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English bishop: marriage is God's gift, let us foster it

Shrewsbury, England, Feb 14, 2018 / 10:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Young people still desire to marry despite the crisis surrounding marriage in the contemporary U.K., and Catholics need to defend marriage as God intends it, Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury has said.

Bishop Davies said in a Feb. 10 homily: “may we all recognize our own part in raising our voices and giving our witness to the perennial, enduring gift and grace of marriage of which God himself is the Author.”

The bishop spoke during the diocese’s annual Mass in celebration of marriage, held at the Church of Our Lady and St. Christopher in Romiley, about 80 miles northeast of Shrewsbury. The Mass celebrates significant wedding anniversaries of those in the congregation.

“Generations to come will surely be surprised that we failed as a society, and sometimes even as Christians, to actively propose and defend marriage as it came from the hands of the Creator,” said Bishop Davies.

Christ raised marriage to a sacrament and the Scriptures speak of marriage’s “high purpose” as an image of Christ and the Church, he explained. “Christ chose to begin his public life at a wedding, thereby confirming the goodness of marriage; indeed, the first of his miracles would be for the sake of a married couple,” the bishop added.

However, he spoke of a “human and social crisis” surrounding marriage, an issue which he said should be “raised to the very top of our public concerns.”

He cited “disturbing trends” like historic lows in the U.K. marriage rate and the high divorce rate. There are predictions that only half of today’s 20-year-olds will ever marry, with under 25 percent of those with lower incomes ever marrying.

At the same time, about 75 percent of young people aged 14 to 17 said marriage is one of the key aspirations of their lives, said the bishop, citing the Centre for Social Justice.

“It should not surprise us that, in the face of every discouraging trend, the young still aspire to the vocation of marriage for this was inscribed by the Creator into the very nature of man and woman,” he said.

Bishop Davies’ homily comes as the U.K. government seeks to change marriage registration for the first time since 1837. It would allow opposite-sex couples to register civil partnerships instead of marriages.

If approved, the changes would mean that couples are no longer given a marriage certificate on their wedding day, the Daily Telegraph reports. Couples will not sign an official register that day, but an electronic register will replace the system of registers now held in churches. Marriage certificates will also carry a mother’s name and occupation.

Bishop Davies suggested the proposal has its priorities wrong.

Until recently, he said, the state “recognized the bond of marriage and with great reverence sought to protect it as vital to the well-being of society and the health of the family.”

“If the present government is seeking the greatest shake-up of marriage registration laws for 200 years then it should surely be seeking to strengthen marriage not to further undermine it,” he said.

“The Church has always recognized divine wisdom in this call to love and faithfulness inherently open to receive the gift of children,” he added. “She possesses no authority to change or compromise the promises on which marriage rests.”

Citing the Second Vatican Council’s pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world, Gaudium et spes, the bishop said the Church sees individual well-being as bound up with “the healthy state of married and family life.” The Church hopes to encourage Christians and “all who are trying to preserve and foster the dignity and supremely sacred value of the married state.”

Bishop Davies further voiced hope for new diocesan initiatives to promote the vocation of marriage and noted the work of the diocesan Caritas affiliate to “support the family in this time of crisis.”

Where do Ash Wednesday ashes come from?

Washington D.C., Feb 14, 2018 / 01:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Or, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

On Ash Wednesday, millions of Catholics throughout the English-speaking world will hear one of these two blessings as a priest applies ashes to their forehead in the sign of the cross.

But where exactly do the black or grey powdery ashes come from?

Per the instructions of the Roman Missal, ashes are typically supposed to be made from last year’s Palm Sunday palm branches.

These branches are then burned down into a fine powder and, in the United States, are mixed with holy water or chrism oil to create a light paste. In other parts of the world, sometimes dry ashes are sprinkled on the head rather than made into a paste.

BYOA - Burn Your Own Ashes

Fr. Dan Folwaczny is a priest with the Archdiocese of Chicago and serves as associate pastor at St. Norbert and Our Lady of the Brook parish.

