The ultimate act of forgiveness
Bob Hessman, who died May 9, 2017, tells the story of his daughter, Mary Rains,
who was killed while working at a convenience store. Bob and his wife Ruth communicated with the killer,
and ultimately forgave him before he was put to death. Bob was a good friend of the
Southwest Kansas Catholic, and will be missed. (Rains is misspelled in the opening titles.)
May 28, 2017
Grateful Hearts; MSFS Provincial; Reddy; Reif; Opossum; Dead Sea Scrolls; Our Lady of Fatima; Jorge Herrera, Jr.; Cursillo; Kough; First Communion; Confirmation
Pope Francis, Trump hold landmark first meeting
Vtican City, May 24, 2017 / 02:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After months of anticipation, Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump finally met at the Vatican Wednesday in a friendly encounter which included an emphasis on protection of life and freedom of conscience.
According to a May 24 Vatican communique, Pope Francis and Trump expressed satisfaction "for the good existing bilateral relations between the Holy See and the United States of America, as well as the joint commitment in favor of life, and freedom of worship and conscience."
The Pope and Trump met at the Vatican May 24, at 8:30a.m., immediately before the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
Trump arrived to Italy May 23 after stopping in both Saudi Arabia and Israel as part of his first international trip. He is also set to attend a NATO meeting in Brussels on May 25 and a G7 summit in Sicily on May 26 before returning to the U.S.
President Trump arrived to the Vatican via the side entrance by Casa Santa Marta around 8:15a.m. and was greeted by a group of Swiss Guards in the San Damaso courtyard. After stepping out of the car, Trump and First Lady Melania greeted Archbishop Georg Ganswein and other Vatican dignitaries before entering the Apostolic Palace.
Pope Francis and Trump smiled as they sat down at the Pope’s desk in the papal library. Pope Francis said, “Welcome!” and Trump responded, “Thank you very much, this is such a great honor.”
Smiling, Francis explained that he doesn't speak English well and needs a translator, but added that he was “very happy to meet” Trump.
After the cameras left the two began the private portion of their conversation, which lasted about 30 minutes. In addition to Pope Francis and Trump, only the Pope's English translator, Msgr. Mark Miles, was present.
During the "cordial discussions," the two expressed hope for peaceful collaboration between the government and the Catholic Church in the United States, that it may be "engaged in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants," the Vatican communique stated.
Pope Francis and President Trump also exchanged views "on various themes relating to international affairs, the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation inthe Middle East and the protection of Christian communities."
After their formal conversation, gifts were exchanged between Francis, Trump and the president’s official delegation. There were 12 people in his entourage, including First Lady Melania Trump; daughter Ivanka, Tump's assistant and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, his assistant and senior advisor.
Also present for the meeting with Pope Francis were U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs H.R. McMaster and Louis Bono, American Chargé d'Affaires ad interim to the Holy See until Calista Gingrich us officially approved as ambassador.
Despite their differing opinions on climate change, Pope Francis gave Trump a copy of his environmental encyclical Laudato Si’, as well as copies of his 2015 Apostolic Exhortation on the family “Amoris Laetitia” and his 2013 exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium.”
In addition to the customary gift of these three documents, Francis also gave President Trump a copy of his message for the 2017 World Day of Peace, saying: “I signed it personally for you.” Trump responded that he would be reading them.
The Pope also gifted the U.S. President with a medallion he said symbolized peace and unity, which, after the translator explained in English, he added in Spanish: “Have it so that you become an instrument of peace.” In response, Trump said that “we can use peace.”
On his part, President Trump gifted Pope Francis a set of books by Martin Luther King, Jr., saying: “I think you’ll enjoy them, I hope you do."
Members of the delegation each received a medal and a rosary from the pontiff. When greeting Francis, First Lady Melania told him that she would afterward be visiting the hospital. Joking, the Pope asked her if they had given her potica, a traditional Slovenian dessert, to eat, to which she responded, “yes, potica,” as they both laughed.
Departing with a handshake, Trump said to Francis: "Thank you, thank you, I won't forget what you said."
After meeting with Pope Francis, Trump met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, as is customary for heads of state.
Pope Francis went immediately to begin the Wednesday general audience with thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.
After the meeting, First Lady Melania paid a visit to the Vatican-owned Pediatric hospital Bambino Gesu, also known as the “Pope’s hospital.”
Bambino Gesu sits next to the Pontifical North American College on top of Rome’s Gianicolo hill, and is among the most important pediatric hospitals in the world. Founded in 1869 by the Duchess Arabella Salviati, the hospital was donated to Pius XI in 1924, with the aim of giving it a more stable future.
