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Our Lenten Journey, March 29, 2015

March 29th, 2015 Posted in Featured Tags:


Our Lenten Journey | March 29, 2015


“Somebody should tell us,

right at the start of our lives,

that we are dying.

Then we might live life to the limit,

every minute of every day.

Do it! I say.

Whatever you want to do, do it now!

There are only so many tomorrows.”

—Blessed Pope Paul VI


Holy Week is the build up to the observation of Good Friday, when Jesus died on the cross for us. Can we think about our own deaths in terms of what our accomplishments are and if we are able to take the advice of Pope Paul VI  — to “live life to the limit, every minute of every day — ?








Our Lenten Journey, March 28, 2015

March 28th, 2015 Posted in Featured Tags:


Our Lenten Journey | March 28, 2015


“Not all of us can do great things.

But we can do small things with great love.”

— St. Teresa of Calcutta


As we get ready to enter Holy Week, let’s reflect on how we’ve managed with Lenten sacrifices we have made. As Mother Teresa says, we can do small things with great love — have you been able to accomplish any small things this Lenten season?








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Weekend TV: ‘Killing Jesus’ mutes theology to portray faith-based philosopher

March 27th, 2015 Posted in Featured, Movies


Catholic News Service

Unsettling problems beset the lavish dramatization “Killing Jesus,” which premieres on the National Geographic cable channel Palm Sunday, March 29, 8-11 p.m. Based on Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly’s 2013 best-seller, this sometimes gory recreation of events surrounding the Passion tries to be historically accurate while remaining theologically noncommittal.

Haaz Sleiman, center, stars in a scene from "Killing Jesus," which premieres on the National Geographic cable channel Palm Sunday, March 29, 8-11 p.m. EDT. (CNS photo/Kent Eanes, courtesy National Geographic Channels)

Haaz Sleiman, center, stars in a scene from “Killing Jesus,” which premieres on the National Geographic cable channel Palm Sunday, March 29, 8-11 p.m. EDT. (CNS photo/Kent Eanes, courtesy National Geographic Channels)

The result will likely strike believers as incomplete and unsatisfying. Haaz Sleiman’s Jesus, after all, is wholly unconscious of any divine identity augmenting his ordinary human nature, and is even slow to accept his role as the promised Messiah.

Once he does so, after encouragement from his cousin, John the Baptist (Abhin Galeya), he pursues his mission with minimal supernatural fuss: The wonder-shy script includes only two potentially miraculous events, along with the empty tomb, but not, significantly, any sighting of the risen Jesus himself.

More a faith-based philosopher and social critic than a savior, this Jesus focuses on bettering the morals of his contemporaries and undermining the entrenched political and religious hierarchies that ride roughshod over the poor.

Naturally, those in power, most prominently Roman governor Pontius Pilate (Stephen Moyer), Tetrarch of Galilee Herod Antipas (Eoin Macken) and Caiaphas the High Priest (Rufus Sewell), don’t take kindly to such an agenda.

Like any number of doomed academic attempts to isolate the “historical Jesus” from “the Christ of faith,” this small-screen narrative finds itself neutralized by the impossibility of separating the real-life events of the Gospel from the otherworldly understanding with which those occurrences have, from the beginning, been inseparably intertwined.

What remains is a reasonably diverting swords-and-sandals saga marked by some frisky romantic misbehavior, Salome (Stephanie Leonidas) trips the light fantastic, and political intrigue.


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Pope Francis greets homeless people during their private tour of Sistine Chapel


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — While enjoying a private visit to the Sistine Chapel, a group of VIP guests, homeless people who live around the Vatican, were surprised by a visit from Pope Francis.

The 150 visitors had just reached the Sistine Chapel at about 5 p.m. March 26, when Pope Francis walked through the door.

“Welcome,” the pope said. “This is everyone’s house, this is your home. The doors are always open for all.”

