Friday, November 29, 2013

Pope Ramps Up Charity Office To Be Near Poor, Sick



VATICAN CITY (AP) — When he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis was known to sneak out at night and break bread with the homeless, sit with them on the street and eat with them, as part of his aim to share the plight of the poor and let them know someone cared.
That's not so easy to do now that he's pope. But Francis is still providing one-on-one doses of emergency assistance to the poor, sick and aged through a trusted archbishop. Konrad Krajewski is the Vatican Almoner, a centuries-old job of handing out alms — and Francis has ramped up the job to make it a hands-on extension of his own personal charity.
As Americans gathered for Thanksgiving on Thursday, Krajewski described how Francis has redefined the little known office of papal almoner and explained the true meaning of giving during a chat with journalists over coffee and pastries a few steps from the Vatican gates. "The Holy Father told me at the beginning: 'You can sell your desk. You don't need it. You need to get out of the Vatican. Don't wait for people to come ringing. You need to go out and look for the poor,'" Krajewski said.
Krajewski gets his marching orders each morning: A Vatican gendarme goes from the Vatican hotel where Francis lives to Krajewski's office across the Vatican gardens, bringing a bundle of letters that the pope has received from the faithful asking for help. On the top of each letter, Francis might write "You know what to do" or "Go find them" or "Go talk to them." And so Don Corrado, as he likes to be called, hits the streets of Rome and beyond. He visits homes for the elderly in the name of the pope, writes checks to the needy in the name of the pope — even traveled to the island of Lampedusa in the name of the pope after a migrant boat capsized last month, killing more than 350 people.
Over four days on Lampedusa, Krajewski bought 1,600 phone cards so the survivors could call loved ones back home in Eritrea to let them know they had made it. He also prayed with police divers as they worked to raise the dead from the sea floor. "This is the concept: Be with people and share their lives, even for 15, 30 minutes, an hour," Krajewski said. The former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio "would go out at night in Buenos Aires, not just to find people, talk with them, or buy them something to eat ... He would eat with them. He would sit with them and eat with them on the street. This is what he wants from me."
The existence of the Vatican Almoner dates back centuries: It is mentioned in a papal bull from the 13th-century Pope Innocent III, and Pope Gregory X, who ruled from 1271-1276, organized it into an official Holy See office for papal charity. Until Krajewski came along, the almoner was typically an aging Vatican diplomat who was serving his final years before being allowed to retire at age 75. Francis changed all that, tapping the 50-year-old Pole who had been a close assistant to Pope John Paul II in his final years, to be a more vigorous, hands-on extension of himself.
Krajewski has also enlisted others to help out: Off-duty Swiss Guards now get called into duty, helping drive a stranded person home, or recently helping to box 27,000 rosaries that Francis handed out to the general public one recent Sunday as "spiritual medicine." Krajewski demurred when asked if Francis himself had slipped out of the Vatican on his own — "Next question!" he said. But there was a clear suggestion that the pope may very well have snuck out before Vatican security got wind of it. The almoner's duties are two-fold: carrying out acts of charity and raising the money to fund them.
Krajewski's office funds its work by producing papal parchments, hand-made certificates with a photo of the pope that the faithful can buy for a particular occasion — say a wedding, baptism or priestly ordination — with the name of the recipient and an apostolic blessing written in calligraphy. The parchments range from eight euros ($11) to 30 euros ($40) apiece, plus shipping and handling. All proceeds go directly to the works of charity. Last year, the office spent 1 million euros ($1.4 million) on 6,500 requests for help. Krajewski says the numbers will likely have doubled this year.
The amounts given out aren't high: Recently Krajewski sent a check for 200 euros ($270) to an elderly woman from Venice who wrote to Francis lamenting that a pickpocket had stolen 54 euros ($75) from her. Larger and longer-term charity works are handled by the Vatican's international Caritas federation or Cor Unum, a Vatican office. The almoner, Krajewski explained, is more a "first aid" charity station: quick, small doses of help that don't require bureaucratic hurdles, but are nevertheless heartfelt and something of a sacrifice. "Being an almoner, it has to cost me something so that it can change me," he said. He contrasted such alms-giving with, say, the unnamed cardinal who once boasted about always giving two euros to a beggar on the street near the Vatican.
"I told him, 'Eminence, this isn't being an almoner. You might be able to sleep at night, but being an almoner has to cost you. Two euros is nothing for you. Take this poor person, bring him to your big apartment that has three bathrooms, let him take a shower — and your bathroom will stink for three days — and while he's showering make him a coffee and serve it to him, and maybe give him your sweater. This is being an almoner."
One recent letter caught the attention of the pope: The parents of little Noemi Sciarretta, an 18-month old suffering from spinal muscular atrophy — a genetic condition that has no cure — wrote to Francis in October. They were desperate because doctors could do nothing for their daughter.
A few days later Francis called the father. On Nov. 1, Krajewski spent the day with the Sciarrettas at their home near Chieti, in Abruzzo. Five days later, with the child's condition worsening, the family traveled to the Vatican and met with Francis in person, spending the night in the same Vatican hotel where he sleeps, eating with him in the hotel dining room where he has all his meals.
Moments after they met, the pope headed out to St. Peter's Square for his weekly general audience. He started off by asking the tens of thousands of people there to take a moment of silence to pray for little Noemi. "It was a very emotional meeting because Pope Francis was close to Noemi," her father, Andrea Sciarretta, said afterward. "We could talk and pray together for Noemi. It was an emotional gift."

