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A pilgrim people: The Warriors to Lourdes share their stories

Lourdes, France, May 20, 2019 / 10:30 am (CNA).- CNA had a chance to get to know some of the more than 200 pilgrims who traveled to Lourdes as part of the Knights of Columbus’ Warriors to Lourdes program during the International Military Pilgrimage, May 16-19. Here are their stories:

 

A century of tradition

The Knights of Columbus has a long history of supporting the troops and conducting military pilgrimages, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson told CNA, with the Warriors to Lourdes program just the latest way they are continuing this tradition.

The Knights “were very much involved in France during the first World War,” Anderson said. “We had the largest military pilgrimage to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, in 1919.”

Anderson told CNA that the Knights of Columbus also sponsored military pilgrimages to Lourdes during WWI and that when they learned governmental spending cuts meant that the United States would not be sending a delegation to the International Military Pilgrimage in 2013, they joined up with the Archdiocese of the Military Services, USA, to create Warriors to Lourdes.

While he may have an important role leading the Knights, at Lourdes, Anderson stressed that he is just a pilgrim like everyone else.

“I think I come to Lourdes like any Catholic,” said Anderson. “It's a special place for Our Lady, it's a special place to be with people who are taking significant steps on their spiritual journey in life, and deepening their relationship with the Lord through Mary.”

Anderson said he has been to other Marian apparition sites, but there is something “very special” about Lourdes, due to all the people seeking some form of healing.

This weekend, Anderson said he is praying especially for his fellow pilgrims, that they find the spiritual or physical healing they may be seeking, but most of all that everyone on the trip can deepen their relationship with God.

“That includes me, that includes my family--we all have to grow in our spiritual life and we all have to grow closer to the Lord. That process is never done,” he said.

 

A journey home

Many of the Warriors to Lourdes pilgrims are Catholic, but they are very different in the practice of their faith. Some attend daily Mass, and others have a more complicated relationship with the Church.

For Sgt. 1st Class Mary Katzenberg, who is a public affairs chief assigned to Ft. Bragg, the pilgrimage gave her the chance for her to attend her first Mass in about 20 years.

“I reconnected with God about a year ago after a 20-year stint of thinking I could do things on my own or do things my way,” she said.

After receiving an email about Warriors to Lourdes from her unit’s chaplain, Katzenberg said she felt called to apply, “to see if it was something God wanted me to do.”  

She told CNA that she was completely unfamiliar with the story of Lourdes prior to being accepted for the pilgrimage.

Katzenberg had the chance to visit the Lourdes baths, a visit that occurred just prior to the opening Mass for American pilgrims at the Rosary Basilica.

Visiting the baths was “a very emotional experience,” said Katzenberg. “I prayed for God to cleanse my soul, and it almost felt like it was kind of like a second baptism. It moved me.”

The experience has inspired Katzenberg to return to the Catholic faith.

“Well, beginning with this Mass [Friday], I really feel that God led me here to pull me back into the Church, that He knows what I need more than I know what I need,” she said.

“I just feel that that's what He's calling me to do--start attending Mass again and serving within the Church."

 

The next generation

A life of military service is often a family affair, with many people following in their parents’ footsteps and entering the armed forces. One family is hoping the graces from Lourdes will assist with their daughter’s future career in the Air Force.

The Bellm family of Gunnery Sgt. Justin, his wife Kate, and their daughters Courtney, Trinity, and Allison, came to Lourdes from Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. Sgt. Bellm serves as the Platoon Commander at Wounded Warrior, Battalion East, and has been in the military for 16 years.

His daughter, Courtney, will be entering the Air Force in just over two months, on July 23. While she could not find the exact words to describe her pilgrimage experience ahead of her military career, she told CNA “there’s just something about being here, surrounded by militaries from all over the world, and just seeing how we come together.”

The military, Courtney said, is like a “second family.”

This is the family’s first trip to Lourdes, and Sgt. Bellm said he applied because he “thought it would be a good opportunity to reconnect with the family, and a little bit of spiritual enlightenment.” It is also his last year with Wounded Warrior, so he jumped at the opportunity to travel to France.

Kate said that she was praying for family unity throughout the weekend, and that she found the experience to be “enlightening.”

“I didn't really know what to expect, so I just took whatever. I just went in with an open mind, really, and encouraged the girls to go in with an open mind."

 

Fellow travelers

While Lourdes is a site most commonly visited by Catholics, the Warriors to Lourdes pilgrimage is open to people of all religions.

