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Those close to the cause of Fr. Solanus Casey recall a humble, holy friar

Detroit, Mich., Nov 17, 2017 / 05:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Before a potential saint is beatified, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes.

Those promoting the cause of sainthood for a candidate must gather witnesses and testimonies, writings and documentation of the candidate's life.

Throughout the process, evidence is brought before various tribunals (a type of court within the Church) both in the local diocese and in Rome, all of whom examine the life and works of the candidate and determine whether the miracles attributed to them are authentic, and whether their life constitutes heroic virtue, among other things.

It’s a process intentionally designed to take years, and those involved in the process come to know their candidate for sainthood in a particularly intimate way.

That has been the case for Fr. Larry Webber, OFM Cap, who currently serves as the vice postulator of the cause for Fr. Solanus Casey, who will be beatified this weekend.

The priest and Capuchin friar, who has officially worked on the cause for the past five years, said the work has led his own life to be marked by Fr. Solanus’ spirituality.

“It’s meant a lot to me” to work on the cause, Webber told CNA. “I hope I’ve always been a man of prayer, but certainly (this) has really deepened in me an appreciation for his spirituality and his faith which is marking my life.”

“I think many people who have had a devotion to Fr. Solanus over the years would say that,” he added. “There’s something about him that marks the way you pray, that marks your faith, that  leads you to a deeper relationship with God...especially in the Eucharist.”

The friars who lived with Fr. Solanus would often find him in the morning lying on the floor in front of the Blessed Sacrament, where he had spent all night interceding for the hundreds of people who had sought his prayers.

“His line was always, ‘Oh don’t worry, I sleep on the soft side of the floor,’” Webber said.
He added that while he admired Fr. Solanus’ “Irish wit”, he also admired his ability to sacrifice and be humble about it without being pretentious.

Sister Anne Herkenrath has also been close to the cause of Fr. Solanus Casey as one of his living relatives. She is the grand-niece of Fr. Solanus Casey, her grandfather was one of his brothers.

Herkenrath told CNA that she remembers first meeting Fr. Solanus as a teenager during a big family reunion. She had heard some stories about this holy uncle of hers whose intercession had healed people, but she wasn’t sure what to make of it all.

“Teenagers are sometimes skeptical about things like this, and I was a little skeptical about him,” she said. “I thought, who is this man? What’s he like? How do I act around him?

“Well he got (to the family reunion), and he was as normal as his brothers and sisters,” she said. “He was so normal that my (hesitation) just disappeared, I was very comfortable with him, and he was just one of us. He played ball with the younger kids, he talked with everybody, he was just normal.”

The family didn’t talk much about the specific favors attributed to Fr. Solanus, Herkenrath said. One of Solanus’ brothers, also a priest, had told the family that those matters were “between God, the Capuchins, and Solanus.”

It was only after his death that she became involved in his cause for canonization, and started learning more about his life. For her part, she helped gather some recordings of Fr. Solanus that her dad had made of him on some old 7-inch 78 rpm records - recordings of Solanus saying a prayer, greeting the family, reciting a poem, and singing and playing the violin.

“I’m still in awe of him,” Herkenrath said. “Again for his being so normal, and yet so in touch with God, so very in touch with God.”

One of the most striking characteristics of Fr. Solanus is his profound humility and acceptance of God’s will in all things, Webber said.

Never able to make good grades in seminary, which was taught all in Latin at the time, Fr. Solanus was only ever allowed to be a simplex priest for the order, meaning he wasn’t allowed to preach or hear confessions.

Instead he was assigned as the porter, the doorkeeper, at the time a lesser role usually reserved for novice friars.

But it was a job “he accepted it humbly, joyfully, and in that obedience and that humility, God transformed him into a saint,” Webber said.

“And I think many of us in our world today need that same lesson - humbly accept the reality you are given, joyfully serve the Lord in it, and he’ll make you holy.”

“(Fr. Solanus) once said to someone: ‘What does it matter where we are sent? Wherever we are, we can serve God,’” Webber added.

Another characteristic of Fr. Solanus that Fr. Webber said he admired was the friar’s pastoral ability to help people take life a little less seriously.

As an example, Webber recalled one story where some good friends of Fr. Solanus were returning from vacation, and they stopped by the monastery to say hello to the friar.

After chatting for a bit, the friends told Fr. Solanus that they were hungry, but they weren’t sure what they were going to eat, because the only thing they had left in their cooler were some hotdogs. It was Friday, and the Church at the time required the faithful to abstain from meat on that day every week.

“And (Fr. Solanus) said: ‘Well how long have those hotdogs been in there?’ And they said: ‘Oh about a day or two.’ And he said: ‘Oh don’t worry, they’re fish by now,’” Webber recalled.

“He had a good sense pastorally,” Webber noted, to take the faith seriously, but also, when appropriate, “not to take things overly seriously.”

Having a brother within his own community being beatified has also caused Webber to examine his own holiness and call as a Capuchin, he added.

“Being holy...it’s not just the vocation of Fr. Solanus, it’s the vocation of all of us,” Webber said.

“And if God has raised up one among us...that is being recognized for his holiness, that calls each of us to say, ‘Well, what do I need to be doing to be a little bit more holy?’”

Fr. Solanus Casey will be beatified on November 18th at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.

 

The quirky Father Solanus: Squeaky violinist, tamer of bees

Detroit, Mich., Nov 17, 2017 / 03:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- You’ve heard of Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves.

But have you heard of Fr. Solanus Casey’s multiplication of the ice cream cones?

To be sure, what Fr. Solanus is most remembered for his is gentle holiness, humility and obedience to the will of God in all things. It’s why the beloved Capuchin friar is being beatified this weekend in Detroit.

