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Meeting with NFL hall-of-famers, Pope Francis promotes teamwork

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2017 / 01:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis addressed members of the National Football League Hall of Fame on Wednesday, encouraging them to promote the values of sportsmen not only on the field but also within their communities.

“Teamwork, fair play and the pursuit of personal excellence are the values – in the religious sense, we can say virtues – that have guided your own commitment on the field,” said the Pope, meeting with the hall-of-famers on June 21.

“Yet these same values are urgently needed off the field, on all levels of our life as a community.”

He addressed the need for role models in the world, especially for youth, teaching them to live out their “God-given gifts and talents,” showing how to bring out the best in each person and leading the way to a better future.

“They are the values that help build a culture of encounter, in which we anticipate and meet the needs of our brothers and sisters, and combat the exaggerated individualism, indifference and injustice that hold us back from living as one human family.”

Established in 1963, the American Pro Football Hall of Fame is located in Canton, Ohio, the same city where the NFL was created about 40 years earlier. It contains 310 members, 7 of whom will be formally inducted in August.

Present at the group meeting with Pope Francis was Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, and six other hall of fame inductees: Chris Doleman, Franco Harris, Floyd Little, Ronnie Lott Curtis Martin, and Jim Taylor.

They presented him with a signed helmet and jersey with “Papa Francesco” written on the back.

In welcoming joke, the Pope noted his own love for soccer, which in much of the world is called “football.”

“I am an avid follower of ‘football’, but where I come from, the game is played very differently,” he said.

Pope Francis is a member of the Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro, located in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. The club, nicknamed the Saints of Boedo, was founded in 1908 by a group of young men, including a priest.

Being a fan of sports himself, the Pope has reflected on the virtues of sportsmanship before.

Last October, at a Vatican conference called “Sport at the Service of Humanity,” he said the values fostered by sports not only promote health and recreation, but also the ability to play on a team, and to humbly win or lose.

At the end of his address to the NFL Hall of Fame delegation, Pope Francis expressed hope that their visit to Rome will increase their gratitude for these gifts and enable them to share it with the rest of the world.

 

Pope Francis sends aid to a troubled South Sudan

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2017 / 11:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After the Vatican stated last month the postponement of Pope Francis’ proposed trip to South Sudan, they announced Wednesday that the Pope will instead send aid to the people suffering from worsening conditions.

The Vatican announced June 21 that Pope Francis will be aiding projects in the areas of education, healthcare, and agriculture, called the “Pope for South Sudan” Initiative.

The program will be coordinated through the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, headed by Cardinal Peter Turkson, and by Caritas International.

Because he is unable to travel to South Sudan in person, Pope Francis “wanted to express the tangible presence and closeness of the Church with the afflicted people,” Cardinal Turkson told journalists.

“It is an initiative that is to foster, support and encourage the work of the various religious congregations and international aid organizations that are present on the territory and tirelessly work to help the population and to promote the process of development and peace,” he said.

The projects of the Pope’s aid includes support for two hospitals: Wau Hospital in the Western Bahr el-Ghazal state, and Nzara Hospital in the Diocese of Tombura-Yambio.

Both hospitals have fewer than 130 beds between all of the departments, though the Wau Hospital treats around 300 patients a day on average, hospitalizing around 40,000 per year.

The aid will go toward support for medical and nursing staff, medicine and its transportation from Uganda to the hospital and management costs of the facilities.

Among the priorities of the Nzara hospital are the prevention and treatment of diseases such as tuberculosis, leprosy, and AIDS, as well as healthcare for children under the age of five.

Under education, the Pope's initiative will help support an association of religious congregations called “Solidarity with South Sudan” which is working to train teachers, nurses, midwives, local farmers, and community leaders.

Since 2010 they have offered a two-year full-time program for obtaining a primary school teacher diploma at their center in Yambio, recognized by the Ministry of Education of South Sudan. Since opening, they have welcomed 3,500 students.

Francis also sends 200,000 euros ($223,000) to support agriculture in the country. The aid will be directed toward giving families the tools and seeds to grow their own crops where it is possible, thus feeding themselves and their families and providing a sustainable source of food.

