Cost and conscience – why more Christians are ditching health insurance for this alternative

Washington D.C., Jan 24, 2016 / 04:36 pm (CNA).- The youngest of James Lansberry’s nine children almost didn’t survive his birth. Born with no heartbeat, he was resuscitated and spent 11 days in the neo-natal intensive care unit. The medica… Read more

Evangelize the poor: that is your mission, Pope says

Vatican City, Jan 24, 2016 / 06:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis centered his Angelus address this Sunday on what it means to evangelize the poor, and how this is the mission of the Church. “Evangelize the poor: this is the mission of Jesus; this is also the mission of the Church, and of all the baptized in the Church,” the Pope said Jan. 24 to the crowds in Saint Peter’s Square. “To be a Christian and to be a missionary is the same thing.” “What does it mean to evangelize the poor? It means to be close to them, to serve them, to free them from oppression, and all this in the name and with the Spirit of Christ, because he is the Gospel of God, he is the mercy of God, and he is the liberation of God.” “It is he who has made himself poor to enrich us with his poverty,” the pontiff said. Speaking from the Papal Palace to the crowds in Saint Peter’s Square, Pope Francis centered his pre-Angelus reflection on the day’s Gospel reading which recounts Jesus in the synagogue of Nazareth. The pontiff noted how Luke’s account first summarized Jesus’ “work of evangelization” before his return to Nazareth.   The Pope noted how Jesus is unlike other teachers of the time. Rather than opening “a school for the study of the Law,” he instead “goes around preaching and teaching everywhere.” He also noted how John the Baptist preached God’s judgment, “whereas Jesus announced the forgiveness of the Father.” Pope Francis then recounted the scene in which Jesus enters the synagogue and reads a passage from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” After a moment of silence, Jesus declares: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Drawing attention to the need to evangelize the poor, the Pope said the proclamation of the Gospel, by word and life, “is the main purpose of the Christian community and all of its members.” “Jesus directs the Good News to everyone without exception, rather favoring those furthest away, the suffering the sick, the discarded by society.” The pontiff went on to observe how in Jesus’ time, the marginalized, prisoners, and oppressed were probably not “at the center of the community of faith.”   “And we ask ourselves: Today, in our parish communities, associations, movements, are we faithful to God’s plan? The evangelization of the poor, bringing them the good news: is this the priority?” Pope Francis warned that such service to the poor goes beyond social work, not to mention political activity. Rather, it entails “offering the strength of the Gospel of God, which converts hearts, heals wounds, transforms human and social relationships according to the logic of love. The poor, in fact, are the center of the Gospel.” Before leading the crowds in the recitation of the Angelus prayer, the Pope called on Mary, “Mother of evangelizers,” to “help us feel strongly the hunger and thirst of the Gospel in the world, especially in the hearts and flesh of the poor.” He appealed to Mary to make “every Christian community concretely witness the mercy which Christ has given us.” Read more