At the same time, Trump’s daughter and high-profile adviser, Ivanka, will make her way to the Roman neighborhood of Trastevere to meet with the Community of Sant’Egidio to discuss efforts to oppose human trafficking.
The Sant’Egidio Community is often praised by Pope Francis for their work with the poor and refugees, in particular.
Ivanka is participating in each of the seven days of Trump’s first trip abroad as president, and was also present for the public portion of his meeting with Francis.
Before leaving with her father on his first international tour, Ivanka hosted an anti-human trafficking roundtable discussion at the White House May 17.
During her meeting with Sant’Egidio, she is expected to meet with several women who are victims of trafficking, and discuss various ways in which the Church and the U.S. government can collaborate on the issue.
This article was updated at 12:12 p.m. local time in Rome with information from the official Vatican communique.
In bill veto, Oklahoma takes a stand against loan sharks
Oklahoma City, Okla., May 9, 2017 / 05:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The governor of Oklahoma vetoed a bill that would have drastically increased the interest rates of payday loans, joining the fight of the bishops around the country who have pushed back on similar legislation.
“House Bill 1913 adds yet another level of high interest borrowing without terminating or restricting access to existing payday loan products,” Governor Mary Fallin said in her veto statement last week.
The bill was vetoed May 5, with Fallin voicing her concern that the loans created by the bill would be “more expensive than the current loan options.”
Bishops throughout the U.S. have decried the use of payday loans, and have backed legislation which would restrict the effect these loans on have on the borrowers – communities who are often targeted for their lack of education and immediate need. Catholic Charities has even opened organizations which may assist those in need or struggling with high interest loans.
Payday loans are a small amount of money with a high interest level. Often times these loans are taken out for situations such emergency doctor appointments or car troubles. The name of payday loans derives from the understanding that the loan would be paid back within the next paycheck, but the high interest rates usually suffocate the costumer who is struggling to make ends meet.
Payday loans have led people into a circular trap in which they can only pay the high monthly interest or roll over fees continue to add up and become unmanageable.
HB 1913 would mean that loan companies could increase the monthly interest rate to 17 percent, which is three to four times greater than Oklahoma's current laws. The annual percentage rate would be about 204.
According to OKpolicy.org, in 2014 nearly 950,000 dollars was taken out in payday loans and 1.2 million in “B” loans, averaging 77 loans per 100 Oklahoman adults.
Bishops and Catholic leaders throughout the U.S. have fought similar legislation like HB 1913 and backed bills that restrict loan sharks.
Regulations have been passed in order to limit the amount of times lenders are allowed to charge borrower’s fees or how many times loan companies can access a person’s bank account before overdraft fees stack up. Legislation has also been passed that enforced lenders to evaluate whether the borrower has sufficient means to pay back the loans.
These loans will affect people in the middle-class, but they are well known to be marketed towards people who may not understand the full consequences.
In a 2015 interview with The Dallas Morning News, the pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Parish in Arlington said “it seems that every week another member of my parish tells me a horror story about one of these loans. They debilitate our families. People take out loans without fully understanding the terms.”
The Texas Catholic Conference analyzed the situation across the state, talking to both lenders and borrowers. Jennifer Allmon, associate director of the Texas Catholic Conference, said that the stores were located in areas where a loan may be more attractive or that the lenders misled borrowers with misinformation.
She said the contracts will often only be in English, but advertising and conversation in the shop would be conducted in Spanish “so oftentimes the borrower has no idea what they're signing,” and the interest rate would be significantly hirer than what the borrower had expected.
The Kansas Loan Pool Project, in a partnership with Sunflower Bank, has assisted over 120 people who have struggled under predatory debt, and $80,000 has been refinanced since its establishment in 2013. The program provides the borrower with a more traditional loan in order to cover the payday loan. Then they will help the person develop the financial skills to budget to pay back the lower interest loan.
Catholic Charities in Kansas has also begun a program in order to provide small, low interest loans, with a maximum of a $1000, so that people who do have an immediate need are able to receive the proper funding.
Blessing of cross begins rebuilding of Iraqi towns destroyed by Islamic State
Mosul, Iraq, May 9, 2017 / 10:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- With the blessing of the cross raised up in the city of Bakhdida May 2, the reconstruction of the towns in the Plain of Nineveh in Iraq destroyed by the Islamic State officially began.
Syrian Catholic Archbishop Youhanna Boutros Moshe of Mosul blessed the cross on a joyous morning with emotive dances by Christians. There are 13,000 damaged houses – 669 of which were completely destroyed by the Islamists – which will be rebuilt in three towns on the Plain of Nineveh: Bartella, Karemlesh, and Bakhdida.
The pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), which is collaborating on the reconstruction, estimated the total cost of the program to be in excess of $250 million.
To date ACN has provided around $500,000 to the Nineveh Reconstruction Commission.
Work has already begun on the rebuilding of 100 Christian homes in the communities, and during a May 8 ceremony the owners of each of the homes were given olive trees to be planted as symbols of peace and reconciliation.
Speaking to CNA Fr. Luis Montes, a missionary priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word In Iraq, said that “Christians are very hopeful with the beginning of the reconstruction of the cities of the Plain of Nineveh.”
“Most of those who have remained in Iraq – some estimate that they are half of those that originally fled from ISIS more than two years ago, the other half have probably already left the country – want to stay and return to their cities,” he said.
However, he pointed out, “you can't say the drama is over for several reasons, including the fact that the community has been greatly reduced and that is cause for sadness and for greater weakness both now and especially for the future.”
“In addition recovering all the territories that ISIS has taken doesn't mean defeating them, because they will continue on as a clandestine group with attacks, just like the other terrorist groups,” he pointed out.
According to the research firm RAND, the Islamic State has lost about 60 percent of the territory it controlled at the height of its power in late 2014.
The largest offensive against the Islamist group conducted since in October 2016 by combined groups of the Iraqi army and the Kurdish Peshmerga militia, recovered villages in the Plain of Nineveh. Currently, the combined groups are fighting for control of Mosul.
Fr. Montes noted that “Iraq has had dozens of attacks a month for more than ten years and that will continue. And you mustn't forget that once the battle for Mosul is over tensions between the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan autonomous region will sharply pick up again.”
“Nevertheless, this doesn't mean that this reconstruction process and the soon return of Christians to their homes isn't big news. Very big news! But we must keep praying because it's still a very long road,” he urged.
Fr. Andrzej Halemba, head of ACN's Near East division, said that with the start of reconstruction work in Bartella, Karemlesh, and Bakhdida, “we want to send a clear signal to the thousands of Christian families driven from their homes in the Plain of Nineveh who now are living in an improvised and provisional way in Erbil, and other localities in Iraqi Kurdistan.”
“This is a decidedly historic moment. If we now miss the opportunity to help Christians return to their homes in the Plain of Nineveh, these families could make the decision to leave Iraq forever, and this would be a huge tragedy.”
For Fr. Halemba “the presence of Christians in this region is of vital importance, but not just from the historical point of view, but also from the political and cultural stance,” since “Christians represent a bridge of peace between the different Muslim groups at odds with each other; they make a crucial contribution to the education system and are respected by all the moderate Muslims.”
The priest appealed for both financial aid and prayers for the Christians in Iraq.
“From all our brothers and sisters in the West we are not just asking for financial aid, but also prayers with which to support the courage of thousands of Iraqi Christians who have made the decision to return to their towns and remain in Iraq.”
By the end of June 2017 ACN, which says it is the only international organization to consistently support the Christian exiles from the Nineveh plain since its capture by the Islamic State, will have spent more than $35 million in supporting the 12,000 Christian internally displaced persons in Kurdistan. Assistance has come in the form of monthly food aid, money for rent, medical help, the construction of schools, and the support of displaced clergy and women religious.
Vatican astronomer: If you're afraid of science, you don't have faith
The Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, who has worked as an astronomer and planetary scientist at the
Vatican for more than 20 years, told journalists recently that faith and reason are hardly at odds.
“If you have no faith in your faith, that is when you will fear science,” Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J., said May 8.
He spoke to journalists at a press conference ahead of a May 9-12 summit on “Black Holes, Gravitational Waves, and Space-Time Singularities” being held in Castel Gandolfo at the Vatican Observatory, just outside Rome.
“The Vatican Observatory was founded in 1891 by Pope Leo XIII to show that the Church supports good science, and to do that we have to have good science,” Br. Consolmagno said, explaining the reasoning behind the conference.
The hope is that the encounter will foster good science, good discussion, and even friendship. Among the speakers will be a Nobel Prize winner in physics and a Wolf Prize winner.
Among the topics of papers being presented at the conference are Strong evidence for an accelerating universe; Black hole perturbations: a review of recent analytical results; and Observing the Signature of Dynamical Space-Time through Gravitational Waves.
“Those of us that are religious, will recognize the presence of God, but you don't have to make a theological leap to search for the truth,” Br. Consolmagno said. “There are many things we know we do not understand. We cannot be good religious people or scientists if we think that our work is done.”