He told CNA that the parish burns their own palms from previous Palm Sundays.

“We have an order of palms that comes in, and some of them are handed out on Palm Sunday but some are leftover, and those we usually store away in the garage until the following year,” he told CNA.

“And then also we have some that people bring back, so people have had them in their houses in the lead-up to Lent, and we’ll tell people to bring them in to the church,” he said.

Then on the day before Ash Wednesday, all of the old palms are placed in a fire pit on the church steps.

“And then the school kids come out and we have a little prayer service and light it on fire,” Folwaczny said.

While some priests order palms from religious goods suppliers, Folwaczny said he has always had plenty of palms and ashes to spare.

“We actually still have plenty in reserve from previous years,” he said. “We could actually not [burn additional palms] for a couple of years and still be fine.”

A similar procedure for the burning of ashes is followed in many parishes and dioceses, including the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia.

 

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. The ashes you receive on your forehead come from burning the palm branches that were blessed last Palm Sunday. Students from Saint Benedict Catholic School in Richmond are with their Pastor, Rev. Anthony Marques. pic.twitter.com/w4nBSpljTu

— Diocese of Richmond (@RichmondDiocese) February 13, 2018


 

Fr. Harrison Ayre, with the Diocese of Victoria, British Columbia, told CNA on Twitter that he burns his own ashes for Ash Wednesday in a metal garbage bin “and they reduce to ashes quite nicely.”

Ash buyers

While many parishes use Ash Wednesday as an opportunity to use up last year’s palms, the Church also allows for the buying of ashes from religious goods suppliers.

Fr. Joseph Faulkner, a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., told CNA on Twitter that he buys his ashes from religious goods suppliers to avoid sub-par or “stabby” ashes.

For Catholic parishes in Colorado, one of the most-used such suppliers is Gerken’s Religious Supplies.

“There is quite an art to (burning ashes),” Mike Gerken, the co-owner, told the Denver Catholic last year.

“To get the good ash, you can’t just burn them. You have to let them smolder with no oxygen, and that’s where it gets the real charcoal black.”

Religious goods suppliers such as Gerken’s typically get their Palm Sunday palms, and sometimes the palm ashes as well, from palm suppliers in the warmer parts of the United States, such as California, Texas, Florida and other parts of the South.

Why Palm Sunday palms?

There is liturgical significance in the use of the palms from Palm Sunday, as opposed to other materials, to make the ashes for Ash Wednesday.

Father Randy Stice, associate director for the Secretariat of Divine Worship for the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, told CNA that the ashes made from palms remind us of what Lent is all about.

“Those branches herald Holy Week, the suffering death and resurrection of Christ,” Stice said. The feast of Palm Sunday occurs the beginning of Holy Week, which leads up to Easter. “Then that helps us identity with (Jesus) in Lent...it connects us with events in Christ’s own life,” he said.

Ashes have also long been a symbol of repentance and conversion, even in the Old Testament, Stice added.

“It’s an Old Testament and a New Testament symbol of repentance and conversion, sorrow for our sins, awareness of our frailty and mortality - [symbols] that have been taken up by the Church from the earliest stages.”  

 

 

Rocket launch prompts talk of living on Mars – what’s a Catholic to think?

Rome, Italy, Feb 14, 2018 / 12:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A major rocket launch by entrepreneur Elon Musk’s aerospace company, SpaceX, on Feb. 6 has been hailed as a major step toward cheaper and more frequent spaceflight – and the eventual population of Mars.

In the face of such unexplored terrain, how should Catholics respond?

While “this kind of expansion is in its infancy, and full exploration of space is a long way off... this is the time to start thinking about and planning for these things,” Jesuit Br. Robert Macke told CNA.

Curator of the meteorite collection at the Vatican Observatory, and holding a PhD in physics, Br. Macke said technological progressions such as the SpaceX rocket do not change how we relate to God, but “as with any new development in technology or the way things are done, the main question for persons of faith regards how it is to be used.”