Young people in London hear Catholic view on sex and love

London, England, Jan 24, 2016 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Helping young Catholics engage their culture on matters of human dignity and sexuality – based on the writings of St. John Paul II – was the aim of a recent symposium held in the heart of London. “Young people are hungry for knowledge about the true meaning of personal love and human sexuality,” said conference speaker Robert McNamara. Over the course of the Jan 13-17 symposium, McNamara, an adjunct professor of philosophy at Steubenville University, led a series of lectures on human dignity and sexuality, based primarily on St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and Love and Responsibility. “People, both young and old, are most interested in discovering a path for life, in discovering the meaning of their being and life, and in so doing finding that which enables them to live full and meaningful lives,” McNamara told CNA. “Ultimately, we are all interested in discovering love. And so too, we are all hungry to better understand the meaning of personal love and, with it, the meaning of human sexuality. In this way we can more easily discern how to discover love and choose love.” Theology of the Body is the corpus of 129 General Audience addresses delivered by St. John Paul II from 1979 to 1984, which centered on the human person and human sexuality. Likewise addressing the theme of marriage and sexuality, “Love and Responsibility,” first published in 1960, years before his election to the papacy, examines the subject from a more academic perspective. The five-day gathering in London of presentations and workshops was opened by speaker Christopher West delivering the 2016 Theology of the Body Lecture – an annual initiative since 2004 organized by Westminster Director for marriage and family life, Edmund Adamus. Addressing interconnected themes of love, sex and mercy, West garnished the academic and practical principles of Theology of the Body with personal testimony, appreciated by the 300 plus audience. St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, located in the upscale Soho district of London, hosted the event under the guidance of its pastor, Fr. Alexander Sherbrooke. “People who come into an area like this, essentially they are looking for love,” said Fr. Sherbrooke in an interview with CNA. “That search for love is often misdirected and misappropriated, but, still they’re searching for love.” Speaking in the context of marriage and human sexuality, Fr. Sherbrooke discussed the role of beauty in evangelization, and its ability to bring order to the lives of people living in a society marked by permissiveness. “In society, you can do everything, you can be everything, there are no rules to anything,” he said. “We live in a very formless, fluid world.” However, “man is not, in fact, well-structured for that,” Fr. Sherbrooke said. “He needs his form. He needs his structure. He needs to have his patterns of existence.” People are “made for love, to receive love, and to give love,” he continued, “but most people have had no experience of the beauty of married life, of a family, and of all the things that we hold dear.” “That is part of God’s beauty. That is a beauty in itself.” Also incorporated into the symposium were opportunities for prayer and evangelization. These included daily Mass and Adoration, a healing service led by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, and an evening of Nightfever. “We need to hear what people are saying,” Fr. Sherbrooke said, explaining the reason for incorporating evangelization into this conference. “We need to hear how people are living their lives, however unsettling it may be for us. “We can’t just talk amongst ourselves,” he stressed, “because a). we’re not being true to the Gospel, and b). we’re not trusting in the Holy Spirit.” The Symposium also included a series of workshops aimed at showing how Theology of the Body can be practically applied to everyday life. Several of the workshops dealt with issues related to fertility, and how attempts to artificially control it – such as through IVF or contraception – can have serious implications for women in terms of health and self-worth. Theology of the Body helps to “answer to the many reproductive questions that we have today,” said Ira Winter, manager of the Life Fertility Care clinic in the UK, which offers Natural Procreative (NaPro) technology to treat couples struggling with infertility. “God is the author of all new life,” she said. “Therefore, we need to involve him when we are discerning how we live this out.” NaPro Technology is a method of addressing infertility by diagnosing and treating underlying problems. Unlike IVF, which relies on invasive procedures, NaPro takes a holistic approach in addressing the core causes of infertility. “NaPro technology is really going back to trying to find out what is the underlying cause of problems, and trying to come up with solutions that are not eradicating the woman’s cycle, but actually leading to some healing,” Winter explained. “In the end couples will turn away from IVF when they understand God placed the co-creative gift right at the heart of their marital communion,” she said. “Theology of the Body helps couples understand why this gift is simply too precious to abdicate to a laboratory,” Winter said, adding that it “excites couples as to the value of their marriage.” Another theme addressed during the workshop sessions regarded the implications of so-called “gender theory.” A speaker from the Warsaw-based Center for the Thought of John Paul II illustrated the characteristics and dangers of gender ideology with reference to the suffering endured by individuals affected by gender identity disorder and gender dysphoria. In light of demands for “gender-affirming” treatments and procedures that aim to override an individual’s biological sex, the speaker encouraged participants to affirm reality and to reflect on the importance and meaning of sexual difference and of the human body as such. The talking points of the workshop were based on fragments of Benedict XVI’s 2012 Christmas address to the Roman Curia, and a 2004 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church, signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Drawing on John Paul II’s reflections on woundedness and Redemption and on parts from Pope Francis’ newest book “The Name of God is Mercy,” participants were invited to respond with mercy to those affected. One of the volunteers at the conference, London lawyer Stephanie Tang, told CNA it was “a complete healing process” to encounter Theology of the Body as a recent convert to Catholicism from a family of Buddhists. “One of the greatest difficulties, I would say, is shedding the schema with which I interpreted the world, and replacing it from the inside, from the heart, with Catholic theology, and Jesus’ way of life,” Tang said. She recounted how one of the lectures by McNamara on “spousal love” and complete self-gift caused her to have a “visceral” reaction. “It actually flew in the face of everything that my parents had taught me,” Tang explained. “My mom had always said: reserve a little bit for yourself; if he’s not nice to you, take a bit of your love back; make sure you’ve got separate bank accounts; make sure you’re alright if he leaves you.” “Being a lawyer, we’re all about risk minimization,” she said. “So, to learn that God wanted us to love completely, expose all your vulnerabilities – that was very hard for me.” The principles learned at the conference not only show it is possible to “live right by God,” she said, but “the responsibility we have to spread the truth about our own bodies that all of us innately know.” Margaret Jey-Sharwan, who traveled from Nigeria to attend the event, told CNA how the principles of Theology of the Body could help those in her country discover how to bring unity within their marriages. “For us in Nigeria, and basically in most African cultures, it’s a man’s world. It’s what the man wants,” she said. “All you need is to have a submissive wife.” Although this mentality is starting to change, still “you find people who are not happy in their marriages,” she said. “We don’t have high divorce rates in Africa, not as high as the Western world,” yet there are a number of unhappy marriages. Many choose to live through these marriages in order to avoid the stigma of separation, she said. “If people understood (Theology of the Body) better, if couples understood this better, then they would understand themselves, understand their marriages, understand what is expected of them, it would definitely bring unity in the home.” Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, issued a message for the symposium, noting its objective being to “nurture deeper reflection on our God given human dignity from the perspective of Pope St. John Paul’s visionary catechesis on sexuality in the context of marriage and family.” “I pray that everyone involved will be blessed with greater confidence to give witness to the wonderful truth about the human person,” Cardinal Nichols said.Photo credit: Read more

