Gentile Christians.

When Paul brought before the apostles the controversy about requiring Gentile converts to be circumcised, again after much discussion it was Peter who resolved the matter by declaring circumcision unnecessary for Gentiles. When persecutions against Christians in Jerusalem broke out, Peter dispersed the apostles, going first to Antioch Syria as its first bishop and shortly thereafter to Rome, where he remained until his death. The precedents Peter set as bishop of Rome were followed by his successors and the supreme authority his successors exercised was acknowledged by the bishops who succeeded the other apostles.

The Chair

The Chair of St. Peter encased in bronze by Bernini in the middle of the 17th Century and placed behind the main altar in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome is the second of two chairs used by St. Peter during his years in Rome. The first one no longer exists and is presumed to have been destroyed by the barbarians in the 400's. (What follows is paraphrased from the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia.) This second chair was moved from its original place in the Church of Sancta Prisca to the baptistery of the Vatican basilica by Pope Damasus during his reign in the late 300's.

In the Middle Ages it was the custom to put the Chair on display for the public to see. Also, until the early 1300's when the papacy was in Avignon for seventy years, newly elected popes were enthroned on St. Peter's Chair. After the Chair was encased by Bernini it was not put on display for 200 years until 1867. At that time it was carefully examined and its oldest parts were determined to be made from oak, much of which was worm-eaten and had pieces removed for the making of relics.

About the ninth century the Chair was reinforced with pieces of acacia wood ornamented with ivory. The Chair is about four feet seven inches high, 3 feet wide with the seat at one foot ten inches above the ground. Besides this relic of St. Peter, archaeologists in the 1950's located and positively identified the grave and bones of St. Peter under St. Peter's basilica.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

An Unseen Hero: A Unique Teacher and His Special Needs Son

Jeffery Wright has been selected as EWTN's "Unseen Hero" due to his Catholic vocation as teacher and father of his special needs son. He is truly an amazing man, living out his Catholic faith in his life.

Contraception and Abortion News and Views for February 21

I have written many times here about the reasons for not using contraception. Today I read a post by Marcel at Aggie Catholics, which is excellent. Click here to read "There Are no Good Reasons to Use Contraception."

Lila Rose comments on the closure of 4 Planned Parenthood Clinics in Wisconsin.

Chelsea  addresses the problems with using the term "pro-life" and shares her views on the topic in her post "Abortion is Not the Only Pro-life Battle Before Us."

Dr. Gerard Nadal writes about "No exceptions" and "No compromise", which is the goal of every true pro-life citizen when it comes to abortion legislation in his post "Abortion and the Morality of Exceptions Clauses in Anti-Abortion Legislation."

Cardinal Dolan asks for prayer for the Holy Father on the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York is calling on his archdiocese to pray in a particular way for Pope Benedict on Feb. 22, the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter.

“I have...asked that tomorrow, February 22, the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, we remember Pope Benedict in a special way with special Masses and Eucharistic adoration,” Cardinal Dolan wrote today in his column for “Catholic New York.”

“In these days of novelty and uncertainty, when many may be anxious and nervous, we need more than ever to return to the Lord, as individuals and together as the Church.”

On Feb. 11, Pope Benedict announced his intention to resign the office of the papacy, which will be effective on Feb. 28. It marks the first time a pope has abdicated since Gregory XII in 1415.

Cardinal Dolan has also instituted a novena in the New York archdiocese lasting from Feb. 20 to 28 to pray in thanksgiving for Pope Benedict, for his health, and for “guidance as awe await his successor.”

The Chair of Peter is an important feast for the papacy, Cardinal Dolan explained, because it marks the authority and mission of the pope for the universal Church and reminds us of the history of the office, stretching back to Christ's appointment of Saint Peter as “universal pastor.”

“We need Peter among us. Without the charism of Peter in the Church, we would be tossed about by every gust of wind, every false doctrine, every silly trend,” reflected Cardinal Dolan.

Read more.

Read Cardinal Dolan's entire article here.

Recite this Prayer for the Church and Pledge to Pray here.

Youth pay video homage to 'young man of 85' Benedict XVI

February 21, 2013. (  Young people from across the world contributed to a video to give thanks to Benedict XVI. Titled “For a young man of 85,” they thanked the Pope for his generosity, for beatifying John Paul II, for his affection and his humility.

