Category Archives: In the News

Potpourri: The world needs heroes!

Inspired by my incredibly creative friend Maggie and her beloved “Clippings” posts over at Ten Thousand Places, I thought I’d try out a similar series of posts on this blog. Each Potpourri post will consist of a list of miscellaneous links, photos, videos, quotes, and/or other tidbits I came across during the week that I thought might interest you all. Let me know what you think!


March for Life 2011

March for Life 2011: Mary marching toward the Capitol.

First things first: everyone ought to pray in a special way this weekend for all those who will be standing up for LIFE at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., as well as at local marches around the country. (For readers outside the U.S., January 22 is the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the United States in 1973. Current estimates say that hundreds of thousands of pro-life marchers take to the streets of our capital each year to be witnesses for LIFE.) The world needs heroes who will be a voice for the voiceless!

Speaking of heroes, I was inspired and touched by two articles that came in one of my “Daily Dispatches” from Zenit this week: one about persecuted clergy being unjustly detained by the Chinese government, and another about the ministry of maritime chaplains in Italy following the Costa Concordia cruise ship tragedy. The life of the priest is, by nature, a heroic life – not because it wins the priest acclaim and earthly glory (quite the contrary, actually). No, the life of the priest is heroic because of what it requires: a total death to self for his beloved, the Church.

Of course, all of the faithful are called to be heroic in their own way. I have always taken great delight in the Church teaching which affirms that heroic sanctity can be achieved in every state of life, in every situation, in every vocation (cf. Lumen Gentium 39). Catholic blogger Simcha Fisher has posted a beautifully-written reflection on the sufferings and joys of being a mother of many (nine!) children: To the Mother With Only One Child.

And now for the most pressing issue of the day: by now I’m sure you’ve all heard (at least, readers residing in the U.S. will have heard) about the deeply disturbing statement put forth by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) yesterday. You can find a few worthwhile Catholic commentaries about this serious (albeit not unforeseen) threat to religious liberty here, here and here. While I am indeed disturbed by this turn of events, I take great comfort in two things.

First, Church leadership is on alert and fully aware of the gravity of the situation. Just days ago (incidentally, the day before HHS published their statement) Pope Benedict addressed a group of bishops from the United States with these words:

“The Church’s witness, then, is of its nature public: she seeks to convince by proposing rational arguments in the public square. The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation.

“In the light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life.”

(You can read the Holy Father’s entire address on Zenit.org.) Cardinal-elect Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is also taking a public stand against this outrage. Check it out:

According to this article from the National Catholic Reporter (HT to American Papist), President Obama had the audacity to call Archbp. Dolan to “tell him the news” when the HHS statement went out:

“NCR has learned that the President called Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, this morning to tell him the news. Wouldn’t you have liked to be on an extension to listen in on that conversation. The president looked Dolan in the eye in November and said he would be pleased with his decision [regarding conscience protection legislation]. I am guessing that Dolan is not pleased.”

Well, if that isn’t the understatement of the century! (NB: I do not look to the National Catholic Reporter for authentically Catholic news and commentary – though I did find the aforementioned article helpful. You’d be better off getting your Catholic news from the National Catholic Register.)

I also find a great deal of consolation (as I always do) in remembering that no matter what happens in our country and in our world, we always have Our Lord and our Blessed Mother, we always have the Church, we always have the Communion of Saints. The world needs heroes – and thank goodness, we have them: we have the saints!

On that note, I wanted to share this fantastic quote by St. Augustine (HT to Ten Thousand Places and Happy Catholic). Let it be a reminder to us all, especially as we enter into the thick of what my be the United States’ most divisive, most frightening, most crucial election season yet:

Saint Augustine - Botticelli (detail)

Botticelli, St. Augustine (detail)

“Bad times, hard times – this what people keep saying; but let us live well, and times shall be good. We are the times. Such as we are, such are the times.”

– St. Augustine of Hippo

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Potpourri: I love the Pope, Dominican Vocations, Happy Priests!