The question we need to ask is if the technology is being used “in a way that is just, and compatible with moral theology and ethics,” he said, raising the importance of Catholic social teaching in the future of space travel.

While it is still too early to see how it will be used, “one aspect to keep an eye on is whether such technology, accessible to the private sector, further divides the rich and the poor; those who can go to and exploit the resources of space, and those who will never have that chance.”

According to the SpaceX website, the Falcon Heavy is the most powerful operational rocket by a factor of two. It lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Feb. 6 at 3:45 p.m. ET and has the capacity to lift into orbit nearly 64 metric tons (141,000 lbs) – a mass greater than a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel, the website says.

The rocket carried and released into orbit a Tesla Roadster, complete with a mannequin driver called “Starman,” decked out in astronaut gear.

The luxury sports car is worth $100,000, and according to the website whereisroadster.com – which is tracking the convertible’s up-to-the-second location – on Feb. 13 at 5:50:14 it was 1,245,8587 miles from earth (and quickly increasing).

The same website tracks that at that time, the car had exceeded its 36,000-mile warranty 231.4 times “while driving around the Sun” at a speed of approximately 55,479 miles/hour.
The development of commercial enterprises, such as the Falcon Heavy, is a necessary first step to “widespread space travel and colonization,” Br. Macke said, but he stressed that whether they are on earth or Mars, human nature remains the same.

“As more people are in space, they will not cease to be people. They will form a complex society with all of the good and bad aspects of any modern culture,” he said. This includes good things, such as economic growth and new technologies.

But it could also have some negative consequences, he noted, especially environmental ones.

“As we have learned from the age of exploration on Earth, when we introduce invasive species in a new environment, they often take over and overwhelm the area. Microbes and bacteria that hitch a ride on spacecraft may become invasive on Mars or other planets, and if there is any native life, it may be overwhelmed and lost.”

Governmental space programs have protocols in place to minimize the number of microbes and other earth-based contaminants that could reach other planets on spacecraft, he said, and there are international laws in place to which private corporations must adhere.

But increasing the amount of space travel will also increase the risk of contamination. For example, the Tesla Roadster wasn’t fully sterilized, Macke said. Because it won’t land on Mars, it is not subject to the same laws.

 

Florida bishop supports bill to limit criminally charging minors as adults

Tallahassee, Fla., Feb 13, 2018 / 05:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Under current legislation, in the state of Florida there is no minimum age requirement for an individual to be criminally indicted as an adult.

However, Bishop William Wack of Pensacola-Tallahassee wants to change that.

This week, Bishop Wack urged support for House Bill 509 and Senate Bill 936, which would reform the current system and prevent youths under the age of 14 from entering the adult criminal system.

“Placing children in adult jails is a sign of failure, not a solution,” Bishop Wack wrote in a Feb. 12 opinion piece at the Tallahassee Democrat.

“While there is no question that violent and dangerous youth need to be confined for their safety and that of society, children should not be treated as though they are equal to adults,” he continued.

Wack pointed to the story of a Florida boy, named Tim Kane. He was 14-years old when his friends killed two people. Because he was a witness to the crime, he was indicted for felony murder and charged as an adult.

While Kane had no previous criminal record, he will serve life in prison for being “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Wack.

The Florida bishop pointed to the numerous dangers involved with charging a youth as an adult. Wack said this process creates a “threat to public safety because it creates more crime,” since “recidivism rates for children prosecuted as adults are higher than rates for children whose cases are resolved in the juvenile justice system.”

“Adult facilities are not equipped with the appropriate education and transition services for children,” Wack said, also noting that children experience a higher risk of “sexual abuse and suicide” in the adult criminal system.

When youth are charged as adults, they will also carry the label of “felony conviction” with them for the rest of their lives, which would bar them from partaking in various opportunities, such as serving in the military, receiving financial aid, and voting.

Because of these various downsides, Wack encouraged state legislators to support House Bill 509 and Senate Bill 936 in the upcoming session. These bills would make it impossible for a youth under the age of 14 to be transferred into the adult criminal system. It would also offer other juvenile justice protections and make changes to the current law.

