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Feast Day of St. Josemaria Escriva: 40th Death Anniversary & The Marian Year of the Family

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Trisha Villarante

Trisha Villarante

This month there will be hundreds of Masses heard around the globe in honour of St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, whose feast day is on June 26th. But, in Vancouver, on Saturday, June 20th, about six hundred faithful gathered at St. Mary’s Ukraine Catholic Church to kick off the celebration a little earlier this year. 2015 marks the 40th death anniversary of St. Josemaria since his passing in 1975 in Rome, Italy.

This was the first time the annual celebratory Mass was held at St. Mary’s Ukraine Catholic Church, which reflected the ecumenical spirit that St. Josemaria emphasized during Vatican II. The Mass began at 11 am with confession available at 10 am. Regular attendees of this celebration were well prepared and began arriving before 10 am to find parking and seats. By 10:30 am the parking lot was completely full and attendees were making their way to the church from the neighboring streets.

At the entrance of the church, an impressive exhibit of panels was on display portraying St. Josemaria’s remarkable life in the form of old photographs and biographical excerpts. Each panel highlighted different events from his childhood in Spain, his ordination to the priesthood, the beginnings of Opus Dei in Madrid and Rome, up to his final years of service to God through Opus Dei and the Catholic Church.

Vicar General, Reverend Joseph Phuong Nguyen, was the principal celebrant with several other concelebrants including Fr. Fernando and newly ordained Father Paul Goo. In his Homily, Father Nguyen emphasized St. Josemaria’s life as an inspiration to practice the virtues of humility and trust in sanctifying one’s ordinary life. In his Homily he paralleled the Gospel of Luke regarding Peter and the miraculous catch and the life of St. Josemaria.

“Faith requires a lot of sacrifice, hardships and moments of doubt like St. Peter, but we must always persevere as St. Josemaria did to always be in unity with our Lord.” – Fr. Nguyen

Anna Eastland, an attendee at Saturday’s Mass shared, “Fr. Nguyen reminded us, (holiness and success) is not for the privileged few, because the Lord expects love from us all. He encouraged everyone to be a disciple of Christ in their chosen profession, and to make their occupation a way to Heaven.”

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Members of Opus Dei and their families and friends attended this year not only in honour of the 40th death anniversary of St. Josemaria, but in celebration of the Marian Year of the Family; convoked by the prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarría. The Marian year of the Family is a yearlong intention for 2015, which began on the Feast day of the Holy Family on December 28th, 2014. The special intention was implemented, “to place in our Lady’s hands all the needs of the Church and of mankind, and to follow faithfully the Pope’s intentions.”

This month, Bishop Echevarria released a powerful video about the importance of family and their duty to find Christ in their daily lives. As June marks the halfway point for this Year of the Family, the video acts as reminder that parents have the primary responsibility for educating their children and that the institution of the family is the cell of society. The formation of individuals is dependent on well-formed parents, which is a dire need in today’s world. The video can be viewed here on the Opus Dei website.

St. Josemaria Escriva is coined the Saint of Ordinary Life, and has always put great importance on the institution of the family. In the text, Conversations with Msgr. Escriva (page 91) a brief summary of his emphasis on the family can be found,

“We must strive so that these cells of Christianity may be born and may develop with a desire for holiness… all Christians have a divine mission that each must fulfill in his own walk of life. Christian couples should be aware that they are called to sanctify themselves and to sanctify others… and that their first apostolate is in the home. They should understand that founding a family, educating their children, and exercising a Christian influence in society are supernatural tasks… their happiness depends… on their awareness of their specific mission.”

St. Mary’s church was filled with the spirit of family with newborns, newly weds, parents, grandparents and even great grandparents. It is evident that the teachings of St. Josemaria have been instilled in the hearts of the faithful around the world, and Saturday’s Mass was a humble snippet of what good he has influenced throughout the generations. The Mass was followed by a reception, which flowed from the church basement to the parking lot as everyone gathered to greet one another as one big family.

At the reception, stories were shared about the graces received from the intercession of St. Josemaria and how his influence has helped them and their family and friends. One woman shared that her and her husband’s lives were changed after attending their first retreats run by Opus Dei, thanks to an invitation by her friend. She expressed gratitude for his teachings, which inspired her and her husband to fall in love with their Faith and to connect it with their daily lives in divine filiation.

“The idea that when you open up to (God) in humility and trust he makes you so much more capable of doing things that you would have never imagined. Summed up simply, sanctifying ordinary life and daily work has become essential to us.” – Daniela O

Today, June 26th, thousands of people all around the world will be seeking the intercession of St. Josemaria especially on this feast day.  If you haven’t already, it may be a good idea to take the opportunity to pray for your intentions and those of your family and friends by saying his prayer card.

To learn more about Opus Dei and St. Josemaria Escriva, check out the S+L film Opus Dei: Decoding God’s Work. 

Written by Trisha Villarante

Let’s go to Montreal!

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This week I traveled to Montreal with my co-worker, Karen D’Souza. We were excited to check out Salt + Light’s new pied-à-terre and reconnect with our co-workers in person (there really is no substitution for a face to face). As you’ll see, our new office is very much a work in progress; but, I hope you’ll agree there’s a lot of potential!

Below, Jeroen van der Biezen, Technical Director in Montreal, gives me the grand tour.

And, here’s the Daily Perspectives that Jeroen mentions.