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Table Prayer



O Gracious God, we give you thanks for your overflowing generosity to us.
Thank you for the blessings of the food we eat and especially for this feast today.
Thank you for our home and family and friends, especially for we who are gathered here.
Thank you for our health, our work and our family.
Please send help to those who are hungry, alone, sick and suffering.
Open our hearts to your love.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Feeding The Birds For Saint Francis



For many years Jim and Sis Hein, OFS's, have been handing out small packets of bird seed to people they encounter during Advent and Christmas, and at the doorway of their Parish as people leave Mass on Christmas day. Each packet contains a note explaining that it was St. Francis' desire that the birds be fed on Christmas. During the last nine years other Fraternities of the Queen of Peace Region (Along with other Regions) have taken up the tradition and use it to spread the first hint of Franciscan joy to many in their community. Fioretti Fraternity in Brainerd and Menahga, Minnesota has been doing it for eight years. They reach out to over 1,500 + people in three Parishes. The Pastors look forward to them being at the door each year - greeting the people and handing out seed packets. John Paul Fraternity in Waseca, Minnesota, has some what of a different take on the tradition, they decorate a “Seed Tree" for the parish festival so people can take the bags of seed off the tree in the evening - or they will take them out amongst the crowd and give the packets away. They do this for two Parishes in their area and have the Pastors’ support. 
A positive side effect is the socializing that goes on within a Fraternity or family when the bags have to be filled for the event. It is somewhat of a pre-Christmas work party that is just plain fun. The items you need are plastic 3x5, 2ML, bags, bird seed, large bowl or pot and a funnel. To make the funnel cut the top off of a pop or water bottle about 2" inches down from the top - it works just perfect. Also, be sure to have a measuring cup and a tarp or drop cloth for under the table to catch spilled seeds. Fill the bags only 1/4 to 1/3 full. For the label use 4x2 inch shipping from Avery labels - stock number 5163. Sample of finished package for you to view below:
Feeding The Birds For Saint Francis
(A Gift from Our Lady of the Angels Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order)
St Francis wanted all creation to celebrate the birthday of Jesus.  It was his desire that all mayors and Lords of Castles issue a decree that would require the scattering of grain on the roads on Christmas so that our friends the birds might have something to eat. As Secular Franciscans, who strive to follow Christ in the footsteps of St. Francis, we ask you to use this small gift to feed the birds on Christmas Day - in the example of St Francis of Assisi.
Pax et Bonum (Peace and All Good)
Interested? Our Lady of the Angels Fraternity Cincinnati, OH 513.522.7430


Monday, November 18, 2013

Dear God I am Mad at You



I‘m mad at you. Over the past year you’ve given me more than my fair share of struggles, sadness, loss, and pain. And I’m not happy about it. In fact, if one more person tells me that you won’t give me more than I can handle, I’m going to lose it. If that’s actually the case, though, then you must think I’m a lot stronger than I am, and it’s not fair. Why not somebody else? Why so much? Why me? What good does praying do when bad things keep happening? Obviously you’re not listening. I go to Mass and I feel nothing. I pray. . . nothing. No comfort, no solace, no peace. Where are you?
There, I finally got that off my chest. I think for far too long I’ve been afraid to say that. I think a lot of people would be. Questioning God? Being angry at God? You just don’t do that. And I thought that, too. I have been well versed for years in the idea that we must always be completely in step with God. But recently I realized that it’s OK not to be sometimes. It’s completely normal, and God can handle it.

In Good Company
But if I feel alone in my frustration with God, I’ve got some good company. A few years ago everyone was floored when it was revealed in the book Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta that Mother Teresa had experienced what is known as Dark Night, or “a dark night of the soul” as it is often called. The book contained Mother Teresa’s letters and writings, and in those writings, she spoke of feeling abandoned by God and struggling to maintain her prayer life. Mother Teresa was beatified on October 19, 2003, so maybe there’s still some hope for me to be redeemed.
But what exactly does it mean to experience “a dark night of the soul”? Does it mean that one has completely turned his or her back on God? The answer is no. It is most well-known as a feeling of abandonment by God. It often goes much deeper than just that, though. In the 16th century, St. John of the Cross, friend to St. Teresa of Avila, first developed the concept and explained it as not being able to pray anymore. Those in the midst of such an experience lose the joy of the spiritual journey. But they hang on tightly to their commitment to Christ. The experience is often associated with mystics, which I certainly am not. But I can connect with the
underlying message of this struggle.
The August 2011 issue of Catholic Update, “Mother Teresa’s Dark Night,” by Phyllis Magana and C. Kevin Gillespie, says: “The most disorienting part of Dark Night is the painful loss of God. While the experience of the loss is real, echoing other losses, the soul is also invited to give up all ‘knowledge’ of God— all analogy, all experience, all understanding, in order to be freed to meet God. “Letting go of ideas of God means letting go of ideas of self, and that combined loss brings crisis.”

Still Struggling
I totally get that feeling: the feeling that, no matter how hard or how much I pray, my pleas are ignored. But I also still have that commitment to God. After all, if I weren’t still on board with my faith, why would I even bother being mad at God? And the example of Mother Teresa, that she was able to go through this experience yet still maintain a loving and close relationship with God, gives me hope that God and I will be able to work things out.
Until then, the words of Mother Teresa resonate with me: “I do not know how much deeper will this trial go—how much pain and suffering it will bring to me. This does not worry me any more. I leave this to Him as I leave everything else.” I’m not there yet, but God and I are working on it.

By Susan Hines-Bragger, St. Anthony Messenger, November 2013, Pages 58-59.

