Posted on 12/24/2012 18:02 PM (CNA Daily News)
â€œChristmas declares that our world is not insignificant. Christmas declares that we are worth being loved. Christmas affirms that God walked among us in the person of Jesus Christ; that he loves us enough to become like us, to suffer, and to die,â€ Bishop Conley said in his Dec. 21 column in the Southern Nebraska Register.
â€œThrough the Incarnation, Christ shows us the true value and dignity of everyday life. Christ shows the possibility of overcoming the sin that leads to tragedies like the murders in Connecticut last week.â€
The bishop said that the murder of 20 children and six adults in a Newtown, Conn. elementary school Dec. 14 makes some people â€œdoubt that a God of total love could tolerate the existence of such evil.â€
However, Bishop Conley countered that God's love is â€œbeyond measureâ€ and in his eyes â€œsmall things, simple things, are beautiful.â€
â€œThat is why the maker of the farthest galaxies reaches out to us with the hand of a newborn child,â€ he said.
â€œWe are small, but greatly loved by God. Our world is flawed, but not beyond redemption. And Christ has lowered himself to our level in order to raise us up to his, for all eternity.â€
Bishop Conley wrote that Christmas challenges those who believe that God is â€œfar from us,â€ but it also challenges believers who do not live as if God is near.
â€œWe must learn to see things as God does. To him, nothing is insignificant and no one is forgotten,â€ he said.
â€œLike the shepherds on Christmas night, we are called to find the miraculous amid the ordinary. The greatest mystery, Godâ€™s love for us, always lies hidden in plain sight. Nothing is ordinary when seen in light of the Incarnation.â€
He encouraged Christians to find Jesus in â€œordinaryâ€ places like daily work and in their neighbors and in the poor.
â€œGrace is there â€“ and everywhere else,â€ Bishop Conley said.
â€œGodâ€™s transcendent goodness and beauty are not far-off abstractions. The one who has faith, and an open heart, can find them everywhere.â€
Posted on 12/21/2012 14:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
The group KISI - Godâ€™s Singing Kids has released the video â€œWe sing merry, merry Christmas.â€ It shows the children and teens singing in cheerful settings and styles inspired by the classic movie â€œThe Sound of Music.â€
They play in the snow, bake Christmas treats and place a baby doll in a manger while wishing Merry Christmas â€œto every child on earth.â€
The music group has over 400 members from five countries who use their music to evangelize. They practice singing and dancing after school and perform on weekends.
Hannes and Birgit Minichmayr founded the group in 1993. Its members include their three children.
â€œFor us the children are the most important. We look for their talents and train them individually,â€ Hannes said. He said the music group provides the children with community, faith, joy and emotional growth.
â€œOur performance also inspires parents, who might have lost touch with their Christian faith. Kids enjoy biblical stories in an entertaining way â€“ and their parents are often deeply moved,â€ he said.
The group has performed a 90-minute musical on the story of St. Paul, a Christmas musical and a concert on the beauty of faith.
â€œKISI is our way of evangelizing and renewing parishes. This is what our hearts burn for,â€ Hannes said.
The group sings during church services and hosts childrenâ€™s clubs in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. Their music is available on iTunes.
KISIâ€™s Christmas video was directed by Manuel de TeffÃ© in cooperation with Music Visions, a Catholic non-profit that promotes music artists with messagesÂ of faith, hope and joy.
The â€œWe sing merry, merry Christmasâ€ video can be seen on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mm3W8BUnWbs.
Posted on 12/21/2012 10:05 AM (CNA Daily News)
CNA will provide coverage of the Pope's Christmas homily and his New Year's address. Members of our staff will also be working during this time to improve our services for 2013.
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Posted on 12/21/2012 06:16 AM (CNA Daily News)
The letter is on display this Advent in the village of Marktl am Inn in Bavaria, where he was born.
"Dear Baby Jesus, quickly come down to earth. You will bring joy to children. Also bring me joy," he wrote in the 1934 letter, published on the Church-affiliated Italian website Korazym.org.