However, there’s something endearingly unconventional about the story of Father Solanus Casey - from the miracles reportedly worked through his intercession down to his breakfast habits - that makes his story especially unique.

The ice cream miracle

Fr. Solanus was a friar and simplex priest, meaning that, due to lesser academic abilities, he was not allowed to preach or to hear confessions.

But this freed him up for other charisms in which he particularly thrived - including serving as the porter (doorkeeper) at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit, from 1924-1945.

As porter, Fr. Solanus became the main link from the brothers to the outside world, and he soon became renowned for the gentle and willing counsel that he offered, and for the miracles attributed to his intercession.

Fr. Tom Nguyen, OFM Cap., a Capuchin friar who lives in Detroit, recalls a story commonly told at the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit:

On one warm summer day in 1941, a fellow friar in the novitiate came to see Fr. Solanus, in need of a miracle of healing. Something was wrong with his tooth, and if things went poorly at the dentist, the friar could miss too much formation and be sent back to the beginning of novitiate, as was the practice at the time.

The young friar sought Fr. Solanus’ blessing before heading out to the dentist, who told him to trust God that everything would work out.

While the friar was at the dentist, a lady who came to visit the monastery brought Fr. Solanus two ice cream cones. Too busy to eat them at the moment, Fr. Solanus shoved the cones into his desk drawer, much to the dismay of his secretary, who was sure they would be a soupy mess in a matter of minutes.

After more than half an hour, the younger friar returned from the dentist, his tooth found miraculously healthy. He went to thank Father Solanus, who pulled out three (not two!) perfectly frozen ice cream cones from his desk drawer on the hot summer day, which he offered to the friar to celebrate his good outcome.

The breakfast penance

Saints are often people known for offering up some kind of physical penances to the Lord - whether that’s wearing a scratchy hair shirt, taking on some kind of fasting, or sleeping on a hard floor. Even in this way, Fr. Solanus’ penance was uniquely quirky.

The friar was known for eating all of his breakfast at once - cereal, juice, coffee, and milk all mixed together in the same bowl.

In a story for the Michigan Catholic earlier this year, Fr. Werner Wolf, OFM Cap., recalled how he had been inspired to join the Capuchins specifically by Fr. Solanus Casey, who was still alive at the time. Eager to learn from the holy friar, Fr. Wolf decided he would watch Fr. Solanus very closely.

“So the first day I was there, I watched him like a hawk,” Fr. Wolf said.

“In the morning, the novices brought food to the older friars. First breakfast, I watched that man’s every move, pouring his cereal, the sugar, the cold milk, then warm milk, then prune juice in the whole works. I looked at him, telling God, ‘Father, if that’s holiness, I don’t want none.’”

Tamer of bees

Like St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscans, Fr. Solanus also had a special relationship with animals - bees in particular.

On several occasions, witnesses recalled Fr. Solanus taming the bees that were kept by the Capuchin friars.

On one particular occasion, the witness was Father Benedict Groeschel, cofounder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.

Fr. Groeschel was visiting St. Felix Friary in Huntington, Indiana, where Fr. Solanus Casey was stationed at the time.

Then a young Capuchin, Fr. Groeschel had also heard of the holy Fr. Solanus, and watched him closely.

One day, Fr. Groeschel and another friar were visiting the beehives kept by the friars, when the bees started swarming angrily.

Fr. Groeschel was instructed to get Fr. Solanus, who started talking to the bees and calming them when he arrived.

"He started to talk to the bees. 'All right now. Calm down. All right,'" Father Groeschel recalled in a story to Our Sunday Visitor. "And they started to calm down and go back into the hive.... I was absolutely in total shock.”

Fr. Solanus recognized the problem - there were two queen bees in the hive - and without the standard protective gloves or netting, stuck his bare hand in the hive and pulled out the second queen without getting stung.

He was also known for calming bees by playing his harmonica, which is now on display at the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit.

A violinist of ‘more love than skill’

Also on display at the Solanus Casey Center is the friar’s beloved violin, which by all accounts he played “with more love than skill.”

He loved to play the violin and sing, a skill he picked up while still living at home. But he had a high squeaky voice that some friars found grating. According to one account from the Catholic Education Resource Center, one of the Capuchin friars had fallen ill, and Fr. Solanus went to fetch his violin in order to cheer him up. While he was gone, the sick friar asked one of his visitors to turn on the radio to deter Fr. Solanus from playing his violin.

In another story about his violin playing, a friar heard a squeaky noise coming from the chapel. When he went to see where the noise was coming from, he found Fr. Solanus alone in front of the chapel’s Nativity scene, playing and singing Christmas carols in his squeaky voice for the baby Jesus.

On the whole, Fr. Solanus’ quirks only served to make him more beloved among the people of Detroit and those who have a devotion to him.

“He was sincere, everyone knew he was holy, even though listening to him play the violin was a challenge,” Fr. Wolf told Michigan Catholic in February.

Over 20,000 people came to pay their respects after the friar died, and an estimated 70,000 people are expected in Detroit for his beatification this weekend. His beatification Mass will take place on November 18th at 4 p.m. at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.

 

Commentary: Don’t buy fake agendas; defend the pope!

London, England, Nov 17, 2017 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For years now, I have bemoaned the growing number of so-called progressive Catholic figures, in academia, the media and the outer curial orbit, who fancy themselves to be the Pope’s ideological vanguard, amidst what they have taken to calling their “intra-ecclesial battle.”

The agenda they push is an obvious rehash of seventies liberalism: a “progressive” approach to sexual ethics, acceptance of divorce and remarriage, recognition of same-sex relationships, “creating a space” for those who disagree with the Church on life issues. This rather tired agenda has been dressed up in the language of woke university students and twitter social justice warriors, but its core premise remains the same as it ever was - to push the fallacy that Vatican II was part of the cultural revolution of the sixties, rather than the Church’s answer to it. Their efforts are easy to spot, just look for the people endlessly invoking the council but never actually quoting a document from it.