The spiritual needs of non-Catholic pilgrims are tended to by military chaplains. One of those chaplains is Maj. Brian Minietta, an Army Chaplain at Ft. Bragg in North Carolina.

Minietta told CNA that his faith background is in the United Methodist community, and his chaplaincy is supported by the Evangelical Church Alliance. This is his third time joining the Warriors to Lourdes.

"The first time I came as just a pilgrim,” said Minietta. One of his friends, a Protestant chaplain, had attended a previous trip and encouraged him to apply. After he was accepted, Minietta was chosen to lead one of the faith and fellowship groups on his pilgrimage, which he said was an “amazing group.”

Warriors to Lourdes then invited him back on the pilgrimage the following year, but as a trip leader and chaplain.

Even though the Knights of Columbus are a Catholic fraternal organization, and Lourdes is home to numerous Catholic churches and chapels, Minietta said he did not feel out of place at all as a Protestant. He credited his experience in the Army for how he was able to work alongside the other chaplains.

"In the Army,” he said, “we work in a pluralistic environment, and so we kind of have this thing where we say we perform and provide. And so, I perform the things that I can perform as a Protestant chaplain, but it's also my job to provide, so I brought people from my unit on this pilgrimage,” said Minietta. He views the pilgrimage as “an opportunity for me to provide for them.”

During the pilgrimage, eligible Catholic pilgrims were offered the sacrament of anointing of the sick. Non-Catholics were given the opportunity to pray for healing alongside the non-Catholic chaplains. Minietta told CNA that he was glad he was still able to assist those in need of spiritual help.

“I got to pray for people--even though I can’t offer the sacrament, I still got to lay hands on people and pray for them,” he said. “And so, it’s easy for me to overcome our differences.”

Minietta found the experience of going into the baths to be reminiscent of his baptism.

“There's that significance of we need water to survive, water cleanses us. I went into that experience open to however the Lord was gonna work through the usage of water.”

Minietta found another way to provide for the pilgrims: during Saturday night’s Marian procession, he was one of the people who carried the statue of the Blessed Mother.

 

Support and healing

A pilgrimage this large needs a solid support staff. There are many nurses, doctors, and other professionals who are part of the delegation who keep everyone safe.

Commander Lance LeClere, M.D., is serving as the medical director for Warriors to Lourdes.

LeClere, a Navy doctor who is stationed in Annapolis, Maryland, was invited by a past pilgrim to attend this year’s pilgrimage. The call came at “an opportune time” as Leclere and his wife, a Navy nurse, had been seeking an opportunity to go on a medical mission.

“We've always looked for ways to support active duty service members, especially those that have been injured,” said LeClere. “This combined sort of the religious retreat and pilgrimage with the opportunity to serve the wounded, ill, and injured, and so it was a perfect opportunity to combine all of the things that we enjoy supporting."

A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, which boasts its own on-campus grotto modeled after the one in Lourdes, LeClere said it was “very moving” to see the inspiration for the place he spent much time praying as a student.

"It was just very special to be at the original grotto--it was very emotional,” he said.

True to his vocation as a doctor, LeClere told CNA that his intentions for the weekend were for his friends back in Maryland who were experiencing illnesses or other conditions. And true to his vocation in military service, he is praying for their mental well-being as well.

“I've also been thinking a lot about the spiritual and emotional healing of the service members that are on the trip, and folks that I know from back home that are in need of that as well,” he said.

 

For all their people

The armed forces is often compared to a tribe. For one couple, there is also a literal tribe back home praying for their pilgrimage.

Ben Black Bear III and his wife Jennifer Black Bear made the journey to Lourdes from the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Both are members of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.

Ben and Jennifer were invited to apply after meeting Supreme Knight Carl Anderson at a listening session with the USCCB and 13 other tribes. Ben is an Army veteran who served in Iraq in 2006-2007, and also lived at Ft. Hood before returning to Rosebud.

The Black Bears both work for their church, and both were familiar with the story of Lourdes prior to the pilgrimage. Given the sheer distance between South Dakota and France, Ben described the pilgrimage as his “one-in-a-million chance” to visit the Grotto.

“It’s a really big honor for us, and also our parents, and also our future generation,” he said. They said they will be bringing back Lourdes water to their reservation.

Ben described the trip as “overwhelming,” but he has maintained his focus on prayer and the spiritual graces that come with a pilgrimage. He also knows that he and his wife are serving as  role models for their community.

“This is also a good eye-opener for our reservation, knowing us, (and) coming here,” said Ben. Back in Rosebud, there are people who are following their pilgrimage with keen interest.