In comments to CNA, Cardinal Turkson emphasized that this initiative should not be presented in any way as the only and first time the Holy Father is showing interest in the situation in South Sudan.

Cardinal Turkson himself has already made two visits there on behalf of the Pope, and this is just "the latest gesture," he said.

"The Holy Father stays very close to the situation in South Sudan to try to a help, to be paternal to the situation over there and to try to afford the help that he can."

Since December 2013 there has been ongoing civil war in South Sudan, interrupted by tenuous peace.

Parts of South Sudan were declared to be under conditions of famine in February. The classification was lifted Wednesday following an increase in aid, according to a UN-backed report. It warns, however, that the situation remains desperate as the number of people at risk for starvation continues to increase.

Michel Roy, Secretary General of Caritas International, told CNA that in February they said 100,000 people were going to die of hunger, but now they think that number might be 1 million.

“The situation is worsening day-by-day and we tend to forget what the situation is because it's not new,” he said. “Now, the people of South Sudan are dying of hunger, of famine. Because there is no food and we cannot bring food to them because of security. So it's the worst thing that can happen.”

The Pope’s aid is not just important for the concrete help it gives, he said, but because it also again raises the attention of the international community to the plight in South Sudan.

“To save lives needs money,” he continued. “The UN have launched an appeal which is only half funded, so the other half has to be found. It's a lot of money, but we cannot just sit and look at people dying, so there's a real need for increasing humanitarian aid.”

The Vatican's aid to South Sudan was also welcomed by Catholic Relief Services, the US bishops' international charity agency.

Sean Callahan, the president of CRS, stated that “what is most important, is Pope Francis telling world not to give up on South Sudan, that we all must step up our commitment to help.”

Callahan recently visited South Sudan, and said, “I can tell you from my visit that there is hope. I saw that when people had peace, they got to work, planting their crops, building homes and roads, building the new nation.”

CRS has led a US government-funded program in the country which focuses on supporting infrastructure development by providing food rations to villagers building roads, schools, dykes, and waterways. The aid agency is urging Congress to continue funding such aid programs, as the Trump administration has proposed cutting or eliminating such programs.

“We’ve seen those programs work and make a huge difference in the lives of people in South Sudan,” Callahan stated. “Now is not the time to turn our backs. There’s still hope and we can still get things done.”

Cardinal Turkson added that South Sudan needs the intervention of the international community to help end the conflict and bring about peace, the only thing which will truly end the humanitarian crisis.

“Pope Francis is a universal shepherd who crosses borders,” Cardinal Turkson said in the press conference. “He feels the pressing need to raise awareness of the international community about this silent drama, calling for greater and renewed efforts to reach a peaceful solution to the conflict.”

“The Holy Father does not forget the unheard and silent victims of this bloody and inhuman conflict, he does not forget all those people who are forced to flee their native country because of the abuse of power, injustice and war – he brings them all in his prayers and in his heart,” he said.

Can relics unite Catholics and Orthodox? Pope Francis thinks so.

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2017 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Common veneration of relics is one of the tools Pope Francis is using to foster ecumenical relations with the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

In May, relics of St. Philip and St. Nicholas were transported to Turkey and Russia, respectively. They have been exposed for the veneration of the Orthodox faithful from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Patriarchate of Moscow.
 
The transportation of the relics of St. Nicholas from the Italian city of Bari to Moscow is particularly noteworthy. It is the first time in 930 years that a part of the body of St. Nicholas has left Bari for veneration abroad.
 
The novel action comes after a specific request Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow made to Pope Francis when they met in Havana, Cuba in February 2016.
 
Pope Francis consented to Patriarch Kirill’s request and forwarded the request to Bari’s Archbishop Francesco Cacucci. The archbishop then started the procedures to move the relics.

In the end, it was possible to detach a small particle of St. Nicholas’ left rib, which the archbishop noted was “close to the saint’s heart.”
 
Archbishop Cacucci discussed the letter Pope Francis had sent him to about the Patriarch’s request. The archbishop explained that, for Pope Francis, the veneration of relics is “an essential part of the path toward the re-establishment of full communion among all Christians.”