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An added bonus of working out of Montreal this past week, was the chance to stay at the Oratory’s John XIII Pavilion. The pavilion is conveniently located right next to the Oratory. The simple but clean accommodations provide the opportunity to attend daily mass and visit the tomb of St. Brother Andre.

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Since, both Karen and I have a strong devotion to St. Joseph, we were thrilled at the chance to visit the Oratory. Here’s a little vignette of that experience –

CherdianS1The Producer Diaries 

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.

Pope Francis’ Pentecost Homily and Regina Coeli Address

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“The gift of the Holy Spirit renews the earth”

Pope Francis against the backdrop of St Peter’s Basilica and dressed in scarlet vestments, celebrated Mass on Pentecost Sunday. In his homily, the Holy Father began by focusing on Sunday’s readings saying that, “the word of God, tells us that the Spirit is at work in individuals and communities filled with the Spirit. Expanding on this theme of the Spirit, Pope Francis said that, in the Gospel, Jesus promises his disciples that, when he has returned to the Father, the Holy Spirit will come to guide them into all the truth. Indeed he calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth”.

Today’s world Pope Francis stressed, “needs men and women who are not closed in on themselves, but filled with the Holy Spirit.”  Closing oneself off from the Holy Spirit, he said, means not only a lack of freedom; it is a sin.  There are many ways one can close oneself off to the Holy Spirit, the Pope continued, “by selfishness for one’s own gain; by rigid legalism – seen in the attitude of the doctors of the law to whom Jesus referred as “hypocrites”; by neglect of what Jesus taught; by living the Christian life not as service to others but in the pursuit of personal interests; and in so many other ways.” He underlined that the gift of the Holy Spirit “has been bestowed upon the Church and upon each one of us, so that we may live lives of genuine faith and active charity, that we may sow the seeds of reconciliation and peace.”

The Holy Father explained to those gathered that, “the gift of the Holy Spirit renews the earth”.  The Holy Spirit, he went on to say, “whom Christ sent from the Father, and the Creator Spirit who gives life to all things, are one and the same.” Therefore, the Pope said, respect for creation, is a requirement of our faith and the “garden” in which we live is not entrusted to us to be exploited, he added, but rather to be cultivated and tended with respect. Concluding his homily, Pope Francis prayed that strengthened by the Spirit and his many gifts, we would be able uncompromisingly to battle against sin and corruption, devoting ourselves with patient perseverance to the works of justice and peace.

Below is the Vatican’s English translation the Pope’s homily on Pentecost Sunday

“As the Father has sent me, even so I send you…  Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:21-22).  The gift of the Spirit on the evening of the Resurrection took place once again on the day of Pentecost, intensified this time by extraordinary outward signs.  On the evening of Easter, Jesus appeared to the Apostles and breathed on them his Spirit (cf. Jn 20:22); on the morning of Pentecost the outpouring occurred in a resounding way, like a wind which shook the place the Apostles were in, filling their minds and hearts. They received a new strength so great that they were able to proclaim Christ’s Resurrection in different languages: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).  Together with them was Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the first disciple and the Mother of the nascent Church. With her peace and her smile, she accompanied the joyful young Bride, the Church of Jesus.

The word of God, especially in today’s readings, tells us that the Spirit is at work in individuals and communities filled with the Spirit: he guides us into all the truth (cf. Jn 16:13), he renews the face of the earth (Ps 103:30), and he gives us his fruits (cf. Gal 5:22-23).

In the Gospel, Jesus promises his disciples that, when he has returned to the Father, the Holy Spirit will come to guide them into all the truth (cf. Jn 16:13).  Indeed he calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth,” and explains to his disciples that the Spirit will bring them to understand ever more clearly what he, the Messiah, has said and done, especially in regard to his death and resurrection.  To the Apostles, who could not bear the scandal of their Master’s sufferings, the Spirit would give a new understanding of the truth and beauty of that saving event.  At first they were paralyzed with fear, shut in the Upper Room to avoid the aftermath of Good Friday.  Now they would no longer be ashamed to be Christ’s disciples; they would no longer tremble before the courts of men.  Filled with the Holy Spirit, they would now understand “all the truth”: that the death of Jesus was not his defeat, but rather the ultimate expression of God’s love, a love that, in the Resurrection, conquers death and exalts Jesus as the Living One, the Lord, the Redeemer of mankind, of history and of the world. This truth, to which the Apostles were witnesses, became Good News, to be proclaimed to all.

The gift of the Holy Spirit renews the earth.  The Psalmist says: “You send forth your Spirit… and you renew the face of the earth” (Ps 103:30). The account of the birth of the Church in the Acts of the Apostles is significantly linked to this Psalm, which is a great hymn of praise to God the Creator. The Holy Spirit whom Christ sent from the Father, and the Creator Spirit who gives life to all things, are one and the same.  Respect for creation, then, is a requirement of our faith: the “garden” in which we live is not entrusted to us to be exploited, but rather to be cultivated and tended with respect (cf. Gen 2:15). Yet this is possible only if Adam – the man formed from the earth – allows himself in turn to be renewed by the Holy Spirit, only if he allows himself to be re-formed by the Father on the model of Christ, the new Adam.  In this way, renewed by the Spirit of God, we will indeed be able to experience the freedom of the sons and daughters, in harmony with all creation. In every creature we will be able to see reflected the glory of the Creator, as another Psalm says: “How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth!” (Ps 8:2, 10).

