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Nun's rosary beads stolen at knife-point in Massachusetts

Boston, Mass., Aug 25, 2016 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A religious sister was robbed while on a walk in civilian clothing on Sunday afternoon in Quincy, Massachusetts, authorities said.

According to a report from a local CBS affiliate, police said that a sister with the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth convent was walking shortly after 2 p.m. when she was approached by Vanessa Young, 26, who was armed with a small knife.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” Young told the victim, according to police reports.

The nun noticed Young's knife and another woman acting as a lookout, so she opened her satchel to reveal a rosary, a key and a small memento. The vows of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth include a vow of poverty.

Vanessa Young told the victim, “I'll guess I'll take the rosary beads,” police said.

The sister then returned safely to her convent and reported the incident to the police.

Soon after, police found the two women matching the sister’s descriptions. Police reported that the pair were found with other stolen items – a checkbook and several cellphones – that had been reported missing during a house break in that occurred in the same neighborhood around the same time as the robbery.  

Vanessa Young was arrested and charged with armed robbery, assault with a dangerous weapon and breaking and entering daytime to commit a felony.

The woman acting as a lookout during the robbery incident was identified as 26 year-old Crystal Young, the legal spouse of Vanessa Young. Crystal was arrested and charged with armed robbery and accessory after the fact.

The pair pleaded not guilty in court on Monday.

“I was immediately concerned to make sure that they would get the help and that they will get the resources that they need because my heart goes after them,” said Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart, the Mother Superior and founder of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth.

The stolen rosary beads have not yet been recovered.

Life isn't black and white – teach priests to discern the gray, Pope says

Vatican City, Aug 25, 2016 / 04:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a conversation with members of the Jesuit order from Poland, Pope Francis said the real life situations of everyday Catholics aren’t black and white, but rather vary on a spectrum of gray.

Because of this, he stressed the need for the Church to step up formation when it comes to teaching seminarians about spiritual discernment, cautioning that many priests can’t relate to or accompany the people they counsel, since they haven’t been properly formed.

“Future priests need to be formed not with general and abstract ideas, which are (overly) clear and distinct, but this fine discernment of spirits, so that they can help people in their concrete lives,” the Pope said in a speech to Polish Jesuits, published Aug. 25.

Seminarians and future priests, he said, “need to truly understand this: in life not everything is black and white, white and black. No! In life shades of gray predominate. We must then teach how to discern within this gray.”

Pope Francis met with a group of 28 Polish Jesuits July 30 while in Krakow for World Youth Day, which also coincided with the First Vespers of the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.

The participants came from two provinces and included two lay collaborators, and were accompanied by the two provincials, the director of Vatican Radio’s Polish site, former Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ and Fr. Antonio Spadaro SJ, director of the Jesuit publication La Civilta’ Cattolica.

In the private audience, which lasted about 40 minutes and took place at the Archbishop’s residence in Krakow, the Pope greeted each attendee individually before sitting down to respond to some questions.

Since the audience was private, the text of the conversation was not made public, however, the transcript of the conversation was published in the Aug. 25 edition of La Civilta’ Cattolica.

The questions posed to the Pope centered on topics such as how to dialogue with youth, what role Jesuit Universities play in the scheme of education, why he himself chose to become a Jesuit and his advice to priests for their future.

However, in his typical style, after answering the questions and exchanging some gifts with the Jesuits, Francis decided to add a thought, focusing on the need for better formation in seminaries, particularly when it comes to spiritual discernment.

“I ask you to work with the seminarians. Above all give them what we received from the (Spiritual) Exercises: the wisdom of discernment,” the Pope said.

He said the Church today “needs to grow in her capacity for spiritual discernment,” noting that in some seminaries, formation plans place too much of an emphasis on educating “in the light of ideas that are overly clear and distinct, and therefore of acting with limits and rigidly defined ‘a priori’ criteria.”

By having the rules so clearly defined, the formation turns into a formula of “you must do this, you must not do this,” and doesn’t depend on the “concrete situations” of everyday life, he said.

“Therefore seminarians, becoming priests, find difficulty in accompanying the lives of many youth and adults…and many people leave the confessional disappointed.”

Francis stressed that this isn’t because “the priest is bad,” but rather comes from the fact that the priest doesn’t have the ability “to discern situations, of accompanying in authentic discernment. He doesn’t have the necessary formation.”

The Pope said the art of spiritual direction is “not only a priestly charisma, but also lay,” however, it’s more important for priests to master, since they “need it in their ministry.”

Priests “routinely receive the confidences of the consciences of the faithful,” he said, adding that because of this, spiritual discernment needs to be taught “above all to priests, to help them in the light of the Exercises in the dynamic of pastoral discernment.” Francis said pastoral discernment “respects the law,” but can also “go beyond.”

