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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Vatican Astronomer: Liquid water on Mars is an exciting discovery

Vatican Astronomer: Liquid water on Mars is an exciting discovery

2015-09-29 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) NASA scientists on Monday announced the planet Mars appears to have flowing rivulets of water, at least in the summer.

In 2008, it was confirmed frozen water exists on the planet, but this new discovery bolsters the chance that life might exist on Mars, since liquid water is essential to life on Earth.

“You can see the water flowing in real time,” said Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ, the Director of the Vatican Observatory, who called the discovery exciting.

Listen to the interview by Ann Schneible with Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ:

“You can see the traces of the rivers changing over the course of a Martian year. So we are not talking about water that was there a long time ago or water that is frozen under the surface, but actual liquid water on the surface,” he told Vatican Radio. “Of course, the air is so thin that it will evaporate right away, but it is enough water in there long enough to move stuff around.”

NASA also said the possible rivulets appear to be made up of salty, wet soil.

“It’s brine,” explained Br. Consolmagno.

“Therefore, it tells us that this is actively interacting with the soil, and the kind of interactions and the kind of chemistry that goes on to make brine is not inconsistent with the possibility of some sort of microbial life underneath the surface,” he said. “It is by no means a proof of it, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.”

The Vatican astronomer said the search for life in the universe is fascinating, because we have only one example: Earth.

“We have no idea whether life is so rare that it never occurs anywhere, or so common that is occurs everywhere, and that’s why we have to look at places life could be to see just how rare or how common it actual is,” he said.

But Brother Consolmagno also said the possibility of life on Mars should not be a cause of a crisis of faith among Catholics on Earth. Quite the contrary, he said the determination of whether or not life exists on other planets would tell us something about God.

“The important thing is to recognize that the universe is created by God, and however God did it tells us something about God’s personality,” he said.

“If God chose to make a universe where we are the only creatures, that is interesting, that tells us something about God and us,” Br. Consolmagno said. “If God creates a universe where life is everywhere, that gives us a different picture of God, but in either way, we learn more about Who the Creator is.”(from Vatican Radio)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

CREATION / Opinion: Why finding water on Mars matters

Tech / Sept. 29, 2015
Today's NASA announcement challenges our other assumptions about the universe.


Most of my life I’ve taken the hostility of outer space for granted. Textbooks and teachers taught me about an acidic atmosphere on Venus, bone-crushing gravity on Jupiter, frigid darkness on Pluto, and the arid, dead stone of the Martian wastes. I remember standing in the Smithsonian as a child staring at the lifeless landscapes photographed by the Viking missions, red rocky deserts stretching on to the edge of forever. That image cemented an idea which I accepted for a long time to be a matter of fact, that Mars was an inhospitable, empty rock spinning through space. But today I woke up into a universe where water, the most elemental of life-sustaining substances, flows across the surface of Mars.

The facts did not change, of course...water has long flowed on Mars whether we knew about it or not. But our understanding of the facts, the truth of the way things really are, was irrevocably altered today thanks to years of research by dedicated, underfunded agencies determined to discern a more perfect understanding of the universe. Today’s confirmation is a capstone on countless hours of hypothesis, research, and informed speculation by scientists, a vindication of their efforts reaping an incalculable reward. Today is a reminder that our assumptions about the fundamental nature of things deserve to be challenged.

The international scientific community has long embraced the possibility of interstellar life. Distant Earth-like worlds orbiting strange stars might harbor running water, alien creatures, and intelligent life. SETI radio telescopes scour deep space for evidence of civilization. But biospheres close to home have appeared a much more dubious prospect. Out beyond the asteroid field, Io, Europa, and Enceladus might have the right combination of moisture, warmth, and shelter to support organisms. But Mars is a next-door neighbor, one of the closest celestial bodies to our home world. She’s near enough that we’ve dropped multiple landers on her surface and similar enough in relation to the sun that we can anticipate human visitation and eventual colonization. And yet despite our proximity and long history of observation, it was only today that human beings truly understood such a simple, fundamental truth as the presence of liquid water moving across the planet’s surface.

Is there life on Mars? It’s an immense leap of logic from the presence of water to the likelihood of life. The magnetic and atmospheric conditions make familiar modes of life improbable on the surface, possible beneath it. Strange life could also dwell there, forms adapted to spectrums of exposure outside our terrestrial experience. But even if life is absent, the wonder of today’s discovery is in no way diminished.

Space travel is the impetus, the hope, for a broader-minded humanity conscious of its place in the galaxy. While the process of science often grants us advances in engineering, medicine, travel, and a host of other inventions, but discovery is not primarily a means to technical advancement. We confuse technology with science to our detriment. Science has given us technology, to be sure, but science’s great purpose represents so much more than light bulbs, airplanes, and a newer, thinner phone model every year. Ultimately, science is a quest for understanding, a way of answering questions. And the questions of our place in the vastness of the universe are the grandest, most wonderful, and most rewarding mysteries of all.

Water has existed on Mars through the lifetimes of every man and woman that has ever walked the planet Earth, and until today, we never knew. We only found out because we went looking. We developed the tools, spent the money, trained the people, and laid aside other needs for a greater purpose. Through that process of discovery, we learned that our collective assumptions about just how unique our world is in the cosmos demand reexamination. If water flows across the surface of a neighboring world, what else is possible? Is there alien life close enough that we can reach out and touch it? We’ll only know if we keep searching.

Today’s announcement reminds us that we should make a choice to become more dedicated searchers, laying aside some other expenses to fund the exploration of the planets. The costs are considerable but the potential rewards are tremendous. We all have tools for raising awareness and promoting grassroots advocacy. Every retweet of a legitimate, interesting space science story potentially helps a little. Letters to representatives and government officials about the importance of national science and space program funding may help more, and votes for candidates who advocate peaceful space research are even more powerful. For the teachers, siblings, and parents among us, educating children on the history and wonder of space exploration paves the way for a society more appreciate of science’s benefits. A career in astronomy, research, space advocacy, or even exploration is the ultimate investment, a chance to become a pioneer in humanity’s first steps from this tiny planet into the vast, great unknown of a boundless galaxy. Whatever your contribution, I hope we bump into each other on the way to building a better tomorrow.

Jared Petty is a Senior Editor at IGN. He once drove by Mars, Pennsylvania.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Happy Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham !!! - 24 September 2015


Blessed Feast of Our Lady of Mercy! - 24 Sept. 2015


Pope Pious: What Evangelicals Like About Francis

Ismael Francisco / AP Images

Pope Pious: What Evangelicals Like About Francis
Disagreement over religious authority and salvation fades as piety trumps doctrine.

Chris Castaldo/ SEPTEMBER 23, 2015

The office of the papacy is an enigma to most evangelical Protestants. The spectacle of medieval regalia, coats of arms, and the popemobile provoke curiosity, skepticism, and bewilderment. Add to these symbols the pope’s monarchial titles, infallibility, and a standing army, and the portrait gets even more perplexing.

Why then are some evangelicals flocking to Pope Francis?

For example, after visiting the Vatican, Rick Warren was impressed with the humble quality of Francis’ ministry, and subsequently described him as “our new pope.” Luis Palau, whose friendship with Francis reaches back to earlier years in Argentina, also points to the pope’s “personal lifestyle” as a reason why evangelicals hold him in such high regard.

In March of 2014, the Green family, who own the Oklahoma-based company Hobby Lobby, enjoyed a warm visit with Francis after collaborating on a Bible exhibit. Charismatic leaders—including Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, and John Arnott of Catch the Fire Toronto—have also enjoyed papal audiences.

Geoff Tunnicliffe, formerly head of the World Evangelical Alliance, returned from his visit to the Vatican announcing a “new era in evangelical and Catholic relations.” And Timothy George, Dean of Beeson Divinity School, has written a popular article calling the pope “Our Francis, Too.” Evangelicals, it seems, have buried the hatchet on the papacy. Why?

In his recent book Pope Francis’ Revolution of Tenderness and Love, Cardinal Walter Kasper contends that Francis is not a liberal (as some pundits would suggest) but rather a “radical” in the etymological sense of being rooted (radix) in the person of Jesus. Emerging from this root is a blossoming of Christian virtue that smells to many evangelicals like the aroma of Christ.