In the Letter to the Galatians, Saint Paul wants to show the “fruits” manifested in the lives of those who walk in the way of the Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22).  On the one hand, he presents “the flesh”, with its list of attendant vices: the works of selfish people closed to God.  On the other hand, there are those who by faith allow the Spirit of God to break into their lives.  In them, God’s gifts blossom, summed up in nine joyful virtues which Paul calls “fruits of the Spirit”.  Hence his appeal, at the start and the end of the reading, as a programme for life: “Walk by the Spirit” (Gal 5:6, 25).

The world needs men and women who are not closed in on themselves, but filled with the Holy Spirit.  Closing oneself off from the Holy Spirit means not only a lack of freedom; it is a sin.  There are many ways one can close oneself off to the Holy Spirit: by selfishness for one’s own gain; by rigid legalism – seen in the attitude of the doctors of the law to whom Jesus referred as “hypocrites”; by neglect of what Jesus taught; by living the Christian life not as service to others but in the pursuit of personal interests; and in so many other ways.  The world needs the courage, hope, faith and perseverance of Christ’s followers.  The world needs the fruits of the Holy Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22).  The gift of the Holy Spirit has been bestowed upon the Church and upon each one of us, so that we may live lives of genuine faith and active charity, that we may sow the seeds of reconciliation and peace.  Strengthened by the Spirit and his many gifts, may we be able uncompromisingly to battle against sin and corruption, devoting ourselves with patient perseverance to the works of justice and peace.

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Regina Coeli Address – Pentecost Sunday

Following Mass on this Pentecost Sunday, Pope Francis at the Regina Coeli expressed serious concerned over the plight of migrants in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman sea in Southeast Asia. More than 3,600 people, around half of them from Bangladesh and the others, minority Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, have come ashore in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand since May 10. But thousands more are reported to be trapped at sea in desperate conditions.

The Holy Father spoke of his appreciation for the efforts being made by those countries that have expressed a willingness to welcome those people who are facing great suffering and danger. He also encouraged the international community to provide them with the necessary humanitarian assistance.

Pope Francis, after the recitation of the Regina Coeli also recalled Sunday, the one hundreth anniversary of Italy’s entry into World War I, describing the conflict as “useless slaughter”. He prayed for the victims, asking the Holy Spirit for the gift of peace. The Pope then recalled Saturday’s Beatification’s of an Archbishop and Nun in El Salvador and Kenya.

Firstly, he remembered Archbishop Oscar Romero, of San Salvador, killed in hatred of the faith while celebrating the Eucharist. This zealous pastor, he said  an example of Jesus, chose to be among his people, especially the poor and the oppressed, even at the cost of his life. He also remembered, Italian nun, Sister Irene Stefani, of the Consolata Missionaries, who served the Kenyan people, he said,  with joy, mercy and tender compassion.

The Pope underlined that the heroic example of these blesseds inspire in each of us the fervent desire to be witnesses to the Gospel with courage and self-sacrifice.

Pope Francis sends letter for Romero beatification

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At 10:00 this morning, El Salvador time, in the Plaza del Divino Salvador del Mundo in San Salvador, the Mass of Beatification took place for Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez, born on August 15, 1917 Ciudad Barrios (El Salvador) and martyred for “odium fidei” (hatred of the faith) on March 24, 1980 while celebrating Mass in a convent chapel in San Salvador. Below is the English translation of the Spanish letter sent by Pope Francis this morning to His Excellency José Luis Escobar Alas, Archbishop of San Salvador on the occasion of the beatification ceremony.

His Excellency José Luis Escobar Alas
Archbishop of San Salvador
President of the Episcopal Conference of El Salvador

Dear Brother:
The beatification of Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero Galdámez, who was Pastor of that dear Archdiocese is a cause for great joy for the Salvadoran people and for those who rejoice by the example of the best children of the Church. Archbishop Romero, who built peace with the strength of love, gave witness to the faith with his life, given to the extreme.

The Lord never abandons his people in difficulties, and has always shown Himself solicitous with your needs. He sees oppression, He hears the cries of pain of His children, and comes to their aid to free them from oppression and bring them to a new land, fertile and spacious, that “flows with milk and honey” (cf. Ex 3, 7-8). Equally he chose Moses one day so that, in His name, he would guide His people, He continues to raise up pastors according to His heart, who feed their flocks with knowledge and prudence (cf Jer 3, 15).

In that beautiful Central American land, bathed by the Pacific Ocean, the Lord granted his Church a zealous Bishop who, loving God and serving the brothers and sisters, converted into an image of Christ the Good Shepherd. In times of difficult coexistence, Archbishop Romero knew how to lead, defend and protect his flock, remaining faithful to the Gospel and in communion with the whole Church. His ministry was distinguished by a particular attention to the most poor and marginalized. And in the moment of his death, while he celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of love and reconciliation, he received the grace to identify himself fully with He who gave his life for his sheep.

On this feast day for the Salvadoran nation, and also for neighboring Latin American countries, we give thanks to God because he granted the martyred Bishop, the ability to see and hear the suffering of his people, and molded his heart so that, in His name, he could direct them and illuminate them, even making of his work a full exercise of Christian charity.

