Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, Houston
from l. to r., Dr. Clint Brand, Dn. Michael Noble, Mark Previty,
Fr. Phillips, Dn. James Orr, Ralph Johnston
I had the opportunity to chat with Cardinal DiNardo
for a few minutes at the reception afterwards.
At the end of the sixth century it looked like St. Augustine had found his place in life. He was the respected prior of St. Andrew’s monastery in Rome, and everyone thought he would spend his last days there, instructing, governing, and settling even further into this sedentary life.
But the pope had other ideas. The Pope been a young monk under Augustine, but that young monk was now Pope Gregory, known to history as St. Gregory the Great. We all know the story of how Gregory had seen some fair-skinned people being sold as slaves, and when he asked about them, he was told they were Angles. “Not Angles, bur angels!” he had responded, and he decided he needed to send missionaries to their people, to bring them the knowledge of the Gospel. England had once known the faith, but the Angles and the Saxons had conquered the land, and had driven the Christians out. But now the time had come to re-evangelize, and Gregory chose Augustine and thirty monks to make the unexpected, and dangerous, trip to England. Augustine and his monks had the task of finding what few Christians there were and bringing them back into the fullness of the Church, and to convince the warlike conquerors to become Christians themselves.
Every step of the way they heard the horrid stories of the cruelty and barbarity of the Anglo-Saxons. By the time they had reached France the stories became so frightening that the monks turned back to Rome. Gregory had heard encouraging news that England was far more ready for Christianity than the stories would indicate, including the marriage of King Ethelbert of Kent to a Christian princess, Bertha. He sent Augustine and the monks on their way again fortified with his belief that now was the time for evangelization.
King Ethelbert was a good king and he was curious about his wife’s religion. So he went to hear what the missionaries had to say after they landed in England. But he was just as afraid of them as they were of him! He was afraid that these missionaries would use magic on them, so he held the meeting in the open air. But he listened to what they had to say about Christianity. The king was baptized in 597. Unlike other kings who forced all subjects to be baptized as soon as they were converted, Ethelbert left religious a free choice. Nonetheless the following year many of his subjects were baptized.
Augustine was consecrated bishop of the English and more missionaries arrived from Rome to help with the new task. Augustine had to be very careful because, although the English had embraced the new religion they still respected the old pagan ways. St. Gregory the Great was very wise, and he urged Augustine not to simply destroy the things of the old pagan religion, but to consecrate the pagan temples for Christian worship and he transformed pagan festivals into feast days of martyrs. Canterbury itself was built on the site of an ancient church which had been built during the earlier days of Christianity.
Augustine was in England for only eight years before he died in 605, but he planted the seeds for the growth of the Christian faith in what had been a dark pagan land.
Pope receives papers for cause of Archbishop Sheen, whom he knew
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria, Ill., presented Pope Benedict XVI with two thick volumes about the life of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, the pope surprised him by saying he had worked with the late archbishop.
Pope Benedict "told me something I hadn't known: he worked on the commission for mission at the Second Vatican Council with Fulton Sheen," Bishop Jenky told Catholic News Service. The pope served as a theological expert at the council in the 1960s.
At the end of the pope's weekly general audience May 25, Bishop Jenky presented the pope with two leather-bound volumes with golden lettering on the side: "Fultonius Ioannes Sheen."
The tomes -- totaling close to 2,000 pages -- are the "positio," the official position paper, outlining why the Catholic Church should recognize Archbishop Sheen as a saint.
Archbishop Sheen, who was born in Illinois in 1895 and died in New York in 1979, was an Emmy-winning televangelist. His program, "Life is Worth Living," aired in the United States from 1951 to 1957.
Bishop Jenky said, "I hope it helps" that the pope personally knew Archbishop Sheen, who was national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in 1950-66 and attended every session of Vatican II.
For the Peoria bishop, the most impressive thing about Archbishop Sheen was his untiring evangelizing effort, which was addressed not just to radio or television audiences, but to taxi drivers and anyone else he happened to meet.
"I don't know how many people he brought to the faith; it must be thousands and thousands," the bishop said. "He never passed by an opportunity to bring someone to the faith. He was a hands-on evangelizer."
Msgr. Stanley Deptula, executive director of the Peoria-based Archbishop Fulton Sheen Foundation, joined Bishop Jenky for the trip to the Vatican.
They also gave the pope an album with more than 100 letters from cardinals and bishops in North America, Australia and Africa supporting Archbishop Sheen's cause.
Msgr. Deptula told CNS that Archbishop Sheen should be beatified and canonized because "he was a dynamic missionary, he used all the modern means available to spread the Gospel throughout the world." In fact, the archbishop was host of "The Catholic Hour" radio program for 22 years before beginning his television career, he wrote several popular books and traveled the world speaking and preaching once his TV program went off the air.