A homeless woman walks past a Swiss guard as she enters the Vatican March 26. While enjoying a private visit to the Sistine Chapel, homeless people were surprised by a visit from Pope Francis. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

A homeless woman walks past a Swiss guard as she enters the Vatican March 26. While enjoying a private visit to the Sistine Chapel, homeless people were surprised by a visit from Pope Francis. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

The Vatican Museums had closed 90 minutes early to allow the special guests of Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, to have the Sistine Chapel to themselves. Accompanied by professional guides, the visitors began their tour in the Vatican Gardens and the Vatican Museums.

Pope Francis thanked the archbishop for arranging the “little caress” for those who live on the streets of Rome.

“Pray for me. I’m in need of prayers by people like you,” the pope told them. He blessed them saying, “May the Lord protect and help you on the path of life and let you feel his tender, fatherly love.”

The pope greeted each of the guests individually, spending more than 20 minutes with them before they were served dinner in the museums’ cafeteria.

The Vatican press office said Pope Francis asked that no cameras be present during his meeting with the group. After he left, though, the guests posed for a group photo under Michelangelo’s towering wall fresco of “The Last Judgment.”

It was not the only photo taken; several of the guests had cellphones with cameras and they took pictures of one another and of the pope.

Mauro, who speaks Italian and serves a spokesman for a group of Poles who sleep near the Vatican press office, told Catholic News Service March 27 that his favorite part of the Vatican Museums was the vintage carriage and car collection.

“I’m passionate about cars and what they have is great,” he said. “I had my picture taken there.”

Mauro said he and his friends always see long lines of tourists waiting to get into the museums, so it was great to see what all the fuss was about. And they didn’t even have to wait in line or deal with a crowd; “it was just us,” he said.

“It’s spectacular,” he said. “It’s beautiful.”

The pope’s arrival, Mauro said, “was a big surprise. We applauded. Everyone was so happy.”

Dinner, he said, was an Italian pizza party: prosciutto ham, mozzarella cheese, suppli (stuffed rice balls), pizza, cola and water.

His friend Mario said he could not accept the invitation because he had nowhere to leave Cookie, a 5-month-old puppy he found abandoned in a dumpster. “He’s my baby,” said Mario.

As papal almoner, Archbishop Krajewski distributes charitable aid from Pope Francis and has made a special point of assisting the homeless who live near the Vatican. His office installed and manages the showers near St. Peter’s Basilica and recruited barbers and hairdressers to donate their services on Mondays.


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Our Lenten Journey, March 27, 2015

March 27th, 2015 Posted in Featured


Our Lenten Journey | March 27, 2015


“Be gentle to all, and stern with yourself.”

— St. Teresa of Avila







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Anglican and Catholic rites for reburial of King Richard III


Catholic News Service

MANCHESTER, England — One of England’s last Catholic kings was reburied three years after his skeleton was discovered in a coffin beneath a parking lot.

King Richard III, the last monarch of the Plantagenet dynasty and the last English king to die in battle, was originally buried by Franciscan friars in Leicester, a city in the Midlands, after he was slain at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Read more »

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Vatican Letter: Pope prepares encyclical on ecology as a pro-life, pro-poor issue


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Catholic Church supports the efforts of scientists to study the causes and effects of climate change and insists governments and businesses must get serious about specific commitments for protecting the environment. Read more »

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Sept. 21, 1953: Pope Francis recalls experiencing mercy as a teen


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ decision to convoke a special Holy Year of Mercy has its roots in the event that led a teen-age Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the priesthood.

Pope Francis has recounted the story several times in the past two years. On one occasion early in his pontificate, he told members of Catholic lay movements about his faith journey, particularly the importance of growing up Catholic and the influence of his grandmother. Then he said: Read more »

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Bishops’ meeting on family life needs prayers, not gossip, Pope Francis says


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — No matter how weary, wounded or sinful a family has become, the church will always do everything to try to help family members heal, convert and reconcile with the Lord, Pope Francis said.

The pope called on everyone to pray each day for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family and for the church so that it could be even more “dedicated and united in the witness of the truth of God’s love and mercy for the families of the world, (with) no one excluded either inside or outside the flock.”

Rain falls as Pope Francis arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Rain falls as Pope Francis arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Prayers, “not gossip,” are needed for the synod, and “I invite even those who feel distanced or those who aren’t used to it to pray,” he said at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square March 25.