"I would like a Volks-Schott (a Mass prayers book), green clothing for Mass (clerical clothing) and a heart of Jesus. I will always be good. Greetings from Joseph Ratzinger," he wrote in German cursive hard writing called SÃ¼tterlinschrift.
The letter, found during the renovation of a house that Joseph Ratzinger's occupied when he was a professor in Regensburg, was published on Dec. 18. The message was discovered in the estate of his sister Mary, who kept the letter after the Pope's house was converted into a small museum dedicated to him.
In Korazymâ€™s view, the â€œletter was uncommon for a seven-year-old since he did not ask for toys or sweets, which were always in front of the Ratzinger family's nativity for his three brothers."
The first thing the Pope wanted was a Schott, one of the first prayer books with the missal in German and a parallel text in Latin. At the time there were two editions in the country, one for adults and one for children.
But little Joseph also asked for "green clothing for Mass."
The Pope and his brothers used to play the "game of the priest," and their mother, a seamstress, would help them by making clothes similar to those worn by priests, according to an "Inside the Vatican" interview his brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, gave a few years ago.
He also asked for a heart of Jesus, referring to an image of the Sacred Heart, which his family was very devoted to.
His brother noted that "each year the Nativity would have an extra miniature statue, which was a great joy â€¦ We would go with dad into the woods to gather moss and twigs of fir."
In his biography, Pope Benedict the XVI wrote that the volumes he received were "something precious and I could not dream them to have been more beautiful."
Along with his letter is another one by then 10-year-old Georg, who wanted sheet music for a song and a white chasuble, the outer vestment worn by priests when they celebrate Mass.
A third letter by "Mary," a 13-year-old who wanted a book full of drawings, was also discovered.
According to Korazym, "the letters were all on one sheet because the Ratzinger family was not rich."
Pope Benedict and his family lived in Aschau am Inn, a small town west of Munich, from 1932 to 1937.
"The Pope was very glad to find the letter and its contents made him smile," said his secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, when he inaugurated the small museum at the end of summer.
Â "For him, the smell of musk still belongs to Christmas," he added.
Posted on 12/21/2012 04:27 AM (CNA Daily News)
â€œThere's a very important message, that the Rosary is a very powerful prayer, and one that can bring miracles. And we hope for that,â€ Council 185â€™s Grand Knight Tim Haas said in a Dec. 20 interview with EWTN News.
â€œThis is a special way for us to remember the holy innocents who were lost. There were 12 little girls, 8 boys, and they were taken from us without warning or cause, and we need to pray for their families.â€
The council's message promoting the prayer drive was released Dec. 19. Haas said that within only 24 hours, they had gathered over 60,000 Hail Marys prayed for the intentions of Newtown.
â€œWe have one gentleman logging the e-mails,â€ he explained, â€œso I'm sure he's behind, trying to catch up with it.â€
The Knights are asking that those who participate say at least three Hail Marys for three intentions: â€œone for the victims and their families, one for the first responders and teachers, and one for our town to give us strength to support the afflicted.â€
Those praying are then invited to notify the council by e-mail at HailMary@kofc185.org, reporting the number of people praying, the number of prayers said and the location. They have already received responses from â€œall around the country,â€ Haas stated.
â€œWe pray for Newtown that we may remain strong, and that we can all come together to make the world a better place for all of us,â€ said Haas.
â€œAnd I think that will happen when we seek and move toward our faith. The Rosary helps us to do that; it's a wonderful prayer.â€
In a similar move, the sister of one of St. Rose of Lima's priests is asking that prayers be offered for her brother and the other priests in Newtown.
â€œHe now has two wakes and two funerals every day, until the fourth Sunday of Advent. Father Luke has not even been ordained two years,â€ she said on Facebook.
She is also encouraging that people â€œplease consider sending one of your familyâ€™s Christmas cards to the rectory, with a few words of love and encouragement.â€
She hopes for â€œan outpouring of loveâ€ to â€œsustain these good priests through their impossible ministry â€“ impossible on their own, but possible with God.â€
St. Rose has already had eight funerals this week, most of them for children.
