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Cardinal Wuerl blesses cemetery plaques honoring memory, legacy of slaves

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON  — Saying the time had come to “right a wrong,” Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl blessed and dedicated commemorative bronze plaques honoring unknown enslaved men, women and children buried throughout the Archdiocese of Washington.

Washington’s archbishop sprinkled holy water on the plaques during a Feb. 3 Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

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Trinity ‘central to the mosaic’ at National Shrine of Immaculate Conception

December 13th, 2017 Posted in National News

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WASHINGTON (CNS) — In the years since its 1959 dedication, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception has had three main architectural focal points: on the exterior, its Great Dome and Knights Tower over the northeast Washington skyline, and in the interior, its dramatic Christ in Majesty Mosaic behind the main altar.

With the Dec. 8 dedication of its interior Trinity Dome Mosaic completing its original architectural and iconographic plans, the national shrine has a new dramatic focal point, before it marks the centennial of the laying of its foundation stone in 2020.

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Members of judiciary should seek justice, mercy in their work, Red Mass homilist says

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Those involved in the administration of law should seek justice and mercy in their work, Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis said Oct. 2.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer speaks with Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl after the annual Red Mass Oct. 2 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. The Mass traditionally marks the start of the court year, including the opening of the Supreme Court term. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer speaks with Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl after the annual Red Mass Oct. 2 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. The Mass traditionally marks the start of the court year, including the opening of the Supreme Court term. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

“Those two virtues must intersect in our lives and actions,” said the archbishop, who was the homilist at the 64th annual Red Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington.

The Red Mass in the nation’s capital is celebrated just before the Supreme Court begins its term in October; opening day for the court this year was Oct. 3.

The Mass seeks God’s blessing and guidance on those who work in the law, including judges, diplomats, government officials and attorneys. The Mass also was attended by university officials and law professors and students.

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl was the main celebrant of the Mass, which was attended by five Supreme Court justices: Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. and Supreme Court Associate Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Stephen G. Breyer and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Other government officials at the Mass included U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch; U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr.; and Denis McDonough, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff.

Archbishop Hebda noted that those present at the Red Mass felt the absence of Antonin Scalia, a Catholic who faithfully attended the Mass during his nearly three decades as a Supreme Court associate justice. Scalia died Feb. 13 at age 79.

“He (Scalia) was someone who seemed to understand the necessity of exploring the connection between justice and mercy,” the Minnesota archbishop said. “In addressing law students at the University of St. Thomas in my archdiocese just last year, shortly before he passed away, he stressed the importance of their moral formation, stating that ‘the rule of law is always second to the law of love.’”

With that statement, Scalia was not showing a lack of appreciation for the rule of law, but he was demonstrating “a heightened appreciation for the importance of the law of love and for the mercy that flows from it in the practice of law and in the administration of justice,” Archbishop Hebda said.

Noting that Pope Francis has declared a Jubilee Year of Mercy in the church to reflect on God’s infinite mercy and the call for believers to be instruments of mercy, the Red Mass homilist said the pope “has noted that mercy ‘does not approach cases, but persons and their pain.’” The pope, he added, has said, “Mercy gets its hands dirty. It touches, it gets involved, it gets caught up with others.”

Archbishop Hebda said this personal approach to sharing mercy is especially important for the work of law. “We need to remember that real people are at the heart of what we do and are affected by the decisions we make,” he said.

The Minnesota archbishop said the Catholic Church respects the important work for the common good carried out by government leaders and those who administer justice.

“Men and women of goodwill throughout this nation depend on you to protect their liberties,” Archbishop Hebda said, noting how Pope Francis during his visit to the White House last year encouraged public servants to build a tolerant and inclusive society that safeguards people’s rights and rejects unjust discrimination.

Gathering together to pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in the administration of justice is an appropriate response to facing difficult challenges, he said, noting that this year’s liturgy was being held “at this critical moment in our nation’s history, at this time when America seems to be almost paralyzed by a political polarization that impedes our ability to address effectively a whole host of pressing needs.”

Archbishop Hebda noted several contemporary problems “in a society in which shopping malls and discos and schools have all too often become places of unthinkable horror, at a time when old hatreds and prejudices seem to be rearing their ugly heads, or when our first freedoms are so readily put at risk.”