Homeless Like Me



One cold winter afternoon, I sat down on a metal folding chair in the basement of St. John’s Episcopal Church in St. Louis, Missouri, to catch up with Miss Pearl. I’d volunteered at this inner- city shelter for over a year, and I looked forward to my conversations with Pearl, a widowed grandmother and guardian of four children. Her life had been hard, but she was a strong, Christian woman who radiated joy and calm in the oftentimes chaotic, gloomy shelter. When the front door buzzer sounded, the manager on duty flew out of her office.
“Move these tables back and find a seat, please,” she called. “The Girl Scouts are here!” Moments later, a dozen uniformed girls filed into the room, flanked by two mothers. As the shelter manager welcomed our visitors, they stood stiffly in front of the beige cinder-block wall. One mother balanced a bulging canvas bag of donations on her hip. I tried to catch her eye, gesturing toward a table near me where she could lay down her burden. She seemed not to understand, so I rose from my seat and crept closer, smiling and stretching out my hands to lift the heavy bag from her arms. Sensing my approach, the mother turned abruptly to face me. Her steel-blue eyes glimmered with fear, stopping me cold. I hesitated and then instinctively backed away. What is she so terrified of? I wondered. The answer hit me like a slap: me. She had taken me for a homeless woman, and she was afraid of homeless people like me. No one had ever looked at me with pure, raw fear. It stung.
I slunk back to my seat and watched with her friend, Miss Pearl. as the visitors placed their donations on a folding table and backed away. It was understandable that they did not distribute the secondhand clothes and toys; residents were invited to approach the table and pick one item each. But our visitors’ discomfort was clear; neither the girls nor their mothers mingled with us. Their duty done, they departed quickly.

Pearl of Wisdom
After they left, Pearl said cheerfully, “That was nice.” I was astonished. Surely Pearl had noticed how the women and children kept their distance. I thought the whole thing had been quite awkward, even demeaning.
“Didn’t you see how that one lady looked at me?” I said crossly. “Like I was going to bite her!”  Pearl studied my face before answering. “Honey,” she said carefully, “before you get to know us, of course you’d be afraid. You’ve got to concentrate on how the little girls are trying to do the right thing, like they’re your own daughters, and you’ve got to try to be friendly.”
She was right, of course. Not only that, Pearl was gently reminding me that I, myself, had been the recipient of her kindness and acceptance. How many times had I glided through the shelter doors bearing my good intentions like a badge? How many gifts of questionable value had I deposited at her feet?
My face reddened, but Pearl just chuckled softly and reached out to pat my hand. “You are my friend,” she said simply. “You’re all right.”
Psychiatrist Carl Jung got it right: “That I feed the hungry that I forgive an insult that I love my enemy in the name of Christ — all these are undoubtedly great virtues. But what if I should discover that the least among them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the very enemy himself— that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness?”
Pearl passed away over 10 years ago, but her words have stayed with me. She helped me see that no gift is as precious as human kindness. It is a gift anyone can give and receive—in every time and season. May it begin with me.

By Alicia von Stamwitz who lives in St. Louis, where she is an independent consultant and freelance writer. St Anthony Messenger, November 2013 Page 22

The Call to Holiness and Sanctity


As the calendar turns to November, we are faced with daunting question of where we will end up in the life to come. The two great feasts that are celebrated — All Saints’ Day and the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (commonly All Souls’ Day) — give us a stark reminder that this world is not all that there is.
We have a destiny that awaits in heaven, should we open ourselves to receive what Our Lord promises to give. The goal as we examine these two feasts is to be eventually included in the prior feast of All Saints, while trusting in God’s mercy during that time we are in the latter feast! But it always strikes me as to how do we get there? Obviously, it is through Christ, as “He is the Way, the Truth and the Life,” and “no one comes to the Father except through me.” Great! But what are the practical implications of these two statements?
In my work with young people, I have seen what can happen when there is a real encounter with the person of Jesus Christ. Their lives are transformed and they are set on a trajectory of faith that is not necessarily easy, but is life giving. Now the question has moved from the practical implications to how do we actually achieve this vision of unity with Christ? It is an easy thing to say in reality, but a much harder challenge to play out in the real world.
A new friend of mine summarized this idea in such a profound way, 1 had to share it here: It is not enough for the Catholic to take the Scripture and the living tradition of the church seriously; the Catholic must also take them personally. We must take the teachings of the church and the living word of God personally. When Jesus is speaking throughout the Scriptures, when the believer comes to Him in Mass, adoration, prayer, study, contemplation, it is Christ speaking to the heart, mind and soul of that person. The reality is that for as much as we must also be concerned about the salvation of our brothers and sisters in Christ (and even the salvation of those who do not know Christ), our primary concern is our own salvation, our own unity with Christ.
This is, I think, part of the secret that the saints wish to share with us. They gave all, each in his or her own way, for Christ; and now they exist as our intercessors and guides so that we do not walk this path of holiness alone, but their prayers for us are helping our salvation now, our call to holiness, our call to greatness in Christ.
Let us strive ever more eagerly to be united to Him in all things, so that He might continue to draw us deeper to himself. Then, hopefully, one day, we might share the vision of heaven, no longer veiled through human senses, but as it truly is. What glory awaits in the life to come!

By Father Schnippel is the director of the archdiocesan Vocations Office. http://thecatholictelegraph.com
Commentary, The Catholic Telegraph November, 2013