“The common veneration of saints help us to look at the ecumenical dialogue with a light of hope,” he said.

St. Nicholas was one of the most venerated saints in Christianity even before his relics were taken from Myra, Turkey, by 62 sailors from Bari in 1087.

Those sailors made an expedition to Myra to save St. Nicholas’ relics from Muslims who had conquered the city where St. Nicholas had lived and served as a bishop in the fourth century.

This year, St. Nicholas’ relics arrived in Moscow May 22. They were placed in a container specially crafted for the occasion. The relics were then placed in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior of Moscow. Patriarch Kirill himself celebrated a divine liturgy to welcome them.

St. Nicholas' relics will be in Moscow until July 12. They will then move to St. Petersburg for several weeks before returning to Bari July 28.

While the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate received St. Nicholas’ relics from the Church of Rome, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople on May 8 welcomed relics of St. Philip in the Turkish city of Izmir, better known by its ancient Greek name: Smyrna.
 
St. Philip evangelized that land and was martyred there.  

His relics had been secured in Rome’s Santi Apostoli Church since the sixth century. Last year, the relics were taken out and submitted to an examination. Then, they were exposed for a while for the veneration of the faithful.
 
Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople strongly advocated sharing the relics for veneration, as he is particularly devoted to St. Philip. The Catholic community joined the Patriarch in this request, and so one of St. Philip’s relic could return home. The Catholic Archbishop of Izmir Lorenzo Piretto personally forwarded the request to bring the relics to the Turkish city.
 
The common veneration of saints and relics is one area where ecumenism is performed today.
 
It echoes Pope Francis’ idea of “walking ecumenism,” which he described in an Oct. 12 meeting with members of the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions.

In his remarks, the Pope said that “it is important that theologians study, that they find agreement and identify disagreements.”
 
But, he added, “ecumenism is done by walking and by walking with Jesus.” It is “a simple path, traveled with prayer and through helping one another.”
 
Another reflection came while the Pope presided at Vespers Jan. 25, 2016 at St. Paul Outside the Walls Basilica, a time that by tradition closes the week of prayer for Christian unity. Pope Francis said that “while we journey together toward full communion, we can begin already to develop many forms of cooperation in order to favor the spread of the Gospel – and walking together, we become aware that we are already united in the name of the Lord.”
 
This “walking ecumenism” is also emphasized through the veneration of the same saints. Patriarch Kirill seems to think the same.
 
Bari’s Archbishop Cacucci, having returned from Russia where he accompanied St. Nicholas’ relic, reflected on the phenomenon.

“In fact, the translation of the relic is already an ecumenical dialogue, and this Patriarch Kirill said more and more times. When ecumenism does not involve only the top ranks of Churches or theologians, but rather involves the people of God, then it is possible to move forward.”

Don’t think holiness is for you? The saints can help, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2017 / 05:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday, Pope Francis said the saints show us that despite what we might think, holiness is possible for everyone, and we should call on them for help in living out our vocations.

Some of us may be tempted to question if it is really possible to be holy in everyday life, the Pope said, but “yes, you can,” he encouraged, and it doesn’t mean you have to pray all day long.

“No, no. It means you have to do your duty all day long,” he said June 21. “Pray, go to work, watch over the children. But everything must be done with a heart open to God, in a way that the work, even in illness, and in suffering, also in difficulty, is open to God. And so you can become saints.”

“You can!” he continued. “May the Lord give us the hope of being holy! But we can. We do not think it's a difficult thing, that it's easier to be scoundrels than saints! No. It is possible to be holy because the Lord helps us; it is He who helps us.”

In his catechesis at the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis spoke about the hope brought by the Communion of Saints and how we call on them as a Church in the liturgy and in our lives to help us become saints ourselves.

For example, we call on them in the liturgy for the Sacrament of Matrimony, he said, especially for the grace to fulfill marital duties. “And this invocation is a source of trust for the two young people who start off on the 'journey' of marital life,” he pointed out.

“Those who really love have the desire and courage to say ‘forever,’ ‘forever,’ but they know that they need the grace of God and the help of the saints. To be able to live the marriage forever.”

