Catholic Focus: Finding St. Anthony


How can St. Anthony’s story continue to inspire generations of believers? That was one of many questions I looked into, as I prepared for this latest Catholic Focus. So you know, St. Anthony to this day continues to be one of my favourite Saints in the Church. Besides helping me with lost items (like keys), I revere Anthony because he’s of Portuguese descent. Might I add, the fact that I say he’s Portuguese causes a little bit of controversy amongst our Italian colleagues in the office!

As you may already know, Salt + Light Television recently launched its newest documentary film, Finding Saint Anthony: A Story of Loss and Light on June 13 of this year. Directed and produced by filmmaker Edward J. Roy of J6 Entertainment in New York, the film is a one-hour documentary that explores the life of the thirteenth century Saint Anthony of Padua. The film takes viewers on a journey that is punctuated by moments of loss as young Anthony searches for the right path in life. That ultimately leads to the courageous choice of total surrender to God’s plan for him.

Filmed in various locations in Portugal and Italy, the production of this film was made entirely possible through the generous financial contributions of the Longo family. They have dedicated the film to the memory of Rosa and Antonino Longo – who instilled not only a love of family, but also a solid foundation based on hard work, good values and a sense of doing the right thing, that guide and inspire their family’s legacy. The Longo family has a great devotion to St. Anthony of Padua and wished through this film to make his story known to contemporary audiences. If you missed our world television premiere, be sure to tune into our website for further details.

Join us tonight on our network, immediately following Perspectives Daily, as we dig deep and look into the life of one of the most revered Saints in the Catholic tradition. We will also reflect on our latest documentary film and the recent exhibition of St. Anthony’s relic that came to St. Bonaventure’s Parish in Toronto, Canada this past June.

Wednesday, July 10
7:05pm & 11:05pm ET
4:05pm & 8:05pm PT

Credit: CNS photo

Andrew Santos is a freelance Associate Producer for Salt + Light Television. He currently serves as a Lay Pastoral Associate (in Youth Ministry) at St. Justin, Martyr Parish in Unionville, Ont.

‘Evangelium Vitae’ – Gospel of Life weekend at the Vatican


A unique gathering taking place in Rome today and tomorrow, June 15 and 16 and sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, is expected to draw tens of thousands of parishes, communities, youth groups, voluntary associations for the sick and disabled and ordinary families. It will offer the opportunity for the faithful from around the world to gather with Pope Francis in a communal witness to the sacred value of all life and further study and discussion on the encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (The Gospel of Life) promulgated by Blessed John Paul II in March 1995.  The Gospel of Life is the defense of all life. This major event gives witness to the consistent life ethic of the Catholic Church.

There is no question that the issue of abortion is certainly important and central to our struggle to uphold the dignity and sacredness of all human life.  We must be people who defend and speak for those who are suffering, for those whose lives are being marginalized by a culture of death.  We must be advocates for the disabled or ill who are not deemed by society to be ‘productive.’  We must care for the elderly in nursing homes, or those who are being treated in any way with violence and indignity.

On Saturday afternoon, June 15, there will be a pilgrimage down Via della Conciliazione to Pio XII Square, which will conclude with the recitation of the Creed in various languages and a vigil of prayer. On Sunday morning at 10:30, Holy Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis will celebrate mass that will be will be broadcast globally through Vatican Radio and Vatican TV’s online player in 6 languages.

Human life has a sacred and religious value, but in no way is that value a concern only of believers.  Today we are living in the midst of a culture that denies solidarity and takes the form of a veritable “culture of death”.  This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents that encourage an idea of society exclusively concerned with efficiency.  It is a war of the powerful against the weak.  There is no room in the world for anyone who, like the unborn or the dying, is a weak element in the social structure or anyone who appears completely at the mercy of others and radically dependent on them and can only communicate through the silent language of profound sharing of affection.

Abortion is the most serious wound inflicted not only on individuals and their families who should provide the sanctuary for life, but inflicted as well on society and its culture, by the very people who ought to be society’s promoters and defenders. It is important to recall Benedict XVI’s words and pro-life vision at the opening ceremony of World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, on July 17, 2008:

“And so we are led to reflect on what place the poor and the elderly, immigrants and the voiceless, have in our societies. How can it be that domestic violence torments so many mothers and children? How can it be that the most wondrous and sacred human space – the womb – has become a place of unutterable violence?”

