Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Rest in Peace, Dr. Nathanson

Dr. Bernard Nathanson passed away Monday morning at 84 years old.  Dr. Nathanson was a former abortionist turned pro-life hero who also became Catholic.  It's stories like his that are a powerful testament to God's mercy and love:
Here is an excerpt from LifeSiteNews:
“He will be remembered as a very strong advocate for the babies,” she [Joan Andrews Bell] continued. “One factor stood out, knowing him over the years, and that was that he had a deep pain for what he had done in terms of abortion. I remember there were periods he was fasting; he underwent huge amounts of fasting to make up for it.”

“He was like St. Paul, who was a great persecutor of the Church, yet when he saw the light of Christ, he was perhaps the greatest apostle for the Gospel. Dr. Nathanson was like that after his conversion. He went all around the world talking about the babies and the evils of abortion. Being his godmother was such an amazing thing, to see him come to Christ.”
Also in the article Lila Rose of LiveAction is quoted as saying:
Dr. Nathanson is a testament to God’s grace; that any heart can be transformed into a beacon of love and truth. In his memory, and as the battle in Congress rages these next two weeks, let us work tirelessly to aid Dr. Nathanson’s brave efforts in exposing evil and protecting the innocent. 
Read the rest of the LifeSiteNews article here.  It's definitely worth the read.

Requiescat in pace.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Spiritual Bouquet for Pope Benedict

Fr. Z. has posted a great idea to offer a spiritual bouquet for Pope Benedict XVI beginning now through March 19th which is the Solemnity of St. Joseph (Joseph is Pope Benedict's baptismal name).  Click here to find out more.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mother with Cancer Chooses Love & Life

Inspiring Story of a mother who discovered she had leukemia when she was 21 weeks pregnant:
Mrs Webster from Birmingham, said: 'My doctor told me I needed to make a choice and decide whether I should keep my baby.
'To me, there was no decision to make. I had already bonded with my baby while she was growing inside me and as her mum, I had to protect her.
'Doctors kept telling me I should have a termination - but I had made up my mind, and my husband Martyn supported me.
'It's the best decision I have ever made. I can't imagine my life without my daughter.  Since having Jessica last April, I've had a course of chemo and I'm beating leukaemia.'...
...'I'll never regret keeping my little girl and delaying treatment. I might have risked my life for her, but she was worth it.'
Read the whole story here.

St. Gianna, pray for us.