But he said that through prayer and action, people can take on the “privilege role as the hands of God’s mercy” to bring healing to the world, a work that people are called to do together, and then “we can, by God’s grace and the work of the Holy Spirit, do amazing things.”

Noting the importance of common prayer and mutual support, Archbishop Hebda said that can foster “faith capable of moving the mountains of despair and division, faith capable of pursuing justice while manifesting mercy, (and) faith capable of making a difference in our lives and in our communities.”

The Red Mass in Washington is sponsored by the John Carroll Society, an organization that provides spiritual, intellectual, charitable and social opportunities for Catholic professionals and business men and women in service to the archbishop of Washington.

The concelebrants included Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States; Archbishop Hebda; Bishop Paul S. Loverde of Arlington, Virginia; Auxiliary Bishop Richard B. Higgins of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services; and Washington Auxiliary Bishops Barry C. Knestout and Mario E. Dorsonville. Twenty-one priests also concelebrated the Mass.

 

Zimmermann is editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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New portrait of Mother Teresa unveiled in Washington

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — On the eve of her canonization as a saint, Mother Teresa of Kolkata, who famously disliked being photographed, was immortalized with the unveiling of a dramatic portrait at the St. John Paul II National Shrine.

Artist Chas Fagan, assisted by two members of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity congregation, unveiled his oil painting, “St. Teresa of Calcutta: Carrier of God’s Love,” Sept. 1.

Sisters from the Missionaries of Charity admire the official canonization portrait of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata just after its unveiling Sept. 1 at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington. The image will be displayed during her canonization at the Vatican Sept. 4. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

Sisters from the Missionaries of Charity admire the official canonization portrait of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata just after its unveiling Sept. 1 at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington. The image will be displayed during her canonization at the Vatican Sept. 4. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

The painting was chosen as the official canonization portrait. It was commissioned by the Knights of Columbus.

A reproduction of the portrait was unfurled earlier the same day as a large tapestry on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. It was to serve as a backdrop for Pope Francis’ Sept. 4 canonization Mass for Mother Teresa.

In Washington the sight of the portrait drew excited gasps and smiles from the 17 members of the Missionaries of Charity attending the ceremony.

“She’s our mother. Now she’s the mother of the whole world. She’s a saint for the church. She’s not just our own. We’ve given her to the world,” said Sister Tanya, superior of the Gift of Peace home in Washington, where the Missionaries of Charity serve elderly, poor, sick and homeless people.

The Knights of Columbus printed more than 1 million prayer cards with the official portrait. They will be distributed at the canonization Mass and given to Missionaries of Charity and the people they serve around the world.

Fagan smiled and said artists dream of seeing a positive reaction to their work like the sisters offered, but that he thought “the credit lies more with the subject than the painting.”

The artist said that he, like millions of people around the world, admired Mother Teresa for her loving service of the poor and her humility. Fagan, who has painted and sculpted portraits of U.S. presidents, said capturing the essence of the nun known around the world was a daunting task.

He explained that he found his “hook” with a simple quote of the saint-to-be that someone shared: “Joy is strength.” He said the phrase helped him feel like he knew Mother Teresa and guided the composition and the expression that he painted on her face.

“Every time I lifted up the brush, that quote was going through my head. Mother Teresa lived that. She was a diminutive, yet earthshaking figure,” the artist said.

Fagan said he spent about a month on preparatory sketches before beginning the portrait, which took about six weeks to complete. “Mother Teresa brought joy to my studio, to my home. Now I will miss her company,” he said.

The painting shows Mother Teresa smiling warmly and looking to the side, with a subtle halo over her head. She is wearing her community’s trademark white sari-styled habit with blue trim. A member of the Missionaries of Charity serving in Charlotte, North Carolina, posed for the artist so he could capture the folds of their distinctive habit accurately.

The painting was to be displayed at the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven, Connecticut, for several weeks except for events in New York Sept. 8-9, and a Sept. 10 Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Patrick’s Cathedral celebrating the canonization. It eventually will be given to the Missionaries of Charity.

A second painting depicting Mother Teresa and St. John Paul II also was unveiled at the shrine Sept. 1.

