If you struggle with porn, the Church can help, US bishops say

Washington D.C., Dec 28, 2015 / 06:03 am (CNA).- For the first time, the U.S. bishops issued a pastoral letter this year specifically addressing the global crisis of pornography, looking at how the industry is affecting the parishioners in their pews and what the Church can do to offer mercy, healing, and hope to recovering pornography users. “We offer this statement to give a word of hope and healing to those who have been harmed by pornography and to raise awareness of its pervasiveness and harms,” the statement reads, saying the Church wants to offer healing to the families destroyed by pornography and to the individuals who have been exploited by it. The USCCB officially approved the pastoral letter created by the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth called “Create in Me a Clean Heart” on Nov. 17. The letter addresses the crisis of porn and how the Church is reaching out with mercy to those who fall prey to the thriving billion-dollar pornography industry, which creates an increasing slew of victims and perpetrators every year. Pornography’s wide acceptance and even at times promotion in today’s global culture has prompted the U.S. bishops to address the crux of the issue: the failure to recognize every human’s innate call to love. According to the pastoral letter, “every man and woman, whether called to marriage or not, has a fundamental vocation of self-giving, fruitful love in imitation of the Lord.” The bishops describe pornography, however, as the opposite of love – the love for which every individual is created. Instead, pornography creates “a disordered view of the person, because it is ordered toward use, as of a thing, rather than love, which pertains to persons.” Pornography also “rejects the equal dignity and complementarity between man and woman and strikes at the heart of God’s plan for communion between persons,” the letter stated. The bishops also linked pornography as a gateway to other problems, such as: masturbation, addiction, adultery, prostitution, domestic violence, abuse, and sex trafficking. It also leads to a distorted view of human sexuality, and in some cases, damages the capacity for healthy, human intimacy. Engaging in pornography might appear to some like a harmless, private affair, but the bishops pointed to multiple victims who are involved in the making. Many individuals and children portrayed in pornography are victims of human trafficking and also forced into prostitution, the bishops wrote, citing a study by former litigation attorney and anti-porn advocacy leader Noel Bouche. The crisis of pornography inflicts deep wounds on many individuals, spouses, and families – including faithful Catholics, they said. Recognizing this danger and the reach of pornography within their own pastoral corners, the U.S. bishops were quick to point out that the Church is waiting to welcome those who are hurting. “No wound is so deep, however, as to be out of the reach of Christ’s redeeming grace. The Church as a field hospital is called to proclaim the truth of the human person in love,” the letter stated. “You are beloved sons and daughters of the Father. Be not afraid to approach the altar of mercy and ask for forgiveness. Many good people struggle with this sin. You are not alone,” the bishops said. For many, use of pornography has become an addiction, or at the very least, desensitizing. Because of this, many individuals will have to seek other help in addition to confession or spiritual direction. “We wish to specifically address Catholics in a range of circumstances and present opportunities for guidance, healing and grace,” the statement continued. The bishops recommended counseling, coaching, accountability groups, conferences, and retreats as good options for recovering pornography users. Other tools like online monitoring software, couples therapy, and chastity education are also good resources. “Freedom from pornography is a daily choice and calls for ongoing formation,” the pastoral letter noted. Parents also have a responsibility to protect their sons and daughters from the modern-day scourge of pornography. The bishops noted that the average age of children who are exposed to pornography is age eleven, meaning that there are many children who are even younger. “Parents and guardians, protect your home! Be vigilant about the technology you allow into your home and be sensitive to the prevalence of sexual content in even mainstream television and film and ease by which it comes through the Internet and mobile devices,” the letter stated. In addition, the bishops encouraged intensified seminary and priestly formation on pastoral care to treat those involved with pornography. Priests, they noted, have a crucial role to play in creating authentic relationships and fraternal support with individuals who want to defeat their struggle with porn. “God’s grace and concrete help are always available. Healing is always possible,” the bishops noted. “Trust in and be led by the Holy Spirit. The Lord’s mercy and forgiveness are abundant!” A full list of USCCB-approved resources on recovering from pornography is available at: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/pornography/index.cfm.  This article was originally published on CNA Nov. 29, 2015, with the headline, ‘Struggle with porn? The Church can help you, US bishops say’ Read more