Accordingly, Protestants and Catholics alike see Francis as a transparent, down-to-earth kind of servant who prefers washing the feet of prison inmates to the traditional pomp and circumstance of the Vatican. Such qualities resonate with evangelicals who generally see themselves as egalitarian and pietistic.

Another feature of Pope Francis that commends him to many Protestants is his personal identification with charismatic renewal. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis often prayed with Pentecostal pastors and routinely sat down with them in dialogue.

Speaking about this orientation, Ralph Martin (himself a Catholic charismatic leader) expressedjubilation when the college of cardinals chose Jorge Mario Bergoglio to replace Pope Benedict XVI. Quoting a Pentecostal pastor from Argentina, he writes, “I’m overjoyed with the election of Bergoglio, a man filled with the Spirit and with a deep commitment to ecumenism.”

The veracity of the above claim concerning the pope’s charismatic spirituality was confirmed a few weeks ago in Mundelein, Illinois, where several Catholic and evangelical leaders met to discuss the ministry of Pope Francis. These pastors and theologians received a letter from the pope in which he expressed a personal greeting.

As a member of this gathering, I was fascinated to read the following statement:

The year 2017 marks the 50th year since the sovereign irruption of the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church, known today as the Charismatic Renewal, which was birthed ecumenically. I have invited those who have been born again (John 3:3-4) in this river of Grace, to celebrate together in St. Peter’s Square on Pentecost this year, an invitation I extend to all Christians of all confessions, to worship our Lord and to pray for a new Pentecost for the Church and for the world.

The above statement provides a glimpse into the heartbeat of Pope Francis.

Unity in the Spirit among “those who have been born again” is a central impulse of his ecumenical engagement with evangelical Protestants. It is fascinating to note, however, that the pope’s letter says nothing about another event that will occur in 2017: the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses, which many regard as the start of the Protestant Reformation. Some would consider this omission to be the ecumenical elephant in the room, which leads to our final point.

Evangelicals are flocking to Pope Francis because they resonate with his approach to theology, which is more pietistic than doctrinal.

For example, during my three days of interaction with close friends of Francis, nearly all of them quoted a statement for which the pontiff is evidently famous: “Let us put theologians on an island to discuss among themselves and we’ll just get on with things.”

It is not that Francis dislikes theologians. But unlike John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the leading edge of his ecumenical engagement is not doctrinal. Among many evangelicals, for whom Reformation theology is insignificant, such an approach is refreshing.

When one cherishes piety over doctrine, disagreement over religious authority and salvation easily fades into the background.

So how should evangelical Protestants think about Pope Francis?

Perhaps Cardinal Kasper’s horticultural metaphor suggests an answer. In the ministry of Francis one observes a flowering of the Erasmian Reformation—Scripture in the vernacular, a pursuit of integrity, commitment to beatitude, a church for the people, virtues that are consonant with the Protestant Reformation.

This was the ecclesial fruit for which Desiderius Erasmus, the great Renaissance humanist of Rotterdam, called in the opening decades of the 16th century. Insofar as Francis embodies these virtues, evangelicals should give thanks.

But let’s be clear: Erasmus is not enough.

Chris Castaldo serves as lead pastor of New Covenant Church in Naperville, Illinois. He is the author of Talking with Catholics about the Gospel. Chris blogs at


Friday, September 18, 2015

Muslim Migrants Find More Than Refuge in Europe’s Churches

Some Muslim Migrants Find More Than Refuge in Europe’s Churches
Germany sees rise in conversions to Christianity, a status that could help asylum claims

Pastor Gottfried Martens during a baptism for immigrants 
from Iran in the Evangelical-Lutheran Trinity Church in Berlin on Aug. 30. 
RUTH BENDERSept. 16, 2015 5:03 p.m. ET

HANNOVER, Germany—On a recent Saturday in a 19th-century Protestant church, Iranian and Afghan immigrants struggled to sing a hymn as the Rev. Hans-Jürgen Kutzner pointed to the German lyrics on a whiteboard.

Once a month, Mr. Kutzner gives a crash course in a neon-lit room adjacent to the church to prepare Muslims wishing to be baptized as Christians.

“What you are signing up to today isn’t just this seminar: Preparing yourself internally, going to Mass and integrating into your church, it’s all of that,” he told the 28 attendees as an Iranian woman clutching a rosary translated into Farsi.

Priests and researchers say they have witnessed a parallel trend to the surge in migrant numbers flocking to Germany in recent years: A rise in conversions from Islam to Christianity.

While most converts invoke spiritual reasons, people involved in the process point to another motivation: A conversion could make the difference between obtaining asylum or being deported.

Nariman Malkari, a recently baptized migrant from Iran, and 
his godmother, Marianne Bunyan, in front of his tent at the 
Trinity Church in Berlin, where he lives while his asylum 
application is reviewed. 

Up to a million migrants, many of them from Muslim countries, are expected to arrive this year in Germany alone. Those fleeing war or persecution could qualify for asylum; others seeking better economic prospects likely wouldn’t.

“We do get people that come here for reasons that aren’t just spiritual,” said Mr. Kutzner, adding that he believes they are in the minority. “We constantly fight against the suspicion that conversions are only motivated by hopes for asylum.”

One church official said the desire by some Christians to help can get out of hand. “There are middlemen who have started to develop a business out of connecting refugees with churches open to baptizing them,” this person said.

A spokeswoman for the main German Protestant church said she wasn’t aware of any such business taking place. The German Bishops’ Conference of Catholic dioceses declined to comment.

In many countries where classical Islamic law is a strong element of the legal system, such as Afghanistan and Iran, conversions by Muslims to another religion are prohibited and can be punished by death, said Ebrahim Afsah, associate professor of international law at the University of Copenhagen.

“Out of fear of being sent back, many refugees feel that converting is the safest route to getting their papers,” the church official said. “In most cases, such asylum requests are granted.”

German authorities can grant asylum if a conversion exposes the applicant to persecution at home, according to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. But a baptism certificate alone rarely suffices.

Europe is struggling to handle its largest flow of migrants since the aftermath of World War II. Why is the crisis happening now? The WSJ's Niki Blasina explains.

Decisions are sometimes lengthy and the type of proof authorities ask for when reviewing a case varies widely, officials familiar with the process say. Some officers probe applicants for their knowledge of their new religion, they say. Others demand detailed explanations about how people came to their new beliefs.

The immigration office doesn’t keep statistics on reasons for asylum requests.

Among the would-be converts in Mr. Kutzner’s class, most of whom declined to be identified, many said they had a spiritual revelation after a dream or reading the Bible. Others described embracing Christ as a protest against terror acts committed by Islamist extremists, or pointed to a desire to better integrate into their new home.

Nariman Malkari, a 25-year-old Kurd from Tehran, lives in temporary housing in the garden of the Evangelical-Lutheran Trinity Church in Berlin while he awaits a decision on his asylum application.

He moved here after Norway rejected his first asylum request. In May, the Rev. Gottfried Martens baptized the young computer engineer, who now goes by the biblical name of Silas and wears a silver cross necklace.

“I can never go back to Iran and I don’t want to,” said Mr. Malkari after Sunday Mass last week, which is held partly in German, partly in Farsi. “I live in a tent, but I have found Jesus.”

Roughly 600 of the 850 members of Trinity Church are from Iran and Afghanistan, Mr. Martens said. He said he has baptized roughly 400 Muslims, mostly from Iran and Afghanistan, since 2011, but refuses those who he feels just want to boost their asylum prospects.

“What I see is that 90% of the converts continue to come here even after they obtain asylum,” he said. “They wouldn’t do that if they had done it just for papers.”

The numbers of conversions remain tiny relative to Germany’s roughly four million Muslims, mostly from Turkey. In 2009, the Catholic Church in Germany counted 300 members who had converted from Islam, according to the secretariat of the German Bishops’ Conference, but neither it nor its Protestant counterpart keeps regular statistics of such conversions.

Aiman Mazyek, chairman of Germany’s Central Council of Muslims, said he hadn’t observed a rise in Muslims converting to Christianity, but noted there were “conspiracy theories” around that doing so could expedite an asylum request.

Jörn Thielmann, who heads the University of Erlangen’s Center for Islam and Law in Europe, said he has no doubt that conversions are on the rise. He has crafted expert opinions in asylum cases for the past decade, evaluating how big a risk a refugee would face if sent back home.

