Man up! Phoenix bishop encourages, challenges Catholic men in new letter

Phoenix, Ariz., Oct 1, 2015 / 03:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Calling on all Christian men to take a stand in the Church’s spiritual battle, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix asked men in his diocese to courageously pursue their vocations as friends, fathers, and spouses. “Men, do not hesitate to engage in the battle that is raging around you,” the Phoenix bishop said in a Sept. 29 exhortation, saying that “this battle is occurring in the Church herself, and the devastation is all too evident.” “Catholic men have not been willing to ‘step into the breach’ – to fill this gap that lies open and vulnerable to further attack,” he continued. Bishop Olmsted spoke of the ways in which this spiritual battle is developing and how the Church is being attacked. Over the past 15 years, millions have left the faith, baptisms have decreased in both infants and adults, parochial religious education is declining, and fewer sacramental marriages have occurred. In addition, he continued, the parents who promised to raise their children in the faith at baptism have devastatingly fallen short on their pledges, while the Catholics who do remain faithful to the Church’s teachings are often timid, practicing their religion in the shadows. “I offer this Exhortation as an encouragement, a challenge, and a calling forth to mission for every willing man,” Bishop Olmsted asserted, saying that this call applies to all men – whether young or old, priests, married or single.   “I urge you to heed Jesus’ call and to let him form your mind and heart with the light of the Gospel for the purpose of being sent…I am hereby exhorting you to step into the breach – to do the work of Christ’s soldiers in the world today,” he said. Modern complexities have threatened the authentic role of men in today’s world, the bishop said. He pointed to gender ideology as one of the breaches between the natural complementarity of men and women, creating unnecessary division and confusion while blurring the identity of genuine masculinity. “Looking to what the secular world holds up as ‘manly’ is in fact to look at shadows – or even at outright counterfeits – of masculinity.” In contrast, the bishop pointed to Jesus as the “fullness of masculinity,” saying that Christ displays genuine masculine virtue and strength. Instead of looking at possessions, success, and worldly goods as the definition of manhood, Bishop Olmsted said, men should secure their identities in their Christian beliefs. “Simply put, our identity is caught up in the identity of the eternal Son of God.” The bishop also proposed that every Catholic man invoke the intercession of a patron saint, who can guide their journey through life. He offered examples including St. Joseph, Pope St. John Paul II, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, and St. Michael the Archangel. To practically live out this Christian manhood, he suggested daily prayer and examination of conscience, Mass as often as possible, scriptural reading, honoring Sundays for rest, frequent confession, and nurturing Catholic brotherhood in friendship. Bishop Olmsted went on to explain how Catholic men should love, saying that “the true love of Christ is centered on willing the good of the other, on pouring oneself out in charity for others.” “Each man is called to commit and give of himself completely,” Bishop Olmsted said, whether through marriage, priesthood, or service towards God. If a man’s call is to marriage, then it must emulate Christ’s spousal love for the Church – a love so united that it “achieves the infinite and eternal character to which every love aspires.” However, the bishop also noted that marriage holds the epicenter of the modern-day masculine battle, because it requires the virtue of chastity. “Chastity allows us to master and properly live out this calling to be men of authentic communion,” he said, and a man must nurture chastity within the call to marriage by loving his wife as Christ loves the Church. In addition to this definition of masculine love, he described three other outlets for men to love: as a friend, a husband, and a father. The bishop advised every man to evaluate how he loves in each of these relationships. Are his friendships healthy and holy? Does he love his wife with dignity and fullness? Is his fatherhood responsible and faithful? Furthermore, Bishop Olmsted stressed the importance of fatherhood, while cautioning against the modern-day notion of freedom from the commitment of a family.   “To fully live, all men must be fathers and live out their fatherhood” in some way, he said. “If you do not embrace the spousal and fatherly vocation God has planned for you, you will be stuck in the impotence of the ‘seed’ that refuses to die and refuses to give life. Don’t settle for this half-life!” Bishop Olmsted concluded his exhortation in hope all that all men “will take what is helpful in my message, bring it to the Lord in prayer, and go forward confidently in your vocation as men.” “Our life in Christ is not one of ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ but an adventure of authentic freedom,” he continued, urging Catholic men to “embrace that freedom in order to place your life at the service of Christ, beginning in your home and radiating into the world.” The full text of Bishop Olmsted’s letter can be read here.   Read more