The Church offers a teaching on the inviolability, the sacredness and dignity of the human person.   Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the dignity of the human person such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself, whatever insults human dignity such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children, disgraceful working conditions where people are treated as instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons – all of these things and more poison human society.

In Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, ‘Caritas in Veritate’, (Charity in Truth), he addressed the dignity and respect for human life “which cannot in any way be detached from questions concerning the development of peoples.”  Benedict wrote, “In economically developed countries, legislation contrary to life is very widespread, and it has already shaped moral attitudes and praxis, contributing to the spread of an anti-birth mentality; frequent attempts are made to export this mentality to other states as if it were a form of cultural progress.”

“Openness to life is at the centre of true development,” said Benedict. “When a society moves toward the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man’s true good. If personal and social sensitivity toward the acceptance of a new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.”

Pope Benedict summed up the current global economic crisis in a remarkable way with these words:  “Human costs always include economic costs, and economic dysfunctions always involve human costs.”

The Roman Catholic Church offers a teaching on the inviolability, the sacredness and the dignity of the human person: a 20/20 vision for which we must strive each day if we claim to be “pro-life.”  Opposition to abortion and euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice.  We must strive to see the whole picture, not with tunnel vision.

Being pro-life is one of the deepest expressions of our baptism: we stand up as sons and daughters of the light, clothed in humility and charity, filled with conviction, speaking the truth to power with firmness, conviction and determination, and never losing joy and hope.  Being Pro-Life is not an activity for a political party or a particular side of the spectrum.  It is an obligation for everyone: left, right and centre!  If we are Pro-life, we must engage the culture around us, and not curse it.  We must see others as Jesus does, and we must love them to life, even those who are opposed to us.

Two role models of contemporary Pro-life prophetic women

Let us consider two outstanding, Catholic role models who can help us in our efforts to be prophetic, to be Catholic witnesses, and to be authentically pro-life.  First, a young Italian pediatrician and mother of a family, Gianna Beretta Molla, who died in 1962 at the age of 39, leaving behind her husband and four young children.

In September, 1961, toward the end of the second month of pregnancy with her fourth child, Dr. Molla had to make a heroic decision. Physicians diagnosed a serious fibroma in the uterus that required surgery. The surgeon suggested that she undergo an abortion in order to save her own life. A few days before the child was due, she was ready to give her life in order to save that of her child: “If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: Choose the child – I insist on it. Save the baby.” She gave herself entirely, generating new life.

Dr. Molla was not the typical candidate for one of the Vatican’s most impressive ceremonies and most significant honors. Gianna loved culture, fashion and beauty. She played piano, was a painter, enjoyed tennis, mountain climbing and skiing. She attended the symphony, theatre and Milan’s La Scala Opera. Gianna also had a passion for nice clothes and enjoyed traveling. She loved children, the elderly and the poor.
In an age when permanent commitment is widely discouraged, when human life is cheap and disposable and family life is under siege, when abortion is all too available, when sacrifice and virtue are absent in so many lives; when many in the medical profession have little concern for the dignity and sacredness of every human life; when suffering is seen as a nuisance without any redemptive meaning; when goodness, joy, simplicity and beauty are suspect; St. Gianna Beretta Molla shows this world, gripped by a culture of death, an alternative gospel way of compelling beauty.

Her action at the end of her life, in saving young Gianna Emanuela, her daughter, was heroic in that she prepared for her final action every day of her life. Her final decision for life was the natural flowering and culmination of an extraordinary life of virtue and holiness, selflessness and quiet joy. St. Gianna Molla continues to remind the church and the world of the necessity of a consistent ethic of life, from the earliest to the final moments of human life.

Gianna Beretta Molla is certainly not the first laywoman and mother to be canonized, but her contemporary witness is badly needed by so many people around the world today. Her life was truly prophetic.  In the simple words of one of St. Gianna’s closest friends, Piera Fontana, “50 years ago, before Gianna, how was it possible that only nuns, priests and friars were raised to the altar? Why were we never raised to the altar? Gianna was raised to the altar.  She represents all mothers. A mother has finally arrived.”

