Catholic News in Europe

Rome, Italy, Jun 27, 2017 / 03:27 pm (CNA).- More than 10 years ago, Joseph Prever found himself scouring the internet for anything that might help him: he was gay, Catholic, and confused. Resources were scarce for a man struggling with homosexuality and trying to remain faithful to the Church’s teaching.

In the intervening years, Catholics experiencing same-sex attraction have become a more vocal presence in the Church.

Google the words “gay Catholic” and one of the top sites to appear will be Prever’s own blog, a blog with the tagline: “Catholic, Gay, and Feeling Fine.” There, the 30-something writer considers his own experiences as a man struggling with same-sex attraction and trying to live out the virtue of chastity.

What follows is an edited version of a conversation about everything from homosexuality and Batman to poetry and football. The interview is published in two parts.

Part One

Can you introduce yourself and your blog?
 
I'm Joe Prever. I used to blog under the pseudonym Steve Gershom. I’ve been doing that for a few years now. The blog is about what it’s like to be a gay Catholic – a gay Catholic who is of course, celibate – and I say ‘of course’ because that seems to me like the only option if you’re going to be both gay and Catholic. On the blog I try to stay away from abstract discourse about spirituality and sexuality in general and more towards lived experience: that’s what I see as my niche.
 
Why did you start writing a blog?

I honestly don’t remember the thought process that led me to it, but I do remember wishing at one point that there was somebody blogging like that, and in fact these days there are just a whole lot of people in my situation who are blogging, and that’s really great. It seems liked it’s very much exploded in the last few years. My friends and I joke that there’s a gay Catholic renaissance on, or actually a gay Christian renaissance on, and we’re proud to be at the forefront of it – or at least we tell ourselves that we’re at the forefront.

Did those other people read your blog before they started theirs?

Some of them did, yes. In fact, a couple of them have said to me that I was someone who helped to inspire them to start, so I’m very proud of that.

This was a few years ago. Even at that time there were a fair amount of resources, in the sense that there were people who were writing about it, and you could find various testimonials online if you googled hard enough, but there were very few people who, on a day to day basis were like, ‘here’s what this is like, here’s how you deal with that,’ etc.

And so you decided you were going to be that resource?

Yes. Because at that time, I was sort of starting to feel for the first time that things were very much manageable, and I think back to this very specific moment in college when I was 18 or 19, and googling this kind of stuff, just to see if there was anybody out there who I could relate to and who would have some wisdom to share about it, and I did in fact find some stuff. It was remembering the feeling of how good it was to find that made me want to pass that along.

You blogged pseudonymously for years and then you ‘came out,’ so to speak, in the summer of 2014. Why did you decide to do that?

It was one of those decisions where by the time you make it, you realize that you’ve already made it, if you see what I mean. It was hard in the sense that I’d actually always said that people shouldn’t be public about being gay, because it was not anybody’s business and I felt that it would lend legitimacy to this idea that being gay is a sort of a single way to identify yourself: I actually still sort of hold that position – kind of. (Laughs).

It’s hard to describe: I don’t think that being gay is as essential of a way to identify yourself as say, being male is, or being Catholic, or being human. I guess my position right now is that if the cultural atmosphere were different from what it is, then I don’t know whether I would have gone public.  

The real reason I did is because of the blog, and talking about these things in general, and the cultural conversation in general that’s happening right now – all of these things have become such a big part of my life... it wasn’t really a question of honesty. It’s just that when something is so much a part of your life, people ask you, ‘oh, so what’ve you got going on?’ or ‘what are you doing these days?’ and I felt really lame saying, ‘oh, you know, programming computers. Watching movies. Hanging out. Stuff.’  

So honestly, it was largely a vanity thing. It’s like the scene in Batman Begins where Bruce Wayne is doing this, ‘I’m a rich celebrity playboy’ thing, and he’s bathing in fountains and buying hotels and so forth, and Katie Holmes’ (character) is upset with him for being such a wastrel. (Laughs) And I felt like I wanted to be publicly Batman: strictly for vanity-related reasons. I wanted everyone to know how awesome I am.

I’m trying not to laugh...

Well, it’s perfectly true. And I suppose there are other reasons, like I want to be a public witness and things like that, but I suspect that it’s mostly vanity.

What response did you get when you ‘came out’? When people began to associate you with this gay guy who writes a blog?

On the day that I made public the post where I came out, I received just piles and piles of comments and emails and text messages. Most were from people I didn't know, except for the text messages, obviously, but a very large portion of them were from people who had known me for a long time and who just wanted to say how pleased they were that I had done this and how proud they were of me to have taken this stance, and how courageous they thought I was and how honored they were to be my friend, and all of this stuff. In other words, I can't think of a single friend, family member, or acquaintance who did not greet this revelation with support.

I think I would have had a very, very different response were I not celibate. When I get negative feedback, which I occasionally do from people who disagree with what the Church teaches, they say that I am being made a poster boy and that I'm being used – which is to say, conservative Christians are super happy to have somebody to point to whom they can say, ‘well look, here's one person who agrees with us.’

Do you think being accused of being a ‘poster boy’ means that people are people angered by your celibacy?

That's an interesting question. I think some people are angered on my behalf for what they perceive to be a sort of ‘Stockholm syndrome,’ and I've actually heard that phrase thrown around more than once. People see me defending the Church’s teachings on marriage, and on sexuality, and what they see is somebody who’s been taught to suppress his own nature for so long that he's actually come to believe the things he’s been told about himself – that’s what they see.

What’s really there?

I can’t sum myself up, but the point is that if any of the people who accuse me of being the poster boy or of having ‘Stockholm syndrome’ or anything like that were actually to read the things I’ve said, they would see that, number one, I don't sort of unquestioningly accept whatever I'm told about sexuality, but I always bring it back to my own experience. And number two, I very much admit the difficulties inherent in the life I live and I don’t pretend that they don't exist. And I don't think I would do either of those things if I had ‘Stockholm syndrome.’

Your blog header is, ‘Catholic, Gay, and Feeling Fine,’ and you’ve been using the word ‘gay’ throughout our conversation so far. Do you have any thoughts on that word, as opposed to ‘same-sex attraction’ or other terms?

Absolutely. That is another hard question, and it’s a question about which my position has been continually shifting, so I don’t feel as though I’ve found solid ground yet.

I’ve always used the word. It used to be that I would use the word in writing, but sort of in my interior monologue and in private conversation I would say ‘same-sex attracted.’ I used to joke that the only reason I used the word 'gay' was so that I would tend to show up more on Google, which is only partially a joke, because you know if you’re going to use the tools of technology to evangelize, then you have to be savvy about what Google is going to find and what it isn’t.  

But I guess the shift mainly happened as I began to approach being more public about it, because as I became more public I also came into contact more openly with people who identified as gay or who struggled with same-sex attraction, or whatever. And what I found was that a lot of them had a lot of resentment towards people who insisted on not using the word gay.

