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The Year of Faith
[View the story "Five people who made a difference in the Year of Faith" on Storify]
Mary Stachyra Lopez | Catholic Herald | Posted 11/21/13 03:21 PM | Comments (0)
Thinking about coming back to church? You are not alone. To make your transition easier, take the advice of local Catholics who have returned to the faith after being away for years.
Be not afraid
Mary Ellen Gilroy was away from the church for 30 years before coming back. She can still remember how nervous she was when she first returned.
“I was a professional woman, had spoken in a language not my own before hundreds of people and done live television interviews without stage fright, but I was really nervous, sort of hanging on the margins,” she said. “I wanted to be a part of it, but didn’t want to push myself in."
If you feel uncomfortable rejoining the church, pray for courage and remember you are not alone.
“You have to sort of get over the fear,” she said. “You can’t force it, but if you notice this longing is inside of you, just try to follow it ask for the strength to do it.”
Find a buddy
When you’re coming back to the church, it’s understandable that you will have questions, doubts or concerns. Finding someone to listen to your concerns and answer your questions will help you feel more at ease with your faith. One thing that helped Gilroy adapt to life in the church was her parish’s Landings program, a ministry for returning Catholics, which encouraged members to build community by sitting together at Mass.
“What was amazing was we all had this desire to be back in the church, but we were all nervous about coming back in,” Gilroy said.
Find your niche
If you have a particular talent or hobby you are passionate about, look for a ministry where you can pursue those interests. If you love to volunteer, get involved with Catholics serving at Christ House. If you love to sing, join the parish choir. If you love to knit, join a group that knits prayer blankets for the sick.
This tactic worked wonders for Paul Ehmann, who found community in the Catholic Sports Club.
“I made really good …
The Arlington Catholic Herald recently hosted a gathering of Catholic journalists from across the southern and eastern regions of the United States. The two-day event was held in Old Town Alexandria and included Mass celebrated by Bishop Paul S. Loverde at St. Joseph Church. The St. Joseph's Gospel Choir, directed by Eugene Harper, inspired the congregation with its energy and enthusiasm.
Catholic Herald columnist Elizabeth Foss took part in a panel discussion, along with Deacon Greg Kandra of "The Deacon's Bench" and Matt Palmer, social media specialist for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Foss discussed her popular blog "In the Heart of My Home."
Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, and John Garvey, president of Catholic University in Washington, were the keynote speakers.
A cardboard cut-out of "Pope Francis" attracted the attention of Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
In advance of Halloween and All Saint’s Day this week, Father Michael Witczak, associate professor of liturgical studies and sacramental theology at Catholic University in Washington, shared some facts about the history of this celebration of saints.
Father Witczak, an expert on the liturgical celebration of saints, says that Halloween (or All Hallows Eve), “is a parable of the journey we are all on to the life of the saints and the hospitality we all need to arrive with the rest of the saints in glory.”
The next day, All Saints Day, Nov. 1, is a holy day of obligation.
Father Witczak shares the following facts about saints and All Saints Day celebrations:
• Saints are of all ages: 12-year-old martyrs like St. Agnes and St. Maria Goretti and the 105-year-old hermit Antony of the Desert.
• Many saints have a special day in the calendar of saints. More saints don’t. For some saints we know a lot about their history, while others we know only their name and the date and place of their burial.
• A special feast honoring all the martyrs goes back to the fourth century in the Eastern part of the church. There it is celebrated in the spring, in present day on the Sunday after Pentecost.
• Pope Boniface IV instituted a feast of Mary and all the Martyrs on May 13, 609, when he dedicated the old Roman temple called the Pantheon as a church with that name.
• Pope Gregory III built a special chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome in the 730s and he dedicated it on Nov. 1 in memory of all the saints.
• Pope Gregory IV and Emperor Louis the Pious extended the Nov. 1 feast of All Saints to the Holy Roman Empire in the 830s, and from there it spread to all of Europe.
