The only leap year baby to become Pope was Paul III, who was born in Italy on this very day in 1468. Known as Alessandro Farnese, he became the Pope in 1534. Pope Paul III, convened the Council of Trent in 1545 and he was a strong advocate of the arts. As Pope, he commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Last Judgement on the wall of the Sistine Chapel. According to many scholars, Nicolaus Copernicus dedicated his work, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of Celestial Spheres) to Pope Paul III because of his contribution to the arts.
Pope Paul III died in 1549 and is burined in a tomb in which Michelangelo designed. To read more about Pope Paul III click here. Enjoy all the blessings that come with this "leap" day today!
We can look upon Lent as a journey. Think about the journeys we take-long journeys that can take days, even weeks to complete. Throughout this journey we experience ups and downs. We don't really expect them to go smoothly but we prepare for those things and deal with them when they come up.
A new movie, called The Way, is a movie about a journey in search of self, understanding and reconciliation. The Way, written and directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his father, Martin Sheen takes us on a journey with characters that we come to care about and relate to.
The story goes that Tom (Sheen) is a California doctor whose son, Daniel (Estevez), dies in an accident while beginning a 500-mile pilgrimage to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela along the northern coast of Spain. When Tom arrives to claim Daniel's body, he decides to carry Daniel's ashes on to Santiago to complete Daniel's pilgrimage. Along the way, the pilgrimage becomes uniquely his own.
Sheen, says of the pilgrim experience, "As we go along, we begin to shed some of the excess weight that we're carrying exteriorly, and then something interesting happens: transcendence-the journey inside." What a great message for Lent as we are taking our journeys towards spiritual renewal.
We've talk about actress-turned-contemplative sister Mother Dolores Hart, O.S.B., prioress of the of the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut, in this blog before. A documentary about her journey to religious life was nominated - but alas did not win - an Academy Award. I for one was hoping Tim Gunn was going to interview her on the red carpet and ask her about her dress, but in a way he did.
|Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, CSC with
Rev. Martin Luther King during Civil Rights
rally in 1964. Click here for more about the
moment captured in this iconic photo.
Hesburgh, now 95 years old, was a leading figure in the U.S. civil rights movement and an educator who was considered among the finest of the 20th century.
The citizenship award is very rare, as it is not an honorary award and is given to those who do not qualify through ancestral rules. Previous recipients have included former House Speaker "Tip” O’Neill and former Coca Cola president Donald Keough.
Learn more about the Congregation of Holy Cross.
How can we change course and really deepen our faith this Lent?
According to Jeanne Hunt writing in St. Anthony's Messenger, we begin by cleaning out our spiritual closets and getting rid of those spiritual skeletons that are hindering our relationship with God and others.
"We Catholics and other Christians," says Hung "have long put on spiritual ashes to renew our faith and turn back to God wholeheartedly. Yet, our traditional pillars of Lenten practice need to be regularly revisited and tweaked. We may need to leave our comfort zone and give ourselves a genuine spiritual workout. For Lent to really matter, we must take a hard look at the state of our spirits. Then we can respond in a way that establishes deeper connections with God, our families--and even ourselves.
"God invites us to look at all our relationships with a willingness to make changes. Giving up things that mean little to us, such as candy, soda, etc., are good but that cannot impact the state of our souls. We have to begin to look critically at how we spend time in prayer, what we worship in the secular world, or how we spend our money."
Here is what Hunt lists as her Favorite Lenten Fasts:
Proclaim an electronic fast on weekends. That means no iPad, iPod, Blackberry or computer until Monday morning. Then spend the resulting free time visiting people you love and spending quality time with your spouse and children.
Stay out of unnecessary stores during Lent. Anything beyond the grocery store, pharmacy, etc., is off-limits. Instead of adding more stuff during Lent, give away or throw away three things each day before Easter.
Go green in a big way. Every day perform a Lenten “random act of kindness for the earth.” Keep a journal of your green project work, and after Easter do these acts regularly.
Fast from media during Lent. Stop watching TV or Internet news or even listening to the radio. For 40 days, turn your thoughts to God. Choose to spend your time reading a book or magazine that feeds your soul.
Walk everywhere you can. Limit gas usage to a certain amount and make it last all week. Each day, walk with God. Simply imagine that you and Jesus Christ are running or walking side by side. Talk to him and listen to him.