The voice of the newly Blessed continues to resonate today to remind us that the Church, a convocation of brothers surrounding their Lord, is the family of God, in which there should be no division. Faith in Jesus Christ, when understood well and its final consequences assumed, generates communities of that are builders of peace and solidarity. This is what the Church in El Salvador is called to today, in America and in the whole world: to be rich in mercy and to convert into the leaven of reconciliation for society.

Archbishop Romero invites us to sanity and reflection, to respect for life and harmony. It is necessary to renounce “the violence of the sword, of hate” and to live “the violence of love, that left Christ nailed to the Cross, that makes each one of us overcome selfishness and so that there be no more such cruel inequality between us.” He knew how to see and experienced in his own flesh “the selfishness that hides itself in those who do not wish to give up what is theirs for the benefit of others.” And, with the heart of a father, he would worry about the “poor majority”, asking the powerful to convert “weapons into sickles for work.”

May those who have Archbishop Romero as a friend of faith, those who invoke him as protector and intercessor, those who admire his image, find in him the strength and courage to build the Kingdom of God, to commit to a more equal and dignified social order.

It is a favorable moment for a true national reconciliation in front of the challenges we are facing today. The Pope participates in your hopes, and unites Himself to your prayers so that the seed of martyrdom may flourish and become entrenched in the true paths of the sons and daughters of that nation, which proudly hears the name of the divine Saviour of the World.

Dear brother, I ask of you a favor: that you pray and that you may pray for me, while I impart my Apostolic Blessing to all who united in various ways to celebrate the newly Blessed

Fraternally yours,

Francis
Vatican, 23 Mary, 2015


Photo credit: Pilgrim carries poster of Archbishop Romero day before beatification ceremony in San Salvador (CNS photo/Jose Cabezas, Reuters)

Don’t Skip Out on Saints

Driver's license of Archbishop Oscar Romero seen in museum in San Salvador

The first time I heard of Archbishop Oscar Romero was during my Grade 12 religion class.
Now, religion was the last class of the day and so there was every reason to just skip it.

Something that Mr. Whitebread (yes, that was his real name) was all too aware of, and took measures against.

His strategy was the promise of a movie about a revolutionary.

Hook, line, and sinker; he had me.

We were all present and accounted for, transfixed by the retelling of this ‘revolutionaries’ life.

By the end of it, we were convinced that Archbishop Oscar Romero was a saint, and it sparked meaningful discussion about discipleship and martyrdom.

The big take away for me, was that it gave me a sense of what sainthood might be like.

Man walks next to wall with graffiti bearing image of Archbishop Oscar Romero in San Salvador

Up until that point, most of the saints I knew of were so far removed from my own experiences I kind of just wrote them off.

But learning about Archbishop Romero was different.  There was something tragically real about his life.

So it’s with particular joy that I look forward to his beatification. It’s been more than a decade since I was in high school, but I’ve been inspired to reconnect with his story by reading a biography about Oscar Romero published by Novalis. The book I’ve been reading is part of the People of God series, it’s called Love Must Win Out. Its short but serves as a great intro (or refresher) on Oscar Romero and most importantly it tells the story of a modern day person who like us was challenged by the times he lived in to become a hero, a saint.

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The Producer Diaries – Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.

 

Behind Vatican Walls: Latin America redefines Martyrdom

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Traditionally, the church recognizes someone as a martyr when he or she refuses  to renounce their faith and is killed as a result. The beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was killed, opens the door to a new, expanded definition of martyrdom.

Romero, who was gunned down while celebrating Mass, was never pressured to renounce his faith. If anything he was pressured to stick with the status quo: a system by which the poor workers were kept poor and the rich (Catholics) families kept their wealth and power.  His refusal to accept that situation drew the attention and ire of the government and its military enforcers.

Across Latin America, there are countless other men and women who died under similar circumstances:

Enrique Angelelli

Bishop Enrique Angelelli was born in Cordoba, Argentina in 1923 to Italian immigrants. Like many other Italian immigrants, his parents worked the land. He entered the seminary at age 15, was sent to study in Rome and eventually returned to Cordoba as a priest. Angelelli was assigned various roles as a young priest: pastor at small chapel, pastor to the catholic youth movement, hospital chaplain. Visiting and ministering to residents in the Villas Miserias, or slums, was a key part of his work.

Angelelli was eventually named an auxiliary bishop of Cordoba and then removed from his position after getting involved in a labour union dispute on behalf of the workers. After the second Vatican Council, his beliefs and actions were seen as being in line with the teachings of the church and Angelelli was once again named auxiliary bishop of Cordoba. Later, as bishop of La Rioja he continued speaking out against ursury, gambling, and prostitution rings run by the wealthy and stood firmly on the side of workers and farmers.

During the Dirty War the military government had no use for the Church. Priests working in the slums to educate and evangelize the poor began to disappear, never to be seen alive again. In 1974, during his Ad Limina visit to Rome, it was suggested to Angelelli that it was safer for him to stay in Italy. He returned nonetheless.

On August 4, 1974 while returning to the city after celebrating the funeral of two young priests, Angelelli’s car was run off the road. Documents he had been carrying in his briefcase related to the deaths of the young priests, disappeared.  Officially his death was labelled a traffic accident. But the priest travelling with him survived the crash and told officials in 1986 that a Peugot 404 had cut them off and maneuvered brusquely in front of them. In 2014 an Argentine court found two former military officials guilty of murder.