The painting by Russian-born artist Igor Babailov, depicts St. John Paul II and Mother Teresa standing together in front of 22 young children of different races and cultural backgrounds. The girls are wearing white first Communion dresses and the boys also are in white. A toddler is similarly attired.

The pope offers a blessing and Mother Teresa’s hands are folded in prayer. The painting, donated to the shrine by the artist, is called “Credo,” the Latin word meaning to believe and follow.

The unveiling followed a Mass of thanksgiving for the canonization of Mother Teresa celebrated by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, at the shrine’s Redemptor Hominis Church.

 

Zimmermann is editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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Priest-son celebrates Justice Scalia’s funeral Mass at National Shrine

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Just as many pilgrims are passing through the Holy Door at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in this Year of Mercy, the casket bearing the body of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia entered through the door Feb. 20.

Family members follow the casket of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to a hearse waiting outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington after his Feb. 20 funeral Mass. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Family members follow the casket of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to a hearse waiting outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington after his Feb. 20 funeral Mass. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Father Paul Scalia, the justice’s son and the main celebrant and homilist at his father’s funeral Mass, said the fact that Scalia’s casket was carried through that door of mercy was a great blessing. In his homily, he emphasized that his father was a man of faith, dedicated to his family and service to his country, a man who relied on God’s mercy and was sustained through the sacraments.

“We give thanks that Jesus brought him to new life in baptism, nourished him with the Eucharist and healed him in the confessional,” Father Scalia said in his homily. “God blessed Dad with a deep Catholic faith, the conviction that Christ’s presence and power continue in the world today through his body, the church.”

Speaking of his father’s devotion to his Catholic faith, Father Scalia said, “He loved the clarity and coherence of the church’s teachings. He treasured the church’s ceremonies, especially the beauty of her ancient worship. He trusted the power of her sacraments as the means of salvation, as Christ working within him for his salvation.”

Father Scalia, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, is episcopal vicar for clergy for the diocese, where the late justice lived with his family.

The elder Scalia died Feb. 13 of natural causes while in Texas for a hunting trip. He was 79. He is survived by his wife, Maureen, and by the couple’s nine children and 36 grandchildren.

The family then sat in a front section as the casket was placed at the base of the steps leading to the main altar.

At the Mass were the eight remaining members of the U.S. Supreme Court: Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. and Associate Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Retired Justices John Paul Stevens and David H. Souter also were present.

Other dignitaries in attendance included: Vice President Joe Biden; U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch; former Vice President Dick Cheney; former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich; and Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Cruz, currently a candidate for president, once served as a Supreme Court clerk.

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, welcomed Justice Scalia’s family members and friends and the dignitaries to the Mass and acknowledged the presence of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States, and Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde.

Other Catholic leaders at the Mass included Auxiliary Bishop Richard B. Higgins of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services; Msgr. Walter R. Rossi, rector of the national shrine; and John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America. Nearly 100 priests concelebrated the Mass and were joined by about 36 deacons. The congregation of 3,300 people included Catholic laypeople and women and men religious, as well as guests of many different faiths.

Leonard Leo, a friend of Justice Scalia who is executive vice president of the Federalist Society, read the first reading from the Book of Wisdom, which opened with, “The souls of the just are in the hands of God.” Justice Thomas read the second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, and Deacon Colin Davis, of the Diocese of Arlington, read the Gospel reading from St. Matthew.

The liturgy also reflected Scalia’s sense of humor, with both Cardinal Wuerl and Father Scalia joking about the family’s desire “for a simple parish family Mass” for the justice’s funeral, which ended up being held in the largest Catholic church in North America to accommodate the number of mourners.

Since his death, Father Scalia said in his homily, the justice had been praised by many for his intellect, his writings and speeches. “But more important to us and to him was that he was Dad. He was the father God gave us for the great adventure of family life,” Father Scalia said. “Sure, he forgot our names at times or mixed them up, but there were nine of us.”

On a serious note, he added, “He loved us, and sought to show that love, and sought to share the blessing of the faith he treasured.”

The priest also expressed thanks for his parents’ marriage, noting that “Jesus bestowed upon him 55 years of marriage to the woman he loved, a woman who could match him at every step and even hold him accountable.”