Hunt recommends that we look at our lives objectively, honestly recognize our weaknesses, and then design a fast that responds to those weaknesses. Above all, says Hunt, "Don’t do something that comes easily. Your Lenten workout should hurt a little."
Enjoy your spiritual exercise!
According to the just released NRVC/CARA Study on Educational Debt and Vocations to Religious Life, seven in ten institutes (69 percent) turned away at least one person because of student loans. In addition, many religious communities ask young people to delay their applications to enter because of educational debt.
“For those entering religious life, the expectation is that they be debt-free,” says Holy Cross Brother Paul Bednarczyk, Executive Director of NRVC, “but for graduates in today’s economy, where education costs have risen by 900 percent since 1978, paying off loans can take years to accomplish. The burden of student debt has become a serious problem for religious communities desirous of welcoming younger members.”
Of approximately 15,000 serious inquiries to men’s and women’s religious institutes in the past 10 years, one in three (32 percent) involved a person with educational debt averaging $28,000, a figure slightly higher than the $25,000 national average.
The practice of assuming debt places a heavy and growing financial burden on religious communities, the study reveals. Those applying to enter religious life during the past 10 years carried $3 million in educational debt, and if national trends continue, that overall student debt load will likely rise by 5 percent annually.
Men and women whose educational debt is delaying their entrance into a religious community often develop creative strategies for paying off their loans, such as online candy sales, marathon runs, or bingo fundraisers.
“Because religious sisters, brothers, and priests are vital to the life of the church and provide great service to society,” says Bednarczyk: “we plan to bring together key stakeholders to develop strategies to ease this significant and growing barrier to religious vocations.” Time for everyone to put their thinking caps . . .
NOTE: Vocation Match has been tracking this debt trend. In 2011, 40 percent of VISION site visitors who completed a Vocation Match profile said they were not debt-free that was up from 27 percent in 2007. So far in 2012, 38 percent of reader respondents say they are not debt free. Find more VISION reader stats here. Also in a recent Fall 2010 Tiny Snapshot Survey, 49 percent of respondents answered YES to the question: Has debt affected your readiness or eligibility to religious life?
Mardi Gras literally "Fat Tuesday", is the last hurrah before the Catholic season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. The name comes from the tradition of slaughtering and feasting upon a fattened calf on the last day of Carnival.
What most people don't know is that this celebration relates back to the Christmas Season, through the ordinary time interlude known as Carnival. Carnival comes from the Latin, carne vale, which means "farewell to the flesh." Like many holidays and celebrations its roots are found in pre-Christian traditions based on the seasons. The season starts on Epiphany and ends with a huge celebration on "Fat Tuesday" or Mardi Gras.
Epiphany is also traditionally when celebrants serve King's Cake, a custom that began in France in the 12th century. Legend has it that the cakes were made in a circle to represent the circular routes that the Wise Men took to find Jesus. In the early days, a coin or bean was hidden inside the cake, and whoever found the item was said to have good luck in the coming year. In Louisiana, bakers now put a small baby, representing the Christ Child, in the cake; the recipient is then expected to host the next King Cake party.
There are well-known season-long Carnival celebrations in Europe and Latin America, including Nice, France; Cologne, Germany; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The best-known celebration in the U.S. is in New Orleans and the French-Catholic communities of the Gulf Coast. Mardi Gras came to the New World in 1699, when a French explorer arrived at the Mississippi River, about 60 miles south of present day New Orleans. He named the spot Point du Mardi Gras because he knew the holiday was being celebrated in his native country that day.
The official colors of Mardi Gras, with their roots in Catholicism, were chosen 10 years later: purple, a symbol of justice; green, representing faith; and gold, to signify power. By midnight tonight, all the festivities will be over, but the true challenge lies ahead, when we begin our 40 day Lenten journey which begins on Ash Wednesday.
Happy Mardi Gras!
Sources: American Catholic
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Are you looking for a religious community that might be a "good fit" for your interests, spirituality, and personality? Here are a couple of tips on maximizing the Vocation Match program.
Use the “Importance Slider” (found under many questions in Vocation Match) to indicate the relative priority a particular question has for you in your search for potential religious communities. This will help us weigh your answers so you are more likely to match with communities that share your values and interests.
By adjusting the “Importance Slider” you can change the number of communities with which you match. Place higher importance on more questions and you will end up matching with fewer communities (because you are being more selective) but perhaps find a better fit. Lower importance on more questions will likely match you with more communities.