“Present scientific knowledge of the adolescent brain and the development of children demonstrates that children are different from adults,” Wack said.

“It is time to establish a minimum age for indictment.”

LA Archbishop calls for compromise and compassion in Senate immigration debate

Washington D.C., Feb 13, 2018 / 03:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As the US Senate begins a debate on immigration, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said that “Dreamers” should not be used as “bargaining chips” in the political process.

In a column published in Angelus, the archbishop wrote that although he’s “encouraged” the government is considering a path to citizenship for nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children, he thinks their future should not be “tied to broader, more complicated questions about how to fix our broken immigration system.”  

“To me, it would be unconscionable to allow this moment to pass and risk the humanitarian nightmare of more than a million young people being deported and their families broken up. There is no political goal that could justify such an outcome,” Gomez wrote.

The Senate will debate several immigration reform proposals this week.

The plan supported by the Trump Administration ties funding for increased border security--including the construction of a wall--to the creation of a path for citizenship for “Dreamers,” as well as the elimination of the diversity visa lottery and restrictions on family-sponsored migration, commonly known as “chain migration.”

A bipartisan proposal offered last week does not include funding for a border wall, but would increase border security in other ways while creating a path to citizenship for “Dreamers.”

In his column, Archbishop Gomez called the current immigration system in the United States “broken,” and suggested three areas “essential to fixing our broken system:” securing the border, modernizing the visa process, and creating a way for the undocumented people living in the country to obtain legal status.

“I hope that members of Congress and advocates are willing to at least engage this plan in a spirit of seeking compromise and trying to extend compassion to those who have come here seeking a better life,” said Gomez.

The archbishop himself is an immigrant to the United States, having been born in Mexico and becoming a US citizen in 1995.

Gomez accused both major political parties of trying to exploit the immigration issue, and said that the only thing this has accomplished is “further dividing our nation and polarizing our politics.”

The archbishop offered a mixed review of President Donald Trump’s immigration proposal, saying that while he’s “encouraged” about a path for “Dreamers” to citizenship, “I disagree with the Administration..in the area of visa reform.”

The Trump Administration’s proposal would limit family-sponsored migration to the spouse and minor children of an immigrant, and would not include grandparents, cousins, or any other relatives.

“Family-based immigration has served our country beautifully. Immigrant families have built vibrant neighborhoods, churches and civic institutions in every part of America.” Gomez wrote.  

He continued, “(...)Family means more than just mother and father and sister and brother. It also means grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins.”

Gomez also argued that the United States shouldn’t shift to a singularly merit-based system, as the country needs a “realistic” system that allows in both skilled and unskilled workers.

“We have never had an immigration policy that only looks at people for the skills they have to offer or the economic contributions they can make,” he added.

The debate on immigration is scheduled to last for a week, and both sides of the aisle are scrambling to come up with a proposal that will garner the necessary 60 votes in order to pass the Senate. That proposal will then go to the House of Representatives and on to President Trump.

It’s a miracle: Lourdes healing officially declared supernatural

Lourdes, France, Feb 12, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A miracle was officially recognized at the Marian shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France this week, the 70th Lourdes miracle recognized by the Catholic Church.

The miracle was officially declared by Bishop Jacques Benoit-Gonin of Beauvais, France on Feb. 11, the World Day of the Sick and the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes. During Mass at the shrine’s basilica, Bishop Nicolas Brouwet of Lourdes announced the miracle.

The miraculous event involved a French nun, Sister Bernadette Moriau, who went on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in 2008. She had been suffering from spinal complications which had rendered her wheelchair-bound and fully disabled since 1980. She also said she had been taking morphine to control the pain.

When Sister Moriau visited the Lourdes Shrine almost a decade ago, she said she “never asked for a miracle,” according to the Associated Press.

However, after attending a blessing for the sick at the shrine, something began to change.