Inspired by my incredibly creative friend Maggie and her beloved “Clippings” posts over at Ten Thousand Places, I thought I’d try out a similar series of posts on this blog. Each Potpourri post will consist of a list of miscellaneous links, photos, videos, quotes, and/or other tidbits I came across during the week that I thought might interest you all. Let me know what you think!

  • I just now got around to reading the Holy Father’s address to young women religious at World Youth Day in Madrid. LOVE this quote (emphases mine):

“Gospel radicalism means being ‘rooted and built up in Christ, and firm in the faith’ (cf. Col 2:7). In the consecrated life, this means going to the very root of the love of Jesus Christ with an undivided heart, putting nothing ahead of this love (cf. St. Benedict, Rule, IV, 21) and being completely devoted to Him, the Bridegroom, as were the saints… Your lives must testify to the personal encounter with Christ which has nourished your consecration, and to all the transforming power of that encounter. … In a world of relativism and mediocrity, we need that radicalism to which your consecration, as a way of belonging to the God who is loved above all things, bears witness.”

– Pope Benedict XVI, Meeting with Young Religious, 19 August 2011
Nuns at World Youth Day in Madrid

There were LOTS of young nuns at World Youth Day in Madrid!

  • More good news from the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, TN: 1 sister recently made final vows, 15 novices made first vows in July, 24 received the holy habit and began their novitiate (including a friend from my hometown, now Sr. Malia Grace!), and 16 new postulants entered in August. Deo gratias!
  • A spunky young blogger reflects on the journey that led her to enter the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, MI: “Why I’m Joining the Habit-Wearing, Rock Star Sisters” (Ha!) And just for the record, this is yet another proof that in the Young Catholic Church, “six degrees of separation” do not apply; it’s always more like one or two degrees. Exhibit A: Meris has just entered the same convent where a dear, dear friend of mine from college (Sr. Mary Martha!) just began her novitiate. Exhibit B: Meris’ high school friend, Brother James Claver, was a missionary with me in Honduras back in 2008. In both cases, it’s just one degree! Crazy!
  • Meris’ friend Carolina, who also entered the Sisters of Mary this fall, has shared a beautiful “glory story” on her blog about the generous donors who paid off her student loan debt so she could enter the convent. Praise God!
  • Clergy are ranked #1 on a list of the “Ten Happiest Jobs,” based on a survey conducted by the National Organization for Research at the University of Chicago. I always love to hear the clergy that I know describe their job as “being a happy priest!”
Happy Seminarians

Happy Seminarians. I have no idea who took this photo, but I just love it!

That’s all for now. Look for another I’m-so-excited-about-vocations! linkfest next week!

Charity

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More Signs of a Vocations Boom: Seminaries Filling Up Again (Finally!)

I know we can’t really say yet that the “vocations crisis” is over, but I can’t help but hope when I read this sort of news:

This fall the seminary serving the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is welcoming the largest class of seminarians it’s seen since 1980. These glad tidings even made the local news! (HT to American Papist) You can find out more about all the great things happening in the Archdiocese on their vocations Web site: 10000vocations.org. Good stuff!

The Archdiocese of New Orleans is also cautiously optimistic about their “bumper crop” of seminarians, the largest group they’ve had studying at one time in over 25 years!

Encouraging news, right? Well, I have another little tidbit of my own to add… A friend recently informed me that the local seminary college had such a large class of freshmen this year that they didn’t have dorms to house them all. Their solution? Senior seminarians will spend their last year of Philosophy studies living in part of the monastery with the Benedictine monks who run the seminary, thus freeing up enough dorms to house the freshmen. Good news, indeed!

Mary, Mother of Vocations, pray for these young men who long to offer their lives to Your Son!