The pope dedicated his catechesis to the day’s feast of the Annunciation of the Lord and the 20th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s landmark encyclical on the value and inviolability of human life, “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”). The day also marked the Day for Life in some countries.

Today was “a little special” in the pope’s series of general audience talks on the family as it represented “a break for prayer,” he said.

Special prayer cards with the pope’s prayer for the synod on the family were distributed to the more than 17,000 people who turned out in the pouring rain for the audience.

“Perhaps it will be a little wet,” he said about the prayer card, asking people to keep it with them and recite the prayer as often as possible. He led the people both in the prayer on the card and in reciting the Hail Mary.

He said the Hail Mary touches upon “the beauty of this bond” between God and the family, the beauty of God wanting to be born a child into a real human family.

St. John Paul’s encyclical, Pope Francis said, explained the importance of the family as “the womb of human life” and as an institution blessed by God to be a community of love and life, entrusted with “the mission of procreation.”

In fact, Pope Francis said, “the bond between the church and family is sacred and inviolable” as the church “is solemnly committed to taking care of the family,” which is a gift of God, in good times and bad.

“The church, as mother, never abandons the family even when it is disheartened, wounded and demeaned in so many ways,” he said, “not even when (the family) stumbles in sin or distances itself from the church.”

The church, he said, “will do everything to try to take care of it and heal it, invite it to conversion and reconcile it with the Lord.”

Given that commitment, the pope said, the church needs prayers that are “full of love for the family and for life” and a community of people who know “how to rejoice with those who rejoice and suffer with those who suffer.”

Pope Francis asked that prayers and the synodal process itself be driven by “the compassion of the Good Shepherd for his flock, especially for people and families who, for different reasons, are ‘troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.’”

Prayers for the synod are for “the good of everyone,” he added.

After the general audience, the Vatican released a second list of delegates elected to attend the synod on the family. Pope Francis approved the bishops elected by members of 38 bishops’ conferences and the Syro-Malabar Church. In early February, the Vatican had released the first list of delegates, including those from the United States. Most lists are expected in the coming months.

Pope Francis’ general audience celebration of St. John Paul’s encyclical on life was preceded by a Mass and prayer vigil, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Family. The event was March 24 at Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major, with similar commemorations at the sanctuaries of Fatima in Portugal, Lourdes in Frances and Guadalupe in Mexico.

At the Mass in Rome, Msgr. Carlos Simon Vazquez, council undersecretary, said “Evangelium Vitae” echoes the Gospel revelation that God sent his Son so that everyone would have life and have it in abundance. Christians, he said, are called to live and to promote abundant life.

The church, he said, is often “alone” in its pro-life work, which means that it must be even more prophetic and creative in promoting respect for life.


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Christ at spring training: Catholic baseball players given the Good News


Catholic News Service

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The crack of the bat is a sure sign of spring, one that calls Ray McKenna to the field.

“How’s the team looking this year?” he asked the top trainer for the Texas Rangers. “Anything we can do? Please let us know,” he told catcher Tyler Flowers of the Chicago White Sox.

Ray McKenna of Catholic Athletes for Christ talks with Kansas City Royals special assistant Mike Sweeney, right, and relief pitcher Ryan Madson before a spring training game March 10 in Surprise, Arizona. Madson is in the Rite of Christian Initiation program and will join the Catholic Church at Easter. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Ray McKenna of Catholic Athletes for Christ talks with Kansas City Royals special assistant Mike Sweeney, right, and relief pitcher Ryan Madson before a spring training game March 10 in Surprise, Arizona. Madson is in the Rite of Christian Initiation program and will join the Catholic Church at Easter. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

The Washington-based attorney was busy checking in with baseball players, coaches, trainers and fans at spring training camps in Arizona and Florida.

McKenna though was not dispensing batting tips or offering legal advice. He was there to make sure Catholic players have access to the sacraments and to share the good news.

A former minor-league baseball chaplain, McKenna is the founder and president of Catholic Athletes for Christ. He said the 10-year-old sports ministry has a two-fold mission of service and evangelization.