Why did they have resentment?

For a few reasons. It’s a really complicated topic, and I’m not sure how to distill what is offensive about it. One, is that it’s offensive to be told what you ought to be allowed to call yourself. And in fact, I rarely feel strongly about whether I should use the word gay or not, but the one time I do feel strongly about it is when somebody starts upbraiding me for it. Because it feels incredibly intrusive.

This is a topic that gets very political very fast. It’s the sort of thing where people feel, and I think rightly, that they have been constrained to keep silent for most of their lives – and a lot of people have, whether it’s constrained by actual explicit homophobia among the people that they love and/or are related to, or whether it’s just sort of a general culture understanding that you don’t talk about this sort of thing. So you have a set of people who have felt this way for most of their lives, and then you have people saying ‘oh, well it’s sort of cool now if you talk about that, but just be sure you talk about it in this or that way.’ This is frustrating and comes across as very patronizing because these are people who don’t have any insight into the experience of what it is to be gay telling you what it is or is not ok to talk about, and what it is and is not ok to call yourself.

Would you also apply that criticism to the Church who never uses the word ‘gay’ in her documents?

I understand why She (the Church) doesn’t. I don’t know if that will continue to be the case. I don’t have any bitterness towards the Church as a whole in that way.  

This is reason that I haven’t yet come to a solid opinion on this question – because the problem is that secular people and Christian people mean two different things by the word ‘gay.’

Could you explain that a little more?

It’s really hard to distill. But you know what’s at the heart of it?

When I told my roommate I was gay, the first thing that he said to me was, ‘do you mean same-sex attracted?’ And that was actually the precisely wrong thing to say, and I don’t hold it against him. (Laughs) But the heart of it is that I was telling him this incredibly personal thing, and he was instructing me in the right way to feel about it, immediately, from the get-go.

Now I think that one reason Christians tend to dislike the word ‘gay’ is because if somebody says that they are gay, then they are usually implying that it is an unchangeable aspect of their personality. Whereas the sort of default position among a lot of Christians is that homosexuality is changeable. The unspoken implication is that if you identify yourself as ‘gay,’ then you’re probably not trying hard enough to be straight. And I believe that this why it is so offensive to be told that they shouldn’t use the word gay.  

It might be true that some people can change to some extent, but it’s extremely offensive to assume that the only reason somebody hasn’t changed is because they haven’t tried. And even though very few people would have the chutzpah to make that explicit, I do believe that that’s the belief that’s behind it.

What do you think we should be doing as a Church, as a Christian community, to be helping people who struggle with homosexuality?

That’s a really good question! I’ll start first by saying that I’m extremely grateful for the organization People Can Change, which is an organization founded precisely on the idea that radical change with respect to homosexuality is possible. I’m grateful for them not because they ‘made me straight’ or something, but because they gave me a space in which to work out some of my issues, many of which turned out not to be related precisely to homosexuality in particular, but were just sort of emotional issues that needed dealing with.

I think a lot of gay men and women do have emotional issues that aren’t going to be dealt with if they’re told that everything is already ok. But on the other hand, this is dangerous because you have a lot of Christian people already assuming from the get-go that if somebody is homosexual, then they must have various and many emotional issues that need working on, and that’s not necessarily the case. (Laughs) So you see why this is difficult!

If the understanding in the Christian world is that homosexuality is a “disorder,” and homosexual activity is a sin, then logically it would seem like as Christians, we would want to help our fellow Christians who are “dis-ordered” to be “ordered.” Do you think there’s a problem with that logic?

I think there’s a problem with that phraseology. There’s a subtle but importance difference in saying that somebody has a disordered inclination and saying that somebody is disordered.

The Church has to be clear with respect to ‘what is the nature of homosexuality itself,’ but can’t make a pronouncement on whether it is a mental disorder, for example. Many people assume that when the Church says ‘homosexuality consists of a disordered inclination,’ they take that word ‘disorder’ and assume that She means ‘mental disorder.’ But I think the Catechism has purposely phrased it in such a way that you can’t actually conclude that if you’re reading carefully. But it takes careful reading.

The Church never changes her underlying principles, but when something new happens, it’s always a question of, ‘well, what do the underlying principles dictate in this particular situation?’ And a lot of the times it turns out that it doesn’t dictate what we thought it did but it takes a while to figure that out.

What do you think the underlying principles are that are dictating what the Church is saying about homosexuality?

That men are men, and women are women, and the two are not the same.

Do you want to expound on that at all?

Nooooo. (Laughs).  

Well, what I think is that one, at the bottom of it, men and women are different. Number two, that eros is different from friendship, and number three, that physical acts have spiritual meanings.

I think those things are the fundamental axioms that we have to work with here. And I think those things are precisely the things that are being argued about. I don’t think the Church is arguing about them, and I don’t think She should, because as far as I’m concerned, those things are absolutely essential to what the Church believes about people. But those things are very much being debated in the broader culture.

I'll tell you how I see myself and what I do, which is not only with respect to homosexuality but with how I try to live the Catholic faith in general. I try to live my life by those principles that make sense to me as a human being, and are consonant with what I know about human nature and with what the world at large has discovered about human nature. However, I also believe that if anything is true, it is Christian: that every truth is a Christian truth, and that there can be no truth about human nature which is not consonant with what the Church teaches about human nature.

This article was originally published on CNA June 30, 2015.

Posted: June 27, 2017, 9:27 pm

London, England, Jun 27, 2017 / 07:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Jewish girls' school has received a failing report from a British education standards monitor because it did not teach its pupils about sexual orientation and gender reassignment.

The report concerns Vishnitz Girls School, an Orthodox Jewish school in the London borough of Hackney for students up to age eight. Inspectors charged that the school did not give its students a “full understanding of fundamental British values.”

The British education standards office, informally known as Ofsted, faulted the school’s lack of instruction about all legally protected characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender-reassignment, the U.K. newspaper The Telegraph reports.

Ofsted charged that this means students have “a limited understanding of the different lifestyles and partnerships that individuals may choose in present-day society.” It said school policy “restricts pupils’ spiritual, moral and cultural development and does not promote equality of opportunity in ways that take account of differing lifestyles.”

The school monitor has inspected the school three times in less than a year. Its report suggested school officials are aware school policy does not fulfill U.K. equality laws.

The school’s annual tuition is about $6,600. The Ofsted report did praise the school’s resources, its teachers’ expertise, and its improvements in areas like safeguarding children and leadership.

However, failure to meet Ofsted’s requirements could shut down a school.

The British Department of Education has required schools to teach “fundamental British values,” in reaction to reports that extremist Muslim groups were trying to infiltrate schools. In November 2014, these requirements were strengthened, with all schools being required to promote equality and diversity, as defined by the education department.

