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Weekend movie: Ka-pows are in 3-D in ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’

April 4th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized


Catholic News Service

The big guy with the red, white and blue shield returns to save the planet in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” a rousing follow-up to two films, 2011’s “Captain America: The First Avenger” and 2012’s “The Avengers.”

Chris Evans stars in a scene from the movie “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Disney)

This 3-D popcorn movie is sure to please fans of the Marvel Comics superhero with its patriotic, gung-ho tone and grandiose action sequences. But screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who penned the first Captain America script, expand their horizons with a smart and timely story touching on national security, government surveillance and the price of freedom.

At times, the picture has the feel of an old-fashioned conspiracy thriller like “Three Days of the Condor” or “All the President’s Men,” a comparison reinforced, perhaps, by the presence of Robert Redford, who starred in both those movies, in a major role.

For those unfamiliar with the Marvel universe, a brief recap: Captain America, aka Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), was a 98-pound weakling transformed into a he-man fighting machine by the U.S. government during World War II. He leads a successful campaign against a terrorist organization, then goes to sleep in a cryogenic state for 70 years.

Thawed out in the current century, Captain America is recruited by the intelligence agency S.H.I.E.L.D. (Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division) to defend Earth from an alien invasion. His sidekicks include Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” takes place two years after “The Avengers.” Rogers is living in Washington, struggling to fit in, a man out of time and place. He takes his orders from two S.H.I.E.L.D. bigwigs, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Alexander Pierce (Redford).

Fury and Pierce are at odds over Pierce’s pet project, a plan to circle the planet with massive “helicarriers,” think aircraft carriers with wings and propellers, equipped with super-intelligence gadgetry to root out and destroy security threats. Fury suspects a hidden agenda, and fears that innocent people may be the real targets.

Before you can say “Ka-pow!” Pierce unleashes his fury on Fury, who narrowly escapes death. He warns Rogers that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised, and no one can be trusted.

So it’s Captain America to the rescue, as he tries to uncover the conspiracy, with the help of two comrades: fellow Avenger Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and a new buddy, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), who earns his moniker “Falcon” thanks to a nifty pair of mechanical wings.

But the baddies have a super warrior of their own who goes by the name of the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). It seems he and Captain America have met before, and have a lot more in common than a penchant for masks and costumes.

Co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo handle the requisite (and noisy) action scenes with flair, although these may be too intense for younger viewers. But the siblings are to be commended for the many quieter moments they include, which allow the audience to catch its breath and the characters to develop amid witty repartee.

“How do we tell the good guys from the bad guys?” Falcon asks. Replies Captain America: “If they’re shooting at you, they’re bad.”

The film contains intense but largely bloodless violence, including gunplay. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.


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Sainted by pope’s decree: Three new saints for the Americas

April 3rd, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Without a canonization ceremony, Pope Francis declared three new saints for the Americas, pioneers of the Catholic Church in Brazil and in Canada.

Pope Francis signed decrees April 3 recognizing: St. Jose de Anchieta, a Spanish-born Jesuit who traveled to Brazil in 1553 and became known as the Apostle of Brazil; St. Marie de l’Incarnation, a French Ursuline who traveled to Quebec in 1639 and is known as the Mother of the Canadian Church; and St. Francois de Laval, who arrived in Quebec 20 years after St. Marie de l’Incarnation and became the first bishop of Quebec.

St. Jose Anchieta, known as the Apostle of Brazil. CNS

In declaring the three saints, the pope used a procedure known as “equivalent canonizations,” which required a thorough study of the candidates’ life and writings, fame of holiness and reports of favors granted through their intercession. Unlike a regular sainthood process, though, it did not require the verification of a miracle through their intercession, nor further studies by historians and theologians working for the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.

The three were beatified together by Pope John Paul II in 1980.

The Brazilian bishops, who thought the decrees would be signed April 2 and planned local celebrations for that evening, have said they will celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving with Pope Francis April 24 in Rome’s Church of St. Ignatius. The bishops of Quebec have said they will celebrate a thanksgiving Mass May 18 in Quebec and hope to have a larger celebration with the pope in Rome in October.