Bishop Johnston's FOCUS Homily

A few days ago one of our students submitted a reflection on the homily that our bishop, Bishop James Johnston, had given at the recent FOCUS conference in Nashville.  Following is the homily in full, reflecting on the Gospel passage from Mark 4: 35-41:
Today’s Gospel is short in length, but long on power. It’s a familiar Gospel story . . . “the calming of the storm at sea.”
I want to reflect some on the three times that Jesus speaks in this episode. Jesus’ words are spirit and life and so it is especially important to dwell on his words.
The first time he speaks, he issues an invitation, but also a subtle command, to those who are with him—his disciples: “as evening drew on, he said to them, ‘Let us cross to the other side.” We can look at this at face value and say, “Well, he just wanted to get across to the other shore line,” simple as that.
But, I suggest another, deeper meaning: Jesus wants them and each of us (who are his disciples too) to go with him to an unknown place; to set out with him into uncharted territory. By the way, notice that Mark also mentions the time Jesus issued this invitation: as evening drew on. You all know what happens in the evening don’t you? It gets dark. I know you knew that, you’re college students!
If you’ve ever been out on the water at night, it’s creepy and it’s dangerous. Boaters and sailors head to shore as evening gets near, they don’t head out onto open water if they can help it. So, when Jesus says they are heading out into the dark to open water to make a crossing to the other shore, it is significant. He is asking a challenging thing, and to their credit, his disciples get into the boat with him.
It’s a great image of faith don’t you think? Setting out with Jesus, in the dark, to an unknown place he wants to take you. He challenges his disciples, including each of us, to leave the stable, familiar, comfortable “shore” that we are on and set out to “the other side,” another shore. To get there, we have to pass through the dark uncertainty, and the choppy waves that come with leaving the solid ground we are accustomed to. It is unnerving. Jesus wants to take us to the other side, to an unknown place.
This is certainly an aspect of faith, and the passage today from the Letter to the Hebrews reinforces this by recalling the experience of Abraham: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go.”
Like Abraham; like the apostles; Christ calls us to a place, currently unknown to us, but known to him. Our choice to go without fully knowing where it will take us is the adventure of faith.
I recently heard the story of Coach Mike Singletary. Coach Singletary was, until recently, the coach of the San Francisco 49rs. If you watched him on TV, you would notice that he always wears, quite prominently, a cross around his neck. When asked if he had been a Christian all his life, he responded, “No, only since the Super Bowl in 1985.” When asked to explain why the Super Bowl, he said that all his life he had dreamed of playing in a Super Bowl and winning. His life was consumed with this as his greatest aspiration. He believe as a young man that winning a Super Bowl would bring him happiness and fulfillment beyond anything he could imagine. When he reached the goal and won, he was left very quickly with a deep emptiness. He thought, “Is this it?” He fell into a depression. And, it was then that he found Christ, who in effect, said to him, “Mike, let us cross to the other side.” This was a profound crossing over in Mike Singletary’s life.
Each of us also has these moments. In fact, I would say, our lives are made up of a series of these “crossing over to the other side” experiences. Each of you is called; and believe me, I too am continually called, to do this again and again over the course of our lives.
Our choice then, is to decide if we will get into the boat with Jesus, to set out in a type of darkness to “the other side.”
And what is “the other side”? The other side is the part of our life that Christ wants us to have. It’s the life he wills for us, desires for us, as his disciple. We can even say that “the other side” Jesus wants to take us to is our vocation.
That’s what it was for Abraham, the apostles, and it is for us. Some are afraid to set out into the dark with Jesus to the other side. They prefer the solid ground and safety of what they know and control, however limited. And they miss “the other side” of their lives that Jesus calls them to discover.
I notice that your conference is entitled “answering the call.” How appropriate!! Just know though, that answering the call of Christ means going with him into unknown waters, often in the darkness, to discover the other side of the rest of your life that he wills for you.
The next thing Jesus says in the Gospel today is this: “Quiet! Be still!”
We can take this, as we should, to be Jesus’ rebuke of the wind and the waves. After all, they immediately became calm. I would suggest that we can also see these words of Jesus directed at ourselves and our hearts.
We often think of the storms in our lives as something outside of us. Sometimes that is true. But the greater storm that Jesus wants to quell is the one inside of us . . . the restlessness, the anxiety, the sadness that comes from living apart from God . . . the lack of peace that comes from doing it my way and living only for myself.
Jesus can calm the storm, but more than this, Jesus wants to be the calm in the storm. In fact, Jesus didn’t come to take away the storms in our lives, but instead to give us peace and strength in our hearts that will withstand any storm.
As he was able to sleep soundly on a cushion through the storm on the sea, he intends for us to rest in him as he leads us to the other side of our lives. “Quiet! Be still!” is meant for the storm inside us.
Jesus brings about this peace and calm by his authority—the authority to rebuke the forces of nature and his authority to cast out demons. It is significant that the other side to which Jesus leads his disciples is pagan territory; an unfamiliar place to the disciples. And, the first person they encounter on this new shoreline is a man afflicted with demons. Jesus’ words when rebuking devils is quite similar to the tone he uses to rebuke the wind and the waves. This is no coincidence.
We encounter this authority of Jesus in the sacrament of reconciliation. Hundreds of you will encounter the authority of Jesus, the power of Jesus over evil and sin, this evening in the sacrament of confession. You will encounter the peace and the calm that come from having your inner storm rebuked. “Quiet! Be still!” he says to our healed hearts.
The third time Jesus speaks he says to his disciples, “Why are you afraid? Do you not yet have faith?”
Again, the Lord’s words could just as easily be addressed to each one of us. Jesus is continually drawing us from where we are to where he wants us to go. Our lives are often a struggle between fear and faith. Faith is not static, it’s not a moral theory, or activism, or an intellectual system. Ultimately, faith is a life of complete cooperation with a person—Jesus Christ . . . it’s this life with Christ that defines us and involves our entire life.
Like the apostles, we can say to Jesus, “I believe, help my unbelief.” “I have faith Lord, but I need you to help me. Increase my faith.” Importantly, faith is increased in us when we act out of faith. When we set out, as Abraham did, to a land he knew not. Or, like when a virgin named Mary said “yes” to God in faith, not entirely knowing how his mysterious will would unfold. We’re just like them, each one of us.
Like them, we don’t have certitude as to where Christ’s will lead us; but like them, we have God’s promises—to be with us, to guide us, to love us always. Our reading today from Hebrews says, “[Abraham believed] the one who had made the promise was trustworthy.” In his will is our peace. In his promise is our confidence and hope.
 “Let us cross to the other side.”
“Quiet! Be still!”
“Why are you afraid? Do you not yet have faith?”
 These are Jesus words to those he has called to be with him.
The last little detail in this Gospel is also worth noting. It says, “[The disciples] were filled with great awe . . .”
Brothers and sisters, let us also be filled with great awe and wonder at Jesus, whom we adore in the Most Blessed Sacrament, who is with us always “until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20) . . . who comes to us now, wholly and completely in the Holy Eucharist . . . and who calls us to be with him and set out with him “to the other side” without fear.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Love & Life in the Divine Plan Conference

