Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

A Seminarian Thanksgiving in Rome

Vatican City, Nov 22, 2017 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Seminarians studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome have a lot to be thankful for come Thanksgiving Day. Among them is their community, and also for home-baked pumpkin pie, made by their fellow students, the fifth-year student priests of the college.

Fr. Kevin Ewing, a newly-ordained priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, is the leader of this year’s seven intrepid volunteers, who during two afternoons before Thanksgiving will assemble and bake 90 pumpkin pies, to be eaten at the NAC’s annual Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday.

Situated atop Janiculum hill overlooking the Vatican, the campus is home to roughly 250 seminarians and priests studying in Rome for the Church in the U.S., Canada and Australia, as well as numerous faculty members and graduate students.

Since the students aren’t able to return home for the holiday, they try to make it a big community event, especially for seminarians who may be experiencing their first time away from home for a holiday.

Fr. Daniel Hanley, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, VA and the director of admissions for the college, told CNA that his favorite part of the festivities “is the spirit that's engendered here among the men.”

During a time usually associated with family, it can be difficult for some students to be away from home, he said, but “the whole spirit of the house is a desire to make the day good for each other.”

And the fifth-year students baking the pies? That’s gone on a long time, something Hanley remembers as already a part of long-established tradition when he was a student in Rome in the early 2000s.

This year’s seven priests have limited baking acumen, but “as long as there’s enough people there willing to lend a hand and follow the recipe and watch the oven it’ll come out alright,” Ewing said.

Part of the tradition also includes the fifth-year priests, and transitional deacons not returning to Rome the following year, serving the dinner, Ewing explained: “It’s a way of giving back to the community in a way that we’ve received now for four or five years.”

On Thanksgiving, the day’s festivities will begin around 6 am with a newer development, the NAC’s very own 5k “Turkey Trot,” which starts at the college, and winds around the outside of the Vatican, before returning, uphill, to the seminary.

“Its claim to fame is it's the only Turkey Trot to go around a sovereign nation,” joked third-year seminarian Michael Buck.

An Australian, studying for the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Buck will be celebrating only his third Thanksgiving this year. He said that “discovering the tradition” has definitely been one of the great joys of being at the seminary.

Following the run, seminarians will meet back in their halls to enjoy a leisurely breakfast together before preparing for the noon Mass, which is “the center of our day,” stated Hanley.

The big meal will follow, including guests and friends from around Rome, especially American expats. Another tradition is for seating to be arranged according to home state, tables adorned with state-themed décor, such as sports jerseys or a papier-mâché cactus.

The Australian students – there are five – usually sit at a table together, but have decided this year to spread themselves out among the Americans, Buck said, as a way of more fully integrating into the holiday.

The dinner, which “captures most the festive atmosphere of the day,” according to Buck, will be a traditional American dinner in most ways – complete with turkey and mashed potatoes with gravy. But because they’re still in Rome, a dish of ravioli will provide an Italian twist.

After dinner there will be some free-time, and students often use that opportunity to make video calls home to their families.

Fr. Hanley noted that one of his favorite memories of Thanksgiving Day was walking into the chapel after dinner one year to offer a personal prayer of thanksgiving, and finding more than 100 seminarians praying before the Blessed Sacrament.

“It wasn’t an event, it was just that all these other men decided to go in and pray… and give thanks on Thanksgiving,” he said.

The final event of the holiday weekend will be the “Spaghetti Bowl,” an annual flag football match between a team of “new men” of the seminary, first-year and new transfer students, and a team of upperclassmen, nicknamed the “old men.”

A lot of the weekend is designed, Hanley said, to strengthen “the bond of the new men class – with each other – and then to strengthen their bond as members of this community.” Though most people would want to be home for Thanksgiving if they could, he noted that most seminarians seem to look forward to the weekend.

“There is certainly an atmosphere of thanksgiving and an atmosphere of taking stock” over the day’s celebrations, Buck explained, as well as joy for getting to spend the day together.

