IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Although she was just a humble young
woman from a small town, Mary's total "yes" to God was "the most
important 'yes' of history" and overturned Adam and Eve's prideful
"no," which unleashed sin into the world, Pope Francis said.
"With generosity and trust like Mary, may each of us
say this personal 'yes' to God today," Pope Francis prayed Dec. 8 as he
recited the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter's Square on the feast of
the Immaculate Conception.
Even when they do not say "no" to God, human
beings can be experts in saying, "yes, but ..." to God, the pope
"To avoid saying 'no' outright to God, we say, 'Sorry,
but I can't,' 'Not today, but maybe tomorrow,' 'Tomorrow I will be better,
tomorrow I will pray, I'll do good tomorrow,'" he said. But in responding
that way, "we close the door to what is good and evil profits."
Nevertheless, Pope Francis said, God keeps trying to reach
out and save us. And through the "yes" of Mary, he became human,
"exactly like us except for one thing, that 'no,' that sin. This is why he
chose Mary, the only creature without sin, immaculate."
In the late afternoon, the pope made his traditional visit
to a statue of Mary erected in the center of Rome, near the Spanish Steps, to
celebrate the official church recognition that Mary was conceived without sin.
Thousands of Romans and tourists crowded around the statue
where people had been laying flowers all day. Early Dec. 8, Rome firefighters with
a truck and ladder hung a wreath of white flowers from the outstretched arms of
Pope Francis composed a prayer to Mary for the occasion and
read it, standing under the statue's watchful eyes.
He offered special prayers for children who have been
abandoned and are exposed to exploitation, for all families who give life and
contribute to society, often in hidden ways, and especially for those who are
underemployed or unemployed.
"We need your immaculate gaze," he told Mary, in
order to "rediscover the ability to look at people and things with respect
and recognition and without selfish interests and hypocrisy."
"We need your immaculate heart to love unconditionally,
without any aim besides the good of the other, with simplicity and sincerity,
renouncing masks and ploys," he said.
"We need your immaculate hands to caress with
tenderness, to touch the flesh of Jesus in our brothers and sisters who are
poor, sick, despised, to help up those who have fallen and steady those who
"We need your immaculate feet to set out to meet those
who cannot take the first step, to walk along the paths of those who are lost,
to go and find those who are alone," he prayed.- - -Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGE: CNS photo/Ashleigh Buyers, Catholic HeraldBy Michael F. FlachARLINGTON,
Va. (CNS) -- Bishop Michael F. Burbidge said that during these unsettling
times, Catholics must imitate the witness of St. Thomas More by bringing the
joy of the Gospel to the public arena with conviction and love.
do so as we protect the unborn and the sacredness of life at every stage, as we
uphold the dignity of each and every human person without exception, as we
protect our religious freedom and lift up the beautiful vocation of marriage
and its sanctity as Jesus taught," Bishop Burbidge said, "and of course, as we
reach out in love to the poor and the needy and most vulnerable."
bishop was installed as Arlington's fourth bishop Dec. 6, the feast of St.
Nicholas, at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More. He succeeds Bishop Paul S.
Loverde, who retired after heading the Arlington Diocese for 17 years.
Burbidge said there's often a price to pay when we refuse to compromise our
might be labeled unfairly or even outright rejected," he said. "But what St.
Paul tells us today is, don't rely on your own resources; rely on the strength
that God supplies. So call upon that gift daily, so that we can say here in
this diocese, here in our lives, this is what you will see: the spirit, the
witness, the example of St. Thomas More forevermore."
his homily, Bishop Burbidge reflected on the close bond that his family has
with St. Thomas More, the patron saint of the Arlington Diocese. The bishop's
father, Francis, was a graduate of St. Thomas More High School in Philadelphia,
where he was challenged daily to imitate the courageous witness of the saint.
school closed in 1975, but the spirit of the alumni remains strong, Bishop
Burbidge said. "Their motto, which appears on license plates, and banners and
other items, is respectful and very dear to their heart: St. Tommy More
Forevermore," he said.