“I felt a [surge of] well-being throughout my body, a relaxation, warmth…I returned to my room and there, a voice told me to ‘take off your braces,’” recalled the now 79-year old nun.

“Surprise. I could move,” Moriau said, noting that she instantaneously walked away from her wheelchair, braces, and pain medications.

Moriau’s case was brought to the attention of the International Medical Committee of Lourdes, who extensively researched the nun’s recovery. They eventually found that Moriau’s healing could not be scientifically explained.

After a healing is recognized by the Lourdes committee, the paperwork is then sent to the diocese of origin, where the local bishop has the final say. After the bishop’s blessing, a healing can then be officially recognized by the Church as a miracle.

The shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in southern France is a popular pilgrimage destination for individuals with special devotions to Mary and for those seeking miraculous healings. It is the site where young Bernadette Soubirous witnessed Marian apparitions, beginning on Feb. 11, 1858. The shrine also holds a spring of water which is said to have miraculous healing properties.

While there have been more than 7,000 miraculous recoveries attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes at the French shrine, only 70 cases have been officially recognized by the Catholic Church. A miraculous recovery must generally be a complete, spontaneous, and immediate healing from a documented medical condition.

The last official miracle attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes was declared in 2013.

 

Cardinal Marx: Bill banning circumcision in Iceland a threat to religious freedom

Reykjavik, Iceland, Feb 8, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A new bill proposed in Iceland that would make circumcision punishable by up to six years in prison is a “dangerous attack” on religious freedom, Cardinal Reinhard Marx has said.

“Protecting the health of children is a legitimate goal of every society, but in this case this concern is instrumentalized, without any scientific basis, to stigmatise certain religious communities. This is extremely worrying,” Marx said in a statement.

Marx commented on the issue as President of the Catholic Church in the European Union (COMECE). While Iceland does not belong to the European Union, it does have “privileged relations” with EU countries, COMECE noted.

“COMECE considers any attempt on the fundamental right to freedom of religion as unacceptable. The criminalisation of circumcision is a very grave measure that raises deep concern,” Marx added.  

Circumcision is a religious ritual for many, notably Jews and Muslims. Jews typically circumcise infant boys eight days after birth, while Muslim practices vary widely.

The proposed bill states that “Anyone who...causes damage to the body or health of a child or a woman by...removing sexual organs shall be imprisoned for up to 6 years.”

The bill specifically states that circumcisions on boys, if performed for non-medical reasons, would be banned in Iceland under the bill. Female circumcision has been banned in Iceland since 2005.

Male circumcisions used to be “generally encouraged...to prevent various disorders and behaviors,” the bill states.

“In recent years, this view has been expanding, and is quite widespread in Europe, that the execution of a construction for a purpose other than a medical is a violation of human rights boys because of irreversible interventions in their bodies,” it states, and carries a risk of infection.

The bill also states that circumcision of young boys violates “Article 12. UN Convention on the Rights of Children to Affect Your Own Life” as well as “paragraph 3. Article 24 which guarantees children protection against traditions that are harmful to children's health.”

While the bill does not define at what age childhood ends, the age of sexual consent in Iceland is 15 years of age.

According to Mayo Clinic, circumcision may have some health benefits, including easier hygiene, decreased risk of urinary tract infections, decreased risk of sexually transmitted infections, and a decreased risk of penile cancer.

The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that the benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks, although they encourage parental discretion in the decision.

The health risks and benefits have been a topic of debate for several years in some European countries, although none have banned the practice outright.

Iceland, which has a population of around 334,000, has a small Muslim population of a few hundred people, and an even smaller Jewish population of around 100 people.

While Iceland has no designated Rabbi, Jewish news source ynetnews.com reports that Chief Rabbi of Denmark Yair Melchior and the Rabbi of Oslo, Yoav Melchior are campaigning against the bill on behalf of the Jewish population in Iceland.

"Iceland does not have a significant Jewish or Muslim population; therefore there are hardly any opponents to the bill. Only considerable international pressure can help," the Rabbis told ynetnews.