“God blessed Dad, as is well known, with a love for his country,” Father Scalia said. “He knew well what a close-run thing the founding of our nation was. And he saw in that founding, as did the founders themselves, a blessing. A blessing quickly lost when faith is banned from the public square, or when we refuse to bring it there.”

The priest said Scalia “understood that there is no conflict between loving God and loving one’s country, between one’s faith and one’s public service. Dad understood that the deeper he went in his Catholic faith, the better a citizen and a public servant he became.”

Later during the prayer of commendation, Father Scalia, prayed that God would grant the justice a merciful judgment.

As the congregation sang, “O God Beyond All Praising,” Scalia’s casket was carried down the shrine’’s center aisle, accompanied as he had been in life by his family, and then they left for his private burial ceremony.

     

Zimmermann is editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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Cardinal Baum, longest serving U.S. cardinal, dies at 88

July 24th, 2015 Posted in National News

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Cardinal William W. Baum, the archbishop of Washington from 1973 to 1980, died July 23 at the age of 88 after a long illness. He was a cardinal for 39 years, the longest such tenure in U.S. church history.

Cardinal Baum witnessed history from the Second Vatican Council through the election of the first Latin American pope, and he made history himself.

Pope John Paul II greets Cardinal William W. Baum of Washington at the Vatican in 1997. Cardinal Baum, the archbishop of Washington from 1973 to 1980, died July 23 at age 88 after a long illness. He was a cardinal for 39 years, the longest such tenure in U.S. church history. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope John Paul II greets Cardinal William W. Baum of Washington at the Vatican in 1997. Cardinal Baum, the archbishop of Washington from 1973 to 1980, died July 23 at age 88 after a long illness. He was a cardinal for 39 years, the longest such tenure in U.S. church history. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

By the spring of 2011, he had worn the red cardinal’s hat for nearly 35 years and surpassed the record of Baltimore Cardinal James Gibbons, who had been a cardinal from 1886 until his death in 1921. The soft-spoken Cardinal Baum, whom some of the Vatican’s Swiss Guards called “the gentle cardinal,” found no merit in his longevity. “It’s a gift from God,” he said.

Services for Cardinal Baum will include a vigil from 3 p.m.-6:30 p.m., July 30, at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, a vigil Mass the same day at 7 p.m. and a funeral Mass at the cathedral at 2 p.m. July 31. Interment will be in the crypt of the cathedral.

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, the current archbishop of Washington, said in a statement that Cardinal Baum would be “remembered for his kindness and dedication to the ministry to which God called him.”

“Cardinal Baum was a joy-filled priest with a firm personal commitment to serve the Lord, which he did faithfully for 64 years of ordained life,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “With his death I have lost a longtime friend.”

Then-Archbishop Baum in 1976 was named a cardinal, becoming at 49 one of the world’s youngest cardinals. Beginning in 1980, he served at the Vatican, first as prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education and then as major penitentiary, or head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, one of the Vatican’s three tribunals, until his retirement in 2001.

In 1979, as the archbishop of Washington he hosted St. John Paul II on his first pastoral visit to the U.S., joining him for a Mass for 175,000 people at the National Mall and for a visit to the White House with President Jimmy Carter.

One year earlier, the cardinal had participated in the conclaves that elected Pope John Paul I and later Pope John Paul II. While the public was surprised when the new Polish pope appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, Cardinal Baum said the world’s cardinals were not surprised by his election ; they knew him well as a man of great faith, intellect and courage.

In 2005 following the death of St. John Paul II, Cardinal Baum acted as the senior cardinal priest in the conclave that elected Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who took the name Benedict XVI. Only Cardinal Baum and Cardinal Ratzinger participated in the conclaves of 1978 and 2005, choosing three popes.

A pioneer in ecumenism, then-Msgr. Baum served during Vatican II as a theological expert, working with the Vatican’s Secretariat for Christian Unity. He participated in drafting the council’s landmark Decree on Ecumenism that was approved in 1964. That same year, the U.S. bishops formed their Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, choosing Msgr. Baum as the committee’s first executive director.

After serving in that role for five years and as chancellor in his home diocese, Msgr. Baum was appointed by Pope Paul VI to be the bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Missouri, in 1970. Three years later, the pope named him archbishop of Washington. From 1972 to 1975, he served as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

As bishop in Missouri and Washington, he made ecumenical and interfaith dialogue a priority, including for instance, supporting the work of the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington.