bishop said that St. Nicholas "helps us remember
the gifts that God has given to us and the call to imitate his charitable
Burbidge said his mother, Shirley, spent the last year of her life in an
assisted-living facility run by the Sisters of St. Joseph. "She made a new
friend, and each and every day, they would help each other down the hall, take
the elevator, and go down to the gift store, and they would buy a gift -- a
trinket, an ornament, a stuffed animal -- only to give it away to another
resident or to a family member," he said.
think that is a beautiful image for all of us: In the midst of the trials, and
struggles, and crosses in our lives, God is there, bestowing gifts to us to
behold," he said.
on this joyful day in the life of our diocese, I am aware of the many gifts for
which I must be thankful," the bishop said. "I'm so thankful to the Holy Father
Pope Francis for assigning me to this faith-filled and vibrant diocese.
Bishop Burbidge, who was named to Arlington Oct. 4 after 19 years as the bishop of Raleigh, North Carolina, recognized the generous service of his predecessors in the Northern Virginia diocese -- Bishops
Thomas J. Welsh and John R. Keating. He thanked Bishop Loverde for "the gift
that you have been and always will be to our diocese.
unites us today is our thanksgiving to God for the most precious gift of all,
the gift of his only-begotten son, Jesus Christ, who sustains and nourishes us,
most especially in this precious gift of the holy Eucharist," he said. "It is
the same Lord who teaches us today how to move forward as a diocese."
sent his disciples in the company of one another to proclaim the good news and he instructed them not to take anything that would weigh them down -- in other
words, to travel lightly, the bishop said.
we imitate the courageous and faithful example of St. Thomas More forevermore,
with the strength that God supplies, so that, together, we may walk humbly with
our God and travel lightly today and always," he said.
installation Mass began when Bishop Burbidge knocked on the cathedral door and
was welcomed by Father Robert J. Rippy, cathedral rector and a seminary
classmate of Bishop Burbidge, who presented him with a crucifix for veneration.
William E. Lori of Baltimore was the installing prelate. Archbishop Christophe
Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, read the apostolic letter on the
new bishop's appointment from Pope Francis.
Pierre said Pope Francis recites the prayer of St. Thomas More on a daily
basis. The nuncio called Bishop Loverde an apostle who has shared the joy of
the Gospel with the church in Arlington. "Bless you in the years ahead," the
then gave the apostolic letter to Bishop Burbidge, who presented it to the
congregation and the College of Consultors. The two archbishops then escorted
Bishop Burbidge to the cathedra, or bishop's chair, where he received his
Frank E. Mahler and Father Colin P. Davis represented diocesan priests as they
greeted Bishop Burbidge.
Court Justices Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy were among the dignitaries in
attendance, along with Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, Cardinal Justin
Rigali, retired archbishop of Philadelphia, and Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick,
retired archbishop of Washington.
ecumenical and interfaith representatives greeted Bishop Burbidge. The prayers
of the faithful were read in Spanish, Vietnamese, Ghanaian, Korean, Tagalog and
is editor of the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of
Arlington.- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at email@example.com.
IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church needs holy,
healthy and humble priests and that requires prayers for vocations and the
careful selection and training of candidates, said the Congregation for Clergy.
Updating 1985 guidelines for preparing men for the
Latin-rite priesthood and ensuring their continuing education, training and
support, the Congregation for Clergy Dec. 7 released "The Gift of the
Priestly Vocation," a detailed set of guidelines and norms for priestly
The updated document draws heavily on St. John Paul II's 1992
apostolic exhortation on priestly formation, as well as on the teaching of and
norms issued by now-retired Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis and by Vatican
offices over the past three decades.
It reaffirms an instruction approved by Pope Benedict in
2005, which said, "the church, while profoundly respecting the persons in
question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality,
present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called 'gay
The document insists that through courses in pastoral
theology, the example of priests and practical experience, candidates for the
priesthood learn that priestly ministry involves -- as Pope Francis says --
being "shepherds 'with the smell of the sheep,' who live in their midst to
bring the mercy of God to them."