Stop ‘corporate welfare’ for Planned Parenthood, pro-life Democrats say

Washington D.C., Sep 30, 2015 / 05:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The House on Tuesday passed a bill allowing states to withhold Medicaid funds from health care providers that perform abortions. The Women’s Public Health and Safety Act, introduced by… Read more

Families tell Pope Francis ‘thank you’ with a renewed commitment to marriage

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 30, 2015 / 05:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In response to Pope Francis’ ongoing encouragement of marriage, an Ecuadorian lay woman has penned a simple thank you letter that has now gained over 1,500 signatures in the Hispanic co… Read more

What meeting Pope Francis was like for elementary students in Harlem

New York City, N.Y., Sep 30, 2015 / 03:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Students and community members in East Harlem were moved, sometimes to tears, by Pope Francis’ words and example during his visit to the New York neighborhood. “It was mindblowing and at the same time very shocking,”  Aaron Diaz, a third grader from Our Lady, Queen of the Angels School told CNA, “because not many people are able to meet him.” Negueubou Kamwa, a fourth grader at Our Lady, Queen of the Angels, added that the meeting “amazing and it was like a big opportunity and a blessing,” and that the experience was so overwhelming “I started crying all over the place.” “It was just incredible, and I cried.” Pope Francis visited Our Lady, Queen of the Angels on Sept. 25, during the second day of his visit to New York City. While at the school, the Pope met with students from four schools in the neighborhood, as well as with migrants and refugees chosen by Catholic Charities of New York. Diaz explained that out of over 7,000 students in the neighborhood, there were “only six of us and I was chosen.” While the students didn’t have time to talk to Pope Francis, Pope Francis spoke to them – and was very funny, Diaz said. “When we were singing he said ‘are you asleep!? Make it louder!’” Diaz was also excited to receive a picture, and pulled out a his rosary. “He actually blessed it,” he explained, responding when asked if he would pray with it, “yes, I will.”   This 8 y/o had a “mind-blowing” and “shocking” meeting w/ Pope Francis. #PopeinNYC via @AddieDMena — Matthew Hadro (@matthadro) September 26, 2015 Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities of New York, explained to CNA that when planning the event “we wanted to make sure that he reached out and touched the communities of people in the United States,” and could not think of a better community or neighborhood for that goal than East Harlem. The neighborhood, he elaborated “is a community that has welcomed immigrants for many many years.” “The way we planned the event was just to try to get representatives with as many immigrant groups that Catholic Charities is working together so that the Pope could see the breadth of what is going on in New York, the breadth of how Catholic Charities is helping immigrants and refugees.” The meeting also touched Msgr. Sullivan on a personal level as well.  “For me, I just kept looking around the room and seeing it filled with so many different people from so many different countries,” he recalled. “You know, in that room, there were immigrants and refugees from every single continent except Antarctica, because the penguins wouldn’t come,” the monsignor joked.   “It was just the diversity of New York was there, and it was just a magnificent experience.” During the meeting the Pope addressed following one’s dreams, a message which resounded with the experiences of many of the immigrants who came. Odette Manzano, an immigrant herself, was touched by the experience. She was invited by Catholic Charities to come to the event as well as write a letter to Pope Francis, which was compiled into a book that was given to the Pope during the visit. “It was one of a kind and it was one of the best experiences of my life and just hearing himself pronounce himself in Spanish, my native language, it was just amazing.” She also found the Pope’s example even more inspiring in person. “He’s a leader, one of the greatest leaders, and he’s just showing what a leader should do, which is to be humble.”     Read more

Pope Francis lauds Archbishop Chaput’s ‘great love for the family’