Their main objective is to fracture the continuity and authority of the Church’s essential teaching on the dignity and nature of the human person, relationships with God and other people, and society. In this fight, they have identified the key battleground, their greatest enemy, and their biggest opportunity: Pope Francis.

Pope Francis, from the moment of his election, has been a gigantic figure on the global stage. Through a combination of his personal charisma and the age of viral social media, his every soundbite gets attention and circulation that his predecessors couldn’t have imagined. Being seen to be “with” the pope is more powerful than ever before.

Conversely, being painted as “anti-Francis” is now the fastest way to find yourself beyond the pale of acceptable Church discourse - a far cry from the days when the progressive ‘cool kids’ seemed to take a juvenile kind of pride in forcing St. John Paul II or Benedict XVI to discipline them. Many of those who previously wore dissent as a badge of distinction have become the first and fiercest to label those they dislike, whether journalists, academics, or even cardinals, as “disloyal” to the pope, and opposed to his teaching authority.

Yet those who cry the loudest against the pope’s supposed opponents are themselves at the sharp end of a campaign of double deception. They insist that they are with the pope, or rather he is with them, and so to oppose them, on anything, is to oppose the pope. This is a falsehood.

The list of subjects on which Pope Francis is at odds with his self-appointed enforcers has grown to a comical length. In the last few months alone, Pope Francis has sided with the parents of Charlie Gard in defense of life, contrary to statements from the remade Pontifical Academy of Life, headed by Archbishop Paglia, and he has publicly echoed Cardinal Sarah’s call for a rediscovery of reverential silence in the liturgy, even as the Pope’s supposed-supporters demanded that Sarah be sacked.

Just days ago, the election of Archbishop Joseph Naumann as chairman of the US Bishops’ Conference pro-life committee was railed against by prominent liberal Catholics, who shouted themselves hoarse arguing that this election was an explicit rejection of the pope, and of his entire vision for the Church.

Pope Francis has, of course, called abortion a “horrendous crime,” a “very grave sin,” and, just last month, part of a “eugenic tendency” against the disabled. None of this made it into liberal coverage of the vote, nor was it held to be a factor in the election of an archbishop with sterling pro-life credentials over another who once discouraged his priests from participating in the 40 Days for Life campaign.

This is a group doing everything they can to take the pope’s public image and message hostage, and replace it with their own. The extent to which these voices are trying to define a “Francis agenda” contrary to the clear teaching of the Pope himself would be laughable, if their spurious arguments didn’t seem to gain so much traction.

Their biggest success thus far has been the confected row over communion for the divorced and remarried, an idea the pope has repeatedly refused to endorse, even categorically refuting the claim that his call for “full integration into parish life” meant receiving communion. The motivating force behind this campaign has nothing to do with pastoral concern for the tiny minority of catholics in this situation, in fact many of them have been hurt by the confusion and speculation of this effort. Rather, the goal is to force a crack, in practice if not yet in theory, in the Church’s absolute adherence to the indissolubility of marriage. It has also served to successfully suppress any discussion of the actual content of Amoris Latitiae, a document which not only reaffirms the permanence of marriage, but actually endorses the teaching of Humanae Vitae, the great liberal bête noire of the last sixty years.  It also rejects, in stark terms, the great progressive causes of the moment: a softened stance on abortion and euthanasia, same-sex unions, and gender theory.

Successfully convincing huge swathes of the Church that the pope is in favor of the very things he has condemned, while the evidence to the contrary is there for all to see, is the result of an incredibly brazen slight of hand, unwittingly abetted by the pope’s indifference to television and the internet. It has sown division and discord across the Church. There needs to be an urgent and unflinching response, one which takes true filial pride in the real papal magisterium and uses it to confront those who knowingly abuse the name and authority of Pope Francis and Vatican Council II for their own ends.

 

 Ed Condon is a canon lawyer working for tribunals in a number of dioceses. On Twitter he is @canonlawyered. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Catholic News Agency.

How US Catholics will mark the World Day of the Poor

Washington D.C., Nov 17, 2017 / 12:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As the first World Day of the Poor approaches on Nov. 19, Catholics in the U.S. aim to amplify their outreach and their prayers for those in poverty.

One prayer for the day, prepared by Catholic Relief Services, invokes Lazarus, the beggar, from a parable in the Gospel of Luke: “Lord, teach me to open the door to Lazarus, to the poor, to know them as your children, to lift them in their distress, to work to help them find a fair share of your bounty.”

The relief agency has created a parish packet to help parishes observe the World Day of the Poor. It includes prayers, homily suggestions, general intercessory prayers, and a bulletin insert.

Pope Francis announced the first World Day of the Poor in November 2016. In his June 2017 message for the observance, he asked that Christian communities “make every effort to create moments of encounter and friendship, solidarity and concrete assistance” ahead of time.

In Virginia, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington will host volunteer days, presentations, and events from Nov. 13-20 to help the community learn how Catholic Charities serves the poor.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is also encouraging the faithful to take part in the day.

“The Holy Father desires a real encounter with the poor in our midst, to reach out to them and invite them in concrete ways to share our life,” the archdiocese said Oct. 31. Ahead of the observance, Catholics should show “sincere efforts to show the poor among us the love and care of the Church.”

A prayer intention for the poor will be added in all parishes of the archdiocese for Nov. 19 Sunday Masses. The prayer asks that the poor throughout the world “may come to know more concretely the love and care of the Church, a love not with words but with deeds.”

In New Jersey’s Diocese of Metuchen, Bishop James F. Checchio has invited the faithful to the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi on Nov. 19 for evening prayer dedicated to the World Day of the Poor.