The Ruth Institute is hosting the Love & Life in the Divine Plan Conference in Nashville, TN on Feb. 25-26.  With speakers such as Dr Janet Smith, Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel, Jennifer Roback Morse, and more it looks like it will be a great way to spend a weekend! 

The conference website says the following as to the reason for the conference:
In “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan and in Real Life,” the bishops identify four threats to marriage: contraception, divorce, cohabitation and same sex unions. The conference will feature lectures on each of the four threats to marriage, as well as on Christian anthropology and the real gift of God’s love.
To find out more or register, click here.

Boy Missing Cerebullum Living Life to the Full

Every life has worth even when faced with handicaps or difficulties.

From Pope Benedict's Angelus Address on Feb. 6th:
The Lord takes care of human beings in every situation, he shares in their suffering and opens their hearts to hope. I therefore urge all health-care workers to recognize in the sick person not only a body marked by frailty but first and foremost a person, to whom they should give full solidarity and offer appropriated and qualified help.
In this context I also recall that today in Italy is the “Day for Life”. I hope that everyone will make an effort to increase the culture of life and to make the human being the centre in all circumstances. According to both faith and reason, the dignity of the person cannot be reduced to his or her faculties or visible capacity; thus human dignity is never lacking even when the person is weak, sick or in need of help.

Friday, February 11, 2011

National Catholic Bible Conference

Mark your calendar for the next NCBC taking place in Atlanta July 22-23! 
Click here to check out the website and find out more info.
Speakers includ Archbishop Charles Chaput, Jeff Cavins, Dr. Tim Gray, Dr. Edward Sri, Thomas Smith and many more.

The website for the conference describes the purpose of the event:
The NCBC was established to equip the average Catholic with the skills needed to read, understand, and proclaim Sacred Scripture. This annual event allows participants to spend time with, and learn from, some of the most effective biblical scholars today as they share the keys to unlocking the riches of the Bible.
I would highly encourage you to attend if you can!

Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

CCMers at one of the many Lourdes grotto replicas in the U.S.
Today is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes.  In this Church approved apparition, the Blessed Mother appeared to a young peasant girl, St. Bernadette Soubirous, at a small cave in France in 1858.  Our Lady told Bernadette, "I am the Immaculate Conception." during one of the apparitions.  Many pilgrims still journey to Lourdes to this day to pray and seek healing.  May our hearts be transformed and healed by Christ through intercession of our Queen Mother.  (You can learn about the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by reading our post about it here.)

Prayer from the Breviary on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes:
"God of mercy,
we celebrate the feast of Mary,
the sinless mother of God. 
May her prayers help us
to rise above human weakness. 
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reign with and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Let Us Cross to the Other Side

A CCM student encounters the living Christ - a guest post:

A couple of weekends ago, I had the great opportunity to attend a FOCUS Conference. The theme for this year’s conference was “Answer the Call.” Mass on Saturday was celebrated by the bishop of my diocese, Bishop Johnston. The homily Bishop Johnston gave for the Gospel reading was incredible, and he really broke down the Gospel in such a practical manner that it hit me in a number of ways. I will share the biggest way the Gospel and his homily impacted me after you read the actual passage.
Mark 4:35-41: On that day, as evening drew on, he said to them, "Let us cross to the other side." Leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Quiet! Be still!" The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, "Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?" They were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?"
Bishop Johnston broke down this passage by diving into the three things Jesus says during this episode. First, Bishop Johnston talks about how Mark notes that “evening drew on.” Mark makes the point that it is dark. People normally only travel on water during the day. It’s dangerous to get on a boat on the water at night. Yet, Jesus says to them, “Let us cross to the other side.”
It is quite perplexing that Jesus would ask them to cross to the other side over night. I’m sure many disciples were questioning to themselves, “Why not wait until morning when there is light?” However, the disciples show trust in Jesus by leaving the crowd and getting on the boat.
Bishop Johnston relates this part of the passage to our own lives. There are going to be many different points in our lives when Jesus calls out to us saying, “Let us cross to the other side.” Jesus might ask us to leave the comfort and normalcy of where we are in our lives and ask us to do something more challenging and unfamiliar. He might ask us to go out into the dark and unknown with him, as he did with his disciples. When Jesus calls out to us in this manner, it is important to have faith and get on the boat with him so to speak. Bishop Johnston went on relating this quote to many different examples. He kept repeating the words of Jesus, “Let us cross to the other side.” It really struck a chord with me each time he repeated it. … “Let us cross to the other side.”
Moving on to the second quote, Bishop Johnston talks about how the disciples start getting worried that they are perishing in this great storm. Jesus is actually sleeping through the storm they are frightened of, so they wake him up and tell him of their peril. Jesus wakes up and says to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!”
Bishop Johnston went on to say that if we relate the storm the disciples were experiencing to unrest and worries in our hearts, or the storms of our hearts, we can take much from what Jesus says. When things start getting crazy, we freak out. We worry. We lose faith. However, during these times Jesus comes to our hearts and tells our fears and doubts, “Quiet! Be still!” Jesus calms the storms and unrest in our hearts.
The last thing Jesus says in this passage is, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” We should be able to see all that God has done for us and have faith in Christ that he will never forsake us. It was Jesus that asked us to cross to other side in the first place. He is not going to abandon us on that journey. It is vital to remember that Christ is always with us.
So after I heard Bishop Johnston give that homily, for the rest of the conference and then on into the following week I had those words Jesus spoke to his disciples running through my head – “Let us cross to the other side.” I kept thinking about the homily and those words in particular over and over again, and I kept feeling this pull at my heart. I knew what it was that Jesus was calling me to start doing after that homily. It just took a few days to soak in and build up enough courage to go out and start doing what I felt Jesus was asking of me. This is the call I heard. This is what Jesus was asking me to cross to the other side for.
Evangelization – Talking about my faith
I have been very blessed. My family is great. I have been privileged to grow up in a strong Catholic family. My mom and dad have been together for 30+ years now. I have two older brothers that have always been incredible role models, and I have a younger sister that has the heart of a champion.
I remember very vividly when I was young, maybe 4 or 5, praying together with my mom and my two older brothers at night before I went to bed. Yet as we got older, things got busy, and I don’t recollect praying together with them once I got into elementary school. Everyone had homework. My brothers started playing basketball and baseball almost year around. Life just got busy at the Van de Ven household. We always had places to be and things to do, and we still do. That is they way everything has been since I was young.
As for our faith lives, we always went to Mass together on Sundays as a family (very important!), and we always prayed together before meals. Other than those two events, we did not pray or read the Bible together as a family. I am not at all trying to say that my parents didn’t do enough for me. My parents did a remarkable job raising all of us. They showed by example how to live out our faith and be virtuous. My mother cares and loves us unconditionally and has always done the best for us. And my father has been the best example I have of a husband laying down his life for his wife and family day in and day out. He has always been self-less. I am just pointing out that our lives got busy, and praying together outside of mass wasn’t something we were familiar with. Growing up we still had a lot of religious instruction, it was just on our own. During elementary school and all the way through high school, I had religion class two days a week and daily mass three days a week.
However, even though I had religion class and daily mass so often, they became just two more things in my busy schedule. Growing up from elementary to high school, my Catholic faith became just another thing that I did. Along with basketball practice, homework, and hanging out with friends on weekends, my faith was just another thing to do. I pulled it out when I needed to (religion class, church, youth group, and youth conferences), and then put it back when I was done with it for the time being. It wasn’t much different than any other subject in school. Like history or math, I learned about my faith, did my homework, passed the tests (confirmation), and went on with my life.