At the time, the British newspaper The Guardian reported these rules were likely to conflict with Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and other religious schools because they require them to prioritize secular law over religious teachings.

In 2014 a highly ranked Catholic school in Suffolk drew criticism from government inspectors for allegedly failing to prepare students for modern life in Britain.

The school filed a formal complaint about the investigation. The school said parents complained that the inspectors asked children as young as ten about same-sex sexual acts and transsexualism.

Ofsted and the “British values” requirement drew criticism from Catholic leaders like Conservative MP Sir Edward Leigh, president of the Catholic Union of Great Britain. He charged that Ofsted “appears to be guilty of trying to enforce a kind of state-imposed orthodoxy on certain moral and religious questions.”

Posted: June 27, 2017, 1:02 pm

Edinburgh, Scotland, Jun 26, 2017 / 03:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A priest who was reported missing last week from his parish in Edinburgh, Scotland was found dead on a nearby beach Friday afternoon.

Father Martin Xavier Vazhachira, 33, was a native of India and was studying for a postgraduate degree in Edinburgh University while serving at St. John The Baptist Catholic Church in Corstorphine.

The priest was last seen at the parish on Tuesday afternoon, June 20.

When he did not show up for morning Mass on Wednesday, his parishioners alerted the authorities.

His body was found on a beach in Dunbar, about 30 miles from the parish, on June 23. Authorities have confirmed that his family in India was contacted about his death.

The cause of his disappearance and death is yet unknown.

Father Vazhachira was a native of Kerala in southern India and was ordained a priest in 2013 for the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate Order. He moved to Scotland in 2016, where he served in several local parishes before his appointment to Corstorphine in October 2016.

“The news of Father Martin Xavier’s death comes as a great shock and a great sadness to all those who knew him and loved him,” Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews and Edinburgh said in a statement on June 24.

“Our thoughts and, more importantly, our prayers are with him and with all his loved ones in both Scotland and India. May he rest in peace.”

Posted: June 26, 2017, 9:23 pm

Rome, Italy, Jun 25, 2017 / 04:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Discernment is one of the words Pope Francis repeats most, especially when speaking to priests and seminarians.

He often expresses his desire for greater formation in discernment – a concept that may seem obscure without an understanding its importance to the Pope's Jesuit formation.

“When a Jesuit says 'discernment,' they’re employing a term that has a very rich spiritual tradition within the Society of Jesus, so you can presume a lot in that,” Fr. Brian Reedy, SJ, told CNA in an interview.

Fr. Reedy is a US Navy Reserve chaplain and is pursuing a doctorate in philosophical theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University. He holds a licentiate in theology from Boston College.

He explained that discernment is something St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, emphasized profoundly in his Spiritual Exercises, which form the “backbone” of Jesuit spirituality.

In fact, St. Ignatius twice in the spiritual exercises has an extended discourse on how to carry out discernment properly: what it means, what its limitations are, and the rules that govern it.

“One of the things that’s very interesting about discernment is that while it does have a very polyvalent meaning, you can usually presume that when a Jesuit uses the term, when they launch it, it has these rules at least playing the background in their mind,” Reedy said.

So when it comes to Jesuits and discernment, what are the governing rules, and how can we use them to understand Pope Francis?

Rules of Ignatian discernment

One of the first things to keep in mind when it comes to discernment is St. Ignatius' distinction between  categories of people, Fr. Reedy said, explaining there are different rules for people take the faith seriously, and those who do not.

“If you are somebody who is living a life where God is not really on the scene and the teachings of the Church aren’t really important you have one set of rules. But the reverse situation for somebody who does take their faith life very seriously and God is at least sought after … then we have a completely different set of rules,” he said.

Another distinction, he said, is between proper and improper objects of discernment, meaning that “some things you can discern and other things you can’t.”

When it comes to the current discussion on marriage, Fr. Reedy noted that in his spiritual exercises, St. Ignatius himself speaks specifically about discerning marriage after you have contracted marriage “as an example of one of the things you can’t legitimately discern.”

This, he said, is because “after you are married, you can no longer legitimately discern being married or not, because you’ve made the decision; it’s not a proper object.”

What can be discerned, by a tribunal, is whether or not the marriage is valid.

“That’s a different question than discerning whether you want to be in a marriage still,” Fr. Reedy said. “For Ignatius that question doesn’t make any sense; in fact, it’s offensive to the process that you would discern changing a state of life that you have already committed yourself to.”

The same thing goes for priesthood and the religious life, he said, explaining that St. Ignatius uses that example because “once you’ve made that commitment, what you discern is how to live the commitment.”

“That’s what you would actually be discerning, because discernment is, fundamentally in Jesuit spirituality, the application of doctrine and teaching to the practical applications in somebody’s life. So it’s making practical that which is theoretical.”

There are then certain “guiding rules” that help in the carrying out of proper discernment.

One of St. Ignatius' rules Fr. Reedy cited is that sin can never be discerned, using the example of committing murder.

“You can’t discern to murder,” he said. “In fact, it’s offensive to the process that you are pretending to discern choosing an absolute evil.”

What can be legitimately discerned is whether or not to kill, because “if you and your family were under immediate threat from somebody, then the father could in the moment discern whether it was possible for him to take lethal action. That’s permitted.”

In terms of Catholic moral theology, Fr. Reedy said it exists between the camp of what is “permitted” and what is “transformative,” and that beyond the permitted sign lies what is “forbidden.”

Things that are forbidden cannot be discerned, and “you only ask to be free from them,” he said. From there, the spectrum goes from what is simply permissible on one side, all the way to what is deeply transformative and engages the world like Christ on the other.

“In that realm, between what is permitted to what is transformative, there’s a lot of discernment of legitimate possibilities of things that are not against reason or against God or the Church,” he said, adding that one can never really discern between good and evil, but “only between relative goods.”

One key rule of discernment that is often forgotten is the guiding principle of “thinking with the Church,” Fr. Reedy said. This means that “whatever you discern, you’re not only thinking about the moral law and how that functions, but also specifically thinking with the Church.”

Francis is a man 'steeped' in Jesuit tradition

Pope Francis “is completely steeped in Jesuit tradition and is a man completely of the exercises,” Fr. Reedy said, explaining that one of the first things he tells people when he speaks about the Pope is that “you can hear the spiritual exercises active in what he says.”

In listening to Pope Francis “you can hear a Jesuit who has contemplated the life of Jesus,” the priest said, noting that Francis' pedagogical or didactic style “is very much patterned on Jesus’, who often gave very oblique and obscure answers to questions.”

Christ did this, he said, “to specifically avoid a kind of legalism that just wants a solid answer that can then be manipulated in some way,” whereas true discernment means “you’re not interested in rules for the sake of rules, (or) tools that can be manipulated or used as weapons; what you’re interested in is finding the best, the truest, the most holy, the most transformative.”

In essence, “you’re always looking for what is the spirit of the law: why does the law exist, what it is, what is it trying to do?”