The event will be an occasion for community reflection “on how poverty is at the heart of the Gospel,” the diocese’s invitation said. It is also an opportunity for those who aid, care for and comfort the poor to be affirmed, inspired and sent out with “a renewed commitment to building a ‘culture of encounter’” and to bring people together with “tenderness and solidarity” despite their differences.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has also created a pastoral aid for the day.

While the document acknowledges poverty of spirit, lack of love, and isolation, it focused on material poverty. Individuals, families and communities lack access to basic necessities like good nutrition, adequate housing, safe neighborhoods, good education, healthcare and jobs that pay a fair wage.

One of the USCCB’s intercessory prayers reads: “That we, the people of God, will open our hearts and souls to justice so that we will speak and act in ways that will eliminate poverty and injustice in this country and throughout the world.”

The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization has also prepared a pastoral aid for parishes and schools to mark the day.

 

This article was originally published on CNA Nov. 7, 2017.

For Cardinal Parolin, Vatican II still benefits the Church

Washington D.C., Nov 17, 2017 / 11:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Second Vatican Council, rightly understood, continues to be a force for evangelization and renewal in the Church, according to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State of the Holy See.

Cardinal Parolin, speaking Nov. 14 at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., reflected on the council’s global impact, its focus on the poor, its efforts to counter clericalism and empower the laity, and its efforts to re-emphasize collegiality among bishops.

“Today we can gratefully turn our gaze to the Second Vatican Council: if we read it and receive it guided by a just hermeneutics, it can be and become more and more a great force for the ever-necessary renewal of the Church,” Parolin said.

The cardinal said that given the global origins of the council fathers, the Second Vatican Council was the first world church council in a geographic sense.

“The consequences were of no little importance: the introduction of local languages into the liturgy, for example, and also the emergence of a theology of a ‘local’ Church are the emerging points of a ‘new’ Church consciousness that is historically realized in the most diverse cultural contexts,” the cardinal said.

The irreversable introduction of the Church as a “world Church” is part of the permanent importance of the council.

The council did indeed introduce “a new style” and grew from “new seeds, drawn from the source of Tradition, especially biblical and patristic.”

He cited Pope Francis’ emphasis on the style of the council. The Pope had said it sowed the seeds of “synodality” or “conciliarity” at all levels of the Church, affecting all priests and bishops and pastoral advice. While the “monarchical” figure is essential in Catholic theology, whether in the parish priest, a diocesan bishop, or the Roman Pontiff, this figure has been “happily completed and balanced by this synodality that brings about real enrichment at all levels.”

The Pope thought this “conciliar” style of the Church was one of the most beautiful legacies of the council.
 
Cardinal Parolin noted some commentators who see the council through a “hermeneutics of misfortune” that places on Vatican II “all the calamities of the Church.” To these, the cardinal cited Benedict XVI’s arguments against a “hermeneutics of discontinuity and rupture” in favor of a “hermeneutics of reform, of renewal in continuity.” Benedict saw the council as having a prophetic interpretation. In the Pope emeritus’ words, its beneficial influence “preserved humanity and the Church itself from a crisis which at the end of the second millennium could have been much worse.”

Cardinal Parolin gave a lengthy exposition of the council, drawing on Benedict XVI, Francis, various commentators, and Blessed Paul VI.

The cardinal found in Paul VI “the idea of inheritance which is the passage of testimony from generation to generation” and also the image of “a flowing river feeding itself from its source.”

He also cited Francis’ description of the council as “a re-reading of the Gospel in the light of contemporary culture.”

Both Pope Francis and the Second Vatican Council emphasized the dignity of the lay faithful. Cardinal Parolin noted the transformation from a Church that had “the total concentration of every active function in the hands of the clergy” to a Church that recognizes “the right and duty of lay faithful to participate in the life and mission of the Church.”

Cardinal Parolin reflected on the importance of the “sensus fidei,” the “sense of the faith” in guiding Church teaching. He cited the discussions that led to the solemn declarations of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Ahead of hese declarations, the cardinal said, “the entire Church was involved in a large-scale synodal process, where everyone was active, each in its own way: the Pope, who started and ended the process; the bishops, who replied to the Pope attesting their faith and that of the faithful entrusted to them; the People of God, who witnessed a faith that manifested the ‘sense of the Church’.”

For the cardinal, the “sense of the faith”  represents “a vital resource for the new evangelization.” He cited Pope Francis’ first Angelus address, which cited an elderly woman who said, “If the Lord did not forgive everything, the world would not exist.” The Pope commented on this statement: “That is the wisdom which the Holy Spirit gives.”

“The intuition of that woman is a touching manifestation of the ‘sensus fidei’, which allows a certain discernment of the things of faith and at the same time nourishes true wisdom and arouses the proclamation of truth,” said the Pope.

The Pope’s 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium stressed the importance of the laity, praising those with “a rooted sense of community and a great fidelity to the commitment of the love of Christ.”

Cardinal Parolin noted that the exhortation characterizes clericalism as “a sin against the lay faithful.” While in some cases the laity have not been formed for important responsibilities, in others the laity  have not found space in their particular churches “because of excessive clericalism that keeps them on the margin of decisions.”

Parolin cited Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro of Bologna’s intervention during the council, in which he linked the “mystery of Christ in the Church” to the “mystery of Christ in the poor” and emphasized the need for the council to be for “the Church of the poor.” For Cardinal Parolin, this was a very strong statement, meaning  poverty is understood “as the mode of being essential to the mystery of the Church.”

Also a topic of the cardinal’s speech were various efforts to reconsider papal primacy, centralization, and local authority. He noted then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s concerns that bishops’ conferences might suppress the role of the individual bishop.