“A lot of people researched it and they’re really familiar with what’s going on with it,” he said.

Jennifer told CNA that her prayer intentions for the weekend would primarily concern the well-being of others, and that she will be praying for “the health of all of our people on the reservation, our families, the health of our people.”

 

Miracles received

Some people come to Lourdes hoping for a miracle from its waters. The Fisk family has already experienced theirs.

Julian Fisk, the 14-month old son of Army Captain Adam Fisk and Morgan Fisk, did not have the easiest entrance into the world when he was born in January of last year.

“He came out not breathing for six minutes,” his father told CNA. “He was immediately evac’d to a NICU in a different hospital.”

After Julian arrived in the neonatal intensive care unit, doctors took quick action to attempt to prevent any brain damage due to his lack of oxygen at birth. While some of their efforts were successful, Julian had suffered a subgaleal hematoma, which Adam described as “a very large pocket of fluid that had been built up in his head” that could potentially cause major health issues. Doctors predicted it would take up to a month for the hematoma to heal.

Adam’s father-in-law, Deacon Mark Mitchell, flew in from Georgia to Texas to be with Morgan, Adam, and Julian while Julian was hospitalized. Mitchell had been to Lourdes, and brought some of the healing water with him to the NICU.

“He sprinkled some on Julian’s head, and along his body, and he prayed over him,” Adam explained.

“The next day, the hematoma was gone, and it baffled the doctors. Obviously, it was a miracle to us.”

Julian has now been entirely cleared by his doctors and is “completely where he needs to be at for his age,” said Adam. A few months after his miraculous healing, Adam was encouraged to apply for Warriors to Lourdes by Deacon Mitchell, who is also on this year’s pilgrimage. Adam jumped at the opportunity.

Julian was able to join his parents on the pilgrimage to Lourdes, and is one of the youngest people in the program. Adam said it was “amazing” to be in Lourdes, and to see the Grotto and the spring.

The Fisks have not yet had a chance to enter the baths, but they eagerly await the opportunity--having first-hand knowledge of how healing the water can be. Morgan has a progressive form of Lupus, and Adam said that they are praying for some sort of spiritual or physical feeling for her as well.

“We’re excited to go to that as a family,” said Adam.

California confession bill amended, but still would require priests to violate seal

Sacramento, Calif., May 20, 2019 / 10:16 am (CNA).- California’s state senate will vote on a bill that would require priests to violate the seal of confession in certain limited circumstances. An amended text of the bill passed the Senate appropriations’ committee May 16.

The bill, as amended, would require priests to report to law enforcement knowledge or suspicion of child abuse gained from hearing the sacramental confessions of other priests or co-workers.

The bill originally would have required California priests to violate the seal of confession anytime they gained knowledge or suspicion of child abuse from hearing the confession of any penitent.

In a May 20 statement, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles said the bill remains “an unacceptable violation of our religious freedoms that will do nothing to protect children.”
 
As amended, he said, “SB 360 still denies the sanctity of confession to every priest in the state and to thousands of Catholics who work with priests in parishes and other Church agencies and ministries.”

According to Angelus News, more than 1,300 people contacted California state senators before the May 16 hearing on the bill, encouraging senators not to require priests violate the confessional seal. Gomez expressed gratitude for those calls.

Clergy in California are already required to report knowledge or suspicion of child abuse in most circumstances, though penitential conversations like sacramental confession are exempted, as are other kinds of privileged conversations, including those covered by attorney-client privilege.

The bill’s sponsor, California state Senator Jerry Hill (D-Calif. 13), has claimed that “the clergy-penitent privilege has been abused on a large scale, resulting in the unreported and systemic abuse of thousands of children across multiple denominations and faiths.”

The senator has claimed that such abuse has been revealed through “recent investigations by 14 attorneys general, the federal government, and other countries.”

In response to questions from CNA about those investigations, Hill’s office provided two resources to CNA. One was a news article from PBS, reporting that several states have undertaken investigations into clerical sexual abuse, but not explicitly mentioning abuse of the sacrament or seal of confession.

The other was a 2017 report from Australia’s Royal Commission, appointed to investigate child sexual abuse in that country.

The Royal Commission report suggests that there should be no exemption from abuse reporting for religious confession. While the commission's executive summary states that "the practice of the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) contributed... to inadequate institutional responses to abuse," it does not provide data detailing the frequency of that contribution.

Hill’s office did not respond to follow-up questions about that report, or about whether the senator considers attorney-client privilege, which is not challenged by the bill, to represent a potential problem of equal proportions.