Vatican City, Sep 30, 2015 / 11:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis reviewed his recent trip to Cuba and the United States during his General Audience on Wednesday, calling the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia the “culmination” of his apostolic visit. “I wish to convey my fraternal and warm thanks to Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, for his commitment, his piety, his enthusiasm, and his great love for the family in the organization of this event,” the Pope said Sept. 30 in St. Peter’s Square. “At closer inspection, it is no accident, but rather providential that the message, indeed, the witness of the World Meeting of Families came at this moment from the United States of America, that is, the country that during the last century reached the highest level of economic and technological development, without renouncing its religious roots. Now these same roots are asking to be replanted in the family, to rethink and change the model of development, for the good of the entire human family.” He noted that his trip to Cuba and the United States was occassioned by the World Meeting of Families, and was expanded from there to include the United Nations and Cuba. He expressed his thanks to Cuban president Raul Castro, United States president Barack Obama, and United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon for their welcome. The Pope began with his time in Cuba, which he called “rich in natural beauty, culture, and faith,” where he went as a “Missionary of Mercy.” “God’s mercy is greater than any affliction, any conflict, any ideology; and with this gaze of mercy I was able to embrace the entire Cuban population, at home and abroad, looking beyond any division.” He called Cuba’s patroness, Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, the symbol of this unity, and said she “guides us on the path of justice, peace, freedom and reconciliation.” “I was able to share with the Cuban people the hope of fulfilling the prophecy of St. John Paul II: that Cuba will open up to the world, and the world will open up to Cuba,” he said. “No more closure, no more exploitation of the poor, but instead freedom and dignity. It is the path that draws strength from the Christian roots of the people, who have suffered greatly.” Pope Francis continued: “From Cuba to the United States of America: an emblematic step, a bridge that, thanks be to God, is being rebuilt. God always wants to build bridges; we are the ones who build walls! But walls fall down, always!” He said the that United States’ greatest wealth is in its “spiritual and ethical patrimony.” “And so I wanted to encourage to continuation of social construction faithful to the United States’ fundamental principle, that all men are created by God, equal and endowed with inalienable rights, such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These values, shared by all, find their fulfilment in the Gospel, as was clearly shown by the canonisation of Fr. Junipero Serra, a Franciscan, the great evangeliser of California. St. Junipero shows us the way to joy: going forth and sharing Christ’s love with others. This is the way of Christians, but also of any person who has known love: not to keep it to oneself but to share it with others. The United States of America have grown on this religious and moral base, and on this base they can continue to be a land of freedom, welcome and cooperation for a more just and fraternal world.” The Pope then discussed his visit to the United Nations, where “I renewed the Catholic Church’s commitment to the institution and to its role in promoting development and peace, especially with regard to the need for joint and active commitment to care for creation.” He also highlighted his appeal “to stop and prevent violence against ethnic and religious minorities and against civilian populations.” “The culmination of the trip was the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, where the horizon extends to all the world through the ‘prism’ of the family. The family is the answer to the great challenge of our world, which is a dual challenge: fragmentation and solidification, two extremes which co-exist, support each other, and together support the consumerist economic model.” The said the family is “the answer” because “it is the cell of a society which balances the personal and community dimensions, and is at the same time the model for a sustainable management of the goods and resources of creation. The family is the protagonist of an integral ecology, as it is the primary social subject which contains within itself the two basic principals of human civilisation on earth: the principles of communion and fruitfulness.” “Biblical humanism presents us with this icon: the human couple, united and fruitful, placed by God in the garden of the world to cultivate it and protect it.” Following his address, Pope Francis asked the pilgrims to pray for the upcoming Synod on the Family, “and to be witnesses of God’s presence in the world through your family life.” Read more