What can be done is to “have people trained in what the rules are, why they exist, and how to help these people engage that system in a way that can contribute toward their holiness, to their growth in conforming to Christ.”

Fr. Reedy said that for him, one problem he sees in the Church right now is that some people, in their interpretation of the Pope's actions, are “trying to put on the table, calling under the umbrella of discernment, the actual consideration of sins, of evils.”

“I’ve never gotten the sense that that is what Francis is saying,” he reflected, explaining that in his view, given Francis' background, what he is is trying to do is to “train people in this: in the proper camp of moral reasoning, which extends from permitted all the way to transformative, how to help people function there in a way that can be messy, but also prevent them from crossing the line into what is forbidden.”

But what about Francis' ambiguity? Is that a Jesuit thing?

Part of the confusion surrounding Pope Francis' sayings and writings is that his language can frequently be ambiguous and imprecise, leaving people scratching their heads trying to figure out what he actually meant.

But for Fr. Reedy, this isn't a Jesuit quality so much as it is a personal limitation of the Vicar of Christ.

“Francis is a complicated character. He’s not a precise theologian, so I think some of the ambiguity and imprecision just comes from his own training and background, which the Church just has to be patient with,” he said.

Secondly, the priest said that if we reflect on scripture, we see that the Pope uses a style that is very similar to what Christ himself often used, especially when he senses a “Pharisaical attitude.”

“When he senses that somebody’s asking a question in order to pin something down in a way he fears is going to hurt somebody else” Francis gets obscure, he said, explaining that the Pope is “very sensitive” to having doctrine “turned into a weapon of sorts.”

And so was Christ, he said, noting that “Jesus had very harsh words for those people.” Even though the Pharisees were technically faithful, upstanding Jews, “they also had a problem in the way that the viewed law; they saw the law first and the needs of the people second, and Jesus challenged that and so is Pope Francis.”

“I think people should stop pretending that Jesus was crystal-clear when he said things all the time,” Fr. Reedy said, noted that Christ “specifically said at times that he was intentionally being confusing. He would say that he was using parables so those other people over there wouldn’t understand – he would say that.”

However, even though Christ could at times speak cryptically, he was clear when pressed on important topics, such as the Eucharist and the meaning behind his words “this is my body,” and that to enter eternal life his disciples must “eat my flesh and drink my blood.”

So when it comes to Pope Francis, Fr. Reedy said people have to take into account “the Jesus-like way he teaches,” which he said is often at play in the Pope's speeches.

But there is also an element of manipulation when it comes to the Pope's ambiguity which must be addressed.

“I think (the Pope's) ambiguity is being manipulated,” Fr. Reedy said, explaining that in these cases, “I think we need to continue to push for greater clarity.”

This doesn't mean we'll get the clarity immediately, he said, but when it comes to particularly problematic issues “we need clarity. We need a line to be drawn saying we’re not talking about Catholic divorce.”

This isn't referring to somebody “who was in a valid marriage just rupturing that marriage, pretending it’s dissolvable against the explicit words of Jesus, and just starting a new one and saying that’s okay.”

“We’re not talking about that … I don’t think we are, I don’t think the Pope is,” he said, because if we look to the rules of discernment of St. Ignatius of Loyola, “I don’t think we can legitimately discern that.”

“So I’m confident that that’s not what the Pope is saying and I think that we should continue to ask for clarity, but not rush to clarity so that we can feel good about ourselves.”

What is needed, he said, is “to defend the truth so that we can become good.”

Posted: June 25, 2017, 10:00 pm

Reykjavik, Iceland, Jun 24, 2017 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop David Tencer of Reykjavik last week consecrated a new wooden church building, a gift from the Slovak Catholic Church.

The church is a tribute to Bishop Tencer, who is a Capuchin Franciscan and a native of Slovakia.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico and two other members of the Slovak government joined Bishop Tencer for the June 17 consecration of the church in Reyðarfjörður, more than 400 miles northeast of Reykjavik, Iceland's capital.

Wood is scarce in the volcanic, rocky country of Iceland, so the church was made of Slovakian wood, then disassembled and shipped to Iceland for reassembly.

“You will not find a single house or church of this type in Iceland,” Bishop Tencer told The Slovak Spectator.

The church is in the shape of a St. Damian Crucifix, an eastern-style icon sometimes called a Franciscan crucifix because St. Francis of Assisi prayed before a cross of this style when he received a commission from God to rebuild the Church.

Icelandic sources report that the new church doubles the seating capacity of the previous chapel of the Capuchin friars from 25 to 50, allowing them to accommodate the growing number of people who come from all regions of the country to attend Mass with the friars.

Iceland’s population is mostly Lutheran, with the country’s 13,000-some Catholics making up only 3-4 percent of the country’s 350,000 population. Many of Iceland’s Catholic population are Polish immigrants who moved to the country for work.

Most of the country’s priests also come from elsewhere, including Poland, Slovakia, Ireland, France, Argentina, Britain, and Germany. The orders of religious sisters with a presence in the country include The Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará, The Mexican sisters from Guadalajara, the Missionaries of Charity, and two Carmelite orders.

The country is divided into six parishes, and the single Diocese of Reykjavik is immediately subject to the Holy See.

But the small size of the Church in Iceland is part of its charm, Bishop Tencer told The Spectator, because this means, “I know many of its members in person.”

It is also a result of a turbulent history of Catholicism in the country, which was nearly wiped off the island during the reformation and the rule of a harsh Danish king in the 16th century. Bishop Jon Arason, the island's last Catholic bishop until 1929, was executed in 1550 for his refusal of the reformation.

The Slovak prime minister said he was happy to be a part of the project of providing a church building to Iceland, an initiative of the Church in Slovakia, because it paid tribute to the service that Slovaks are doing in Iceland.

“So, I’m happy that a piece of Slovakia from Hrinyová, and the bishop, who is also from Slovakia, are representing our country in Iceland,” he told Slovakian media.

Posted: June 24, 2017, 10:02 pm

London, England, Jun 22, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Legal efforts to bar the parents of a British baby born with a disabling medical condition from seeking treatment overseas are based on deep ethical errors, a Catholic expert in medical ethics has warned.

“It seems to me completely wrongheaded that the state should be stepping in here when the decision that the parents are making is really aimed at the best interests of the child,” Dr. Melissa Moschella, a Catholic University of America philosophy professor, told CNA.

“It’s not crazy, it’s not abusive, it’s not neglectful. It’s the decision of parents who want to, however they can, to give their very sick child a chance for life.”

She said such a decision “should be completely within the prerogative of the parent,” citing the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. According to Moschella, that declaration “clearly indicates that the parents, not the state will have primarily responsibility.”