The Rev. Gerhard Triebe of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Düsseldorf has baptized some 30 Iranians since 2011. He said he devotes a lot of time to helping his converts in daily tasks, from asylum-related paperwork to finding an apartment.

“With more and more people arriving here, the word spreads. People also realize they get an enormous amount of support,” he said.

An Iranian asylum-seeker, Aref Movasaq Rodsari, at the 
Trinity Church in Berlin last month. 

In Mr. Kutzner’s class in Hannover, many aspiring Christians feverishly took notes as the pastor talked about the Bible and the Jesus’ resurrection. Others looked lost.

A man dressed in a shiny white suit and black tie brought his wife and young son from a small town in eastern Germany where they live. He said he fled Iran six months ago because “I wanted my family to be Christian.”

Mr. Kutzner said he doesn’t want to judge motives. “I am just a human, I can’t look people in the heart,” he said as he wrapped up his class with one-on-one consultations. “But if someone asks me for help, I help.”

Write to Ruth Bender at

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Blessed Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows - 15 September 2015


Blessed Feast of the Triumph of the Cross! - 14 Sept 2015


Le Pape encourage les jeunes consacrés

Le Pape encourage les jeunes consacrés

Cité du Vatican, 17 septembre (VIS).
Le Saint-Père a reçu les participants à la Réunion mondiale de la jeunesse consacrée, qui a eu lieu dans le cadre de l'Année de la vie consacrée. Après avoir salué en particulier ceux venus de Syrie et d'Irak et évoqué les martyrs de ces pays, il a répondu à trois questions, notamment à une religieuse ayant soulevé la question de l'instabilité et de la médiocrité dans la cheminement vocationnel. Citant sainte Thérèse d'Avila pour qui une rigide observance détruisait la liberté, a dit à ses hôtes: ''Le Seigneur vous appelle...à vivre de manière prophétique la liberté, à savoir la liberté unie au témoignage et à la fidélité... La vie consacrée peut être stérile si elle est pas prophétique, si il n'est pas permis de rêver... Si l'observance se réduit à une rigidité formelle, elle se limite à un égoïsme personnel... Soyez donc toujours ouverts à ce que le Seigneur nous dit et...dialoguez sincèrement avec votre supérieur, avec votre maître spirituel, avec l'évêque, avec l'Eglise... Soyez ouverts au dialogue et en particulier au dialogue communautaire. Un des péchés courants dans la vie de la communauté est l'incapacité du pardon entre frères... Les ragots ferment la porte au pardon de la communauté... Ils sont le fléau de la vie communautaire, une bombe qui détruit l'autre qui ne peut pas se défendre.'' Pour ce qui est de l'instabilité, le Pape a dit qu'elle se manifeste dès le début de la vie consacrée... Parlant de sainte Thérèse de l'Enfant-Jésus, il a dit qu'il faut prier pour les mourants parce le risque d'instabilité est plus grand... Culturellement nous vivons une période très instable, dans une culture du provisoire...qui a pénétré l'Eglise, les communautés religieuses, les familles et le mariage... Non, la culture doit être définitive car Dieu a envoyé Son fils pour toujours. Rien n'est à titre provisoire, une génération comme un pays. Tout le monde est pour toujours. Ceci est un critère de discernement spirituel".

Répondant ensuite à une autre question sur le désir d'évangéliser, le Pape a souligné que le zèle apostolique vient d'un sentiment qui enflamme le cœur. Evangéliser est pas la même chose que faire du prosélytisme. Ce n'est pas une équipe de football à la recherche de partenaires ou de supporters... Evangéliser c'est non seulement être convaincant, mais aussi de témoigner que Jésus est vivant... Or ce témoignage doit être donné avec tout son ê je veux remercier les femmes consacrées pour leur témoignage... Vous avez toujours voulu être à la pointe...parce que vous êtes mères. Soyez l'image de la maternité de l'Eglise, des icônes de sa tendresse et de l'amour de l'Eglise, maternelle comme Marie... Il y a un autre mot-clé dans la vie consacrée, celui de mémoire. Jacques et Jean n'ont jamais oublié leur première rencontre avec Jésus... Dans les moments les plus sombres, dans les moments de tentation, dans les moments difficiles de notre vie consacrée, il faut se souvenir de l'émerveillement vécu lorsque le Seigneur nous a regardé". A une autre question sur la vocation au sacerdoce, il a confié que dans son cas cela était venu par hasard, dans le confessionnal d'une église: "Ma vie a soudain changé. A l'instant Jésus a changé ma vie... Le Seigneur ne m'a jamais laissé seul, même dans les moments les plus difficiles et les plus sombres... Le Seigneur nous trouve toujours de manière définitive car il ne fait pas partie de la culture du provisoire. Il nous aime et reste toujours avec nous". Parmi les pires risques pour un religieux, a conclu le Pape, il y a le narcissisme: regarder votre reflet dans le miroir, le narcissisme. Méfiez-vous de cela!... Nous prions tous, et demandons des faveurs à Dieu... Mais adorons-nous vraiment le Seigneur? La prière d'adoration doit être silencieuse et non narcissique: Soyez donc des hommes et des femmes d'adoration".

Friday, September 11, 2015

St Petroc of Cornwall - June 4

The son of a Welsh king who became a hermit by a stream
by The Catholic Herald
posted Monday, 4 Jun 2012

A stained-glass window in Truro Cathedral depicts St Petroc

The relics of St Petroc (June 4) have been stolen and returned twice

Petroc is the most celebrated of the patron saints of Cornwall. Yet, since he lived in the sixth century, and the earliest surviving account of his life dates from the 12th century, very little is known about him with any certainty.

Many stories, however, are attached to his name, and the eye of faith may countenance what it will.

Petroc is said to have been born in south Wales, the son of a king, and to have given up his inheritance in order to become a monk. Apparently he studied in Ireland and numbered St Kevin among his pupils.

More certainly, he is associated with Padstow in Cornwall, where he founded a monastery. The name Padstow is a conflation of Petroc’s Stow, meaning Petroc’s Place.

Some 30 years later he founded another monastery at Little Petherick, near Wadebridge. He is also credited with having undertaken a pilgrimage to Rome and Jerusalem, and with having lived as a hermit on an island in the Indian Ocean.

Latterly, though, Petroc lived on Bodmin Moor, where he built a cell for himself by a stream, and established a monastery in Bodmin for the 12 disciples who followed him. His death, at Treravel, occurred while he was on the way to re-visit his first monastery in Padstow. He was buried in that town.

Beyond Cornwall there are some 17 church dedications to Petroc in Devon, and another at Timberscombe just over the border in Somerset. His name was also invoked in Brittany and Wales.

Like other hermit saints, Petroc was associated with wild animals. Indeed, the stag became his emblem, on account of his having protected a deer from its hunters.

At some stage after 850 Petroc’s shrine and relics were moved to Bodmin, which replaced Padstow as the centre of his cult. The church at Bodmin became rich through the offerings of pilgrims. In 1177, however, one of the canons stole the relics and took them to Saint-Méen in Brittany.

This outrage eventually reached the ears of King Henry II who personally intervened to ensure that Petroc’s remains, with the exception of a rib, were returned to Bodmin.

Petroc’s cult remained strong throughout the Middle Ages and established itself not merely in the Sarum calendar but even in formularies as far afield as Italy.

When Henry II ordered the return of his relics to Bodmin Walter of Coutances, a powerful figure on both sides of the Channel, provided a magnificent ivory casket of Sicilian and Islamic workmanship as a reliquary for the saint’s head.

Hidden at the Reformation above the porch at Bodmin, the reliquary was rediscovered in the 19th century. In 1994 thieves broke into the church and stole it. After a national outcry, however, the treasure was found in a field in Yorkshire.