As an Aussie, Buck also wanted to offer his own gratitude for the holiday and getting to participate, saying he shares his own “thanksgiving for being able to share in Thanksgiving.”

 

Catholics encounter the homeless on the streets of Hollywood

Los Angeles, Calif., Nov 22, 2017 / 02:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Eucharistic procession is not the first thing people expect to see on the streets of Hollywood, California.

But last Saturday, that’s what happened, with hundreds of people taking part in an evening of prayer and encounter with the homeless.

Nathan Sheets, executive director of The Center, a group that works to fight isolation among the homeless, told CNA that the event provided “an opportunity for individuals from the community, and outside the community, to have a [long-lasting] encounter.”

“Seeing the common humanity in other individuals can only happen with these types of encounters, and I believe that from those types of experiences ... our imaginations for how we can help can be spurned to more than just on one night.”

The Center is one of the homeless advocacy groups that make up the “Beloved Movement,” the coalition that organized the Nov. 19 event, which took place on the first World Day of the Poor.

The event started with Sunday Vigil Mass at Blessed Sacrament parish, followed by a Eucharistic Procession through downtown Hollywood. About 800 attendees proceeded in song or silent prayer, encountering those they met on the streets, and then returned to the parish for adoration and testimonies.

Deacon Spencer Lewrence, another organizer for the event, said a woman named Diane shared her past experiences of addiction and prostitution along Hollywood Boulevard, but how she now returns with her kids to the same street to aid the homeless.

She also recited a poem called the “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” he told CNA, including the line, “We all have wounds big or small, but joined with Christ we share them all.”

Deacon Lewrence said the event helps Catholics realize that we share a common human dignity with the poor and discover Christ’s constant love even in times of weakness.

“We see Beloved as a movement to get out of ourselves and get close to those who are homeless or who just feel homeless inside for whatever reason. We can recognize that we feel that way too. We see ourselves in each other,” he said.

The Center’s mission is to extend this shared experience to more than one night, said Sheets, adding that long-term community is the best means to create true change.  

In addition to addressing housing, health care resources and other issues faced by the homeless, The Center also works to fight isolation. Its day program, called the Wellness Program, invites individuals to participate in “trauma-informed groups, and community activities to build trust and rapport” while providing a healthy meal.

“About 25 percent of the individuals we see each day have gotten into housing in the time they have become part of our community at The Center, and yet they still come for the community-building groups and our 9 a.m. Monday to Thursday Coffee Hour,” Sheets said.

Encountering more than 200 people per week, the organization will engage its clients in poetry, short stories, and other artistic endeavors.

Sheets said creating this safe place allows the homeless to experience a rich community that encourages change while being given the freedom to improve on their own time.

“We worked to help find housing for a guy who moved in last week, who spent more than 10 years coming into The Center before he articulated a desire to get an ID, turn on his Social Security and then look for housing.”

Having witnessed many long-lasting relationships like these, Sheets said one of his favorite parts of Friday’s event is watching parishioners begin to build this community with the homeless.

“At the end of the day, I think the most important work happens through long-term relationship building, and I think this was the start of something like that for a group of Catholics who may not have had this experience before.”

 

Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians to be observed this Sunday

Washington D.C., Nov 22, 2017 / 11:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has announced Sunday, Nov. 26 as a Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians.

“On the solemnity of Christ the King, I ask that the entire church in the United States come together in a special way for a day of prayer for persecuted Christians to express our solidarity with those who are suffering,” says Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

“To focus attention on the plight of Christians and other minorities is not to ignore the suffering of others,” he said. “Rather by focusing on the most vulnerable members of society, we strengthen the entire fabric of society to protect the rights of all.”

The bishops’ conference made the announcement in collaboration with Aid to the Church in Need, Catholic Relief Services, the Knights of Columbus, and the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA).

In a statement announcing the day of prayer, the bishops’ conference said that the Nov. 26 “Solemnity of Christ the King is a fitting time to reflect on religious freedom and Christians around the world who are being persecuted in unheard of numbers.”

