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Why 'Silence Breakers' are key in any abuse crisis

Denver, Colo., Dec 10, 2017 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- This week, TIME Magazine announced a group of women and men as their collective Person of the Year.

What do these people have in common? They are what TIME called “The Silence Breakers” - people who have blown the whistle on sexual assault and abuse within the workplace, largely in the industries of film, politics, and media.

In recent months an avalanche of abuse allegations have been brought to light against powerful figures, starting most notably with a piece in the New York Times in which several women accused Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. This sparked a flood of men and women coming forward with other allegations of abuse against numerous people in positions of power.

“These silence breakers have started a revolution of refusal, gathering strength by the day, and in the past two months alone, their collective anger has spurred immediate and shocking results: nearly every day, CEOs have been fired, moguls toppled, icons disgraced. In some cases, criminal charges have been brought,” TIME reported.

Not long ago, the Catholic Church in the United States was reeling from its own sex abuse crisis. In the early 2000s, reporters at the Boston Globe broke the story of a former priest who was accused of molesting more than 100 boys over 30 years, which led to a large-scale uncovering of thousands more allegations of abuse in dioceses throughout the country.

Since then, the Church has taken care to provide numerous resources to such victims, and develop robust child protection policies.

Edward Mechmann, director of public policy and the safe environment office for the Archdiocese of New York, told CNA that the “silence breakers” who came forward and continue to come forward with accusations of abuse by clergy and Church personnel are key in maintaining a safe environment in the Church.

“I think the one thing we have to make sure we understand is who the whistleblowers are, and for the most part, the whistleblowers are victims,” Mechmann said.

“As much as the outside observers like the Boston Globe and the media in general contributed to our awareness of the scope of the problem, we would really be nowhere unless we had some of these courageous victims coming forward, because without them, we would have many more men in service who are victimizers,” he added.

It is especially important that victims come forward in order to protect others from abuse, he noted, because in some cases, abusers have victimized numerous people over the span many years.

Recently, the Church has seen victims coming forward “much more willingly now, because they see that we’re serious, they see that we’re not going to victimize them again, and they see concrete results” such as accused persons being removed from ministry, he said.

“The first and most important thing we do is we listen to them, and I can’t tell you how important that is,” Mechmann said.

“So many people that come in to see us are afraid, they’ve been victimized, they’re afraid they’re going to be victimized again, and just the fact that we listen to them is just an enormously healing thing,” he said.

Besides listening to victims, Mechmann said the Church also provides support through counseling and through talking with victims about the Church’s internal processes for dealing with cases of abuse.

“And we stay in contact with them, if they want to stay in contact with us, we walk with them,” he added.

Dr. Benjamin Keyes, a Catholic psychologist and Director for the Center for Trauma and Resiliency Studies at Divine Mercy University, told CNA that supporting and encouraging victims who come forward is of the utmost importance.

“There’s a whole lot of relief that someone has finally heard the story...they’re no longer isolated with the information, and how well they fare afterwards really depends on what happens around them,” he said. “Are they supported, are there people in their network, whether it's family, friends, or co-workers, that really understand and really support them in the courage that it takes to do this?”

Sometimes it can takes months or even years for victims of abuse to break the silence on what happened to them, Keyes said, because there is usually “a lot of embarrassment, a lot of shame involved, and most people, women in particular, don’t want to expose that to the public or to others, even to those who are close to (them),” he said.

The fear of retaliation or retribution is also something that can keep victims from coming forward, especially if the abuse came from someone who is in a position of power over the victim, Keyes noted.

For these reasons, victims need encouragement and support from the Church in order to feel comfortable coming forward.

“The Church can be supportive, especially in the parishes, (by) making it safe for (whistleblowers) to be who they are, by acknowledging the courage that it took for them to do that, and to be supportive vocally within the body of the Church so that people hear that the Church is supporting it,” he said.

Supporting victims also involves “making sure that they stay networked into not only the activities that they’ve been involved with, but that they stay networked into the body of the Church, so that they don’t walk away,” he added.

The parish priest, as well as members of the parish community, are especially key in making victims feel welcomed and supported, he noted, which can be done simply by including them and befriending them.

“We’re taught in the Bible to love and to love unconditionally, and this is part of that,” Keyes said.

“It’s embracing the broken places and binding up the suffering and reaching out to the broken-hearted, and we’re called as Christians, not just as counselors, to do that,” he added.

Since the sex abuse crisis in the Church in the United States, the bishops have put into place numerous policies and practices to protect victims, and especially children from sexual abuse, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Charter for Child and Youth Protection, which calls for an annual audit and report of all the dioceses in the country.

The Church has also implemented safe environment trainings that call for a zero-tolerance policy of abuse in Church environments.

“I think a lot of what’s happening is really good,” Mechmann said, regarding the silence breakers in media and politics who have recently come forward.

“Maybe the world as a whole could learn a little bit from the way that we have handled this, in terms of creating a clear corporate culture of zero tolerance. Transparency is at the heart of what we’ve done, and I hope that some of these other industries can do the same.”

Vatican voices concern over Trump's Jerusalem move

Vatican City, Dec 10, 2017 / 09:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Following U.S. President Donald Trump’s Dec. 6 notice that he will be moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the Holy See has expressed its concern for recent violent outbreaks and urged leaders to promote peace and security. 

A Vatican communique Dec. 10 pointed to concerns for peace and security in Jerusalem and reiterated its belief that “only a negotiated solution between Israelis and Palestinians can bring a stable and lasting peace,” as well as “guarantee the peaceful co-existence of two states within internationally recognized borders.”

The brief statement was published just days after the news broke that President Trump would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a widely controversial decision that has provoked a mixed reaction from the international community.

The Vatican said it is watching the development of the situation closely, especially in Jerusalem, which is a “Sacred city for Christians, Jews and Muslims from all over the world.”

The statement also reiterated the Holy See’s position on the importance of maintaining the status quo in Jerusalem, as per the repeated requests of the international community, and the hierarchies of the Catholic and Christian communities of the Holy Land.

Renewing an appeal made by Pope Francis during his general audience on Dec. 6, the statement reiterated the Pope's “fervent prayers” for national leaders, that they be committed to promoting peace, justice and security and averting “a new spiral of violence” in the nation.

Israel has traditionally always recognized Jerusalem as its capital. However, Palestinians claim that the eastern portion of the city is the capital of the future Palestinian state. In recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the U.S. is the first country to do so since the state was established in 1948.

Debate on the issue is in many ways the crux of the conflict between Israel and Palestine, which is backed by Arab leaders, including Saudi Arabia, and the wider Islamic world.

According to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem is to be discussed in the late stages of peace talks. Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognized by the international community, and all countries with diplomatic relations have their embassies in Tel Aviv.

More than 30 Palestinians have been injured in clashes across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip amid protests against Trump’s decision.

The position of the U.N. on the Jerusalem issue is that East Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian territory, and that the city should eventually become the capital of the two states of Israel and Palestine.

The Vatican has long supported a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and on a diplomatic level recognizes and refers to both “the State of Israel” and “the State of Palestine.”

In Advent, prepare your heart like your hearth, Pope says

Vatican City, Dec 10, 2017 / 05:49 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During Advent, we should prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus like we joyfully prepare our homes for a visit from a family member or friend, Pope Francis said Sunday, especially removing anything keeping us from Christ.

“When we await at home a visit from a loved one, we prepare everything with care and happiness. In the same way we want to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord: to wait for him every day with solicitude, to be filled with his grace when he comes,” the Pope said Dec. 10.

In his weekly Angelus address, Francis reflected on the day’s first reading from Isaiah, which says to “make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low.”

The Pope pointed out that the valleys in this passage can represent our sins of omission, such as failing to pray, or praying very little. The valleys could also be the ways we have failed to have charity toward others, especially those most in need of material or spiritual help.

In Advent, “we are called to be more attentive to the needs of others, those closest (to us). Like John the Baptist, in this way we can open roads of hope in the desert of the dry hearts of many people,” he said.

Therefore, Advent is a good time to fill these valleys in our life, he said; to pray more intensely, to prioritize your spiritual life.

On the other hand, when the verse says, “every mountain and every hill be lowered,” we are reminded of our faults of pride, arrogance and superiority, which must become attitudes of meekness and humility, just like our Savior is “meek and humble of heart.”

Then, when we’ve examined our conscience, “we are asked to eliminate all the obstacles we put into our union with the Lord” with joy, he said, because we are preparing for the coming of our Savior.

“The Savior we are waiting for is able to transform our life with the power of the Holy Spirit, with the power of love. Indeed, the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts the love of God, an inexhaustible source of purification, of new life and freedom,” Francis said.

May the Virgin Mary, he concluded, who prepared for the coming of Christ with her whole being and existence, “help us to follow her example and guide our steps to meet the Lord who is coming.”

Second Sunday of Advent

Reading 1 Is 40:1-5, 9-11

Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her service is at an end,
her guilt is expiated;
indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD
double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Go up on to a high mountain,
Zion, herald of glad tidings;
cry out at the top of your voice,
Jerusalem, herald of good news!
Fear not to cry out
and say to the cities of Judah:
Here is your God!
Here comes with power
the Lord GOD,
who rules by his strong arm;
here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 85:9-10-11-12, 13-14

R. (8) Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD—for he proclaims peace to his people.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.
R. Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
R. Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and prepare the way of his steps.
R. Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

Reading 2 2 Pt 3:8-14

Do not ignore this one fact, beloved,
that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years
and a thousand years like one day.
The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard "delay,"
but he is patient with you,
not wishing that any should perish
but that all should come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief,
and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar
and the elements will be dissolved by fire,
and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.

Since everything is to be dissolved in this way,
what sort of persons ought you to be,
conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion,
waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God,
because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames
and the elements melted by fire.
But according to his promise
we await new heavens and a new earth
in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you await these things,
be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.

Alleluia Lk 3:4, 6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths:
All flesh shall see the salvation of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 1:1-8

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
"Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths."

John the Baptist appeared in the desert
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
People of the whole Judean countryside
and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
John was clothed in camel's hair,
with a leather belt around his waist.
He fed on locusts and wild honey.
And this is what he proclaimed:
"One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
- - -
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

US bishops call for solidarity with migrants on Our Lady of Guadalupe's feast day

Washington D.C., Dec 9, 2017 / 03:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. bishops are encouraging Catholics to observe the upcoming Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a day of solidarity with immigrants.

In the nation’s capital, a 12:10 p.m. Mass at St. Peter's Church will mark the Dec. 12 feast day. The Mass will be celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville of Washington, D.C.

Additionally, more than 55 events – including prayers services, Masses, and processions – will be held throughout the U.S. this month. These events, the bishops’ conference said, will honor Our Lady of Guadalupe and will “seek to honor the accomplishments, hopes, fears, and needs of all families who have come to the U.S. seeking a better life.”

“As we enter the Advent season and Christmas approaches, we are reminded of the unique role and importance of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a unifier and peacebuilder for communities,” said Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, chairman of the migration committee at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“We honor her role as protectress of families, including those families separated and far from home,” he said in a Dec. 7 statement.

The conference is also offering resources for parishes looking to accompany migrants, including Our Lady of Guadalupe prayer cards and informational material. Other suggestions include ways to incorporate the intentions of the migrant community in parish prayer services, social media sharing, and efforts to support government policies such Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas and the unborn, appeared to St. Juan Diego on the Hill of Tepeyac in Mexico City in 1531, during a time of conflict between the Spanish and the indigenous peoples.

Our Lady took the appearance of a pregnant native woman, wore clothing in the style of the indigenous community, and spoke to Juan Diego in the native language of Nahuatl.

She asked Juan Deigo to appeal to the local bishop to build a church on the site of the apparition, stating she wanted a place where she could reveal to the people the compassion of her son. Initially turned away by the bishop, Diego returned to site asking Our Lady for a sign to prove the authenticity of her message.

She instructed him to gather the Castilian roses that he found blooming on the hillside, despite the fact that it was winter, and present them to the Spanish bishop. Juan Diego filled his cloak – known as a tilma – with the flowers. When he presented them to the bishop, he found that an image of Our Lady was miraculously imprinted upon his tilma.

Today, nearly 500 years later, the bishops said, we should still remember Mary’s words to Juan Diego: “Let your face and heart not be troubled, don’t be afraid … Am I not here who am your mother?”

The bishops’ statement said many immigrants from the Americas have relied on Our Lady of Guadalupe’s intercession for safety during their migrant journey. The statement included a prayer requesting her protection over the most vulnerable.

 

Due to violence, Mexican diocese avoids Christmas Masses at high-risk times

Villahermosa, Mexico, Dec 9, 2017 / 06:08 am (ACI Prensa).- A diocese in one of Mexico's most violence-ridden states has indicated it will avoid scheduling Masses for Christmas and its octave at “high risk” times. It has also asked the state's police to protect parishioners.

“With respect to the problem of insecurity, for the most part the established schedule has been kept, but we are trying to avoid scheduling certain times that could be high risk,” Fr. José Luis Compeán Rueda, vicar general of the Diocese of Tabasco, said at a Dec. 3 press conference in Villahermosa, capital of the Mexican state of Tabasco.

El Heraldo de Tabasco reported that Fr. Compean said he had met with the head of Tabasco's Department of Public Safety, Jorge Aguirre Carbajal, to talk about the problem of the lack of public safety and said that “they will take appropriate steps as needed.”

“We hope the different state or municipal authorities will take corresponding measures to provide protection, not exclusively to the Church, but to all of society,” he said.

Fr. Compeán noted that during the year end festivities crime increases because people are getting paid Christmas bonuses and buying Christmas presents.

A September report prepared by the Tabasco Citizens' Observatory revealed that in 2017 Tabasco occupied first place in the nation in kidnappings per capita.

“The State of Tabasco held first place in five categories of crime: kidnapping, aggravated robbery, robbery of businesses, holdups of passersby and livestock rustling” the director of Analysis and Statistics of the Tabasco Citizens' Observatory, Julia Arrivillaga, told Televisa.

The Catholic Multimedia Center released a report in August showing that Tabasco is one of the most dangerous states for priests, and that Mexico is the most violent country for priests in Latin America.

 


This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Pope meets Sisters of Congregation founded by Mother Cabrini

By Seàn-Patrick Lovett

Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini is an Italian-born saint who dedicated her life to helping thousands of Italian immigrants living in the United States during the late 19th century. She died in Chicago exactly one hundred years ago.

On Saturday morning in the Vatican, Pope Francis met members of the religious congregation she founded, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The congregation is present today on 6 continents and in 15 countries around the world.

Click below to hear the report by Seàn-Patrick Lovett

During his discourse in Italian, the Pope recalled the holiness of their Foundress and praised her tireless work with migrants and the poor. He held her up as an example for today, adding that the reality of migrants has evolved and is now “more current than ever”. Migrants, said the Pope, “need good laws, programs of development and organization but, above all, they always need love, friendship, human closeness; they need to be heard, looked in the eye, accompanied”. They need God, he said, “encountered in love that is freely given”. We must do as Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini does, concluded Pope Francis: “be capable of responding to the signs of our time, reading them in the light of the Word of God and living them in such a way as to provide an answer that can reach the heart of every person”.

 

Here is our English translation of the Pope’s address

It is with great pleasure that I welcome all of you, representatives of the Cabrini Family, who wish in this way to conclude the celebrations for the centenary of the birth of St Frances Xavier Cabrini. On December 17, 1917, this holy woman, who had crossed the ocean twenty-four times to assist migrants in the Americas, and who, untiringly, had gone as far as the Andes and Argentina, died suddenly in Chicago, and departed on her final journey.

Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini the Missionary

St Cabrini was a true missionary. She had grown up keeping before her the example of St. Francis Xavier, the pioneer of evangelization in the East. In his heart he had China and in that distant land he hoped to bring the proclamation of the Gospel. He did not think of the thousands and thousands of emigrants who, because of hunger, lack of work and the absence of a future, embarked with their scant belongings to reach America, driven by the dream of a better life. As we know - and as she said - it was the vision of Pope Leo XIII who, jokingly, made her change course: "Not to the east, Cabrini, but to the West!". The young Mother Cabrini, who had just founded the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, needed to see where God was sending her on mission. Not to where she wanted to go, but to where He had prepared the way for her, the path of service and holiness. Here is the example of a true vocation: to forget oneself in order to surrender oneself fully to the love of God.

Migrants then and now

After so many years, the reality of migrants, to whom St Frances Xavier Cabrini dedicated her entire life, has evolved and is more current than ever. New faces of men, women and children, marked by so many forms of poverty and violence, appear before our eyes, hoping to find outstretched hands and welcoming hearts, like those of Mother Cabrini, along their way. In particular, you are offered the responsibility of being faithful to the mission of your Holy Foundress. Her charisma is of extraordinary actuality, because migrants certainly need good laws, programs of development and organization but, above all, they always need love, friendship, human closeness; they need to be heard, looked in the eye, accompanied; they need God, encountered in the freely given love of a woman who, with her consecrated heart, is your sister and mother.

“I can do all things in Him who gives me strength”

May the Lord renew always in you the attentive and merciful gaze towards the poor who live in our cities and our countries. Mother Cabrini had the courage to look into the eyes of the orphaned children entrusted to her, the unemployed youth who were tempted to commit crimes, the men and women exploited for the humblest jobs; and therefore today we are here to thank God for her holiness. In each of those brothers and sisters, she recognized the face of Christ and was able to put to good use the talents that the Lord had entrusted to her. She had a strong sense of apostolic action; and if she had such great energy to accomplish extraordinary work in a few years, it was only because of her union with Christ, following the model of St. Paul, from whom she took her motto: "I can do all things in Him who gives me strength".

Grasping the moment of grace

Mother Cabrini lived the spirituality of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Step by step, hers was an existence wholly intended to console and make the Sacred Heart known and loved. And this made her able to look at the hearts of those who approached her and to assist them in a coherent way. This important anniversary is a powerful reminder to us all of the need for a faith that knows how to grasp the moment of grace that is lived. As difficult as it may seem, she tells us that we must do as she does: be capable of responding to the signs of our time, reading them in the light of the Word of God and living them in such a way as to provide an answer that can reach the heart of every person.

(from Vatican Radio)

Saturday of the First Week of Advent

Reading 1 Is 30:19-21, 23-26

Thus says the Lord GOD,
the Holy One of Israel:
O people of Zion, who dwell in Jerusalem,
no more will you weep;
He will be gracious to you when you cry out,
as soon as he hears he will answer you.
The Lord will give you the bread you need
and the water for which you thirst.
No longer will your Teacher hide himself,
but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher,
While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears:
"This is the way; walk in it,"
when you would turn to the right or to the left.

He will give rain for the seed
that you sow in the ground,
And the wheat that the soil produces
will be rich and abundant.
On that day your flock will be given pasture
and the lamb will graze in spacious meadows;
The oxen and the asses that till the ground
will eat silage tossed to them
with shovel and pitchfork.
Upon every high mountain and lofty hill
there will be streams of running water.
On the day of the great slaughter,
when the towers fall,
The light of the moon will be like that of the sun
and the light of the sun will be seven times greater
like the light of seven days.
On the day the LORD binds up the wounds of his people,
he will heal the bruises left by his blows.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

R. (see Isaiah 30:18d) Blessed are all who wait for the Lord.
Praise the LORD, for he is good;
sing praise to our God, for he is gracious;
it is fitting to praise him.
The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem;
the dispersed of Israel he gathers.
R. Blessed are all who wait for the Lord.
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He tells the number of the stars;
he calls each by name.
R. Blessed are all who wait for the Lord.
Great is our LORD and mighty in power:
to his wisdom there is no limit.
The LORD sustains the lowly;
the wicked he casts to the ground.
R. Blessed are all who wait for the Lord.

Alleluia Is 33:22

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The LORD is our Judge, our Lawgiver, our King;
he it is who will save us.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 9:35–10:1, 5a, 6-8

Jesus went around to all the towns and villages,
teaching in their synagogues,
proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom,
and curing every disease and illness.
At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned,
like sheep without a shepherd.
Then he said to his disciples,
"The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest."

Then he summoned his Twelve disciples
and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out
and to cure every disease and every illness.

Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus,
"Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
As you go, make this proclamation: 'The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.'
Cure the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse lepers, drive out demons.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give."
- - -
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

'Crown Jewel' of nation's basilica blessed in DC

Washington D.C., Dec 8, 2017 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- With the blessing of its final mosaic, America’s Basilica – The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. – is finally complete after nearly a century of construction and adornment.

“This magnificent tribute in stone, glass, marble mosaic to Mary, Mother of Jesus, Mother of God and our Mother, invites all of us to recognize not only the special role of Mary in our life but the unique glory that is hers in her Immaculate Conception,” said Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington in his Dec. 8 homily before the dedication of the basilica’s new Trinity Dome mosaic.

Blessing of Trinity Dome by Card. Kevin Farrell and @Cardinal_Wuerl at the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception @MarysShrine pic.twitter.com/1V6IRYqOJz

— Addie Mena (@AddieMMena) December 8, 2017 Cardinal Wuerl blessed the dome with incense during Mass for the feast of the Immaculate Conception.  Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life attended the dedication as an envoy on behalf of Pope Francis and presented the cardinal and the rector of the Basilica, Msgr. Walter Rossi, with a letter of Apostolic Blessing from the Pope for the blessing.

The new dome and its mosaic, which depicts the Trinity, Mary, and nearly twenty saints and blessed who share a connection with either the Americas or the National Shrine itself, is the capstone which finishes 97 years of construction and decoration of the Basilica and its interior. Five cardinals, 23 bishops, nearly 90 priests, and over 4,000 people gathered to celebrate the event. Also present at the event were Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Callista Gingrich.

At @MarysShrine in DC for the Feast Day and also the dedication of the final piece of the National Basilica: the Trinity Dome pic.twitter.com/Akru6AN6ft

— Addie Mena (@AddieMMena) December 8, 2017 The construction of a National Shrine to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception was announced in 1918 and construction began in 1920. “People were invited all over the country to contribute in whatever way they could,” Cardinal Wuerl explained, and “some donated some pieces of old jewelry and others donated some precious stones.”

After the completion of the Crypt Church in 1931, construction on the Upper Church was paused for the Great Depression and World War II, but resumed in 1945. The Church’s structure was completed in 1959.

Since then, different side chapels depicting a variety of Marian apparitions, scenes from Mary’s life, and other mosaics on the ceilings and walls have been completed. In addition, St. John Paul II dedicated the church as a basilica in 1979, and both Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have visited the shrine during their pontificates.

During his September 2015 visit to the shrine for canonization of Junipero Serra, Pope Francis blessed the first section of the Trinity Dome mosaic. The largest dome in the entire shrine, the mosaic contains more than 14 million pieces of handmade Venetian Glass. The artwork for the dome was designed by studios in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and then fabricated in Italy into smaller puzzle-like sections. After being shipped over to the United States, the mosaic was then installed section by section onto the “crown jewel” of the shrine.

During his homily, Wuerl recalled an early gathering of United States bishops which chose the Blessed Mother of the Immaculate Conception to be the patroness for the young nation. “She is the supreme model of what our faith should be,” the cardinal said. “She was the vessel of the incarnation.”

The cardinal pointed to the new dome’s many pieces coming together as one piece of art, drawing upon its reflection of the unity within the universal Church as well the many different cultures that have come together in the United States.

“Just as there are chapels throughout this Basilica reflecting national heritages, ethnic backgrounds, all proclaiming in unison ‘Hail Mary,’ so, too, do we look across this great Church of God and see out of so many one great faith family,” Wuerl reflected.

Following his homily, Farrell read a special blessing from Pope Francis. Through his envoy, the Pope expressed his wish that all who gaze on Mary “show forth special love for the Church of Christ and the Gospel, even in our own age, and may distinguish themselves by their spiritual constancy.” Farrell also said that the Pope asks that the faithful consider “ the great honor and great gift that we have received from God’s mercy and God’s bounty.”

In addition to completing construction of the shrine, the blessing of the Trinity Dome is the first of a series of preparations for the upcoming 100th anniversary celebrations for the foundation of the basilica. A full series of centennial celebrations will take place around 2020.

With prayer and aid, Catholics rally around California wildfire victims

Ventura, Calif., Dec 8, 2017 / 04:45 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The massive wildfires of California have drawn calls for prayer and assistance from the U.S. bishops, as Catholic Charities affiliates in the state work to aid victims.

“I am sure all the faithful join me in saying: we stand ready to help in the recovery,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, said Dec. 8.

Dan Grimm, Santa Barbara/Ventura regional director for Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, also called for prayers.

“We are praying for a quick end to this 'trial by fire' but so grateful for the generosity of so many coming to the aid of their brothers and sisters in Christ,” he told CNA.

Six fires currently affect the state, having burned nearly 160,000 acres. About 190,000 people have been forced from their homes as over 5,700 firefighters combat the flames.

The worst blaze, the Thomas Fire, started late Monday near Santa Paula, Calif.  It has burned 132,000 acres, about 206 square miles. In its first day, it spread at a rate of one acre per second.

Wind gusts are expected to continue to fan the flames through Sunday, CNN reports.

Calling for prayer, Cardinal DiNardo noted that on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Catholics “commit ourselves to the loving protection of Mary the Mother of God and patroness of America.”

“Let us remember, especially, her sons and daughters in danger from the terrible wildfires in California, both those whose homes are in the fire’s path and those courageous first responders and firefighters who are putting their lives at risk,” he said.

Grimm reflected on the response to the wildfires.

“The effect of the wildfires has been devastating, but people are responding with faith and generosity even before the flames have stopped, helping those displaced temporarily or permanently with food, water, clothing, bedding and other personal necessities,” he said.
“Catholic Charities has been one of the collection points for this great outpouring of generosity and we’re working extra to receive, store and distribute while taking care of our regular clients, both working low-income and homeless people,” he continued.

Grimm said the Red Cross and local cities have been “great” at running evacuation centers and first response operations.

“Now we are helping people as they regroup, return to clean up and protect their homes, and deal with lack of power, heat, safe water and adequate food,” the Catholic Charities official said.

The Catholic Charities of Los Angeles website, at catholiccharitiesla.org, is collecting funds to aid relief.

Catholic Charities’ Ventura Community Services Center is accepting in-kind donations for the victims of the Ventura County fire, while Catholic Charities’ Guadalupe Community Center is taking in-kind donations for victims of the Sylmar/Santa Clarita fire.

Grimm said the Ventura center in the course of one day received food, clothing and personal items that filled the client reception room. These donated goods are planned to be moved to a temporary distribution center in Casita Springs, staffed by Boy Scouts, so that residents in need may have easier access to them.

“As those whose homes were partially or completely destroyed seek to restart their lives, Catholic Charities is helping to find short-term housing,” he said.

The charities’ Santa Barbara thrift store will provide low- or no-cost furniture, clothing and household goods. The archdiocese’s Cardinal McIntyre Fund and a special fund for victims will help address uninsured housing repair and replacement costs.

Cardinal DiNardo made specific prayer recommendations, saying: “Please find a moment today, whether after Mass or while gathered as a family around the Advent wreath, to pray a Rosary in gratitude for Mary’s gifts to humanity and entrusting to her protection our sisters and brothers in the fire’s path.”