The diocesan phase of the sainthood cause concluded in 2008 and the postulator, or promoter, of the cause took the eight boxes of eyewitness testimony and "every book Sheen ever wrote" and summarized the material, creating the "positio," the monsignor said.
The Congregation for Saints' Causes will study the "positio" and if congregation members agree, they will recommend that the pope officially declare that the archbishop lived the Christian virtues in a heroic way.
Before Archbishop Sheen can be beatified, the pope also must recognize a miracle attributed to his intercession.
"We actually have two fully-documented alleged miracles of cures that seem to have been effected by God through the intercession of Archbishop Sheen," Msgr. Deptula said. "Actually, we also have a couple more that have come into our office. Really, every day I hear stories about little miracles, ways that Fulton Sheen continues to change lives today."
The best documented cases involve cures that took place in the United States, he said. "One happened in central Illinois to an elderly woman in the Champaign area. And the other, kind of the stronger case that we will probably be pursuing to present to the Holy Father, involved a baby in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area."
The monsignor said he could not reveal many details about the case, but "basically this baby was born ... with several life threatening diseases, any one of which would have been a very serious illness for this infant."
"The parents and family and friends prayed for the intercession of Archbishop Sheen. They had the baby baptized, (and) I believe his middle name is Fulton," he said. "It seems to have been a miracle. The baby lived and seemed to have been cured of those illnesses" and is now in the first or second grade.
West Bank priest works to re-engage young Catholics in parish life
By Judith Sudilovsky
Catholic News Service
JIFNA, West Bank (CNS) -- As dusk fell on this sleepy West Bank village, Father Firas Aridah looked down from the balcony of his office onto the church courtyard, where a group of young boys -- and one girl -- were in the midst of a heated soccer match.
Religious songs in Arabic flowed over the church's loudspeakers and mingled with the shouts of the children as they played on the clear Saturday evening. As soon as the church bells began to ring, the boys disappeared while the girl slipped into the church, but the priest was not worried.
He knew that while the pews at St. Joseph Church filled mostly with women and girls, the boys would be back later, when the church youth group began its special activities for the younger children. Most importantly, what he saw was that among those parishioners who came to Mass, there were almost 25 young children -- including four boys -- and teenage girls.
After the first and second Palestinian uprisings, the church lost many of its youth to the political arena, and political rivalries infiltrated the lives of families and the church, Father Aridah said before the Mass. Now he and other priests in the diocese have been focusing on bringing Catholic youth back into the church.
"The youth need many things, like hope," Father Aridah said. "We have to gather them inside the church and beside the church, to live their brotherhood and to live their Christianity as it should be."
At the conclusion of the Mass, the courtyard filled with young people of all ages. Boys roughhoused and tried to shoot some hoops; young girls gathered in small groups, giggling; young men and women chatted with each other along the wall of the church. Youth leaders tested the microphone and lined up the younger children.
Suddenly the sounds of the "Hokey Pokey" blasted through the speakers and the children were shaking and wiggling, laughing and teasing.
On Saturday evenings Father Aridah normally leads the young adult group in Bible study, reading a selection from the Gospel and discussing its relevance to their lives, but this particular Saturday in May was dedicated to the younger children of the parish.
Fadi Makhlouf, 34, the choir director, organist and youth leader, smiled from the church entrance as the dancing was about to begin. He said parishioners need to "live our Christianity. Father Firas and, in general, other priests are trying to get the youth back to the churches. In some places they are succeeding, in some not."
Father Aridah said he is not trying to remove Christian young people from political activities.
"From the church they can give their testimony of faith and be involved in the society as it should be, as Christians," said Father Aridah. "I have to give them a Christian view how to live in the political parties, how I have to protect my dignity by peace, not just throwing stones."
Young Christians need to learn how to witness their faith on one hand while being an instrument of peace on the other, said the priest. Through their growing connection with the church and study of their religious texts, he hopes he can provide the youth with the necessary tools.
During the intifada, when there were closures and curfews, the church became only a place to pray because residents were afraid to send children alone, recalled Fairuz Shomali, 23, who said she has always been involved with church activities.
Now she is trying to provide for the younger generation what she did not have during those years: a place to socialize and strengthen the sense of community.
"It is important to encourage the youth and to make them aware of their Christian religion, why we pray. We live here as Christians," she said.
William Abdo, 24, drifted away from the church in his late teens when he became involved in political activities. When he was 18 he spent eight months in an Israeli jail for throwing stones at an Israeli jeep.
"It's a complicated issue, coming to church or not. When you get older you begin to see things differently," said Abdo. Now, he said, he sees the church as a way to reach out and help people, not just as a place of prayer or religious beliefs.