The young participants also thank him for his example, his visits to other countries and the three World Youth Days held during his pontificate.

Further details released on last public event for Benedict XVI

February 21, 2013. ( Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson, released more details about the last public appearance for Benedict XVI as Pope. It will take place on Wednesday, February 27 at St. Peter's Square and will follow the structure of a regular general audience.
However, a much larger number of pilgrims are expected to attend. So far, they Vatican has received 30,000 requests for the seated areas of the square.

His last general audience will promptly begin at 10:30, as is usual. Before it starts, Benedict XVI will quickly ride through the square on the Popemobile to greet the pilgrims.

First, there will be the day's reading of the Gospel, and after, the catechesis by Benedict XVI in several languages.

Vatican Spokesperson
“There won't be a particular or complex structure. Father Sapienza says it won't even last longer that usual. He thinks it will be done by midday.”

During the conference, Lombardi also rebuked several reports from Italian media he described as sensationalist and without any merit.

Vatican Spokesperson
“We will not go after all the assumptions, fantasies or opinions regarding these topics. So do not expect any comments, or confirmation on particular points because then we will never finish.”

Lombardi said that he will not fall into habits of confirming or denying everything, but instead to report on what is really happening.

How to Become Pope

George Weigel: Reforming the Vatican bureaucracy

George Weigel, author of "Evangelical Catholicism", talks about the challenges the next pope will face in reforming the Roman Curia.

St. Peter Damian

The saint of the day for February 21 is St. Peter Damian, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, who was one of the Church's greatest reformers in the Middle Ages.

Peter was the youngest child born to a large family in Ravenna, Italy in 1007. His parents both died when he was young and he was placed in the care of one of his brothers, who treated him like a slave. His oldest brother, a priest in Ravenna, rescued him and sent him away to study. Peter was brilliant and excelled in his studies (theology and cannon law), later returning to Ravena as a professor. Unable to endure the scandals and distractions of university life, he joined a group of Benedictine monks living in northern Italy. There he became a prior at the young age of 36: a position he held unto his death. While at the hermitage, Peter performed austere penances to the extent that he developed near permanent insomnia and was forced to modify them.

Although living in the cloister, Peter kept close watch on the Church and worked for her purification. He wrote to the pope, urging him to deal with the scandals of the Church in Italy. In 1051, Peter published his treatise on the vices of the clergy, "Liber Gomorrhianus". He fought the scandalous behavior among the clergy of the time and upheld priestly celibacy. He was illustrious and brilliant, simple and outspoken in his denunciation of all heresies and evils and was a great reformer of the Church in troubled times. His personal example and many writings exercised great influence on religious life in the 11th and 12th centuries. One of his greatest works is the biography of Saint Romuald, the founder of his Order.

Pope Stephen IX named Peter a cardinal and Bishop of Ostia. He died in 1072 at the age of 65 and was immediately acclaimed as a saint.  Pope Leo XII declared him a Doctor of the Church in 1823.

Patronage: St. Peter Damian is the patron of headache sufferers.

Quote: "Let us faithfully transmit to posterity the example of virtue which we have received from our forefathers." ~ Saint Peter Damian

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Your guide to the conclave rules

Medical Examiner Confirms 33-Week Abortion Killed Young Woman

Abortion not only destroys the lives of innocent babies, but it injures their mothers, too. This legal abortion resulted in the death of the mother. Just because an abortion is legal, it does not mean it is safe. According to Dr. Gunta Lazdane, Advisor to the World Health Organization on Reproductive Health and Research, “up to 20 percent of maternal deaths are due to abortion, even in those situations where abortion is legal.” In addition, there are numerous other physical and emotional complications that accompany an abortion. Abortion never resolves problems, but only makes things worse.

The chief medical examiner’s office in Baltimore has confirmed that a botched late-term abortion claimed the life of a young New York women who died recently at a Maryland abortion clinic. Jennifer McKenna Morbelli, a 29-year-old woman from New Rochelle, New York died from a botched 33-week abortion on February 7.

Now the chief medical examiner in Baltimore has confirmed she died when amniotic fluid seeped into her bloodstream, according to new entries on her death certificate. The new entry lists “amniotic fluid embolism following termination of pregnancy” as one of two causes of death. The second is “disseminated intravascular coagulation,” a condition during which small blood clots form in blood vessels.