Ursuline Nun’s Call to Feed the Hungry



 “Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission — to be of service to them whenever they require it.”St. Francis of Assisi
Sister Eileen Connelly remembers the one-word prayer she uttered the day she was running errands, left her car door open for a moment and watched as a cat dashed across the street and jumped inside: “Seriously?”
Cats are not, by a long shot, the Ursuline Sisters of Cincinnati nun’s vocation. She is devoted to God, her religious order and serving others as news editor of the Catholic Telegraph and in various volunteer roles. Still, cats’ appearances in her life have been more providential than incidental.
There was the cold, rainy Ash Wednesday when a skinny stray appeared from beneath the car next to hers seeking human help. There was the Good Friday when an injured Siamese turned up in the midst of a colony of feral cats she feeds. Or the Holy Thursday a call from a neighbor reported a hungry stray eating out of garbage cans.
Cats — their coats covered in ice — have emerged before her on the street on sub-freezing days. They’ve turned up hungry at her front door. “It’s not like I go out looking for cats. They find me,” says the nun, who keeps a statue of St. Francis of Assisi at her front door. “There are times I wonder how the heck I ever got involved in this because it’s not something I ever imagined doing. I find myself asking, ‘Why me?’” But then a stray or injured cat turns up needing help, and the question quickly becomes, “Why not me?” Every day she uses her lunch hour or stops on her way to work to feed street cats, devoting more of her salary to cat food than to her own needs. “It’s just a matter of prioritization,” she says. Through the services of Ohio Alley cat Resource where she volunteers, she’s made sure the feral cats have had medical treatment and been neutered or spayed.
She’s been a foster caregiver to dozens of rescued cats that needed socialization before they were ready for adoption. The spare bedroom she thought would hold nieces and nephews or friends has instead been temporary shelter for Snickers, Danny Boy, Sugar, Asher and Frankie - named, of course, for St. Francis.  Meanwhile, she has trapped and rescued more than 100 strays from her neighborhood and the feral cob- fly she unofficially oversees, either having them spayed or neutered and releasing them or helping them find homes.
It all sounds much easier than it’s actually been. Needy cats have a habit of appearing at the least convenient moment, the Holy Thursday cat being a case in point. “I remember driving home thinking how much I was looking forward to a reflective Good Friday and Easter and didn’t want anything to complicate that,” she says. Instead, Lacey the stray was waiting to be rescued. That she died a few months later from multiple health problems mad her rescue only that much more meaningful.
Earning the trust of a terrified street cat — which car take Connelly as long as two years – is her chief reward. But just as poignant is being part of a circle of volunteers who stay with an injured or ill animal during its final moments. “To be present with a human or an animal in the process of losing its life — oh, gosh, it’s an honor to be part of that,” says the nun, who has been a hospice volunteer. “Some cats were in such bad shape they had to be put to sleep, but at least they didn’t die alone. They had people there who cared.”
But she’s cautious about to whom she says such things. Cats are neither a vocation nor an obsession for her, nor can she be a depository for any more of them. But she knows, as cats keep singling her out that they are creatures she is called to serve.
“I think of a song we sing that says, ‘We are called to feed the hungry at our door.’ I can’t say for sure that God wants me to help cats, but when one runs across the street and jumps into my car?” She shrugs and smiles in resignation. “How else can I view that?”

By Krista Ramsey (I give voice to people whose stories matter but are seldom told. Email me at kramsey@enquirer.com.)  The Enquirer, November 15, 2013 Page C4

Options To Consider For Long-Term Care



I received a call recently from a reader, a senior who wanted to talk about the best way to address the frightening prospect of paying for long-term care. She is perfectly healthy now but knows that this could change in a heartbeat. And she wants to pay for it in a single premium.
Fortunately, she has some assets, including cash and some fixed annuities that have accumulated tax-deferred interest. The cost of addressing LTC insurance generally rises with the age when insurance is obtained.
We sat down together and talked about three different vehicles: standalone LTC insurance, an LTC-linked annuity and a LTC-linked life-insurance policy. Each has advantages.
The stand-alone policy has the advantage of being part of the Ohio Partnership Plan. To understand that, know that many LTC recipients eventually spend all their assets on their care and eventually turn to Medicaid for ongoing coverage. In fact, Medicaid insists that one impoverish oneself (spend down) before it will agree to pay for ongoing care in the nursing home. But if one has a Partnership Plan, it is possible to protect some assets from that rule and to keep something for the future or for one’s heirs.
The amount of benefits provided in the stand-alone Partnership Plan equals the amount of one’s assets that can avoid having to be spent down before Medicaid will cover the person. For example, if the plan provides $300,000 of LTC benefits, one can protect $300,000 from having to be spent down.
This makes such stand-alone plans attractive. Unfortunately, if you do not use the benefits, you have wasted your money. There is no refund feature. And premiums for most such policies that people own have been increasing, some dramatically. They cannot be paid for with a single premium.
The LTC-linked annuities that I have seen usually require a single premium to work effectively. An existing annuity can be rolled over tax-free (1035 exchange) to an LTClinked annuity. But the full LTC benefits are not available until the cash in the annuity has grown over time. Additional premiums are not required. And, if LTC benefits are never needed, the cash in the policy is available for lifetime withdrawals or for a death benefit. It does not participate in the Partnership program.
The LTC-linked life-insurance policy provides a death benefit that can be fully drawn upon for LTC needs. Any death benefit not drawn out for LTC will be paid to the beneficiary tax-free at the insured’s death. It can be purchased with a single premium or even periodic premiums as frequent as monthly. Later, if one wishes, the payment frequency can be modified. But the amount of the premium generally does not increase. I have not seen an LTC-linked life policy that qualifies for the Partnership Plan. An existing life-insurance policy but not an existing annuity can be rolled tax-free into a LTClinked life-insurance policy.
With the life-insurance approach, regardless of the manner of payment, the full LTC benefit and death benefit are available from the first day, even if just one monthly premium has been paid. Here someone, either the insured, the beneficiary, or both, will get the full benefit. If the owner is healthy enough to qualify for life insurance, I believe that this is the best way to address LTC needs.