About four years ago, though, before my junior year of high school, I had my first true encounter with Christ at a Steubenville youth conference during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. My faith became much more real than I had ever known it to be. I felt a pull at my heart to develop a deeper relationship with the person of Christ. I had always learned about my faith, but that first encounter made my faith much more intimate and real. Since that conference, I have been steadily coming into a greater understanding and appreciation that my Catholic faith and my relationship with Jesus Christ isn’t another thing that I do, but instead it is literally who I am. My faith is a part of me, just as much as my heart or arm or any other part of my body. It is who I am. My faith defines my being.
Yet, even over the last four years and all the growth I have had in my faith life, it has always been something I have kept to myself. It has all been very internal. I don’t have any experience talking about my faith to other people, not even my family or friends. I try to live my life in such a way that they are able to see how God has changed me, yet I have never articulated how having this deep, personal relationship with Christ affects me.
My Catholic faith has become a part of me that I am very passionate about. All of the other things I am passionate about in my life, whether it be my family, basketball, a TV show, etc., I have absolutely no problem talking about with other people. I can talk about everything I am passionate about very easily, except for my Catholic faith and my relationship with Christ. I suppose that I attribute that to not openly talking about my faith with my family and friends growing up. It has always been a personal thing.
That brings me back to Bishop Johnston’s homily. “Let us cross to the other side.” Since that homily, I have felt his pull at my heart that it is time to start reaching out and talking about my faith openly with others. This is how Jesus is asking me to cross to the other side. It is an unknown path, much like the dark waters the disciples were asked to cross, but I have faith that Jesus will not abandon me.
My whole faith life has been building up to this point. Over the last four years and the last year especially, I have become so much more in tune with the fact that Jesus Christ is a real person. God came down from heaven! The second person of the Trinity, the Son of God, came down to Earth to be a man among us to show us how to truly live and how to be completely self-giving! But He didn’t stop there. Christ died on a cross for my sin so that I may have life! This is real! This isn’t some story book fairy tale. This happened 2,000 years ago. Curtis Martin lays out a great argument on the reality of Jesus in his book Made for More. I suggest reading it. I don’t have the time to go into details here, but it laid everything out for me in such manner that I couldn’t debate it. Jesus Christ is real, and he died for me. WHAT GREATER THING IS THERE TO TALK ABOUT?
Yet in our society, it is taboo to talk about your faith to other people. You can’t offend people, and if you tell others what you believe you might offend someone. But what greater thing is there to talk about than our salvation!? What greater thing is there to talk about and tell others than the fact that my self-worth is the Son of God dying on a cross! WOW! People talk about other things they are passionate about all the time, but those things truly don’t stack up to God’s tremendous love. Everything is so secondary to God. It is like comparing the sun to a grain of sand, and that still doesn’t express the magnitude.
For me then, it came down to this. Curtis Martin opened up a talk I listened to with this phrase. Do you really believe that what you believe is really real? Do you really believe .. that what you believe … is really real? Think about it. Because if what you really believe is really real, it should blow you away, and it should change you down to the very core of your being.
That is where I am in my faith. I could put my faith life into an analogy with a train. It is as if my whole life I learned about this train. All my religion teachers gave me this long history of this train, yet I never saw the train or even heard the train. All I ever saw were the tracks. The tracks showed the history and future of where the train had been and where it was going to go, but yet I never saw or heard this train. The tracks didn’t make the train real, but it was a nice thing to believe in. The idea of the train seemed nice and seemed to make sense with the tracks, but I could not tell you whether the train was real or not. Then about four years ago, I heard the train whistle way off in the distance, and that sound reverberated through my entire being. “Woah! Maybe this train is actually real!” I thought to myself. So I kept with the history and future of the tracks and tried to learn more about the actual train. All the while over the last four years, I would hear the train as I searched for it, and it always sounded as if it were getting closer. The train whistle was louder. Yet there were times when I got distracted with other noises and didn’t hear the train any more, and so there were times I thought that the train whistle I heard might have been something else. However, I would keep the faith that what I heard was the train whistle, and then I would hear the whistle again, louder and clearer than ever before. Over the last year, through more tireless searching, the train has come even closer. I could very distinctly hear the train whistle and know it was a train whistle, and I even began to hear the rumbling of the train on the tracks in the distance. So through faith I knew the train had to be real, even though I still hadn’t seen it. But now in my life, I can very much attest that the train is real. It is rushing past me as I stand along the tracks. I can not only see the train, but I can feel the immense power of the train as it rushes past me. I no longer have any doubt the train is real. Just as I no longer have any doubt that my faith is real, that Jesus is a real person that walked on this Earth and died for my sin so that I might have life.
So that is where I am. And now I must go forth from here and not only live out my faith but tell people that God is real and is near to each of us. I have seen the train and felt its power, so to speak, and need to let others know about the train. I felt as if during that Saturday Mass, Jesus was speaking to me through that Gospel to cross to the other side of my faith, and to not let it just be an internal thing but to make it an external thing. It might be a dark, stormy trip, but I have courage and faith that Jesus will calm the worries, doubts, and storms of my heart and lead me to the other side. One thing I have learned through my faith is that my life isn’t about me and has never been about me, but instead is about what Christ can do through me. So I have to let go of all the worries and inhibitions I may have about crossing to the other side so that I can get on the boat and go.
I hope my story may give you courage to cross to the other side of whatever Jesus is calling you to!
 This is a great witness that Christ is real and his love and mercy can truly transform our hearts.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

