The Church of St. Rita

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Cottage Grove, MN 55016-2096
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Speaker: Responsible parenthood begins before baby

Moral theology professor says Church’s teachings on sexuality promote meaningful, joyful life

From our readers: April 23, 2015

What an informative and interesting article on secular institutes and the consecrated life which was published in the April 9 issue of The Catholic Spirit. In today’s world it seems that this life would be especially suitable for many young women and men.

Why is the Passion read on Palm Sunday and is organ donation OK?

Q. I have always wondered why we read the Passion during Palm Sunday services. Palm Sunday is a day of rejoicing and jubilation, as we remember Jesus riding into Jerusalem amid throngs of cheering people.

Camping to change minds on license issue

Vigil in front of the State Capitol to promote legislation to allow immigrants living in this country who are not yet citizens to obtain a driver’s license.

Vatican and UNICEF to work together for disadvantaged youth

(Vatican Radio) The Vatican and the United Nations Children’s Fund on Tuesday signed an agreement aimed at working more closely together to reach out to some of the most disadvantaged young people in the world. 

The executive director of UNICEF, Anthony Lake, met with Pope Francis at the Casa Santa Marta to sign the agreement of cooperation with Scholas Occurrentes, an organization launched by the Pope during his time as archbishop of Buenos Aires. The initiative uses sports, technology and art to promote social integration and a culture of encounter amongst disadvantaged young people.

A second agreement was also signed between Scholas Occurrentes and  the South American Football Confederation [CONMEBOL]  By working closely together, these organizations aim to “provide adolescents with the tools, information and comprehension they need to become citizens who can participate fully in their societies and in the world.” Young people between the ages of 10 and 19 years old represent about 20% of the world’s population. The majority of them live in developing countries.

Speaking with Vatican Radio after the signing ceremony, UNICEF’s Anthony Lake stressed the importance of connecting innovative youth with their likeminded peers to create a culture of “Youth for youth” encounter…

Listen to the interview by Mercedes De La Torre of Vatican Radio’s Latin American section: 

Adolescence is a crucial moment, the age of risk but also a time of opportunity, he says.  Young people who learn to work together and solve common problems are developing skills that will more than help build a better future for themselves.

Lake explaines that the two organizations will explore new ways in which they can mobilize social networks and social movements in favor of the most disadvantaged children. They will also explore other opportunities for collaboration, centering around world events for youth, such as the Social Impact of Youth Summit at the 2015 Summer Special Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

This is not the first time that Pope Francis has highlighted the role which sport can play in the lives of young people from difficult backgrounds. During a meeting with the Italian and Argentine national football teams in the Vatican in August 2013, the Pope reminded them that “Football players are often looked up to by young people” and he urged them to be good role models for their fans.


(from Vatican Radio)

Vatican calls for world anti-trafficking agency

(Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (PASS) says it’s outrageous that there is no shared EU responsibility for the refugees trying to reach Italy. The Academy also said there is an urgent need to set up a world anti-trafficking agency. The comments came at a press conference held in the Vatican by leading members of PASS at the end of their 5-day plenary meeting whose theme was “Human Trafficking: Issues Beyond Criminalization. 

Human trafficking is a huge global phenomenon that is worth a staggering 150 billion dollars and experts say the age of the trafficked victims is getting younger and younger. The President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences is Margaret Archer who told journalists that the PASS members discussed how to prevent the crime of human trafficking, by tackling the twin issues of supply and demand for sex workers and forced labour.  She spoke to Susy Hodges.

Listen to the interview with Professor Margaret Archer, President of PASS:  

Asked about what steps need to be taken to reduce demand for prostitutes and forced labourers, Archer said there’s a need to embark on a process in which the clients of brothels and the companies using forced labour become socially stigmatized by harnessing the power of the social media such as Facebook to spread messages against these practices, especially among the young and students in schools. She compared it to the successful actions which have been taken against smokers and especially the ban on smoking in public places over the past decades which have led to a sweeping change in behaviour.  

“We can send out messages that using prostitutes isn’t cool and…. that “it messes up your cool image.”   

(from Vatican Radio)

The Pope's sorrow over Ethiopian Copts assassinated in Libya, and for all persecuted Christians - Ongoing martyrdom

In a message sent to H.H. Abune Mathias, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church,

Pope Francis expressed “consternation and sorrow” for the countless events of “shocking violence perpetrated against innocent Christians in Libya”, following the dissemination of a video which showed the barbaric killing of 28 Ethiopian Coptic Christians.

“I know that your Holiness is suffering deeply in heart and mind, in view of your faithful, killed for the sole reason of being followers of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I address my heartfelt spiritual solidarity to you, to assure you of my closeness in prayer amid the ongoing martyrdom being inflicted in so cruel a manner upon Christians in Africa, in the Middle East and in some regions of Asia”, Francis wrote.