J. Brendán Ryan is an East Walnut Hills insurance agent. Reach him at jbryanclu@aol.com or 513-221-1454.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Grocery List



Louise Redden, a poorly dressed lady with a look of defeat on her face, walked into a grocery store. She approached the owner of the store in a most humble manner and asked if he would let her charge a few groceries. She softly explained that her husband was very ill and unable to work, they had seven children and they needed food.  John Longhouse, the grocer, scoffed at her and requested that she leave his store at once. Visualizing the family needs, she said: 'Please, sir! I will bring you the money just as soon as I can.' John told her he could not give her credit, since she did not have a charge account at his store.
Standing beside the counter was a customer who overheard the conversation between the two. The customer walked forward and told the grocer that he would stand good for whatever she needed for her family. The grocer said in a very reluctant voice, 'Do you have a grocery list?' Louise replied, 'Yes sir.' 'O.K' he said, 'put your grocery list on the scales and whatever your grocery list weighs, I will give you that amount in groceries.' Louise hesitated a moment with a bowed head, then she reached into her purse and took out a piece of paper and scribbled something on it. She then laid the piece of paper on the scale carefully with her head still bowed. The eyes of the grocer and the customer showed amazement when the scales went down and stayed down. The grocer, staring at the scales, turned slowly to the customer and said begrudgingly, 'I can't believe it.'
The customer smiled and the grocer started putting the groceries on the other side of the scales. The scale did not balance so he continued to put more and more groceries on them until the scales would hold no more. The grocer stood there in utter disgust. Finally, he grabbed the piece of paper from the scales and looked at it with even greater amazement. It was not a grocery list; it was a prayer, which said: 'Dear Lord, you know my needs and I am leaving this in your hands.'
The grocer gave her the groceries that he had gathered and stood in stunned silence. Louise thanked him and left the store. The other customer handed a hundred-dollar bill to the grocer and said; 'It was worth every penny of it. Only God knows how much a prayer weighs.'

Saturday, November 16, 2013

What Keeps Me Catholic? Instability



Pulling up to the red light, I saw the arm hanging outside the window, cigarette in hand. Cautiously, not wanting to make eye contact, I looked things over. The pickup had seen better days. No rims on the wheels and rusting throughout the body. Junk and trash were littered in the truck bed. Then, nervously, I spied a glance at him. Scruffy is probably the best word 1 can use to describe what he looked like. What really caught my attention though was his tattoo. Visibly, on his right forearm, were letters. I spelled them out: U-N-S-T-A-B-L-E. I was a little taken a back — UNSTABLE. At least I’d been warned.
Now I don’t often picture Jesus in a pickup truck, smoking a cigarette, with a tattoo on his right arm, but you never know. As the encounter continues to fade from memory, the word UNSTABLE hasn’t. If Jesus’ person and ministry were characterized by anything it was instability. We get a hint of this “imbalancing act” and what’s to come later in Jesus’ life in Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46, 5 1-53): “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.... He has shown might with His arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry He has filled with good things; the rich He has sent away empty.”
Is it any wonder that there eventually will be a price on Jesus’ head? Yet, who really wants to live in a world where the first are last and the last are first? That’s too much instability. Rather than be embraced by His hometown of Nazareth for bringing glad tidings to the poor, liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed, the townspeople were infuriated at this upstart preacher, especially His comparisons to the prophets Elijah and Elisha (Luke 4:16-30). Jesus challenged their expectations as to who and what a Messiah was then and still for us today. Ask St. Peter (Matthew 16:13-28).
Just when we’re ready to settle into our routines and relax knowing what’s coming next, Jesus upsets things all over again with His words. We’re told to love our enemies; pray for those who persecute us. He tells us that we cannot serve both God and mammon. Then there’s the supposed blessedness of the Beatitudes. Another hard one is to stop judging others. Doesn’t Jesus know the type of people that we work with? It’s like He wants to rob me of my complacency of faith or something.
Pope Francis has been making some people nervous and unstable as well. In a recent interview for Jesuit publications, he called the church to be more inclusive saying: “This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity.” He went on to admit that the church, at times, “has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules” going so far as to say that “we have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”
Though the first impulse may be to seek safety and security, Jesus is just as likely to be found in the margins, shadows, alleys, even pickup trucks. It is there where the Church invites me to go, stretching myself, allowing me to feel uncomfortable, and, finally, to meet Christ.  I don’t always like it, but I know I need it — instability. It’s what keeps me Catholic.

Daley is a freelance writer and teacher at St. Xavier High School. The Catholic Telegraph November, 2013
(http://thecatholictelegraph.com)

Financial Planner Approaches Work In Christian Context



Chuck Locy may be a financial planner with an academic background, but he approaches his work in a Christian context and not only from the point of view of stewardship. ‘Planning for retirement and for management of your assets after your death requires a delicate approach. You want the client to approach it from a place of love versus a place of fear, he said.
‘Ego often gets in the way when a person feared they have not managed their affairs well. Everyone has a very personal expression of their emotional response to these analytical questions. Sometimes it also requires some spiritual growth”
While most people need for things to be tweaked, he said ‘improving the bottom line can often mean people have to change their habits. ‘We all have short term fantasies. We’ve all heard of the person who wins the lottery only to be bankrupt 18-36 months later. Having a windfall of a large sum of money will not change the bad habits of someone poor at relationships and managing their affairs. “You first have to get that debt behind you and the sooner the latter”
One meeting with a financial planner won’t change those emotions. It takes commitment to plan toward an objective,” he said. “Women seem to be better at it than men. It’s a cultural difference.”  He also has some counsel for those with assets who want to help other members of the family. “Be careful about the gifts that you make, you have to do it without expecting something to come back,” Locy said. ‘Let them go elsewhere for loans if you can’t make the loan or offer the gift with an open heart,
Locy said many financial planners have the first interview at no cost to the client. “Sometimes we can help; sometimes we can’t,” he said “We especially can’t help if the individual is not willing to be candid. They must tell us all.”

By Steve Trosley (http://thecatholictelegraph.com)

Pope Encourages Visits to Retired Priests, Nuns



Calling homes for retired priests and nuns sanctuaries of holiness, Pope Francis asked Catholics to visit them.
In his homily Oct. 18, the pope described retired clergy and religious as ‘good priests and good sisters, aged and bearing the weight of solitude, waiting for the Lord to knock on the doors of their hearts, ‘Lets not forget them,’ he said during the Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
The pope said when he thinks of the closing days of St. Paul’s life, My heart remembers those sanctuaries of apostolicity and sanctity rest homes for priests and sisters’ He said Christians can make a pilgrimage by visiting the elderly priests and nuns, who ‘wait for the Lord a bit like Paul: perhaps a bit sad, but also with a sense of peace and a happy face.
The 76-year-old pope added, “It would do us all good to think about that final stage of life ... and pray to the Lord: Watch over those who are facing that moment of the final letting go so that they could say once again, ‘Yes, Lord, I want to follow you.’
 