• The Nov. 1 liturgy uses the imagery from the Book of Revelation: “Today … we celebrate … the heavenly Jerusalem, our mother, where the great array of our brothers and sisters already gives you eternal praise. Towards her, we eagerly hasten as …
For the Catholic Herald | Posted 10/31/13 12:31 PM | Comments (0)
Last month, I spent a week serving the poor in Peru with Commissioned by Christ, a local organization that plans short-term Catholic mission trips for adults and families. This was my second trip to Peru with CBC — my first was featured in the Catholic Herald (8/30/2012) — and in many ways, both trips were similar. I taught English in the same school, delivered food and supplies to some of the same poor families, and even did the same kind of bamboo building projects.
This year, I was more familiar with the living conditions and social hardships of the community, so I was able to focus on other things: building relationships, figuring out new ways to serve and learning from the people we met.
The truth is, I could talk for hours about the trip — and in fact I already have — but when it comes down to it, there are four main lessons I’d like to share from my mission experience.
In Piura, the parish of Santisimo Sacramento already provides countless services to the local community. Our job as volunteers was not to save people or tell them what they needed, but simply to help the parish workers in the long-term projects they already are doing.
Often, the most important thing we did each day was spend quality time with the people we were serving. During my week, I spent a lot of time in vans and truck beds talking with people about their lives and the needs of the community. When helping children at the school and the parish, I praised drawings and played games. And while visiting people in the distant villages, I admired babies and wedding photos.
None of those acts were life-changing for the people I met, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t valuable. Getting to know people on a basic level without high-tech distractions, sharing meals with them, laughing and even praying with them are all acts of love with real purpose, sharing God’s message that they are loved and that they have …
Bob Toth and Tom Davis, both 75, undertook a 19-month pilgrimage to attend a daily Mass at all 68 Arlington diocesan churches. Their story appeared in the Oct. 3 Catholic Herald. Both men said they were continuing this special pilgrimage by visiting, and attending Mass, at the diocese’s mission churches and the St. Benedict Monastery in Bristow.
The two men encourage all to try the 68-church pilgrimage, but as their current journey comes to an end they’re thinking of similar ways to show love and respect for the faith.
After the story appeared, I received several emails with ideas for the men to consider.
One reader suggested “a prayerful visit to the graves of all the priests who served in the Diocese of Arlington and are buried within its bounds.”
A reader from St. Raymond of Peñafort Church in Springfield had a more ambitious idea, walking “The Way,” a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The reader said he walked it with his brother several years ago when they were both in their 70s.
If you have any ideas for the pair to continue their quest, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll pass them on. No prizes, just the satisfaction of helping Toth and Davis visibly express their faith.
The day before Pope Francis announced the canonization date for Blessed John Paul II (April 27, 2014), I competed in my first-ever triathlon.
So after the announcement, I was thinking not only about the holy pontiff but also about my recent swim, bike and run (my body wouldn’t let me forget).
Behind the starting blocks at high school and college swim meets, I often prayed to St. Joan of Arc, my confirmation saint and a woman who had enough guts and faith to take on the English army.
I fell in love with Joan after reading Mark Twain’s little-known biography on the 15th-century teenage saint.
St. Joan was my go-to gal when I felt my courage waver or my muscles ache.
Yet as much as I love her, I would like to suggest that the soon-to-be St. John Paul, probably the most athletic pontiff in the history of the church, be named the patron saint of triathletes.
In a 1984 homily at the Olympic Stadium in Rome, Pope John Paul II told the assembled athletes: “Sport is the joy of life, a game, a celebration, and as such it must be properly used and … freed from excess technical perfection and professionalism, through a recovery of its free nature, its ability to strengthen bonds of friendship, to foster dialogue and openness to others.”
Pope John Paul loved to swim, hike, kayak and ski. But even more importantly he understood the value of athletics and its proper place in our lives. At its best, athletics is about celebrating the beauty of being alive, of the bodies we were given, and about using self-discipline and hard work to reach our goals with humility and humor.
Pope Francis hasn’t asked me yet, but St. John Paul, the patron saint of triathletes, makes perfect sense. On my next triathlon I know I’ll need all the help I can get.