On a larger stage, Cardinal Baum led the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education from 1980 to 1990 as it undertook studies of every U.S. seminary and oversaw the drafting of new guidelines for Catholic colleges and universities. In that capacity he oversaw, at the request of St. John Paul, the apostolic visitation of all of the seminaries and houses of formation in the United States.

While at the education congregation, he also served on the commission that developed the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“It (the catechism) is a great achievement. Every home should have it, and it should be read,” he said. “We live in a world of flux. We’re buffeted by winds (of change) in doctrines and ideologies. We need very much a sure Catholic guide to what the church believes, teaches and transmits.”

William Wakefield Baum was born Nov. 21, 1926 in Dallas, but his family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, when he was young. He wanted to be a priest from a young age, inspired by the faith of his family and by the example of his parish priest and the Sisters of Mercy from Alma, Michigan, who taught him.

On May 12, 1951, he was ordained a priest of his home Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

The cardinal’s work in reaching out to people of other faiths made a lasting impression on his priests, including Father Tom Kalita, the pastor of St. Peter Parish in Olney, Maryland, who was ordained by then-Archbishop Baum in 1974. He praised the cardinal as a man whose dialogue with people of other Christian denominations was rooted in respect. “You build bridges by having a respect for individual persons. … He always sees people as children of God, as brothers and sisters in Jesus,” Father Kalita said.

As the archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Baum issued pastoral letters on spiritual issues such as the Eucharist and Mary, and on social questions such as racism and capital punishment. In his pastoral on racism, he called it a “heresy and sin,” and said racism was “one of the most serious violations of justice in our community and even in our church.”

In 1995, Cardinal Baum returned to Washington to celebrate a Mass marking his 25th anniversary as a bishop. He described his service in the church as “a pilgrimage of faith and thanksgiving.”

He died in Washington at a residence run by the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Zimmermann is editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

 

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Lesson of Special Olympics is ‘all life is beautiful,’ says Shriver

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Catholic News Service

Tim Shriver says his new book, “Fully Alive: Discovering What Matters Most,” is “really a long thank-you letter to a lot of people who helped shape me,” and it’s also an attempt to say something to our culture about what really matters in life.

Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, noted in his book how people with intellectual disabilities have been his teachers in life, helping him learn “something bigger we’re all looking for.” Read more »

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Washington priest recalls narrating Kennedy’s funeral Mass on radio

November 23rd, 2013 Posted in National News, Uncategorized

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Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON — At 82, Msgr. Leonard Hurley still has a distinctive speaking style and ad-libs easily, qualities that served him well 50 years ago when he narrated President John F. Kennedy’s funeral Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington for a worldwide TV and radio audience.
For the past 18 years, the veteran priest who served as assistant pastor and pastor at several local parishes has been the chaplain at the Carroll Manor Nursing Home in Washington and rector of the adjoining O’Boyle Residence for retired priests of the archdiocese.
On Nov. 25, 1963, then-Father Hurley was situated in the cathedral’s basement, right beneath the altar, narrating the funeral Mass as he watched a bank of TV monitors and was surrounded by about a dozen TV and radio technicians. Read more »

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Youths’ joy at pro-life Mass called best evidence of Resurrection

January 25th, 2012 Posted in Featured, National News Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — A Washington pastor told 17,000 exuberant teenagers and young adults gathered at pro-life rally and Mass in the Verizon Center Jan. 23 that he wondered if they knew “what an encouragement you are.”

Some 500 young people from the Diocese of Wilmington were also at the Mass and Bishop Malooly was one of its concelebrants. The bishop was cheered loudly by the diocese’s contingent at the rally when he was introduced to the sports arena’s young congregation.

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Be witnesses for Jesus’ life, love, cardinal says at Mass, procession

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Catholic News Service

 

GERMANTOWN, Md. — Under a full moon on a cold, dark evening, they walked and prayed together, an estimated crowd of 600 people, holding candles and praying the rosary as they marched from Mother Seton Church in Germantown to a nearby clinic where late-term abortions are performed.

Helping to lead the Dec. 10 candlelight prayer procession was Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, just after he presided at a Mass for Life at the church, marking one year since the arrival Dr. LeRoy Carhart in the neighborhood in December 2010.