Gomez, for his part, called Catholics and lawmakers to try other approaches to fighting the child abuse in California.

“Even as amended, SB 360 remains an unacceptable violation of our religious freedoms that will do nothing to protect children. As a Catholic community, let us continue to work with lawmakers for a bill that truly advances our shared goals of fighting the scourge of child sexual abuse in our society,” he wrote.

The bill could be subject to a Senate vote as early as May 21.
 

 

As Australian Catholic school abandons tests and grades, critics are concerned

Sydney, Australia, May 19, 2019 / 04:17 pm (CNA).- A Catholic school in west Sydney has done away with grades, class levels, and tests to promote a more personalized school experience - but educational experts are skeptical.

St. Luke’s Catholic College in Marsden Park is now offering a curriculum personalized to each student, as well as life coaches and staff to build a broader range of skills.

The high school students study essential curriculum, like math, science, and english, three days a week. During the rest of the week, they can pursue their own interests, like music, graphic design, and sports.

“The current model of schooling was designed in the 1800s for a world that was built for manufacturing,” Principal Greg Miller told ABC News.

Because the world has changed, he said, the students benefit from different lessons with life coaches to focus on a student’s strengths and passions. This system is called inquiry-based learning.

“Studying for a test where content changes dramatically, in today's world, will not help the students to respond to real-world challenges and problems as they arise,” said Miller, according to ABC News.

“Their ability and capability to ask and pose questions to collaboratively work with each other is what's needed.”

According to The Conversation, a review panel of the government released a report last year that reinforced the idea of personalized curriculum and levels based on progress.

However, some experts have expressed concern that inquiry-based learning is an extremely experimental model where students could miss out on key parts of the core curriculum.

Jennifer Buckingham, a senior research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, said there was not enough evidence to back the new model.

“It is an experiment that isn't based on the evidence that we have about what is effective instruction and what are effective models of schooling,” she said, according to ABC News.

“There have been a few schools around Australia adopting this style of teaching, this style of schooling, and at the moment the evidence is suggesting it's not been as successful in things like literacy and numeracy. And therefore for the children at that school there is a great risk that this experiment will fail.”

Pope: Christ's love helps us love those 'on the other side'

Vatican City, May 19, 2019 / 05:56 am (CNA).- The boundless love with which Jesus Christ loves each and every person is the same love Catholics are compelled to show their “enemies,” Pope Francis said Sunday.

Speaking during his address before the recitation of the Regina Coeli prayer May 19, the pope asked people to answer a question in their hearts: “Am I capable of loving my enemies?”

“We all have people – I do not know if they are enemies – but that do not agree with us, who are ‘on the other side,’” he said.

“Or does anyone have people who hurt them,” he added, urging people to ask themselves: “Am I capable of loving those people? That man, that woman who hurt me, who offended me? Am I able to forgive him?”

It is the love of Jesus for us that makes the act of loving and forgiving others possible, he said, reflecting on the moment at the Last Supper, when, after washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus gives them a “new” commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.”

“Jesus loved us first,” Pope Francis said. “He loved us despite our frailties, our limitations and our human weaknesses. It was He who made us become worthy of his love that knows no limits and never ends.”

“The love that is manifested in the cross of Christ and that He calls us to live is the only force that transforms our heart of stone into a heart of flesh,” he stated. “The only force capable of transforming our heart is the love of Jesus, if we also love with this love.”

“And this love makes us capable of loving our enemies and forgiving those who have offended us.”

Francis noted that the commandment to love one another, when Jesus gave it, was not novel, but that what made it “new” was the part which says, “as I have loved you.”

Speaking shortly before his Crucifixion and death, Jesus showed his disciples the origin and example of the kind of love people are called to give.

“The novelty is all in the love of Jesus Christ, the one with which he gave his life for us. It is a question of the love of God, universal, without conditions and without limits, which finds its apex on the cross.”

“In that moment of extreme lowering, in that moment of abandonment to the Father, the Son of God has shown and given to the world the fullness of love,” he said.

May the Virgin Mary, the pope prayed, “help us, with her maternal intercession, to welcome from her Son Jesus the gift of his commandment, and from the Holy Spirit the strength to practice it in everyday life.”

 

US bishops oppose Trump immigration plan, say families are foundational

Washington D.C., May 19, 2019 / 03:09 am (CNA).- Leaders of the U.S. bishops’ conference voiced concern over President Donald Trump’s new immigration plan, stressing that families should be strengthened and promoted in the immigration system.

“We oppose proposals that seek to curtail family-based immigration and create a largely ‘merit-based’ immigration system,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, who heads the conference’s migration committee.