The summit is also taking place in recognition of Fr. Georges Lemaître, the Belgian physicist and mathematician who is widely credited with developing the “Big Bang” theory to explain the origin of the physical universe.
Addressing common misconceptions surrounding the Big Bang, such as the idea that it did away with the need for a creator, Br. Consolmagno said the solution isn’t just to put God at the beginning of things and call that good, either.
“The creative act of God is not something that happened 13.8 billion years ago,” he said. “God is already there before space and time exist. You can't even say ‘before’ because he is outside of time and space.”
The creative act is happening continuously: “If you look at God as merely the thing that started the Big Bang, then you get a nature god, like Jupiter throwing around lightning bolts.”
“That's not the God that we as Christians believe in,” he went on. “We must believe in a God that is supernatural. We then recognize God as the one responsible for the existence of the universe, and our science tells us how he did it.”
The organizer of the conference, Fr. Gabriele Gionti, S.J., said Fr. Lemaître always distinguished between the beginnings of the universe and its origins.
“The beginning of the universe is a scientific question, to be able to date with precision when things started. The origins of the universe, however, is a theologically charged question.”
Answering that question “has nothing at all to do with a scientific epistemology,” he added.
Br. Consolmagno commented that “God is not something we arrive at the end of our science, it’s what we assume at the beginning. I am afraid of a God who can be proved by science, because I know my science well enough to not trust it!”
“An atheist could assume something very different, and have a very different view of the universe, but we can talk and learn from each other. The search for truth unites us.”
He suggested that to demonstrate that the Church and science are not at odds, those who are both church-goers and scientists should make that fact more known to their fellow parishioners.
He threw out some practical ideas, such as setting up a telescope in the church parking lot or leading the parish’s youth group on a nature hike.
The Church, in a sense, developed science through the medieval universities she founded, he explained. For example, Bishop Robert Grosseteste, a 13th century Bishop of Lincoln and chancellor of Oxford University, helped develop the scientific method and was often cited by Roger Bacon.
“If there is a rivalry” between the Church and science, Br. Consolmagno said, “it's a sibling rivalry.”
“And it's a crime against science to say that only atheists can do it, because if that were true, it would eliminate so many wonderful scientists.”
What was Sr. Lucia's advice after Fatima visions? Pray. Everyday.
Fatima, Portugal, May 11, 2017 / 05:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The niece of Fatima visionary Sr. Lucia dos Santos said her aunt was a normal person like everyone else, but shared some personal advice that her saintly relative used to give: to pray at least something every day.
“She always asked me to pray the rosary every day, because there were many who did not pray,” Maria dos Anjos, niece of Fatima visionary Lucia dos Santos, told CNA in an interview.
“This was what Our Lady asked: that we pray the rosary every day. Because there were many who didn't pray and because of this many souls went to hell because there was no one to pray for them,” she said.
Anjos, who only saw her aunt when they went to visit her in the convent, said the advice Lucia always gave her was to pray daily, and “that I not forget.”
She recalled that in a few of the conversations she had with her aunt, she confessed to not finishing the rosary because she was tired, having worked hard in the fields all day.
In response, Lucia didn’t reproach, but instead told her to “always start it, and if you don’t finish, Our Lady will finish it.”
Anjos, 97, is the daughter of one of Lucia’s older sisters. She grew up in the house directly across the street from where Lucia and her family used to live, and continues to live there with one of her sons today. Every evening she can be seen sitting on the front porch area with a rosary in hand.
While now there are paved streets and cars driving past the houses and tourist shops set up near Lucia’s house, which is now preserved as a museum and is open to the public for visits, Anjos said that when she was growing up, “there wasn’t anything here...just a mountain and some sheep and donkeys.”
Although she was only one year old at the time Lucia entered the convent, Anjos said her family would go to visit whenever they could.
Lucia, she said, “was a sister like the others. There was no difference. She was just like the other sisters who were in the convent,” and was always “joyful” – both as a child and as a religious sister.
Recalling memories that her mother had shared of her and Lucia’s childhood, Anjos said Lucia was a normal child like everyone else, and never lacked playmates.
“Many children came to play with her because their parents went to the wine estates and left their children here, because there was always someone at the house of Lucia’s mother who looked after the kids,” Anjos said.
Her grandmother and mother to Lucia, Maria Rosa Farreira, was catechist, and would also teach the children who came to the house while their parents were away.
Faith was always a big part of their family, even before the apparitions, Anjos said, explaining that “we always prayed the rosary, we went to Mass every Sunday, we did what we saw that could be done.”