Pope Francis reportedly met with Kim Davis, offered support

Washington D.C., Sep 30, 2015 / 08:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Embattled county clerk Kim Davis met with Pope Francis in Washington, D.C. last Thursday, her lawyer has told multiple media outlets. When asked about the meeting, the head of the Holy See press office, Fr Federico Lombardi, said, “I don’t deny that the meeting may have taken place but I don’t have comments to add.” Robert Moynihan, editor of the publication “Inside the Vatican,” first broke the story about the alleged meeting. According to his account, Pope Francis and Davis met at the Vatican Embassy in D.C. on Thursday afternoon after the Pope’s address to the U.S. Congress. He offered her words of support – “Thank you for your courage” – and told her to “stay strong,” offering rosaries to Davis and her husband. Davis, a clerk for Rowan County, Kentucky, made headlines this past summer for refusing out of conscience to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, after the U.S. Supreme Court in June legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states in its decision, Obergefell v. Hodges. The district court judge ordered that Davis serve jail time for refusing to obey the law, stating that her conscientious objection was not enough for her to lawfully recuse herself from issuing licenses. Davis served five days in jail. According to Moynihan, Vatican sources confirmed the details of the meeting. Davis’ attorney Mathew Staver confirmed to multiple outlets that the meeting occurred and told CBS News that the two promised to pray for each other, and that Pope Francis offered Davis and her husband rosaries. “I can confirm the meeting took place Thursday afternoon in DC,” the Twitter account for Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and attorney for Davis, said on Tuesday night. Liberty Counsel released a statement Tuesday evening linking to Moynihan’s report. The rosaries that Pope Francis reportedly presented to Davis and her husband were blessed by the Pope and would be given to Kim’s parents, both of whom are Catholic, the group said. According to the Liberty Counsel statement, Davis responded that she was “humbled” to meet the Pope. “Pope Francis was kind, genuinely caring, and very personable. He even asked me to pray for him. Pope Francis thanked me for my courage and told me to ‘stay strong,’” she said, according to the statement. Last Wednesday, Sept. 23, Pope Francis made an unscheduled stop to visit with the Little Sisters of the Poor in Washington, D.C., at their Jeanne Jugan Residence to support the sisters as they await word on whether or not the Supreme Court will hear their case against the federal contraception mandate. The sisters sued the Obama administration over its mandate that employers cover sterilizations, contraceptives, and drugs that can cause abortions in employee health plans. Although revised rules were offered in the manner of an “accommodation,” the sisters still charge that the updated rules would force them to violate their consciences, or endure crippling fines. On the flight back to Rome from the U.S., Pope Francis was asked by ABC’s Terry Moran about his visit to the sisters, along with whether he supported the appeal to religious liberty made by those, including government clerks, who could not obey a law in good conscience. Moran gave the example of “issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.” Pope Francis answered that “I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscientious objection. But, yes, I can say conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right.” When asked if government officials possessed this right he answered, “It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right. It is a human right.”   Read more

Here’s what Archbishop Kurtz thought about Pope Francis’ visit

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 30, 2015 / 06:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, hearing the words of Pope Francis is like being taken back in time to when he first experienced his “original call” to serve the Church … Read more

Sistine Chapel Choir releases sacred music album recorded in its chapel

Vatican City, Sep 30, 2015 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the first album ever to be recorded inside the Sistine Chapel is released, Archbishop Georg Ganswein said the sacred music featured is not something of the past, but continues to play a role in… Read more

US bishops echo Pope’s words on sex abuse, accountability

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 30, 2015 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Two committee heads of the U.S. bishops’ conference voiced support for Pope Francis’ statement rejecting the sexual abuse of minors and promising accountability for those guilty o… Read more