Rutilio Grande

A contemporary of Oscar Romero, Jesuit Father Ruitilio Grande was killed March 12, 1977. Fr. Grande was born in 1928 and, shortly after his birth, his parents separated. This pushed his broken family into economic instability. They had a small plot of land they used to grow beans, corn and rice, but it was insufficient to meet their needs, so they rented more land. The amount of produce they gave the landowner was equivalent to one week’s worth of work every month. Needless to say, Fr. Grande entered the priesthood with a keen awareness of the social inequalities in El Salvador.

Unlike some priests who approached the social situation from a political point of view, Grande opted to enter into the reality of the poor through the Word of God. He sought to evangelize and form the laity, especially the poor, so they could fully participate in their mission as laypeople of the Church. This approach upset the status quo and upset the government just as much as any armed uprising. On March 12, 1977, Grande and two companions were driving along a rural road when they were ambushed and killed by military forces.

Cosme Spessotto

While El Salvador is not the only Latin American country where priests, religious and committed laypeople were martyred, it was the site of a large number of killings. Italian Friar Cosme Spessotto was one of those. Ordained in Italy, he was sent to El Salvador in the 1950s. As soon as he arrived he got to work connecting with the local community and finding a way to meet their needs as a church. In one of the first communities he worked with he found a way to rebuild a church that had been destroyed by earthquake in the 30s. In another community, he found the means to build their first church and then prevented it from being taken over by armed forces.

Yet this simple friar who walked and worked with the poor upset the social order. Spessotto managed to rally national and international support to build the churches his faithful needed. Even more worrisome for the government, he continuously denounced military abuses and refused to look the other way.

Sepessotto spared no energy ministering to his parishioners, so it came as no surprise that he landed in hospital in 1980. However, during his hospital stay it was discovered that he was suffering from Leukemia. Released from the hospital, he was sent to the minor seminary in San Salvador to recover. It was there, while waiting to celebrate Mass, that he was gunned down by military police. A cause for his sainthood is already open.

Countless others

These three names are perhaps the most high profile, best known cases that might be considered for sainthood in the future. Every country in Latin America has their own exhaustive list of people who died because they believed in the Gospel and the inherent dignity of each person created in the image of God.

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Update:

In this week’s edition of Vatican Connections, I reported that Argentine journalists have uncovered documents reportedly linking journalist Horacio Verbitsky to the military between 1978 and 1982. Verbitsky has since denied any ties to the military. He claims the newly discovered documents are false.

Verbitsky has repeatedly reported that Jorge Bergoglio turned in two Jesuits priests, Fr. Franz Jalics and Fr. Orlando Yorio, to the military regime, resulting in their kidnapping and torture.  In 2013 Fr. Jalics released a public statement saying although he once believed that Bergoglio was responsible for his kidnapping, he has since had several conversations with his former provincial and seen evidence satisfying him that Bergoglio did not play a role in the kidnapping.

If you’d like to know more, here is a good article by Ines San Martin of Crux

Watch this week’s Vatican Connections below:

A Pentecost Reflection: Don Bosco and the Salesians

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Fr. Mike Pace, SDB

All around us, this miracle of nature reveals the life-giving work of the Holy Spirit. Fifty days after the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, we celebrate the great Feast of Pentecost – when the same Spirit who at the dawn of time hovered over the chaos of nothingness to give us God’s gift of creation – breathed new life into the hearts, minds and souls of the once frightened Apostles, and the ever-faithful Virgin Mary, and in this way gave birth to the Church. From the Upper Room in Jerusalem, the Spirit of God, like a mighty wind and with tongues of fire, went forth to draw to the Risen Jesus people of every race and tongue.

Eighteen centuries later, that same Spirt worked a new Pentecost in Turin, Italy. The Holy Spirt breathed new life into the heart, mind and soul of a little boy who would grow up to be the voice of the Spirit for the young, St. John Bosco, whose bicentenary of birth we celebrate this year.

The Holy Spirit spoke to Don Bosco through many different means, including dreams. As a nine year old boy, the Spirit revealed to him the scope and purpose of his life: to teach the young the ugliness of sin (life outside the life giving power of the Spirit) and the beauty of virtue (a life crafted in response to the Spirit’s promptings).

To the young, the poor and the abandoned of Turin’s Industrial revolution, the Holy Spirit sent Don Bosco to stir up new flames of hope from the ashes of despair, to breathe transforming dignity into places of shame, and to enkindle a network of meaningful relationships through education, faith formation and responsible social service. Thus, generations were freed from the bleak, dehumanizing cycle of poverty and exploitation… and the ever-expanding Salesian family was born.

In apostolic times, the Holy Spirit commissioned Christian disciples to become witnesses of the Lord, even to the ends of the earth. That same Spirit would inspire Don Bosco to send Salesian missionaries beyond Italy to every continent on the planet. Ever since November 11, 1875, Salesian missionaries have brought the Gospel to every continent, to peoples awaiting the Springtime of Divine Love, inviting them to join the symphony of joy and optimism that comes through knowledge of Christ and active membership in his Body, the Church.

This year, the Great feast of Pentecost falls on May 24, which is also the feast day of Don Bosco’s Madonna, Mary Help of Christians. Just as Mary did for Don Bosco back then, so she does for us today: she helps us to fix our gaze on Jesus, to say YES to his life giving Spirit, so that we may continue the work of Pentecost, in the style and spirit of Don Bosco, praising God for our share in that symphony of life that is written in the “key of youth”, a privilege and a responsibility which divine providence has entrusted to us as sons and daughters of Don Bosco. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth.