St Salvius of Albi, bishop - 10 September memorial :)


September 10

St. Salvius, Bishop
HE was the seventh bishop of Albi, which see had been founded by St. Clarus, who is said to have suffered martyrdom in the third age, and who is honoured on the 1st of July. Before this he had been employed in the first offices of magistracy in the province; but his love for retirement, and the desire of being wholly freed from the distractions which impede a constant union with God, induced him to embrace the monastic state, in which he exhibited an example of piety to his brethren, who afterwards chose him for their abbot. He chiefly confined himself to a cell at a distance from the rest. Here, being seized by a violent fever, he grew so ill, that he lay for dead in the opinion of all about him. Indeed, the saint himself was always persuaded that he really died, and was restored to life by a miracle; be that as it will, he was soon after taken from his retreat, and placed in the see of Albi. He lived as austere as ever, and constantly refused the presents that were made him; but, if any thing were forced upon him, he on the spot distributed the whole among the poor. The patrician Mommolus having taken a great number of prisoners at Albi, the saint followed and redeemed them all. Salvius flourished in the reigns of Gontran, Childebert, and Chilperic: he withdrew the last of these princes from an error he had fallen into concerning the Trinity. In the eighteenth year of his episcopacy, an epidemic disorder made great havoc among his flock: at this season of peril, it was in vain his friends advised him to be careful of his health; animated with a zeal, unwearied as it was undaunted, he flew every where he thought his presence necessary. He visited the sick, comforted them, and exhorted them to prepare for eternity by the practice of such good works as their condition admitted. Perceiving that his last hour was near, he ordered his coffin to be made, changed his clothes, and prepared himself with a most edifying fervour to appear before God. He did not long survive the synod of Brennac, at which he assisted in 580. 1 See the Roman Martyrology, St. Greg. of Tours, and the Gallia Christ. Nova, t. 1, p. 5. 1


Note 1. The following extract is taken from a MS. of Count de Boullain-villiers, which his family carefully preserves in the castle of St. Saire: “The titles of the metropolitan of Rouen prove that about the year 800, and near a century after, there was a place in the forest of Bray, consecrated to the memory and honour of St. Salvius, who had been a solitary there. Whether this saint was bishop of Albi or Amiens, or even whether he was any more than a hermit, whose penitential life God hath glorified by divers miracles, is what must remain undecided; the memory of these facts being entirely lost. There remain, however, formal proofs of St. Salvius being a Solitary, in an ancient MS. from five to six hundred years, which contains the office of his feast. He is also represented in a pane of glass in an ancient subterraneous chapel in the dress of a hermit, on his knees, praying with his hands extended. The devotion of the people who visited the church or chapel which was built where his hermitage stood, was supported by miracles and extraordinary cures, which the divine power wrought there, insomuch that the reputation of it went very far. Some houses were built in the neighbourhood for the convenience of pilgrims; but the nature of the country rendered it inaccessible, and the horror of the marshes, augmented by the woods which covered them, hindered the progress of the establishment, which the piety of particulars might have otherwise founded. The canons of Rouen were at the expense of clearing some of the more accessible lands for the subsistence of the priests, who there performed the divine office; and this is the first origin of the parish of St. Saire, and the foundation of the lordship, which the chapter of Rouen possesses there.” This village is about a league and a half from the little town of Neuchatel in Bray. [back]


German Bishop: "Emergence of new xenophobia a ‘disgrace’ "

Leader of the German Catholic Church has branded emergence of new xenophobia a ‘disgrace’
by Simon Caldwell
posted Monday, 7 Sep 2015

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, pictured here at an anti-racism rally, 
disapproves of nationalism (CNS photo/Fabrizio Bensch, Reuters)

Cardinal Marx calls criticising rising nationalism as country takes tens of thousands or refugees

The leader of the German Catholic Church has branded the emergence of a new xenophobia in his country as a “disgrace”.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference, said he felt “physically” pained to see protesters making “Hitler salutes” and chanting Nazi slogans at migrants arriving from the Middle East.

In an interview with Der Spiegel magazine, he warned Catholics not to involve themselves with political extremism.

“Xenophobia and being a Catholic do not belong together,” said Cardinal Marx, the Archbishop of Munich-Freising.

“Keep yourselves well away from it … it is irresponsible for everyone.”
Cardinal Marx on Saturday made a spontaneous visit to the railway station in Munich to meet and greet some of the first of the thousands of mostly Syrian migrants arriving by train from Hungary.

He turned up with Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, the chairman of the Protestant Church in Germany, with whom he had been dining when they suddenly decided, over their lunch, to go to the station and welcome the migrants in person.

The cardinal said the pair had been watching the events unfold on their smart phones at the time.

There were small pockets of opposition to the migrant influx, most notably in Dortmund where 29 members of Die Rechte (the right) party staged a protest rally at the station as a train carrying 1,000 migrants arrived.

But in Munich food had been stockpiled and was handed out to Syrians as they disembarked from trains, for instance, while in Frankfurt, Germans formed a human chain to pass bags of food, clothing and toiletries to exhausted arrivals, who were also greeted with balloons and banners with words such as: “We love refugees.”

In Dresden, a graffiti artist daubed the words “a warm welcome” on to the side of a carriage of a train in Arabic.

Over the last year, Cardinal Marx has repeatedly spoken out against nationalist violence by Germans opposed to Angela Merkel’s open door policy to refugees fleeing war in the Middle East. The country is expecting about 800,000 asylum applications this year alone.

During the summer, he condemned an arson attack that destroyed a reception centre for asylum seekers, saying that the attack revealed that “some groups” were trying to “sow hatred” against migrants.

There were 150 attacks against centres for refugees and asylum seekers in the first half of 2015 alone, some involve guns and firebombs.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Victoria and Albert Museum's Room 50A will have you rethinking the Middle Ages

This room will destroy your prejudices about the medieval world
by Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith
posted Thursday, 3 Sep 2015

The spectacular Room 50a at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London

No one who visits the Victoria and Albert Museum's Room 50A will leave thinking the Middle Ages were backward

Just recently I visited, not for the first time, what must be one of the finest interiors in this country, namely the vast medieval gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum – or, to give it its more prosaic designation, Room 50A.

I imagine many readers will be familiar with this gallery, which contains the sanctuary of the church of the Poor Clares from Florence, as well as several wonderful della Robbia ceramics, amid numerous other treasures from the Middle Ages. I am sure no one could disagree with me when I say that this room is packed with spectacular treasures.

What a pity it is, then, that the word “medieval” has such negative connotations in modern British usage. To call something “medieval”, or describe it as “like something out of the Middle Ages”, is the equivalent of saying that it is backward, unenlightened, ugly, out of date, and to be rejected.

There seems to be a conflation in the popular mind between the medieval period and what was sometimes called “the Dark Ages”. In fact, modern historians tend not to us the term “the Dark Ages” of the period between the fall of Rome and the dawn of the Renaissance. No true historian could seriously consign someone like the father of English History, Bede the Venerable (died 735), to the age of darkness, or St Francis (died 1226) to a period before the dawn of enlightenment.

The Middle Ages were, in fact, something of a golden age in architecture, art, literature and political development. They were too a golden age (one of many) in theology, being the time of Peter Abelard (1079-1142), Peter Lombard (1100-1160) and St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), to name but three. These men were serious scholars, tremendously well read, and fluent in ancient languages. Funnily enough, it was their works that Martin Luther took pleasure in burning, and their great hero of whom Luther declared: “What has Aristotle to do with Christ?”

Those who speak badly of the Middle Ages will also speak badly of Catholicism, for the medieval period was a time in which the Catholic Church had few serious rivals in the religious sphere in Western Europe. The Middle Ages were the Catholic Ages.

The idea that progress and enlighten came with the Reformation is surely untenable. Far more convincing is the idea that the Reformation was a reaction to the achievements of the Middle Ages: hence its rejection of Aristotle and Greek philosophy, and its rejection and destruction of works of art. Yet the achievements of the Middle Ages are something that we should all feel proud of, despite this negative counter-narrative.

Consider for a moment those countries that did not share in the intellectual and artistic life of the medieval period and the Renaissance. They missed out on the Reformation, true, but they also missed out on the Enlightenment. I am thinking of the successor states to the Russian, Chinese, Persian and Turkish Empires.

They do not share our share our medieval heritage, and, even if they are geographically in Europe, cannot claim to be truly European. Their political culture is very different from ours. Two exceptions to this are Poland and Lithuania, both of which, though dominated by Russia for part of their history, escaped the worst culturally.

One final irony. Those who disparage the medieval period ought to be given pause by the fact that the Palace of Westminster, where Parliament sits, is built in perfect Neo-Gothic style, both inside and out. That is an excellent reminder to us all that the roots of parliamentary democracy itself, among other achievements of the modern age, are rooted in the glorious Middle Ages.