The day of prayer also begins a week of awareness and education, entitled “Solidarity in Suffering.” The week will run Nov. 26-Dec. 3 and will use the social media hashtag #SolidarityinSuffering.
 
Parishes and other groups participating in the day and week of prayer can find resources at www.usccb.org/middle-east-Christians. Resources include education materials, suggested Mass intercessions and homily notes, logos for local use, and recommended aid agencies.

Also available at the website is Aid to the Church in Need’s executive summary of “Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians Oppressed for their Faith 2015-2017.”

 

Pope: Ideological colonization is 'blasphemy' that leads to persecution

Vatican City, Nov 22, 2017 / 11:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday, Pope Francis blasted what he has often referred to as “ideological colonization,” which he said is a sin against God that leads to persecution.

This persecution can have both spiritual and cultural elements, and can have both religious and political motives, he said. Cultural persecution occurs when a new culture comes in and wants “to make everything new and to make a clean break with everything” that was there prior, wiping away “the cultures, the laws and the religions of a people.”

In the past, Francis has often used the term “ideological colonization” in describing what he views as the oppression of developing nations by more powerful ones, particularly in the West, who seek to impose their values on poorer countries by making the adoption of these values a condition for humanitarian aid or development money.

Two examples of this “ideological colonization” Francis has spoken of frequently are the distribution of condoms in developing nations and the promotion of gender theory.

Speaking from the chapel of the Vatican's Saint Martha guesthouse during his daily homily Nov. 21, the Pope centered his reflection on the martyrdom of Eleazar in the day's first reading from the Second Book of Maccabees.

Eleazar, a wise elderly man who was well respected by his peers, was forced by the king, Antiochus Ephiphanes, to eat pork, which the Jews considered unclean and forbidden for consumption. Under penalty of death, Eleazar refused to eat it, even when friends urged him to substitute the pork with another meat, pretending to eat it while really consuming something acceptable.

To do this, Eleazar argued, would not only be dishonest and go against his own life's convictions, but could also cause scandal for the youth, who would think that he had violated the law and may be tempted to do so as well.

He was then tortured and killed for choosing to remain faithful to God's law, which Pope Francis said was the result of a cultural persecution.

Francis said the persecution that eventually led to Eleazar's martyrdom began in the previous day's reading, also from Maccabees, when some of the people, after seeing the Antiochus Ephiphanes' power and beauty, asked the king to give them the faculty to “introduce the pagan institutions of other nations.”

Yet while many people left tradition behind and accepted the pagan way of doing things, there were some, like Eleazar and other martyrs spoken of in the Book of Maccabees, who sought to defend the “true traditions” of the people.

Francis called King Antiochus Epifanes the “perverse root” that gave birth to this persecution through a desire to cling to power.

“And this is the path of cultural colonization that ends up persecuting believers too,” he said, adding that “we do not have to go too far to see some examples: we think of the genocides of the past century, which were a new, cultural thing: 'Everyone equal, and those who don't have pure blood, out.'”

With this mentality, “there is no place for differences, there is no place for others, there is no place for God,” he said.

Pointing to how Eleazar died saying he wanted to leave the youth with a good example to follow, the Pope said Eleazar gave his life for love of God and of the Law, and so became “a root for the future.”

Faced with the perverse root that leads to this ideological and cultural colonization, “there is this other root that gives (his) life for the future to grow.”

Not everything new is bad, Francis clarified, pointing to the novelty of Jesus' message in the Gospel. Because of this, he stressed the importance of knowing how to discern, asking, “Is this new thing from the Lord, does it come from the Holy Spirit, is it rooted in God? Or does this newness come from a perverse root?”

In an apparent reference to abortion, the Pope noted how in the past “it was a sin to kill children,” but now “it is not a problem, it is a perverse novelty.”

God's novelty, he said, never “negotiates,” but rather, grows and looks toward the future, whereas ideological and cultural colonizations “only look to the present; they deny the past, and do not look to the future. They live in the moment, not in time, and so they can’t promise us anything.”