“It makes no difference”, he continued, “whether the victims are Catholic, Copt, Orthodox or Protestant. Their blood is one and the same in their confession of Christ! The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to make itself heard by all those who still know how to distinguish between good and evil”. And this cry, he added, “must be heard above all by those who hold the fate of the peoples in their hands”

Recalling that “in this period we are filled with the Easter joy of the disciples to whom the women hastened to proclaim that “Christ has risen from the dead”, the Pontiff acknowledged that “this year, our joy, which never fails, is eclipsed by profound sadness”. Yet, he affirmed “we know that the life we live in the merciful love of God is stronger than the sorrow that all Christians are feeling, a sorrow shared by men and women of good will in all religious traditions.

During the Mass celebrated at Santa Marta on Tuesday morning, 21 April, Pope Francisrepeated that “today the Church is the Church of martyrs”, addressing a thought to “the Ethiopians assassinated for being Christians” and to all believers who in various parts of the world are victims of violence and persecution. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches also spoke of “martyrs”, condemning themost recent event of chilling jihadist violence.

Mass at Santa Marta - The Church of martyrs

“Today the Church is the Church of martyrs”. And among these martyrs are “our brothers whose throats were cut on the beach of Libya; that young man burned alive by companions for being a Christian; those immigrants on the high seas thrown overboard for being Christians; those Ethiopians assassinated for being Christians”. In the chapel of Casa Santa Marta on Friday morning, 21 April, recounting the story of the first martyr, St Stephen, Pope Francis recalled the many present-day martyrs: including those whose names we do not know, who are suffering in prisons or who are defamed and persecuted “by so many modern Sanhedrins”, or for living “the faith within their own family”.

The Pontiff began his homily by pointing out what all martyrs have in common: they are those “who in the history of the Church bore testimony of Jesus” without having “need of other bread: for them Jesus alone was enough, because they had faith in Jesus”. And, Francis said, “today, the Church makes us reflect and offers us, in the Liturgy of the Word, the first Christian martyr”, in the Acts of the Apostles, which speak of St Stephen (7:51-8:1a).

“This man did not hunger, he did not need to turn to negotiations, to compromises with other types of bread, to survive”, the Pope stated. With this manner “he testified of Jesus” until his martyrdom. Referring to the previous day’s Liturgy of the Word, Pope Francis recalled that “yesterday the Church began speaking about him: several‘Freedmen’ of the Synagogue, arose and began to dispute with Stephen but they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke”. In fact, the Pope explained, “Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit and spoke with the wisdom of the Spirit: he was powerful”. And thus these people “instigated a few men to say that they heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God, and gave false testimony”. With these accusations “they stirred up the people, the elders, the scribes: they came upon him, they seized him and brought him before the Sanhedrin”.

The Pope pointed out that “the story of Stephen” is “curious” in that it follows “the same steps as that of Jesus”, meaning the tactics of “false witnesses” were used in order to “stir up the people and bring him to judgement. Today we heard how this story ends, because in the Sanhedrin, Stephen explains the Gospel of Jesus, he gives a long explanation”. However, his accusers “didn’t want to listen, their hearts were closed”. Thus, “in the end, Stephen, with the power of the Spirit, tells them the truth: ‘You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears’ — pagans, in other words — ‘you always resist the Holy Spirit’”.

“One of the characteristics of stiff-necked people before the word of God” is “resistance to the Holy Spirit”, the Pope explained, repeating the words of St Stephen: “As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute?”. Thus, Stephen “recalled many prophets who had been persecuted and killed for being faithful to the word of God”. Then, “when he confessed his vision of Jesus, which God showed him at that moment”, and as Stephen was “full of the Holy Spirit, they were scandalized and cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears”. This, the Pope said, was a “real sign” that “they didn’t want to listen”. And thus, “they rushed together upon him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him”.

This has always been “the story of martyrs”, even “those of the Old Testament, about whom St Stephen was speaking in the Sanhedrin”. The problem is that “certain hearts never like the word of God; the word of God is bothersome when you have a hardened heart, when you have a pagan heart, because the word of God challenges you to go forth, searching and being fed with that bread that Jesus spoke of”.

“In the history of the revelation”, Francis affirmed, there are “so many martyrs who were killed on account of faithfulness to the word of God, to the truth of God”. Thus “Stephen’s martyrdom really resembles Jesus’ sacrifice”. And as they stoned him, Stephen prayed, saying: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”. How can one forget Jesus’ words on the Cross: “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit”? Then, the Acts of the Apostles tell us that Stephen “knelt down and cried with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’”. Again, Jesus said: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’”. Here is “that Christian magnanimity of forgiveness, of praying for the enemy”.

However, of “those who persecuted the prophets, those who persecuted and killed Stephen and so many martyrs”, Jesus said that “they believed they were giving glory to God, they believed” that in doing so they were being “faithful to God’s teaching”. And, the Pope said, “today I would like to recall that the history of the Church, the true history of the Church, is the history of saints and martyrs: the persecuted martyrs” and also the many who are “killed by those who believe they are glorifying God, by those who believe they have the truth: corrupt hearts, but the truth”.

