Category Archives: National News

Pope Exhorts Young People to Be Courageous; Encounter Christ on the 56th Annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations

Vatican Media/CNA

from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

The 56th annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations was celebrated by the Catholic Church on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, May 12, a day which is also commonly referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday. Inspired by the Lord’s instruction in the Gospels of Matthew 9:38 and Luke 10:2, in which Jesus exhorts the people to “ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest,” World Day of Prayer for Vocations unites the faithful together in praying for the fostering of all vocations, particularly those of ordained ministry and consecrated life.

In his Message for the 2019 World Day of Vocations, Pope Francis reflected on the reality that all men are made “bearers of a promise” and are asked to have the “courage to take a risk” with Jesus and for Jesus. The Holy Father emphasized that just as the Lord beckoned Simon and Andrew to leave their nets and follow him, he also asks the same of us. He encounters each of us personally and uniquely, and it is in the midst of this encounter with Christ that Pope Francis says we are granted “the promise of a joy capable of bringing fulfillment to our lives.” The Holy Father also urged those discerning to remember that “the Lord’s call is not an intrusion of God in our freedom; it is not a “cage” or a burden to be borne. On the contrary, it is the loving initiative whereby God encounters us and invites us to be part of a great undertaking.”

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., Chairman of the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, stated that it is precisely because of this encounter with Christ that we are given the courage to leave the security of our daily routines and decisively embark on the path the Lord has for us. “To have courage does not mean that we suddenly have no fear or uncertainty,” Cardinal Tobin said. To be courageous means to know with confidence that Jesus is walking with us and in challenging us to take a risk, intends only our greatest joy.”

Closing his Message for the 2019 World Day of Vocations, Pope Francis beseeched young people to realize that following Jesus is always worth the risk. “Do not be deaf to the Lord’s call,” he urged. “If he calls you to follow this path, do not pull your oars into the boat, but trust him. Do not yield to fear, which paralyzes us before the great heights to which the Lord points us. Always remember that to those who leave their nets and boats behind, and follow him, the Lord promises the joy of a new life that can fill our hearts and enliven our journey. •

As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us

 from the Vatican Press Office

Today we complete the catechesis on the fifth question of the Lord’s Prayer, focusing on the expression “as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Mt 6: 12). We have seen that it is indeed man who is indebted before God: from Him we have received everything, in terms of nature and of grace. Our life was not only wanted, but was beloved by God. Truly there is no space for presumption when we bring our hands together in prayer. There exists no “self-made man” in the Church. We are all indebted to God and towards many people who have given us favorable conditions of life. Our identity is built on the basis of the good we have received. The first is life.

Those who pray learn to say “thank you”. And many times we forget to say “thank you,” we are selfish. Those who pray learn to say “thank you,” and ask God to be benevolent with him and with her. As much as we may strive, there always remains an uncancellable debt to God, that we can never pay back: He loves us infinitely more than we love Him. And then, as much as we may strive to live according to Christian teachings, in our life there will always be something for which we must ask for forgiveness: let us think of the days spent idly, the moments in which rancor has occupied our hearts and so on. These are the experiences, unfortunately not rare, that make us implore: “Lord, Father, forgive us our trespasses.” Let us ask for God’s forgiveness in this way.

Come to think of it, the invocation could also be limited to this first part: it would be good. Instead Jesus reinforces it with a second expression that combines with the first. The vertical relationship of benevolence on the part of God is refracted and required to be translated into a new relationship that we experience with our brothers: a horizontal relationship. The good God invites us all to be good. The two parts of the invocation are tied together with a merciless conjunction: we ask the Lord to forgive our debts, our sins, “as” we forgive our friends, the people who live with us, our neighbors, the people who have not been good to us.

Every Christian knows that there exists for him the forgiveness of sins, this we all know: God forgives everything, and always forgives. When Jesus describes the fact of God to his disciples, he outlines it with expressions of tender mercy. He says that there is more joy in heaven for a sinner who repents, rather than for a crowd of righteous people who are not in need of conversion (see Lk 15: 7-10). Nothing in the Gospels suggests that God does not forgive the sins of those who are well disposed and who ask to be re-embraced.

But God’s grace, so abundant, is always demanding. Those who have received so much must learn to give so much too, and not to hold back only for themselves what they have received. Those who have received so much must learn to give so much.