This attitude of trying to make everyone equal and eradicate differences, he said, is “a blasphemy against God the Creator,” because each time an ideological or cultural colonization comes along, “it wants to change Creation as it was made by (God).”

In the face of this, Pope Francis said there is only one remedy: “bearing witness; that is, martyrdom” of people such as Eleazar.

“Yes, I dialogue with those who think otherwise, but my testimony is thus, according to the law of God,” he said, noting that Eleazar doesn't think about money or power, but looks to the future and “the legacy of his testimony” for the youth.

Eleazar's witness, then, becomes a root that gives life to others, Francis said, and voiced his hope that this testimony “will help us in moments of confusion in the face of the cultural and spiritual colonization that is being proposed to us.”

 

As Zimbabwe's president resigns, Catholic bishops call for peace and patience

Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov 22, 2017 / 10:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As events continue to unfold surrounding the resignation of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, Catholic bishops of the country have called for the prioritization of the nation’s best interests through peace efforts and a return to Constitutional order.

“The Church has keenly and prayerfully followed the recent tense events in the country,” read a Nov. 19 statement from a group of Zimbabwe bishops.

“We, your Shepherds, encourage those central to these delicate processes (particularly the Zimbabwe Defense Forces and the political leadership) that they maintain the best interests of the nation as a priority and continue to work tirelessly for a peaceful end to the crisis and to speedy return to normalcy and Constitutional order,” the statement continued.

The letter was signed by Bishop Michael D. Bhasera of Masvingo, apostolic administrator of Gweru; Archbishop Robert C. Ndlovu of Harare, apostolic administrator of Chinhoyi; Archbishop Alex Thomas of Bulawayo; Bishop Albert Serrano of Hwange; Bishop Paul Horan of Mutare; and Bishop Rudolf Nyandoro of Gokwe.

After Mugabe fired vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa two weeks ago, thousands of protesters took to the streets, calling for Mugabe’s resignation.

After being placed under house arrest in an apparent coup by the Zimbabwe National Army, an impeachment hearing was opened against Mugabe. He announced his resignation on Nov. 21, after a rule of 37 years.

The Zanu-PF Members of Parliament have brought charges against Mugabe, saying that he allowed his wife, Grace Mugabe, to usurp constitutional powers and also violated the constitution during elections.

He has also been accused of economic mismanagement. Currently, the average person in Zimbabwe is 15 percent poorer now than they were before Mugabe’s rule, according to BBC.

According to BBC, some MPs danced on the parliament floor as they heard the news of his resignation, and cheers could be heard in the streets.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May called the resignation an opportunity for Zimbabwe “to forge a new path free of the oppression that characterized his rule.”

President Mugabe was the world’s oldest leader at the age of 93 and had been in power since 1980. According to the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, former vice president Mnangagwa will succeed Mugabe.

During the upcoming transition of power and governance, the Catholic bishops encouraged the development of “free and fair elections, referenda and consultations,” while also prioritizing a nationwide respect for life.

“All life is precious. The preservation of lives must be paramount and for that, it is essential that peace, law and order be maintained especially in these most delicate times,” the bishops said.

In addition, the bishops acknowledged the need for patience during the political changeover.

“We ask that everyone exercises great restraint and patience in these tense times and that the people refrain from all lawlessness or any mass action that might worsen the situation,” urged the bishops.

“We also implore all opinion leaders, all media, and the entire population to refrain from conduct and utterances that increase tension, engender hatred or inflame emotions,” they continued.

Moving forward, the bishops of Zimbabwe highlighted the need for civil courts to bring justice to those who have caused the country harm, while also praying for a more tranquil future for the nation.

“Let us as one family continue to pray for a peaceful and just outcome to the present situation in our country. Let us join in daily prayers for our nation individually and collectively.”

 

 

Missionary says Haiti unprepared to accept thousands returning from US

Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Nov 22, 2017 / 07:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Trump administration announced Monday it will be ending protected legal residency for an estimated 60,000 Haitians living in the United States, giving them until July 2019 to return to their country.

Thousands of Haitians flocked to the United States in 2010 following a catastrophic earthquake that measured at 7.0 on the Richter scale and which killed more than 200,000, displaced more than 1 million, and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses in and around the country’s capital city, Port-au-Prince.

The Department of Homeland Security announced Monday that the “extraordinary conditions” necessitating Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians in the United States “no longer exists”.

TPS, a policy begun in 1990, allows people who are unable safely to return to their home nations because of armed conflict, other violence, natural disasters, or other extraordinary and temporary circumstances to remain in the United States while the situation in their home country resolves.

“Significant steps have been taken to improve the stability and quality of life for Haitian citizens, and Haiti is able to safely receive traditional levels of returned citizens,” Homeland Security secretary Elaine Duke said in a statement. “Haiti has also demonstrated a commitment to adequately prepare for when the country’s TPS designation is terminated.”

But many question whether Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, would be able to support an influx of 60,000 people returning home after seven years.

David Quinn is a Catholic missionary from Hastings, Neb. who has lived in Haiti since the spring of 2015 with his wife, Andrea, and their two children. While they did not experience the 2010 earthquake first-hand, they did experience Hurricane Matthew, which struck the nation in 2016.

Quinn said the country still has not recovered from the earthquake or the hurricane and is ill-equipped to provide for the people who already live in Haiti.

“They have never recovered from the earthquake from what I can see,” Quinn told CNA.

“They’ve cleaned up some things here and there, but as far as returning to what they had before? Not even close. Their economy hasn’t improved since the earthquake, it’s been continuing to degrade, and many, many people are without work yet.”

In one part of Port-au-Prince, people are still living in tents and “tin boxes”, their homes destroyed seven years ago and never rebuilt, Quinn said. Most people subsist off of simple gardening, selling what they can at the weekly market and living off of a “pittance of an income and a really poor diet.”

“There’s so many people without work already, and if you throw another 60,000 people back into the situation, I don’t know what they would do...how would they feed themselves? ” Quinn said.

When Hurricane Matthew struck, blowing over homes and banana trees, Quinn said the government was not prepared to handle the aftermath and did little to nothing to help their own people.

“If you look at their response even to Hurricane Matthew, right afterwards you go to the local government and you’re like ok, do you have any food stored or anything set aside for how people are going to eat? And they have nothing, they didn’t prepare at all. So it was up to NGOs and us with the Church,” Quinn said, to provide support and bring in international aid.  

Non-profits and charitable organizations are often left to take care of the people of Haiti, Quinn noted, but he added that charity, while necessary, also decreases many people’s drive to work and often perpetuates the cycle of poverty.

“You could work for a whole day and make like a dollar or two, or you can just give me (something), which people often do, because they’re so poor. So it just becomes this kind of cycle of dependence,” Quinn said.

“So if you have a Haitian who’s living in the United States and he’s a productive member of society, and then he goes back to Haiti, then it’s very likely he’s going to become dependent, not productive,” he said.

The decision to end TPS would also not only disrupt the lives of the 60,000 people who have been living in the United States for seven years, Quinn added, but it would also disrupt the lives and sources of income on which many Haitians depend.

“Many, many of them depend on people living in the States, sending money back to their families. So many people depend on that, so if they were to get kicked out, the situation gets incredibly worse, not just for those people but for their families who were getting $100 a month or whatever amount sent back,” he said.

“It’s just really sad to see,” he added. “I can’t imagine having my life set up somewhere else for (almost) a decade, and having it taken away like that.”

Earlier this month, the Catholic bishops of the United States released a report entitled Haiti's Ongoing Road to Recovery: The Necessity of an Extension of Temporary Protected Status, recommending the U.S. government extend TPS for Haitians.

"(W)hile conditions in Haiti are improving, the country is not yet in a position where it can adequately and safely accept return of the estimated 50,000 Haitian nationals who have received TPS," Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, said in his introduction to the report.