(Catholic News Service) http://thecatholictelegraph.com

Divorced & Remarried Catholics Topic of 2014 Synod



The predicament of divorced and remarried Catholics will be a major topic of discussion when bishops from around the world meet at the Vatican in October 2014.
The Vatican announced Oct. 8 that an extraordinary session of the Synod of Bishops will meet Oct. 5- 19, 2014, to discuss the “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.”  For some in the U.S., the announcement was read as a signal that Pope Francis had some changes in mind for church teaching on divorce, declarations of nullity and remarriage and when Catholics could receive the Eucharist.
In the context of the worldwide church, the problem of pastoral care for married couples and those who are divorced or remarried is a significant issue because the United States is unique in the number of well-staffed tribunals serving dioceses here, according to Sister of Mercy Victoria Vondenberger, director of the archdiocesan Tribunal.
“In some countries, like those in South America where Pope Francis is from, they have trouble finding staff for (the most basic) pastoral functions, she said. “The church is always going to defend the ideal of a lifetime commitment,” when it comes to marriage. Changing that is not possible.”
The pope had told reporters accompanying him on his plane back from Rio de Janeiro in July that the next synod would explore a “somewhat deeper pastoral care of marriage,” including the question of the eligibility of divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion.
Pope Francis added at the time that church law governing marriage annulments also “has to be reviewed, because ecclesiastical tribunals are not sufficient for this...”
But, Sister Victoria said, speeding up the process may be possible. “By Canon Law, the process should take a year to 18 months. Sometimes cases are more complicated but that time line is customary.”
Catholics can come to the Tribunal seeking help after a civil divorce and it is usually understood to be the mechanism for receiving a declaration of nullity for a marriage. Sometimes the case is simple. If a Catholic marries an unbaptized non-Catholic, by Canon Law, the marriage is not valid so it’s relatively easy to get a declaration of nullity (“annulment” is an incorrect term.)
But other cases require the collection of testimony and sometimes it takes many months to find an individual named in a case.  The October 2014 gathering will be an “extraordinary general session” of the synod, which according to the Code of Canon Law is held to “deal with matters which require a speedy solution.”

By Steve Trosley (Catholic News Service contributed to this report.)

What is the Catholic Church’s Teaching on Hell




The Apostles Creed mentions that “Jesus descended into Hell.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church treats this question (nn. 631-637). In short, Jesus (lid stiffer on the Cross and die, but through His death, lie conquered sin, death, and the devil, After His death, Jesus descended into the realm of the dead or Sheol, in the Jewish tradition, to open the gates of heaven to the souls of the just who waited there.
Sheol was the “place” where souls, whether evil or good, went while they awaited the Redeemer. The fate of those souls was not the same. For example, Jesus tells the parable of the Rich Man, who was in torment in flames, and Lazarus, the poor man, who rested in the bosom of Abraham (Luke 16:19-30).
In the “bosom of Abraham” the souls of the just awaited the Redeemer. Wisdom (3:1-4) speaks of these souls: “The souls of the just are in the hands of God and no torment shall touch them. They seemed in the view of the foolish to be dead, and their passing away was though an affliction, and their going forth utter destruction, hut they are at peace. For if before men, indeed they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality.” In hope, these souls awaited deliverance.
In his “Passover,” a passing over from death to life, from the depths of hell and death, Jesus made “life spring forth” (CCC 631). Jesus, like us in all things but sin, truly experienced death. Like all others who die, His soul descended into the real in of death, hut because He was the just One, the devil had no claim on Him whatsoever. Instead of being held captive, He descended as Savior and proclaimed the Good News even there. (CCC 632) As he began His earthly ministry in Galilee, Jesus stated that He had come to proclaim liberty to the captives (cf. Luke 4:18). Now among the dead, He continues His messianic mission.
Jesus did not descend into hell 10 deliver the damned, nor did 1-Ic destroy the hell of damnation which awaits the unrighteous; rather. He descended to bring freedom and deliverance to the just. No one should be surprised that Jesus went among the dead to preach the good news. Jesus himself said, “Amen, Amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (john 5:25).
In dying and destroying death, Jesus also destroyed the Kingdom of the Evil One and destroyed “him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage. Surely he did not help angels, but rather, the descendants of Abraham” (Hebrews
2:14-16). Revelation (1:18) reminds us the Risen Christ holds “the keys of Death and the netherworld.” His descent among the dead brings the Good News of salvation to fulfillment inasmuch as it signifies that the redemptive work of Christ is extended to people of all times and places. Those who are saved are made sharers in the Redemption (CCC 634).
What makes this truth difficult to grasp in our noisy culture is that Jesus performed this action in silence- out of human sight. In his Introduction to Christianity Joseph Ratzinger wrote: “Thus the article about the Lord’s descent into hell reminds us that not only God’s speech hut also His silence is part of Christian Revelation. God is not only the comprehensible word that comes to us; He is also silent, inaccessible, uncomprehended
God is word, but this does riot entitle us to forget the truth of God’s abiding concealment. Only’ when we have experienced him as silence may we hope to hear His speech, too, which proceeds in silence. Christology reaches mat beyond the Cross, the moment when the divine love is tangible, into death, the silence and the eclipse of God. Can we wonder that the church and the life of the individual are led again and again into this hour of silence, into the forgotten and almost discarded article, “Descended into hell?”

Father Femandes is dean of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary and the Athenaeum of Ohio.  He is assistant professor of moral theology.