Dorothy Day: model of conversion, courage and commitment

The second example I would like to hold up to you is a very special woman in the Christian tradition, one closer to home for each of us: Dorothy Day.  During their annual General Assembly in Baltimore last year, the Bishops of the United States engaged in a canonical consultation regarding the cause for canonisation of Dorothy Day, a pacifist and convert to Catholicism from New York City. This unprecedented canonical consultation was a procedural step in the process toward canonisation.


Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and leader of the Archdiocese of New York, was seeking the consultation of the full body of bishops. Dorothy Day already carries the title ‘Servant of God,’ a designation awarded by the Vatican when it gave her cause a Nihil Obstat, that is, a formal declaration that the Vatican has no objection to the cause moving forward. The American bishops gave unanimous voice through their vote to proceed with the sainthood cause for Dorothy Day.

She is a remarkable, prophetic woman of our times who transmitted the good news by her life and actions, and at times by her words. Born on November 8, 1897 in Brooklyn, New York, Dorothy was neither baptized nor raised in the church. After dropping out of college in 1916, she pursued the radical causes of her day: women’s suffrage, free love, labour unions, and social revolution. But when a decade of protest and social action failed to produce changes in the values and institutions of society, Dorothy converted to the Catholic Church and the radicalism of Christian love. Her life was filled with friendships with famous artists and writers. At the same time she experienced failed love affairs, a marriage and a suicide attempt. The triggering event for Dorothy’s conversion was the birth of her daughter, Tamar in 1926. After an earlier abortion, Dorothy had desperately wanted to get pregnant. She viewed the birth of her daughter as a sign of forgiveness from God.

For 50 years, Dorothy lived with the poor, conducted conferences, and published a newspaper, all dependent entirely upon donations. She dedicated her life fighting for justice for the homeless in New York City and was co-founder the Catholic Worker Movement. Seventy-five houses of hospitality were established during her lifetime, where the hungry were fed, the naked clothed, the homeless sheltered, the sick cared for, and the dead buried. She was put in jail, for the first time, at the age of 20 while marching in support of women’s suffrage. She was put in jail, for the last time, at the age of 75 while marching in support of the United Farm Workers. She was an avid peacemaker and a prolific author. Dorothy died on November 29, 1980, thirty-two years ago at Maryhouse in New York City, where she spent her final months among the poor. She was an average person who read her bible and tried to live and to love like Jesus. She challenges each of us to take seriously the message of the gospel.

In March 2000, the late Cardinal John O’Connor of New York City, formally announced the opening of the Beatification Process for this great woman of faith, calling Dorothy a Servant of God. In his letter, he wrote: ‘It has long been my contention that Dorothy Day is a saint – not a ‘gingerbread’ saint or a ‘holy card’ saint, but a modern day devoted daughter of the Church, a daughter who shunned personal aggrandizement and wished that her work, and the work of those who labored at her side on behalf of the poor, might be the hallmark of her life rather than her own self.

The conversion of mind and heart that she exemplified speaks volumes to all women today on two fronts. First, it demonstrates the mercy of God, mercy in that a woman who sinned so gravely could find such unity with God upon conversion. Second, it demonstrates that one may turn from the ultimate act of violence against innocent life in the womb to a position of total holiness and pacifism. Her abortion should not preclude her cause, but intensifies it.

Dorothy Day’s life is a model for each one of us who seeks to understand, love, teach and defend the Catholic faith in our day. She procured an abortion before her conversion to the faith. She regretted it every day of her life. After her conversion from a life akin to that of the pre-converted Augustine of Hippo, she proved a stout defender of human life. This prophetic woman of our own time gives us courage to defend our Catholic faith, especially to uphold the dignity and sacredness of every single human life, from womb to tomb.  She shows us how to cherish the gift of human life. She helps us never to forget that we are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us.

Perspectives Daily – Thursday, May 30

Tonight on Perspectives: the faithful of Rome take to the streets, Canadian Catholics react to the death of an abortion crusader, and the American bishops press on in their battle for immigration reform.

