Tag Archives: Youth

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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26 Years of World Youth Days

I’m busy this week finishing a term paper for my Patristics class, but I just had to share this:

We young people owe so much to Blessed John Paul II! What a blessing that Pope Benedict chose to carry on the tradition of these “meetings” with the youth of his flock. We are so very lucky to have a Holy Father who loves us so much!

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Continued Prayers for Seminarian Philip Johnson

Some of you may remember my asking you to join me in praying the Immaculate Conception Novena for Philip Johnson, a seminarian with an inoperable brain tumor, back in December. In case you haven’t been keeping up with his blog, I thought I would let you know that Philip is still in need of our prayers. Due to the demands of his chemotherapy treatment, he did not return to seminary this semester and will instead continue his studies with a private tutor.

Philip is truly an extraordinary witness. Take a look at what he wrote about his call to the priesthood back in 2008:

“As I deal with a brain tumor, I am not sad that it may eventually cause me to suffer and die. …  The single worry I face every day is that because of various circumstances – some of which are beyond my control – I may never know what it is like to serve God as the alter Christus I desire with all my heart to be. It brings tears to my eyes to imagine departing this world without pronouncing the words of Christ at the Last Supper, ‘This is My Body; This is My Blood’ … I pray fervently that I may one day have the privilege of absolving sins… I offer my suffering from this illness for the intentions and sanctification of all bishops, priests, and religious, and for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life.”

And when you’ve got a half-hour to spare, check out this video of a talk Philip gave to students at a Catholic school in Raleigh. Powerful stuff!

(HT to Fr. Z and my friends at The Catholic Underground)

Please join me in continuing to pray for Philip, particularly during the upcoming season of Lent. You can follow his blog at: philipgerardjohnson.blogspot.com

Mother Mary, be his comfort and his joy! Teach him how to suffer with Our Lord. Keep him always close to your Immaculate Heart!

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Sophie Scholl and the White Rose

The White Rose: Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl and Cristoph Probst

The White Rose: Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl and Cristoph Probst

You’ve probably heard of Oskar Schindler, who saved the lives of over 1000 Jews during World War II. Maybe you’ve also heard of Msgr. Hugh O’Flaherty, who famously smuggled escaped POWs and members of the Italian Resistance through the Vatican, right under the noses of the Nazi authorities.

Have you ever heard of the White Rose?

This non-violent resistance group was organized by students from the University of Munich, who sought to aid the larger German Resistance movement by distributing anonymous leaflets of anti-Nazi literature. The group’s adamant rejection of Nazi ideology stemmed from the firm belief of each of its members in the dignity of every human person.

Among the leaders of the White Rose were 21-year-old Sophie Scholl, her older brother Hans Scholl (both devout Lutherans), and their friend Christoph Probst (a Catholic father of three). These three youths were eventually arrested by the Gestapo, put on trial before the Nazi-sympathizing People’s Court, and condemned to death for treason. Today is the anniversary of their execution.

The story of the White Rose, and of Sophie in particular, has impacted me in a deep and lasting way that I did not quite expect. Though I suppose she’s not technically a martyr (and not a canonized saint), she reminds me a great deal of St. Joan of Arc. I think of them both when I feel afraid, and think: If those girls could bravely face the stake and the guillotine, I can certainly be brave now!

If you’d like to find out more about Sophie and her extraordinary witness, I highly recommend the film Sophie Scholl: The Final Days. It is simple, eloquent and gut-wrenching (without being gory) – absolutely a must-see.

Julia Jentsch as Sophie Scholl

Julia Jentsch as Sophie Scholl in Sophie Scholl: The Final Days

The film is in German with English subtitles. It is available on Netflix and for viewing online from Amazon Video On Demand ($2.99 for a 7-day rental).

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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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March for Life + Other Blessings

So far, my blogging resolution to “post something every day” this year has been a spectacular failure. It only lasted two weeks… but no matter! The second half of January was jam-packed with blessings that I can’t wait to share.

One of those blessings was my first ever pilgrimage to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. At the last minute (about a week before we left), I signed up to go with a group of nearly 400 high-schoolers and young adults – which included about two dozen seminarians, five of the Nashville Dominicans’ novices and their novice mistress. Part of the focus of our pilgrimage was to “plant the seeds” of vocational discernment in our group of teens, and all I can say about that is: mission accomplished!

Until I have time to write about the other beautiful things God is doing in my life, I’ll leave you with this video of the March:

The Church (particularly the young Church) was so well-represented – I don’t know if I’ve ever been prouder to be Catholic!

(HT to Mark Shea)

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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!


Filed under In the News, Reflections

Chiara Badano Beatified 20 Years after Her Death

Bl. Chiara "Luce" Badano

Blessed Chiara, pray for us!

Chiara “Luce” Badano was born in Italy in 1971, to devout parents who had waited 11 years to welcome their first and only child. From a young age, she was active in the Focolare Movement, and her joyful witness earned her the nickname “Luce” (Light).

As early as age 12, Chiara expressed a desire to give herself totally to Jesus, to take Him her spouse — and she set out to “give Him to others” in the ordinariness of her daily life. Full of zeal for God and souls, Chiara was eager to reach the heights of holiness — never guessing that her opportunity to be united to Christ would come much sooner than she expected.

At age 17, Chiara was diagnosed with bone cancer, and an unsuccessful surgery left her paralyzed from the waist down — but this did not dampen her spirits. Throughout her excruciating illness, Chiara remained cheerful and offered up her suffering for souls, even refusing morphine because she wished to remain alert and to offer her pain to Jesus. She often said, “It’s for you, Jesus; if you want it, I want it too.”

Chiara died in 1990 at age 19. Her last words to her family were, “Be happy, because I am happy!” This weekend she was proclaimed “blessed,” and her very proud parents were present at her beatification.

Read more on Zenit.org.


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Pope urges youth in UK: “Be open to His voice”

“Dear young friends: only Jesus knows what ‘definite service’ He has in mind for you. Be open to His voice resounding in the depths of your heart: even now His heart is speaking to your heart. … Ask our Lord what He has in mind for you! Ask Him for the generosity to say ‘yes!’ Do not be afraid to give yourself totally to Jesus. He will give you the grace you need to fulfill your vocation.”

— Pope Benedict XVI, Hyde Park, London, September 18, 2010

Read the full article on Zenit.org.

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