Ichthys, the Greek word meaning fish, is a predominant and powerful Christian symbol. Mentioned in the Gospels several times, the fish is quite symbolic of Jesus Christ. The letters in Ichthys are Greek words which make the Greek phrase, "Jesus Christ, Son of God, and Savior."
The historical meaning of the "Jesus Fish" goes back to after the Resurrection of Jesus. During the years following the Resurrection, the Church grew rapidly and the Christians were being persecuted by the Romans and Jews. Because it was dangerous to be a Christian, strangers that would meet would draw on the ground the upper have of the fish symbol. Upon recognizing the symbol the other would add the bottom and complete the drawing which was a fish. It may have been very simple but it was also easy to erase in case it was not recognized.
As we enter into Lent, we recall the importance of Jesus in our own lives and we begin to reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, by his death and resurrection. Fr. Greg Friedman O.F.M. with American Catholic gives a great 60 second piece on the importance of the "Jesus Fish" and how this ancient symbol points directly to Jesus. During Lent, we try to realign ourselves with Jesus, by sacrificing something we enjoy. Normally, we give up meat, we fast, we pray, and we give alms to those in need.
Like Jesus, fish have fed thousands of people and nourished them. During Lent, we use the example of Jesus and the Gospels to nourish our souls and get feed by the Eucharist in order to have eternal life. We need the nourishment of Christ in our own lives and as we approach Lent, our nourishment comes in the sacrifice and preparation for the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter.
The final words of Jesus Christ as he died on the cross should prompt Christians to pray for those who have hurt them Pope Benedict XVI said on Feb. 15, the Catholic News Reported.
"Jesus by asking the Father to forgive those who are crucifying him, invites us to the difficult act of praying for those who do us wrong, who have damaged us, knowing always how to forgive," the Pope told over 6,000 pilgrims attending today's general audience in Paul VI Hall.
The Pope urged people to pray that "the light of God may illuminate their hearts, inviting us, that is, to live in our prayers, the same attitude of mercy and love that God has towards us."This attitude, he explained, is summed up in one line from the Our Father - "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
Over the past several months, the Pope has used his weekly general audiences to explore the issue of prayer. This week he focused on the three last prayers of Jesus from the cross.
Those three final prayers of Jesus are "tragic" for every man but are also "pervaded by the deep calm that comes from trust in the Father and the will to abandon himself totally to him." They are a "supreme act of love" which went "to the limit and beyond the limit."As well as prompting us to pray for our enemies, the final prayers of Jesus should also teach Christians that "no matter how hard the trial, difficult the problem, heavy the suffering, we never fall from the hands of God," Pope Benedict said.
|BASILICA of St. Augustine, Annaba, Algeria.|
Pope Benedict XVI has made a personal contribution towards the restoration of the 112-year-old Basilica of St. Augustine in Algeria. The church, located in modern Annaba, overlooks the site of ancient Hippo, where Saint Augustine was bishop. In addition to the pope’s donation, the Papal Foundation has also contributed to the project.
Because authorities in both Algeria and France, as well as a number of institutions, religious orders, and benefactors, are financing the work, Vatican Radio said the restoration is “a symbol of coexistence and fraternity between the two shores of the Mediterranean, between Christians and Muslims, between the West and Islam, between people who seek the truth.”
Since today is Valentine's Day, a day where we express our love for others, I thought it would be neat to post a video about a program that helps former gang members. Father Greg Boyle is the founder and Executive Director of Homeboy Industries, a non-profit that works with former gang members to help transform their lives, create positive communities and "find the person they are really meant to be." The link below takes you to Fr. Boyle talking about the importance of his work and the importance of helping those that are in need.
Homeboy Industries started as a jobs program offering alternatives to gang violence in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Homeboy assists at-risk, recently released, and formerly gang involved youth to become contributing members of their communities through a variety of services in response to their multiple needs. Free programs -- including counseling, education, tattoo removal, substance abuse and addiction assistance, job training and job placement -- enable young people to redirect their lives. Homeboy provides them with hope for their futures and is the nation’s largest gang-intervention and re-entry program – a model to all.
So today as we show our affection for those we love, let's remember to pray for those who need love and support.