Annulments: Pope has come down in favour of Cardinal Müller

Annulments: Pope has come down in favour of Cardinal Müller, not Cardinal Marx
by Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith
posted Tuesday, 8 Sep 2015

Pope Francis wants to help people stuck by the process 
(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The Pope wishes to speed up annulments, but not compromise doctrine

The Pope has published two documents today which lay down important reforms in the annulment process. Just how important this may be, only time will tell, but all the indications are that this is a major innovation, and a welcome one.

The two motu proprio are available on the Vatican website so far only in Latin and Italian, but there is a summary of the main points here from Vatican Radio, and there is penetrating commentary, as ever, from the Vaticanista John Allen.

This move by the Pope – and a motu proprio has the force of law for the Church – will make a huge difference to people who up to now have suffered greatly under the present dispensation. I am thinking of those, in the United Kingdom, for example, who have been forced to wait up to five years for the process to play out, even though the outcome of that process has been clear from the beginning. And I am thinking of those in Africa (and there may be other places too) where there is no diocesan tribunal, and who cannot get an annulment at all. For people caught up in these situations, there will now be a faster track approach, or a decision made by the local bishop.

The annulment process has, perhaps unfairly, not had a good press. These reforms will make the process much more “agile” (to use the word of Vatican Radio). It was this that the Extraordinary Synod on the Family asked for last year. Well, now they have it, and rather more quickly than any of us had imagined.

Also of note, bearing in mind the upcoming Synod, is this, in the original Italian:

Non mi è tuttavia sfuggito quanto un giudizio abbreviato possa mettere a rischio il principio dell’indissolubilità del matrimonio; appunto per questo ho voluto che in tale processo sia costituito giudice lo stesso Vescovo, che in forza del suo ufficio pastorale è con Pietro il maggiore garante dell’unità cattolica nella fede e nella disciplina.

In my English translation:

In no wise did it escape my notice that an abbreviated process of judgment might put at risk the principle of the indissolubility of marriage: for this very reason, I have desired that in such cases the Bishop himself, who, because of his pastoral office is with Peter the greatest guarantor of Catholic unity in faith and in discipline, shall be the judge.

This perhaps is the clear statement that many of us have been hoping for. The Pope wishes to speed up annulments, but he does not want to compromise the doctrine of indissolubility. Because bishops will judge, and because bishops are charged with upholding the faith in union with the Holy See, the doctrine of indissolubility will be safeguarded. One notes the way the Pope speaks of “faith and discipline” – the latter reflects the former, and the two cannot be seperated. That is a crucial point and it gives a hint to the discussions at the coming Synod, where, one hopes, all talk of faith and discipline parting compnay will be sternly resisted.

One also notes the reference to the “Catholic unity” that exists between Peter and the bishops. We all know that Catholic means universal. This too is a hint that so called “local solutions” will be given short shrift. The Church is One, as the Creed states: Germany will not be getting what it wants. The Pope has come down in favour of Cardinal Müller, not Cardinal Marx.

Culture: The truth assisted suicide supporters won’t face

The truth assisted suicide supporters won’t face
by Madeleine Teahan
posted Thursday, 3 Sep 2015
MPs will debate a Bill legalising assisted suicide in Britain 
on September 11 (PA)

The champions of the Assisted Dying Bill are desperately hoping that Britons will remain ignorant of the euthanasia horror stories emerging from Europe

Two months ago a 24-year-old Belgian woman was granted the “right to die”. Identified only as Laura, the woman was not terminally ill but was suffering from clinical depression and had decided: “Life, that’s not for me.”

Laura had entertained suicidal thoughts all her life. When she was six she had handled a loaded gun and imagined what it would be like to kill herself. Eighteen years later, instead of making plans for the future, she was arranging her own funeral. She told a local newspaper: “Death feels to me not as a choice. If I had a choice, I would choose a bearable life. But I have tried everything [else] and that was unsuccessful.”

When Rob Marris MP presents his Assisted Dying Bill in the House of Commons next week, we can be confident of two things: he won’t mention Laura, or other victims of Europe’s creeping euthanasia culture, and he will urge MPs to consider Oregon’s experience instead.

He will refer to the American state because his Bill is closely modelled on the law there. Oregon permits assisted suicide – the prescription of lethal drugs which must be self-administered – but it does not allow doctor-administered euthanasia (unlike the Netherlands and Belgium).

Dismissing the evidence from European jurisdictions is politically expedient for supporters of the Bill. But the facts cannot be ignored. After all, Britain arguably has more in common with a country like the Netherlands – a highly urbanised, former maritime trading nation – than with a mountainous US state with a population of four million.

We have a lot in common with Belgium, too: a parliamentary democracy just across the North Sea. We can’t plausibly dismiss Belgium’s “assisted dying” experiment as irrelevant to Britain.

For outsiders, Belgium conjures up idyllic images of city breaks, delicious beers and quaint chocolate shops. We also think of Brussels, home of the European Union, and defender of peace and civilisation across a once warring continent. But beneath this civilised veneer lurks barbarism: the country permits euthanasia not only for the depressed, but also for the anorexic, the deaf and even children.

The average Briton weighing up their views on “assisted dying” – the term preferred by supporters of the practice – may not even be aware of the situation in our closest European neighbours. The BBC’s flagship news programmes aren’t as generous with their coverage of euthanasia horror stories as they are with the personal struggles of “right to die” campaigners – and that’s putting it charitably.

Since legalising assisted suicide and euthanasia in 2002 – 18 years after the Netherlands – Belgium has overtaken its neighbour in the total number of deaths. Bet­ween 2009 and 2013, annual deaths more than doubled from 822 to 1,803.

One study even concluded that euthanasia is under-reported by approximately 50 per cent and that 1,000 patients a year have their lives ended without an explicit request.

An increasing number of those opting for euthanasia are like Laura. In 2010, 4.3 per cent of deaths by euthanasia in Belgium were for neuropsychiatric disorders. By 2013 this had increased to nearly
10 per cent.

It is often said that “one death is a tragedy but a million deaths is just a statistic”. It’s easy to read all the figures from Belgium without flinching.

But Rachel Aviv of The New Yorker recently took one of the statistics and uncovered the shocking story behind it. She looked into the case of Godelieva De Troyer, a beautiful Belgian woman who was killed by a lethal injection administered by Dr Wim Distelmans, the country’s foremost euthanasia doctor.

Aviv reported that Godelieva had attended therapy sessions since she was 19 following a troubled relationship with her parents. She married young and was determined not to repeat the mistakes of her mother and father when she raised her own children. But she eventually divorced her husband, who killed himself two years later.

The happiest time of Godelieva’s life was when she began a new romance in her early fifties. But when that broke down in 2010 she became seriously depressed and her relationship with her son, Tom, deteriorated. In the summer of 2011, when she was 63, Godelieva attended a lecture by Distelmans. In September she began visiting him at his clinic. Four months later she emailed her children telling them she had filed a euthanasia request.

Tom was not on speaking terms with his mother by then. He showed the email to a doctor who was familiar with Distelmans’s work and who reassured him that “there was no way that Distelmans would approve the euthanasia request without first speaking to the patient’s family”. Tom did not intervene because of this advice.

Three months later he received a brief posthumous letter from his mother, announcing that she had been euthanised in a Brussels hospital.

“Tom felt his mind shutting down,” Aviv wrote. “He drove to his mother’s house, which he hadn’t visited in more than a year… In the drawer of Godelieva’s bedroom desk, Tom found drafts of several farewell letters that she had written to friends… There was also a draft of a long letter to her children, which was far more emotional than the one she had sent.

“‘I have not been able to handle the rift with you, Tom,’ she wrote. ‘I have loved you very much but you have not seen it as such.’ She then addressed her three grandchildren: ‘I have missed you very much.’”

Aviv noted that “Godelieva had died with three photographs in her pocket: a picture of her holding Tom on her lap when he was a baby, a picture of her feeding one of Tom’s young daughters ice cream, and a photograph of her and her daughter walking together through a field.”

Godelieva’s case is not an isolated one. Distelmans has performed euthanasia on two deaf twins who had discovered they were going blind. He also ended the life of Nathan Verhelst, born Nancy, a 44-year-old who wanted to die after undergoing a sex change operation. From the moment she was born, Verhelst felt rejected by her mother. She carried this weight all her life and the best support on offer was a lethal injection.