“Not like some say ‘as long as love lasts.’ No: forever! Otherwise, it's better not to marry you. Either forever or nothing.”

He explained how we also call on the saints in the Mass of Ordination. Candidates for the priesthood lie on the floor, their faces against the ground while the assembly, led by the bishop, invoke the intercession of the saints.

“A man would be crushed under the weight of the mission entrusted to him” in the priesthood, the Pope said, “but feeling that all heaven is behind him, that the grace of God will not fail because Jesus remains faithful, then he can go serene and refreshed. We are not alone.”

Because we have the example of the saints, we have hope that it is possible to live a holy life, he said. “Christianity cultivates an ingrained trust: it does not believe that negative and disgusting forces can prevail. The last word on man's history is not hatred, it is not death, it is not war.”

The existence of the saints tells us “first of all that the Christian life is not an unreachable ideal,” he said.

Thus, we are comforted knowing that we are not alone, he said, and knowing that “the Church is made of innumerable brothers, often anonymous, who have preceded us and who, through the action of the Holy Spirit, are involved in the affairs of those who still live here.”

We call on the saints in the Mass, the Pope reminded, but we must also have the courage to call on them ourselves in difficult moments, thinking of all those who have gone through trials before us, yet have persevered in sanctity.

God never abandons us, often helping us through human hands and hearts, and through the saints, who are hidden but still “in our midst,” he said.

“This is difficult to understand and also to imagine, but the saints are always present in our life. When anyone invokes the saints, they are near to us,” he emphasized.

We must remember, though we are weak, the mystery of grace that is present in the lives of Christians is powerful. “We are dust that aspires to heaven.”

“We are faithful to this earth, which Jesus loved at every moment of his life, but we know and want to hope for the transfiguration of the world, in its final fulfillment where there will finally be no more tears, malice and suffering.

Though we are faithful to the earth which God has placed us upon and which Jesus loved during his life, we must keep hoping for its transfiguration in the second coming of Christ, when there will finally be “no more tears, malice and suffering.”

Our holiness is the great gift that each of us can make to the world, Francis went on. “Let the Lord give us the grace of believing so deeply in Him that we may become Christ's image for this world.”

Our world needs saints, he concluded: “without these men and women the world would have no hope.”

“You can be holy because the Lord helps us; it is He who helps us.”

El Salvador's first cardinal a friend of Blessed Oscar Romero

San Salvador, El Salvador, Jun 21, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis' decision to elevate Bishop José Gregorio Rosa Chávez is unprecedented: not only is he the first Salvadoran cardinal, he is also the first auxiliary bishop to be given a red biretta.

The cardinal-elect, who will receive the honor at a June 28 consistory, is also well-known for his close collaboration with Blessed Oscar Romero, an Archbishop of San Salvador who was martyred in 1980.

Bishop Rosa, 74, has been auxiliary bishop of San Salvador since 1982.

The Pope’s May 21 announcement of a consistory to create five new cardinals came as surprise to many, though possibly none more than Bishop Rosa.

“I thought it was a joke,” he told CNA of getting the phone call at 5 a.m. “I never thought that this could happen to me.”

Bishop Rosa also described the appointment as “a charge,” saying he prayed for peace after receiving the announcement: “It's a grace that you have to know how to receive with humility,” he reflected, adding that the office of cardinal is “a service which demands of you a total disposition to martyrdom.”

He also said Mass at the tomb of Blessed Oscar Romero, who he said “shed his blood, like a true cardinal. He shed his blood for Christ, for the Church … this gave me a measure of tranquility.”

Born in 1942 to a farming family in Sociedad, Bishop Rosa was ordained a priest of the Diocese of San Miguel in 1970. He studied at the Catholic University of Louvain from 1973-76, where he obtained a licentiate in social communications.

Under Blessed Romero, beginning in 1977, he headed the Archdiocese of San Salvador's communications office. He also served as a rector and theology professor at the Central Seminary of San José de la Montana.

He was appointed auxiliary bishop of San Salvador in 1982, a position he has held ever since. Today he works as a parish priest and is president of Caritas Latin America.