It is no coincidence that the Gospel of Matthew, immediately after giving the text of the Lord’s Prayer, among the seven expressions used, emphasizes precisely that of fraternal forgiveness: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Mt 6: 14-15). This is important! I think: sometimes I have heard people say: “I will never forgive that person! I will never forgive what they did to me!” But if you do not forgive, God will not forgive you. You close the door. Let us think, ourselves, whether we are capable of forgiving, or if we do not forgive. A priest, when I was in the other diocese, told me in anguish that he had gone to give the last sacraments to an old woman who was on the point of death. The poor lady could not speak. And the priest said to her: “Madam, do you repent of your sins?” The lady said yes; she could not confess them but she said yes. It was enough. And then again: “Do you forgive others?” And the lady, on her deathbed said: “No.” The priest was distressed. If you do not forgive, God will not forgive you. Let us think, we who are here, whether we forgive or are able to forgive. “Father, I can’t do it, because those people did so many things to me.” But if you cannot do it, ask the Lord to give you the strength to do it: Lord, help me to forgive. Here we find the bond between love for God and love of neighbor. Love calls for love, forgiveness calls for forgiveness. Again in Matthew we find a very intense parable dedicated to fraternal forgiveness (see 18: 21-35). Let us listen to it. …

Jesus inserts the power of forgiveness into human relationships. In life, not everything is resolved with justice. No. Especially where we must put a barrier to evil, someone must love beyond what is necessary, to start again a story of grace. Evil knows its revenge, and if it is not interrupted it risks spreading and suffocating the whole world.

Jesus replaces the law of retaliation – what you did to me, I will do in turn to you – with the law of love: what God has done to me, I will give back to you! Let us think today… if we are able to forgive. And if we do not feel capable, we must ask the Lord to give us the grace to forgive, because knowing how to forgive is a grace.

God gives every Christian the grace to write a story of good in the lives of his brothers, especially those who have done something unpleasant and wrong. With a word, a hug, a smile, we can convey to others the most precious thing we have received. What is the precious thing we have received? Forgiveness, which we must be able to give to others. •

Christus Vivit, Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment

from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

 Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and President of the USCCB, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R, of Newark, chairman of the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, and Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., of Philadelphia, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, have issued the following joint statement on the release of Christus Vivit.  Full statement follows:

“The Church of the United States welcomes this teaching from Pope Francis as the fruit of the synodal journey in which we walked with and listened to young people. This exhortation is a wonderful summons to the whole Church to more vigorously invest in youth and young adults, especially those on the peripheries and those who are disconnected from the Church.

We encourage all Catholic leaders to read and study this exhortation and the pertinent documents of the Synod. They provide for us a framework from which we can build upon in our dioceses, parishes, and communities.

Now more than ever, we must turn our attention to our young people and engage them as ‘protagonists’ of the Church’s mission. Their insights can help us grow as a Church and guide us as we all learn to become better missionary disciples in an intercultural and intergenerational context. We look forward to what comes next, in collaboration with Catholic ministry leaders already working alongside young people. We look forward to the journey ahead, and pray with St. John Paul II, a patron of young people whose passing we remember today, for the Church’s ongoing mission to all generations.

The post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Christus Vivit, is a significant milestone of the synodal process begun by Pope Francis in 2016. After two years of consultation by episcopal conferences, movements, and Catholic organizations, along with a worldwide online survey and a Pre-Synod Meeting with young adults in March 2018, the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops met in October 2018 on the theme ‘Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment.’ Bishops, clergy, religious and lay people, including a number of young people, together with Pope Francis, addressed the challenges facing younger generations today and ways in which the Church can best respond. Now the work of the Holy Spirit, manifest in the sessions of the Synod, will bear fruit in the dioceses of the United States.”  •

From the Pope: Forgive Us Our Trespasses

from the Vatican Press Office

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

After asking God for our daily bread, the Lord’s Prayer enters into the field of our relations with others. Jesus teaches us to ask the Father, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Mt 6: 12). Just as we need bread, we need forgiveness. Every day.

The Christian who prays asks first and foremost that God forgive our trespasses. This is the first truth of every prayer: even if we were perfect people, even if we were also crystalline saints who never deflect from a life of good, we always remain children who owe everything to the Father. The most dangerous attitude of every Christian life is pride. It is the attitude of those who place themselves before God, thinking that they always have their accounts in order with Him. Like that Pharisee in the parable, who thinks he prays in the temple but in reality praises himself before God. On the contrary the publican, a sinner despised by all, stops at the threshold of the temple, as he does not feel he is worthy of entering, and entrusts himself to God’s mercy. And Jesus comments, “This man, rather than the other, went home justified before God” (Lk 18: 14), and is therefore forgiven, saved.