Highlighting lessons learned over the past 30 years from the
clerical sexual abuse scandal, the new guidelines state, "The greatest
attention must be given to the theme of the protection of minors and vulnerable
adults, being vigilant lest those who seek admission to a seminary or to a
house of formation, or who are already petitioning to receive holy orders have
not been involved in any way with any crime or problematic behavior in this
Seminars and courses on the protection of children and
vulnerable adults must be part of both seminary education and the continuing
education of priests, it says. And bishops must be very cautious about
accepting candidates for the priesthood who have been dismissed from other
In the end, each bishop is responsible for determining which
candidate for priesthood he will ordain, but the guidelines strongly encourage
bishops to accept the judgment of seminary rectors and staff who determine a
certain candidate is unsuitable.
"Experience has shown that when ordinaries (bishops) have
not accepted the negative judgment of the community of formators, it has been the
cause of great suffering in many cases, both for the candidates themselves and
for the local churches," the document says.
Reaffirming the requirement that seminarians study Catholic
social teaching, the document says the education must include a study of
climate change and other environmental threats.
"Protecting the environment and caring for our common
home -- the Earth -- belong fully to the Christian outlook on man and
reality," the document says. Catholic priests must be "promoters of an
appropriate care for everything connected to the protection of creation."
Seminarians should be encouraged to use social media to
build relationships and for evangelization, the guidelines say, but seminary
personnel will need to help the students use the media wisely and in a way that
Psychologists, whether or not on the staff of the seminary,
can provide valuable help to the seminary rector and diocesan bishop "in
the assessment of personality, expressing an opinion as to the psychological
health of the candidate and in therapeutic accompaniment, in order to shed
light on any problems that may emerge and to assist in growth in human
maturity," the document says.
The Congregation for Clergy recommends that women be on the
staff of seminaries or teach at the universities where the candidates study and
that seminarians' ability to relate to and work with women be considered in the
candidate's evaluation, since the majority of parishioners with whom the future priest
will work are women.
The guidelines, which are to be adapted by national bishops'
conferences, include an outline of the stages, prayer life and specific
subjects to be studied during the six or more years of preparation for priestly
But the guidelines also acknowledge that many of the skills
needed to be a good priest cannot be learned in a classroom. They are the
result of prayer, self-discipline and seeking to model one's behavior on that
of Christ, the document says.
"The call to be pastors of the people of God requires a
formation that makes future priests experts in the art of pastoral discernment,
that is to say, able to listen deeply to real situations and capable of good
judgment in making choices and decisions," it says. "To make pastoral
discernment effective, the evangelical style of listening must take central
place. This frees the pastor from the temptation of abstraction, to
self-promotion, to excessive self-assurances and to that aloofness that would
make him a 'spiritual accountant' instead of a good Samaritan."- - -Editors: The text of the document in English can be found at: http://www.clerus.va/content/dam/clerus/Ratio%20Fundamentalis/The%20Gift%20of%20the%20Priestly%20Vocation.pdfThe text in Spanish is available at: http://www.clerus.va/content/dam/clerus/Ratio%20Fundamentalis/El%20Don%20de%20la%20vocaci%c3%b3n%20presbiteral.pdf - - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGE: CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New WorldBy Joyce DurigaDES
PLAINES, Ill. (CNS) -- With thick, wet snow falling down and live mariachi
music to greet them, around 400 riders on horseback rode up to the Shrine of
Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines Dec. 4 to pay homage to Mary.
wore ponchos bearing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Other riders carried
their cellphones and were recording the ride. Once in front of the outdoor
shrine, each rider handed over a red rose for Mary and was blessed with holy
water by shrine rector Father Esequiel Sanchez. The priest himself entered the
shrine on horseback and was wearing a traditional Mexican sombrero.
the fifth year for the pilgrimage, which is organized by Club Los Vaqueros
Unidos (United Cowboys Club) in Wadsworth. The horseback pilgrimage is the
unofficial kickoff of celebrations at the shrine that culminate with 24 hours
of Masses and visits to the outdoor shrine Dec. 12 for the feast of Our Lady of
pilgrimage usually includes a three-hour ride through the forest preserve in
Lincolnshire and ends at the shrine, but this year that portion was canceled
because the forest preserve was conducting a "deer management" program, said club
member Maria Anguiano.
the wet and heavy snow that soaked the riders and horses, there were many
smiles as the riders made their way past the shrine.