“Families are the foundation of our faith, our society, our history, and our immigration system,” they said. “As Pope Francis notes: ‘Family is the place in which we are formed as persons’.”

DiNardo and Vásquez responded May 17 to the immigration plan announced by Trump the previous day. They said that although they appreciate the effort to address concerns in the current immigration system, the new plan falls short in several areas.

Trump said his plan prioritizes American values and workers, while attracting “the best and brightest from all around the world.”

The proposal would not seek to cut back on total annual legal immigration numbers, but would significantly reduce the current family-based portion of the immigration system, instead focusing on applicants with high education and skill levels.

The current system awards a majority of immigration visas based on family connections in the U.S. About 12% are approved based on skill level – a number that would be increased to more than 50% under Trump’s proposal.

According to the New York Times, officials said this would result in nearly 75% of immigrants to the United States holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, and would increase the average immigrant salary from $43,000 to $96,000.

Nuclear families would be prioritized under the proposal, while it would be harder for extended family members to immigrate based on family connections.

The plan also involves the completion of a border wall and new technology to monitor the southern border. It would “a permanent and self-sustaining border security trust fund,” financed by border crossing fees, Trump said.

Critics of the proposal argue that it fails to address the root causes of the migration crisis at the southern border and inhumanely turns away those in need. Democrats in Congress have indicated that they will oppose the plan.

The plan does not provide legal status for Dreamers, those brought to the United States illegally as children. Nor does it provide a clear path forward for Temporary Protected Status holders.

In their statement, DiNardo and Vásquez called these omissions deeply troubling.

They also said that “securing our borders and ensuring our safety is of the utmost importance, but this will not be achieved by heightening human misery and restricting access to lawful protection in an attempt to deter vulnerable asylum-seeking families and children.”

“Instead, we must confront the root causes of migration and look to humane and pragmatic solutions, such as improving our immigration courts, expanding alternatives to detention, and eradicating criminal networks,” they said. “We urge lawmakers to put aside differences and engage in meaningful action on humane and just comprehensive immigration reform.”

Wisdom, gratitude, healing, fellowship: A military family’s journey to Lourdes

Lourdes, France, May 18, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Every pilgrim to Lourdes has their own motivations and reasons for making the journey. For the Mayors, the International Military Pilgrimage came with an additional grace: a family reunion.

Captain Mark E. Mayor and Captain Matthew N. Mayor are identical twins. Both have served for a decade in the U.S. Army. Both are members of the Knights of Columbus.

While the two have been stationed together in the past, they now live a continent apart. Mark is stationed at USAG Wiesbaden, in Germany. Matthew is stationed at Ft. Jackson, SC, but is a student at Northwestern University through the Army Advanced Civil Schooling program.

Last year, Mark and his wife, Malori, were both pilgrims on the Warriors to Lourdes trip. Malori, a registered nurse, volunteered on the medical team, assisted with helping wounded pilgrims, and played the violin at Mass throughout the weekend. This year, all three of the Mayors made the journey to Lourdes.

Mark and Malori told CNA that they are taking a different approach towards this year’s pilgrimage. Last year, they said they both came with a “spiritual agenda,” and were praying for a specific intention. This year, they said they are instead coming to Lourdes with an attitude of gratitude, and will be more relaxed about the experience.

"Coming with an agenda, though, was something that I think was a mistake, last year,” said Mark. This year, he intends to seek wisdom, something that he thinks he and his wife were inadvertently granted last year as well.

During the 2018 pilgrimage, Malori and Mark were praying they would conceive a child. This did not immediately happen, but Malori thinks that she received the gift of courage to break down the stigma and taboo of infertility. She used her blog to share stories about infertility and to inform her readers about holistic, natural, Church-approved methods of tackling fertility.

“I think that's what we needed, that was our miracle for last year, even though we came with an agenda, God gave us the wisdom to seek out the right resources,” said Mark. “I think that's the key takeaway with this pilgrimage."

Malori is now expecting their first child, who is due in January 2020.

“Even before I became pregnant, though, I was kind of reflecting on last year's experience at Lourdes, and realizing that I need to come here with a different posture, a different attitude; not 'give me what I want, right now, on my timeline,' but to just come with gratitude,” she explained.

This gratitude is “not necessarily for infertility--that would be very, very hard to be grateful for that cross itself,” but rather for how she and her husband have grown through this experience together.

Matthew told CNA that he had first learned of the Warriors to Lourdes pilgrimage through his brother and sister-in-law, and was inspired to apply for this year. He said that he came into Lourdes with an open mind, and that he is seeking healing for both physical and mental wounds.