St. Josephine Bakhita, ora pro nobis

Today is the Feast Day of St. Josephine Bakhita, patron saint of Sudan.  There is a nice article about her over on the Word on Fire blog - be sure to check it out.  She is a great saint of modern times!  The article describes her as:
...a Sudanese woman who was sold into brutal and abusive slavery as a young girl in the Darfur region of Africa, eventually transported to Italy to work for a friend of her owner’s family, and, when she resisted returning to Africa in favor of joining the religious order who taught the young daughter of the family for whom she worked, was set free because of the dictates of Italian law. After professing eternal vows, she lived out the remainder of her life as a Canossian Sister of the Institute of Catechumens in Venice, Italy.
Read more here.

Hear Fr. James Kubicki of the Apostleship of Prayer share her story here in this video:

Website for Pope John Paul the Great's Cause

This website is dedicated to the cause for canonization for Pope John Paul II the Great - it's really good - includes a live web cam of his tomb in St. Peter's. 
Hats off to Marcel.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Crossroads at CCM

If you missed tonight's presentation about Crossroads, an organization that leads college students in walking across the country every summer for the pro-life cause, you can check out the following video about it and visit http://www.crossroadswalk.org/ to find out more:

Prayer for Martin Linch and Elissa Self-Braun

The Missouri Catholic Conference has the following posted on their website:
This week, religious leaders of the state, including the Catholic bishops, submitted a clemency application to Gov. Jay Nixon on behalf of Martin Link, who is scheduled to be executed on Feb. 9 for the murder of Elissa Self-Braun.  The religious leaders noted their opposition to capital punishment because it disregards the sanctity and dignity of human life. 
Link's attorneys still have two motions before the federal western district court.  One motion is based on the Ringo litigation of lethal injection and the new protocol.  The other motion asks for a stay to determine a neutral decision maker in clemency.  It could be Monday before the court rules on these motions. 
Vigils are being held for the families of Martin Link and Elissa Self-Braun in Savannah, Springfield, Jefferson City, Kansas City, Cape Girardeau, St. Louis and Columbia. 
The vigil in our county will be at the Cape County Courthouse in Jackson at 7p.m. on Tuesday.  Please call Gov. Nixon's office at 573-751-3222 to request that he commute Link's sentence from execution to life in prison. 

Catechism of the Catholic Church #2267 says:
Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.
Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm—without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself—the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically non-existent."
To read more of the Catechism on this issue click here.

Also, in 2006, the bishops of the Missouri Catholic Conference published a statement which can be read in full here.  Here are some excerpts:
Catholic teaching begins with the recognition that the dignity of the human person applies to both victims and offenders.  It affirms our commitment to comfort and support victims and their families, while acknowledging the God-given dignity of every human life, even those who do great harm. For some left behind, a death sentence offers the illusion of closure and vindication; but no act, even an execution, can bring back a loved one or heal terrible wounds.  The pain and loss of one death cannot be wiped away by another death...
...In his Encyclical Letter, The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II told us that we have the "inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life."  Our efforts to end the use of the death penalty in our state help us to reject the culture of death and to build a culture of life.  May we always remember the imperative which our Lord Himself gives us in Deuteronomy 30:19:  "I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.  Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live."

St. Paul & the Mission of the Church

Holding Hands During the 'Our Father'?