At the same time, the council documents Christus Dominus and Lumen gentium discuss the collegial nature of bishops’ ministry and base these conferences’ mission in the sacramental origin of the bishops’ ministry.

“In other words, these conferences are really ‘episcopal’: they have their reason for being not in a sociological principle of collaboration, but in the implementation of the ministry conferred on each bishop with episcopal consecration,” the cardinal said.

Cardinal Parolin’s U.S. visit included attendance at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall assembly and a visit with Vice President Mike Pence.

Venerable Solanus Casey: the priest who answered the doorbell.

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2017 / 06:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Venerable Solanus Casey, a Capuchin priest from Wisconsin, was humble before all else, said the postulator of his cause for sainthood.

The life of Venerable Solanus Casey is the story of his “humility, his simplicity, as well as his acceptance of whatever life gave him,” Franciscan-Capuchin Fr. Carlo Calloni told CNA Nov. 15.

Fr. Solanus Casey is an American-born Capuchin priest who died in 1957. He will be beatified at a Nov. 18 Mass in Detroit. Known for his great faith, attention to the sick, and ability as a spiritual counselor, he will be the second American-born male to be beatified.

As the general postulator for the Order of Friars Minor-Capuchin, Fr. Calloni is well-versed in the life and virtues of Venerable Solanus Casey, who he told CNA had a gift for listening and for consolation.

“He became the friar at the door of the monastery, who welcomes your spiritual needs but also answers to your physical needs or material difficulties,” he said.

“There was no one, after visiting Solanus Casey at the door of the monastery, who returned with nothing. Everyone received something, spiritual or material.”

The priest’s humility began even in his youth, Fr. Calloni said. Born on Nov. 25, 1870 to a family of Irish immigrants, he work from a young age at a variety of jobs, including as a lumberjack, prison guard and tram driver.

Around the age of 20, he felt a strong desire to become a priest, entering the seminary at Milwaukee. But he had many difficulties in his studies there, Fr. Calloni explained, “especially to learn German and Latin, the languages in which theology was taught” at the time.
 
After the seminary encouraged him to enter a religious order, he joined the Capuchin Franciscans in Detroit and after struggling through his studies, was ordained in 1904 a “sacerdos simplex” – a priest who can say Mass, but not publicly preach or hear confessions.

Because he was a “sacerdos simplex” he was given the same jobs as lay brothers of the order; he worked as an assistant to the janitor, the cook, and the tailor. For 21 years he was the porter at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit, assigned to answer the door whenever it rang.

“He accepted performing even these humble services, and in this he fulfilled, as it is said, God’s design for him,” Fr. Calloni said.

Eventually, because of his humility and good counsel, people began to seek out Fr. Solanus for spiritual guidance.

Over the course of his life “he also wrote many letters in reply to the people who asked him for advice.”

Fr. Solanus Casey died from erysipelas, a skin disease, on July 31, 1957, at the age of 87. Since then many people have received favors from his intercession. And on May 4, Pope Francis recognized a miracle attributed to his intercession, paving the way for his beatification.

Calloni said because the miracle is a “delicate” matter, he could only speak of it in general terms, but said it occurred to a Panamanian woman who was invited to visit Detroit by Capuchin Franciscan missionaries.

During her visit, the woman, who had a grave and incurable genetic skin disease, visited and prayed at the tomb of Fr. Solanus. Like many devotees, she wrote a note to place at the tomb, asking for a special grace or favor.

She prayed for a long list of family and friends, but then was moved to ask for something for herself. “And she asked only to have a greater faith. This is all,” Fr. Calloni said. She was completely healed.

“The figure of Solanus Casey is well known in Detroit,” he said. “He is truly in the heart of the city. Precisely because he accepted everyone to his door. He did not refuse anyone: the color of the skin, religion, social condition. He really was a man of great spirituality, of great faith.”

 

Ahead of Burma visit, Pope says he's coming to promote peace

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2017 / 05:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday, Pope Francis sent a video greeting to the people of Burma – also known as Myanmar – ahead of his Nov. 27-30 trip, saying he is coming to proclaim the Gospel and promote peace in a country gripped by a heated humanitarian and political crisis surrounding the Rohingya Muslim minority.

In the video, published Nov. 17, the said he wants to “confirm the Catholic community of Myanmar in its faith in God and in its testimony of the Gospel, which teaches the dignity of every man and woman, and demands (us) to open our hearts to others, especially to the poor and the needy.”

Above all, Francis said he is coming “to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ: a message of reconciliation, forgiveness and peace.”

The visit to Burma is the first of two stops in a Nov. 27-Dec. 2 trip that will also take Pope Francis to Bangladesh.

It also takes place amid an uptick in state-supported violence against Burma's Rohingya Muslim community – an ethnic and religious minority – which in recent months has reached staggering levels, causing the United Nations to declare the situation “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

With an increase in violent persecution in their home country, many of the Rohingya population has fled to neighboring Bangladesh, with millions camping along the border as refugees.

In his video message, the Pope thanked everyone working in preparation of his visit and asked for their prayers, that it would be “a source of hope and encouragement for everyone.” He said he also hopes to visit the country in a “spirit of respect and encouragement,” so the nation may endeavor to “build harmony and cooperation in serving the common good.”

Many people at this time, both believers and people of goodwill, feel an increasing need to grow in mutual understanding and respect as “members of the only human family,” he said, “because we are all children of God.”

The Pope’s pastoral visit to Burma and Bangladesh was officially announced by the Vatican in August and a first draft of his schedule was released Oct. 10. He will be in Burma Nov. 27-30 and in Bangladesh Nov. 30-Dec. 2.

Pope Francis will leave the Vatican in the evening on Nov. 26, landing the following day in Yangon, the largest city in Burma, where he will stay during the first portion of his trip. After the official welcoming, he will have time to rest before the full-schedule begins the next day.