Like Blessed Romero, Bishop Chávez has been outspoken about government abuses, even publicly naming the alleged killers of four Jesuits, their housekeeper, and her daughter, who were martyred in 1989. He has sustained death threats and accusations of being a communist.

His designation as a cardinal, while his immediate superior, Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas, was bypassed, suggests that he may be destined for another appointment, after 35 years as San Salvador's auxiliary bishop. It certainly shows Pope Francis' willingness to look beyond the traditional “cardinal sees” for those whom he wishes to give the red hat.

The designation of the auxiliary bishop as cardinal-elect has been well-received in El Salvador, where he is known also for his dedication to work with the poor.

Bishop Rosa was “fundamental in our process of dialogue and negotiation that allowed us to sign the peace accords in 1992,” said El Salvador’s Foreign Ministry.

President Salvador Sanchez tweeted: “The pope’s announcement fills us with immense gratitude and happiness.” He also offered his congratulations.

 

Nuestras felicitaciones y reconocimiento a Monseñor Gregorio Rosa Chávez por tan importante nominación como el primer Cardenal salvadoreño. pic.twitter.com/16FbCnnXpx

— Salvador Sánchez (@sanchezceren) May 21, 2017  

El Salvador suffered a civil war from 1979 to 1992, and gang violence has been a problem in the country ever since. Work against the violence continues, and Bishop Rosa has spoken out against the killing on behalf of the nation’s bishops.

Many expected Bishop Rosa to become archbishop when Blessed Romero’s successor died in 1994, so with this designation by Pope Francis “his prize arrived,” San Salvador parishioner Estela Henriquez told the Associated Press the day of the appointment.

Speaking to Salvadoran media, he declared: “I dedicate this appointment to Archbishop Romero.”

 

Elise Harris contributed to this report.

2017 Creative Writing Contest Winners Announced

On May 3, 2017, 121 finalists in the Annual Respect Life Creative Writing Contest gathered at the Cardinal Rigali Center to be recognized for their outstanding entries. 

Protect LifeThese finalists, representing over 70 different Catholic elementary schools, parish schools of religion, and home schools, were selected from over 1000 entries. Finalists received a certificate of commendation, T-shirt, and book and were recognized by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson. Open to 8th graders in the Archdiocese, the contest asked students to respond to the prompt: Explain why living the virtue of chastity protects us from abortion and blesses us with true holiness, health, and happiness.

From these finalists, four students were recognized as honorable mention winners and six students were selected as scholarship winners. Honorable mention winners received a $500 award; the scholarship winners received a $2000 scholarship to be applied to their Catholic high school of choice. All honorable mention and scholarship winners also each received three tickets to the Annual Respect Life Convention in October, hosted by the Respect Life Apostolate.  

Honorable mention winners this year are:

  • Indira Kar from St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Grade School and Parish (Cor Jesu Academy)
  • Sarah Keys from St. John Paul II Preparatory School and Mary, Queen of Peace Parish (St. John Paul II Preparatory School)
  • Dallen Nelsen, a homeschooler from St. Gianna Parish (Homeschool)
  • John Niebrugge, a homeschooler from St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Parish (Homeschool)

Scholarship winners this year are:

  • Bishop Edward J. O'Donnell Scholarship: Nicole Bergen from Holy Spirit Grade School and Parish (St. Joseph Academy)
  • Mary Forrestal Hennessey Scholarship: Natalie McDonough from Holy Spirit Academy Homeschool and St. Joseph-Cottleville Parish (St. John Paul II Prepatory School)
  • Mr. & Mrs. George Kletzker Scholarships:
    • Gabriel Serri from Immaculate Conception-Dardenne Grade School and Parish (St. Dominic High School)
    • Sarah Hughes from St. Joseph-Cottleville Grade School and Parish (St. Joseph Academy)
  • Knights of Columbus Missouri State Council Scholarship: Noah Apprill-Sokol from St. Gabriel the Archangel Grade School and Parish (St. Louis University High School)
  • St. Joseph Evangelization Network Scholarship: James Brunts from the Academy of the Sacred Heart and St. Charles Borromeo Parish (St. Louis University High School)

To read the winning essays, click on each student's name.