Written by Father Michael Pace SDB, Pastor, guest blogger. 

Preaching Priests and Christian Superheros

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Noel-BlogWelcome to S+L’s Weekly News Round-Up. As the Director of Marketing and Communications here at S+L, many interesting Catholic news stories and articles come across my desk on a daily basis. Some of them we’ll cover on our different television programs and others I’d like to share with you on this blog.

This blog column is where I’ll point out some of the more interesting news pieces that I’ve come across over the past week! Enjoy!

This week, I have a slew of different topics to share with you. On Saturday, we at S+L TV will be broadcasting live from El Salvador the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Now, we all have a general knowledge of the process of canonization. But there is so much more that goes on behind the scenes before the official declaration of a saint. Check out this short video on the steps of how the Catholic Church declares a saint.

Hallelujah! Actors help future priests amp up sermons. Now, we’ve all been there, that Sunday Mass when the sermon was delivered in a rather monotone manner. And although a dry sermon doesn’t in any way reduce the validity of the Mass, it’s great to hear that Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary has hired two professional actors to put priests-in-training through an acting/public speaking workshop nicknamed ‘Preaching Boot Camp.’ Read all about it here.

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Let’s talk about life in the womb for a second. Again, we all know “conceptually” what happens as a baby grows in the mother’s womb but have you even seen it presented in video? I certainly haven’t until I saw this video! 9 Months in the Womb in 4 Incredible Minutes.

If you are a big TV fan like many, there are two new ‘Catholic’ sitcoms coming out and each are garnering very different reactions. Read about it here on the Crux.

I’ve always been a big comic book and super hero fan since I was a kid. So you can image how amazed and interested I was when I recently came across this article in Relevant Magazine. It’s a definitive ranking of Christian superheroes! Superheros with names like Bibleman, Captain Salvation, Mr. Christian and The Faith Walker are definitely uber cool dudes I’d like to hang out with. Even Captain America himself believes in God:

Read all about these Christian superheroes here.

Have you ever wondered about the physical location of where Jesus was crucified, died and was buried? Today, that place would be the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The site is venerated as Calvary (Golgotha), where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, and also contains the place where Jesus is said to have been buried and resurrected. Although it’s on my bucket list to visit one day, it is unfortunately not in the near future. However, for the short term, I’m more than happy to settle for this amazing video tour of the inside of the church and an explanation of the site.

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Finally, after a long and stressful day, there’s nothing better than to kick back at home with a cold drink or two, or three. Here’s an interesting question – is drinking alcohol wrong? What does the Bible say? Read about it here.

Well, that’s it for me this week folks. I’d love to hear you thoughts and comments on these stories. If you have any interesting stories yourself, please feel free to send them to me!

I hope you enjoy these little stories! I certainly have. Till next week!

– Noel

 

Photo: CNS

Leadership Lessons of two Latin American Pastors: Oscar of San Salvador & Jorge of Buenos Aires (& Rome)

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In his message for the World Day of Peace on January 1, 1972, Blessed Paul VI wrote: “Convinced as we all are of this irrepressible cry, why do we waste time in giving peace any other foundation than Justice? …Is it just, for example, that there should be entire populations which are not granted free and normal expression of that most jealously guarded right of the human spirit, the religious right? What authority, what ideology, what historical or civil interest can arrogantly claim a right to repress and stifle the religious sentiment in its legitimate human expression?

…The problem is extremely serious and complex; it is not for us to make it worse, or to resolve it on the practical level. …But it is precisely from this place that the invitation we give to celebrate Peace resounds as an invitation to practice Justice: “Justice will bring about Peace” (Cf: Is 32:17). We repeat this today in a more incisive and dynamic formula: “If you want Peace, work for Justice”.

I would like to share with you some thoughts on two Latin American pastors and bishops who understand very well what the above words mean. The first Latin American pastor was an Archbishop – the chief Shepherd of San Salvador – Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Goldamez, born in 1917 in the town of Ciudad Barrios, in the mountains of El Salvador near the border with Honduras. After serving as a country pastor and rector of two seminaries, he became bishop then archbishop at time of great social unrest in his country. His pulpit became a source of truth when the government censored news. Romero walked among the people and listened. “I am a shepherd,” he said, “who, with his people, has begun to learn a beautiful and difficult truth: our Christian faith requires that we submerge ourselves in this world.”

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Through his life and ministry, Archbishop Romero taught us that thinking with the Church meant to be rooted in God, loving and defending the poor, and out of fidelity, paying the price for doing so. He risked his own life as he defended the poor and oppressed. He laid down his life for his friends.

The spirituality and faith behind his struggle for life flowed from his belief in the God of the living who enters into human history to destroy the forces of death and allow the forces of life to heal, reconcile, and lift up those who walk in the valley of death. Romero taught us that poverty and death go together.

Oscar Romero’s life also speaks to us today by virtue of his untiring call for dialogue and negotiation. In a society that was terribly polarized, a society in which the usual way to relate to persons with whom one disagreed was to assassinate them, Romero always tried to open a space for communication, conversation, and understanding. In 1980, Romero brought the opposing sides of the government of El Salvador together for hours of talks, urging that the junta be given another chance. His example of bridge-building can be of particular importance to any nation today where change is often seen as a process of the oppressed taking on the pinstripes of the oppressors.