â€œThe mothers gave eulogies for their precious children. When you see the faith and fortitude of those women, speaking of how they cherished those children so deeply, and yet could overcome their pain, to communicate to us that love, it is a miracle.â€
Haas also reflected on the way that the Virgin Mary â€œknows the pain of that loss â€¦ the mothers have that parallel experience with the Holy Mother. And she is able to support, uplift, shower them with her spirit and love, and bring us all closer to Christ.â€
He also noted that prayer, particularly the Hail Mary, is perhaps a person's best response to evil.
â€œWhen we become knights we all get a Rosary, and we need to pray that at least once a week, so we can be strong when we're called to a higher duty like the one many of us were called to this week.â€
â€œThere aren't too many ways to prepare for it, but certainly praying the holy Rosary and attending Mass, receiving the Eucharist, and going to confession, are the gifts that we are given in order to be able to handle this kind of thing, because this is tough,â€ he said.
â€œI'm grand knight, but I could not do any of this without my brother knights and my faith. I'm grateful for my faith.â€
Posted on 12/21/2012 02:05 AM (CNA Daily News)
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a non-partisan, interfaith group of attorneys, said the award is given to â€œthe public figure responsible for the most ridiculous affront to Christmas and Hanukkah.â€
It takes its name from Ebenezer Scrooge, the churlish character from Charles Dickens' famous 19thÂ work â€œA Christmas Carol.â€
The dubious honor continues a controversy over a year old.
Last year protesters showed up at the governor's tree lighting ceremony in Providence to sing â€œO Christmas Treeâ€ to show their objections to the tree's generic name.
The law firm said that this year Chafee announced the lighting ceremony only 30 minutes ahead of time so that no protest could happen.
â€œHeaven forbid the joyful singing ofÂ 'O Christmas Tree' would happen again by the treeâ€¦at Christmas time,â€ the Becket Fund said Dec. 19.
In various interviews, Chafee has said his office calls the tree a holiday tree because that is what his predecessor did. He said the name of the tree is also inclusive.
â€œThere are many religions in Rhode Island. And everybody pays for the State House,â€ he told CNSNews.com Dec. 5.
He additionally told the Providence Journal he didnâ€™t want the ceremony to be turned into a controversial event.
Last year, the governorâ€™s office received 3,500 calls of protest, though only 700 came from in state.
The Catholic Diocese of Providence had also held a Christmas tree lighting at St. Patrickâ€™s Church one block from the Statehouse to provide an alternative to the governorâ€™s.
The dioceseâ€™s chancellor Fr. Timothy Reilly in December 2011 told the New York Daily News that the governorâ€™s effort to be inclusive was laudable but he chose the wrong way to do it. Fr. Reilly said he hoped reflection on Christmas would outweigh the dispute over the treeâ€™s name.
â€œHe probably had the best of intentions but somewhere, somehow we lost hold of the true meaning of the season,â€ Fr. Reilly said of the governor. â€œIt's all about the baby Jesus. We tend to almost forget this.â€
The Becket Fund didnâ€™t criticize only Gov. Chafee in its 2012 announcement. It also singled out the U.S. Navy, which canceled a live nativity scene in Bahrain after a military atheist group complained.
The law firm criticized the City of Santa Monica, Calif., which ended the more than 50-year-old tradition of having a nativity scene in a city park. Some objectors to the move then staged a living nativity scene in the same park.
In its announcement, the Becket Fund also praised actions nationwide in support of Christmas.
This year the State of Pennsylvania reinstated the practice of placing a Christmas tree on the front steps of the state capitol, a tradition that had been neglected for 30 years.
The Becket Fund has successfully defended the place of Christmas and Hanukah in public life. It defended a Utah public school that include religious songs in holiday concerts and two New Jersey cities that faced lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union that sought to remove their holiday displays.
The law firm has also defended the federal governmentâ€™s recognition of Christmas as a federal holiday.
Posted on 12/20/2012 19:53 PM (CNA Daily News)
â€œThe Green family is disappointed with this ruling,â€ said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is handling the case.
He explained that the Christian family that owns and operates Hobby Lobby must now â€œseek relief from the United States Supreme Court.â€
â€œThe Greens will continue to make their case on appeal that this unconstitutional mandate infringes their right to earn a living while remaining true to their faith,â€ Duncan said.