There are sins that are seen and sins that are not seen. There are egregious sins that make a noise, but there are also sly sins that lurk in the heart without us even realizing. The worst of these is pride, which can even affect people who live an intense religious life. It is the sin that divides fraternity, that makes us presume we are better than others, that makes us believe we are similar to God.

And instead before God we are all sinners, and have a reason to beat our breast, like the publican at the temple. Saint John, in his first Letter, writes: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn 1: 8).

We are trespassers, debtors, first and foremost because in this life we have received so much: our existence, a father and a mother, friendship, the wonders of creation. Even if all of us have difficult days, we must always remember that life is a grace, it is the miracle that God extracted from nothing.

Secondly, we are debtors because, even if we succeed in loving, none of us is able to do so with his own strength. None of us shines with his own light. There is a “mysterium lunae,” not only in the identity of the Church, but also in the history of each one of us. If you love, it is because someone, external to you, smiled at you when you were a child, teaching you to respond with a smile. If you love it is because someone next to you reawakened you to love, making you understand that in it there resides the meaning of existence.

Let us try to listen to the story of someone who has made a mistake: a prison inmate, a convict, a drug addict. Without prejudice to responsibility, which is always personal, you ask yourself sometimes who should be blamed for his mistakes, if only his conscience, or the history of hatred and abandonment that some carry with them.

It is the mysterium lunae: we love first and foremost because we have been loved; we forgive because we have been forgiven. And if someone has not been illuminated by the sunlight, he becomes frozen like the ground in winter.

How can we not recognize, in the chain of love that precedes us, also the provident presence of God’s love? None of us loves God as much as He has loved us. It is enough to stand before a crucifix to grasp the disproportion. He has loved us and always loves us first.

So, let us pray. Lord, even the most holy among us never ceases to be in debt to You. O Father, have pity on us all!  •

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Publishes Revised Translation of the Rite for Blessing the Holy Oils

from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON—The publishing division of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has recently made available a revised translation of the rite for blessing the holy oils, entitled the Order of Blessing the Oil of Catechumens and of the Sick and of Consecrating the Chrism.

The book is used at the Chrism Mass, which is one of the highlights of the year in a diocese, normally held on Holy Thursday morning or on an earlier day of Holy Week. At that Mass the bishop, surrounded by a great number of clergy, religious, and faithful, blesses new holy oils for the coming year. The oils will be used for various ceremonies, such as for the preparation and celebration of baptism and for the celebration of the sacraments of confirmation, holy orders, and the anointing of the sick. They are used in some of the most majestic Catholic ceremonies, such as the dedication of a new church, and also in some of the simplest, like an anointing in a hospital room.

“USCCB Publications has produced an attractive book that is worthy of a ceremony as important as the Chrism Mass. The use of the holy oils is a striking part of the Church’s prayer in various moments of a person’s life and in important moments in the life of a parish,” explains Father Andrew Menke, executive director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Divine Worship. “All of these ceremonies throughout the diocese are linked together through those oils blessed by the bishop.”

The Order of Blessing the Oil of Catechumens and of the Sick and of Consecrating the Chrism is intended primarily for bishops in the United States and for their diocesan worship offices, but will also be a useful reference for seminaries, theological libraries, and for those interested in the Roman liturgy. It may be ordered online.

Additional books and resources pertaining to marriage and family life, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Vatican, ministry and more can be found by visiting the USCCB’s online bookstore at https://store.usccb.org. •

Bishop David Talley Named Bishop-Elect of Memphis

from the USCCB

The Most Reverend David Prescott Talley, J.C.D., M.S.W., Bishop of Alexandria in Louisiana, has been named as the bishop-elect of the Diocese of Memphis in Tennessee by His Holiness, Pope Francis. The appointment was announced in Rome on March 5, 2019. Bishop Talley will serve as Diocesan Administrator of the Diocese of Alexandria until his installation as Bishop of Memphis in on April 2 at 2:00 p.,. in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. At that time the See of Alexandria will become vacant and the College of Consultors will have eight days in which to elect a Diocesan Administrator.

Bishop Talley was ordained to the episcopacy on April 2, 2013, as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. He was appointed as coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Alexandria on September 21, 2016, and took possession of the diocese as its twelfth bishop upon the resignation of Bishop Ronald Herzog on February 2, 2017.
In all things Bishop Talley fostered a spirit of unity and hope in planning for the future of the diocese while building on its long history.

Digital Trends Research Project

by John Mark Willcox, Director of Development

Key Takeaways to Improve Results at Your Parish!