After the apparitions of Mary, “we continued, doing more, and remembering that Our Lady asked us to pray more and to make more sacrifices,” she said, jesting that “we do our homework well.”
She recalled being able to attend Mass with Pope John Paul II during one of his three visits to Fatima, saying she was able to receive communion from him alongside her aunt, Sister Lucia.
“When communion came, I received communion from his hands, from the hands of the Holy Father. I liked it a lot,” she said, adding “you always like good things, do you not?”
Though she wasn’t able to speak with John Paul, Anjos said she was still “very happy,” and is equally content to welcome Pope Francis during his May 12-13 visit for the centenary of the Fatima apparitions.
During the visit, Francis will also canonized the two other Fatima visionaries – Francisco and Jacinta Marto – who were Lucia’s younger cousins, but died shortly after the apparitions took place.
“I am very glad they will be canonized,” she said, explaining that in her and her family’s mind, the siblings were already saints. Though it will now become official, she said she believes devotion to them will be “the same,” since people had already viewed them as holy.
While she’s sad she won’t be able to attend this Mass personally, Anjos said she’ll be watching it on TV, which she said is enough to make her happy.
Noting an uptick in visits to the shrine, Anjos said that many people, her family included would pray the rosary and visit the shrine after the apparitions, but “it seems that we have more devotion.”
“I think that faith has increased here and in the whole world,” she said. “At least I think it has, because many people come here, and that’s why we have to (pray) more and more. I think it did a lot of good for people to have Our Lady appear here.”
Pope: Mary's 'yes' echoes the joy, suffering of every mother
Vatican City, May 10, 2017 / 05:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Days before his trip to Fatima, Pope Francis said Mary’s ‘yes’ at the Annunciation was more than a yes to bearing the Son of God, but was also an acceptance of everything she would endure after – something every mother experiences with a new child.
“It was not easy to answer with a ‘yes’ to the angel's invitation; yet she, a woman still in the flower of youth, answers with courage, despite not knowing anything about the fate that awaited her.”
“Mary at that moment looks like one of the many mothers of our world, brave to the extreme when it comes to welcoming in her womb the story of a new human being who is growing,” he said May 10.
Her ‘yes’ to the angel at the Annunciation was just the first step “in a long list of obedience” leading to the moment she stands at the foot of her Son’s cross, the Pope said.
During his general audience, Pope Francis centered his catechesis on the few lines from the Gospel of John that describe Mary “standing by the cross of Jesus.” Though Mary is largely a silent figure in the Gospels, she listens and “ponders every word and every event in her heart.”
“The Gospels are laconic, and extremely subtle. They record with a simple verb the presence of the Mother: She ‘was standing,’ she was standing,” he said, noting that “nothing is said of her reaction: if she weeps, if she does not weep ... nothing; not even a brushstroke to describe her grief.”
Throughout history poets and painters have imagined this moment in art and literature, “but the Gospels just say, she was ‘standing.’ She was there, in the worst moment, in the cruelest time, and suffered with her son,” but “she was standing,” Francis said.
Though there had been a “slow eclipse” of her presence in the Gospels, she returns at this crucial moment when many others had fled.
“Mothers do not betray, and at that moment, at the foot of the cross, none of us can say whose was the cruelest passion; whether that of an innocent man who dies on the scaffold of the cross, or the agony of a mother who accompanies the last moments of her son's life,” he said.
And she doesn’t get angry or protest: she simply stands and listens, Pope Francis said, pointing to the relationship between listening and the virtue of hope.
Despite everything, even the “deepest darkness,” Mary does not leave, but stands faithfully, he said. “That's why we all love her as a Mother...We are not orphans: we have a Mother in heaven, who is the Holy Mother of God.”
Mary, he said, teaches to us “the virtue of waiting, even when everything seems meaningless: she is always confident in the mystery of God.”
Even though she didn’t know what the outcome of her Son’s Passion would be, she is loyal to the plan of God, just as she promised to the angel “on the first day of her vocation,” Francis said, explaining that it is also part of her motherly instinct to suffer for her child.
“The suffering of mothers: We have all known strong women that braved the many sufferings of their children!” he said.
Even in the first days of the Church, before Christ’s resurrection is known and the disciples are all afraid, the “Mother of Hope” stays, Francis said. “She was simply there, in the most normal of ways, as if it were a natural thing.”
Thus, he concluded, “in moments of difficulty, Mary, the Mother Jesus has given to us all, can always support our steps, can always say to our heart: ‘Get up! Look ahead, look at the horizon,’ because she is a Mother of Hope.”