(After Verhelst’s death her mother commented: “For me this chapter is closed. Her death does not bother me. I feel no sorrow, do doubt or remorse… When I first saw Nancy my dream was shattered. She was so ugly. I had a ghost birth.”)

Yet deeply disturbing tales from abroad will not be enough to persuade some parliamentarians about the dangers of licensing assisted death. MPs who are still considering how to vote should reflect on what daily life would be like in England and Wales if the law is changed.

Supporters of the Marris Bill have a simply staggering faith in human nature and bureaucratic institutions. In a decade that has uncovered the horrors of Rochdale, Rotherham, Baby P, Stafford Hospital and Jimmy Savile, their confidence in our health and social services to spot signs
of abuse, neglect and coercion is extraordinary.

I once asked a nurse how a relative who was lying with a catheter in a high dependency unit was doing. With the emotional intelligence of an alien she responded: “Don’t worry! She’s been p—ing for England!”

The same relative was on a general ward a few days earlier. As she felt increasingly ill, she mustered the strength to find a nurse and told her: “I think I’m going to die before morning.” The nurse coldly told her to go back to bed. It was only thanks to a doctor friend’s intervention that her life was saved.

Do advocates of a change in the law honestly believe that if assisted death is legalised lazy, sulky nurses would become Florence Nightingales overnight? That hospitals would be run like five-star hotels, with a patient’s every dying wish meticulously catered for?

And how would humans really respond to a change in the law? Rob Marris recently claimed that there is “no evidence” that sick people in Oregon feel under pressure to end their lives. But an average 40 per cent of those who apply for assisted suicide there cite “not wanting to be a burden” as a main reason for doing so. In Britain, where independence is so highly valued, the elderly already worry that they are a burden on their relatives. In fact, it’s rare to find an old person who doesn’t feel that way. The legalisation of assisted suicide would make the sick and the elderly feel even more guilty about living.

We in Britain also know from experience that once the appetite for social change is whetted with new laws, it soon becomes insatiable. The leap from civil partnerships to the legalisation of gay marriage tells us a lot about the pace of political change in this country. Or consider abortion: supporters pushed for a change in the law in 1967 in order, they said, to end backstreet abortions. Today, abortion is seen as an everyday healthcare option. More than six million abortions have been performed since 1967 and campaigners are still hungry for further liberalisation.

Belgium has seen precisely this sort of political creep. As Rachel Aviv explained in The New Yorker: “Euthanasia for psychiatric patients was rare in the early years of the law, but patients complained that they were being unfairly stigmatised: psychic suffering, they argued, was just as unbearable as physical pain. Like cancer patients, they were subjected to futile treatments that diminished their quality of life.”

The British are sincere champions of the underdog. Once assisted suicide becomes available for the terminally ill, how can we reasonably stop there? Patients with the same conditions as Tony Nicklinson or Paul Lamb – two high-profile cases used to push for a change the law – would require euthanasia rather than assisted suicide, as neither man could physically administer the dosage for himself. “Assisted dying” would only be the prologue to euthanasia. Demands for “equal death” would inevitably follow.

But what about the supposedly humanitarian case for assisted suicide? People often ask opponents of the practice: “Who are you to tell a patient that they must suffer for longer than they want to?” That’s a fair question. But we ought to turn it around and say to assisted suicide advocates: “Who are you to encourage a sick person to kill themselves?”

A lot more is at stake when MPs debate the Marris Bill on September 11 than whether each of us has a right to end our lives with medical assistance. The cultural shift would be utterly devastating.

Consider the news story last month about a man who was about to jump off a bridge in Dublin before a teenager asked: “Are you OK?” With three words, he saved the man’s life.

The new Bill assumes that we live in a vacuum, without friends, without family and, ultimately, without hope. If MPs vote to change the law, a country that once believed that encouraging another person to commit suicide was a serious offence would overnight become a place which greets the desperate, tragic act with a resigned shrug.

Margaret Thatcher was harshly criticised, especially by the Left, when she uttered her much misunderstood phrase “there’s no such thing as society”. Prescribing suicide as a remedy for suffering is a crushing victory for the aggressive individualism so many claim to detest.

If the Marris Bill becomes law, we will cease to be a society in any meaningful sense of the word – only a collection of individuals who wash our hands of people like Laura.

Madeleine Teahan is associate editor of the Catholic Herald

This article first appeared in the latest edition of the Catholic Herald magazine (02/9/15).

Dorothy Day is the perfect role model for post-abortion women

Dorothy Day is the perfect role model for post-abortion women
by Mary O'Regan
posted Friday, 4 Sep 2015

Dorothy Day
As Pope Francis makes provisions for priests and abortion, we must invoke Day's intercession

In her youth, Dorothy Day was surrounded by many influential voices who encouraged her to be sexually active before marriage. Emma Goldman egged her on to try ‘free love’, but Day was reluctant to let go of her natural inhibitions and start sleeping around. Later Day would write in her own autobiography that she had been repulsed by Goldman’s many sexual affairs. A dear friend of Day’s, Peggy Baird tried to sell Day on the idea that extra-marital sex was a good thing because it broke down barriers between men and women. Baird was unnerved by Day’s unwillingness to give in to sexual desire.

As a 21 year old, Day did, however, have a dalliance with another journalist, and became pregnant as a result. The fellow was a cad and pressurised her to have an abortion, and in September 1919, 86 years ago this month, Day made a decision that she would bitterly regret for the rest of her life. She had an illegal abortion. Afterwards, Day was weighted down with a guilt-fuelled depression. Reflecting on Day’s distress, it calls to mind Pope Francis’ words this week, when he described post-abortion women as bearing, ‘the scar of this agonizing and painful decision’.

Pope Francis has made provisions for all priests during the Year of Mercy to absolve the sin of abortion. Our Pope has not minced his words in decrying, ‘the tragedy of abortion’ and in being clear that the opportunity for confession is open to women with ‘a sincere heart’. On the part of a woman who has had an abortion, there must be genuine contrition for her sin, and a firm purpose of amendment never to have an abortion again.

Dorothy Day was one such woman who showed great remorse after her abortion, and who vowed never to commit the same mistake again. Day suffered from psychological problems after her abortion, and sought solace in prayer. Day had thought that her illegal abortion had rendered her sterile, but in 1928, she gave birth to her daughter, Tamar. After she baptised her baby, her live-in boyfriend, Forster Batterham rejected her. For at least five years after they had split, Day wrote letters to Batterham, beseeching him to return to her and marry her. Day even asked him, ‘do I have to be condemned to celibacy all my life?’ Reminding Batterham that she did not take naturally to a casual sex lifestyle she wrote, ‘you know I am not a promiscuous creature in my love.’ Batterham would not relent because he eschewed all religious practice.

Day would not leave the Catholic Church, in order to win back Batterham, it had been her refuge during her post-abortion grief. In 1932, Day met Peter Maurin, and they founded the Catholic Workers’ Movement. They ran soup kitchens and set up urban houses of hospitality, caring for the homeless and the hungry when the Great Depression was at its worst. The houses of hospitality took in many pregnant mothers over the years. There was one married lady called Elizabeth whose husband was a drug addict. Elizabeth was heavily pregnant when she left her husband and sought refuge in a house of hospitality. When Elizabeth had given birth, Day prepared a little bed for the baby and gave Elizabeth cute baby clothes, and said that an atmosphere of great joy flooded the house of hospitality because of the newborn baby.

In later years, Day’s daughter, Tamar would go on to be a mother of a very large family. Day’s sister Della had worked for Margaret Sanger, the infamous founder of Planned Parenthood. Della tried to tell her Catholic convert sister that Tamar should not have so many kids. Della may have been implying that Tamar should be open to aborting future pregnancies – Day’s grandchildren! Day wouldn’t fall for the Planned Parenthood line, and refused to accept Della’s point of view. Day knew the bitter pain of losing a child in an abortion and would not visit it on her own daughter, Tamar.