Charlie Gard, now aged 10 months, is believed to suffer from a rare genetic condition called mitochondrial depletion syndrome, which causes progressive muscle weakness. The disorder is believed to affect fewer than 20 children worldwide. Charlie has been in intensive care since October 2016. He has suffered significant brain damage due to the disease and is currently fed through a tube. He breathes with an artificial ventilator and is unable to move.

His parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, have wanted to keep him on life support and transport him to the United States in order to try an experimental treatment.

However, their decision was challenged in court by hospitals and an attorney appointed to represent Charlie. The parents appealed a High Court decision, and their appeal to the U.K.’s Supreme Court was rejected.

Their final legal challenge is presently before the European Court of Human Rights. The court has said Charlie must continue to receive treatment until its judges make a decision.

Moschella said the legal decisions favoring ending life support for Charlie are effectively “telling the parents that their child’s life has no value and that therefore they should cease any effort to heal him of his disease.”

These decisions represent a “quality of life” ethic and an ideology that say human life is valuable only if it meets certain capacities.

“It’s the same ideology that underlies allowing euthanasia or physician assisted suicide,” she said. “That’s completely opposed to the Catholic view in which every human life has intrinsic value regardless of the quality of that life.”

 

  Patiently waiting........

A post shared by #charliesfight (@charliesfight) on Jun 19, 2017 at 7:28am PDT

 

Charlie’s parents have raised more than $1.6 million to help seek experimental treatment for him in the U.S. Their decision faced legal challenge from Great Ormond Street Hospital, where he is being treated.

In early April, the baby’s hospital challenged their efforts. The hospital’s experts argued in court that long-term life support should be withdrawn from the baby because his quality of life was so poor.

Charlie’s court-appointed lawyer argued before a High Court judge that any treatments in the U.S. would be experimental and long-term life-support would only “prolong the process of dying.”

Charlie’s parents had their own legal representative in the case, who argued that travel to the U.S. for treatment would not cause the boy significant suffering or harm and could give him another chance.

Yates, Charlie’s mother, has argued that she would welcome any treatment that could help him live. She also suggested anything learned during an experimental treatment could help treat future babies who suffer from the disorder.

According to Moschella, who has a background in parental rights and medical ethics, said parental rights derive both from the “special intimate relationship” they have with their child and from their primary obligations to care for their own children. Interfering with their conscientious best efforts is akin to violating religious freedom, she said.

“It is a deep violation of conscience, when, without a very serious reason, the state prevents parents from fulfilling that conscientious obligation,” she said.

She noted that what Charlie’s parents are trying to do by helping secure extraordinary treatment is not ethically required by Catholic ethics.

“It would be perfectly morally acceptable should they choose to forgo seeking further treatment and take the baby off life support and allow him to pass away naturally due to the underlying disease,” the professor said. “But it’s also acceptable, on Catholic ethics, to do whatever you can to heal a person if you think that there’s any chance that a treatment could have a positive effect.”

She suggested that extraordinary treatment could be unethical only when “there is absolutely no hope of any benefit whatsoever” and the treatment is painful to the patient, or the treatment would take away “important resources that are needed to help other patients who could benefit.”

Moschella said there should only be legal intervention against the wishes of parents in cases “when there is a clear case of abuse or neglect or some significant threat to the public order.”

“Neither of those situations is the case here.”

Posted: June 22, 2017, 9:01 am

London, England, Jun 19, 2017 / 11:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster has offered prayers for the victims of a terror attack in north London that targeted worshippers outside a mosque in the early hours of Monday.

One person was killed and nine have been hospitalized, after a van drove into a group outside the Finsbury Park Mosque shortly before 12:20 am June 19.

The Muslim worshippers were helping an elderly man who had fallen down in the street.

“Together with people all over this country I am appalled at the deliberate attack on people leaving their late night prayers, as the end of their day of fasting, at the mosque in Finsbury Park,” Cardinal Nichols stated.

“Violence breeds violence. Hatred breeds hatred. Every one of us must repudiate hatred and violence from our words and actions. We must all be builders of understanding, compassion and peace, day by day, in our homes, our work and our communities. That is the only way.”

The cardinal also wrote to Mohammad Kozbar, trustee of the Finsbury Park Mosque, saying, “I am horrified that people should, again, be targeted in this way. I write to assure you of my prayers for the person who has died, for those who have been injured and for all deeply affected by this brutal attack. I know that I speak for all Catholics when I assure you of prayers and support.”

In a similar message to Ahmed Kheloufi, director of Muslim Welfare House, Cardinal Nichols wrote “to assure you of my prayers and of my deep compassion for all who have been injured and affected by this deliberate act of violence. In particular I pray for the person who has been killed. May God's blessings strengthen you all.”

“I also want to thank you for the work you do to foster good relations in the Finsbury Park community,” the cardinal added. “I pray that your work will be strengthened at this most difficult time.”

The attack came after the group had taken part in evening prayers after breaking their Ramadan fast.

The van's driver, a 48 year old man, was restrained at the scene of the attack, and the mosque's imam kept him from being attacked. He has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, commented that “While this appears to be an attack on a particular community, like the terrible attacks in Manchester, Westminster and London Bridge, it is also an assault on all our shared values of tolerance, freedom and respect.”

Prime minister Theresa May said that “there has been far too much tolerance of extremism over many years".

"It is a reminder that terrorism, extremism and hatred take many forms; and our determination to tackle them must be the same whoever is responsible."

The Finsbury Park Mosque had been associated with Islamist terrorism in the early 2000s. Abu Hamza al-Masri, its imam from 1997 to 2002, was found guilty in the UK of inciting violence. He was later extradited to the US, where he was found guilty of terror charges.

The mosque was shut down in 2003 after a police raid, but was reopened in 2005 under new trustees and new imams which have reportedly turned it around.

In his message to Mohammed Kozbar, Cardinal Nichols said that “Fr John O'Leary has told me of all the good work you do to foster strong and good relations with all people in Finsbury Park. Long may this good work continue and may your resolve be strengthened at this difficult time.”

Posted: June 19, 2017, 5:15 pm

Rome, Italy, Jun 18, 2017 / 01:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For the observance of the feast of Corpus Christi on Sunday, Pope Francis said the Eucharist helps us to remember everything that Christ has done for us, in particular his great love for us.

Corpus Christi reminds us that in the midst of our lives the Lord comes to meet us “with a loving 'fragility,' which is the Eucharist,” the Pope said June 18.

“In the Bread of Life, the Lord comes to us, making himself a humble meal that lovingly heals our memory, wounded by life’s frantic pace of life. The Eucharist is the memorial of God’s love.”

The Pope gave his homily at a Mass held at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome. Following the Mass, he led a Eucharistic procession across Rome to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, ending with solemn Benediction with the Holy Eucharist.

Today, the word of God says to each one of us: “Remember!” Francis proclaimed.

In this way we can be strengthened, just as the memory of the Lord’s deeds guided and strengthened God’s people when they were in the desert. Remembering everything that the Lord has done for us is the foundation of our own “personal history of salvation,” he said.