To Be a "Living Example of Discipleship"

This great article by Fr. Damian Ference really hits the nail on the head about encouraging young people to answer the call of Christ in their lives.  Here is an excerpt:
For a parish youth group to be what it is supposed to be, the first priority of the group must be to make disciples of young people who do not know Jesus, and to make stronger disciples of the ones who already know him. Such a suggestion seems quite basic and even simplistic at first glance, but this is precisely the point. Far too often we as a Church have failed with the most basic principle of discipleship while loading up on service projects and social activities, and the parish youth group becomes just one more line on a young person’s college résumé, without ever calling that young person to real conversion. 
Read the rest here.

I completely agree with Fr. Ference's diagnosis.  The first priority must be to help people fall in love with Jesus.  The most successful activities at CCM have been the ones that show students the mercy and love of God for them through prayer and catechesis.  Young people (and not so young people for that matter) need an encounter with the living Christ!  This is what really matters!  As Fr. Ference points out, "It is true that young people tend to stay out of trouble while socializing with peers from the parish, and that service projects help build character and allow young people to move beyond themselves, but without being disciples, such activities never allow for true transformation and human flourishing."  Young people need role models who are on fire with the love of God - disciples.  They need people to take a vested interest in them and who will teach the fullness of truth.  If given opportunities to encounter Christ, then things like service and social activities will naturally flow from that, but on their own they are empty time-fillers.  Vocations increase when people are given the opportunity to fall in love with Jesus and experience his mercy and love.  When we allow Jesus to transform our own hearts, the love and mercy of God will show forth with power throughout the world.   Thank you Fr. Ference for this amazing article and reminder.

Hats off to Emily Bissonnette for the link.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Two Big Events at CCM Next Week - Tell All Your Friends!

First, on Monday, February 7th at 7 p.m., Martha Nolan of Crossroads will be at the Newman Center to talk about this unique way to spread the Gospel of Life across our country.  Crossroads was founded by a Franciscan University of Steubenville graduate in 1995 and has been going strong ever since as a powerful way to defend the weakest among us. If you're interested in finding out how you can get involved in Crossroads, particularly if you want to know more about their summer walks across the country please be sure to attend this event.  But even if you're not planning on spending your summer walking across the country, you're still highly encouraged to attend to learn about this great organization.  Everyone is welcome. 

Next, on Tuesday, February 8th at 7 p.m. in the Chapel, CCM will welcome Fr. Oscar Lukefahr who will be speaking on the Catholic Church and her teachings.  Fr. Lukefahr is a well-respected priest, author and emeritus director of the Catholic Home Scripture Study and we are very much looking forward to his talk.  Please invite lots of friends!  We want to see the Chapel full for this exciting event.  Fr. Lukefahr last spoke at CCM in 2007- we are expecting another large crowd. 

And don't forget to sign up for the Busy Person's Retreat happening Feb. 20-24!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Statement of Bishop Johnston on Beatification of JPII the Great

Obviously I'm posting this a little late, but it's still good:

Pope Benedict's February Prayer Intentions

Family:  That all may respect the family and recognize its unmatched contribution to the advancement of society.

Those Suffering from Disease: That the Christian communities may witness to the presence of Christ in serving those who suffer from disease in those mission territories where the fight against disease is most urgent.

March for Life 2011

Wow, there is so much to catch up on.   Blogging has been really slow the past couple of weeks because there has been so much going on around CCM that I just haven't been able to fit blogging in like I usually do.  Of course, the most notable event that has taken place over that time is the March for Life in Washington, D.C.  Twenty-one CCM students attended and the long drive was well worth the trip. Here's the low down on how it all went:
Saturday, January 22 (the actual date of the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade) we all met at the Newman Center by 5:30am for a 6am departure.  Thanks to the generosity of our community members we were able to rent vehicles for the trip and by the time we made it to the bridge crossing into Illinois many of the students were already asleep - although I hear one van was so eager to make it to D.C. that they were awake the whole drive.   Saturday was basically low-key; just driving and driving and driving some more 'til we made it to Virginia.  Leaving at 6am central time and arriving at 10pm eastern time, we pulled into the parking lot of St. Leo the Great Parish in Fairfax, VA to be greeted by the awesome pastor, Fr. Whitestone and the parish's amazing respect life coordinator Marisol.  We are so blessed for the gracious hospitality St. Leo's showed us!  Thank you all so much! 