Dorothy Day has been given the title Servant of God, and as we approach the Year of Mercy, we must invoke Dorothy Day’s intercession for women who intend to confess the sin of abortion. Day is the perfect role model for post-abortion women. She had the humility and purity of heart to admit that her abortion was a grave mistake, she was sincerely contrite and later on she helped vulnerable pregnant women avoid the trap of abortion that she had fallen prey to. The Year of Mercy could well be the time when we see Dorothy Day’s intercession burn bright.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Carmelite Martyrs of Compiègne rest at Picpus Cemetery Paris

Picpus Cemetery Paris
Written by Linda Mathieu in Paris, Quirky

In a seldom visited corner of Paris, near Place de la Nation in the 12th arrondissement, is Picpus Cemetery, one of the city’s most unusual burial grounds – the last resting place of a hero of the American Revolution and victims of the French Revolution, a plot where the history of France is preserved…

Here, between June 14th and July 27th, 1794, 1306 people who were executed during the French Revolution were buried. The beheadings had by this time become extreme and many innocent people were killed on ridiculous grounds. Amongst the condemned were 16 Carmelite nuns, all singing as they were led to the scaffold; one-by-one, there were led up the steps to the block, singing until the very end. “The Terror” only stopped when Maximillien Robespierre, a major influence during the time of the French Revolution and alleged to be the main instigator of the executions, was himself beheaded.

A guillotine had been set up at Place du Trone-Renverse, today Place de la Nation, a short walk away. Corpses had been thrown into two hastily dug graves at the bottom of the garden of a former convent. The families of some of the victims later bought the property, built a chapel and solicited a religious order, the Sisters of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, to offer up prayers for the victims.

This is how Picpus Cemetery came to be one of two private cemeteries in Paris which has many tombs of French aristocracy and to this day in fact, only decendants of the victims can be buried here. Today you can still see a small portion of the original wooden fence that had once enclosed the graves, as well as the original entrance for the carts bringing the bodies. You can visit the chapel where the names, ages, and some occupations can be found engraved on the huge plaques on either side of the altar at the front of the church. In the cemetery itself, which lies behind the chapel, there are some beautiful tombs though many are worn away with age.

One tomb is of particular importance to American visitors, this is the burial site for the Marquis de Lafayette, French hero of the American Revolution. His grave is maintained by a local chapter of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) and an American flag is always flown. Relatives of his wife were executed and buried here so she wished to be as well and he followed her on. He helped America during its Revolution and asked that soil from Bunker Hill be put on his grave. A ceremony is held at his graveside every July 4th often attended by the American Ambassador.

While Lafayette and his family survived the terror of his country’s own revolution, many of his wife’s family did not. And since a prerequisite to be buried at Picpus is having a family member perish on the guillotine that cruel summer of 1794, he and his wife rest near the entrance to the mass grave area.

It can be a hard place to find as the grounds lie behind two plain brown doors at 35 rue Picpus. Admission costs two euros and you will be directed toward the chapel where the names, ages, and some occupations can be found engraved on the walls on either side of the altar at the front of the church. In the cemetery itself, which lies behind the chapel, are some beautiful tombs, many of them worn with age.

It’s worth a visit to this quiet and often forgotten place. Another corner of Paris where a portion of French history is preserved.

The cemetery hours are erratic and unpredictable. Generally, Picpus is open Tuesday-Sunday, often from 2-6, mid-April to August. From October to mid-April it is open 2-4. There is no website but you can phone to check that it is open: 01 43 44 18 54. Nearest metro: Picpus and Nation.

It is closed on holidays, Mondays and during September as well as for the US Fourth of July celebration when there is usually a ceremony attended by the US ambassador.

Read about the incredible project to build a replica ship of the one on which the Marquis de Lafayette sailed to America: Hermione - the French ship that helped to win America’s freedom

Linda Mathieu, a native Texan, lives in France with her French husband. She was a Paris Tour Guide and is the author of Secrets of a Paris Tour Guide, available at


St. Anne and child Virgin Mary

St. Anne and child Virgin Mary with baby Jesus :)


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Blessed feast of the Nativity of Mary :)


Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople rebukes Moscow, underlines importance of ties with Rome

Those darned Russians...

It's easier to have a simple relationship with another party when they aren't in your backyard uninvited. From the Russian perspective the Greek Catholics operating in Slavic lands are unwelcome visitors knocking over their garden gnomes. While many would disagree with this role of Uniatism, that's the Muscovite party line and the primary impediment to Russia getting on board the Greek ecumenical train. I'm not sure how calling them "diabolical" is going to help things.

(Catholic Culture) - Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople underlined the importance of ecumenical ties with Rome, and criticized the resistance of the Russian Orthodox Church, in an August 29 address. The Ecumenical Patriarch—recognized as the “first among equals” of the world’s Orthodox leaders—stressed the primary importance of ecumenical affairs, and reiterated that his role involves “protecting the unity of the whole Orthodox Church.”

He said that opposition to ecumenical unity reflects a “diabolical” impulse. Patriarch Bartholomew said that his continuing contacts with the Holy See are a critical component of his ecumenical work. He expressed his enthusiasm for the planned worldwide Orthodox council, but conceded that it cannot accurately be described as an ecumenical council “because Western Christians are not invited to participate as members.”

The Ecumenical Patriarch—who has frequently sparred in recent years with the leaders of the Patriarchate of Moscow—clearly appeared to be criticizing the Russian Orthodox leadership when he spoke critically about Orthodox bodies that “maintain intimate connections with the government of their land and enjoy abundant financial support,” and advance the political interests of their nations.

Pope Francis announces biggest changes to annulment process in centuries

Pope Francis announces biggest changes to annulment process in centuries

By Abby Ohlheiser, Michelle Boorstein and Sarah Pulliam Bailey September 8 at 9:14 AM

Pope Francis arrives to lead the weekly audience in 
St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on June 24. 
(Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis on Tuesday announced sweeping revisions to the Catholic Church’s marriage annulment process, changes that are designed to speed up and simplify the often lengthy procedure. The changes, according to Vatican experts, appear to be the most far-reaching made to the church’s annulment process in centuries.

The announcement, containing changes that will make it easier for Catholics to remarry, comes about a month before a major meeting at the Vatican, where Catholic leadership will examine the church’s views on family issues, including divorce and remarriage.

The changes will eliminate a requirement that all annulment decisions get a second judgement and will allow local bishops to expedite the annulment process for some cases. The revisions also expand the local bishop’s role in judging nullification proceedings. Although dramatic, the changes do not alter the Catholic Church’s teaching that marriages are permanent.

The revisions were announced in two Apostolic Letters from Francis, which, translated from their Latin titles, are called “The Gentle Judge, The Lord Jesus” and “The Meek and Merciful Jesus.” They were presented at a news conference at the Vatican on Tuesday. The documents were released in Latin and Italian.

Current Catholic teaching on marriage doesn’t recognize divorce. Catholics who are granted a civil divorce and then remarry are ineligible to take Communion, a key part of active Catholic life. Instead, a Catholic who wants to end his or her marriage must be granted an annulment, a process that many Catholics believe is too costly and complicated.

The changes will probably split Catholic opinion between those who believe that a streamlining of the annulment process is needed and will help bring back more Catholics to the church, and those who worry that the revisions could make it too easy to move on from a marriage, which Catholic teaching dictates is a permanent sacrament.

In a recent Pew poll, 62 percent of American Catholics said the church should allow divorced Catholics who divorce and remarry without an annulment to receive Communion.

The number of annulments in the United States has been on the decline in recent decades. Annulment procedures in the country dropped from 72,308 in 1989 to 23,302 in 2014, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

An annulment is granted by a Catholic tribunal if it agrees that a marriage originally thought to be valid was actually missing at least one crucial element from the start, meaning that it was never really a true marriage in the first place. The length of the process varies between dioceses but can take 12 to 18 months, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

One of the changes implemented by the pope will eliminate the “second instance” of that tribunal, meaning that all couples seeking annulment will have to obtain only one sentence from a single tribunal. “The moral certainty reached by the first judge according to law should be sufficient,” the letter reads.

“It’s a sweeping reform. It’s a dramatic reform,” said Chad Pecknold, a theologian at Catholic University. “It’s a reform which essentially takes away the whole judicial process for deciding whether a marriage was null or not.”

Another change will reduce the process of that first tribunal down to one judge, Pecknold noted. Formerly, a tribunal consisted of at least two priests and one canon lawyer, who could be a layperson or clergy.

Francis has changed that and placed the responsibility of the “first instance” of the tribunal into the hands of a single judge, who must always be clergy. Pecknold added, “A lot of my canon lawyer friends want to quit today.”