"There is no country in the world now that bans circumcision. This sets a dangerous precedent that may affect other countries; the Danish parliament is now considering such a bill as well," they added. The Danish Medical Association has advised against male circumcision in boys for several years, though no ban has been enacted in the country.

The European Conference of Rabbis also voiced their opposition to the bill in a statement, as reported in ynetnews.

"Circumcision is a critical part of Jewish life and no authority in the world can forbid Jews from carrying out this commandment," they said.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the group, added that "although the Icelandic Jewish community is small, we cannot ignore the dangerous precedent that this law can set and the consequences that such legislation can cause in other countries.”

"We call on lawmakers to immediately rescind this miserable piece of legislation and continue supporting Jewish life without limits."

It is unclear when the bill would be up for a vote.

Parents of terminally ill son request transfer to Vatican hospital during legal battle

Liverpool, England, Feb 7, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Parents of Alfie Evans, a 20-month old boy in the U.K. who suffers from an unknown neurological degenerative condition, are pleading in court to keep their son on life-support and seek alternative treatments.
 
Alfie, who is on life support at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, is said to be in a “semi-vegetative state,” according to BBC News. His parents, Tom Evans and Kate James, are currently fighting a legal battle with the hospital to keep treating their son.
 
“I’m not holding on to anything. I’m holding on to Alfie. He looks at me in the eyes and tells me he needs help,” said Evans, according to the Liverpool Echo.
 
“The quality of life he’s got not – he’s there, he has got a quality of life. 100 percent, and he can come out of this,” Evans continued, saying “we know he is not going to recover, but we also know in our son we see potential and we see life.”
 
While doctors at the Alder Hey hospital have called further life-saving efforts for Alfie “futile,” his parents are requesting their son’s transfer to the Vatican-linked Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital in Rome, also known as the “Pope’s Hospital.”
 
Doctors at the Bambino Gesu hospital have suggested operations that would help Alfie breathe and eat, which could prolong his life.
 
Alfie, who was born in May 2016, is surviving with an estimated 70 percent loss of his brain nerve fiber, and reportedly only has brain activity during seizures. Doctors who have been involved in his case testified in court that continuing to treat Alfie in his current state is “unkind,” and moved to end Alfie’s life in December.
 
Doctors at Alfie’s current hospital have said they have already sought advice from outside experts, saying “we don’t give up on children easily,”  the Liverpool Echo reported.
 
“Prolonging his life unnecessarily is not a way to go considering his brain is being progressively destroyed and there is no prospect of recovery,” said Prof. Helen Cross during the ongoing court hearing.
 
However, Alfie’s parents have said that their son is improving, and want to seek other alternatives at the Bambino Gesu Hospital – the same hospital that offered care in the 2017 case of Charlie Gard, a U.K. baby who was dying of a terminal illness due to a rare genetic disease. British and European courts had sided with officials from Great Ormond Street Hospital, who successfully sought to bar Charlie Gard’s parents from seeking treatment for their child overseas.
 
Tens of thousands have rallied behind Alfie’s parents in the form of support groups on social media, calling themselves “Alfie’s Army.” Some supporters made appearances during the hearing, wearing “release Alfie Evans” T-shirts.
 
The legal hearing is ongoing in Liverpool Civil and Family Court, but the judge, Justice Anthony Hayden, has said that the official judgement could take a number of days to complete.

 

UGCC Bishops of Canada – On the Relocation of Holy Spirit Seminary

Pastoral Letter of the Ukrainian Catholic Bishops of Canada Announcing THE RELOCATION OF HOLY SPIRIT UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC SEMINARY To the Very Reverend Clergy, Monastics and Religious Sisters, Seminarians and Laity of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada: (The Lord said to Joshua) I command you: be firm and steadfast! Do not fear nor be dismayed, […]

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Eastern Hospitality: A Discussion on Fasting

The post Eastern Hospitality: A Discussion on Fasting appeared first on Royal Doors.