“My only expectation is to come here with an attitude of gratitude, to be thankful for the blessings that I have in my life right now," said Matthew. Matthew also explained that he is looking forward to fellowship with members of the military, as the transition from living on a base to living in the civilian world can be jarring and lonely. The chance to interact with others is “a huge deal for me, to have that fellowship” he said.

Both Mark and Matthew have suffered from their time in the military, and both have been diagnosed with having post-traumatic stress. Mark also experienced a traumatic brain injury. They both spoke about the importance of civilian interaction with members of the military after they have returned home, as they both believe this is key to preventing and treating mental illnesses that many troops experience.

When a member of the military returns home, Mark explained, they are “separated from the tribe,” which can trigger depression and other mental wounds. The International Military Pilgrimage is a way for people to “get the tribe back together,” and is a therapeutic experience for the pilgrims. And while the pilgrims are from different nations and from different branches of the military, Mark is comforted by the fact that they are all in Lourdes to worship God.

“We all celebrate one universal Catholic faith,” said Mark. “It's just something that I find it really humbling."

Lourdes is famous for its baths, which have produced 70 confirmed miraculous healings, and hundreds of other cures. The Mayors say they have all been deeply touched by their experiences taking a dip in the ice-cold water.

Malori called her trip to the baths “life-changing,” and said that it came with a sense of peace. Matthew agreed, saying it was an “eclectic and powerful experience.”

"My intentions were for continued healing in body, mind, and spirit, and for the grace of continued wisdom to fulfill and refill my well of fortitude," said Matthew. He said he was grateful and thanked God for being present for him in that moment.  

All agreed that Lourdes is a special place, and that the addition of the pilgrims attending the International Military Pilgrimage only increases the town’s unique sense of holiness.

"Minus all the people coming here with illnesses and wheelchairs, maybe this is a little bit of what like Heaven is,” said Malori. “Everyone's so peaceful and all these different countries coming together at the military pilgrimage--maybe this is like a taste of that."

Pope Francis: Wasting food shows a lack of concern for others

Vatican City, May 18, 2019 / 10:16 am (CNA).- In a meeting with members of the Federation of European Food Banks Saturday, Pope Francis warned against food waste, which he said shows a lack of concern for others.

“Fighting against the terrible scourge of hunger means also fighting waste. Waste reveals an indifference towards things and towards those who go without. Wastefulness is the crudest form of discarding,” he said May 18.

“To throw food away means to throw people away,” the pope added. “It is scandalous today not to notice how precious food is as a good, and how so much good ends up so badly.”

Francis noted that in today’s complex world, it is also important that the good done by charitable organizations is “done well,” and is not “the fruit of improvisation.”

Doing good “requires intelligence, the capacity for planning and continuity. It needs an integrated vision, of persons who stand together: it is difficult to do good while not caring for each other,” he said.

Even good initiatives guided by good intentions can get trapped by “extended bureaucracy, excessive administrative costs, or become forms of welfare that do not lead to authentic development,” he noted. “Wasting what is good is a nasty habit that can insinuate itself anywhere, even in charitable works.”

The pope also emphasized the importance of actions over words: “It is always easy to speak about others; it is much harder to give to others, and yet this is what matters.”

Food banks, he said, are good at taking what is “thrown into the vicious cycle of waste” and inserting it into a “virtuous circle” of good use instead.

The pope went on to speak about the economy, which he said has a “profound need” of working to the advantage of all, and especially those who are disadvantaged.

“It is good to see languages, beliefs, traditions and different approaches converging, not for self-interest, but rather to give dignity to others,” he said.

Noting the modern world’s connectivity and rapid pace, he decried the “frenetic scramble for money” which leaves people with an increasing interior frailty, disorientation, and loss of meaning. He added: “What I care about is an economy that is more humane, that has a soul, and not a reckless machine that crushes human beings.”

“We must find a cure,” he urged, by “supporting what is good and taking up paths of solidarity, being constructive.”

“We must come together to relaunch what is good, knowing full well that, even if evil is at large in the world, with God’s help and the good will of so many like yourselves, the world can be a better place,” he said.
 
“We need to support those who wish to change things for the better; we need to encourage models of growth based on social equality, on the dignity of human persons, on families, on the future of young people, on respect for the environment.”

Humility should be the foundation of media work, pope tells journalists

Vatican City, May 18, 2019 / 07:08 am (CNA).- Pope Francis told journalists Saturday that their profession has a great responsibility, the foundation of which should be humility.