Even today, “how many ‘Stephens’ there are in the world!’”, the Pope exclaimed. He referred to recent accounts of persecution: “Let us think of our brothers whose throats were cut on the beach in Libya; let us think of that young man burned alive by companions for being a Christian; let us think of those immigrants on the high seas who were thrown overboard by the others for being Christians; let us think — the day before yesterday — of those Ethiopians, assassinated for being Christians”. And still, he added, “so many others that we don’t know, who suffer in prisons because they are Christians”.

Today, Francis continued, “the Church is the Church of martyrs: they suffer, they give their lives, and we receive God’s blessing through their testimony”. And then, “there are also hidden martyrs, those men and women, faithful to the power of the Holy Spirit, to the voice of the Spirit, who make way, who seek new ways to help their brothers and sisters and to better love God”. And for this reason they “come under suspicion”, they are “defamed, persecuted by so many modern Sanhedrins who believe themselves masters of the the truth”. Today, the Pontiff stated, there are “so many hidden martyrs”, and among them are many “who, for being faithful, suffer greatly within their families,for their faithfulness”.

“Our Church is the Church of martyrs” Francis reiterated, before returning to the celebration of Mass during which he said “the ‘first martyr’ will come to us, the first who bore witness and, even more, salvation to all of us”. Thus, the Pope exhorted, “let us unite with Jesus in the Eucharist, and let us unite with so many brothers and sisters who are suffering the martyrdom of being persecuted, defamed and killed for being faithful to the one bread that satiates, namely to Jesus”.

English Bishop calls for solidarity with persecuted Christians

(Vatican Radio) The chairman of the Department of International Affairs in the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales has called for solidarity with Christians in the Middle East and North Africa region.

“Once more, it is with a sense of deep sadness and grief that we mourn the deaths of innocent Ethiopian Christian workers who were killed with such impunity by Daesh (ISIS) in Libya,” said Bishop Declan Lang, after hearing the news of the murder of innocent Ethiopian Christian workers in Libya.

“Our sorrow can easily spill into anger when thinking of the mounting number of victims of such men who clothe their actions with religion while murdering civilians across the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA),” he said.

“Daesh (ISIS) strategy is two-fold – on the one hand, they and their followers are executing their own warped version of Islam, on the other, they are trying - desperately in some cases - to enrage world opinion so that our reactions of anger and retribution would justify in their own minds their heinous crimes and lead to further deaths and executions,” continued Bishop Lang.

“Today, we pray for the repose of the souls of those innocent victims just as we prayed for the Coptic Christians who were killed in Libya too. We also pray for the families of those men who now have to cope not only with the loss of their loved ones, but also the loss of any economic support,” he added.

“Our Christian faith encourages us to stand in solidarity with all those vulnerable peoples and communities across the MENA that spurn merciless and ungodly ideologies,” concluded Bishop Lang. “We therefore also join our prayers to those of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and beseech the Almighty that He will show the killers the way of peace and reconciliation.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Collaboration agreements with UNICEF and CONMEBOL in favour of Scholas Occurrentes, signed before the Holy Father

Vatican City, 21 April 2015 (VIS) – This morning, in the Domus Sanctae Marthae and in the presence of Pope Francis, the executive director of UNICEF, Anthony Lake, and the deputy president of CONMEBOL signed two collaboration agreements in favour of Scholas Occurrentes, the educational network supported by the Holy Father.

UNICEF is the United Nations Children's Fund, and CONMEBOL the South American Football Confederation. Scholas Occurrentes is a the first worldwide initiative with the aim of promoting integration and peace between peoples through education, connecting more than 400,000 schools and educational networks, both public and private and of all religions. The five-year collaboration with UNICEF will be based on the broadening of access for young children, especially the most disadvantaged, to technology, sport and the arts – platforms for education, participation and the building of peace, enabling the young to learn about themselves, others and the world that surrounds them.

Scholas and UNICEF will initially cooperate in a series of joint activities worldwide, with the special aim of bringing an end to violence and promoting the connectedness of all young people, making the most of the unique capacities of each person to favour the participation of adolescents and to broaden their access to the tools and information they need to be connected, to communicate and to collaborate.

The two organisations will explore the bonds between their respective platforms for mobilisation on social networks and communication media, and will support both digital campaigns and social movements in aid of the most disadvantaged children. The specific collaboration projects include involvement in the Scholas network in terms of content and opportunities for the participation by young people in “The young express their own opinion”, UNICEF's online space for adolescents and young people. UNICEF will also adapt the U-Report for the Scholas global community, which will enable its members to join the 500,000 or so young people who already use the mobile-based platform to speak about their interests and to participate.

The organisations will also develop new opportunities for collaboration in relation to major events centred on world youth, such as the Summit on the Social Impact of Youth, to be held during the Summer Games of the Special Olympics in 2015 in Los Angeles. In 2016, the association will begin to explore initiatives at regional, national and community levels, including campaigns to raise awareness and joint promotional activities linked to issues affecting millions of disadvantaged adolescents.