Meet the monks who decided to go green years before Laudato Si

Arlington, Va., Mar 25, 2017 / 03:20 pm (CNA).- Years before Pope Francis’ ecology encyclical was published, a Trappist monastery in Virginia went back to its spiritual roots by embracing environmental stewardship. “This really is a r… Read more

Pope Francis to families: forgive each other and journey together towards God

Vatican City, Dec 27, 2015 / 10:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on the Feast of the Holy Family reflected on the power of forgiveness in families and compared everyday family life to an ongoing pilgrimage of prayer and love. “How important … Read more

Dorothy Day had nothing to say to this theologian – or so he thought

Fort Wayne, Ind., Dec 27, 2015 / 09:35 am (CNA).- Ever since entering the Church 27 years ago, theologian Lance Richey had always known about the Catholic social activist Dorothy Day in passing. “It’s hard not to run across her name, but I honestly had not paid much attention to her,” Richey told CNA in a phone interview earlier this year. “I viewed her as, just kind of a social activist, and someone who probably didn’t have much to say to a theologian like myself.” But this May, Our Sunday Visitor released his edits to the 75th anniversary edition of Day’s journal from the early years of the Catholic Worker Movement, “House of Hospitality.” On top of that, he organized the annual Dorothy Day Conference at University of St. Francis in Fort Wayne, Indiana where he serves as Dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences. So how did he go from having a cursory knowledge of Day to editing her personal journal – that had been out of print for decades – and organizing an annual conference about her? “Several years back, I picked up her writings and started reading them,” he said. “My opinion of her changed dramatically. I discovered her for the first time.” From her writings, including the then nearly impossible to find, “House of Hospitality,” Richey said he discovered a “profoundly spiritual woman” whose work and prayers “flowed from a very deep conversion to Christ and a deep love for the Church.” The new edition of her diary covers the first six years of the Catholic Worker Movement which Peter Maurin founded with Day in 1933 to serve the poor, unemployed and homeless of New York City. Today there are some 228 Catholic Worker communities in the U.S. and around the world. Oftentimes Day’s social works and advocacy for the poor are upheld while her profound spiritual life gets downplayed or even forgotten altogether, which is the result of man-made divisions within the Church, he said. Catholics “tend to divide ourselves into Democrats and Republicans, and liberals and conservatives, and social justice or orthodox,” said Richey, who hold doctorates in both philosophy and theology from Wisconsin’s Marquette University. And Day “tends to be championed by people on one end of the spectrum who ignore her deep spirituality and her utter commitment and fidelity to the Church.” This approach takes away from the whole picture of who Day really was – namely, a deeply faithful woman who “defined her life around the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.” Richey said that in his studies he learned that “for Dorothy Day you can’t divide Catholicism into ‘kinds.’ There aren’t ‘kinds of Catholics.’ You’re either Catholic or you’re not, and being Catholic entails social obligations and theological obligations,” he said. This is something he had in mind when speakers for the annual Dorothy Day Conference he organizes were selected, saying that his goal is that “everyone who attended the conference should be offended by somebody.” “We should make sure we have something that we disagree with because usually in the moment it doesn’t change much,” he said, “but as we have to kind of process it, we come to challenge our own preconceptions and to expand our understanding of what does it really mean to be Catholic? What does it really mean to want to imitate Dorothy Day?” This year’s conference included presenters such as Kathryn Jean Lopez of the National Review; Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles; and Martha Hennessy, Day’s granddaughter. It’s important now to see the whole picture of who this woman really was, especially in preparation for the upcoming Year of Mercy, of which Richey says Day would be the perfect patron. “I do think that it’s a very providential time for Dorothy Day’s message. Pope Francis is calling the Universal Church to what Dorothy Day called the American church to be,” he said. “I mean, everything about her was, ‘how are we called to be merciful to others?’ and ‘how every day of my life can I carry out these works of mercy?’” Now that she has been recognized a “Servant of God” – meaning that the Vatican sees no objection in her cause for canonization progressing – he thinks that the chances of her becoming “Venerable” are “very good.” While the miracles needed to prove to the Church that she can be called a saint are “in God’s hands”, Richey said he personally thinks that Day “led a heroically holy life of orthodox belief and sustained a consistent living out of the Gospel in very difficult conditions.”This article was originally published on CNA June 20, 2015. Read more