Turning to 20th century Jesuit Fr. Hugo Rahner, brother of famous Jesuit theologian Fr. Karl Rahner, the Pope said Hugo had written that “a Jesuit should be a man of supernatural instinct.”

“That is, he should be equipped with a sense of the divine and a sense of the diabolic related to the events of human life and history,” he said. “The Jesuit must therefore be able to discern whether it’s in the field of God or in the field of the devil.”

What Hugo wrote, he said, “is bold, it’s truly bold, but this is discernment!”

'Hello. My name is Mother Teresa. I just wanted to give you my card.'

Denver, Colo., Aug 25, 2016 / 03:54 am (CNA).- It happened on the most ordinary day, in the most ordinary of places.

A woman stood by herself in the back of an airport lounge, flipping distractedly through a magazine while she waited for her flight. Suddenly, she was approached by a 5’0” woman in a blue and white sari.

“Hello. My name is Mother Teresa. I just wanted to give you my card.”

The religious sister passed her a business card and gave her hand a gentle squeeze before turning and boarding a flight. The woman stared at the card. And then, a smile.

This is one of hundreds of testimonies about the life and holiness of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta included in the new book “A Call to Mercy” (Image, 2016). The 384-page book published just weeks ahead of the Calcutta sister’s Sept. 4 canonization.

The book gives an exclusive peek into the first and secondhand oral and written testimonies that built Mother Teresa’s cause for sainthood. In total, the sainthood cause for the Missionary of Charity foundress included 17 volumes – or nearly 7,000 pages – of testimonies.

Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, postulator of Mother Teresa’s cause and editor of “A Call to Mercy,” told CNA that such testimonies are typically unavailable to the public for decades following a canonization.

“This is the first time we’re using testimonies like that in such an organized manner and such a large number,” said Fr. Kolodiejchuk. “All that material will be available maybe in another 50 years. But in the meantime, if you read the examples you’ll see just what Mother did.”

“Some of them are extraordinary, but for the most part Mother is doing ordinary things. Like she herself used to emphasize; Ordinary things with extraordinary love.”

Since Mother Teresa’s canonization coincides with Pope Francis’ Jubilee of Mercy, “A Call to Mercy” also has a special focus on the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The book is divided into 14 chapters covering the 14 works of mercy. Each chapter includes a selection of Mother Teresa’s writings and testimonies related to a specific work of mercy.

“People will see – or have a good idea – firsthand or at least secondhand about how Mother herself lived the works of mercy,” Fr. Kolodiejchuk said.

A chapter on bearing wrongs patiently includes the testimony of a Missionary of Charity sister who was tasked with bringing Mother Teresa to the airport. The sister had just managed to usher Mother Teresa to the car when another sister ran to Mother Teresa and informed her that one of the children in their care was dying. The Missionary of Charity recalled being flooded with impatience.

“I’m not saying anything, but my body language, my tutting and sighing, says it all,” the sister recalls. “Mother…didn’t tell me off at all or point out my dreadful behavior. She just lovingly put her hand on my arm and said, ‘I will come, but I need to see this child’.”

Mother Teresa went to the child, a young baby, and prayed before tucking a Miraculous Medal into the child’s shirt. She then proceeded to the car to go to the airport.

“She didn’t point out how rude I was being; she embraced me and held me in my rudeness,” the sister reflected. “With all my faults, in that moment, she took care of me too.”

For many, the simplicity of this testimony and many others may come as a surprise. But not to Fr. Kolodiejchuk.

“Most of the examples…are just very ordinary,” Fr. Kolodiejchuk told CNA.  “Almost all of them – we can do those kinds of things. The little thoughtfulness to your neighbor, paying attention to those in need, beginning in your own family.”

For Fr. Kolodiejchuk, the testimonies also paint a fuller picture of the simple affectivity of the future saint, whom he knew personally and worked alongside for nearly two decades.

“Someone would meet Mother just once and it would change their life,” he told CNA. “Or they saw her walking by and it was a moment of conversion. She had this graced capacity to really affect people.”

“She radiated holiness and she had the witness of her life behind it.”

 

 

 

 

 

Coming soon: a meeting between Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury

Vatican City, Aug 25, 2016 / 12:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, the Primate of the Anglican Communion, will meet in Rome Oct. 5 to celebrate First Vespers in the Basilica of San Gregorio al Celio.

Although the meeting hasn’t been made official yet, the news was confirmed to CNA by a high ranking member of the Anglican Communion in Rome. Other sources have since confirmed that the meeting will be held Oct. 5.