“Remembrance is essential for faith, as water is for a plant. A plant without water cannot stay alive and bear fruit. Nor can faith, unless it drinks deeply of the memory of all that the Lord has done for us.”

“Memory is important,” he went on, “because it allows us to dwell in love, to be mindful, never forgetting who it is who loves us and whom we are called to love in return.”

But today, our memories are weakened by our constant activity and business, the Pope pointed out.

Our lives are such a whirl of people and events that we no longer retain memories. But this leaves us at risk of only living on the surface of things and never going deeper, he said, “without the broader vision that reminds us who we are and where we are going.”

“This is why the Eucharistic commemoration does us so much good: it is not an abstract, cold and superficial memory, but a living remembrance that comforts us with God’s love.”

Francis explained that when we receive the Eucharist, our hearts have the opportunity to become overwhelmed with the certainty of Christ's love for us, the Eucharist giving us a memory that is grateful, free, and patient.

It’s a grateful memory, he said, because it reminds us that we are children of the Father, who loves and nourishes us. And it gives us a patient memory, because even in the midst of trial we know that Christ remains in us.

It’s free memory, because Christ's love and forgiveness can heal the wounds in our past, freeing us from the remembrance of past wrongs.

Additionally, he said how the Eucharist encourages us – that “even on the roughest road, we are not alone; the Lord does not forget us and whenever we turn to him, he restores us with his love.”

The Pope concluded by drawing on St. Paul’s words in the day’s first reading, which says: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”

Thus, the Eucharist also reminds us that we are all one body; it isn’t a sacrament just “for me.” It is for many, all the faithful, he said, who together form one body. “The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity,” he stated.

“Now, in experiencing this Eucharist, let us adore and thank the Lord for this greatest of gifts: the living memorial of his love, that makes us one body and leads us to unity.”

Posted: June 18, 2017, 7:15 pm

London, England, Jun 17, 2017 / 06:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After facing backlash for his Christian faith, the head of the UK’s Liberal Democratic Party announced his resignation on Wednesday, claiming that leading the party was becoming incompatible with living his faith.

“To be a political leader – especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 – and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible's teaching, has felt impossible for me,” said Tim Farron, noting he would hold his position until the parliamentary recess begins next month.

Farron’s announcement follows significant media attention surrounding his answers to press questions on abortion and homosexuality.

During the recent election, Farron had been asked repeatedly by reporters about his views on the morality of homosexual acts.

Earlier this week, the party's home affairs spokesman Brian Paddick – a prominent gay politician – resigned abruptly, citing concerns over opinions held by the party’s leadership.

Despite the Liberal Democrats gaining several parliamentary seats under Farron, he faced opposition from within his own party.

According to the Telegraph, one senior Liberal Democrat said Farron was “unhelpful during the campaign.”

He also said Farron’s “views [were] not compatible with being the leader of the Liberal Democrats.”

Simon Hughes, formerly the party’s deputy leader, said “it became unfairly difficult that Tim was put in the firing line and felt that he couldn’t adequately do justice to his faith while upholding the liberal values that he has argued for all his life.”

“It would be the same for people of other faiths who have strong faith views, where there are issues that are very controversial within that faith community,” he told the BBC.

Farron noted the “scrutiny” he faced when “asked about matters to do with my faith,” claiming he felt unable to remain Christian in the current environment and could not benefit the party in its mission of upholding everyone’s rights.

He said journalist had the right to question him as they saw fit, but that the scrutiny of his faith in the public eye drew away attention from the message of the Liberal Democratic Party.

“I felt guilty that this focus was distracting attention from our campaign, obscuring our message,” he said, identifying a major aspect of that mission as “defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things to me.”

“In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society,” he said.

He clarified that he disagrees with “Christians in politics who take the view that they should impose the tenets of faith on society,” saying that this is “counterproductive when it comes to advancing the gospel.”

Farron ended his address stating that he loved his party – a party he joined when he was 16 – and encouraged his successor to “fight for a Britain that is confident, generous and compassionate.”

“My successor will inherit a party that is needed now more than ever before. Our future as an open, tolerant and united country is at stake.”

 

Posted: June 17, 2017, 12:26 pm

Turin, Italy, Jun 16, 2017 / 10:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A relic of St. John Bosco, which had been stolen from an Italian basilica two weeks ago, has been recovered, the local Prosecutor's Office reported.

An urn containing a relic of St. John Bosco’s brain was discovered missing on June 3. The reliquary was kept in the Basilica of John Bosco in Asti, the saint's birthplace, fewer than 20 miles east of Turin.

According to Italian press reports, the alleged perpetrator of the crime is a 42-year old man with a criminal record, residing in Pirenolo, Turin. He was arrested by the Asti police. The suspect allegedly planned to sell the reliquary, which he believed to be of solid gold.

St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesians, was a 19th century Italian priest who had a particular love and apostolate for at-risk and underserved youth. Today, the order serves youth throughout the world primarily in schools, homeless shelters, and community centers.

Fr. Enrico Stasi, provincial of the Salesians in Piemonte and Valle d'Aosta, thanked “the judiciary, all the police and all those who have contributed to the positive solution to this unpleasant affair.”

“It is consoling for the Salesians, for the Church in Turin and for the many friends of Don Bosco throughout the world who have abundantly demonstrated their closeness in this time,” he told Agenzia Info Salesiana.

In this regard, he said that “the occasion of the restitution and return of the relic to its original place will be for us and for the faithful another sign of the benevolence and blessing of Don Bosco for those who continue to keep his spirit alive in the world.”

The basilica has experienced some other minor thefts in recent weeks, though nothing of spiritual value.

Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin also commented on the missing relic, saying it was news “you would never want to hear, because it makes us think of a profound moral misery” that someone would steal something of spiritual and devotional value.

The archbishop told an Italian news source that he asked all of his priests to say a special prayer during their Pentecost Masses for the Salesian family and the recovery of the relic, so that it can “continue to be a point of devotion for the millions of faithful who come to the sanctuary dedicated to him.”

 

Posted: June 16, 2017, 4:57 pm

Geneva, Switzerland, Jun 16, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Holy See's representative to the United Nations appealed Wednesday to the Human Rights Council to couple psychological treatment with spiritual care.

In response to a recent report on mental health issued by the council's special rapporteur, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovich agreed that the report “rightly promotes the adoption of an integrated bio-medical, psycho-social, and community-based delivery of mental health care.”

“My Delegation also would like to point out the importance of spiritual care in helping persons living with, or affected by, mental health problems,” he added in his June 14 statement.

Archbishop Jurkovich quoted the words of St. John Paul II: “Whoever suffers from mental illness ‘always’ bears God’s image and likeness in themselves, as does every human being. In addition, they ‘always’ have the inalienable right not only to be considered as an image of God and therefore as a person, but also to be treated as such.”