Read more.

Twitter event allows users to thank Benedict XVI for his work

February 20, 2013. ( Ever since Benedict XVI announced his resignation, the most active Catholics online have launched initiatives to show their support.

One of them titled “Give Thanks,” an idea from Regnum Christi and the Legion of Christ, to show their support for Benedict XVI through Facebook and Twitter. It allows them to share experiences, videos, photos, and other initiatives to thank him, or even pray for the Pope.

Using the hashtag #2BXVI they encourage users to write a message to the Pope on Wednesday, February 20 at 8 p.m. local time in Rome. The organizing group is analyzing the possibility of repeating the virtual event until February 28, the last day of Benedict XVI as Pope.

Joseph Ratzinger's Anthropological Writings For "Communio" Gathered In New Book

Vatican City, 20 February 2013 (VIS) – Fourteen texts with an anthropological theme written by Joseph Ratzinger between 1972 and 2005―before being elected Pope―are being published in the volume "Joseph Ratzinger in Communio: Anthropology and Culture (Michigan/Cambridge, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2013), edited by David L. Schindler and Nicholas J. Healy. The texts―articles and contributions―address, among others, themes such as humanity between reproduction and creation; Jesus Christ today; the meaning of Sunday; hope, technological security understood as a problem of social ethics; and God in John Paul II's "Crossing the Threshold of Hope".

As reported by "L'Osservatore Romano", the connecting theme in the Pope's writings is that they been published or re-edited in the American edition of the international Catholic periodical "Communio". This is the second volume dedicated to Joseph Ratzinger's texts, the first of which, "Joseph Ratzinger in Communio: The Unity of the Church" was released in 2010, and was also edited by David L. Schindler. The plan, as Schindler explains in the introductory note in the second volume, is to republish all of Cardinal Ratzinger's articles that appeared in the American edition of "Communio", from its first edition in 1974. Despite the difficulty in clearly establishing the boundaries of their areas, the writings have been grouped into three major categories: Church, anthropology, and theological renewal.

"Communio" is an international journal on theology and culture published quarterly. It was founded in 1972 by various theologians including Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac, Jean-Luc Marion and Joseph Ratzinger himself.

American Idol Contestant Sings a Powerful Song About Jesus on National Television

Angela Miller sang for her church prior to being on this season of American Idol. Watch her lift up beautiful praises to Jesus with this incredible song she wrote and it was all on National television . She COMPLETELY blew the judges away!

Prayer for the Church

O Lord Jesus Christ, Supreme Pastor of Your Church,
we thank you for the ministry of Pope Benedict XVI
and the selfless care with which he has led us
as Successor of Peter, and Your Vicar on earth.

Good Shepherd, who founded Your Church
on the rock of Peter’s faith
and have never left Your flock untended,
look with love upon us now,
and sustain Your Church in faith, hope, and charity.

Grant, Lord Jesus, in Your boundless love for us,
a new Pope for Your Church
who will please You by his holiness
and lead us faithfully to You,
who are the same yesterday, today, and forever.


Pledge to Pray here.

Faces and places of the papal transition plus a personal pick

This is a beautiful video. I just wish it included Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke. He's one of my personal favorites. However, I doubt if the conclave will be consulting me on this matter. After all, it is the Holy Spirit who will be guiding them in their selection of the next Bishop of Rome. Still, it doesn't hurt to post his photo here. :)

A brief look at some of the key faces and places of the upcoming papal transition.

Evangelizing Through Beauty: A commentary by Fr. Barron

Blessed Francisco and Jacinto Marto

Today the Church commemorates Blessed Francisco and Jacinto Marto, the visionaries at Fatima.

Francisco, 11, and Jacinta, 10, are the youngest non-martyrs to be beatified in the history of the Church. The brother and sister, who tended to their families’ sheep with their cousin Lucia Santo in the fields of Fatima, Portugal, witnessed the apparitions of Mary, now commonly known as Our Lady of Fatima.

During the first apparition, which took place May 13, 1917, Our Lady asked the three children to say the Rosary and to make sacrifices, offering them for the conversion of sinners. The children did, praying often, giving their lunch to beggars and going without food themselves. They offered up their daily crosses and even refrained from drinking water on hot days.

In October 1918, Francisco and Jacinta became seriously ill with the Spanish flu. Our Lady appeared to them and said she would to take them to heaven soon.