Despite the one-day delay in the announcement, parishioners kept filing into Our Lady of Assumption Church in Anchieta, Brazil, April 2 to celebrate the new Brazilian saint. Many joined the celebration and morning Mass in the square outside the church, watching on large TV screens.

At 2 p.m., all of the Catholic churches in Sao Paulo rang their bells to celebrate St. Anchieta. Sao Paulo’s Cardinal Odilo Scherer celebrated Mass at the city’s cathedral and said St. Anchieta “should be considered the first anthropologist of Brazil due to his enormous interest in the indigenous population and their culture.”

Cardinal Orani Tempesta, celebrating Mass in Rio de Janeiro, said it was “impossible to write about the history of Brazil without mentioning the presence of Jose de Anchieta.”

Across Canada, the news of the decrees was welcomed with joy and thanksgiving, most especially in the Archdiocese of Quebec, where St. Marie de l’Incarnation and St. Francois de Laval are buried.

In Quebec, Cardinal Gerald Lacroix said the canonizations “give us models of sanctity to encourage us.” Pope Francis has given the Canadian church two “great examples of the new evangelization.”

St. Francois de Laval was born in 1623, studied in a Jesuit school, then joined a group of youths who formed what would become the Seminary of Foreign Missions. Ordained to the priesthood in 1647, he eventually was appointed apostolic vicar of New France, as Quebec was called, and ordained a bishop in 1658. He landed in Quebec — a town of just 500 people — the following June and began his missionary work among colonists and the native peoples. He died in Quebec in 1708.

St. Francois de Laval CNS

St. Marie de l’Incarnation was born in 1599 and although drawn to the religious life, she followed her parents’ wishes and was married at the age of 17. Six months after her son was born, her husband died. When the child turned 12, she entered the Ursuline order and, in 1639, set sail for Quebec with several other Ursulines. She died in Quebec in 1672.

St. Jose de Anchieta, was born in the Canary Islands in 1534 and joined the Jesuits at the age of 17. He was sent to Brazil, mainly for his health, but immediately dedicated himself to missionary work, learning the local languages and writing a grammar and dictionary used by Portuguese settlers and missionaries. He was ordained to the priesthood only after he had been in Brazil several years. He is credited with being one of the founders of Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro. He died in 1597 in Reritigba, the city now known as Anchieta.

Pope Francis has used the “equivalent canonization” twice before; in October he signed the decree recognizing Italian St. Angela of Foligno, and in December, he signed a decree recognizing St. Peter Faber, one of the founding members of the Jesuits.

The public Mass scheduled April 27 for the canonization of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II will be only the second canonization Mass Pope Francis has presided over. At a Mass in May last year, he proclaimed the sainthood of Antonio Primaldo and some 800 other Italians killed by Ottoman soldiers in the 15th century, Mexican Sister Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala, and Colombian Sister Laura Montoya.

In addition to the three “equivalent canonizations” April 3, Pope Francis signed decrees recognizing the miracles needed for the future canonizations of Blesseds Giovanni Antonio Farina, the Italian founder of the Teaching Sisters of St. Dorothy; Kuriakose Elias Chavara, the Indian founder of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, a Syro-Malabar Catholic order; Nicholas of Longobardi, an Italian Oblate priest; and Euphrasia Eluvathingal, an Indian Carmelite sister and member of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.

He also recognized the miracle needed for the beatification of Brother Luigi Bordino, an Italian member of the Brothers of St. Joseph Cottolegno, who died in 1977.

St. Marie de l’Incarnation CNS

Pope Francis also declared eight men and women “venerable,” recognizing they lived the Christian virtues in a heroic way. The eight included three Italians, three Spaniards, a Brazilian and Assumptionist Father Marie-Clement Staub, who was born in France and sent to the United States in 1909. At Assumptionist College in Worcester, Mass., in 1914 he founded the Sisters of St. Joan of Arc in 1914. He died in Quebec in 1936.



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Ursuline students help Leader Dogs for the Blind program


Staff reporter


WILMINGTON — The first-graders at Ursuline Academy’s Lower School demonstrated the meaning of the school’s motto, “Serviam,” on March 24, presenting an organization that trains service dogs for the blind with a check for $368.

The students raised the money on their own both at their homes and by donations for a dress-down day at school.

Layla Adeleke said she earned her money by helping with the laundry and other chores at home.