Austen Ivereigh, a papal biographer and commentator on the Vatican, called it “revolutionary” that Francis has granted bishops the power to nullify a marriage – a power that has rested with church courts. Bishops, he said, could also delegate that power to priests. This will make annulments more accessible, especially in much of the developing world, where, Ivereigh said, many areas have no church courts.

“This is the most far-reaching reform to the Church’s nullity process in 300 years,” he added.

Tuesday’s announcement is procedural; it makes no change in the way the church sees marriage and its permanent nature.

However, Ivereigh said the change shows Francis has been listening to regular Catholics and “the reason for this change is that society has changed. This speeded-up procedure recognizes and reflects a new reality.”

He predicted some conservatives would be critical of this change because they will see it undermining the concept of marriage as a bond that cannot be dissolved. The best-known of this group is American Cardinal Raymond Burke, who led the Vatican’s supreme court until he was removed by Francis because, Ivereigh said, Burke opposed annulment changes.

Another change announced on Tuesday will allow bishops the ability to further expedite the annulment process for some particularly straightforward cases — a process that Pecknold said would allow the bishop to essentially “write a note.”

That process could be open to abuse, he added: “The moment that you put in an exception that makes everybody’s job easier, guess what everybody’s going to do?”

Kurt Martens, a professor of canon law at Catholic University, said that the expedited process would apply to Catholic couples facing certain conditions, including those who have an abortion, a grave contagious disease, children from a previous relationship or imprisonment. Essentially, Martens said, the church is providing a path that looks like the Catholic version of no-fault divorce.

[VIDEO: Pope emphasizes forgiveness for abortions during ‘year of mercy’]

The changes move the church away from a set of 18th-century safeguards meant to make sure that the annulment process wasn’t subject to abuse, Martens said. Those changes, set up by Pope Benedict XIV, included a provision that would require a mandatory appeal of the lower court’s decision.

“What guarantee do you have for a fair trial if you take away those guarantees that were put in the past?” Martens said. “Sometimes you want to go so quickly, you miss elements and make mistakes. Procedure law takes time to unfold.”

Martens said that the way Francis changed the annulment process was unusual, because he did not go through the Synod on the Family as expected in October.

“If I were a bishop, I would be upset,” Martens said. “It’s a bit strange and even a sign of contradiction that a pope who is big on consultation and collegiality seems to forget that on something like this. It’s highly unusual for legislation like this to get through that way.”

Francis, for his part, acknowledges some of those concerns in his letters.

“The extent to which an abbreviated process of judgment might put the principle of the indissolubility of marriage at risk, did not escape me,” Francis wrote. “Thus, I have desired that, in such cases the Bishop himself shall be constituted judge, who, by force of his pastoral office is with Peter the greatest guarantor of Catholic unity in faith and in discipline.”

Despite those concerns, the changes come with a notable silver lining for everyday Catholics seeking to annul their marriages and return to a closer relationship with the church.

“In terms of the average Catholic who is seeking annulment, this makes an already painful situation easier, and that is Pope Francis’s intent,” Pecknold said. “You can see a clear pastoral eye on this decision. He doesn’t want any long waits; he basically wants the decision to come from the bishop.”

Francis has spoken before of his desire to reform annulment in the past.

“The sacraments give us grace,” he said earlier this year to jurists of the church’s final court of appeals for annulments. “And a marriage proceeding” — like an annulment — “touches on the sacrament of marriage.”

“How I wish all marriage proceedings were free of charge!” he added.

In August, Francis urged Catholic clergy to keep “open doors” and be more welcoming to divorced and remarried Catholics.

[This post, originally published at 6:57 a.m., has been updated]

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Abby Ohlheiser is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

Michelle Boorstein is the Post’s religion reporter, where she reports on the busy marketplace of American religion.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey is a religion reporter, covering how faith intersects with politics, culture and...everything. She can be found on Twitter @spulliam.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Germany tells neighbors 'Share migrant burden'; Britain to take in 20,000

Share migrant burden, Germany tells neighbors; Britain to take in 20,000

A migrant from Syria holds a picture of German Chancellor Angela Merkel as he arrives from Hungary at Munich Hauptbahnhof main railway station on Sept. 5. Germany has agreed to set aside $6.6 billion next year to help migrants. (Sean Gallup / Getty Images)

As more migrants continue to arrive, Germany called on its neighbors Monday to share the burden of accepting refugees fleeing war and violence, saying that the crisis had become a test of European values and solidarity.

France said it would take in 24,000 refugees under a European Union-wide quota system being prepared that some EU states are almost certain to reject. And British Prime Minister David Cameron announced Monday that his nation would take in 20,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the current session of Parliament in 2020.

He added that they would come from among those living in camps in Syria and its neighboring countries rather than from refugees and migrants already on European soil.

Martin Meissner / AP
Refugees walk from the main train station after arriving 
in Dortmund, Germany, Sept. 6, 2015.

Migrants wave as they arrive at the main railway station in Munich, Germany, on Sept. 6.

But Germany is bearing the brunt of the crisis, estimating that it could absorb up to 800,000 refugees and migrants this year, more than double what it had forecast at the beginning of 2015. Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that her government would live up to its moral duty to provide sanctuary to those legally entitled to it, however many they might be.

Even so, the thousands who landed in this country just this past weekend have some German officials worried about resources being pushed to the limit. After arriving on packed trains in the southern city of Munich, hundreds of asylum seekers have been quickly whisked to other cities as authorities scramble to ready accommodations and supplies for the newcomers.

Merkel said her government, which oversees Europe’s biggest economy, would set aside $6.6 billion next year to deal with the influx.

“Germany is a country willing to take people in, but refugees can be received in all countries of the European Union in such a way that they can find refuge from civil war and from persecution,” Merkel said. “It is time for the European Union to pull its weight. ... We are a Europe of values.”

She and French President Francois Hollande have been working on a plan that would distribute 120,000 asylum seekers among EU nations based on each country’s size and economic strength. The plan is expected to be unveiled in Brussels on Wednesday.

Hollande, who had previously opposed the idea of a quota system, said that France would play its part in offering refuge for the persecuted.

“We will do this because I believe it is a principle which France is bound by,” he said in Paris.

But agreement among all 28 EU members appears elusive, with several Central and Eastern European states saying categorically that they do not want to accept any refugees. Most outspoken has been Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose heavy-handed treatment of asylum seekers pouring into his country – almost all of them with no intention of staying but instead moving on to Austria, Germany and Sweden – has drawn international criticism.

Orban insists he is protecting the EU’s borders by trying to turn back migrants. He also poured scorn on a Europe-wide quota plan, saying that the right to free movement within the EU granted to residents would make country-specific numbers impossible to enforce.

While refugees began shuttling smoothly over the weekend between Northern European countries such as Austria and Germany, pressure continued to build on choke points in the south where migrants first make landfall or where they have clumped up at borders hoping to push on northward to more hospitable destinations.

Hundreds of asylum seekers, many from Syria and Iraq, continue to arrive daily on Greece’s eastern islands. More than 230,000 have come ashore to date, including 61 rescued Monday from the sea off the coast of the hard-hit island of Lesbos. Among those plucked from the waters were a baby and more than a dozen other children.

Europe's refugee crisis is darkened by the shadows of WWII

The nearly bankrupt Greek government has appealed to the EU for emergency aid to deal with the influx. A government minister said about two-thirds of the 15,000 to 18,000 refugees and migrants living in squalid conditions on Lesbos would be transported to the Greek mainland this week.

Migrants are also crowded at the borders between Greece and Macedonia and between Hungary and Serbia, most of them hoping to make their way to Austria and Germany and points beyond. Orban’s government is constructing a razor-wire fence along the length of Hungary’s nearly 110-mile border with Serbia, but people continue to slip through.

And even in Germany, there were signs of strain as the flood of arrivals continued.

Speaking to reporters at Munich's train station, Christoph Hillenbrand, the president of Upper Bavaria, suggested that the sheer volume of refugees had caught officials somewhat by surprise, even though the migrant "pipeline" passing through the Balkans and Central Europe had been well documented for weeks. Another 2,500 refugees reached the southern state on Monday.

"We will still do our best to create new places," Hillenbrand said. "But we are pushing up against the limit now."

Times staff writer Laura King in Munich and special correspondent Christina Boyle in London contributed to this report.