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, Unscripted

This past week Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna participated in the Leadership Conference at Holy Trinity Brompton, an Anglican parish in the heart of downtown London. Cardinal Schoenborn’s presentation was more of a Question and Answer session with Holy Trinity pastor Nicky Gumbel. He spoke about Christian Unity, Pope Francis, the Conclave, and was also asked about his family. In his characteristic style, he spoke openly and diplomatically about his family saying his family were not most exemplary of Catholics. Still, he discovered his faith and his calling at an early age. Watch the full interview in the video above.

God calls everyone!

Make the Call
A reflection on Isaiah 6:1-2; 3-8; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 and Luke 5:1-11

Tomorrow the Church marks the 50th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, a day that is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Easter, traditionally known as Good Shepherd Sunday. As I reflect on the readings for Good Shepherd Sunday (Acts 13:14,43-52; Revelation 7:9,14-17 and John 10:27-30), I can’t help but think of the readings from this past week (mostly from John 6), when Jesus affirms that He is the bread of life and we must east his flesh. And also the wonderful readings from the Book of Acts: The Call of St. Paul and the request made to Ananias; and Peter’s healings; and last Sunday’s Gospel when Jesus “calls” Peter again: “Tend my sheep” and then again, “follow me” (John 21:1-19). And it all comes together with just two words, “THE CALL.” And I guess that’s why today is called Vocations Sunday; vocations, a word that comes from the Latin VOCARE, which means, literally, “to call.”

Everyone gets THE Call. Isaiah got the call. Peter got the call. So did Paul. Haven’t you? I think the problem is that, either we don’t think we’re going to get called- we think that it’s only for prophets, apostles and saints – and so we’re not expecting the call. Or, even if we think that we may get the call, we don’t know how to recognise it because we’re looking for something else; expecting something else. But I want to show you three “call” stories that give us a few clues that will help us recognise the call when it comes.

First, the call doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It doesn’t happen out of context. We have to first have an encounter with God. Isaiah has a vision of God (see Isaiah 6:1-2; 3-8). He sees God in the temple, sitting on a throne in his majesty. There are angles flying around – seraphs, singing “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” (that’s what we try to re-create every Sunday). Then an angel touches Isaiah’s mouth with a burning coal. That’s an experience of the divine. Isaiah has an experience of the divine, before he is called.

The same happens to Paul. Paul has an encounter with Jesus that literally knocks him off his feet: “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And Paul asks, “Who are you?” “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” Paul has quite the encounter with Jesus Christ. And his call comes much later. He doesn’t get called right away. He has to go to Damascus and was there, blind for three days, and still, the call happened years later.

And then there’s Peter… Some people argue that the disciples did not know Jesus when he called them, but according to St. Luke, Peter and the disciples had already met Jesus. Jesus had already healed Peter’s mother in law. These were such small towns and everyone knew each other. Jesus had been around for 30 years. And everyone was talking about his teachings and his miracles so when Jesus asks to get into Peter’s boat (see Luke 5:1-11), they are not strangers. But even though Peter knew Jesus he still had not had an encounter with Christ. That’s the same with us sometimes: We may know Jesus and still not have had an encounter with Jesus. And in Luke 5, Jesus takes Peter out into the deep and there’s the miraculous catch of fish (which is echoed in John 21). That’s an encounter with the divine.

So, first you have an encounter with Christ; then comes a calling. And it’s not we who encounter Christ; Christ comes out to encounter us. In every case, it’s God or Jesus who does the encountering.

Second: Just after the encounter, but just before the call, each person had a profound sense of their inadequacy. They had a real sense of their uselessness and an awareness of their sinfulness. Isaiah actually thinks that he’s going to die – that’s what happens when we’re in the presence of the divine- he says, “I am a man of unclean lips!” And Paul describes himself in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 as “one untimely born” or “abnormally born.” He is the “least of the apostles.” And he was; he used to persecute Christians. He was responsible for the arrest and even killing of some Christians. And Peter, Peter says “Go away from me, for I am a sinful man.” Each becomes aware of their sinfulness. This happens when we’re in the presence of God, but it happens before the call so that we know that whatever God is asking us to do, we will not do because we are so amazing; it is God who is going to do it through us. It’s also a good reminder of who gets called: Sinners. Sinners get called.