Special Message from the Bishops of the United States



The bishops of this country have just concluded their traditional fall meeting in Baltimore and have spent time on issues important to them and their people: help to those suffering from Typhoon Haiyan; an update on the situation in Haiti; matters of worship and teaching; service to the poor; and comprehensive immigration reform. Among those priorities is the protection of religious freedom, especially as threatened by the HHS mandate.
Pope Francis has reminded us that “In the context of society, there is only one thing which the Church quite clearly demands: the freedom to proclaim the Gospel in its entirety, even when it runs counter to the world, even when it goes against the tide.”
We stand together as pastors charged with proclaiming the Gospel in its entirety. That Gospel calls us to feed the poor, heal the sick, and educate the young. In so doing we witness to our faith in its fullness. Our great ministries of service and our clergy, religious sisters and brothers, and lay faithful, especially those involved in Church apostolates, strive to answer this call every day, and the Constitution and the law protect our freedom to do so.
Yet with its coercive HHS mandate, the government is refusing to uphold its obligation to respect the rights of religious believers. Beginning in March 2012, in United for Religious Freedom, we identified three basic problems with the HHS mandate: it establishes a false architecture of religious liberty that excludes our ministries and so reduces freedom of religion to freedom of worship; it compels our ministries to participate in providing employees with abortifacient drugs and devices, sterilization, and contraception, which violates our deeply-held beliefs; and it compels our faithful people in business to act against our teachings, failing to provide them any exemption at all.
Despite our repeated efforts to work and dialogue toward a solution, those problems remain. Not only does the mandate undermine our ministries’ ability to witness to our faith, which is their core mission, but the penalties it imposes also lay a great burden on those ministries, threatening their very ability to survive and to serve the many who rely on their care.
The current impasse is all the more frustrating because the Catholic Church has long been a leading provider of, and advocate for, accessible, life-affirming health care. We would have preferred to spend these recent past years working toward this shared goal instead of resisting this intrusion into our religious liberty. We have been forced to devote time and resources to a conflict we did not start nor seek.
As the government’s implementation of the mandate against us approaches, we bishops stand united in our resolve to resist this heavy burden and protect our religious freedom. Even as each bishop struggles to address the mandate, together we are striving to develop alternate avenues of response to this difficult situation. We seek to answer the Gospel call to serve our neighbors, meet our obligation to provide our people with just health insurance, protect our religious freedom, and not be coerced to violate our consciences. We remain grateful for the unity we share in this endeavor with Americans of all other faiths and even with those of no faith at all. It is our hope that our ministries and lay faithful will be able to continue providing insurance in a manner consistent with the faith of our Church. We will continue our efforts in Congress and especially with the promising initiatives in the courts to protect the religious freedom that ensures our ability to fulfill the Gospel by serving the common good.
This resolve is particularly providential on this feast of the patroness of immigrants; St. Frances Xavier Cabrini.1 She was a brave woman who brought the full vigor of her deep religious faith to the service of the sick, the poor, children, the elderly, and the immigrant. We count on her intercession, as united we obey the command of Jesus to serve the least of our brothers and sisters.

1 St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Virgin (Feast day November 13) St. Frances was born in Lombardi, Italy in 1850, one of thirteen children. At eighteen, she desired to become a Nun, but poor health stood in her way. She helped her parents until their death, and then worked on a farm with her brothers and sisters. 
One day a priest asked her to teach in a girls' school and she stayed for six years. At the request of her Bishop, she founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to care for poor children in schools and hospitals. Then at the urging of Pope Leo XIII she came to the United States with six nuns in 1889 to work among the Italian immigrants.
Filled with a deep trust in God and endowed with a wonderful administrative ability, this remarkable woman soon founded schools, hospitals, and orphanages in this strange land and saw them flourish in the aid of Italian immigrants and children. At the time of her death, at Chicago, Illinois on December 22, 1917, her institute numbered houses in England, France, Spain, the United States, and South America. In 1946, she became the first American citizen to be canonized when she was elevated to sainthood by Pope Pius XII. St. Frances is the patroness of immigrants.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Prayer for the Nation



  • We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.
  • We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope Francis, the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.
  • We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.
  • We pray for his Excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.
  • We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.
  • Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance. To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.

This prayer was first written and first delivered in August 1791 by Bishop Carroll, first Catholic Ordinary in the United States whose appointment marks its 225th anniversary next April 6.

Friday, November 8, 2013

God's Pharmacy



It's been said that God first separated the salt water from the fresh, made dry land, planted a garden, made animals and fish. All before making a human. He made and provided what we'd need before we were born. These are best & more powerful when eaten raw. We're such slow learners.

  1. A sliced Carrot looks like the human eye. The pupil, iris and radiating lines look just like the human eye... And YES, science now shows carrots greatly enhance blood flow to and function of the eyes.
  2. A Tomato has four chambers and is red. The heart has four chambers and is red. All of the research shows tomatoes are loaded with lycopine and are indeed pure heart and blood food.
  3. Grapes hang in a cluster that has the shape of the heart. Each grape looks like a blood cell and all of the research today shows grapes are also profound heart and blood vitalizing food.
  4. A Walnut looks like a little brain, a left and right hemisphere, upper cerebrums and lower cerebellums. Even the wrinkles or folds on the nut are just like the neo-cortex. We now know walnuts help develop more than three (3) dozen neuron-transmitters for brain function.
  5. Kidney Beans actually heal and help maintain kidney function and yes, they look exactly like the human kidneys.
  6. Celery, Bok Choy, Rhubarb and many more look just like bones. These foods specifically target bone strength. Bones are 23% sodium and these foods are 23% sodium. If you don't have enough sodium in your diet, the body pulls it from the bones, thus making them weak. These foods replenish the skeletal needs of the body.
  7. Avocadoes, Eggplant and Pears target the health and function of the womb and cervix of the female - they look just like these organs. Today's research shows that when a woman eats one avocado a week, it balances hormones, sheds unwanted birth weight, and prevents cervical cancers. And how profound is this? It takes exactly nine (9) months to grow an avocado from blossom to ripened fruit. There are over 14,000 photolytic chemical constituents of nutrition in each one of these foods (modern science has only studied and named about 141 of them).
  8. Figs are full of seeds and hang in twos when they grow. Figs increase the mobility of male sperm and increase the numbers of Sperm as well to overcome male sterility.
  9. Sweet Potatoes look like the pancreas and actually balance the glycemic index of diabetics.
  10. Olives assist the health and function of the ovaries
  11. Oranges, Grapefruits, and other Citrus fruits look just like the mammary glands of the female and actually assist the health of the breasts and the movement of lymph in and out of the breasts.
  12. Onions look like the body's cells. Today's research shows onions help clear waste materials from all of the body cells. They even produce tears which wash the epithelial layers of the eyes. A working companion, Garlic, also helps eliminate waste materials and dangerous free radicals from the body.