Similarly, in October, the U.S. Bishops recommended that the Trump administration extend TPS for people from Honduras and El Salvador, who would face violence and crime if they were sent back to their countries.

Many lawmakers of both parties have voiced their opposition to the decision to end TPS status for Haitians, including many in Florida, where more than half of TPS Haitians live.

“I traveled to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 and after hurricane Matthew in 2016. So I can personally attest that Haiti is not prepared to take back nearly 60,000 TPS recipients under these difficult and harsh conditions,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), said on Twitter.

TPS status for an estimated 200,000 Salvadorans is set to expire in January, while a decision on the TPS status of 57,000 Hondurans has been deferred for six months.

Pope Francis: At Mass we participate in Calvary

Vatican City, Nov 22, 2017 / 03:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said that when we attend Mass, it is as if we are approaching Jesus on the Cross at Calvary, and that at every Eucharist we not only experience Christ’s redemption, but we participate in it.

“When we go to Mass, it is as if we go to Calvary, the same,” Pope Francis said Nov. 22. “This is the Mass: to enter into this Passion, death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus.”

When we enter the church for Mass, we should think to ourselves: “I enter Calvary, where Jesus gives his life for me,” the Pope continued, saying he is sure we would respond to this “in silence, in weeping,” and also with joy, because we have been saved from death and sin.

At the general audience, Pope Francis continued his new catechesis on the Mass and the Eucharist by reflecting on what he said is the essential element of every Mass – that it is a "memorial of the Paschal Mystery of Christ."

Imagine that you are actually at Calvary, he continued. In that moment, you would look up and know that the man upon the cross is Jesus. Would you allow yourself to make chit-chat or take pictures? “No, because Jesus (is there)!”

Quoting from Lumen gentium, the Second Vatican Council's dogmatic constitution of the Church, Francis said that “As often as the sacrifice of the cross in which Christ our Passover was sacrificed, is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried on.”

This means, he explained, that Christ’s Passion and death are taking place every time we celebrate Mass, and our participation in the Eucharist, “brings us into the Paschal Mystery of Christ.”

And if we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist, “in faith,” he noted, then “we too can truly love God and neighbor, we can love how He loved us, giving life.”

In the Eucharist, the Lord Jesus, “pours upon us all his mercy and love, as he did on the cross, so as to renew our heart, our existence, and our way of communicating with Him and with our brothers.”

Christ’s Passion and death is the ultimate victory over death, Francis emphasized, because he transformed his death “into the supreme act of love.”

This priest says Adoration has made Juarez a safer city

Juarez, Mexico, Nov 22, 2017 / 03:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Juarez, located in the state of Chihuahua in northern Mexico, was considered from 2008 to 2010 to be one of the the most dangerous cities in the world, due to drug trafficking violence and the constant struggles for power and territory between the cartels.

However, the city of 1.3 million inhabitants dropped off this list thanks to a significant decrease in the number of homicides: from 3,766 in 2010 to 256 in 2015.

Although this drop can be credited to an improvement in the work of local authorities, for Fr. Patrico Hileman – a priest responsible for establishing Perpetual Adoration chapels in Latin America – there is a much deeper reason: Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

“When a parish adores God day and night, the city is transformed,” Fr. Hileman said.

The priest told Radio María Argentina that in 2013 the missionaries opened the first Perpetual Adoration Chapel in Juarez. At that time “40 people a day were dying because two drug gangs were fighting over the city to move drugs into the United States.”

It was the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels, whose former leader Joaquín “el Chapo” Guzmán Loera was recently extradited from Mexico to the United States.

Fr. Hileman recalled that “the parishes were saying that the war wasn't ending because a group of soldiers were with one gang and the police were with the other one. They were killing people, burning houses down so they would leave, fighting over the city.”

One of the parishes that was “desperate” asked the missionaries to open a Perpetual Adoration chapel because they assured that “only Jesus is going to save us from this, only Jesus can give us security.”

The missionaries only took three days to establish the first Perpetual Adoration chapel in Juarez.