Sources: Homeboy Industries Homepage and Huffington Post
Brazil's coastline, its Sugarloaf Mountain, and the iconic "Christ the Redeemer" statue are all part of the logo for the 2013 World Youth Day which was unveiled on Feb. 7.
"In the faith of the nations the heart has a major role," World Youth Day said in a note explaining the heart-shaped logo.
"It represents Brazil's welcome to the world as a nation of generous heart and hospitable people, while also conveying the faith of the disciples who carry Jesus in their hearts," according to Archbishop Tempesta.
Excitement surrounded the unveiling of the 2013 World Youth Day logo, which took place at an event hosted by Rio de Janeiro's Archbishop Orani João Tempesta. A 25-year-old Brazilian man, Gustavo Huguenin, submitted the winning logo design in a contest held by organizers of the international Catholic In his design, geographical and religiously-themed elements come together to form a heart, arranged around Christ's image taken from Brazil's internationally-known statue.
The top half incorporates the outline of Sugarloaf Mountain, the peak overlooking Rio de Janeiro. World Youth Day's traditional "pilgrim cross" is superimposed on the mountain.
Meanwhile, the lower right half of the heart shape combines with the right side of Christ's image to form the shape of Brazil's coastline. The logo shares the green, blue, and yellow color scheme of the country's flag
As we prepare for the next World Youth Day. Let us keep the youth and young adults in our prayers. The next World Youth Day takes place July 23-28th 2013 in Rio de Janeiro.Sources: Catholic News Agency
This week the Benedictine Sisters of Erie got a much deserved mention in the Huffington Post being a group that inspires Faith. Each week the post writes about a well deserving person or group that works in bettering communities by faith and love.
The Benedictine Sisters of Erie are doing just that and more. These women offer services to teens, children, families, the elderly, physically challenged, homeless, and broken. While they may not always have the physical room, they always have their hearts open and welcoming to those in need.
The program that is being highlighted is their Neighborhood Inner City Art House. Since its inception this home provides classes in the arts-visual, performing and literary--- for at risk youth in a safe clean environment. There is no cost associated with attending any of these classes. They thrive mainly on donations and volunteers. The home has had over 2000 volunteers and roughly 500 children use this facility each year. The goal of the art house is to enable children to experience beauty, grow in a positive way, and develop into a fully productive human being.
What motivates this ministry? According to their website: Inspired by the Gospel and the Rule of Benedict we respond to the needs of all God's people. We steward the gifts, talents and skills that have been given to us and extend them through service. Community and non-community ministries alike provide the opportunity for meaningful work that is consistent with our monastic commitment to glorify God in all things.
So if you ever stop by Erie, PA check out this amazing home and see what you can do to help.
The armed forces don't seem like a place where one would be called to serve the Lord or be a minister to faith. The Huffington Post published a really nice article about hearing your call while serving in the military. According to the Post, there are a number of men who became military chaplains, either by a twist of fate or perhaps divine Providence many they found their calling while on active duty.
Many chaplains enter into the military straight from the seminary but some are called directly while still serving. The article talks about Muslim, Jewish, and Christian's who have all been called while serving to become military chaplains.
Brian Wood, now a Catholic chaplain, wanted to be a priest according to his parents but instead of enrolling into the seminary he went into the Air Force. Several Catholic chaplains told him that he should become a priest, he said, citing his "strength of faith and they thought I had a glow to me, that I looked like a priest."
Today, he is a seminarian at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, supported by both his home diocese in Lubbock, Texas, and the Archdiocese for the Military Services. After his expected graduation in June, Wood is scheduled to do three years of pastoral work in Lubbock, where he hopes to remain in the Air Force reserves, before returning to active duty. "I have a strong passion for the military and for my faith," Wood said. "What better way to put those two together than become a military chaplain."
Let us continue to keep the men and women who serve our country in our daily prayers.
What exactly was the influence of Paul the Apostle and Jesus? In a recent article in the Huffington Post, Robert Orlando writes how crucial Paul's role was in developing our Christian faith. As he writes, Jesus was the figure head of the Church and prepared the way while Paul recruited and developed Christianity into what it is today. The influence Jesus had on Paul manifested into our Christian faith today.
According to this article, Jesus' ministry was primarily a message to the Jewish people in preparation for a Messianic kingdom. It was Paul who targeted a larger Greco-Roman community. Gred Ludeman stated, "Without Paul there would be no Church and no Christianity. He is the most decisive person that shaped Christianity as it developed. Without Paul we would have had reformed Judaism....but no Christianity."