Last, just before the call, God asks us to do something strange or unusual. I think this is also so that we know it’s not us but God acting. Isaiah mouth is touched with a burning coal (not something I would recommend that you do at home). It makes no sense, but God says “trust me.” Paul is left blind and told to go to Damascus where Ananias will help him. Ananias is one of the guys that Paul was persecuting. “I know it doesn’t make sense; trust me.” And Peter, Peter is asked to take the boat back out. But it’s not the best time to fish and besides, there is no fish. Jesus says, “it doesn’t make any sense, but trust me.” Don’t you think that Jesus saying that we must eat his flesh was the strangest thing Jews at the time had heard? In fact, many disciples stopped following him at this point. This was a much more than a very strange request; it was at best a ridiculous one. At worse, it was immoral!

But this is very much in keeping with the image of the Good Shepherd. The sheep completely trust the shepherd. If the shepherd leads them to green pastures and still waters, they follow. If the shepherd leads them up a rocky incline, they follow. If the shepherd leads them down the valley of darkness, they will not be afraid and they will follow. And so, just before the call we have to trust the Good Shepherd and say, “yes Lord, I will do what you are asking me to do.” Maybe it’s a bit of a test.

Then comes the call.

So, first you have a personal encounter with God; that encounter makes us aware of our inadequacy and last, that encounter involves trusting God. Then comes THE CALL. And this happens to everyone. God calls everyone. Everyone, at some point or another, especially if they are in a relationship with God, will be called. It’s not just for priests and people in religious life. This is one of the gifts of the Second Vatican Council: Everyone gets called. We’ve been sitting in the stands for way too long, it’s time for us to get on the ice!

And the call for everyone is holiness. We are all called to holiness. And we can best live our call to holiness in one of four main ways, called vocations:

  1. The single life
  2. The religious life
  3. The ordained life and
  4. The married life.

But it’s not our choice. They have been chosen for us. God has created us so that one of these vocations is our own persona,l special way in which we can achieve holiness.

Some of you will be called to be holy through the single life. That’s good because not everyone is called to be married nor should everyone be married. And single people have a great gift of time – they don’t have the same family commitments and so they can serve.

And some people are called to the ordained life as deacons, priests or Bishops; or some are called to the religious life as sisters, brothers, monks, nuns, who live consecrated or contemplative lives.

But most of us are called to the married life because that’s the way where we come closest to loving another person the way God loves us: Freely, faithfully, fruitfully and totally. Most of you are married; imagine, God has given you your husband, your wife to help you be holy! Your job is to help your husband or your wife to get to heaven! That’s beautiful! That’s why the Church takes marriage very seriously.

Is that how you see your marriage? This is your call to holiness. Do you live your marriage as a response to a call? Do you live your marriage as a response to a personal encounter with Christ? Do you live your marriage daily, as a personal encounter with Christ? Do you live your marriage with a keen awareness that you can’t do it alone and that you have to trust God all the way? Do you live your life, whether you’re married, single, ordained or in religious life, as a response to a call to holiness?

Most of us were never taught anything about these four vocations – and most of the time when people talk about “vocations” they mean vocations to the religious or ordained life. But, we all have a vocation and they are all valid and equal. With the hopes of teaching us more about vocations, Salt + Light Television once again partnered with the Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board to produce the MAKE THE CALL series. Each video is aimed at a different age group, but no matter how old or young you are, each will show you how God calls us and what that means.

MAKE THE CALL will air this weekend in celebration of Vocations Sunday:

Make The Call: Discerning the Call (for older teenagers and adults) on Saturday, April 20 at 12:30pm ET.

Make The Call: Listening to the Call (for pre-school and younger school-age children) on Sunday, April 21 at 9:30am ET.

and Make The Call: Responding to the Call (for tweens, pre-teens and younger teen-agers) on Sunday, April 21 at 10pm ET.

Mother Teresa used to say that God does not call us to do great things, but to do small things with great love. Maybe you will be called to do great things, I don’t know, but if not, will you live your life, no matter which vocation you live, doing small things with great love? Like Isaiah, Paul, Peter, Mary, Abraham and Sarah, Noah, Moses, Mary Magdalene and so many others, can we say yes to the Good Shepherd and let him lead us to green pastures?