On Dec. 20, an appeals court denied the plaintiffsâ€™ request for a temporary injunction to block the federal contraception mandate from being enforced against them while their case moves forward in the court.
The mandate requires employers to offer health insurance covering sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause early abortions. As Christians, the Greens are morally opposed to funding any type of abortion, including those caused by â€œmorning afterâ€ and â€œweek afterâ€ pills.
In its decision, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that the mandate did not impose a â€œsubstantial burdenâ€ on the Greensâ€™ religious freedom because it only forces them to fund â€œsomeone elseâ€™s participationâ€ in an activity that their religion condemns.
Started in a garage in Oklahoma City in 1972, Hobby Lobby now has more than 500 stores in 41 states. Its owners, the Greens, have said that they seek to serve God through all of their endeavors, including their business decisions.
The company donates considerable amounts to charity, maintains a minimum wage that is much higher than the federal requirement and closes all of its stores on Sundays, sacrificing profit to allow its employees to rest and worship with their families.
A lower court ruled last month that as a â€œsecular, for-profitâ€ corporation, Hobby Lobby does not have a constitutional right to freedom of religion, even if its owners see its management as part of their call to Christian stewardship.
Forty-two separate lawsuits challenging the mandate have been filed on behalf of religious schools, hospitals and charities, for-profit businesses and individual states. Rulings in the cases have been split. Among for-profit businesses, four have been granted preliminary injunctions and two have been denied them.
Hobby Lobby is the largest business to file a lawsuit challenging the mandate. If it is not granted relief from the regulation, it will be forced to pay $1.3 million per day in fines for refusing to comply with the objectionable provision.
The company will now turn to the Supreme Court to ask for an injunction protecting its right to religious freedom.
â€œIt is by Godâ€™s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured,â€ said David Green, founder and CEO of the company. â€œTherefore we seek to honor God by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.â€
Posted on 12/20/2012 12:30 PM (CNA Daily News)
â€œWhile Christmas is undoubtedly a time of great joy, it is also an occasion for deep reflection, even an examination of conscience,â€ he says in the article.
â€œAt the end of a year that has meant economic hardship for many, what can we learn from the humility, the poverty, the simplicity of the crib scene?â€ he asks readers.
Seeing an article in a newspaper by the Pope is a very unusual occurrence.
This particular story made it to print after the paperâ€™s editorial office saw Pope Benedictâ€™s recently published book â€œJesus of Nazareth: the Infancy Narratives,â€ which inspired them to request him to write about Christmas.
The Vatican press office said Dec. 20 that Pope Benedict has granted interviews in the past to the BBC, a few months after his trip to the United Kingdom, and to the Italian national television station RAI in the program â€œA sua imagineâ€ during Easter.
On both occasions, like today's Financial Times article, he spoke about Jesus Christ.
But this time he reflects on how Christians should examine how they can live out their faith in the world with a view to the eternal.
â€œRender unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God, was the response of Jesus when asked about paying taxes,â€ he says in the piece that ran opposite the editorial page.
He notes that this response emerged from a question meant to trap Jesus into taking sides about Roman rule in the land of Israel.
â€œJesus' answer deftly moves the argument to a higher plane, gently cautioning against both the politicization of religion and the deification of temporal power, along with the relentless pursuit of wealth,â€ he says.
The 85-year-old pontiff notes that â€œthe birth of Christ challenges us to reassess our priorities, our values, our way of life.â€
Christians should use Christmas as an opportunity to read the Gospel more, he counsels.
â€œIt is in the Gospel that Christians find inspiration for their daily lives and their involvement in worldly affairs â€“ be it in the Houses of Parliament or in the stock exchange,â€ he states.
â€œChristians should not shun the world, they should engage with it,â€ he adds, â€œbut their involvement in politics and economics should transcend every form of ideology.â€
The Pope also praises Christians' work for a more equitable sharing of the earth's resources, done out of a belief that they have the duty to care for the weakest and most vulnerable.