“The service is to provide the sacraments to the players so the players are able to practice their faith,” he said. Evangelization, he continued, “is simply a fancy word for going out and sharing the good news and telling people that God is good.”

McKenna said he saw a need for the formal sports outreach while working as a lay chaplain. He could impart spiritual messages and support to athletes, but he could not provide the sacraments.

“The result of that logically was that players were leaving the Catholic faith and becoming so-called non-denominational, born-again Christians and not understanding and receiving the fullness of our Catholic faith,” he said.

Catholic Athletes for Christ now has a cadre of priests it works with to make sure that athletes can go to confession and celebrate Mass at stadiums, club houses and practice fields, accommodating their game schedules. It also coordinates events with the Vatican’s Church and Sports office within the Pontifical Council for the Laity and with the Knights of Columbus.

Msgr. Ned Brockhaus, a priest of the Diocese of San Diego, is active with the Catholic group and is the chaplain for the Padres. He celebrates Sunday Mass in the Padres’ press room when they are in town.

A baseball fan since he was a boy, the priest considers himself a missionary to the sport. He said he helps players to “keep their faith alive” and give them some reason to come to Mass.

He said pro athletes have a lot of demands and pressure, and unique needs. “I try to help them in the unusual life that they lead.”

Spring training, the yearly passage to opening day, is just one stop on the Catholic Athletes for Christ’s annual agenda. The organization holds a yearly retreat for baseball players and is also working to build stronger relationships and initiatives with the national football, hockey and basketball leagues.

It has a program for middle school and high school athletes. With more than 100 chapters in formation, “it’s growing like wildfire,” McKenna said.

If baseball mirrors religion in its rituals, then for Catholics one might say that Mike Sweeney of the Kansas City Royals is a key evangelist.

Sweeney, the team’s former first baseman and now special assistant, was recently named to the club’s Hall of Fame. He is chairman of the athletes advisory board for Catholic Athletes for Christ and sponsors a Catholic baseball camp for kids. With his wife, he runs the Mike and Shara Sweeney Family Foundation, which supports youths and pro-life initiatives and encourages unity between Catholics and Protestants.

On a practice field in Surprise, Arizona, McKenna caught up with Sweeney and they chatted with Royals relief pitcher Ryan Madson, who will become a fully fledged Catholic at Easter. A talk given by Sweeney had inspired Madson to learn more about Catholicism and enter the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults program.

Their conversation was interrupted by fans calling out to Sweeney for autographs. He graciously accommodated them, and with his signature added a Bible reference.

“We got a good Scripture for ’em,” Sweeney said as he signed and passed back a fan’s souvenir baseball.

McKenna watched most of the Royals-White Sox matchup from the Kansas City dugout. It ended with a White Sox 6-2 win.

On his second day in Phoenix, McKenna met up with Bishop Michael F. Olson of Fort Worth, Texas, one of 22 bishops who serve on Catholic Athletes for Christ’s board. He was taking some vacation time and had tickets for that day’s game between the Chicago White Sox and the Texas Rangers.

When asked which team he was rooting for, Bishop Olson answered with prudence. “I’m rooting for a well-played game.”

“I am a loyal lifelong Chicago White Sox fan,” he admitted. But said as bishop of Fort Worth he also cheers for the Rangers. And his third-favorite team? “Whoever plays the Cubs,” he quipped.

McKenna, Bishop Olson, catcher Flowers, Msgr. Brockhaus and Jaime Reed, the senior director of medical operations for the Rangers, stood talking near home plate at the Camelback Ranch ballpark. The White Sox-Rangers game was to start in about an hour.

Reed said that he often prays the rosary using a knotted string made by his daughter. On his way to work or on the way to the ballpark, “it just kind of balances me a little bit, kind of put my priorities in the right place,” he said. “It lets me know that I don’t have to worry about a lot of things, but God’s got it under control.”

Flowers said he appreciates the work of Catholic Athletes for Christ and the chaplains.

“They do a great job helping us,” he said. “We can have Mass at the stadium at the majority of places we go.” He added that Sunday Mass is a “good refresh, a good reset” for the beginning of his week.


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