Can we get on the holiness boat and set out into the deep?

Artists in Motion

Eleven years ago, when I was Artistic Director for World Youth Day 2002, one of my responsibilities was the Papal Welcome Ceremony. Fr. Tom Rosica, CSB (who was Director of WYD) had suggested that we include a specific liturgical dance group comprised of people with different abilities, and so began my journey with the L’Arche Daybreak Spirit Movers. I can honestly say that the event welcoming Pope John Paul II to WYD was by far the most meaningful of the whole week and that moment, the Spirit Movers dancing to On That Holy Mountain, was the most moving of the whole evening. I later found out from Fr. Rosica that it had also been a moving experience for the Pope!

The Spirit Movers are a sacred dance group composed of people of all abilities. They celebrate the gift of diversity and explore the extraordinary ways our relationships express the love of God and the beauty of the human spirit. For those who’ve never heard of L’Arche or of the vision of Jean Vanier, they need not look further than the Spirit Movers. Although the Spirit Movers is not all that L’Arche Daybreak* does, in a way, they do encompass the spirit of L’Arche. How best to describe a community that is not founded on the word – a community founded instead, on the body, but through a group of dancers – those who communicate best by using their bodies? And these are not the National Ballet with their muscular bodies; they are people with broken bodies – people with disabilities who, like professional dancers, are very much in their bodies.

This year, the Spirit Movers are celebrating their 20 year anniversary. Since their formation, they’ve performed in many venues and have moved many audiences. They also offer retreats and performances for school groups, churches and conferences.

On Monday, April 15th, L’Arche Daybreak hosted Artists in Motion at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts. It was an evening in celebration of the Spirit Movers and the main event of the evening was the screening of the Salt + Light TV Production, With Our Own Hands, a film that tells the story of the Spirit Movers, the story of L’Arche and shares the vision of Jean Vanier.

Of course the evening also included dancing. The Spirit Movers were joined by many of their members from previous years, including Marcie Taylor, the founding director and Kathy Kelly who was director at the time of the WYD2002 performance. They joined the current troupe, directed by Anna MacLean.

The evening also included an art exhibit of eleven Daybreak Core member artists. The art was varied and inspiring – these artists are truly talented and creative – the art was varied with traditional canvas paintings as well as digital prints done on an iPad.

Needless to say, the evening was inspiring, moving and uplifting. Carl MacMillan, Director of Daybreak welcomed everyone and most of the L’Arche Daybreak community was present, as well as many of their family members and friends. There were also teachers and students from local schools, people from various faith communities and business leaders from the community. There were also representatives from various governments: Richmond Hill mayor, David Barrow, MPP Reza Moridi and Tom Mastorakis from the office of the local MP, Costas Megegakis. It’s great to see the L’Arche community celebrated and recognised by our government officials.

St. Augustine is known for saying that when we sing we pray twice. I’m sure that if we dance we also pray twice. But if we’re singing while we’re dancing, then we’re praying three times! That’s what this evening was about.

Congratulations to L’Arche Daybreak and the Spirit Movers on this anniversary! Keep doing what you’re doing demonstrating the essence of Jean Vanier’s vision as ambassadors for L’Arche Daybreak.

To order your copy of With Our Own Hands call 1 888 302 7181


To read more about the Spirit Movers go to Defining Personhood and The Voice of Illness, part 6: In my life

*Daybreak is the second L’Arche community founded. It is in Richmond Hill and was the home of Fr. Henri Nouwen.


Love and serve life

As the week began with news of the 37 foreigners killed during the Algerian gas-plant hostage-taking, I began thinking about what else is happening around the world:

Toronto: Court watches video of the death of Ashley Smith. Ashley killed herself in her prison cell while guards looked on from the outside. They say they were told by supervisors not to intervene.
Manila: A Canadian kills two in a Philippine courtroom before being fatally shot by police.
Halifax: Woman acquitted after hiring a hit-man to kill her abusive husband.
Houston: Three students wounded in Lone Star College shooting.
Montreal: 12-year old boy to be charged after he shoots and kills his 16-year-old brother.
Winnipeg: Man admits stabbing and strangling his niece after she refused to have sex with him.
Bali: A British grandmother gets sentenced to death by firing squad for smuggling cocaine.
Dallas: Man shoots estranged wife then kills himself at their daughter’s 16th birthday.
Buenos Aires: A 9-year old boy is killed in a shooting dispute between neighbours.
Toronto: woman is stabbed multiple times and then set on fire in by the father of her children.
New Mexico: a 15-year old accused of murdering his family said he planned to keep killing at local Walmart.