“It was important to help the people who are blind,” she said. Read more »

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Our Lenten Journey: Thursday, March 27, 2014

March 27th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized


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Supreme Court hears arguments in companies’ challenge to health-care mandate


WASHINGTON — Oral arguments in two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court March 25 focused on whether for-profit corporations have religious grounds to object to the new health care law’s requirement that most employers provide contraceptive coverage in their employee health plans.

Crowds on both sides of the issue gathered outside the Supreme Court on a cold, snowy morning, holding aloft signs and chanting for their cause.

Supporters and opponents of a federal contraceptive mandate for employer health plans gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington March 25. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in lawsuits filed against the mandate by Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties on religious rights grounds. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Inside the court, the arguments lasted for 90 minutes, an extension of the usual 60 minutes, and the justices in their questions for the lawyers arguing the cases seemed divided on the issue. At the center was a close inspection of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, known as RFRA, which allows for religious exceptions to general laws in certain circumstances.

The cases — Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius — made their way to the Supreme Court after federal appeals courts issued opposite rulings about the companies’ claims to a religious rights exemption to the contraceptive mandate of the health care law.

At issue is the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that most employers, including religious employers, provide employees coverage of contraceptives, sterilization and some abortion-inducing drugs free of charge, even if the employer is morally opposed to such services.

Both secular businesses claim the contraceptive mandate of the health care law violates the First Amendment’s free exercise clause and their religious liberty rights under RFRA.

The 1993 law says that the government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless that burden is the least restrictive means to further a compelling governmental interest.

The legal question is whether RFRA protects a for-profit company from having to provide a benefit to which employees are entitled under federal law but to which the owners have religious objections.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who noted that RFRA was passed overwhelmingly with support from both political parties, said it would not have gained such support if Congress thought the law would confer religious rights to corporations.

Justice Elena Kagan said the arguments in favor of the companies’ religious rights could turn RFRA into something that would put “the entire U.S. code” under intense constitutional scrutiny for possible burdens to corporate religious rights. For example, she said companies would be able to object on religious grounds to laws on sex discrimination, minimum wage, family leave and child labor.

That point was raised by the Obama administration in its brief, saying a ruling in favor of businesses could undermine laws governing immunizations, Social Security taxes and minimum wages.

Chief Justice John Roberts noted that the exaggerated amounts of religious exemptions that could be claimed by employers could be avoided in a court ruling limited only to corporations that pass their earnings and losses to their shareholders, which would exclude bigger companies claiming religious freedom rights.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, described as the swing vote in this case, asked how the government could require the family-owned companies in question to provide the mandated insurance contraception coverage when it had already offered exemptions and accommodations to other groups, which was one of the plaintiff’s arguments.

Hobby Lobby is an Oklahoma-based chain of more than 500 arts and crafts stores with more than 13,000 employees owned by a Christian family, the Greens. Conestoga Wood Specialties is a Pennsylvania-based kitchen cabinet-making company with 950 employees owned by a Mennonite family, the Hahns.

Conestoga Wood Specialties objects to complying with any portion of the mandate. Hobby Lobby is not opposed to covering birth control in its employee health plan and, in fact, already provides that benefit. What the Green family objects to is being required to cover contraceptive drugs considered to be abortifacients, such as the morning-after pill and Plan B.

Hobby Lobby’s owners have stated that their “religious beliefs prohibit them from providing health coverage for contraceptive drugs and devices that end human life after conception.”

In Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, the Green family won a ruling by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said their craft stores and Mardel, a chain of 35 Christian bookstores, could proceed with seeking an injunction protecting the companies from meeting parts of the contraceptive mandate issued by the Department of Health and Human Services as part of the health care law. The government appealed the decision.

The other case, Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, is an appeal by the Hahn family, the Mennonite owners, of a 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that said they had to comply with the contraceptive requirement. The circuit court ruled that as a for-profit, secular corporation, Conestoga Wood and its owners are not protected by the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment.

During oral arguments at the Supreme Court, the justices asked why the companies didn’t just avoid the contraception issue by not offering health care coverage to its employees and paying the tax penalty instead, and former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, who presented the companies’ arguments, said Hobby Lobby’s owners, at least, wanted to provide health insurance and felt it would be hard to attract workers without it.