What’s it like to play for the Pope? Here’s how one Catholic artist described it

Washington D.C., Sep 29, 2015 / 04:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Performing for Pope Francis at Saturday’s Festival of Families in Philadelphia was an answer to prayer for musician Marie Miller, but getting a personal thumbs-up from him surely helped confirm it. “Why did God want me to play when they could have picked somebody that was really popular like the other artists?” she recalled herself asking, in an interview with CNA. Miller was part of a star-studded entertainment lineup that included comedian Jim Gaffigan, rock band The Fray, and “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin. The answer was that she is a passionate young Catholic, like so many present in the audience at the Festival of Families. “And I’m just thinking there’s all these young American Catholics who want to be heroically faithful to the Lord. And we love the Eucharist and we love our mother Mary and we love the Church and we love the Pope. And it’s like we got to represent that demographic.” Miller is the third of ten children and hails from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. She plays guitar, mandolin, and piano, writes her own music – a blend of pop and folk – and has been singing since age 7. She’s been writing and performing full-time for five years now. “I read John Paul II’s ‘Letter to Artists’ where he talks about how beauty is a call to transcendence,” she explained in an earlier interview with CNA, “so for me that was the reason why I decided to do music full-time again, because I wanted to find my way of leading people to God.” One of her singles, “6’2”, was featured on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” in 2014. Another, “You’re Not Alone” from 2013, rose to #1 on the Billboard Christian Hot AC/CHR chart, with the video appearing on VH1 and CMT. Miller submitted her resumé to the World Meeting of Families expecting at best a modest slot to perform sometime during the week-long event. The promoter for Saturday’s Festival of Families – the keynote entertainment for the week with the Pope himself present – heard her song on SiriusXM radio, recalled her resumé, and invited her to perform for the Pope. “I was blown away. It really was a miracle.” She had prayed for a “confirmation” that she was meant to stay in the music industry, and considers this a “pretty good one.” The day of the festival, Miller was admittedly nervous about going onstage in front of thousands and playing for the Holy Father. Time was passing quickly in a “pretty hectic and crazy” day, she recalled. She was able to calm down in the last half hour before her performance, hanging out with her older brother and sister in the dressing room backstage and greeting Catholic celebrities such as actor Jim Caviezel and Jim Gaffigan. An aide for classical tenor Andrea Bocelli made her a cappuccino and she was able to pray and meditate before taking the stage. Her backstage neighbors might be famous, but Miller was “really impressed” by how they were able to “put celebrity aside” for the Pope, having reverence for his presence. Then it was time for her to take the stage. “I’m really klutzy, so it’s always ‘don’t trip’,” she chuckled about walking onstage. She faced the Pope to “soak in the fact that this person that I look up to so much and that feeds me so much wisdom and that I love so much and that represents the Church that I love so much is so close to me, and I just got to smile at him.” Two artists she often performs with accompanied her – guitarist Kenny Kohlhaas from Virginia and fiddler Stephen Rees of L’Angelus. She played her two hit songs “6’2” and “You’re Not Alone,” which is about accompanying a friend who is suffering. Originally she did not have the stage time to perform the latter song but she e-mailed the head of the festival and begged to play it. She insisted the song reflects closely on what the World Meeting of Families was about. “It’s about community and it’s about us being here for each other,” she said. To her surprise, the organizers gave her the green light. “That was really, really special and a song I really wanted Pope Francis to hear,” she said. Then her time was up and as she left the stage Pope Francis flashed her a thumbs-up sign – which she missed in the moment. “I think he liked it,” she said. “I was hoping that he liked the fiddle and the mandolin and the bluegrassy kind of thing … I think it was good.” She was able to attend the papal mass on Sunday and reflect on the Pope’s words on the family, which were especially moving given that many of her tight-knit, big Catholic family was present at the event. Her favorite line was from the Pope’s prepared remarks for the festival, that “God’s dream does not change; it remains intact and it invites us to work for a society which supports families.” Earlier in the Pope’s written remarks, the text read that “to want to form a family is to resolve to be a part of God’s dream, to choose to dream with him, to want to build with him, to join him in this saga of building a world where no one will feel alone, unwanted or homeless.” As a poet, singer and songwriter who “dreams” – as well as a member of a large Catholic family – that line “really just struck my heart,” she said. “I’ve been so blessed to have an incredible, incredible family,” she added. “Nine siblings and two parents that love each other so well. So I know from personal experience when the family is working together is that miracles can happen. And that is the best way for the Gospel to be spread is when families are loving each other.” The entire experience was a “great gift” and an answer to prayer, she said, and “will always be in a very special place in my memory.” Read more