“Humility is an essential virtue for spiritual life; but I would say that it can also be a fundamental element of your profession,” the pope said May 18.

He affirmed that there are other important qualities of a journalist, such as professionalism, writing skill, and ability to investigate and ask the right questions, but added that, “still, humility can be the cornerstone of your activity.”

“Yours is an indispensable role, and this also gives you a great responsibility,” he continued. “It asks of you a particular care for the words you use in your articles, for the images you transmit in your services, for everything you share on social media.”

Pope Francis added that, “humble journalists does not mean mediocre, but rather aware that through an article, a tweet, a live television or radio program, you can do good, but also, if you are not careful and scrupulous, evil to others and sometimes to entire communities.”

The pope spoke about humility in journalism during a meeting with around 400 members of the Association of Foreign Press in Italy, at the end of which he gave out copies of the book, “Comunicare il Bene,” (“Communicate the good”) which compiles some of his words to journalists over the last six years.

In his speech the pope acknowledged “how difficult and how much humility the search for truth requires,” saying, “I therefore urge you to work according to truth and justice, so that communication is really a tool to build, not to destroy...”

He also gave advice on the importance of humility, showing in what ways it helps a journalist to do his or her job well. For example, he said it is humility which drives someone to look deeper than the first, easy solution to a question.

If a mistake is made, it should always be rectified, he advised, especially in a time when, through the internet, false information is easily spread. He also warned media professionals to resist the temptation to publish something which has been insufficiently verified.

Humility, he continued, also helps journalists to not be slaves to haste, but to take the necessary time to understand something well.

Another quality of a humble journalist is seeking to know all the facts before relating them or commenting on them, he said, and as St. Francis de Sales once said, to use words carefully, “as the surgeon uses the scalpel.”

Pope Francis also urged those in media to work to bring to light the circumstances of those who have been rejected, excluded, and discriminated against.

“You and your work are needed to help not to forget many situations of suffering, which often do not have the light of the spotlight, or they have it for a moment and then return to the darkness of indifference,” he said.

Thanking journalists for their work, which if done in service, “becomes a mission,” the pope said they help people to not forget the lives “suffocated before they are even born” or those that, when born, suffer from hunger, hardship, war, persecution, or abuse.

He encouraged journalists to tell those stories, but to also tell the stories of people who sacrifice themselves, even heroically, to help others.

“Please continue to tell even that part of reality that thanks to God is still the most widespread: the reality of those who do not surrender to indifference, of those who do not flee before injustice, but build patiently in silence,” he said.

Pope Francis called these stories “a submerged ocean of good that deserves to be known and that gives strength to our hope.”

He assured the journalists, many of whom are secular, of the Church’s esteem for them, “even when you put your finger in the wound, and perhaps the wound is in the ecclesial community.”

He also quoted Pope St. John Paul II in a meeting with the same association in 1988, when he said: “The Church is on your side. Be Christian or not, in the Church you will always find the right esteem for your work and the recognition of freedom of the press.”

Venezuelan bishops say ending legislative immunity 'hijacks' democracy

Caracas, Venezuela, May 18, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- The Venezuelan bishops’ conference has expressed opposition to a decision of the country’s Supreme Court, which has requested that legislative immunity be revoked for members of the National Assembly accused of treason, conspiracy, instigation of insurrection, civil rebellion and other charges.  That would open the way for legislators to be tried for those alleged crimes.

“With this request, the will of the Venezuelan people, who freely elected the National Assembly is, in fact, abolished,” the bishops charged in a May 15 statement.

They also said that Supreme Court requests on the matter “constitute disrespect and a transgression of the commitments enacted with the different international bodies on human rights.”

“The denial of immunity without previously determining its merits and ignoring the rights of the National Assembly, contravening the express constitutional provisions, gravely harms the functioning of democracy,” the bishops added.  

They also explained that these decisions in practice constitute “the hijacking of popular sovereignty,” which is represented by the legislators elected by the will of the citizens.

“That is the essence of a democracy: respect for the will of the people and the observance of the due legal and judicial processes.”

They also reminded that in the face of a political crisis a peaceful solution is required. “We reaffirm  the will for an institutional and democratic solution to the political and social situation in Venezuela.”

The Venezuelan bishops' Justice and Peace Commission pointed out that more than 30 representatives of the National Assembly are not exercising their functions because of the violation  of their parliamentary immunity, while others have been arrested, are in exile, or their election was invalidated as occurred with the representatives from Amazonas State.

