Calungsod and the Clods of Mud
On the last day of November, a huge Mass of Thanksgiving was held in Cebu City in honor of the canonization of the Philippines second saint, St. Pedro Calungsod. Despite heavy rains and much mud, the open air event drew hundreds of thousands of grateful and justly proud Catholics.
And just to show that the United States isn't the only country where the Church must cope with politicians who vigorously promote laws that go against the her teachings, Pilipino President Benigno Aquino was amongst the event's most prominent attendees. Currently, he is using all his power to ram the "Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Act of 2011" through his nation's Congress.
We in the US have become pretty familiar with this type of legislation, but this bill is unique because it seeks to have the government guarantee "pleasurable ... sexual experiences" for women. (What will we think of next?)
In light of this proposed law, what made the Mass especially worth noting is that it was attended by Angelo Cardinal Amato, who did not attend a similiar event held in honor of the canonization of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. Some are predicting that the Mass will end up reigniting "Catholic activism in every area of Philippine social, economic and cultural life."
Another Pilipino saint in the making?
Keeping our eye on the Philippines, the beatification cause for the first Pilipino bishop of the Diocese of Lipa, His Grace Alfredo Florentin Verzosa, who served as Lipa's ordinary from 1916 until 1950. He also founded the Missionary Catechists of the Sacred Heart, whose charism is to catechize youth in the barios of the now-Archdiocese of Lipa.
One news sources says "Verzosa witnessed some of the miracles of the Roses in Lipa, along with his auxiliary bishop, Servant of God Bishop Alfredo Obviar whose cause for beatification and canonization started in 2001." The Pinoy Exchange newspaper says, "The Blessed Mother, Mediatrix of All Grace, appeared to a young novice, Sister Teresing Castillo several times, showering her with fragrant petals of roses. The miracle sparked controversy and Sister Teresing and the other Carmelite nuns underwent untold trials and sufferings from the hands of skeptical priests who accused them of 'staging' the miracle to raise funds for the construction of their convent in Lipa."
An old new face at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints
According to the Vatican Information Service, the "Holy Father appointed Msgr. Carmelo Pellegrino, relator of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, as promoter [general] of the faith of the same dicastery." There are five relators at the Congregation, and their job, says the USCCB, is to "assemble the historic documentation of the particular location and era of the candidate." The Promoter General, on the other hand, is the prelate theologian of the Congregation, and he heads a staff of 71 theological consultors.
Servant of God Ciszek Given Special Role During the Year of Faith
Bishop John Barres of Allentown has named diocesan native and Servant of God Fr. Walter Ciszek, SJ, as patron for the Year of Faith in his diocese.
According to the Pottsville Republican Herald, Bishop Barres, who is an amazing preacher, told the 300 people attending a Mass at St. Casimir Church, Fr. Ciszek's home parish in Shenandoah, PA, Barres told the congregation, "As we stand up for our First Amendment rights as Americans and as Catholics, we stand up for our religious liberties following the footsteps of Father Walter Ciszek.... What was Father Walter's life in the end but the expression of a deep Catholic faith and missionary spirit that led him to God in Russia? His witness is extremely relevant right now. He experienced in communist Russia gross violations of religious liberty. His biography, his sanctity and missionary spirit, his spiritual teaching is a reminder to all of us to defend and promote our precious gift of religious liberty - a gift that Americans can no longer take for granted."
When Fr. Ciszek was ordained in 1937, he became the first American Jesuit priest for the Byzantine rite, which he became in order to work the mission fields of Soviet Russia. However, he was arrested in 1941 as a Vatican spy, and thereafter spent time in both the notorious Lubianka prison and doing hard time in Siberia. Even though doing so put his life in great danger, Fr. Ciszek continued his ministry even these situations. In 1963, after 23 years in the USSR, the United States swapped a spy for the priest, and he dedicated the rest of his life to leading retreats and doing spiritual direction. He is possibly best remembered because of his two best selling books, He Leadeth Me and With God in Russia, both of which are still available from Ignatius Press. Tomorrow, incidentally, December 8, 2012, marks the twenty-eighth anniversary of his death.
Paul VI soon to be a beato?
Theologians at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints have approved the positio -- or position brief -- arguing for the beatification of the Servant of God Pope Paul VI. By this time next month, we will know whether the Congregation's bishops have similarly approved the late Holy Father's being raised to the altar. If that happens, Benedict XVI would declare the pontiff who made him cardinal "venerable" and after that it is just a matter of getting approval of a miracle, from which there are reportedly several to choose.
Born Giovanni Battista Montini, Paul VI reigned from 1963 to 1978. In those 15 years, he led the last three sessions of Vatican II, wrote eight encyclicals, including Humanae Vitae, which affirmed the Church's age-old teaching on contraception and marriage, as well as several other masterpieces. He also reformed the Mass and did his best to guide the Church through tumultuous, often confused times when a spate of voices were raised to badger the Barque of Peter to jettison her teachings and Tradition. And no one, even those who believe he was not the best pope, no one doubts his personal holiness. Everyone who knew him intimately and who worked alongside him was convinced he was a saint. We will soon see if they are right.
Prague sees beatification of fourteen martyr monks
On Sunday, October 14, at Prague's historic St. Vitus Cathedral, Angelo Cardinal Amato beatified fourteen Franciscan monks who were lynched in Prague for preaching the truths of our Catholic faith.
Fr. Frederic Bachstein and his 13 companions came from Italy, Germany, what is now the Czech Republic, Spain, France, and Holland. Their superiors sent them to Prague in order to learn the Czech language and rebuild the partially destroyed Monastery of Our Lady of Snows in the nation's capital, a city that had become almost entirely devoid of Catholics and extremely hostile to the faith. There were wars of religion taking place, and even attempts at fostering religious tolerance backfired.
In a way, the monks' martyrdom was an ecumenical affair, since Hussites, Calvinists, Lutherans and even some Catholics broke into their convent around 11am on February 15, 1611. By 3pm, after terrible torture and mutilation, the fourteen monks had been massacred. Then their murderers exposed the desecrated bodies outside the monastery for four days.
After this, two Catholic women who were aristocrats took the martyrs bodies and buried them.
During the beatification Mass, Cardinal Amato told the 6,000 strong congregation, "Far from living in hatred, these blessed martyrs prayed, worked and acted for good, as penitent witnesses to Christ's love."
Today, the situation in the Czech Republic is very much like it was back in the 1600s. While they number 1 million, Catholics are a decided minority. For in a nation of 10.5 million people, five million claim no religion, and a third of the population claims to be atheists. This makes the Czech Republic one of Europe's least religious countries.