â€œChristians oppose greed and exploitation out of a conviction that generosity and selfless love, as taught and lived by Jesus of Nazareth, are the way that leads to fullness of life,â€ he explains.
And he says that because the goals of peace and justice are shared by so many, â€œmuch fruitful co-operation is possible between Christians and others.â€
â€œYet Christians render to Caesar only what belongs to Caesar, not what belongs to God,â€ he insists, pointing out that Christians cannot always comply with governmentsâ€™ demands.
Pope Benedict then responds to the frequent assertion that Christians â€œrefuse to bow down before the false gods proposed todayâ€ because of â€œan antiquated worldview.â€
Christians will not comply, he says, because â€œthey are free from the constraints of ideology and inspired by such a noble vision of human destiny that they cannot collude with anything that undermines it.â€
He ends his Christmas reflection by speaking about Italian nativity scenes that include ancient Roman buildings in the background.
These displays show Jesus' birth as an end of the pagan world "in which Caesar's claims went virtually unchallenged."
â€œFrom the manger,â€ the Pope writes, â€œChrist calls us to live as citizens of his heavenly kingdom, a kingdom that all people of goodwill can help to build here on earth.â€
Posted on 12/20/2012 12:29 PM (CNA Daily News)
The Pope formally allowed the move as the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints wrote a decree stating that Paul VI had â€œheroic virtue,â€ the first step necessary in the canonization process.
The pontiff met with congregation head cardinal Angelo Amato on Thursday to let him begin the review of the â€œHumanae Vitaeâ€ author.
During their meeting, the Pope also authorized the congregation to continue several other canonization processes, which are usually long and complex.
They include Italian Blessed Antonio Primaldo and Colombia native Blessed Laura of St. Catherine of Sienna, as well as one Mexican, Blessed Maria Guadalupe, after miracles were attributed to all three.
He also gave the go ahead to continue the process for several martyrs, people with â€œheroic virtues,â€ and people who have had miracles proven to be attributed to them.
The list includes 33 Spaniards killed in the country's civil war between 1936 and 1939, a period when the revolutionaries killed numerous religious and practicing Catholics.
â€œIt is more than likely that Paul VI will be beatified in 2013 at the end of the Year of Faith,â€ wrote La Stampa journalist Andrea Tornielli in Vatican Insider.
He noted that, just like with John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI â€œhas closely followed the steps that has led to today's decree.â€
Paul VI was the one who named Pope Benedict a cardinal, which allowed to participate in choosing a pope in two conclaves held in 1978.
The late pontiff, born Giovanni Battista Montini, was the son of a middle class lawyer, who was also a politician and journalist.
He was ordained a priest aged 22 and served as pope from 1963 to 1978, and ended the Second Vatican Council after his predecessor, pope John XXIII, had initiated it one year earlier.
He was the last pope to be crowned after he dissolved many of the Church's old traditions.
Paul VI also concluded the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the largest revision of the Church's Liturgy and the first major revision since the Council of Trent, held 400 years earlier.
He published the controversial encyclical â€œHumanae Vitaeâ€ in 1968 which reaffirmed the Church's stance against contraception, as well as firm affirmation of the merits of priestly celibacy.
According to Vatican journalist Tornielli, the congregation will investigate an alleged miraculous healing of a then unborn child took place 16 years ago in California.
Doctors told the pregnant mother to abort after finding a serious problem in the fetus, which normally results in brain damage.
But she entrusted her pregnancy to Paul VI and the baby, now around 15 years old, was born without problems.
The congregation may also investigate an alleged miracle after a nun with a tumor was suddenly cured.
The Church has three main steps in making a deceased person a saint, with the first providing proof that the person had â€œheroic virtue.â€
This means the person has practiced outstanding faith, hope and charity as well as extraordinary virtuous actions with readiness over a period of time. The person who the Church declares to have had heroic virtue is given the title â€œVenerable,â€ and is also called a â€œServant of God.â€
The second step is â€œbeatification,â€ which means the Church recognizes the person is in heaven after a miracle is proven titling them â€œBlessed.â€
And the final step is â€œcanonization,â€ where the Pope himself officially proclaims the person a saint.