“We categorically reject the persecution against the political and social leaders, especially against the Representatives of the National Assembly by means of criminalization and stigmatization, placing pamphlets on their residences or graffiti that put their lives at risk and that of their families,” the reaffirmed.

The bishops' conference has asked the authorities to respect the will of the people. They also demanded  that “the security of persons that are the object of persecution and intimidation be guaranteed.”

“We ask God for the wisdom necessary for an institutional and peaceful solution to the grave political, social and economic crisis that has deepened in recent weeks, deteriorating democracy and the quality of life of the Venezuelan people, especially the poorest,” they concluded.

 

The ‘young man with a big, good heart’: STEM hero Kendrick Castillo laid to rest

Denver, Colo., May 17, 2019 / 03:35 pm (CNA).- On a warm Friday morning in May at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Littleton, Colorado, about 40 Knights of Columbus dressed in full regalia flanked the entrance of the church as friends and family of Kendrick Castillo filed in to commend him to God at his funeral.

Each attendee was handed a small card - on one side, Kendrick smiling, dressed in a Christmas sweater and sitting on a Jeep. On the other side, a simple tribute including his birth and death dates, funeral location, and the bible verse John 15:13 that seems to capture the way his life ended: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Kendrick was the lone casualty in the STEM high school shooting on May 7 in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. He died, witnesses say, after he jumped up in the line of fire and ran to stop one of the shooters with a couple other students.

His funeral was attended by relatives and friends that filled the large Catholic church, and included an honor guard of 80 Knights of Columbus, about half of whom dressed in the old feather-capped regalia, and half in the new uniform with a beret.

The Knights lined the aisles and drew their swords in tribute to Kendrick during the processional and recessional, honoring a young man who spent hundreds of hours volunteering for the Knights of Columbus with his dad. A group of Kendrick’s close friends from high school served as pallbearers.

Bishop Jorge Rodríguez, auxiliary bishop of Denver, and five other priests and deacons presided at the Mass.

In his homily, Rodriguez talked about how Kendrick imitated Christ and “pleased God” throughout his life as a selfless, loving person.

Kendrick was “a holy young man,” Rodriguez said. “A young man who was a good disciple of Jesus Christ. We call ‘saints’ those able to love to the end. Kendrick gave everything he is, and everything he had -family, a future, a degree, his life- so other young men and women could go back to their families, have a future, graduate and live.”

“Kendrick’s life is like the echo of Jesus’ words: ‘Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends,’” he added, again referencing John 15:13.

The bishop referenced Scripture throughout his homily, noting how Kendrick was pleasing to and loved by God.

“Only a young man with God in his heart and possessing a big good heart can do what he did: to lay down his life to save his friends. I’m sure John and Maria, that you feel proud of your son: God too is very proud of his child, Kendrick,” Rodriguez said.

“The Book of Wisdom repeats: ‘His soul was pleasing to the Lord.’ The soul is the center of our consciousness, freedom, the seat of love and will; that self that makes us God’s image and touches who we really are. God loves Kendrick’s soul because he is a good young man,” he added.

He noted that Kendrick was only a few days from his high school graduation when he was killed, and could have accomplished many more things on earth with his “big good heart,” but that he was now with God, where “all the evil of this world will not be able to touch him again.”

Instead, Kendrick experienced a much more profound kind of graduation, Rodriguez said.

“Kendrick graduated not for an academic degree, but he graduated in humanity and in Christian life,” he said.

At the end of life, everyone will be examined not on their academic knowledge or worldly success, the bishop noted, but on how well they loved.

“Kendrick passed this test with honors,” he said. “He accomplished in a short time a great career in honorableness, love and holiness. As Scripture says, the greatness of a man ‘cannot be measured in terms of years.’”

Even though Kendrick was a good person and is loved and cared for by the Lord, his death still causes “unbearable” pain, especially for his family, Rodriguez said.

The bishop encouraged John and Maria, the parents of Kendrick, to hold fast to the Gospel of John 6:40: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day.”

That passage, Rodriguez said, contains two promises for Kendrick: that he is enjoying eternal life in heaven, and that he will be raised with Jesus on the last day.

“Dream with that moment, when you will see Kendrick right in front of you, radiant, smiling and coming to you for a big hug,” he said.

He then encouraged everyone in attendance to follow the example of Kendrick’s faith and love, and thanked John and Maria for their son.

“John and Maria, Kendrick, your son, is a gift for all of us. And we all must commit to keep his legacy and to praise God for the gift of Kendrick’s years among us.”

“God loves your child. Now, he is with him. And he left, keeping you in his heart.”