everyone really wants to do is thank the Virgin for the blessings throughout
the year and acknowledge her presence in their lives," Anguiano told the Catholic New World,
newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
the riders and horses visit the shrine is fitting to the history of the church in
the United States.
the evangelization in America happened on horseback so as we bless the horses
today we remember that tradition," Father Sanchez said. "The key element in the life of a lot
of people was a sturdy horse, to be able to make a living and get around. Now
it's become a symbol of a way of life that is very much still treasured and
the evening of Dec. 4, a group of tractor-trailer drivers went to the Des
Plaines shrine for their own pilgrimage. The two pilgrimages are held before the
Dec. 12 feast day since more than 120,000 pilgrims usually visit the shrine
over Dec. 11 and 12 and accommodating the horses and trailers would be
Mexico City, it's a tradition for groups or clubs to make a pilgrimage to the
Guadalupe shrine there on the feast day, which commemorates Mary's appearance
to St. Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill near modern-day Mexico City.
appeared to Diego for the first time at dawn Dec. 9, 1531, and said she wanted
a church built in her honor on that hill. Diego went to the bishop to share
this news, but was put off by the prelate. She appeared again, and Diego -- who
was called by name by the lady in the apparition -- again approached the
bishop. The bishop asked for a sign from this lady of Diego's and Mary produced
enough roses in December to fill Diego's cloak, or "tilma."
he emptied them in front of the bishop, he found that she had left her image on
the tilma, which remains today in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in
local shrine in Des Plaines began in the mid-1980s. The shrine is officially
connected to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City and is the only
place in the United States where pilgrims can receive the same special
indulgence that is offered to pilgrims visiting the basilica.
is editor of Catholic New World, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at email@example.com.
IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christian hope is not the same as
being optimistic about the future, but is knowing that whatever dark or
frightening things are going on in one's life, God is there offering protection
and light, Pope Francis said.
Holding his general audience in the Vatican audience hall
decorated with Nativity scenes and Christmas ornaments from the state of Queretaro, Mexico, Pope
Francis announced Dec. 7 that he was beginning a series of audience talks about
Especially during Advent and in preparation for Christmas,
he urged people to read the second half of the Book of Isaiah, "the great
prophet of Advent, the great messenger of hope."
The audience began with a reading of Isaiah 40, which starts:
"Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God."
When the prophet was writing, the pope explained, the people
of Israel were in exile, they had "lost everything -- their homeland,
freedom, dignity and even their trust in God. They felt abandoned and without
Isaiah not only proclaims God's love and fidelity, but calls
on those who still have faith to offer consolation to others and help them
"reopen their hearts to faith."
The desert -- literally and figuratively -- "is a
difficult place to live, but it is precisely the place where one can walk to
return not only to one's homeland, but to God, return to hoping and smiling,"
the pope said. "When we are in darkness and difficulty, it's hard to
"Hope teaches us to smile," the pope said.
"One of the first things that happens to people who withdraw from God is
that they are people without smiles. They might be able to laugh out loud --
tell one joke after another and laugh -- but their smile is missing."
"When we are with a baby, a smile comes spontaneously
because a baby is hope," he said. "We smile even if it's a bad day
because we see hope."
Hope does not come with power or wealth, but with trusting
in God, the pope said. It is knowing that "God, with his love, walks with
us. I hope because God is alongside me. And this is something all of us can
say. I have hope because God walks with me, he walks alongside me and holds my
The key players in the Christmas story, he said, prove that
"history is not made by the powerful, but by God together with his little
ones, those small and simple people whom we find around Jesus, who is about to be born:
Zachariah and Elizabeth, who are old and marked by sterility; Mary, the young
virgin engaged to Joseph; the shepherds, who were despised and counted for
They had hope, the pope said, and they turned the dark and
twisted paths of life around them into "a highway on which to walk toward
the glory of the Lord."
"There's no denying that there is a crisis of faith in
the world today," he said. "People say, 'I believe in God. I'm
Christian.' 'I belong to that faith.' But their lives are far from being
Christian, far from God! Religion, faith has turned into an expression."
Those who believe must convert, constantly turning their
hearts to God and "following that path toward him. He awaits us."- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.