Priest: Pray for jihadists’ conversion – one of them could be a future St. Paul

Merrimack, N.H., Jan 23, 2016 / 04:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- French spiritual writer Father Jacques Philippe says there is only one thing that can end violence. “We must pray for the conversion of the jihadists. There certainly is among them some future Saint Paul,” Fr. Philippe said. He said that Islamic terrorism is “a great menace,” but he warned against “hysteria” or “aggressive reactions” or hatred towards terrorists in response. “The fragility of our societies is a call to find our security, our hope, and our peace in God,” he continued. “We must be called to a personal conversion to live and preach the life of the Gospels, which alone have the power to completely uproot violence from man’s heart. We must not forget that violence does not only exist in others but also resides in us, less visible, but still present.” Fr. Philippe is the first priest of the Community of the Beatitudes, an ecclesial family of consecrated life that draws from Carmelite spirituality. His comments came in an early December interview with William Fahey, president of Saint Thomas More College in New Hampshire. In his interview, the priest also spoke of spirituality and Christian renewal. He said the heart of Christian spiritual life is to welcome “the unbounded love of our Father manifested through Christ, and to respond to this love.” “For our part, it firstly means to have an open attitude, built on humility and trust: to realize our smallness and place all of our trust in the goodness and mercy of God; to nurture, day after day, a relation with God built on simplicity, persevering love, and of constant search for his will.” He said Christian life is not merely adhesion to doctrine, conformity to external ‘ideal,’ or belonging to a nice community. “On the contrary, the Holy Spirit works in Christians who, through the living experience of God’s love and mercy, respond to a call for a personal encounter with Christ through prayer which will allow a journey of simplicity, trust, and freedom,” Fr. Philippe said. Catholic renewal in a Catholic community is not a human work, but “a gift from God.” “Such a community is not programed but rather is born of God’s eruption into the life of one or a few people who have received a charism for founding,” the priest said. “Any Christian community must be founded on fidelity to such a gift and to God’s call, as well as on faith and prayer.” “Belonging to a Christian community must bring us closer to God so as to be closer to men and their sufferings,” he continued. Such a Christian community must be “a place where each and every one is welcomed and loved as he is, with his strengths and weaknesses.” A community must allow its members to live “not according to the spirit of this world but according to the Beatitudes.” The community must not be oriented towards itself. Rather, it must be “at the service of this world that God wants to meet and save.” Fr. Philippe reflected on the Community of the Beatitudes, in which he has long been a leader. He said its calling is “to turn the hearts of men towards the coming Kingdom of God, in a trusting and joyful hope, and to manifest that this Kingdom is already present among us.” “Through the fervor of prayer, the beauty of the liturgy, the announcement of the Gospel, the service to the poor, its members express man’s nearness to God and they communicate the consolation of the Holy Spirit,” he explained. The priest suggested that the main grace of the Community of the Beatitudes is to transmit a desire for prayer and an intimacy for God. “Man is called to things far greater than the universe. Man needs to experience things that will open some horizons far greater than material reality. When life is meaningless, man seeks to fill this emptiness with strong sensations, found either in drugs, sexuality, extreme sports, sometimes even violence…” Asked how to respond to Catholics who feel betrayed or confused by the clergy, Fr. Philippe encouraged them to look to the saints. “The Church is still able to produce saints. It is a sign of fidelity to God, a sign that grace is beyond and above sin,” he said. “Sainthood should amaze us more than sin scandalizes us; for the former is far greater.” “The Church is not made of some perfect elite, but rather of sinners journeying towards conversion. It is a place where we can meet both man’s wretchedness and God’s unbounded mercy.” Photo credit: Oleg Zabielin via   Read more

This sword-wielding Samurai just moved closer to sainthood!

Vatican City, Jan 23, 2016 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The martyrdom of a 16th-century Samurai who died for his Catholic faith was approved this week by Pope Francis, making the Japanese warrior one among nine other causes that advanced toward sainthood. Takayama Ukon was born in 1552 in Japan during the time when Jesuit missionaries were becoming introduced within the country. By the time Takayama was 12, his father had converted to Catholicism and had his son baptized as “Justo” by the Jesuit Fr. Gaspare di Lella. Takayama’s position in Japanese society as daimyo allowed him many benefits, such as owning grand estates and raising vast armies. As a Catholic, Takayama used his power to support and protect the short-lived missionary expansion within Japan, influencing the conversion of thousands of Japanese. When a time of persecution set in within the country under the reign of Japan’s chancellor Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1587, many newly-converted Catholics abandoned their beliefs. Instead of denying their faith, Takayama and his father left their prestigious position in society and chose a life of poverty and exile. Although many of his friends tried to persuade Takayama to deny Catholicism, he remained strong in his beliefs. Takayama “did not want to fight against other Christians, and this led him to live a poor life, because when a samurai does not obey his ‘chief,’ he loses everything he has,” Fr. Anton Witwer, a general postulator of the Society of Jesus, told CNA in 2014. Ten years passed, and the chancellor became more fierce in his persecution against Christians. He eventually crucified 26 Catholics, and by 1614, Christianity in Japan was completely banned. The new boycott on Christianity forced Takayama to leave Japan in exile with 300 other Catholics. They fled to the Philippines, but not long after his arrival, Takayama died on February 3, 1615. In 2013, the Japanese bishops’ conference submitted the lengthy 400-page application for the beatification of Takayama to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. On Jan. 22, 2016, Takayama’s advancement in the cause for canonization was further promulgated when Pope Francis approved his decree of martyrdom. “Since Takayama died in exile because of the weaknesses caused by the maltreatments he suffered in his homeland, the process for beatification is that of a martyr,” Fr. Witwer explained. Takayama’s life exemplifies the Christian example of “a great fidelity to the Christian vocation, persevering despite all difficulties,” Fr. Witwer continued. Takayama’s cause was one of ten other new sainthood causes, which included three blesseds who have had approved miracles attributed to their intercession. The other approved decrees included Bl. Stanislaus of Jesus, Bl. Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero, Bl. Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio, Francesco Maria Greco, Elisabetta Sanna, Fr. Engelmar Unzeitig CMM, Genaro Fueyo Castanon, Arsenio da Trigolo and Maria Luisa del Santissimo Sacramento. Read more

Monster storm can’t keep massive crowds from March for Life

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2016 / 01:36 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Despite weather forecasts calling for what might end up being the worst blizzard in over a century, tens of thousands flooded the nation’s capital Friday to support the dignity of life. … Read more

In speech to Rota, Pope Fancis shows annulment conditions aren’t loosening

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2016 / 11:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his annual speech to the Holy See’s main court on Friday, Pope Francis affirmed the indissolubility of marriage and clarified that poorly developed “personal faith” is not itself a grounds for finding that a marriage is null. “It should be clearly affirmed that the quality of faith is not an essential condition for matrimonial consent,” the Pope said in his Jan. 22 address to the judges of the Roman Rota at the Vatican’s Clementine Hall. Consent – the typical basis for a tribunal investigating the validity of a marriage – “according to the longstanding doctrine, can be undermined only at a natural level,” Pope Francis reminded the judges. “Indeed, the habitus fidei (habit of faith) is infused in the moment of Baptism and continues to flow mysteriously into the soul, even when the faith is not developed or psychologically appears to be absent.” He added that “it is not unusual for newlyweds, drawn to marriage by the instinctus naturae, at the moment of celebration have a limited awareness of the fullness of God’s plan, and only later, in family life, discover all that God the Creator and Redeemer has established for them.” “The lack of formation in faith and also an error regarding the unity, indissolubility and sacramental dignity of marriage may vitiate matrimonial consent only if they determine the will. It is precisely for this reason that errors regarding the sacramental nature of marriage must be evaluated very carefully.” The question of the necessity of a “mature faith” or “minimum of faith” for a valid marriage between the baptized has been raised in recent years. It has arisen primarily because of the large numbers of “baptized non-believers”: those who were baptized as infants but have not personally appropriated the faith they received at baptism. The dilemma was raised as early as the 1970s by the International Theological Commission, an advisory body to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. And it was voiced several times by Benedict XVI, who in his last address to the Roman Rota, in 2013, affirmed that “The indissoluble pact between a man and a woman does not, for the purposes of the sacrament, require of those engaged to be married, their personal faith; what it does require, as a necessary minimal condition, is the intention to do what the Church does. However, if it is important not to confuse the problem of the intention with that of the personal faith of those contracting marriage, it is nonetheless impossible to separate them completely.” The question was also brought up at the two recent Synods on the Family, and speculation about requiring a “minimum of faith” increased in September 2015 when Pope Francis released two motu proprio reforming the codes of canon law regarding annulments. In one of them, Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus, the Pope wrote that “the defect of faith which can generate simulation of consent or error that determines the will” is among the circumstances that can allow a case for nullity to be handled by a new, more brief process. However, his words today to the Roman Rota are significant for affirming that a “minimum of faith” is not required for a valid marriage between the baptized. The Pope delivers a speech to the members of the Rota, a court of higher instance at the Holy See, each January to inaugurate the court’s judicial year. “The family, founded on indissoluble marriage, unitive and procreative, belongs to the ‘dream’ of God and of his Church for the salvation of humanity,” Pope Francis said. Both the family and the Church assist in “accompanying the human person until the end of their existence”, he said, noting that they do this “certainly with the teachings that they transmit, but also with their very nature as communities of love and life.” He noted that along with its definition as the “Tribunal of the Family,” the Rota can also be considered “the Tribunal of the truth of the sacred bond.” These two qualities, he said, are complementary. “Indeed the Church can show the merciful and indefectible love of God for families, especially those wounded by sin and by the trials of life, and at the same time, proclaim the essential truth of marriage according to God’s plan.” Francis pointed to the 2014 and 2015 Synods on the Family. The two-year reflection has made possible a “profound and wise discernment” on family life, he said, indicating to the world that “there can be no confusion between the family beloved by God and any other type of union.” By their “work of the truth,” the Pope told the judges, the Church “proposes to declare the truth on marriage in a concrete case, for the good of the faithful, she keeps in mind at the same time those who, by their free choice or through unhappy circumstances live in a state of objective error, continue to receive Christ’s merciful love, and therefore that of the Church herself.” He affirmed that the Church continues to propose marriage “in its essential elements – offspring, the good of spouses, unity, indissolubility, sacramentality.” These conditions are not simply “an ideal for the few,” but constitute a reality that, with Christ’s grace, “can be lived by all baptized faithful.” Francis pointed to the “pastoral urgency” in the Church for an adequate preparation for marriage, and called for a “new catechesis” on marriage, repeating the phrase for added emphasis. He closed his speech by recognizing that “the time in which we are living is very challenging both for the family, and for us pastors who are called to accompany them,” and wished them a good start to the new year. Read more

Make your life a Nativity set, Cardinal Dolan tells pro-life marchers

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2016 / 09:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pro-lifers must make their lives a Nativity scene where they provide a welcoming witness and  see Christ in the faces of the unborn, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said at the Jan. 21 … Read more

Why are more civilians dying in war? Nuncio says global community must act

New York City, N.Y., Jan 22, 2016 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Holy See’s representative to the United Nations has said that the entire international community is implicated “in one way or another” in the rise of civilian deaths i… Read more

What’s the first step to good communication? Listening, Pope says

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2016 / 05:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For Pope Francis, the ability to listen is the first requirement for good communication, which is something he said should never exclude, but must provide an encounter rooted in mercy and welcome…. Read more