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Pope Benedict on his World Youth Day experience: “I thank God for this precious gift”

Hello, everybody! I am back from pilgrimage, alive and well, still trying to get over jet lag and prepare for my first theology classes of the semester (which start tomorrow). As promised, I have lots of photos and stories to share, I just haven’t had time to post them. For now, I’d like to share a bit of the Holy Father’s reflection on his experience at WYD:

“I thank God for this precious gift, which gives hope for the future of the Church: young people with the unwavering and sincere desire to root their lives in Christ, to remain firm in the faith, and to walk together with the Church. …

“[T]he meeting in Madrid was, first and foremost, a marvelous demonstration of faith – for Spain and for the world. For the multitude of young people who had come from every corner of the world, it was a special occasion to reflect, discuss, exchange positive experiences and, above all, to pray together and to renew their commitment to root their own lives in Christ, the Faithful Friend. … For my part, I continue to accompany them in prayer, so that they might remain faithful to the commitments they have assumed. I entrust the fruits of this Day to the maternal intercession of Mary.”

The latest estimates say there were almost 2 million of us there. INCREDIBLE!

Mary, Mother of the Church, pray that the seeds planted in our hearts at this blessed event would bear much fruit!

You can read Pope Benedict’s reflection in its entirety on Zenit.org.

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Novena for the Pope and for Priests: Day 1

I am sure that by now all of you have heard the distressing news about Fr. Corapi leaving the priesthood. He has been on my mind and heart all week, and I’ve gone back and forth a thousand times about whether I wanted to say anything about him on the blog. Today I realized that the only thing I want to say is this: guys, we have to pray for our priests.

And by “pray for our priests” I don’t just mean “mention them in our prayers every now and then, when we happen to remember to pray for them or when Fr. So-and-So looks like he’s having a particularly rough day.” I’m talking about a personal commitment to intercede for them daily, by name, with the particular intention of praying for their holiness, their perseverance, and their protection from the enemy.

I have long felt that spiritual motherhood for priests was an important part of my vocation (more about that in another post!), and for years I have prayed for the priests in my life as best I knew how – but now it seems as though the Lord is inviting me to do more for them. From now on, I want to be more fervent in my prayers, more generous with my sacrifices, and more willing to suffer for their sakes. The whole sad situation surrounding Fr. Corapi has left me more convinced than ever of the tremendous need priests have of our prayers – particularly those priests who struggle most to be faithful to their vocation, those who suffer most (physically, emotionally, spiritually), those who are most tempted, those who are trapped in patterns of sin, those who are persecuted, those who have no one to support or encourage them, those who are closest to death, and most of all, those who have left the priesthood.

I read on Zenit.org this week that the Congregation for the Clergy is encouraging Catholics to participate in prayer vigils for Pope Benedict XVI as he prepares to celebrate his 60th anniversary of ordination on June 29. We are being asked to pray not only for the Holy Father, but for all of the clergy:

In addition to praying for the Pope’s life, health, happiness and protection from every evil, the faithful are asked to pray for bishops, priests, deacons and all ministers of the Gospel, that they may be faithful to their vocation and their self-giving, and to remember the Church, vocations, the laity and deceased priests.

The “prayer campaign” is set to conclude next Friday, July 1, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was designated by Pope John Paul II in 2002 as a special day of prayer for priests.

I’ve decided that over these next nine days, I will post a “novena” of my favorite prayers for priests – a different prayer each day. (Obviously this is not a novena in the traditional sense, but I really wanted to share all of these beautiful prayers with you, not just one!) Please join me in praying for the Holy Father, for Fr. Corapi, and for all priests.


This first prayer is my favorite prayer for priests. I keep a copy of it in my breviary and pray it each night after Compline.

Mother Teresa’s Prayer for Priests

Mother Teresa praying

Mary, Mother of Jesus, throw your mantle of purity over our priests. Protect them, guide them, and keep them in your heart. Be a Mother to them, especially in times of discouragement and loneliness. Love them, and keep them belonging completely to Jesus. Like Jesus, they too are your sons, so keep their hearts pure and virginal. Keep their minds filled with Jesus, and put Jesus always on their lips, so that He is the One they offer to sinners and to all they meet.

Mary, Mother of Jesus, be their Mother, loving them and bringing them joy. Take special care of sick and dying priests and the ones most tempted. Remember how they spent their youth and old age, their entire lives serving and giving all to Jesus.