The next morning we rose to attend the 7:30am Mass at St. Leo's followed by a quick breakfast before making our way to the metro where we headed to Arlington National Cemetery.  There we witnessed the changing of the guard at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  The engraving on the tomb I always find to be a profound statement especially when viewed during the March for Life weekend.  The reality that this person is 'known but to God' is a reminder that when a child in the womb is lost, those of us here who remain will not have the opportunity to get to know him or her - they are now known but to God.

After a somber morning of praying for all those put to rest at Arlington, we went to visit some museums followed by a tour at the Franciscan Monastery.  I find this to be one of the hidden gems of the D.C. area - there is so much going on in D.C. but when you step onto the grounds of the Monastery you find a peaceful place in the midst of all the busyness.  The Monastery is a beautiful place to pray and reflect on the reason for our trip.  You are reminded of the love and mercy of God in this sacred place.  On touring the crypt of the Monastery you are reminded of the passion and love of the martyrs including St. Benignus, St. Sebastian, and St. Cecilia.  Also in the crypt are the remains of St. Innocent, a small child who lived his life for Christ and went to be with him at such a young age, again a powerful reminder of our purpose in being in Washington.  Of course, the presence of the Blessed Mother was strongly felt as well as an example of her heroic humility in bearing the Lord.  St. Joseph, also, was referred to often as a strong and committed foster father of Jesus. To end the day, we arrived back at St. Leo's for a wonderful pizza dinner provided by our new friends.  The next day we were to have an early rising so off to sleep we went as soon as possible.

After rising at 4:30am we enjoyed a quick breakfast provided by the dear parishioners of St. Leo's.  Then we attended Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  I have to say that this is probably my favorite Basilica in the U.S.  It so so beautiful and has a lot of fond memories for me so I always enjoy being there.  The 7:30am Mass for Life was celebrated by Bishop William Lori of the Diocese of Bridgeport, CT and the Basilica was full as usual.  Masses were being celebrated throughout the region all morning including a youth rally and Mass at the Verizon Center and the D.C. Armory.  Attending Mass was a special opportunity for us to pray for those lost to abortion and for those who are in pain as a result of an abortion.  It was the perfect way to help us prepare for the big event later in the day.  Following Mass we remained at the Basilica for a while before departing for the White House and ultimately the March for Life.

Upon arriving at our metro stop we walked to the White House to pray a decade of the Rosary for our president and all elected officials that they would enact laws that respect the dignity of all human life from conception to natural death.  We then made our way to the National Mall for the March for Life rally.  We were among the first to arrive but as we made our way closer to the stage we still weren't close enough to see the speakers although we could hear what they were saying. As the afternoon moved along more and more people began to crowd the Mall and soon it was time for the March to begin.  It probably took us half an hour or more just to make it to the street because the crowd was so large.  It probably took us an hour and a half to get from the Mall to the Supreme Court.  I've heard a crowd estimate of around 400,000.  There were many people there - priests, religious, lay people; Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, etc.; young and not so young.  One thing that always stands out though is the fact that so many young people are in attendance every year.  These generations have been profoundly impacted by this issue - missing brothers, sisters and friends - and the numbers of those in attendance just keeps growing. 
The March for Life is always a bittersweet experience - bitter because we are there to mourn the loss of our brothers and sisters who have gone before us and because of the pain that so many men and women are now coping with as a result - we come to show that we're here to help them heal; sweet because we are thankful for the gift of life and can together witness to the fact that life is a precious gift. We ended the day with Vespers at the Dominican House of Studies which is always a treat.  We actually began the March near the Dominicans and were very blessed to be able to join them for prayer in the evening.

After a long weekend we packed up, bid farewell to our new friends at St. Leo's and headed back to Missouri.  We ran into some rain through Tennessee and just about when we were passing into Kentucky the snow started to fall - as we continued it began to be too much to continue driving safely so we had to stop for the night about two and half hours away from Cape Girardeau.  The snow was fun for the students to play around in before getting a good night's sleep.  The next day, once we made it out of the snow-covered area, the weather was great and we made it safely back to Cape in time for students to attend their afternoon classes. 

Praise be to God for a safe and fruitful trip!  We thank all our benefactors and St. Leo the Great Parish for making this trip possible.  I know the students made memories they will always remember and experienced a renewed passion for defending life and lending support to those who are in need of assistance as well as helping those who are in pain as the result of this issue heal.  Through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, may God grant all hearts the grace of welcoming life into the world and protecting the dignity of every person from conception until natural death. 

Check out this video to get an idea of the March for Life crowd: