Thursday, December 17, 2015

(166) KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS PROMOTE THE TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS: One Council Throws a “Keep Christ in Christmas” Party


          Christmas has become so secularized that it has lost its original meaning.  Even the President of the United States has lost it.  On “A Charlie Brown Christmas” television special, he said with perfect political correctness:  “They teach us that tiny trees just need a little love, and that on this holiday we celebrate peace on Earth and good will toward all”.  It’s now often improper to say “Merry Christmas”.  With great advertising frenzy, stores sell “holiday trees” plus decorations and a lot of “stuff” to give to our loved ones for the “holidays”.  Whether he or she needs the gift or wants it is another question.  We send “holiday” greetings that celebrate Santa Claus, sleighs, reindeer, penguins, and snowmen.  We have parties and really don’t know why.  Then everything comes to a screeching halt a day or two after Christmas when we take down the decorations, return much of the “stuff” to the stores, and buy the lights and ornaments at half price for next year. 



          As part of a national campaign, the Knights of Columbus is promoting the real reason for the season, a “holy day”.  Council 3335 of St. Louis Church in Gallipolis did something unique.  It threw a “Keep Christ in Christmas Party” for the kids.  The children had the usual sweets and songs.  But they also participated in a poster contest on an authentic Christmas theme.  For example: a multitude of angels appeared to poor Jewish shepherds with the awesome earth shaking “good news of great joy” that “a savior has been born to you, who is Christ the Lord”……….Jesus Christ, the Son of God became one of us as a helpless little baby to later teach us how to live and save us from our sins if we but follow Him!  The angels joyfully concluded with the words “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men of good will” (Luke 2:10-14).

The kids are busy at work on their "Keep Christ in Christmas" posters.
          The icing on the cake read "Keep Christ in Christmas".  The party tried to be faithful to the Advent season of waiting in joyful anticipation for the Messiah as the Jews did for 4000 years.  Today during the four weeks of Advent, we should prepare our hearts and souls for the coming of the Redeemer with prayer, bible and spiritual reading, Confession, penance, adoration, and Mass.  Then it all comes to a climax on Christmas Day as we celebrate and relive the joy of the birth of the Redeemer, God Himself becoming man!  This is the first of the 12 days of Christmas which concludes with the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6.  This time the heavens sent another message to some learned wise men from present day Iran in the form of an unusual star, indicating that Christ also came to earth for the gentiles, the educated, and the affluent.  Was the star of Bethlehem a conjunction of planets, a comet, a nova, or some combination of them?  See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_of_Bethlehem.

         Lest we forget, almost all of our Christmas customs, celebration, gift giving, and ideals of peace, love of all, generosity to the poor, family being all together, etc. ultimately come from that first Christmas in which God loved us so much “that He gave (us) His only begotten Son” (John 3:16).  That gives every person in the world tremendous dignity.  During the Christmas season, let’s frequently ask ourselves the question whether we’re decorating, buying gifts, or partying:  “Why am I doing this?”  See Blog #52.   

         As we relive in joyful anticipation the 4000 year wait for the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Redeemer as foretold by the Old Testament prophets, may we be prepared for the coming of the Messiah, Christ the King!

Some of the "Keep Christ in Christmas" posters that the kids drew.
          The Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic lay organization.  It provides members and their families with volunteer opportunities in service to the Church, their communities, and youth.  With more than 1.8 million members in over 15,000 councils around the world, the Knights of Columbus annually donates more than $170 million and 70 million hours of service to charitable causes.  The most prominent community activities of the St. Louis Council include the Coats for Kids campaign, Substance Abuse Awareness, and the Basketball Free Throw for developmentally disabled children and adults of the Rehabilitation Center.  Please visit kofc.org and kofcohio.org for more information.

          All faithful Catholic men of the area are invited to join the Knights of Columbus (call Bruce Davison, the Grand Knight at 256-1427).  Members enjoy great fellowship along with family activities and opportunities to serve the parish and the community.  A big bonus is the life insurance program to protect families.  It ranks at the very top as to financial stability among all insurance organizations and companies.  Any profits do not go to stockholders, but rather are returned to the insured in rebates and used for a number of charitable causes.






Sunday, November 29, 2015

(165) A Tribute to Doris Cormier.......a New Orleans gal who will be in that number when the saints go marching in.

      Doris Cormier, born and raised in New Orleans, is a very interesting person worth sharing with those who did not know her.  In giving a eulogy at her funeral, the traditional gospel song of New Orleans, "When the Saints Go Marching In" became so meaningful to me and all those present.  May we learn from it and from Doris too.  

A EULOGY TO DORIS CORMIER (1925-2015)

Doris Cormier at the wedding of her granddaughter Diane

       As an Extraordinary Eucharistic Minister since 2009, I had the opportunity to know Doris well during that time.  It was an awesome privilege to bring Christ Himself and His love to her in Holy Communion every Sunday, to pray with her, and to help her in a little way for her encounter with the Lord in eternity.

I was supposed to minister to Doris, but she also ministered to me.  She placed great value on the Eucharist and she did spiritual reading.  She was faithful to her Catholic Church to the end.

I enjoyed Doris.  She was wonderful to me.  She’d always have a snack for me, first in her own home and later in the Nursing Home.  Doris was always so hospitable and generous.  She was a leader on the Nursing Home Council, even arranging for a religious service.

  Doris loved to have visitors and talk.  Mary Louise, she so much appreciated you and all of your visits as well as Ella Bokovitz and Irene Surber, who also visited her on occasion. Doris had nobody else here outside of Susan and her family.  She also loved football, especially her New Orleans Saints who are not on television much in our area.  But we would watch my Pittsburgh Steelers.
 
Doris loved Susan and her family very much.  She often would show me pictures of her four grandchildren, Dianna, Stephanie, Amanda, and Joseph and tell me how they were doing.  She was so excited about her great grandson, Roman.  It was a joy for me to meet him.  You all enriched the life of Doris Cormier and have a legacy to follow.

Doris would often talk about her beloved husband, Maurice, but called him by his nickname, Moose.  Born and raised in New Orleans, they would go to football games of the New Orleans Saints when they featured all-pro wide receiver Danny Abramowicz, today the host of EWTN’s “Crossing the Goal” on Men’s spirituality, and his great quarterback, Archie Manning, the father of Peyton and Eli, both star pro quarterbacks today. 

Doris missed Moose very much.  Occasionally, she would complain that Moose should have hung on longer and put up a better fight against his Cancer as if he had control.  I would just say, “Doris, someday we’ll all be together again for that one big party” and she smiled.  May we all make it to Heaven and join that big party.

Although very spry, Doris suffered a lot as we all will... sooner or later.  I tried to impress her with the fact that suffering can be very valuable and productive.  If accepted in faith, it can be a great preparation for eternity.  I would say, “Doris, you can reap great fruits with your prayers and by uniting your cross with the Lord’s cross of Calvary and offering it all up to God as a dynamic prayer for the Church, the missions, for our country, for a better world, and for your loved ones.  God knows how much our country needs prayers.  In that way you can be most valuable.”  And she did that.
 
May the fact that Doris died on a date so close to All Souls Day November 2 inspire us to pray often for Doris and all of our deceased loved ones.  After all, according to Catholic belief, most souls that make it to Heaven must first spend time in Purgatory in order to become holy enough to be in the presence of the most holy Almighty God.   May Doris inspire us to strive to become holy and saints on earth in the here and now.  The Church helps us to achieve that goal if we only take advantage of it.

       Please permit me to close with the somewhat abbreviated lyrics of an old Gospel song often sung at New Orleans funeral marches.  I’d like to dedicate it to Doris.

The Lyrics of “When the Saints Go Marching In” 

We are traveling in the footsteps
Of those who've gone before
But we'll all be reunited
On a new and sunlit shore

Oh when the Saints go marching in
When the Saints go marching in
O Lord, I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

And when the sun refuses to shine
And when the sun refuses to shine
O Lord, I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

When the moon turns red with blood
When the moon turns red with blood
O Lord, I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

On that hallelujah day
On that hallelujah day
O Lord, I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

O when the trumpet sounds the call
O when the trumpet sounds the call
O Lord, I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

Some say this world of trouble
Is the only one we need
But I'm waiting for that morning
When the new world is revealed

When the revelation comes
When the revelation comes
O Lord, I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

When the rich go out and work
When the rich go out and work
O Lord, I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

When the air is pure and clean
When the air is pure and clean
O Lord, I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

When we all have food to eat
When we all have food to eat
O Lord, I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

When our leaders learn to cry
When our leaders learn to cry
O Lord, I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

Songwriters: Traditional,
When The Saints Go Marching In lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.,

Let’s all try to sing the most popular verse together.  We can’t do as well as Louis Armstrong, but let’s try.  Everybody sing!

Now when the saints……..go marching in
When the saints go marching in
Lord, I want to be….. in that number……
When the saints go marching in

          In any event when the saints go marching in, I know that this New Orleans gal, now young and beautiful, will be one of them.  May all of us some day also be in that number among the saints that go marching in.  Let’s all work on it with our lives as faithful practicing Christians with our lives.  Doris, we love you.  Good-by until we see you again.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

(164) Only World War II Chaplain Who Received the Congressional Medal of Honor: Navy Captain Fr. Joseph Timothy O’Callahan S.J.

Fr. Joseph O’Callahan S.J., a Catholic Priest, was instrumental with his leadership in saving the aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Franklin and the 2500 surviving sailors on board who otherwise could have perished. Already dead from the attack were 724 officers and enlisted men.  Top right - President Harry Truman presents the Congressional Medal of Honor to Fr. O'Callahan.  He is indeed part of the "Great Generation" of military and civilians that won World War II through their contributions to the war effort at home and abroad.  

        Military chaplains of all faiths have done a wonderful job throughout history.  One beautiful example of the faiths working together are the four military chaplains that gave their life jackets to soldiers who did not have one when the U.S. Dorchester was hit by a German torpedo on February 4, 1943.  They were Methodist, Jewish, Dutch Reformed, and Catholic.  For more detail on the four chaplains click on
There are ten American military chaplains, who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor (including a Confederate chaplain who received the equivalent Southern Cross of Honor), the military's highest award for heroism, since it was established in 1861.  Most were Catholic.  The qualifications for being awarded the Medal have been tightened up and refined over the years, but it is awarded to a member of the U.S. military for acts of intrepidity and gallantry above and beyond the call of duty while involved in combat operations.
   
Four medals of honor were awarded to Union chaplains for heroism during the Civil War, all of whom were Protestant Christians.  A fifth chaplain may be added……. a Catholic priest serving the Confederate Army.  Fr. Emmeran Bliemel, O.S.B., was killed at the Battle of Jonesboro while administering last rites -- the first American chaplain to die on the field of battle.  Since the Civil War, five chaplains received the Congressional Medal of Honor.  All  were Catholic.

       Each Veteran’s Day, St. Louis Church Gallipolis, Ohio honors military chaplains in an article as a bulletin insert.  You will see that chaplains fill an indispensable role in the military, but secularists are trying to eliminate them entirely. 

         Let us honor this year Navy Commander Fr. Joseph Timothy O’Callahan S.J., who served in World War II.  Upon retirement in 1953 from the Naval Reserve, he was promoted to Captain, an unusually high rank for a Chaplain.

Fr. Joseph O'Callahan
          Born in 1905, Fr. O’Callahan joined the Jesuit Order in 1922 and was finally ordained after a long period of preparation and study in 1934.  He must have been brilliant because the Jesuits assigned him at the age of 24 to teach Mathematics, Philosophy and Physics at Boston College (1929-37), then as Professor of Philosophy at the Jesuit Seminary of Weston College (1937-38), and Director of the Mathematics Department at Holy Cross College, Worcester, Massachusetts (1938-40).  With that scholarly background as a Jesuit priest, who would think that Fr. Joseph would become a war hero?

          The world was already engulfed in the flames of World War II which started in September 1939.  Although the United States had not yet entered the war, Fr. O’Callahan saw a need and joined the Navy as a chaplain in August 1940.  After assignments at different Navy bases and two years on the aircraft carrier Ranger, he was assigned to another carrier, the Franklin in March 1945.

          The U.S.S. Franklin with its 3,200 men was part of a task force whose mission was to track down the Japanese fleet and destroy its ships and air power.  Accomplishing that mission would practically end the War with Japan, perhaps making the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki unnecessary.  Only 16 days later, they confronted the Japanese fleet just 100 miles from Japan.  Waves of Navy planes took off at early twilight for bombing runs on Japanese ships.  Fighter planes escorted the bombers and patrolled the area to protect the Franklin against Japanese air attack.  They expected dogfights with Japanese aircraft.  Before each wave Fr. Joseph visited the various pilot ready rooms, prayed with the men, and gave them general absolution.

          The Franklin was both a floating airport with large amounts of gasoline and was also an ammunition dump full of bombs and rockets.  Obviously, the Franklin was the primary target for Japanese planes. 



Then all hell broke loose.  A Japanese bomber got through the air defense and dropped two one thousand pound bombs on the carrier.  One penetrated the flight and gallery decks and exploded in the hangar. Within seconds, gasoline ignited and a wave of searing flame raced down the three football-field length of the hangar and spread from one exploding plane to another.  As so vividly described by Lawrence P. Grayson , “Father O'Callahan retrieved a vial of holy oil and his helmet marked with a large white cross as he made his way through passages filled with flames and smoke to the open area above. On the hangar deck, bombs and rockets, engulfed in a mass of flames, were exploding at a rate of about one per minute.”

“Father continued upward to the flight deck. Here nearly 90 percent of the 1,000-foot apron was aflame. The clear portion was full of burned, mangled, bleeding bodies. He spent a few moments with each of those who were alive, praying, absolving, anointing. Explosions tore apart the steam lines and the boilers shut down. By 9:30 AM, the ship was powerless and listing. Twenty minutes later, a rear service magazine of five-inch shells exploded, raining debris onto the deck.  The fury brought disorganization.  Key officers were dead, and many chiefs, if alive, were dispersed or trapped. Flames, explosions and noxious smoke smeared faces and uniforms making it almost impossible to recognize anyone from a distance. One thing stood out, however, the white cross on the chaplain's helmet. It had the power to inspire.”



“Depleted hose crews needed help. Father rallied a group of men to join him on the hoses. When a live, thousand-pound bomb was spotted on the deck, the chaplain stood by for moral support while a team defused it; then he mustered a group of men to drop it overboard. When the fires were pushed back from the forward gun turret and its ready-ammunition magazine, hundreds of five-inch shells stored there had to be jettisoned before they exploded. Father O'Callahan had men form a chain, taking his turn in the line, to pass the hot shells from the magazine to the edge of the ship where they were dumped. He then joined a crew to flood a lower-deck magazine whose ammunition could not be easily unloaded.”  (See video at http://www.tfp.org/tfp-home/focus-on-history/fr-joseph-ocallahan-the-bravest-man.html.) 

“When the fires on the hangar deck began to subside, Father led a hose crew through a smoke-filled, dark passage to the area. On the flight deck, as the fires receded, six loose, but live, thousand-pound bombs were discovered. The chaplain was there encouraging the men as a hose crew worked to cool the bombs so others could defuse them.”

Somehow the Franklin survived.  The engineers were able to make emergency repairs and get the boilers restarted.  By the morning of the 20th, the Franklin was moving under its own power.  All day and night, the priest and the Protestant chaplain held a brief prayer service for each of the 724 fallen sailors before burial at sea.  Fr. Joseph was wounded, but carried on.  On April 3, one month after it had left, the ship limped into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

The ship's Commanding Officer described Fr. O'Callahan as "the bravest man I ever saw."  For his heroism in helping with his leadership to save an aircraft carrier and its 2500 surviving sailors on board who otherwise could have perished, President Harry Truman presented the Congressional Medal of Honor to him in 1946.  He is indeed part of the “Great Generation” of military and civilians that lived through the Great Depression and won World War II through their contributions to the war effort at home and abroad.
The Navy Congressional Medal of Honor

Before his release from active duty in November 1946, Father O'Callahan served on a new aircraft carrier, the Franklin D. Roosevelt.  While continuing to serve in the Navy Reserves until retirement in 1953, Fr. Joseph taught at Holy Cross College as a professor of philosophy and mathematics. He died in Worcester on March 18, 1964.  The destroyer escort ship USS O'Callahan 1968-1994, was named in honor of this Jesuit priest, who so valiantly served both our God and our country.  Sr. Rose Marie (Alice O’Callahan), his sister attended the christening.

For a fascinating history with bibliography of Catholic chaplains in the U.S. military go to http://www.tfp.org/tfp-home/focus-on-history/catholic-army-chaplains-americas-forgotten-heroes.html.  For the official Dept. of Defense Medal of Honor Citations of Fr. O’Callahan and the other Catholic chaplains, go to my Blog #127 “Heroic Catholic Chaplains Who Have Been Awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor”.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

(163) Why All of This Fuss Over Pope Francis and the Synod on the Family?

Adulation and babies to kiss at Independence Square in Philadelphia
            He was adulated as a super star during his visit to the United States.  Yet he continues to have his share of controversy and is sometimes misunderstood, especially when he speaks off the cuff in interviews and the media interprets it according to its agenda.  Some points brought out in the Synod add more controversy.  Let’s put it all into perspective. 


Pope Francis is just a human being and he’s the first to tell you that.  When asked who is Jorge Brogolio?  His answer was: “a sinner”.  Below Pope Francis warmly greets prisoners in a Philadelphia jail, the Curran-Fromhold Correction Facility.  His speech there was beautiful. For the complete text, go to
http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2015/september/documents/papa-francesco_20150927_usa-detenuti.html).



His parents were Italian immigrants, who fled from Italian Fascism to Argentina; naturally the family spoke Italian at home.  His father was an accountant.  After graduating from a Salesian Catholic high school, Jorge Brogolio had no lofty ambitions, working for a couple of years as a bouncer and a chemical technician. On his way to propose to his girlfriend, he suddenly felt a strong calling to the priesthood during Confession.  The Lord would not let him forget his calling any longer.  Despite opposition from his mother, he joined the very intellectual Jesuit Order, which gave him years of intense preparation and study.  After ordination, he taught and was later removed as Rector of the San Miguel Seminary for being too conservative.  He was even told not to reside in Jesuit houses.  See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Francis for a detailed biography. 

Relegated to obscurity, St. Pope John Paul II rescued Fr. Jorge Brogolio S.J., making him Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires and later Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998.  Cardinal Brogolio was known for his love for the poor and simple lifestyle, but consistently faithful to Church teaching.  Despite being relatively unknown outside of Argentina in 2013, he was elected Pope under the guidance of the Holy Spirit which the College of Cardinals earnestly prayed for).  Suddenly he was thrust onto the world stage.  Soon he was adulated as a super star.  To handle all of that and not let it go to his head, one has to have deep humility.

From the very start he identified himself with the poor as Christ Himself did.  On being elected Pope he refused to move into the Papal Apartments, but rather lives in the same modest suite he occupied as Cardinal Jorge Brogolio S.J. during the Conclave.  Below Pope Francis has an informal audience in the Vatican with a few of the homeless of Rome.  He even had showers put in off of St. Peter's Square for them.  

Pope Francis chats with a few of the homeless of Rome in an informal audience in the Vatican.


Pope Francis deeply realizes that any adulation is not for him, but for his office as Vicar of Christ and the 265th successor to St. Peter.  After many if not most of his speeches, he asks the people to pray for him.  Pope Francis is clearly a man of prayer.

The coat of arms of Pope Francis below tells much about him.  He is devoted to his order, the Society of Jesus (IHS symbolizes the Holy Name of Jesus and the order) and its founder, St. Ignatius Loyola, a true soldier of Christ, who was wounded in battle before his conversion.  The eight pointed star indicates his devotion to Mary, the Morning Star, and the Spikenard flower symbolizes St. Joseph.  The keys symbolize the keys to the Kingdom attributed to St. Peter and his successors.  The miter symbolizes his other office as Bishop of Rome.  Below the shield is Latin for “By giving mercy and by choosing”.  Mercy is paramount in his love for the poor and desire to bring back those estranged from the Church……homosexuals, divorced and remarried Catholics, fallen away Catholics, drifting Catholics, etc.

Pope Francis called for the advisory Synod on the Family in 2014 and 2015 to learn more from church leaders all over the world (300 bishops, married laypeople, etc.) in order to make wiser decisions.  He called on Christian faithful to “embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church's journey in years to come."  The Pope's vision is reflected in his address to delegates at the opening of this second Synod on October 5 that the goal is “to read the reality of present times with the eyes of faith and with the heart of God.”  He also pointed out that the Church is not a museum which Christians are called to guard or save, but rather that the Church is a living force and witness in history to the love of God as salt and light.  Pope Francis, therefore, called on the delegates to enter into dialogue with one another in a spirit of humility, courage, and openness to the Holy Spirit through fidelity to the faith, the Gospel, and the will of God.

He is even allowing individual bishops to state the ridiculous and lets them talk all they want in complete freedom to maximize creativity.  For the sake of diversity the liberals may have been disproportionately represented.  Pope Francis is a product of Jesuit thinking that the Holy Spirit often works through discussion, debate, and even contradiction that comes up in the process.  Hopefully, it will not open a Pandora’s Box of dissent, division, and off-the-wall ideas against Church teaching as had happened after Vatican II.  Yes, Pope Francis would like to have consensus, but the decisions up or down are solely his since the synod, like the parish council, is advisory and consultative.  The Church is not a democracy.  Clearly Pope Francis is open to reform, but not at the expense of doctrine.  Papal infallibility seldom comes into play except when the Pope, after considerable intense prayer, study, and deliberation, makes a solemn declaration on faith and morals.  The last prominent examples were the declarations of the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception of Mary in 1854 and her Assumption in 1950. 

The liberal press speculates that Pope Francis will change church teaching and allow those who are divorced and later remarried to receive the sacraments.  The gay community is pushing for the Church to recognize their life style as morally legitimate and allow gay marriage.  As Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he vehemently opposed the passage of the law permitting gay marriage in Argentina.  Of course, the Church has always welcomed those with same sex attraction, but it cannot condone the sexual lifestyle.  Sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman always has been and always will be morally wrong.  The Synod restated Church teaching that homosexual tendencies are not sinful, but homosexual acts are. 

Opening Session of the Synod on the Family October 6, 2014
There cannot be nor will there be any change in Church teaching regarding divorced and remarried Catholics.  They are most welcome to attend Mass and devotions, participate in parish life, but not receive the sacraments unless the couple promises their confessors to live as brother and sister.  The Synod did recommend flexibility on the divorced and remarried being allowed to receive Holy Communion on an individual case by case basis under the direction of each bishop, but that could be abused to the point of watering down the doctrine that marriage is insoluble.  Nevertheless, the Pope has the final word on that.  

St. Pope John Paul II reaffirmed and clarified Church teaching on marriage and the family in his 1981 Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio (http://www.domestic-church.com/CONTENT.DCC/BASEDOCS/JPII_FC_1.HTM and http://cnsnews.com/blog/michael-w-chapman/pope-st-john-paul-ii-church-reaffirms-no-communion-divorced-persons-who-have).  Pope Francis could update it, but would not contradict it.

In 1968 it was widely believed that the Church would change its teaching on contraception and Pope Paul VI was under great pressure to do so.  After much agonizing, Paul VI, wrote a landmark encyclical, “Humanae Vitae (On Human Life)”, a classic with the help of a great philosopher, Cardinal Karol Wojtyła (later St. Pope John Paul II).  It not only reaffirmed Church teaching, but was prophetic, predicting that contraception would be a slippery slope leading to more promiscuity, more divorce, and more abortion.  All of that came to pass and the world is suffering as a result.

Pope Francis like previous popes will be in union with his predecessors.  He may refine, clarify, or deepen our understanding of Church teaching, but he will not contradict it.  Remarkable is the evolution of Church social teaching, beginning with Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum on the Condition of Labor in 1891.  Pius XI updated it with Quadragesimo Anno (Forty Years After) in 1931, John XIII with Mater et Magistra in 1961, Paul VI with Octogesima Adveniens in 1971, John Paul II with Centesimo Anno in 1991, and Benedict XVI with Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) in 2009.  In no instance did one contradict the other.  It was always a case of reinforcing his predecessors, bringing the application of Church teaching up to date, confronting new evils in changing times, building upon, deepening, and refining.  For the original text of virtually every papal encyclical and many other papal documents, go to http://www.papalencyclicals.net/ereader.htm.   
        
No Pope will ever contradict his predecessor(s) on basic Church teaching or change Church doctrine.  It is inconceivable that any pope would contradict 2000 years of Church teaching.  The Holy Spirit would not allow it.  A couple of past popes have assumed the papal office with an agenda for change in doctrine, but could not do it.  After all, Christ promised that He would be with the Church until the consummation of the world.  Pope Francis is looking for ways to reach the estranged and bring them back into communion with the Church to fulfill his God given mission, but not at the expense of changing basic Church teaching.  It won’t happen.  TRUTH WILL PREVAIL!

Our Lord Himself appointed Peter as the first Pope and established the office of the Papacy for his successors: “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19)…….”I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world” (Matthew 28:20).  

Sunday, October 25, 2015

(162) Attending the Eighth World Meeting of Families and the Visit of Pope Francis.........an Adventure and a Great Experience

ONLY ONE PERSON IN THE WORLD CAN TURN A MAJOR CITY UPSIDE DOWN


            The Pope did indeed turn Philadelphia upside down without even trying.  The city and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia went all out to prepare for him as though he were a superstar.  Traveling on the Pennsylvania Turnpike well over 150 miles west of Philadelphia a week before his arrival, there were electronic signs warning drivers to expect congestion on the weekend of September 26-27.  On our way to attend the wedding of a relative in northern New Jersey, we were blessed to stay at the Retreat House of the beautiful National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa (Patroness of Poland) in Doylestown, an hour away from the wedding and an hour north of Philadelphia.  Jaga worked it out with the Polish priests there.  Almost as big as the original shrine in Poland, the American Czestochowa has brought Polish Americans together and people of all ethnic backgrounds closer to Mary and her Son.

       After the wedding, we thought:  “Why not make our wedding trip into a pilgrimage retreat at a fabulous shrine, attend the World Meeting of Families September 22-25, and see Pope Francis on the weekend?”  So we commuted each day by train to downtown Philadelphia.  For once it paid off to be a senior citizen…..only a dollar each way. 

What brought Pope Francis to the United States was the Eighth World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia which attracted close to 20,000 people from all over the world in the huge Pennsylvania Convention Center which covers over three city blocks.  The purpose was to bring families together and to search for and learn about ways to strengthen the family.  The idea is that these lay men and women, priests, and religious return to their own countries to promote and strengthen families as leaders, teachers, catechists, and models of what marriage and family should be.  This is crucial because families are the building blocks of Society and all over the world the institution of Marriage and the Family are in a very serious crisis.  When the family disintegrates, Society and the whole Country will eventually disintegrate into chaos.

Pope Francis summed it all up in his message printed in the Family Guidebook for the Eighth World Meeting of Families started by Pope St. Pope John Paul II in 1994: “The mission of the Christian family, today as yesterday, is that of proclaiming to the world by the power of the Sacrament of Marriage, the love of God.  From this very proclamation a living family is born and built, one which sets the hearth of love at the center of its human and spiritual dynamism.  If, as St. Irenaeus said, ‘the glory of God is man fully alive’, then so a family, which, by the grace of the Lord, lives to the full its vocation and mission glorifies Him…….to rediscover ever again the royal road, in order to live and proclaim the grandeur and beauty of marriage and the joy of being and making a family.” 
 
            Each of the four daily sessions began with a Mass attended by all in a huge auditorium the size of two football fields side by side with numerous TV screens or jumbotrons.  Each liturgy was concelebrated by an army of priests, bishops, archbishops, and cardinals.  The entrance procession, led by an honor guard of 30 to 40 Fourth Degree Knights in full regalia, took 15-20 minutes.  We recognized Bishop Conlin and were told that Bishop Monforton was there too.  Joe Schmidt, the diocesan Marriage Ministry Coordinator, and his family were sent to represent our diocese.  Many other couples, some with children and even babies, attended from Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  The beautiful choir was accompanied by a symphonic orchestra with hymns in English, Spanish, and even Vietnamese.  Attendees had portable receivers to hear translations in Spanish, French. Italian, Portuguese, and Vietnamese.

        The Extended Holy Family with saints Ann & Joaquim, parents of Mary.
                    The painting, now in the Archdiocesan Cathedral of St. Peter & Paul                                            of Philadelphia, was created especially for the World Meeting of Families.

The theme of the Eighth World Meeting of Families is “LOVE IS OUR MISSION: the Family Fully Alive” which is “the Sanctuary of Love and Life”.  The organizers brought in nationally known speakers for keynote talks and breakout sessions with questions such as Bishop Robert Barron, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila (perhaps a future Pope), Cardinal Robert Sarrah of Africa, Archbishop José Gómez of Los Angeles, Dr. Scott Hahn of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, Pastor Rick Warren, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, Dr. Robert George of Princeton, Dr. Timothy O’Donnell, President of Christendom College, Dr. Janet Smith of the University of Dallas, Christopher West, Dr. Gregory & Lisa Popcak, Curtis Martin of FOCUS, etc.  There were many volunteer guides to direct us to the location of each talk.  The concepts of the home as a domestic church and parents as the principal educators of the Faith were frequently emphasized.  See http://www.worldmeeting2015.org. For videos of selected keynote and breakout talks go to http://www.worldmeeting2015.org/the-latest/congressvideos/.
   
EWTN was there to cover the proceedings with live and taped interviews.  Many book publishers, lay and religious organizations as Catholic Familyland of Bloomingdale Ohio, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Medical Association, etc., promoted their apostolates in a huge exhibition hall.    The Knights of Columbus had probably the largest exhibit space in the huge exhibition hall, giving away strong double linked rosaries blessed by Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William Lori, Vatican documents on the family, information about the Knights, etc.  They also gave away transparent backpacks to early registrants. 

           Most enjoyable and satisfying was meeting people from such countries as the Philippines, Viet Nam, Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, Haiti, Columbia, Peru, etc.  Knowing Spanish made it more fun.  When I passed groups of Mexicans with their common jackets, I enjoyed shouting to them “Viva Mexico; Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe”.  A Vietnamese nun related how she once feared prison for attending Mass in Viet Nam of the 70’s.  Today one can practice the faith there, but the Church is very restricted as in Cuba.  All of this gave me the insight that we are all one Church of many different cultures, races, and languages, but all united as parts of the Mystical Body of Christ in our love of the Lord, our loyalty to the Pope and the traditional family according to Church teaching.   Upon receiving the Eucharist together, we were in communion with Christ Himself and each other…….a little foretaste of Heaven.

Some of the participants in the Eighth World Meeting of Families from Africa, Asia, Latin America, Haiti, and the U.S.             


The exhibits had to be taken down for security reasons Thursday evening, a day before the close of the proceedings at the Pennsylvania Convention Hall.  All over Philadelphia there were “Welcome Pope Francis” signs.  In stores people took selfies with a life size cardboard image of Pope Francis.  On Friday most businesses were closed and the trains were on their reduced Weekend Schedule.  On Saturday and Sunday only train stations with ample parking space were open; so we had to figure out how to get to the closest stop.  No vehicles were allowed in the city.  Strategic intersections were barricaded with concrete highway barriers.  It was great to safely jaywalk in the middle of normally very busy four lane boulevards. 
Deacon John Sebastian got hold of one of the images 
and forced Pope Francis to be a Chicago Cubs fan.  
Pope Francis is actually much bigger than the image.
            Independence Mall.  On Saturday we walked some 7 blocks from the downtown train station to the four block long Independence Mall for a program which included a speech by Pope Francis. Providentially, somebody in the train had given us vouchers which we exchanged for tickets hung around our necks.  The ticket policy kept the numbers down and kept troublemakers out.  We ran into several anti-Catholic groups; in front of the security checkpoint at Independence Square a large group greeted us with signs such as “Is the Pope the Antichrist?” and loudspeakers blaring:  “Mary is a sinner…….the Bible says to never call anyone father or papa (Pope in Spanish)”…..only in America. In some Muslim countries, such behavior would be considered blasphemy punishable by death.  Jaga couldn’t take it and proceeded to evangelize them and a lively debate between us and them ensued.  It was friendly and we departed giving them hugs.  Later in the day we got into it again with some youths handing out anti-catholic propaganda and again departed with hugs.  At least we diverted them away from other people and they had to recognize that Catholic Christians know how to love.

People sat on the grass and we sat on a window ledge.  The program included symphonic music, folk dancing, a song by an opera star, and a speech by Dr. Robert George on our eroding Religious Freedom which all began at Independence Hall behind him.  Finally, the Pope arrived.  All we could see was a tiny white speck in the distance, but thanks to eight or so jumbotrons, we had a very good view of what you saw in your living room.  However, we experienced the excitement of being there, the atmosphere, the comradery with the other people, etc.  It was heartwarming to see how his kind face communicated love to all, especially to the babies he kissed.  The Pope spoke in beautiful and clear Spanish with English subtitles on the jumbotrons, emphasizing the tremendous importance of the family with allusions to religious liberty & immigration.  He humbly concluded with “Reza por mí un poquito (pray for me a little).

            Festival of Families. Then came a 14 block hike to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the Festival of Families and again we passed through a security checkpoint.  Our daily 45 minute rosary walks prepared us well.  This time we had good glimpses of Pope Francis in his well lit popemobile at about 8 pm.  Although we didn’t know that he would give another talk there, but we left, tired from a rather grueling day.  See the map at http://www.phila.gov/InformationCenters/pope/Documents/WalkingRoutesMap.pdf.


A view from the altar of the million or so people who attended the closing Papal Mass.
     For the 4 pm Papal Mass on Sunday we hitched a ride on one of the two buses that Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Doylestown contracted.  All vehicles had to park at the ATT Sports Complex for professional baseball, football, basketball, and hockey in South Philadelphia.  From there we had to take a train to downtown Philadelphia and hike 12 blocks to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway security checkpoint for the closing outdoor Mass.  There were local police, state police, National Guard, TSA, Secret Service all over the place.  The security was unbelievable.  We arrived at the security checkpoint at 10 am and waited in a three block line until 1 pm when we finally got through.  Examining us were Secret Service agents who said that the security procedure was the same as at the White House.  One group came from Iowa at about 1 pm and by the time they got through security five hours later, it was all over. 

We slept on the ground along the mile long Franklin Parkway, waiting for the Pope’s arrival.  We again saw him in his popemobile that went up and down the parkway.  Exciting was the atmosphere and the feeling of solidarity with up to a million other pilgrims both within and outside the ticketed area.  Next to us some guys from Steeler Nation kept me posted on the game with the St. Louis Rams.  At the Kiss of Peace, one of them greeted me with “Peace…….they won”.  That did put me at peace even though the Steeler star quarterback was knocked out of the game. 

       It was a beautiful Mass with an excellent choir and instrumental accompaniment.  We saw the altar in the distance, but not the Pope.  Again thank you, Jumbotron for a good view which you, dear reader, also had on EWTN.  Again Pope Francis gave his homily in Spanish with the translation on the numerous jumbotrons.  The Pope concelebrated with an army of priests (at least a couple hundred), who distributed Holy Communion.  Each priest brought the Eucharist under a yellow and white umbrella held by a server.  For video or text links to all of his talks and press conferences in the USA & Cuba with a choice of seven languages on the Vatican website (English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Spanish, and Portuguese with some in Arabic, click on http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/travels/2015/outside/documents/papa-francesco-cuba-usa-onu-2015.html.

Ella and Mary Ann Bokovitz were there and so was our daughter Naomi, but we didn’t see any of them.  She was among three busloads of students from the Franciscan University of Steubenville.  We contacted her by cell phone, but couldn’t find the flag of Sweden she was under.  There were so many people that it was hard to move; let alone find one among a million.  The students made the 8 hour trip and back in one day without missing any classes.  So we had five people representing St. Louis Church.

Then we hiked back to the downtown railroad station for the train to our bus at the sports complex.  The line at the train station was five blocks long with a two hour wait.  Again the loudspeakers, but this time the Latinos, who might have been in the majority, drowned them out with “Viva el Papa”.  The crowd was very orderly and patient on both days except for just a little bit of pushing getting onto the train which is common in big Latin American cities.  The Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the city spent months preparing for this huge undertaking……first the World Meeting of Families and then the visit of the Pope.  Overall, they did a great job in organizing it.  The only major flaw was the inordinate amount of time it took to pass through the security checkpoints, which prevented thousands of people from attending the papal Mass.

In the middle ages pilgrims had to walk to holy sites for weeks with the danger of robbers.  But at least they didn’t have to put up with long lines, long waits, and security checks worse than boarding an airplane.  It was all a great experience, but a rather grueling one.  For the texts of all of the Pope’s speeches and homilies in the USA, go to http://www.usccb.org/about/leadership/holy-see/francis/papal-visit-2015/2015-papal-visit-speeches-homilies.cfm and/or http://www.popefrancisvisit.com/pope-francis-u-s-visit-speech-transcripts/.


A Postscript: Why All of This Fuss Over Pope Francis and the Synod on the Family?
(See the next Blog #163)