Oscar Romero’s untiring efforts on behalf of the poor give flesh and blood to the words of Mary’s Magnificat in the New Testament. In making her own the words of Hannah of the Old Testament’s prayer of praise to God, Mary reminds us that “God has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.” But God has not put the lowly up on the thrones of their oppressors! The problem is the thrones themselves that serve as a constant temptation to power, distortion, violence, abuse and manipulation. Romero’s life offers a completely different model of societal transformation. His plea for forgiveness, reconciliation and mercy is of paramount significance. Oscar Romero modeled for us the opposite of what the world models. The world thrives on manipulative, exploitative, competitive power. Romero embodied nutritive and integrative power: power on behalf of the other and a power shared with others.

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Murdered in cold blood by an assassin’s bullet as he celebrated Mass in a hospital on March 24, 1980, his last words in the sermon just minutes before his death reminded his congregation of the parable of the wheat. “Those who surrender to the service of the poor through love of Christ, will live like the grain of wheat that dies. It only apparently dies. If it were not to die, it would remain a solitary grain. The harvest comes because of the grain that dies…”

Archbishop Romero defended the right of the poor to organize and he was very critical of popular organizations that became overly or one-sidedly political. His wariness of politicization is especially important to us today as many nations, groups and even elements of the Church struggle to move from being narrowly political societies to becoming civil communities and forming a civilization of love.

Oscar Romero testified that the church must be the voice of the voiceless and the incessant defender of life. The church must passionately pursue justice, but without identifying itself with any one particular party or any one particular ideology. This can be a very difficult and challenging struggle, a veritable mine field or high wire balancing act. To walk this tightrope was especially challenging in the El Salvador of the ‘70s, which was so highly politicized that people were often not seen as persons, but instead, were identified only on the basis of their belonging to political parties or organizations. 

Jesuit Fr. Rutilio Grande, Archbishop Oscar Romero, the Maryknoll Missionaries and the Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador were pastors, university professors, teachers and lay missionaries who were brutally murdered because of the questions which they asked about justice and peace; because they sought the truth of very difficult situations of suffering and massive injustice; because they believed dearly in the value of a Catholic, critical education, which put into practice what the best elements of our Church stand for. Each person was disciple, missionary, educator and evangelist and each was killed because the education and evangelization which they shared with their students and flocks touched the enormity of human suffering and pain all around them in El Salvador.

What happened in El Salvador to these men and women and what continues to happen to similar people around the world who are authentic teachers, disciples and witnesses is not so much a barbarous and bizarre anomaly… because authentic Catholic Education, true Evangelization and missionary discipleship must educate and evangelize men and women into the disciplined sensitivity toward the suffering in the world whoever and wherever they may be. This is part of the education and evangelization called for by the Gospel. For without a specific Gospel-rooted effort to bring about such a religious and humane education and evangelization in our educational and pastoral milieus today, we will simply graduate and form people unaware of pain, suffering and the real cost of being Christian and being disciples.

Pope kisses infant during World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro

The second is a Jesuit, the former Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires – Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now known to us as Pope Francis, the Bishop of Rome. As Cardinal Archbishop of Argentina’s capital – a diocese with more than three million inhabitants – Cardinal Bergoglio developed and implemented a pastoral missionary plan based on communion and evangelization. He had four main goals: open and brotherly communities, an informed laity playing a lead role, evangelization efforts addressed to every inhabitant of the city, and assistance to the poor and the sick. He asked priests and lay people to work closely together in the work of evangelization and education of the people. During many years of fruitful pastoral ministry, Cardinal Bergoglio insisted, “Teachers of the faith need to get out of their cave,” and the clergy “out of the sacristy.” He required parish priests to live with their people, and in the same conditions as their people, even in radical simplicity and poverty. Authentic pastors should have the “odor of the sheep” if they are to be effective and credible.

When Cardinal Bergoglio spoke of social justice, he called people first of all to pick up the Catechism and to rediscover the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. His project was and remains very simple: if you follow Christ, you understand that “trampling upon a person’s dignity is a serious sin.”

“My people are poor and I am one of them”, Cardinal Bergoglio said so often, explaining his decision to live in an apartment above a school and cook his own meals. He frequented the Villas Miserias, advised his priests to show mercy and apostolic courage and to keep their doors open to everyone. One year before his election to the See of Peter, the Cardinal wrote a pastoral letter in which he reprimanded his own priests for refusing the Sacrament of Baptism to the children of single mothers.

His life was radically changed two years ago March 13 when “Padre Jorge,” as he was known by so many in Argentina, became Pope Francis. We have all witnessed and been recipients of his Petrine Ministry for the past two years. Since his election as Bishop of Rome, he has captured the mind and heart not only of the Church but also of the world. He has not changed a single doctrine of the Church but has ushered in a way of speaking, a new style of leadership that has shaken the Church and impacted the world.

Pope Francis kisses foot of inmate at Rome prison

Some call him a revolutionary. At the heart of his message is a transformative call to reconciliation and mercy. As leader of the Catholic Church, he asks us to let go of different forms of thinking and the desire to impose certain ideas at all costs. He proposes a humble way of committed people who base their lives on Gospel living. For Francis, compassion and mercy can truly change the world. This is the Christian revolution: namely a conversion to the origin of the Gospel message as a way to the future, a true revolution of tenderness and mercy.