The Little Sisters of the Poor are an international Catholic congregation of women religious founded in 1839 by St. Jeanne Jugan. They operate homes in 31 countries — including homes in Washington, D.C., and Richmond — where they provide loving care for more than 13,000 needy elderly persons.
Although the Little Sisters' homes perform a religious ministry of caring for the elderly poor, they do not fall within the federal government's narrow exemption for "religious employers." Accordingly, beginning Jan. 1, 2014, the Little Sisters will face IRS fines unless they violate their religion by hiring an insurer to provide their employees with contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty recently posted a video on You Tube that showcases the ministry of the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Watch the video here.
For more information, go to becketfund.org/littlesisters.
Catholic Herald Staff Report | Posted 9/27/13 11:27 AM | Comments (0)
The popularity of British author and journalist G.K. Chesterton appears to be gaining momentum.
Chesterton was born in London in 1874 and died of heart failure in 1936 at the age of 62 in Beaconsfield, north of the city, in the Diocese of Northampton. He was baptized an Anglican, but became a Catholic in 1922 and wrote acclaimed religious books such as Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man.
In his column that appeared in the Sept. 19 edition of the Catholic Herald, George Weigel examined Father Ian Ker’s G.K. Chesterton: A Biography (Oxford).
Weigel said that those who imagine Chesterton “an amiable lightweight” will have to wrestle with Etienne Gilson’s judgment that Chesterton’s small book, St. Thomas Aquinas, was “without possible comparison, the best book ever written on St. Thomas. Nothing short of genius can account for such an achievement.”
“For decades,” Weigel said, “Chesterton was at the center of the great public controversies of his day, and engaged both issues and opponents in a way that drew, not merely the respect, but the love, of his opponents. One need not agree with Chesterton’s opinions in whole or in part to recognize that he had a remarkable insight into modernity and its discontents and a singularly fetching way of demolishing an intellectual opponent without drawing blood or leaving bruises.”
In his new book, Race with the Devil (Saint Benedict Press), author Joseph Pearce recalls the strong influence that Chesterton’s writings had on him as a young man when he was struggling with anti-Catholic and racist feelings.
“I devoured The Outline of Sanity, agreeing with almost everything that Chesterton said and loving the way that he said it,” Pearce wrote. “His personality, full of a vigorous joie de vivre, seemed to leap from the page into the intimate presence of the reader.
“In Chesterton,” Pearce wrote, “I had found a new friend who would become the most powerful influence (under …
In recent years, there’s been a lot written about so-called millennials: the generation born between the early 1980s and the 2000s. As a 28-year-old, I fall directly in the target age range and I have read countless overly generalized stories about me and my peers — from positive pieces about how ambitious we are to articles about how we’re narcissistic, coddled and unhappy.
The media’s obsession with the 20-something generation is to be expected, I guess. With each new generation comes new behavioral patterns and ways of thinking. And since today’s young adults grew up online, those behaviors and ways of thinking spread and evolved faster than ever.
This has spelled big changes for the church. According to a 2012 study from the Pew Research Study, one-third of Americans under 30 have no religious affiliation. Many are atheists or agnostics, some are in the “spiritual, but not religious” camp, and some don’t think about religion at all. The statistics speak of a huge responsibility for the church to reach out to young people and show the truth and beauty of a life of faith. So how exactly can that be done?
Peter Blair is a parishioner of Christ the King Church in Silver Spring, Md., and founder of the young adult-focused magazine Fare Forward, a “Christian review of ideas and cultural commentary.” A millennial himself, Blair is 23 years old and a recent graduate of Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. He believes churches can reach his generation through thought-provoking discussions, high-tech solutions, and programs that bridge the gap between today’s culture and the faith.
Tip No.1: Don’t talk down to young adults.
In a recent article on the CNN Belief Blog, “Why millennials are leaving the church,” evangelical writer Rachel Held Evans wrote about how Christian churches often try to reach young adults with edgier music and more casual services, but those efforts can ring false.
“Having been advertised to our …