Marketplace – A Different Way to Shop



TOMS (http://www.toms.com/marketplace) started in 2006 with what was then a novel idea: for every pair of shoes it sold, it would donate a pair to a child living in poverty. Along with donating more than 10 million pairs to date, the company spurred a trend of “buy one, give one” companies, with the eyeglass maker Warby Parker among the best known.  Now Toms is introducing an effort that helps other businesses with a social purpose, Toms Marketplace. The online store, which will be introduced Tuesday, will feature more than 200 products from about 30 companies and charities.  Yellow Leaf Hammocks, for example, employs members of vulnerable communities, like the Mlabri tribe in Thailand, to produce colorful hammocks, while Stone and Cloth produces backpacks and other products in Los Angeles, with a portion of revenue going toward scholarships for students in Tanzania, Africa.  While some of the companies have a one-for-one donation model like Toms, others take different altruistic approaches.
The basis for choosing companies to include in Toms Marketplace wasn’t “‘one for one’ as much as, ‘Does this company really have a mission of improving people’s lives baked into its business model?’ ” said Blake Mycoskie, the founder of Toms, using the shorthand term for donating one item for each item sold.  While consumers are accustomed to recommendations from online merchants based on algorithms, such as Amazon suggesting that a buyer of an Arcade Fire album might also like the National, the new online store will base suggestions on consumers’ concerns along with their tastes.  Visitors will be able to shop by what causes or part of the world they wish to support.
Introduced to coincide with the holiday shopping season, the online store will remain open afterward, selling items ranging in price from $12 (a blank notebook from Denik, with $1 going toward building schools) to $418 (a weekend bag from JADEtribe that is made by women in a Laotian village).  Rather than hosting other brands and taking a commission from sales, Toms has bought the inventory outright at wholesale, and is taking on the logistics of warehousing, shipping and most customer service.
“When I started Toms, people said, ‘What can I do?’ and I said, ‘Sell shoes,’ ” said Mr. Mycoskie, adding that his goal was to now help others sell their wares.  “I thought the best thing that I could give them is a marketplace and exposure to consumers interested in shopping with a larger purpose,” he said.
Lisa Tarver, co-founder of One World Futbol Project, maker of durable soccer balls that do not require inflation and are provided to poor communities through a buy-one-give-one model, said the new venture promises exposure for both the ball and the cause of encouraging sport and play.  “Toms is one of the pioneers in this area, and the marketplace is an opportunity for social entrepreneurs to reach a broader audience,” Ms. Tarver said.
According to an annual study by the Edelman public relations agency, when quality and price were equal, 53 percent of consumers ranked a brand’s activities on social causes as a deciding purchasing factor in 2012, up from 42 percent in 2008.  Carol Cone, global chairwoman of the Business and Social Purpose practice at Edelman, said Toms had resonated with younger consumers because the company “isn’t about a cause patina, but instead is about really being deep and purposeful.”  Ms. Cone, who lauded the new effort, said “the power and velocity of the Toms brand” is likely to help less established brands.
Toms introduced a line of sunglasses in 2011 that contributes to eye care, including prescription eyeglasses and ophthalmic surgery.  With the exception of so-called retargeted digital ads, which are displayed to users after they have visited Toms.com, the company has never advertised — but it will for the new online store.
Billboards that display products offered on Toms Marketplace, with the tagline, “This is bigger than us,” will appear in New York and Los Angeles beginning Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, a 30-second commercial that features Mr. Mycoskie and representatives from the other brands will appear on monitors inside about 7,000 New York cabs. The campaign was produced internally.
Only about 25 percent of the shoes sold by Toms are men’s models, and Mr. Mycoskie said that he hoped the offerings by some of his partner brands, like LSTN, a headphones brand which helps provide hearing aids, and Movember, the men’s health charity that sells T-shirts and other items with its mustache logo, would draw men to the site.  “We sell a lot of shoes to guys, but we’re not connecting to mainstream guys the way that we need to,” Mr. Mycoskie said. “A big part of our future is with guys, and it was an important part of our criteria to have some of these more masculine products that reach more men.”
Sean D. Carasso, founder of Falling Whistles, which has the motto “Be a whistle-blower for peace” and sells whistles to help finance services for former child soldiers and others in Congo, said the cause-related products sold in the new online store would benefit one another.
“If you’re in a dark room filled with candles and holding the only lit candle and you use it to light another candle, you don’t lose any of your energy but now you’re in a brighter room,” Mr. Carasso said. “And that’s how I feel about the marketplace — all of the iterations are stronger together.”

From ‘Buy One, Give One’ Spirit Imbues an Online Store’ By ANDREW ADAM NEWMAN Published: November 4, 2013.  A version of this article appears in print on November 5, 2013, on page B7 of the New York edition.