Nic Prenger of the Prenger Solutions Group, in partnership with eCatholic, surveyed 188 parishes in January of 2019. The sample size included parishes from across the country, both large and small. Prenger was kind enough to share the eye-opening results.

1. Parishes should engage their parishioners on Facebook:
a. Parishes that are active on Facebook boasted an average household giving that was 6.4% higher than parishes that aren’t on Facebook.
b. Parishes that posted on Facebook at least once a day reported average household giving 44% higher than parishes who posted less than once a day.
c. Parishes with a high percentage of parishioner “followers” (measured as at least one follower per registered household) reported an average offertory increase of 10% from 2017 to 2018. All other parishes in the study reported a 1% decline, on average.

2. Parishes should promote online giving
a. Parishes saw growth in online giving (defined as a 10% or more increase in online giving from 2017 to 2018) saw their total offertory increase by an average of 9%.
b. Parishes that did not make a leap in online giving saw their offertory decline by an average of 2%.
c. Analysis: The data shows that we aren’t just transitioning donors from one method to the other. Online giving is helping parishes to raise more money overall.

3. The value of an email address:
a. Parishes with fewer than 30% of their parishioners’ emails on file reported annual, per-household giving of $589.
b. Parishes with between 30% – 70% of their parishioners’ emails on file reported annual, per-household giving of $597.
c. Parishes with more than 70% of their parishioners’ emails on file reported annual, per-household giving of $716.

4. The value of sending a regular e-newsletter
a. Parishes that sent a weekly, monthly or quarterly e-newsletter saw a 4% increase in 2018 offertory.
b. Parishes that did not send an e-newsletter saw a 1% decline in 2018 offertory.

Feel free to take this information and adapt your digital giving program where you worship so that your parish can enjoy these new forms of Stewardship!  •

From the Pope: Your Kingdom Come

from the Vatican Press Office

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, the second invocation with which we address God is “Your Kingdom come” (Mt 6: 10). After praying that His name be hallowed, the believer expresses the desire that His Kingdom come in haste. This desire springs, so to speak, from the very heart of Christ, who began His preaching in Galilee proclaiming: “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mk 1,15). These words are not a threat at all; on the contrary, they are a happy announcement, a message of joy. Jesus does not want to push people to convert by sowing the fear of God’s imminent judgment or a sense of guilt for evil committed. Jesus does not proselytize: He simply announces. On the contrary, what He brings is the Good News of salvation, and starting from this He calls us to convert. Everyone is invited to believe in the “Gospel”: the lordship of God brought close to His children. This is the Gospel: the lordship of God made close to His children. And Jesus proclaims this wonder, this grace: God, the Father, loves us, is near us and teaches us to walk on the path of holiness.
The signs of the coming of this Kingdom are many, and all positive. Jesus begins His ministry by taking care of the sick, both in body and in spirit, of those who experienced social exclusion –for example, lepers – and of sinners who were looked upon with disdain by all, even by those who were greater sinners than they were, but who feigned righteousness. And what did Jesus call them? “Hypocrites.” Jesus Himself indicates these signs, the signs of the Kingdom of God: “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor” (Mt 11: 5).

“Your Kingdom come!” The Christian repeats insistently when he prays to “our Father.” Jesus came; but the world is still marked by sin, populated by so many people who suffer, by people who are not reconciled and do not forgive, by wars and by so many forms of exploitation; let us we think of the trafficking of children, for example. All these facts are proof that the victory of Christ has not yet been fully implemented: many men and women still live with a closed heart. It is above all in these situations that the second invocation of the Lord’s Prayer emerges on the Christian’s lips: “Your Kingdom come!” Which is like saying: “Father, we need you! Jesus, we need you, we need you to be everywhere and forever. You are Lord in our midst!”. “Your kingdom come, may You be among us.”

Sometimes we ask ourselves: why is this Kingdom being realized so slowly? Jesus loves to speak of His victory with the language of the parables. For example, He says that the Kingdom of God is like a field where good wheat and weeds grow together: the worst mistake would be to want to intervene, immediately eradicating from the world those that seem to us to be weeds. God is not like us, God has patience. It is not with violence that the Kingdom is established in the world: its style of propagation is meekness (cf. Mt 13: 24-30).

The Kingdom of God is certainly a great force, the greatest that there is, but not according to the criteria of the world; this is why it never seems to have an absolute majority. It is like the leaven that is kneaded in the flour: it seemingly disappears, yet it is precisely this that ferments the mass (cf. Mt 13: 33). Or it is like a grain of mustard, so small, almost invisible, but it carries within it the explosive force of nature, and once grown it becomes the greatest of all the trees in the orchard (cf. Mt 13: 31-32).