On Tuesday, Nov. 28, he will fly to Nay Pyi Taw, where there will be another official welcoming and arrival ceremony and an official visit with President Htin Kyaw.

He will then meet with the state advisor and minister of foreign affairs, before an encounter with other government authorities, leaders of civil society and the diplomatic corps, where he will give his first official speech of the visit.

The following morning Francis will celebrate Mass at the Kyaikkasan Grounds park. In the afternoon he will give speeches at separate meeting with the Supreme Council of “Sangha,” a term referring to Buddhist clergy in the country, and in a meeting with the bishops of Burma.

He will conclude his visit to Burma with a Mass for young people at the Cathedral of St. Mary’s in the morning of Nov. 30 before departing for Dhaka in Bangladesh.

Catholics in Burma are a small minority, only making up approximately 1.3 percent of a population of nearly 52 million. There are also few priests - only one per every 742 Catholics.

Who was Albino Luciani, the 'smiling Pope'?

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Last week Albino Luciani, better known by his papal name, John Paul I, took the next step on the path to sainthood. Yet apart from the fame garnered by various theories that sprouted due to the enigmatic nature of his death, for many little is known of his saintly life and brief pontificate.

Born Oct. 17, 1912, in Italy’s northern Veneto region, Albino Luciani, known also as “the smiling Pope,” was elected Bishop of Rome Aug. 26, 1978. He made history when he became the first Pope to take a double name, after his two immediate predecessors, St. John XXIII and Bl. Paul VI.

He sent shock waves around the world when he died unexpectedly just 33 days later, making his one of the shortest pontificates in the history of the Church.

In addition to the novelty of his name and the surprise of his death, Luciani was also the first Pope born in the 20th century, and is also the most recent Italian-born Bishop of Rome.

Yet behind all the novelty of the month before his death and mystery of those that ensued, John Paul I has been hailed as a man of heroic humility and extraordinary simplicity, with a firm commitment to carrying forward the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and a knack for explaining complicated Church concepts in a way everyone can understand.

Life and background

Coming from a northern region in Italy that borders Austria, Luciani grew up with people from all cultures and backgrounds passing through. The area saw high levels of immigration and strong activity on the part of Catholic movements.

The priests around whom Luciani grew up had a keen social awareness and involvement with the faithful.

While all the basic needs of his family were met, Luciani grew up in relative poverty, with his father gone most of the time for work. However, according to Stefania Falasca, vice-postulator of his cause for canonization, this background gave the future Pope “a huge cultural suitcase” that he was able to bring with him in his various endevours.

Ordained a priest of the Diocese of Belluno e Feltre July 7, 1935, at the age of 22, Luciani was rector of the diocese's seminary for 10 years. He taught various courses throughout his tenure, including dogmatic and moral theology, canon law, and sacred art.

In 1941 he received a dispensation from Ven. Pius XII to continue teaching while pursuing his doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University.

He was named Bishop of Vittorio Veneto by St. John XXIII in 1958.

In 1969 he was named Patriarch of Venice by Bl. Paul VI. He was elevated to the cardinalate in 1973, and was elected Bishop of Rome five years later.

Literature also played a key role in Luciani's formation. According to Falasca, he had a library full of books in different languages and a special fondness for Anglo-American literature.

Though he knew English, French, German and Russian, his favorite authors were from the Anglo world, and included authors such as G.K. Chesterton, Willa Cather, and Mark Twain.

As cardinal, he wrote his own book called “Illustrissimi,” which is a series of letters penned to a variety of historical and fictional persons, including Jesus, King David, Figaro the Barber, Austrian Empress Maria Theresa Habsburg, Pinocchio, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Christopher Marlowe.

Luciani, Falasca said, was considered by Paul VI to be “one of the most advanced theologians” of the time, and was held in high esteem because he not just knew theology, but also knew how to explain it.

The clarity he had was “highly considered right away among the Italian bishops,” she said. “He was considered the brightest pen because of this 'cultural suitcase,' which knew how to synthesize in a very delicate writing, but clear and full of references.”

Luciani, she said, had “an ease of language” in his writing, which was coupled with “a solid theological preparation,” making him both credible and accessible.

Pontificate – 'an Apostle of the Council'

John Paul I above all else was “a son of the Council,” Falasca said. Luciani “translated and communicated the directives in a natural and simple way … So he was an apostle of the Council in this sense.”

“He explained it, he put it into practice, he put the directives into action in a crystalline way.” It was this desire to carry the Council forward that formed the basis for his priorities during his 33 days in office.  

Among these priorities was a “renewed sense of mission” for the Church, Falasca said, explaining that for Luciani, to accomplish this mission it was important “to go back to the sources of the Gospel.”

“This, you can say, was the meaning of the Council for Luciani.” And for him, going to the sources also meant “communicating the Gospel in simplicity and conforming his ministry” to it.

In addition to mission, John Paul I also placed a special emphasis on spiritual poverty in the Church and the search for peace and ecumenism.

Ecumenism and dialogue in particular are topics Luciani felt were “a duty that is part of being a Christian.”

Collegiality also was another key topic for Luciani, and it was the subject of his only written intervention during the Council, which he contributed in 1963.

Luciani also placed a strong emphasis on mercy, Falasca said, explaining that in many ways he was “was the Pope of mercy 'par excellence,'” and was known for his warm and friendly demeanor.  

These priorities can be clearly seen in the four general audiences John Paul I gave during his pontificate, with the subjects being poverty, faith, hope, and charity.

And the way he spoke about these and other topics, with “the simplicity of his approach (and) of his language,” left “an indelible memory in the People of God,” Falasca said.

John Paul I, she said, moved people with his naturalness and his ordinary way of speaking to the faithful.

Luciani had put this quality into writing long before his pontificate when in 1949, he published his first book, titled “Catechesis in Crumbs,” which focused on how to teach the essential truths of the faith in a simple and direct way, understandable to everyone.

Death

When John Paul I died 33 days after his election, his sudden and unexpected death led to various conspiracy theories that Luciani had been murdered.

However, in a book titled “John Paul I: The Chronicle of a Death” and published Nov. 7 to coincide with the announcement that Luciani's sainthood cause was moving forward, Falasca dispels the theories by outlining the evidence gathered on John Paul I’s death while researching for his cause.

In the book, she recounts how the evening before his death Luciani suffered a severe pain in his chest for about five minutes, a symptom of a heart problem, which occurred while he was praying Vespers with his Irish secretary, Msgr. John Magee, before dinner.

The Pope rejected the suggestion to call for a doctor when the pain subsided, and his doctor, Renato Buzzonetti, was only informed of the episode after his death.

Heroic Virtue

Luciani's prime virtue was humility, which is “the base without which you can't go toward God.” Humility, Falasca said, “was so embedded in him, that he understood it as the only way to reach Christ.”

Luciani's connection with the Lord was also evident in the way that he spoke about God, she said, explaining that he was able to make the love of God close to people, and felt by them.

Falasca said she believes he is an ideal model of the priesthood. To this end, she recalled how during her time working on Luciani's cause, many young priests came to her saying they felt the call of their vocation when they saw his election on TV.  

Another sign of his sanctity was the “spontaneous reputation” that grew over time, and is a “distinctive sign” in determining the heroic virtue of a person.

“The reputation for holiness is the condition 'sine quo non' (without which it could not be) to open a cause of canonization; there must be a reputation,” she said, and “Luciani enjoys much of it, and he enjoys it not in an artificial way.”

Many people pray to him and have continued to travel to his birth town over the past 40 years, she said, because people are attracted “by his charm.”

“He won over many with his stand in the face of contemporaneity, his closeness to the people of his time with that simplicity and with that familiarity of communication.”

Luciani opened “a new season in being and in the exercise of the Petrine ministry...with his charm, which knew how to conjugate in perfect synthesis, in my view, what was old and what was new.”

He also lived an extraordinary sense of poverty of spirit as seen in the Beatitudes, and had an “extreme fidelity to the Gospel in the circumstance and the status that he embraced.”

In a testimony given for documentation in the Luciani's cause for canonization, Benedict XVI said that when Luciani appeared on the balcony in his white cassock after his election, “we were all deeply impressed by his humility and his goodness.”

“Even during the meals, then, he was took a place with us. So thanks to a direct contact we immediately understood that the right Pope had been elected.”

Benedict XVI's testimony regarding John Paul I is four pages long and is one of the documents included in Falasca's book. In her comments to CNA, she said they had originally planned to interview him in 2005 while he was still a cardinal, but he was elected Pope on the same day he was scheduled to speak, and since a Pope is technically the one judging a saints' cause, he is not allowed to give testimony for it.

However, there are currently no previsions for a retired Pope, so when Benedict XVI resigned in 2013, Falasca and her team advancing Luciani's cause reached out again, receiving the testimony that has now been published in her book.

In his testimony, Benedict recalled that he first met Luciani while the latter was Patriarch of Venice. He had decided to visit the seminary in Bressanone with his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, for vacation in August 1977, shortly after becoming a bishop.

Luciani came to visit the brothers after learning of their visit, and to go out of his way to do this in the oppressive heat of August “was a expression of a nobility of spirit that went well beyond usual,” Benedict wrote. “The cordiality, simplicity and goodness that he showed to me are indelibly impressed in my memory.”

Benedict said he was shocked when he received news of John Paul I's death in the middle of the night and didn't initially believe it, but slowly accepted the news in Mass the next day, during which the celebrant offered prayer for the “deceased Pope John Paul I.”

Speaking of John Paul I's pontificate, Benedict noted that in 1978 it was evident that “the post-conciliar Church was passing through a great crisis, and the good figure of John Paul I, who was a courageous man on the basis of faith, represented a sign of hope.” And this figure, he said, still represents “a message” for the Church today.

Benedict also noted that during the various public speeches Luciani gave, whether it was a general audience or a Sunday Angelus, the late Pope “spoke several times off-the-cuff and with the heart, touching the people in a much more direct way.”

Luciani often called children up to him during general audiences to ask them about their faith, Benedict said, explaining that “his simplicity and his love for simple people were convincing. And yet, behind that simplicity was a great and rich formation, especially of the literary type.”

So far hundreds of graces and favors have been recorded for those who pray to Luciani, and there are already two miracles being studied and considered for his beatification and eventual canonization. Falasca said they are currently trying to decide which to present first.

House passes contentious tax plan despite bishops' warnings

Washington D.C., Nov 16, 2017 / 04:37 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a major tax reform bill, which had drawn caution from the U.S. bishops, who had warned that it could place additional burdens on the working poor.

With an official vote of 227-205, the bill was opposed by all House Democrats, as well as 13 Republicans.

It will next go to the Senate. It is uncertain whether it will have enough votes to pass there.

U.S. bishops had called parts of the tax legislation “unconscionable” in a Nov. 9 letter, signed by Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, who chairs the Committee on International Justice and Peace; and Bishop George V. Murry, S.J. of Youngstown, who chairs the Committee on Catholic Education.

“As written, this proposal appears to be the first federal income tax modification in American history that will raise income taxes on the working poor while simultaneously providing a large tax cut to the wealthy,” they said.

They also objected to provisions in the bill that would act as disincentives for charitable giving, affordable housing projects and community revitalization.

The bishops did highlight some positive aspects of the tax reform, including in the areas of education and child tax credits.

 

End of life care must acknowledge our mortality, Francis reminds physicians

Vatican City, Nov 16, 2017 / 03:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a message to medical professionals Thursday, Pope Francis said that when it comes to end-of-life care, treatments should always be based on human dignity and with the patient's best interests in mind.

He also stressed that the various medical options provided must avoid the temptation either to euthanize a patient or to pursue disproportionate treatments which do not serve the integral good of the person.

When it comes to caring for those at the end of their earthly life, “it could be said that the categorical imperative is to never abandon the sick,” the Pope said Nov. 16.

The anguish of being faced with our human mortality and the difficult decisions we have to make “may tempt us to step back from the patient,” he said, but cautioned that is the stage when we are most called to show love, closeness, and solidarity.

Each person – whether they are a parent, child, sibling, doctor or nurse – must give in their own way, he said, and even though there is not always a guarantee of healing or a cure, “we can and must always care for the living, without ourselves shortening their life, but also without futilely resisting their death.”

In this sense, he pointed to the importance of palliative care, “which is proving most important in our culture, as it opposes what makes death most terrifying and unwelcome – pain and loneliness.”

Pope Francis offered his words in a message sent to participants in the World Medical Association's Nov. 16-17 European Meeting on End-of-Life Questions, organized in collaboration with the Pontifical Academy for Life.

The Pope said “greater wisdom” is needed today when it comes to end-of-life care, “because of the temptation to insist on treatments that have powerful effects on the body, yet at times do not serve the integral good of the person.”

The increase in the “therapeutic capabilities of medical science” have made it possible to eliminate various diseases, improve health and prolong a person's life, he said, noting that while these are certainly positive developments, there is now also the danger “to extend life by means that were inconceivable in the past.”

“Surgery and other medical interventions have become ever more effective, but they are not always beneficial: they can sustain, or even replace, failing vital functions, but that is not the same as promoting health.”

Referencing a speech given by Venerable Pius XII to anaesthesiologists and intensive care specialists in 1957, Francis said that “there is no obligation to have recourse in all circumstances to every possible remedy” for an illness, and that in specific cases, “it is permissible to refrain from their use.”

“Consequently, it is morally licit to decide not to adopt therapeutic measures, or to discontinue them, when their use does not meet that ethical and humanistic standard that would later be called 'due proportion in the use of remedies,'” referencing the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's 1980 Declaration on Euthanasia.

The key element of this criterion, according to the CDF, is that it considers “the result that can be expected, taking into account the state of the sick person and his or her physical and moral resources.”

This “makes possible a decision that is morally qualified as withdrawal of 'overzealous treatment',” the Pope said.

“Such a decision responsibly acknowledges the limitations of our mortality, once it becomes clear that opposition to it is futile.” He quoted the Catechism in saying that “here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted.”

“This difference of perspective restores humanity to the accompaniment of the dying, while not attempting to justify the suppression of the living,” he said.

“It is clear that not adopting, or else suspending, disproportionate measures, means avoiding overzealous treatment; from an ethical standpoint, it is completely different from euthanasia, which is always wrong, in that the intent of euthanasia is to end life and cause death.”

When it comes to concrete clinical situations, Pope Francis noted that various factors come into play that are not always easy to evaluate, and to determine whether a medical intervention is proportionate or not, “the mechanical application of a general rule is not sufficient.”

“There needs to be a careful discernment of the moral object, the attending circumstances, and the intentions of those involved.”

Francis emphasized that when caring for any given patient, decisions must be made in light of human dignity. “In this process, the patient has the primary role,” he added.

“The patient, first and foremost, has the right, obviously in dialogue with medical professionals, to evaluate a proposed treatment and to judge its actual proportionality in his or her concrete case, and necessarily refusing it if such proportionality is judged lacking. That evaluation is not easy to make in today's medical context, where the doctor-patient relationship has become increasingly fragmented and medical care involves any number of technological and organizational aspects.

Compounding this difficulty, the Pope said, is the “growing gap” in healthcare opportunities, which he said is due to “the combination of technical and scientific capability and economic interests.”

What this means, then, is that sophisticated and costly treatments are increasingly available to “ever more limited and privileged segments” of the population. This then raises questions regarding sustainable healthcare delivery and “a systemic tendency toward growing inequality in health care.”

This tendency, Francis said, “is clearly visible” on a global level, especially when comparing different continents. However, he noted this is also seen within wealthier countries, where access to healthcare “risks being more dependent on individuals’ economic resources than on their actual need for treatment.”

In this context, as it relates to both clinical practice and medical culture in general, “the supreme commandment of responsible closeness must be kept uppermost in mind,” he said.

Given the complexity of issues surrounding end-of-life care and the moral and ethical questions they raise, the Pope said democratic societies must address them “calmly, seriously and thoughtfully,” in a way open to finding agreeable solutions whenever possible, including on the legal level.

“On the one hand, there is a need to take into account differing world views, ethical convictions and religious affiliations, in a climate of openness and dialogue. On the other hand, the state cannot renounce its duty to protect all those involved, defending the fundamental equality whereby everyone is recognized under law as a human being living with others in society.”

Special attention must be paid to the vulnerable, who need help when it comes to defending their own interests, he said, noting that if this “core of values essential to coexistence” is weakened, then “the possibility of agreeing on that recognition of the other which is the condition for all dialogue and the very life of society will also be lost.”

Healthcare legislation must adopt this “broad vision and a comprehensive view” of what will most effectively promote the common good in each concrete case, he said, and closed by offering his prayer for the discussion.

“I also trust that you will find the most appropriate ways of addressing these delicate issues with a view to the good of all those whom you meet and those with whom you work in your demanding profession.”