Mary, bless them and keep a special place for them in your heart. Give them a piece of your heart, so beautiful and pure and immaculate, so full of love and humility, so that they too can grow in the likeness of Christ. Mary, make them humble like you and holy like Jesus. Amen.

Lord, give us priests! Give us holy priests! Give us many holy priests!

Mary, Mother of Vocations, pray for us!

St. Joseph, Guardian of Vocations, pray for us!

All you angels and saints of God, pray for us!

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New film “There Be Dragons” moves viewers to forgive

I have been waiting for months to see the new film There Be Dragons, which tells the story of an estranged father and son whose lives are forever changed by their encounter with St. Josemaría Escrivá. If you haven’t yet seen the trailer, take a look:

Sadly, the film won’t be playing where I live for at least another week, possibly longer. The good news is, a film about a Catholic saint, with a well-known director and actors you might actually recognize, will be released tomorrow in theaters across the United States.

The reviews so far haven’t exactly been stellar. I’ve seen glimpses of positive press, mostly Religion features and opinion columns (Exhibit AExhibit B), Exhibit C) – but on the whole, the critics have been pretty… well, critical. That doesn’t discourage me from going to see the film, and it shouldn’t discourage you, either. Whatever the critics say, the film can’t be called a total flop, and here’s why.

In a recent interview with Zenit, former Vatican press secretary Joaquín Navarro-Valls indicated that the good work of the filmmakers is already bearing fruit:

“Without planning to do so, [director and writer] Roland Joffé has started a movement of many people who feel moved to forgive. The producers are daily receiving messages of thanks (some are on the Internet) from people who see the movie and decide to return home after years of separation, from spouses who are reconciled, from parents and children who have come to accept one another again, from others who return to God after a long time of being distanced from Him.”

(You can read the entire interview with Dr. Navarro-Valls on Zenit.org.)

Amazing, right? Though it shouldn’t surprise us, really. Holiness begets holiness. Mercy begets mercy. It’s like I was saying on Sunday: we let God’s mercy into our hearts, it grows within us, and then we share it with others by showing them mercy. Then it grows within them, then they share it with others… and soon there is quite a bit more goodness and mercy in the world than there was before. That’s what the life of a saint does – it transforms the world.

As for those critics, people will see what they want to see. Those whose hearts are closed, who believe they’ve found all the answers they need, will inevitably dismiss a film like this as yet another mediocre wartime drama. On the other hand, those people who are still seeking, who maybe want to change, to be a better person, to learn how to forgive, but perhaps don’t believe it’s possible – they are the ones who can be changed forever by the story of a saint.

St. Josemaría Escrivá, pray for us!

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Nashville Dominicans in the News (Yet Again!)

Always great to see the “vocations boom” being covered by the secular media!

To learn more about the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, visit their Web site: http://nashvilledominican.org

(HT to Aggie Catholics)

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More Good News: Ordination Numbers Are Up!

Zenit reports that, according to statistics from 2009, more priests are being ordained worldwide, and there has been a noticeable decrease in the number of men leaving the priesthood. Of course, the number of priests in the United States and Europe is still declining, but the vocation boom in Africa, Asia and Latin America not only cancels out the decline – it actually leaves us with a net increase in the number of priests worldwide!

Like I always say, we have good reason to be optimistic about the “vocations crisis.” Things are (finally) looking up!

Lord, send us priests! Send us many priests! Send us many holy priests!

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Poor Clares of Lerma Form New Religious Order

About a month ago, I stumbled across this video of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap. (Preacher to the Papal Household and author of the fantastic book Virginity: A Positive Approach to Celibacy for the Sake of the Kingdom) visiting a vibrant group of young Poor Clares at a convent in Spain. Because the clearest versions of this video are the originals in Italian and Spanish, the one I’ve posted below is not subtitled. (If you really want English subtitles, you can go here – but I have a feeling you’ll agree they aren’t really necessary!)