In this “destiny” of the Kingdom of God we can intuit the story of Jesus’ life: He too was a meager sign for His contemporaries, an event almost unknown to the official historians of the time. A “grain of wheat” as He defined Himself, Who dies in the earth but only in this way can “produce many seeds” (cf. Jn 12: 24). The symbol of the seed is eloquent: one day the peasant sinks it into the earth (a gesture that looks like a burial), and then, “night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how” (Mk 4: 27). A seed that sprouts is more the work of God than the man who sowed it (cf. Mk 4: 27). God always precedes us, God always surprises us. Thanks to Him, after the night of Good Friday there is a dawn of Resurrection capable of illuminating the whole world with hope.

“Your kingdom come!” Let us sow this word in the midst of our sins and failures. Let us give it to people who are defeated and bent by life, to those who have experienced more hatred than love, to those who have lived useless days without ever understanding why. Let us give it to those who have fought for justice, to all the martyrs of history, to those who have concluded that they have fought for nothing and that evil always dominates in this world. Then we will hear the Lord’s prayer respond. Those words of hope will be repeated for the umpteenth time, the same ones that the Spirit has placed in the seal of all the Holy Scriptures: “Yes, I will come soon!”: This is the Lord’s answer: “I will come soon.” Amen. And the Church of the Lord replies: “Come, Lord Jesus” (see Rev 2: 20). “Your Kingdom come” is like saying “Come, Lord Jesus”. And Jesus says: “I will come soon”. And Jesus comes, in His way, but every day. Let us have trust in this. And when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we always say: “Your Kingdom come,” to feel in the heart: “Yes, yes, I will come, and I will come soon.” Thank you!

USCCB Pro-Life Chairman Calls All Catholics to Fight with Renewed Vigor for the Unborn

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from the USCCB

WASHINGTON—Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, KS and Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities has issued the following statement in response to several states moving forward with legislation that would permit a baby to be aborted at nine months.

Archbishop Naumann’s full statement follows:

“Abortion has always been built on a lie. Today, the lie is switching from ‘abortion is a choice’ to ‘abortion is healthcare.’ A law recently passed in New York not only legalizes abortion essentially for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy but removes any protection for children born alive after abortion. A similar bill was proposed in Virginia along with several other states, all in the name of women’s health.

This legislation is evil, pure and simple. And it shocks the conscience to see such evil legislation greeted with raucous cheers and standing ovations. Most grieving to our Lord of Life is that those who advocate for abortion put their eternal souls in jeopardy.

It is sickeningly dishonest to claim that women’s lives or health depend on intentionally killing their children. This is especially true for late-term abortion, which always involves the purposeful destruction of a child which could have been born alive, with much less risk to the mother, had they both received real healthcare.

Now is the time for all Catholics—bishops, priests, and laity—to fight for the unborn with renewed vigor. We must educate family, friends, legislators, and fellow citizens about how it is never necessary to intentionally kill unborn children in order to save their mothers. Local action is especially important. Though ending Roe v. Wade is a central goal of the pro-life movement, if the decision were overturned, only 11 states would immediately ban abortion; the other 39 states would still allow it.

I urge Catholics, and thoughtful Americans of all religions or none at all to advocate for local change. Sign up for your State Catholic Conference or diocesan pro-life advocacy network, which can help you communicate to elected officials. Or seek out state and local pro-life groups, including parish respect life groups, that are making a difference at the state level.

Though we live in very dark days, we know that the Lord has already triumphed over death. But we must use this time on earth to be His hands and feet. This means each of us rededicating ourselves to prayer, and fighting for the most vulnerable among us, especially unborn children and their mothers.”

USCCB President Issues Statement on McCarrick in Response to Judgement by Holy See

WASHINGTON— Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued the following statement upon the decision of the Holy See announced today regarding Theodore McCarrick.

Cardinal DiNardo’s Full Statement Follows:

“The Holy See’s announcement regarding Theodore McCarrick is a clear signal that abuse will not be tolerated. No bishop, no matter how influential, is above the law of the Church. For all those McCarrick abused, I pray this judgement will be one small step, among many, toward healing. For us bishops, it strengthens our resolve to hold ourselves accountable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am grateful to Pope Francis for the determined way he has led the Church’s response.

If you have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of someone within the Catholic Church, I urge you to contact local law enforcement and your local diocese or eparchy. Victims Assistance Coordinators are available to help. We are committed to healing and reconciliation.”