Pope Francis’ electrifying homily to the new Cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica on February 15, 2015, is one of the most significant addresses that he has given in his two-year pontificate. Centered on “the Gospel of the marginalized,” it provides a road map for Catholic Church leaders and educators. Commenting on Jesus’ cure of the leper in Mark’s Gospel, he said, “Compassion leads Jesus to concrete action: he reinstates the marginalized!” Jesus responds “immediately” to the leper’s plea “without waiting to study the situation and all its possible consequences” because “for Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family!”

“This is scandalous to some people! but Jesus is not afraid of this kind of scandal! He does not think of the closed-minded who are scandalized even by a work of healing, scandalized before any kind of openness, by any action outside of their mental and spiritual boxes, by any caress or sign of tenderness that does not fit into their usual thinking and their ritual purity. He wanted to reinstate the outcast, to save those outside the camp.”

Francis finds the contemporary Church at a crossroads: “There are two ways of thinking and of having faith: we can fear to lose the saved and we can want to save the lost.” There is “the thinking of the doctors of the law, which would remove the danger by casting out the diseased person,” and “the thinking of God, who in his mercy embraces and accepts by reinstating him and turning evil into good, condemnation into salvation and exclusion into proclamation.”

“These two ways of thinking are present throughout the church’s history: casting off and reinstating,” Francis said. He recalled that Sts. Peter and Paul caused scandal, faced criticism, resistance and even hostility for following the path of reinstatement. Francis, and many of those who have embraced his message and strive to follow his example are also being criticized today for the same things: for not casting off but striving to reinstate those who are on the peripheries for a variety of reasons. …In healing the leper, “Jesus does not harm the healthy. Rather, he frees them from fear. He does not endanger them, but gives them a brother.

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The Church of Francis is the Church of Jesus Christ

Francis wants the church to be an instrument of reconciliation and welcome, a church capable of warming hearts, a church that is not bent over on herself but always seeking those on the periphery and those who are lost, a church capable of leading people home.

Pope Francis is neither conservative nor liberal but a radical who wants to bring about a revolution of mercy. In Evangelii Gaudium, he invites and challenges all of us to move beyond our “comfort zones.” He wants us to be warm, welcoming and forgiving. He wants us to eat with tax collectors and sinners; he wants us to forgive the woman caught in adultery (while admonishing her to sin no more); he wants us to welcome and respect foreigners (even our enemies), and, above all, not to judge others. He has spoken simply, powerfully and beautifully about returning to lost unity, a desire to achieve a missing fullness, a disarming invitation to simply come together to witness to the beauty of the love of Christ. He wants to build bridges that everyone can cross. He is especially conscious of the poor and those who have been marginalized, social outcasts kept on the fringes of society.

For Pope Francis, authentic power is service: Power in the Church is not about who kisses one’s hand but how many feet one can wash in the service of Christ. Pope Francis made this clear when he visited a youth detention center on his first Holy Thursday in Rome in 2013 and chose to wash the feet of young offenders, including two young women and two Muslims. He continued that tradition last year by washing the feet of elderly women and men and those with severe handicaps. This year on Holy Thursday, he washed the feet of 12 prisoners at Rome’s Rebibbia prison – incarcerated women and men. If we do not learn this Christian rule, we will never be able to understand Jesus’ true message on power and be effective teachers, educators, pastoral workers, and agents of justice and peace.

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The Christian realism of the “Joy of the Gospel” is beyond reactionary ideology and pie-in-the sky spirituality. A little compassion can move the world, Francis says. That is the Christian revolution at the core of Francis’ Petrine ministry, a conversion to the origin of the Gospel message as a way to the future, a revolution of mercy.

Pope Francis has a passion for the poor, the immigrant, the forgotten, and the “throw-aways.” He is the first Pope from the Southern Hemisphere, and the first from Latin America; these are the areas of the world where poverty is so great. Francis is inviting us to become witnesses, missionaries and disciples. That is our mission today. It is not new. Francis has brought new urgency, new passion, and I would suggest, new authenticity to this mission.

Francis of Buenos Aires (and Rome) and Blessed Oscar Romero of San Salvador are disciples, shepherds and missionaries, role models and Gospel witnesses, agents of reconciliation and builders of communities of faith. Francis leads the Church on earth, and Oscar watches over us from the heavenly Jerusalem. Their longing for reconciliation of the human family and their desire for justice and peace compel us to work for justice and peace in our time. Let us learn from the bold examples of these two Latin American pastors.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, is CEO of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation in Canada and English language assistant to the Holy See Press Office.

 

S+L to Air Beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero

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On Saturday, May 23, 2015, Salt + Light aired the Beatification Mass for Archbishop Oscar Romero live from El Salvador at 12:00pm ET.

The Mass was presided by Cardinal Angelo Amato at Plaza de El Salvador del Mundo in San Salvador, El Salvador. Our broadcast, hosted by Alicia Ambrosio and Deacon Pedro Guevara-Mann, was done in both Spanish and English on television, online and also on Roku. Watch the broadcast below.

To read more about Bl. Archbishop Oscar Romero, please see below:

The Transformative Leadership of Two Latin American Pastors

Archbishop Oscar Romero: Blessed and Defender of the Poor and Justice

The Mass is Ended – A Reflection on the 34th Anniversary of the Death of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador

Photo: CNS/Roberto Escobar, EPA