Paul's new Gospel broke with the original followers of Jesus, and ultimately gets him almost killed in Jerusalem. However, the central theme fusing the life of Paul in his letters with Jesus from the Gospels was the coming Kingdom of God. This "visitation" was not the Jewish understanding of the general resurrection. When Paul confronted Jesus in his Damascus vision, he also faced a new idea of resurrection -- but there was no kingdom, no destruction of Rome, no end times. In other words, there were no signs of Jewish Messiah.
From this moment forward, the Christian movement pivots from Figurehead to Founder. Paul's interpretation of this vision of the Messiah would determine the meaning of his life, his mission and eventually the Western World.
Still a common argument against Paul as founder of Christianity was the fact that he had a movement to convert to, but again, this is not what is in question. The question is would this original cult of Jewish Christian believers in Judea -- without Paul -- have come to found the Christian church?
History has claimed Jesus "the Christ" as the figurehead, but without Paul the Apostle, the founder, who improvised his message -- free of the Jewish religion -- and broke the resistance of his original followers there would be no church and perhaps not even a Jesus.
So what do you think? Was Paul's role truly this significant?
British bishops plan to use the 2012 London Olympic Games to renew interest in the Catholic faith, with initiatives ranging from fighting human trafficking and homelessness to promoting youth ministry and ecumenical dialogue. Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, president of the bishops' conference, called the Olympics and Paralympics "a moment of great opportunity for us all."
"These great sporting events generate all sorts of good ideas and initiatives, particularly for young people, reminding all of us of the importance of good health, the dignity of our bodies, the care of our physical well-being and its spiritual meaning," the archbishop said in a Jan. 24 statement.
The Catholic Church in Britain has been preparing for three years to seize the opportunity presented by the games to evangelize, said James Parker, the Catholic executive coordinator for the games.According to Parker there will also be 100 days of Peace, which encourages churches and schools to promote peace 50 days before and after the Olympics, through various opportunities and programs. The goal is to try and help combat violence and crime.
What a great initiative and what a creative way to get people active in being spiritually healthy and physically healthy. To read more about what the British Bishops are doing check out this article in the National Catholic Reporter.
This week in our parish bulletin our Pastor addressed the issue of poverty and those that are poor. The reason for this was on more than one occasion a woman and her child were begging for money outside our church after mass. While many people suggested she use our Social Services Ministry, she preferred cash. However, the issue of poverty and helping the needy is quite an important one. We are called to take care of those who are poor. The Gospel of Luke is filled with parables and sayings from Jesus telling us that indifference to the poor is unacceptable. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us that our final judgment will depend on how we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and welcome the stranger. This is an obligation of all Christians to take care of the poor.
While reading this story in our bulletin, I came across this article in the CNS about Bishop Murry of Ohio writing on this very issue of poverty and taking care of the poor. According to Bishop George Murry in a pastoral letter on poverty, "Jesus said we will always have the poor with us, if each of us stops on our own journey to help a neighbor in need, the kingdom of God will come closer to realization each day". Jesus called upon his followers, he said, "to see and love our neighbors as ourselves. There is a sense that we have lost our historic concern for the poor among us. Sometimes we hear language and share attitudes that deride persons living in poverty," said the bishop, who also is secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The pastoral, "Who Is My Neighbor?" was dated January 2012 to coincide with National Poverty Awareness Month. Poverty "is not a simple problem" because it "involves family dynamics, minimal material resources, missed opportunities, personal fears, complex relationships, cultural norms, geographic locations, isolation and lack of understanding," Bishop Murry said. "Some who are poor are embarrassed to admit they have lost their jobs, their homes, and sometimes even their identity.
Most of our parishes or congregations have Social Services that provide the necessary resources for the poor. Our parish ministry helps out people where ever we can. As our Pastor suggested if you want to help the poor donate to a social service ministry, volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate clothing or groceries. These are all things that can help those who are less fortunate and bring about the Kingdom of God.
Here are some words from Blessed Mother Teresa that will help us to really think about the poor: At the end of our lives, we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made or how many great things we have done. We will be judged by "I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless and you took me in." Hungry not only for food-but hungry for love. Naked not only for clothing---but naked for human dignity and respect. Homeless not only for a room of bricks-but homeless because of rejection. This is Christ in distressing disguise.