Posted on 12/20/2012 06:01 AM (CNA Daily News)
â€œWe will remember him with great fondness,â€ Ave Maria School of Law President and Dean Eugene R. Milhizer told CNA Dec. 19. â€œJudge Bork was a national figure, a very important jurist, writer and academic. It was a real privilege to be a colleague of his at the law school.â€
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins praised Bork as â€œa fellow champion of the sanctity of human life.â€
He cited the judgeâ€™s â€œgreat respect for the text and history of the constitutionâ€ and his philosophy of judicial restraint.
â€œHis brilliant legal mind also saw the truth of Christianity, and in his later years Judge Bork grew closer in his relationship with Jesus. His deep faith and trust in God is an example for all of us,â€ Perkins said.
Bork died at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va. from complications of heart ailments, the Associated Press reports.
President Ronald Reaganâ€™s nomination of Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987 met with unprecedented political opposition. The vote to confirm him failed by a margin of 58-42.
Borkâ€™s supporters cited his judicial scholarship as a Yale law professor and his experience as a U.S. Court of Appeals judge. Many supporters sympathized with his â€œoriginal intentâ€ judicial philosophy and charged that opponents used character assassination to defeat his nomination.
Borkâ€™s opponents cited his criticisms of federal court decisions that declared contraceptives, abortion and pornography to be constitutional rights. His criticism of federal civil rights legislation, womenâ€™s rights, and his service in the Nixon administration also drew strong opposition.
After the defeat of Borkâ€™s nomination, President Reagan successfully nominated Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy voted to uphold legal abortion in the 1993 Supreme Court decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which was decided by a 6-3 vote.
Kennedy also helped advance homosexual causes, declaring in a 1996 ruling that sexual orientation is a legally protected class and in 2003 ruling that consensual gay sex is constitutionally protected. Both decisions helped set precedents for the advance of â€œgay marriage.â€
Milhizer said Borkâ€™s stress on the â€œfaithful interpretation of the Constitutionâ€ would have led him to oppose many questionable judicial decisions.
â€œItâ€™s when you get away from the plain meaning of the Constitution and when judges begin to legislate and become more inventive that you find things like the right to abortion and the recent Obamacare decision,â€ he said.
Following the controversy over his nomination, Bork resigned from the bench and joined conservative think tanks including the American Enterprise Institute and the Hudson Institute. He wrote three bestselling books including the 1996 work â€œSlouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline.â€
Bork was married twice. He was married to his first wife, the former Claire Davidson, for almost 30 years before her death in 1980. In 1982 he married Mary Ellen Pohl, a former Catholic nun.
Bork, a former atheist who had been raised Presbyterian, converted to Catholicism in 2003 at the age of 76. Monsignor William Awalt baptized him at a Mass in the chapel of the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C.
â€œThere is an advantage in waiting until youâ€™re 76 to be baptized, because youâ€™re forgiven all of your prior sins. Plus, at that age youâ€™re not likely to commit any really interesting or serious sins,â€ he told the National Catholic Registerâ€™s Tim Drake in 2003.
He said that he found evidence of the existence of God â€œhighly persuasive,â€ such as the arguments appealing to the design of the universe and the biological cell.
He found the number of witnesses to Jesus Christâ€™s Resurrection be â€œcompellingâ€ and considered the Resurrection to be â€œa solid historical fact.â€ He said the Catholic Church is â€œthe Church that Christ establishedâ€ and though it is â€œalways in troubleâ€ it has â€œstayed more orthodox than almost any church I know of.â€
Bork also credited his wife Mary Ellen for helping encourage his conversion.
The judge was the first law professor named to Ave Maria School of Law and taught there for more than four years.
Milhizer said Bork was â€œsomeone who deeply believed in ideasâ€ and who â€œfit very comfortably and very well at an orthodox Catholic law school.â€
The announcement of Bork as an Ave Maria School of Law faculty member helped attract â€œmany outstanding studentsâ€ and gave the school â€œinstant credibilityâ€ among the Catholic legal education community and within the broader legal culture, Milhizer recalled.