Bed-ridden, Francisco requested his first Communion. The following day, Francisco died, April 14, 1919. Jacinta suffered a long illness as well. She was eventually transferred to a Lisbon hospital and operated for an abscess in her chest, but her health did not improve. She died Feb. 20, 1920.

Pope John Paul II beatified Francisco and Jacinta May 13, 2000, on the 83rd anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, teaching us that even young children can become saints.

A clip from the 1952 movie Miracle Of Our Lady Of Fatima as the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared for the first time to the three seers Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia at the Cova Da Iria, Fatima, Portugal in May 13, 1917:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lenten Gospel Meditation: Lead us Not

Saint Conrad of Piacenza

The saint of the day for February 19 is St. Conrad of Piacenza (1290-1350), a friar and hermit celebrated for his piety and miraculous cures at Noto in Sicily.

Conrad was born into a noble family in northern Italy. He married the daughter of a nobleman, Euphrosyne.

One day, while he was hunting, Conrad ordered his attendants to make a fire. The wind carried the flames, which set fire to nearby fields, forests, towns and villages. Upon seeing this, Conrad ran away in fear.

Because he ran, an innocent man was convicted for spreading the fire and was condemned to death as punishment.

Upon hearing of this, Conrad stepped forth to accept the blame, saving the innocent man's life. He paid for the damaged property and he and his wife gave everything they owned to the poor in recompense.

Conrad then left to join a group of Franciscan hermits, and his wife joined the Poor Clares.

Word eventually spread of Conrad's holiness, piety and gift of healing.

When many visitors began to destroy his life of silence and solitude, he moved to Sicily where he lived and prayed as a hermit for 36 years.

Legends say that when the Bishop of Syracuse visited him, the bishop asked Conrad if he had any food to offer guests. Conrad went to his cell and returned with newly made cakes, which the bishop accepted as a miracle.

Conrad visited the bishop later to make a general confession to him. As he arrived, Conrad was surrounded by fluttering birds.

Conrad died kneeling before a crucifix.

Patronage: against hernias

Prayer: Almighty God, You attracted Saint Conrad through his zeal for justice to serve You faithfully in the desert. Through his prayers may we live justly and piously, and happily succeed in coming to You.

Monday, February 18, 2013

3 Things I’ve Learned from Pope Benedict XVI

This wonderful story comes from Brandon Voight at Ignitum Today:

As an Evangelical Christian in 2008, “God’s Rottweiler” worried me. From what I heard, he was a cold and stodgy disciplinarian with a hyper-traditionalist streak, more likely to crack a whip than save a soul. But then I became Catholic. I devoured his books and studied his speeches, and I discovered a much different man. He was humble, spiritual, and wise—more Gandalf than Stalin.

In the five years since becoming Catholic, Pope Benedict has taught me several lessons. But three stick out in particular: the priority of encountering Christ, the proper interpretation of the Bible, and the astounding power of the new media.

First, when you study Pope Benedict’s work you’ll quickly notice his evangelical bend. He incessantly reminds us that Christianity is not about a philosophy, a set of doctrines, or a moral list of do’s and don’ts: it’s about a relationship with Christ. Those other things certainly matter but they aren’t central—they aren’t the “one thing necessary” (Luke 10:42).

For instance, in a recent speech to Filipino prelates, Pope Benedict defined their sole mission as to “propose a personal relationship with Christ as the key to complete fulfillment.” Likewise, in the Introduction to his second Jesus of Nazareth book we see the same focus: “I have attempted to develop a way of observing and listening to the Jesus of the Gospels that can indeed lead to a personal encounter.”

Coming from an Evangelical background, which stressed the importance of “knowing Jesus in a personal way,” this vision immediately captured me. I saw it as a bridge to my Evangelical friends, for here was a Pope even they could love. In fact, during a roundtable discussion of the Pope’s Jesus of Nazareth series, a well-known Protestant biblical scholar revealed that he would gladly assign the books for his seminary class. He explained that if the series didn’t say “Pope Benedict” on the cover, his students would probably not know they were reading Catholic books. Now, that’s not to say Pope Benedict softens Catholicism for ecumenical purposes—far from it. Instead, it testifies to the central role he gives to encountering Jesus Christ, a “mere Christianity” to which most Protestants happily agree.