Even during the local elections four years ago, politics divided families and parishioners, Abdo said. Now, he added, with an active youth outreach program, young people are beginning to become more mature in their outlook and realize the unique role the small Christian community can play in their lives. As they are given more responsibility and bigger roles to play within the church community, more youth will begin to come, he predicted.
"Christian youth need to be active in both the church and the community," he said.
Part of the reason more young people are returning to the church, said Diana Makhlouf, 22, is that Father Firas, 36, is close to their age and someone to whom they can relate.
Makhlouf said that since she studied for many years outside Jifna, the church youth activities are helping her meet more people within the Christian community in her own village.
"I see that putting my energies into my church is what makes ... us more connected to each other and creates a personal relationship with the church and with others," she said.
In the darkening churchyard, two children pulled large inner tubes over their heads for the next activity, laughing as a quasi-Sumo-wrestling match ensued.
Grinning, Aziz Musleh, 14, stepped away from his friends for a moment.
"I come here to have fun with my friends," he said, and then he added: "I come to the church for prayer. We pray together as friends. We listen to "Abouna" (father). We want our relationship with God to be stronger. This is teaching me for the future."
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, and especially the hearts of the people of the Holy Land, that barriers which divide may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that all divisions being healed, they may live together in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
There's Something About Little Acorns
When I have a few spare minutes, I enjoy looking at various parish websites, and reading the histories of different parishes. I make it a point to read the background information for some of the large and famous Anglo-catholic parishes — those places renowned for their beautiful edifices, magnificent music, varied devotional life, and active parish apostolates. Of course, most of them are now on the downward slide, sad to say. Although it was always a struggle to maintain an advanced sense of Anglo-catholicism, today's Canterbury Communion Anglicanism makes it nearly impossible. But there are still remnants of it, holding on by fingernails alone, and the history of those places is fascinating.
Almost without exception, accounts of the beginnings of such parishes include something like, "Saint So-and-so Parish began by meeting in the home of Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so," or "The parish held services at first in the local school room." The majority of those parishes which rose to greatness began in the back rooms of general stores, or in Grange halls, or in the homes of some generous founding member. These histories usually go on to recount the story of constructing the first wooden frame building, and then having to break ground for a larger facility in a better location. The very first Anglican parish I served in Bristol, England started out in a temporary wooden structure which I think began its existence as some sort of army storage shed. After some years it moved uptown and upscale to a permanent church building. Similar stories make up the history of the subsequent two parishes in which I served. Of course, by the time I arrived in these places, they were settled into lovely churches and had stable numbers of people supporting the parish. It wasn't until my family and I arrived in San Antonio that we had the experience of starting "from scratch," in a series of borrowed or rented buildings, and having to unpack storage closets to set things up for Mass.
I mention this because I know so many of the parishes coming into the Ordinariates are in those very circumstances. Yes, a few already have lovely and permanent church buildings; however, most of our communities will not be in that situation. In fact, many who are reading this may feel like the Children of Israel right after their escape from Egypt, on the move and yearning for a permanent home. It was several years before our own parish was able to have its own place, with its own address, no longer having to give a long explanation of why someone else's name was on the sign in front of the place where we were meeting.
If you're part of an Ordinariate-bound group which finds itself in that situation, take comfort in the fact that it's not forever. Lots of us started that way, but our circumstances didn't stay that way. Find encouragement by reading the histories of many of the more famous parishes — whether Anglican or Catholic. You'll find pieces of your own history there. And remember, Jesus Himself was born in a borrowed stable.
O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of thy people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calleth us each by name, and follow where he doth lead; who, with thee and the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Philip was one of the first chosen disciples of Christ. On the way from Judea to Galilee Our Lord found Philip, and said, “Follow Me.” Philip straightway obeyed; and then in his zeal and charity sought to win Nathaniel also, saying, “We have found Him of whom Moses and the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth.” And when Nathaniel in wonder asked, “Can any good come out of Nazareth?” Philip simply answered, “Come and see,” and brought him to Jesus.
Another saying of this Apostle is preserved for us by Saint John. Christ in His last discourse had spoken of His Father; and Philip exclaimed, in the fervor of his thirst for God, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough!” The tradition of the ancients has established that he died a martyr at Hierapolis in Phyrgia. There the remains of a church known to be dedicated to him have been identified, north of the entrance to the great necropolis. His relics were later transported to Rome, to the church of the Holy Apostles.
Saint James the Less (the Younger), author of the canonical Epistle, was the son of Alpheus, the brother of Saint Jude and a cousin of Our Lord, whom he is said to have resembled. Saint Paul tells us that he was favored by a special apparition of Christ after the Resurrection. (I Corinthians 15:7) On the dispersion of the Apostles among the nations, Saint James remained as Bishop of Jerusalem, where the Jews held in such high veneration his purity, mortification, and prayer, that they named him the Just. He governed that church for 30 years before his martyrdom.