The strange tale of 5,000 relics finding a home in a Pittsburgh chapel

Pittsburgh, Pa., Dec 26, 2015 / 04:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nestled in a sleepy neighborhood in the hills rising over Pittsburgh lies a small chapel. Inside St. Anthony’s Chapel lies a piece from the Crown of Thorns, a tooth of St. Anthony of Padu… Read more

Let God’s forgiveness heal your heart, Pope Francis says after Christmas

Vatican City, Dec 26, 2015 / 09:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For Pope Francis, the path forward from Christmas can be found in the martyrdom of St. Stephen, especially in his transforming forgiveness of his persecutors. “If we want to move forward in… Read more

A gruesome accident, a powerful faith – one Catholic couple’s story

Lincoln, Neb., Dec 26, 2015 / 07:14 am (CNA).- It was a cold December day in Nebraska, and Ashley Stevens was riding in a car with four other women. It was the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the women and the rest of their FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) team were headed to a retreat center near Gretna, Neb. when a large truck smashed into their car on Highway 6 near the Platte River, several miles east of Lincoln. While the other women had minor injuries – a broken shoulder, whiplash, cuts and bruises – Ashley was life-flighted to the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha in critical condition. She had sustained major head trauma, and had significant swelling and bleeding in her brain among other injuries.  Brad Stevens, Ashley’s fiancé of just a few weeks, got the call from Nikki Shasserre, a staff member at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Newman Center, who had hosted an engagement party for the couple three weeks prior. Get to the hospital now, Ashley’s in critical condition. Father Robert Matya, the chaplain for the UNL Newman Center, had been on his way to the same retreat and was able to be with the women at the scene, praying with them and comforting them. He then rushed to the hospital to be with Brad, a former student he’d known for years, and was with him to receive the grim diagnosis. “I remember very distinctly arriving at the hospital, and Brad and I went in to sit down with the doctor, who told us that he didn’t think it was going to be possible that Ashley would survive at that point,” Fr. Matya recalled. “He was just trying to be honest with us.” That was around 10 in the morning. By 3 p.m., Ashley was heading to surgery. Father stayed with Brad and Ashley in the ICU that night. From the very first moment, Father said, the way Brad handled the situation was remarkable. “What was beautiful about watching Brad in that experience was that he was just unwavering from the first moment on, in terms of being at her side. There was never a question of his dedication to her throughout the whole experience, and that was the case not only on that day of the accident but throughout the entire process of her rehabilitation,” he said. Brad’s faith in God had been what initially attracted Ashley to him. They were both working as Residential Assistants in the Husker Village dorms, and during the long walks patrolling the halls on duty nights, she would pepper him with all of her questions about Catholicism. A devout Protestant, Ashley was amazed at how well Brad could defend and explain his faith using scripture. She became “like a little sponge,” she said, soaking up knowledge about the Catholic Church.   A few years after they became friends, and in the early phases of their dating relationship, Ashley became Catholic after taking classes at the Newman Center and developing strong friendships there. The day of the accident, dozens of friends from the Newman Center and beyond had arrived at UNMC, offering meals and prayers and whatever support they could. Word spread quickly, and more prayers and support started pouring in from UNL students and the Catholic community around the state – and even the world. Ashley, who does not remember “literally a single day” of the entire month she spent at UNMC, said she has only heard and read of the tremendous outpouring of love that occurred within those first days and weeks. “I was submerged in prayer,” she said. “From holy hours at the Newman Center, across the country, people I didn’t even know were surrounding me with prayer that I’m so thankful for.” “It’s amazing seeing God’s love through so many instruments when you’re quite literally helpless.” Slowly, Ashley started making improvements, though for a long time it was uncertain exactly how healed she could be. She had a stroke while at UNMC, and it was uncertain for a while whether she’d ever be able to walk, or hold a job, or take care of future children. “I can’t even imagine Brad, just three weeks after getting engaged, and my parents just sitting by, not knowing if I’m going to make it and if I did, what would be the end result? How much of Ashley would they get back, would he get back?” she said. Even the tiniest glimpses of hope, however, made Brad “just giddy excited,” Ashley said. “Even if I was just able to squeeze his hand or open my eyes and look at him, or just try to smile, anything gave him glimpses of hope that I was going to make it,” she said. A gratitude journal Brad kept at the time proves his incredible hope. In an entry dated Dec. 13, one day after the accident, Brad responded to the prompts in his journal:Today I feel: “Great, it was starting out to be a good day, until Nikki Shasserre called and told me the news. After that a mix of scared, sad, mad, happy.” Spiritually I: “Am overwhelmed by the huge support you have received from all over the country. I feel consoled during a moment of great trial.” Magical moments (comfort, peace, and love): “You opened your eye and looked at me!! That was huge. I was so thankful to know I had communicated with you and was able to show my love for you and show you I’m there for you.” It was Brad’s faithfulness that kept Ashley going in the hard months of recovery and therapy to come. After UNMC, Ashley was flown down to Atlanta to continue her treatment – it was closer to her parents, who live in Knoxville, Tenn., and was highly recommended for brain trauma recovery. Brad kept his job as an aide to a state senator in Nebraska, but flew down to Atlanta every Thursday through Sunday to be with his fiancé. “That was beautiful to me and exactly what I needed to keep fighting and to keep doing frustrating therapies,” Ashley said. For a while, even the basics were extremely difficult. She had to re-learn how to write, eat, walk, do long division – but Brad’s visits kept her looking forward to the weekends. “I remember seeing him every Thursday and just being giddy, when you’re going through something so life-altering, being able to cling to normalcy is exactly what you need,” she said. But May 16th, the day they had originally planned for their wedding, was harder than most. Brad flew down to be with Ashley, and they went to a church to pray. “I’m not a crier, I’m just not, but that day we went to the chapel and I just broke down, and I walked out of the church and he came after me and he said ‘What’s wrong? I’m still here, we’re still going to get married,’” Ashley recalled. She told Brad about all the doubts she had – doubts, she thinks now, that came from Satan. “We didn’t have our wedding rescheduled, I didn’t know when or if I would go back to work, I still wasn’t approved to drive, and I just kept thinking: Am I worth it?” “I remember he took my hands and said, ‘Ashley, I still love you, I love you just as much as when I asked you to marry me, I’m going to marry you, and it’s not going to be today, but it will be as soon as it makes sense, as soon as you get back and we get in our rhythm, it will be then.’” And it was. The next week, Ashley found out her release date. She entered a driving program, and was approved to start working again part-time. As the improvements kept coming, Ashley and Brad started re-looking at wedding dates. They settled on Dec. 12 – exactly a year after the accident. “It was Ashley’s idea,” Brad said. “She wanted to conquer a sad day and remember it with joy, or in her words ‘kick the accident in the face.’” “I think some people question like why would you want to do that, so many hard memories will be evoked on that day, why would you want to have the happiest day of your life kind of conflict with that?” Ashley said. “To me, that was the point.” It was a cold December day in Nebraska again. There had been a blizzard the day before Dec. 12, 2009, the day of Ashley and Brad Stevens’ wedding. “I guess you should expect (a blizzard) in December in Nebraska,” Ashley joked. Nonetheless, friends and family from all over the country were able to make it. “It was just a party,” Ashley said. And the FOCUS team – half of whom had been in the car with Ashley – were in the choir loft. They sang and played Bethany Dillon’s “Let Your Light Shine”, which the team had listened to together, per Ashley’s request, at a meeting a week before the accident. The truck driver was there too. “Seeing the church surrounded by people that had stood by our sides whether its prayers, meals, visits, and just having a party, it was a way of saying I’m still here, that God healed us, healed me, and performed a miracle,” Ashley said. The Stevens have now been married for 7 years, with two beautiful little girls. They travel in between Tennessee and Nebraska often, so the girls can get to know both sets of grandparents. They still have their ups and downs, like any couple, but in large part because of the accident, Ashley never doubts that Brad is in it for the long haul. “Marriage is hard,” Ashley said, “but it’s part of the cost, and when you sign the marriage license you know that. The vow, ‘in good and in bad, in sickness and in health,’ obviously Brad’s already lived the in sickness and in health vow out before we even walked down the aisle.” “The best advice we can offer for marriage prep is to take a step back, and evaluate your relationship,” Brad said. “And (if) there’s not much about God, there’s not much about how the relationship has challenged you to be better, change habits or to find joy in sacrifice, then there’s a disconnect.” There are reminders of the accident – Ashley permanently lost hearing in her right ear, she suffered nerve injuries and lost partial control of her right hand. But at the end of the day goodness prevailed, Ashley said, which is why she is working on a book telling her story. “God gives us all different gifts,” Ashley said. “And I don’t have the gift of musical ability, or anything artistic, at times I don’t have the gift of extraversion, but I do have the gift of a cool story. And I have the gumption to share it.” “The point (of the story) is that God always wins,” she said. “And that may not look like the win that has always played out in your head, but he’s faithful, and he works miracles in our lives, and we can’t forget all he’s done in our life.” These days, the Stevens are looking forward to settling in Nebraska as their oldest starts school. As for Brad, he’s thankful that after everything, they’re able to have a normal life. “Ashley is a rock star and I thank God for her and the family we have together.” Photo credit: www.shutterstock.comThis article was originally published on CNA Aug. 18, 2015. Read more

Only God can overcome ‘monstrous’ evil in the world, Pope says on Christmas

Vatican City, Dec 25, 2015 / 08:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his annual Christmas “Urbi et Orbi” blessing Pope Francis prayed for all those affected by violence, conflict and poverty throughout the world, asking that they rejoice in salvation offered by the birth of Christ. “Only God’s mercy can free humanity from the many forms of evil, at times monstrous evil, which selfishness spawns in our midst. The grace of God can convert hearts and offer mankind a way out of humanly insoluble situations,” the Pope said on Christmas Day, Dec. 25. God alone is able to save us, he said, adding that “where God is born, hope is born. Where God is born, peace is born. And where peace is born, there is no longer room for hatred and for war.” Pope Francis spoke to those gathered in St. Peter’s Square to hear his Christmas message and receive the special blessing which goes out “to the city and the world.” In his message, he lamented that ongoing conflicts continue to strain peaceful living in the Holy Land, and prayed for peace there as well as in war-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, sub-Saharan Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, South Sudan, Colombia and Ukraine. Francis also turned his thoughts to all those affected by “brutal acts of terrorism” throughout the world, particularly the “massacres” which have recently taken place in Egyptian airspace, in Beirut, Paris, Bamako and Tunis. He then offered prayers for refugees forced to flee their homes due to violence, as well as for victims of human trafficking, for the unemployed and for all who suffer due to poverty. In contemplating the birth of Jesus, the Pope asked that we open our hearts to receive the grace offered on Christmas Day, “which is Christ himself.” Jesus, he said, “is the radiant day which has dawned on the horizon of humanity. A day of mercy, in which God our Father has revealed his great tenderness to the entire world. A day of light, which dispels the darkness of fear and anxiety.” It is also a day of peace, “which makes for encounter, dialogue and reconciliation. A day of joy: a great joy for the poor, the lowly and for all the people,” Francis said.Below is the full text of Pope Francis’ Christmas message: Dear brothers and sisters, Happy Christmas! Christ is born for us, let us rejoice in the day of our salvation! Let us open our hearts to receive the grace of this day, which is Christ himself. Jesus is the radiant “day” which has dawned on the horizon of humanity. A day of mercy, in which God our Father has revealed his great tenderness to the entire world. A day of light, which dispels the darkness of fear and anxiety. A day of peace, which makes for encounter, dialogue and reconciliation. A day of joy: a “great joy” for the poor, the lowly and for all the people (cf. Lk 2:10). On this day, Jesus, the Savior is born of the Virgin Mary. The Crib makes us see the “sign” which God has given us: “a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12). Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, may we too set out to see this sign, this event which is renewed yearly in the Church. Christmas is an event which is renewed in every family, parish and community which receives the love of God made incarnate in Jesus Christ. Like Mary, the Church shows to everyone the “sign” of God: the Child whom she bore in her womb and to whom she gave birth, yet who is the Son of the Most High, since he “is of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:20). He is truly the Savior, for he is the Lamb of God who takes upon himself the sin of the world (cf. Jn 1:29). With the shepherds, let us bow down before the Lamb, let us worship God’s goodness made flesh, and let us allow tears of repentance to fill our eyes and cleanse our hearts. He alone, he alone can save us. Only God’s mercy can free humanity from the many forms of evil, at times monstrous evil, which selfishness spawns in our midst. The grace of God can convert hearts and offer mankind a way out of humanly insoluble situations. Where God is born, hope is born. Where God is born, peace is born. And where peace is born, there is no longer room for hatred and for war. Yet precisely where the incarnate Son of God came into the world, tensions and violence persist, and peace remains a gift to be implored and built. May Israelis and Palestinians resume direct dialogue and reach an agreement which will enable the two peoples to live together in harmony, ending a conflict which has long set them at odds, with grave repercussions for the entire region. We pray to the Lord that the agreement reached in the United Nations may succeed in halting as quickly as possible the clash of arms in Syria and in remedying the extremely grave humanitarian situation of its suffering people. It is likewise urgent that the agreement on Libya be supported by all, so as to overcome the grave divisions and violence afflicting the country. May the attention of the international community be unanimously directed to ending the atrocities which in those countries, as well as in Iraq, Libya, Yemen and sub-Saharan Africa, even now reap numerous victims, cause immense suffering and do not even spare the historical and cultural patrimony of entire peoples. My thoughts also turn to those affected by brutal acts of terrorism, particularly the recent massacres which took place in Egyptian airspace, in Beirut, Paris, Bamako and Tunis. To our brothers and sisters who in many parts of the world are being persecuted for their faith, may the Child Jesus grant consolation and strength. We also pray for peace and concord among the peoples of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and South Sudan, that dialogue may lead to a strengthened common commitment to the building of civil societies animated by a sincere spirit of reconciliation and of mutual understanding. May Christmas also bring true peace to Ukraine, offer comfort to those suffering from the effects of the conflict, and inspire willingness to carry out the agreements made to restore concord in the entire country. May the joy of this day illumine the efforts of the Colombian people so that, inspired by hope, they may continue their commitment to working for the desired peace. Where God is born, hope is born; and where hope is born, persons regain their dignity. Yet even today great numbers of men and woman are deprived of their human dignity and, like the child Jesus, suffer cold, poverty, and rejection. May our closeness today be felt by those who are most vulnerable, especially child soldiers, women who suffer violence, and the victims of human trafficking and the drug trade. Nor may our encouragement be lacking to all those fleeing extreme poverty or war, travelling all too often in inhumane conditions and not infrequently at the risk of their lives. May God repay all those, both individuals and states, who generously work to provide assistance and welcome to the numerous migrants and refugees, helping them to build a dignified future for themselves and for their dear ones, and to be integrated in the societies which receive them. On this festal day may the Lord grant renewed hope to all those who lack employment; may he sustain the commitment of those with public responsibilities in political and economic life, that they may work to pursue the common good and to protect the dignity of every human life. Where God is born, mercy flourishes. Mercy is the most precious gift which God gives us, especially during this Jubilee year in which we are called to discover that tender love of our heavenly Father for each of us. May the Lord enable prisoners in particular to experience his merciful love, which heals wounds and triumphs over evil. Today, then, let us together rejoice in the day of our salvation. As we contemplate the Crib, let us gaze on the open arms of Jesus, which show us the merciful embrace of God, as we hear the cries of the Child who whispers to us: “for my brethren and companions’ sake, I will say: Peace be within you” (Ps 121[122]:8).v (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = “//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.3”; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’));Here’s our favorite photos from the Pope’s Urbi et Orbi address from Christmas morning. Learn more here:…Posted by Catholic News Agency on Friday, December 25, 2015 Read more

Christmas joy is the antidote to skepticism, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Dec 24, 2015 / 02:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The joy we receive from Christ’s birth has the power to counteract doubt and indifference, in a world that is “merciless to the sinner and lenient to the sin,” Pope Francis said during Midnight Mass for Christmas. “Joy and gladness are a sure sign that the message contained in the mystery of this night is truly from God,” the Pope said in his Dec. 24 homily for Mass celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica. “There is no room for doubt; let us leave that to the skeptics who, by looking to reason alone, never find the truth. There is no room for the indifference which reigns in the hearts of those unable to love for fear of losing something.” Pope Francis went on to observe how Christ, born in the poverty of a stable, teaches us to reject worldly riches amid a consumerist and hedonistic society, as a “culture of indifference.” “In a society so often intoxicated by consumerism and hedonism, wealth and extravagance, appearances and narcissism, this Child calls us to act soberly, in other words, in a way that is simple, balanced, consistent, capable of seeing and doing what is essential,” he said. “In a world which all too often is merciless to the sinner and lenient to the sin, we need to cultivate a strong sense of justice, to discern and to do God’s will.” “Amid a culture of indifference which not infrequently turns ruthless, our style of life should instead be devout, filled with empathy, compassion and mercy, drawn daily from the wellspring of prayer.” Before the liturgy began in Saint Peter’s Basilica, there was the chanting of “Kalenda” – a traditional chant recounting the events leading up to Christ’s birth. After this, the Holy Father unveiled and prayed before a small statue of the Child Jesus which laid in front of the main altar above St. Peter’s tomb. The statue, which itself rested upon a stand holding the Scriptures as a symbol of the Word Made Flesh, was then venerated with flowers by a group of children from around the world. Each child represented one of the countries visited by the Pope during 2015, such as the Philippines, Kenya, Cuba, and the United States. “All sadness has been banished, for the Child Jesus brings true comfort to every heart,” Pope Francis continued in his homily, reflecting on the readings for the Mass. “Everything changes” with the birth of the Son of God, who partakes in our human nature, he said. We are no longer “alone and forsaken,” he explained, adding that the Virgin Mary offers her Son to us “as the beginning of a new life.” “The true light has come to illumine our lives so often beset by the darkness of sin. Today we once more discover who we are! Tonight we have been shown the way to reach the journey’s end.” Putting away “all fear and dread,” Pope Francis said we must not remain idle, but go out to see “our Savior lying in a manger” in Bethlehem. Having heard of Christ’s birth, we should be “silent and let the Child speak,” for he brings us “unending peace of heart” and teaches us what is truly important in our lives, the Pope said. He recalled how Jesus was born into poverty, having to find shelter in a stable where he was placed in a manger. “And yet, from this nothingness, the light of God’s glory shines forth. From now on, the way of authentic liberation and perennial redemption is open to every man and woman who is simple of heart.” Pope Francis concluded by inviting the faithful to follow the example of the shepherds at Bethlehem and, like them, “with eyes full of amazement and wonder, gaze upon the Child Jesus, the Son of God.” (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = “//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.3”; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’));The Holy Father celebrated midnight Mass with pilgrims in St. Peter’s Basilica for Christmas. Here’s some of our favorite photos!Posted by Catholic News Agency on Friday, December 25, 2015 Read more

A ‘most powerful woman’ – National Geographic’s major hat tip to the Virgin Mary

Washington D.C., Dec 23, 2015 / 06:02 pm (CNA).- Our Lady. Blessed Mother. Virgin Mary. Queen of Peace. Theotokos. Handmaid of the Lord. Mother Mary. These are just some of the titles used to describe the young woman to whom an angel appeared some 2… Read more