The second thing Pope Benedict has taught me regards the interpretation of Scripture. In his recent exhortation on the Word of God, Verbum Domini, he reiterated the Bible’s proper interpretive home: the Church. Just as I wouldn’t make sense of The Lord of the Rings without consulting Tolkien’s intentions, nor determine the Constitution’s meaning without heeding the Supreme Court, I can’t fully understand Scripture without listening to the Church.

Without proper interpretation, critics suggest Tolkien’s epic was really about racial divide and class warfare. Or that the Constitution really supports abortion and “same-sex marriage.” Or that Scripture really advocates slavery and holy wars. Pope Benedict taught me that the same Spirit who inspired the Bible guides the Church today and therefore we must look confidently to her lead when interpreting the written Word of God.

Finally, the new media. While researching my book on the the Church and technology I read everything Pope Benedict said about new media. And that was a lot. Despite being in his mid-eighties, this Pope keenly grasped the power and potential of new media better than most of his younger contemporaries.

In his annual World Communications Day messages, for example, the Pope called these digital tools “a gift to humanity.” Over the years, he’s covered topics like the dangers of self-promotion, the value of silence, and seeking truth and authenticity in the digital world. His latest message, which I consider his best, is titled “Social Networks: Portals of Truth and Faith, New Spaces for Evangelization.”

These tools are especially helpful in reaching non-Catholics: “New horizons are now open that were, until recently, unimaginable…[the new media] stir our wonder at the possibilities.”

With my Facebook profile I can connect with more people than St. Paul, Genghis Khan, Constantine, or Napoleon. With my cell phone I have more evangelical reach than St. Augustine, St. Francis Xavier, or Ven. Fulton Sheen. Pope Benedict agrees and has thus encouraged Catholics to respond to this technology with creativity and ardor.

Pope Benedict has left an indelible mark on my life in the five years I’ve known him. He’s taught me that nothing matters more than knowing and loving Jesus Christ. He’s shown that to understand the Word of God I must view it through the Church’s continuous tradition. And he’s invited me to join an evangelical adventure, riding the barque of a 2,000-year old Church onto the shores of the digital world.

What's the Pope doing? Details on his current spiritual retreat

February 18, 2013. ( This week, Benedict XVI will not be seen in public. On Sunday afternoon he began a spiritual retreat, to reflect on the first week of Lent. These spiritual exercises have become part of a tradition now, where the Pope stops all activities and gathers in prayer with other members of the Roman Curia.

But of course, this time around the retreat coincides with the last days of his pontificate, making it even more appealing to the public. Italian Cardinal, Gianfranco Ravasi will be leading the spiritual exercises.

President, Pontifical Council for Culture
“We begin these days with great excitement. They are days of solitude, silence, meditation,with all my brothers and friends here present. We come to show our affection, of our gratitude, and our admiration.”

Cardinal Ravasi is an active user of the social networking sites, especially Twitter. So he has decided to write posts that summarize the key messages of the day. In fact, it's the same message Benedict XVI will be hearing in Rome's Redemptoris Mater chapel.

Another way to keep up to date, is to actually listen to some of the reflections and meditations, Cardinal Ravasi will give on a daily basis. They will be uploaded, in Italian, on the Vatican Radio's website, every afternoon.

Pilgrims cover St. Peter's Square to thank Pope for his pontificate

February 17, 2013. ( In his second to last Angelus, the Pope greeted thousands of pilgrims, as he looked over his studio window in St. Peter's Square. The Pope gave his catechesis on Lent, but with thousands of people there, he also thanked them for their prayers these last few days.

“Let me also thank you for the prayers and support you have shown me in these days.
May God bless all of you! ”

To say farewell to Benedict XVI, thousands of pilgrims made their way to St. Peter's square to witness one of the Pope's last public events. Among cheers and applause, people held banners thanking the Pope for his eight year pontificate.

In his catechesis he talked about how Jesus was tempted out in the desert. He also explained the true meaning of Lent.

“The Church, which is our mother and teacher, calls all its members to a spiritual renewal. A call to refocus our energy towards God, leaving behind pride and selfishness to instead live with love. During this Year of Faith, Lenten Season is an opportunity to rediscover our faith in God, as a base for our lives and the life of the Church.”

In the next few days the Pope will begin his spiritual exercises, alongside other members of the Roman Curia. Benedict XVI's next public event will be his last Angelus, on February 24th.