While the schedule has yet to be completely defined, Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby are set to meet amid two busy days in Rome for the Anglican primate.

The two will celebrate First Vespers in San Gregorio al Celio Oct. 5. The next day they will have a private meeting that could signal a new phase in ecumenical relations.
 
Archbishop Welby will likely have a meeting at the Gregorian University and another at the Lay Center, an educational institution based in Rome. The Lay Center welcomes ecumenical students from other Christian churches and ecclesial communities, as well as those from non-Christian religions.

Archbishop Welby has already met with Pope Francis twice in the Vatican, the first time being June 14, 2013, and the second June 16, 2014.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s visit to Rome falls at the climax of a journey that has witnessed the first Catholic celebration in 450 years at the Royal Chapel of Hampton Court – the Chapel that King Henry VIII confiscated from Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who refused to declare annulled the king’s marriage with Catherine of Aragon.

The first report of a new meeting between the Pope and the Anglican primate came from one of the Camaldolese monks from the monastery associated with the San Gregorio al Cielo basilica.

The location of the papal meeting is highly significant given its historical context for the Anglican community.

Father Innocenzo Gargano, a former prior of the monastery, remarked on the visit during a May 19 event on Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si.”
 
The monk noted that the 1450-year-old San Gregorio al Celio had an important link to Britain. From there, Pope Gregory the Great sent the monk Augustine with 40 companions to evangelize the island.

Fr. Gargano said this is why Anglicans consider San Gregorio al Celio their “motherhouse.”

If the meeting does take place as expected, it will be the fourth between a Pope and an Archbishop of Canterbury to take place in the Basilica San Gregorio al Celio.

The first meeting took place in September 1989, when St. John Paul II and Archbishop Robert Runcie met. Later, St. John Paul II welcomed Archbishop John Carey at the basilica in June 2002.

Finally, the third and most recent meeting took place when Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Vespers at San Gregorio with Archbishop Rowan Williams in March 2012.

Archbishop Welby is also expected to be a special guest at the World Day of Prayer for Peace held in Assisi Sept. 18-20.

 

Could doctors be forced to perform sex reassignment surgeries?

Washington D.C., Aug 24, 2016 / 08:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Following the federal government stating that doctors cannot decline performing sex reassignment surgeries, a group of states, doctors, and hospitals are suing in the name of medical ethics.

“The effect is that there are doctors all across the country that are going to be asked to perform gender transition procedures, even when they believe it is going to be physically and emotionally harmful to the patient and against their best medical judgment,” Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told CNA.

“And this rule says if you follow your medical judgment, you can face massive liability.”

Current health care law bans discrimination against patients on basis of sex. New regulations from the Department of Health and Human Services interpret such discrimination to include cases where requests for procedures involving gender reassignment are denied.

The HHS would evaluate whether a denial of services meant discrimination on a “case-by-case basis,” Goodrich explained, basically if they thought a doctor didn’t “have a good reason” for saying no.

The rule could affect doctors and hospitals everywhere: as many as 900,000 doctors, the Becket Fund claimed. The religious freedom law group is representing various religious health providers like the Franciscan Alliance hospital network and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations. Five states – Texas, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Wisconsin – have joined the lawsuit.

The government does not mandate coverage for sex-reassignment surgery under Medicare and Medicaid, because the evidence is not conclusive that it is safe, the group said, pointing to a June memo by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services.

That memo stated that “there is not enough evidence to determine whether gender reassignment surgery improves health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries with gender dysphoria.”

Another study – by a group cited by the HHS – stated that “in most children, gender dysphoria will disappear before, or early in, puberty.” That was from a 2012 report by the World Professional Association for Transgender Help, which also pointed to studies showing as many as 94 percent of children with gender dysphoria eventually moving on from it.

Another report by the science and technology journal The New Atlantis agrees, noting that children may have mental health problems even after reassignment surgery.

“Only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood,” the report’s executive summary stated.

Furthermore, it added, “compared to the general population, adults who have undergone sex-reassignment surgery continue to have a higher risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes. One study found that, compared to controls, sex-reassigned individuals were about 5 times more likely to attempt suicide and about 19 times more likely to die by suicide.”

With such evidence casting doubt on the merits of gender transition, doctors must be free to do what they believe is the medically appropriate course of action, Goodrich maintained.

Johns Hopkins University, once a pioneer in sex reassignment surgery, has since ended the practice, finding that it was actually damaging to those who undergo it.  

“A lot of these doctors have purely medical reasons for not wanting to perform procedures that could harm children,” Goodrich said. “The idea that HHS is requiring doctors to perform these procedures on children when the vast majority of them will grow out of these feelings naturally is really troubling.”