Fr. Hileman told how one day, when the city was under a state of siege, a lady was on her way to the chapel to do her Holy Hour at 3:00 in the morning, when she was intercepted by six soldiers who asked her where she was heading.

When the woman told them that she was going to “the little chapel” the uniformed men asked her what place, because everything was closed at that hour. Then the woman proposed  they accompany her to see for themselves.

When they got to the chapel, the soldiers found “six women making the Holy Hour at the 3:00 in the morning,” Fr. Hileman said.

At that moment the lady said to the soldiers: “Do you think you're protecting us? We're praying for you 24 hours a day.”

One of the uniformed men fell down holding his weapon,“crying in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The next day at 3:00 in the morning they saw him in civilian clothes doing a Holy Hour, crying oceans of tears,” he said.

Two months after the chapel was opened, the pastor “calls us and says to us: Father, since the chapel was opened there has not been one death in Juarez, it's been two months since anyone has died.”

“We put up ten little chapels in a year,” Fr. Hileman said.

As if that were not enough, “at that time they were going to close the seminary because there were only eight seminarians and now there are 88. The bishop told me me that these seminarians had participated in the Holy Hours.”

Fr. Hileman pointed out that “that is what Jesus does in a parish” when people understand that “we find security in Christ.”

He also noted that “the greatest miracles occur in the early hours of the morning. “

The early morning “is when you're most at peace, when you hear God better, your mind, your heart  is more tranquil, you're there alone for God. If you are generous with Jesus, he is a thousand times more generous with you,” Fr. Hileman said.

 

This article was originally published on CNA Jan. 26, 2017.

More than 100 couples get married in Paraguay cathedral

AsunciĆ³n, Paraguay, Nov 21, 2017 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Over one hundred couples who had been living together but were not yet married celebrated their marriages in the Asuncion Cathedral in Paraguay Nov. 15.

The couples were able to say  “I do,” thanks to support from the Santa Librada Foundation, which put on a program to prepare the couples for marriage, in collaboration with the Asuncion Archdiocese, and the Community of Missionary Families of Christ.

Children and relatives of the couples participated in a Mass celebrated by Fr. Oscar Gonzalez, Vicar General of the Archdiocese, along with 16 others priests and deacons.

The couples came from 18 parishes from various areas in and around Asuncion. Most of the couples participating in the program reported that they had been unable to afford the cost of a wedding on their own.  

111 couples participated in a program of weekly spiritual formation and psychological support, which aimed to help them “understand more deeply the importance of entering into marriage, especially as a covenant with God, which is fundamental in building and strengthening the family,” a sponsor couple told the Encuentro Weekly.

The Retail Company, a socially minded  business which owns a supermarket chain where most of the newlyweds work, paid for the wedding attire, hairdressing, makeup and transportation, according to the EFE news agency.

The large wedding took place as part of the 50th anniversary of the Santa Librada Foundation, the social outreach arm of a local business group, which provides support and assistance to needy families in Paraguay.  

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Why character counts in the voting booth

Denver, Colo., Nov 21, 2017 / 05:20 pm (CNA).- Sexual misconduct allegations against Republican candidate Roy Moore have brought Alabama’s special election to fill a U.S. Senate seat into the national spotlight.

U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) has also been recently accused of kissing and groping women against their will. During the 2016 presidential campaign, more than a dozen women raised allegations of sexual assault or harassment against Republican candidate Donald Trump.

These accusations have raised public debate about whether a candidate’s personal character should matter in elections, and if so, to what extent.

“Obviously, all of us are sinners. But some sins are especially relevant when deciding whether to give one's vote to a candidate,” said Dr. Kevin Miller, professor of moral theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

“The key purpose of politics is justice – as thinkers from Aristotle to Pope Benedict XVI have taught,” Miller told CNA.

“Thus it should especially be taken into account when a candidate has – based on good evidence – acted unjustly, and even more especially when the candidate's unjust actions have been habitual and/or when the candidate does not give serious indication of repentance against these actions.”