And in Iran, thousands show up to watch a public hanging.
[Read more...]

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Every year on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Pope Benedict takes part in a special tradition: he celebrates Mass in the Sistine Chapel with Vatican workers who have had babies in the last year. He also baptizes the new ones.

This tradition originally began with Pope John Paul II in the first year of his pontificate – that being 1978. Benedict continued this tradition following his 2005 election to the papacy. This celebration is perhaps one of the most visually interesting papal liturgies of the year, not only because of the spectacular back drop but also because of the varied reactions of the newly baptized. Some babies sleep, some cry, some follow the Pontiff’s every move with eyes wide open. Then of course, there’s the look of serene joy on Benedict’s face as he carries out the most fundamental of priestly ministries.

Join S+L’s Alicia Ambrosio and Andrew Santos for coverage of this Mass and Baptism from Rome’s Sistine Chapel on:

Sunday, January 13

10:00 am ET / 7:00 am PT:  Mass and Baptism from the Vatican
Repeat: 9:00 pm ET / 6:00 pm PT;  1:00 am ET / 10:00 pm PT
French: 4:00 pm ET / 1:00 pm PT

-Credit: CNS photo

Mary: Model and Paradigm of Belief for Christians

Reflection for Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God Year C – January 1, 2013
You can read the readings for this Solemnity here. 

The Christian New Year is celebrated on Jan. 1, one week after the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Jan. 1 has been given several different names that reveal something of the nature of the feast.

First of all, the Christian New Year is within the Octave of Christmas (i.e., eight days after the birth of Jesus.) Before the liturgical renewal of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus or the Naming of Jesus (Holy Name of Jesus) was celebrated on this date to commemorate the Gospel account of Jesus’ circumcision according to the ritual prescriptions of the Mosaic law, thus becoming officially a member of the people of the covenant: “At the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus” (Luke 2:21-24).

Following the liturgical renewal of the Second Vatican Council, Jan. 1 has now been known as the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of the Lord, and it has also been designated as the World Day of Prayer for Peace.

We may wonder if New Year’s Day has accumulated so many different meanings that people no longer pay attention to the feast. Is it also not true that the atmosphere of revelry attached to New Year’s Eve hardly leaves anyone with the energy, desire or willingness to consider New Year’s Day as a religious feast? Let us consider some of the biblical foundations for the various meanings attached to the Christian New Year.   [Read more...]

Remembering Blessed John’s “Moonlight Speech” 50 years later

“Discorso della Luna” 50 years ago - Thursday, October 11, 2012

Below is the text of Pope John’s speech on the night of the opening of the Second Vatican Council:

Dear children,

I hear your voices. Mine is only a single voice. But what resounds here is the voice of the whole world; here all the world is represented. One might even say that the moon rushed here this evening – Look at her high up there – to behold this spectacle. This is how we close a great day of peace … of peace! “Glory to God and peace to men of good will”.

We repeat often this greeting. And when we can say that the ray, the sweetness of the peace of the Lord truly unites us and carries us, we say: here is a taste of what should be the life of all the centuries and of the life that awaits us in eternity. How about a little more. If I asked – if I could ask – each of you, “You, where do you come from?” The children of Rome who are especially represented here would respond, “Ah, we are your nearest children and you are the Bishop of Rome”. But you , Roman children, do you feel like you really represent ROMA CAPUT MUNDI (“Rome the head of the world”), for this is what in God’s Providence you have been called to be, for the spread of truth and of Christian peace?