The archbishop expressed hope that the report's “caution against reductionist biomedical paradigms” would “awaken the consciences” of human rights advocates, policy makers, mental health practitioners, family members, and communities “to the inalienable and God-given dignity of each person.”

He said the issues and people suffering from mental illness have been ignored for too long. The topic of mental illness, he said, tends to draw fear, discrimination, and even rejection from society, which in the past led to ‘“warehousing’ of such persons in large, isolated, and closed institutions.”

The archbishop stated there must be an established defense against the dangers which may be new forms of isolation, like cultivating an over-dependency on psychiatric drugs, social exclusion, depriving the patients of informed consent, and inhibiting their self-responsibility. He also decried “the increasing encouragement and facilitation of assisted suicide” among those with mental health challenges.

Spiritual care should also aid the people seeking out mental care, he said, noting it is an integral part of the human person. However, he drew a line between spiritual care and “faith healing” which ignores or even rejects medical treatment.

“Spiritual care should not be confused with, or mistaken by, so-called ‘faith healing’ to the exclusion of medical, psychological, and social assistance,” he emphasized.

Posted: June 16, 2017, 12:01 pm

Amsterdam, Netherlands, Jun 15, 2017 / 03:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A new report estimates that between 50 and 80 percent of Christians have fled the countries of Iraq and Syria since the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011.

Released by Christian advocacy groups Open Doors, Served, and Middle East Concern, the report estimates that at least 100,000 Iraqi Christians have fled or are internally displaced, and that the Christian population of Syria has been ‘roughly halved’, from about 2 million, since 2011.

“Factors for leaving included the violence of conflict, including the almost complete destruction of some historically Christian towns in the Nineveh plains of northern Iraq, the emigration of others and loss of community, the rate of inflation and loss of employment opportunities, and the lack of educational opportunities,” states the report.

The information for the report was gathered through a series of interviews with various sources, including NGO staffers and religious leaders, and also includes the findings of academic studies.

The report tracked the emigration of those Christians who have fled the Middle East to Europe, even though others have traveled to Asia, Australia or the Americas.

Since the 2003 U.S. invasion and the rise of the Islamic State, increased violence in Iraq and Syria has resulted in the targeted killings and expulsions of many Christians, with many fleeing to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, or beyond, while others are displaced within their home countries.

The arrival of the Islamic State made the situation especially dire for Christians, who were forced to either pay a tax, convert, or leave if they didn’t want to be killed.

That was the “tipping point” for Christians in the area who had already experienced an “overall loss of hope for a safe and secure future,” the report notes.

Iraq once had a Christian population of as many as 1.4-2 million in the 1990s, which declined to around 300,000 by 2014, and is now down to approximately 100,000. Most of those internally displaced have fled to Erbil.

Pinpointing the exact number of Christians who have stayed in or fled Syria is more difficult, though the report notes that numerous regions and towns that once had large Christian populations have decreased significantly since the start of the war, with some communities all but disappearing.

The report estimates that approximately half of Syria’s estimated 2 million Christians have left, and a survey found that of the Christians still in the country, about 35 percent wish to leave, compared to eight percent of the country's Muslims.

Of the Christians who fled, many chose to seek resettlement in other countries through family or Church organizations rather than through state-sponsored refugee resettlement programs.

“Trust in churches allows people to feel more comfortable to register with them. Furthermore, it is seen to be less demeaning to have to line up to receive assistance ‘provided in a sensitive way in the safe space of a church,’” the report found.

The hope for return to their home countries varied among those who had fled. For the most part, those who were settled in their destination countries reported not wanting to return, while those who have encountered more difficulties in the resettlement process either have returned or hope to return someday.

Sweden and Germany have become popular destinations because of the ease of resettlement and the ability to find work, though the report found that due to new policies in these countries, that may change.

Published with the report was a policy proposal paper for the EU, since the report tracked only those Christians fleeing to Europe. It made several recommendations, including establishment of an “accountability mechanism,” to the European Union Parliament.

“Creating a national accountability mechanism for grievances is a long-term solution which aims to restore faith in a system that ensures all religious and ethnic communities are affirmed as equal citizens and deserving of protection, while also deterring negative actors from taking adverse actions against these communities,” it stated.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would authorize U.S. government funds to be given to aid groups directly providing assistance to displaced Iraqi and Syrian Christians. The bill has yet to clear the Senate. According to In Defense of Christians, thousands of Iraqi Christians have seen no financial aid from the U.S., despite the U.S. having given the Iraqi government millions of dollars for relief efforts.

As of October 2016, the Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil has received more than $31 million in funding from Aid to the Church in Need, in addition to support from 16 other Catholic organizations from around the world. The Knights of Columbus have a website dedicated to providing relief to displaced Christians in the Middle East.

Posted: June 15, 2017, 9:53 pm

London, England, Jun 14, 2017 / 01:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic bishops of Westminster offered their prayers and local parishes opened their doors to offer aid and supplies to those affected by a massive fire at an apartment complex in west London on Wednesday.

“We pray for all the residents of the Grenfell Tower. I pray particularly for those who have suffered injury, those who have died, and all the residents who are left without a home today, and the entire community that has been affected,” said Cardinal Vincent Nichols in a statement.

On June 14, just after midnight, a fire began on the fourth floor of Grenfell Tower located in north Kensington, a district of west London. The 24-story building is home to hundreds of people, and the fire blazed until early in the morning.

Authorities have said it is too soon for speculation into the cause of the fire.

So far, six people have been reported dead in the fire and some 70 people have been hospitalized for injuries sustained in the incident, including 20 people whose condition is critical.

Hundreds of others who escaped the flames have still lost their homes and all of their belongings, but Catholic parishes in the surrounding area have quickly begun receiving donations of food, clothes, and water to be distributed. Saint Clemente, one nearby church, has seen such an outpouring that it has asked for future donations to be given to a church a few blocks away.

Meanwhile, many residents remain unaccounted for, and friends and family are scrambling to connect with their loved ones.

Auxiliary Bishop John Wilson of Westminster especially offered prayers for “all who are still worried about their loved ones who are unaccounted for.”

Stuart Cundy, commander of the Metropolitan Police, expects the death toll to rise, but he has thus far declined to comment on any details of the missing people due to the complexity and difficulty of the identifying process.

Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton has encouraged surviving residents to report themselves to authorities so they are known to be safe. An emergency number has also been established for friends and family who are worried for loved ones, known to be residents in the building.

According to BBC news, Cotton also expressed concern that people may still be trapped inside, and fire fighters would be expected to stay on the scene until the next day at least.

Cardinal Nichols applauded the emergency response team, which included over 250 firefighters and more than 100 ambulance medics.

“Once again in our city we witness the heroic efforts of our emergency services who responded so quickly. I thank them for all they are doing to help the victims of this devastating fire,” he said.  