Priest conceived in rape recounts journey to forgive father

Father Luis Alfredo Leon Armijos

This is an amazing story of faith and forgiveness:

A priest who was conceived in rape when his mother was only 13 years old is sharing the story of how he met, forgave and heard the confession of his father, who is now living a life of faith.

“I could have ended up in a trash can, but I was allowed to live,” said Father Luis Alfredo Leon Armijos of Loja, Ecuador.

In a Feb. 6 telephone interview with CNA, Fr. Leon, who is pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Loja, said his mother, Maria Eugenia Armijos Romero, was working as a maid to help her parents support their eight children.

“The owner of the home took advantage of her working alone, raped her and left her pregnant,” he said.

His mother always defended his life, even though she was young and alone, without the support of her family members, who tried to cause an abortion by giving her concoctions to drink and punching her stomach.

“She prayed and felt that the Lord was saying to her in her heart: defend that child that is in you,” Fr. Leon recalled.

The young girl ran away to the city of Cuenca, where she managed to survive on her own. On Oct. 10, 1961, she gave birth to Luis Alfredo.

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Blessed Fra Angelico and His Paintings

Today is a special day for me and my community. It is the feast of Blessed Fra Angelico.

Bl. John of Fiesole, popularly known as Bl. Fra Angelico, was a Dominican painter in the mid-fifteenth century known for the beauty of his paintings and the holiness of his priestly life. Nicknamed “Angelico” by his brothers, his Dominican consecration and life are worthy of imitation as he preached Jesus Christ by his life, his words, and his paintings.

Given the name Guido at Baptism, this saint was born near Vicchio, in the vicinity of Florence, at the end of the 14th century. From his youth he practiced the art of painting. Having entered the Dominican convent in Fiesole, he was given the name Brother Giovanni (Brother John). After ordination he held various responsibilities, one of which was that of prior of the convent in Fiesole.

Faithful to the promises he made as a Dominican, to preach the Gospel after having contemplated it in prayer, Fra Angelico put his creativity at the disposal of the Lord. With brush and paint in hand, he used his talents to transmit to all people the sublimity and the redemptive strength of the divine mysteries.

Between 1425 and 1447, Fra Angelico carried out his activity for the Dominican convents and other ecclesiastical institutes at Fiesole, Florence (most especially at the convent of San Marco), Cortona and Orvieto. The fame of his genius merited him the esteem of the Sovereign Pontiffs Eugenio IV and Nicolas V, who contracted him for the task of frescoing several rooms in the Vatican Palace (1445-1449).

Fra Angelico died on February 18, 1455, in the convent of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome and was buried in the adjoining Basilica, where his body was covered by a simple slab on which was carved his portrait. With a personality that was uncomplicated and clear, Brother Giovanni had lived a poor and humble life, refusing honors and positions.

The virtue and the profound religious spirit which characterized the life of this artist and Dominican is reflected in his spirituality, his purity, and the luminosity of his art. Even before his official recognition as a blessed of the Church, he had been given by the faithful the title “Beato Angelico.” In a moving ceremony on October 18, 1984, Pope John Paul II, on his knees in front of Fra Angelico’s tomb, proclaimed him solemnly to be the universal patron of all artists.

The Incarnation was one of Fra Angelico’s favorite themes, and he painted over 25 variations of it. His painted meditations, so needed at the time of the early Renaissance, are still necessary today. God became man to bring us closer to Himself by way of all things human. He makes all things new by fashioning them into possible vehicles of grace for us, so that by visible realities and concrete concepts, we can arrive at an understanding and a love of higher, invisible realities, all leading to God Himself.

View his paintings online from Florence.

Video: Scenes from San Marco, Florence, painted by the Dominican Friar Fra Angelico (died 1455), Blessed John of Fiesole, patron of artists. Father Michael Morris, O.P., writes in Magnificat, February 2010: "While living at the Dominican house of San Marco in Florence, Fra Angelico painted in each friar's cell a scene drawn from Scripture and tradition, a pictorial representation that would inspire the occupant to pray in the manner of the order's founder, Saint Dominic. The frescoes are an eloquent expression of the order's spirituality, a testament to the potent blending of image and prayer."

I had the wonderful opportunity of viewing these paintings when I visited Florence in 2006.