Beautiful, right? Since that video was posted in 2009, when there were already a whopping 140 sisters in the convent at Lerma, the number of sisters in this community has climbed to almost 200! And that’s not all. Last Saturday, the “Clarisas” of Lerma officially became a new religious order.

Nearly 200 young nuns processed from their cloister to the cathedral of Burgos on Saturday [February 12, 2011] for the official establishment of their new institute of consecrated life.

Sister Verónica María Berzosa Martínez, formerly the abbess of the group, is now also their founder.

Sister Berzosa, 46, joined the Poor Clares when she was 18. She felt called along with the sisters of her community to establish this new charism, which has now been recognized by the Church as an institute of consecrated life.

Read the entire article on Zenit.org.

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Is the “vocations crisis” over?

Finally, some good news!

For as long as my friends and I can remember, Catholics have used the term “vocations crisis” to refer to the shortage of priests and religious that has plagued the Church for the past several decades. I have often wondered whether awareness of this “crisis” was a recent phenomenon, so I did a bit of research…

It seems that the term “vocations crisis” was being used as early as 1969, right around the time the “crisis” began. I’m not sure how often it was used in the years that followed, but if my Vatican archives keyword search is any indication, it looks like the use of this term exploded around the year 2000. My own experience tells me that for the past ten years or so, it has become somewhat of a buzzword among Catholics.

I got used to talking about the “vocations crisis,” too, until one day my spiritual director told me something that rocked my world: There has never been a crisis of vocations, because God has never stopped calling. What we have mistakenly termed a “vocations crisis” is, and has always been, a crisis of response.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? God would never abandon the Church, His Beloved Bride. He has always called, and continues to call, sufficient laborers for His vineyard. Sadly, many of those He was calling in decades past could not (or would not) hear His voice.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, with each decade that’s passed since the “sexual revolution” of the sixties, our culture has become increasingly hostile to the pursuit of a celibate vocation — and I am not speaking only of the secular culture! Even among Catholics, I have seen an astonishing lack of support from “good Catholic parents” who seem to think their child must be CRAZY to consider living a celibate life… And it seems that this hostility, both inside and outside of the home, has made many young people afraid to even consider a vocation. The result? A crisis of response that has lasted some 30-40 years.

So, what’s the good news?

Young people are answering the call, and LOTS of them!

Last March, I saw this post on Vocation Boom: “Vocations are on the rise, and here are the stats to prove it.” Then I came across an article about the recent CARA Study on vocations to the religious life in the United States, and this one from the National Catholic Register.

But the proof isn’t only in faceless statistics. Last year, I said goodbye to about a dozen friends who were leaving to begin their first year of formation for priesthood or religious life. That’s when numbers like these really began hitting home for me:

Franciscan Friars of the Renewal after their final profession, 2010

Franciscan Friars of the Renewal after their final profession, 2010 (from the CFRs' Picasa album)

  • Franciscan Friars of the Renewal: 9 new postulants in 2009, 7 more in 2010, 6 brothers (above) took final vows last fall. Congratulations, Br. Dismas!
  • Sisters of Life: 8 new postulants last year, ranging in age from 22-25!
  • One young woman from our diocese entered the Missionaries of Charity Sisters in January 2010.
  • Two more entered the local Carmel in October.
  • Another joined Mother Angelica’s Poor Clares (the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration) in Hanceville, AL.
  • The major seminary in my home state welcomed 35 new seminarians last fall — a number they had every right to be happy about!

On a side note, I recently discovered that 5 of the 26 seminarians from my diocese went to the local public high school I attended… which wouldn’t be a big deal, if it weren’t for the fact that we were all there at the same time. This means that my alma mater produced 5 seminarians in 5 years! Plus a Jesuit novice. And (God willing!) a consecrated virgin. Not bad at all for a public high school!

Perhaps those numbers don’t impress you. Perhaps my friends and I are the exception… but I would venture to say that this is probably not the case. Seminaries across the country are welcoming young men in droves, and more than a few religious orders are growing at an almost alarming rate.

Is the “vocations crisis” over? I think things are definitely looking up, and I can say that with confidence and joy. My friends and I are the living proof!

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