Supporters of the Obama administration’s position that the two for-profit companies should not be exempted from the mandate have argued that the businesses are claiming religious rights the Constitution gives to individuals, not corporations.

U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., who presented the administration’s arguments, emphasized that if the courts allowed for-profit companies to deny mandated coverage, the employees would be denied benefits the government has decided they should have.

He repeatedly mentioned U.S. v. Lee, a 1982 Supreme Court ruling that said an Amish employer could not be exempted from paying Social Security taxes for employees of his for-profit business.

That case has been raised in many of the “amicus” briefs on both sides of the mandate issue.

In the 1982 ruling, the court found that “while there is a conflict between the Amish faith and the obligations imposed by the Social Security system, not all burdens on religion are unconstitutional,” the court said. “The court may justify a limitation on religious liberty by showing that it is essential to accomplish an overriding governmental interest.”

Dozens of groups with an interest in the outcome of the cases filed “amicus,” or friend-of-the-court, briefs including one submitted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and another by a group of 67 Catholic theologians and ethicists.

Rulings in the two cases are expected to be handed down in June.

The court is likely to hear arguments in the fall in suits brought by nonprofit faith-based employers who believe that a narrow exemption and an accommodation offered religious employers by the government for the health care law are not broad enough. There are currently 93 lawsuits challenging the mandate.

The mandate does not include a conscience clause for employers who object to such coverage on moral grounds.

There is an exemption for some religious employers that fit certain criteria. For those religious employers who are not exempt, the so-called accommodation allows them to use a third party to pay for coverage they find objectionable, but Catholic and other faith-based entities that have filed the lawsuits say the third-party arrangement does not solve their objection to being involved in providing coverage they reject for moral reasons.

The required coverage includes preventative services such as mammograms, prenatal care and cervical cancer screenings, but only the contraceptive coverage has prompted the objections.


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Thousands of rare Vatican manuscripts to go online


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Thousands of rare manuscripts until now accessible only to scholars at the Vatican will go online over the next four years, thanks to help from a Japanese information technology company.

Officials of NTT DATA Corporation and the Vatican Library announced their joint project at a news conference March 20.

A illustration by Sandro Botticelli of the infernal abyss from Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy” is part of the manuscript collection of the Vatican Library. The Vatican announced March 20 that a Japanese information technology corporation would be making a major contribution to its ongoing digitalization process, with the goal of digitally archiving all 41 million pages in the library’s manuscript collection and making them accessible online. (CNS/courtesy of Vatican Library)

The library, founded by Pope Nicholas V in the 15th century, preserves some 82,000 manuscripts dating back to the early centuries of Christianity. Among its treasures are an illustrated edition of the works of the Roman poet Virgil, produced around the year 400, and illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy by the 15th-century Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli.

The library has been scanning its collection for several years with help from various nonprofit groups, and has already digitally archived 6,800 manuscripts, said Msgr. Cesare Pasini, the library’s prefect. But so far only some 300 documents are accessible on its website (vaticanlibrary.va).

NTT DATA Corporation will supply the technicians and equipment necessary to produce high-definition digital records of another 3,000 manuscripts and place them online over the next four years. The library will solicit donations to defray the estimated $23 million cost of the project, among other ways by allowing contributors to sponsor digitalization of individual manuscripts.

The library plans to offer a total of 15,000 manuscripts online, free of charge to all visitors, by 2018.

Among the documents to be scanned by the Japanese company are some from the library’s Asian holdings, which include watercolors of Japanese dancers painted from the 16th through the 18th centuries, and an oath signed by Japanese Christians vowing to defend their missionaries to the death.

The library plans eventually to offer online access to its entire manuscript collection, a total of 41 million pages. Msgr. Pasini declined to estimate how long it would take to complete that project.


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Our Lenten Journey: Wednesday, March 26, 2014

March 26th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags:


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Today is the feast of the Annunciation

March 25th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , ,



Luke  1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God

to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,

to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,

of the house of David,

Detail from an icon depicting the Annunciation is from St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Edmonton, Alberta. CNS/Western Catholic Reporter

and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

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Our Lenten Journey: Tuesday, March 25, 2014

March 25th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized


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Our Lenten Journey, Monday, March 24, 2014

March 24th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags:


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