In these words is the response to your homage. My own person counts for nothing – it is a brother who speaks to you, who has become a father by the will of the Lord … but everyone together, in paternity and fraternity, and the grace of God, everything, everything … Let us continue, therefore, to love each other, to love each other so, by looking at each other in our encounters with one another: taking up what unites us and setting aside anything that might keep us in a bit of difficulty … This morning there was a spectacle that not even the Basilica of Saint Peter’s – which has four centuries of history – could ever have contemplated. We belong, therefore, a time in which we are sensitive to the voices that come from above: and we want to be faithful and to stand according to the directions which our Blessed Christ has given us. I end by giving you the Blessing.

I love to invite to be near me the Madonna, holy and blessed, whose great mystery we remember today; I have heard that one of you has remembered [the 431 AD Council of] Ephesus and the lamps lit around the basilica, that I saw with my own eyes (not in those ancient times, mind you, but recently), and that recalls the proclamation of the dogma of the Divine Maternity of Mary.

This evening the spectacle offered to me is one that will remain in my memory as it will in yours. Let us honour the images of this evening! That our feelings might always be just as they are now as we express them before heaven and before the earth. Faith, Hope, Charity, the love of God, the love of our brothers and sisters; and then everyone together helped by the holy peace of the Lord, in doing good works. When you go back home, you will find your children: and give them a hug and say,“This is a hug from the Pope. You will find some tears that need to be dried: speak a good word:“The Pope is with us, especially in times of sadness and bitterness.” And then all together let us encourage one another: singing, breathing, weeping, but always full of faith in Christ who helps us and who listens to us, let us continue on our journey.

Translation Copyright 2012 Fr. Stefano Penna and Br. Scott Surrency OFM Cap.

Fifty years later, even if “the whole world” wasn’t represented in Piazza San Pietro, tens of thousands of torch-bearing young people, and those who have been young for a while, streamed into St. Peter’s Square Thursday night, to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, and remember one of Rome’s most memorable evenings. The crowd came from Castel Sant’Angelo, marched up the Via Conciliazione and filled the streets around the Vatican with song. The event – entitled “The Council’s Beautiful Church” (La Chiesa Bella del Concilio) – captured the heart of Rome, just as it did 50 years earlier. Sebastian Gomes, Cheridan Sanders, Charles Le Bourgeois, Sr. Gill Goulding, C.J., (one of Pope Benedict’s appointees to the Synod on the New Evangelization) and I were present in the Piazza for this beautiful spectacle!

Here is the English translation of Pope Benedict’s brief address to the crowd:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Good evening to you all and thank you for coming. Thanks also to Italian Catholic Action which organized this torchlight procession.

Fifty years ago on this day I too was in this square, gazing towards this window where the good Pope, Blessed Pope John looked out and spoke unforgettable words to us, words that were full of poetry and goodness, words that came from his heart.

We were happy I would say and full of enthusiasm. The great Ecumenical Council had begun; we were sure that a new spring of the Church was in sight, a new Pentecost with a new, strong presence of the freeing grace of the Gospel.

We are also happy today, we hold joy in our hearts but I would say it is perhaps a more measured joy, a humble joy. In these 50 years we have learned and experienced that original sin exists and that it can be evermore expressed as personal sins which can become structures of sin. We have seen that in the field of the Lord there are always tares. We have seen that even in Peter’s net there were bad fish. We have seen that human frailty is present in the Church, that the barque of the Church is even sailing against the wind in storms that threaten the ship, and at times we have thought: the Lord is asleep and has forgotten us.

These are some of the experiences of the past 50 years but we have also had a new experience of the Lord’s presence, of his goodness and of his strength. The fire of the Holy Spirit, the fire of Christ, is not a voracious, destructive fire; it is a silent fire, a small flame of goodness and of truth that transforms, that gives light and warmth. We have seen that the Lord does not forget us. Even today in his humble way the Lord is present and warms our hearts, he shows life, creates charisms of goodness and charity that illuminate the world and are a guarantee for us of God’s goodness. Yes, Christ is alive, he is with us even today, and we can be happy today too because his goodness will not be extinguished; it is still strong today!

Finally I dare to make Pope John’s unforgettable words my own: When you go home, give your children a kiss and tell them that it is from the Pope.  In this way I warmly impart my blessing: May the name of the Lord be blessed.