Carhart left Nebraska to come to Maryland to perform late-term abortions after his state passed a law prohibiting abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy. Maryland has some of the least restrictive abortion laws in the country.

A standing-room crowd of more than 1,000 people attended the Mass, where Cardinal Wuerl said, “Countless unborn infants are reaching out to hold on to us with all of their strength, since we are the only voice they have in their struggle to find a place, a home, a life in this world.”

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl leads a candlelight prayer procession with parishioners from Mother Seton Church in Germantown, Md., to the Germantown Reproductive Health Services abortion clinic Dec. 10. An estimated 600 people, holding candles and praying the rosary, marched to the clinic, where late-term abortions are performed. (CNS photo/Leslie E. Kossoff, Catholic Standard)

The procession wound for several blocks, with the flickering points of candlelight shining in the darkness. The candles were held by people of all ages, ranging from senior citizens to small children, who marched four people abreast on the sidewalk, as cars drove by.

Members of a Knights of Columbus honor guard also marched near the front of the procession. Two seminarians held a large banner that read, “Pray to end abortion.”

The marchers then stood and prayed before the abortion clinic. Cardinal Wuerl said, “Let us ask God’s blessing on all of us, all who are gathered here, all who speak for life, who walk for life, who defend life.”

Moments later, the cardinal said he was inspired by the size of the crowd witnessing to life at the Mass and procession. “It says that the future is with life. Our task is to keep holding up the Gospel of Life.”

“The power of the symbolism of the light (shining) in darkness was beautiful,” Christa Lopicollo, the archdiocese’s executive director of life issues, told the Catholic Standard, archdiocesan newspaper.

In his homily, Cardinal Wuerl encouraged people to continue to witness to the dignity of all human life through their prayers and actions. “Prayer does change hearts. … Prayer does work, and it must be our instrument of change,” he said.

Cardinal Wuerl noted that just as St. John the Baptist was a voice crying out in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord, so too has the Catholic Church in the past 20 centuries continued that mission, to be that voice, and to follow Jesus’ call for his disciples to be his witnesses.

“What brings us here is the recognition we’re called to share our faith, to share what we believe. We’re called to proclaim the Gospel of life” proclaimed by Jesus.

The cardinal called abortion “the single greatest blight on our nation since the age of slavery. How is it possible in history for atrocities to take place, for those things to happen? How could it be there were concentration camps dedicated to the extermination of people? How could we have in our nation slavery — the reduction of people to property?”

Then, the cardinal continued, people could ask how it is possible today to have “the wholesale destruction of human life” through abortion.

“How did such atrocities come to be ever accepted by any people, anywhere, at any time? Silence. Silence is the ally of atrocity,” Cardinal Wuerl said.

Today, the cardinal continued, “We are confronted with the evil of abortion on demand. It’s almost inconceivable in our city, in our society (that) it would be legal to kill an almost fully formed child.”

Since his arrival more than a year ago, Carhart has performed an estimated 700 abortions at the clinic. Weekly prayer vigils are held near the abortion clinic 8-10 a.m. every Monday.

In his homily, Cardinal Wuerl said that “taking life in the womb” can never be justified. He said it was important to reach out in compassion to mothers and fathers contemplating abortion or grieving afterward. And he called on people to stand up for unborn children whose lives are at risk.

Cardinal Wuerl noted the spiraling violence in homes and on streets throughout the country. “If it’s ever going to be broken, we need a new vision. Christ invites us to see that way that recognizes the gift of life, the wonder of life. Truly you and I are capable of life-giving compassion…(and) life-giving support for mothers and children.”

Seven priests concelebrated the Mass. After the homily and the creed, prayers were offered for the unborn, the elderly and those with disabilities, that people might recognize “their right to life as children of a loving God.”

Dr. Grace Morrison, a parishioner of St. John Neumann Church in Gaithersburg who has helped coordinate the Monday morning prayer vigils outside the abortion clinic for the past year, said that in the past year, there have been “18 saves we know of.” She was referring to women who changed their minds and left the abortion clinic without undergoing the procedure.

“In order to close this place down, our faithfulness out there is essential. … I believe it is our prayer, our fasting and our sacrifice that is what it will take to pierce the darkness,” she said.

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