Moore is the Republican nominee in Alabama’s special election to fill a U.S. Senate seat, left vacant when former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions was appointed U.S. attorney general earlier this year.

A former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Moore was removed from the court twice – once for refusing to obey a federal court order to remove a statue of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama judicial building, and later for instructing that same-sex marriage licenses should not be issued after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in 2015.

In recent weeks, nine women have brought allegations of misconduct against Moore, including an accusation of forced sexual contact with a 14-year-old in 1979.

A number of high-profile Republican leaders – including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.) – have withdrawn their support from Moore, while others, including Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, continue to support the candidate. One Alabama pastor told the Boston Globe that he would continue to support Moore even if the allegations against him were true.

Franken, who has publicly criticized other public figures accused of sexual misconduct, has apologized for some accusations leveled against him, while maintaining that other allegations are the result of misunderstanding, or have been mischaracterized. While some public figures have defended him, including former colleagues in the entertainment industry, others have called for investigations, or for his resignation.

When a candidate is facing serious allegations of misconduct, how should Catholics respond?

While Church teaching does not dictate which party or candidate a Catholic should choose, it does offer guidelines for Catholics in the voting booth.

In the 2007 document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops outline an approach to political responsibility based upon developing a “well-formed conscience.”

In addition to considering moral issues of grave importance, the document says that voting decisions “should take into account a candidate’s commitments, character, integrity, and ability to influence a given issue.”

The importance of character and integrity should not be taken lightly, Dr. Miller told CNA.

When there is good evidence that a candidate has habitually or unrepentantly engaged in serious injustice, whether in sexuality or in another area, Miller said, “there is a serious presumption that the candidate ought not be entrusted with decisions about the common good, which consists especially of justice.”

“One doesn't need ‘proof’ that allegations against a candidate are true before one may reasonably decide that such allegations warrant a decision not to vote for the candidate,” Miller continued.

Even when definitive proof is lacking, there may be substantial evidence supporting an allegation, he said. “It is a voter's right and responsibility to make an honest and serious attempt to consider whether such evidence exists. As others have pointed out, a candidate doesn't have a right to one's vote.”

The election of a candidate who has habitually committed serious injustices is likely to cause scandal and a negative influence on culture, Miller said, adding that negative cultural consequences could outweigh the good the candidate might do in office.

Additionally, a candidate who defends serious injustices in his own life may make poor decisions about justice in society, Miller said.

Miller also cautioned that there can be a tendency to be defensive about the candidate that one supports, and to minimize flaws in personal conduct and in policy decisions.

“This is a way in which voting for a ‘bad’ candidate can be bad, not only for justice and the common good, but for the voter's own soul,” he said.

“Thus, there is a serious risk that voting for a ‘bad’ candidate can be the equivalent of trying to gain the world at the expense of one's soul,” he continued, noting that voters must be concerned with personal salvation and the “soul” of political culture.

Miller clarified that deciding not to vote for a candidate in one party does not morally translate to a vote for the candidate of another party.

“There are other alternatives, like voting write-in or third-party – or not voting at all in a particular race,” he said.

Character is not the only factor to be considered in weighing candidates, Miller acknowledged. “There are obviously some policy issues that are extraordinarily serious,” he said, pointing to abortion as an example.

“I think you have to take seriously the gravity of some of the political issues we’re faced with today,” he said. “You also have to take seriously violations of human dignity and justice,” such as some of the allegations being raised against prominent politicians and other leaders.

In the case of a candidate for whom there is evidence of engagement in particularly grave evils and no sign of repentance, Miller said Catholics should at least consider voting third party or abstaining.

In the end, there is no easy formula or flow chart that is guaranteed to give the uniquely correct answer to every question that arises at the ballot box, he said. Catholics should take all factors into account and think about what will serve justice and the common good, not just in the short term, but in the long term.

A part of that discernment, Miller said, is that Catholics consider a candidate’s character and integrity.

“The point is that voters need at least to consider these concerns – in a morally [and] intellectually serious and honest way – rather than simply ignoring [or] dismissing them,” he said.