 

Posted: June 14, 2017, 7:20 pm

Norcia, Italy, Jun 14, 2017 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- It was God and beer sales that helped sustain the Benedictine monks of Norcia, and it is God and beer sales that will help them rebuild.

Last year, in August and again in October, strong earthquakes rocked the town of Norcia, Italy, killing hundreds of people and destroying the 14th century Basilica of St. Benedict, where the monks of Norcia dwelt.

Miraculously, their brewery, where they produce Birra Nursia, was mostly left intact.

The monks were forced to dwell in tents and cabins through a particularly cold Italian winter while they began rebuilding a new, earthquake-proof monastery in San Benedetto in Monte, just outside the walls of Norcia.

Now, the monks have announced a special project that will help them rebuild: Leffe, a Belgian brewery, has agreed to partner with the monks for a special edition brew, the proceeds of which will go directly to the monks’ new monastery.

“Leffe beer, one of the most highly prized beers of Belgium and brewed in the monastic tradition, launched a special limited-edition brew with Birra Nursia, our own beer, as a joint label with Leffe Blonde,” the monks announced online.

“While the two beers, Leffe and Birra Nursia, remain distinct, the Nursia name on the Leffe Blonde bottle signifies the shared commitment of the two breweries: to rebuild Norcia and bring hope to the tragedy-stricken region.”

The 100,000 bottles of the special edition brew will only be available for distribution in Italy, and will directly fund the new wooden chapel, “which is not just for the monks, but is open to all those thirsting after God,” the monks noted.

Leffe beer itself has monastic roots. Norbertine canons of the Leffe abbey had been brewing beer in the town for centuries, until the French revolution resulted in the abandonment and destruction of the brewery. In the 1950s, determined not to let the brewing tradition die, the abbey’s Father Abbot Nys met master brewer Albert Lootvoet, and an agreement was struck.

Shortly after, the Leffe brewery was back in full effect, today under the ownership of Anheuser-Busch InBev. Some of the proceeds of the beer still support the Leffe monastery.

For the Norcia monks, the wooden chapel is the first phase of a full reconstruction for the abbey. While it will be officially inaugurated in September, the monks already held a Mass of thanksgiving in the chapel on Pentecost, despite an unfinished roof.

"In this way, we remember: Nisi Dominus aedificaverit domum in vanum laboraverunt qui aedificant eam," the monks said: "Unless the Lord builds the house, in vain do the laborers build it."

The monks said the whole experience has been a reminder that “in moments of tragedy when all seems lost, God calls us to trust that somewhere, somehow, good can come from it.

Posted: June 14, 2017, 6:02 am

Padua, Italy, Jun 13, 2017 / 04:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As the Church celebrates St. Anthony of Padua, his widespread popularity can be traced to his efforts at reaching out as a neighbor to all peoples, according to the rector of the basilica where the saint's body rests.

“The devotion to the Saint of the Peoples is truly universal perhaps because he himself desired to consider all the world his as his home,” Father Oliviero Svanera, rector of the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua, told CNA.

“He was Portuguese by birth, he went to Morocco to spread the faith, he landed in Sicily by shipwreck, then he went back up the Italian peninsula all the way to Assisi and joined the friars of St. Francis, who sent him all the way to France.

Once St. Athony returned to Italy he was appointed provincial superior and served in Padua, where he died in 1231.

“It is told that he would speak one language made of a thousand accents but which was understandable to all,” Fr. Svanera said. “As such, he was a neighbor to all: to the poor, to people in difficulty, to the sick. In this, his being 'brother of all,' is perhaps his universality, something that renders him a friend of all the peoples of the world, beyond nationality, culture, and even religions, given that St. Anthony is respected even by those who do not profess the Catholic faith.”

St. Anthony was born as Fernando Martins in Lisbon around 1195, and when he was 15 entered the Abbey of St. Vincent with the Canons Regular of St. Augustine, and he was ordained a priest.

In 1220 he was moved by seeing the relics of five Franciscan missionaries who had been martyred in Morocco. He was allowed to leave the Augustinians to join the Order of Friars Minor, where he took the name Anthony. He worked as a preacher and laid the foundations of Franciscan theology.

He was canonized in 1232, only a year after his death, by Gregory IX, who had heard him preach and called him the “Ark of the Testament.”

It was also in 1232 that construction of the basilica which houses St. Anthony's body was begun. It was finished at the beginning of the 14th century.

Please find below more from CNA's interview with Fr. Svanera, rector of the basilica:

 

For the feast day, there exists the famous Tredicina in honor of the saint: What does this consist of?

By the word “Tredicina” is meant the thirteen days of meditation and spiritual preparation for the solemnity of the saint, that is, from May 31 to June 13. Every day those devoted to St. Anthony invoke the intercession of the saint through a particular prayer, the Tredicina to Saint Anthony specifically, to entrust themselves to the mercy of God the Father. These are the days in which the basilica becomes the goal of pilgrims, both individuals and those organized in groups, and our sanctuary becomes truly universal, as in these days of veneration and prayer there are tens of thousands of pilgrims who come here from every country of the world.

Another tradition is the “Bread of St. Anthony.” What is the significance of this tradition?

In a word, the “Bread of St. Anthony” is synonymous with charity. The birth of this tradition has its roots in one of the “miracles” of the saint, that of Tommasino, a baby of twenty months who drowned in a washtub. The desperate mother invoked the help of the saint and made a vow: If she would obtain this grace, she would give to the poor the child’s weight in bread. And the little one returned miraculously to life. This miracle has given origin to two Antonian works in faithfulness to the spirit of St. Anthony: Firstly, l’Opera Pane dei Poveri (the Bread Work of the Poor), the Antonian organization which in Padua works to bring bread, and other necessities to people in difficulty, and next the Caritas Antoniana Onlus (Antonian Charity not-for-profit), the body of friars of the saint who in 2016 supported 124 development projects in 40 countries of the world, for a total of €2.64 million ($2.96 million).

St. Anthony was a great preacher who practiced charity: What can this teach us about a “Church that goes forth”?

The gospel and charity are the two hinges of the lesson from St. Anthony. His preaching was always capable of provoking the heart of everyone. And this too is thanks to his exemplary life and his humility, which he learned from Most Holy Mary, to whom he was profoundly devoted. St. Anthony proclaimed the gospel which conquers the temptation of power, the temptation of pride, the temptation, Pope Francis would say today, of worldliness, of how much worldliness there is and which brings us to act out life as in a play, or to want to give an appearance. Through his love, St. Anthony knew to stoop for the other (refugee, migrant, unemployed, alone, sick, imprisoned, marginalized, poor) and to take care of him. We will thus be effective Christians of a Church which goes forth if, like St. Anthony, we manage to go forth from ourselves to preach Christ crucified, following him with a style of humility, of true humility, a humility full of love.

Posted: June 13, 2017, 10:00 pm
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