Congratulations to all of our finalists, honorable mention winners,
and scholarship winners!!

Winners


Nicole Bergen from Holy Spirit Grade School and Parish (St. Joseph Academy) - Bishop Edward J. O'Donnell Scholarship Winner

Seeing Through the Eyes of God

God created us all in His divine image, and in turn calls us to treat others with respect and dignity. Sadly, in our world today, we let our differences divide us. Perhaps the most overlooked form of disrespect to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ is abortion. So many innocent people have been robbed of the chance to live their lives because we indulge in the luxury of choice. But if choice is so important, than why don’t we extend this same freedom to the unborn? A baby is formed at conception, a person who deserves to live just as much as anyone else. Age is just another way to divide us, but it does not affect our worth or who we are. God loves everyone unconditionally, so we need to stop making exceptions. All people have a right to live.

Chastity is one way to fight the injustice of abortion because it shows respect for others. Our misleading society puts value on things that will give us pleasure but not true happiness. True happiness can only come from a lasting relationship with God. Chastity also shows devotion to your future spouse by waiting until marriage to have sex. Marriage is a sacrament in which a couple is joined together in unbreakable unity, so sex is a way to express selfless love to a spouse. Our sexuality is a gift from God that we should use to glorify Him.

Our culture underestimates our ability to live according to God’s will, acting as if chastity is an impossibility, but this isn’t true. Every person has the strength to stand up to the temptation of sin through Jesus Christ. We are all equal and united as one Body of Christ, and every person should be treated as a valued child of our Father. When we place our trust in God and allow ourselves to be open to His plan of chastity, we will see the beauty in all of creation. In order to respect life, we need to see through the eyes of God.


Natalie McDonough from Holy Spirit Academy Homeschool and St. Joseph-Cottleville Parish (St. John Paul II Preparatory School) - Mary Forrestal Hennessey Scholarship Winner

Chastity

During the thirteen years of my life, I have spent roughly 400 hours protesting abortion and praying for pregnant women and their babies in our nation’s capital, Washington D.C., in Jefferson City, our state capital, or in St. Louis at Planned Parenthood. Though I don’t mind praying for these intentions (I know my prayers will always be heard), I wish that I no longer needed to pray for an end to abortion. Imagine if abortion was not legal; I could have spent those 400 hours in other ways, such as learning to canoe, reading the complete works of Shakespeare, or concocting a food to end world hunger! If everyone practiced chastity, there would be no more unplanned pregnancies or “need” for abortion.

Chastity is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is self-control in areas concerning the ways we think, speak, and act regarding our gift of sexuality. This valuable virtue is spiritual armor that helps protect us from sin, diseases, and depression. When we practice chastity, we not only show respect for God and others, but also respect for ourselves. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. It is our job to recognize God within these temples. Living an unchaste life can “vandalize” our temples and can often result in an unplanned pregnancy, which sometimes leads women to choose abortion. Abortion always leads to a higher risk of breast cancer, possible infertility, regret, and unhappiness. Our sexuality within marriage is a blessed thing that, if God wishes, can blossom into a child. God gives us children as a gift, not a “problem.”

Although I will never regain the hours I have spent protesting abortion and praying for women and their babies, I do hope that I won’t have to add to them. It is my prayer that everyone, young, old, male, and female, will practice the virtue of chastity in their everyday lives so abortion will no longer be a choice. Chastity helps everyone to live a healthy, holy, and happy life.


Gabriel Serri from Immaculate Conception-Dardenne Grade School and Parish (St. Dominic High School) - Mr. & Mrs. George Kletzker Scholarship Winner

Chastity provides a means to bring about the creation of a child born in the image and likeness of God. It is an expression of mutual love and giving of one’s self between a man and a woman in the sacrament of marriage. Abortion, however, is the complete opposite. It takes away the life of the baby inside a mother’s womb. Chastity and abortion are not compatible. Whereas chastity is a selfless act, abortion is simply a selfish act. Every January the March for Life is held where people can go to Washington, D.C. and protest against the right to kill an unborn baby in a mother’s womb. After many years, these protests are beginning to make a difference.

However, even banning abortion in all states will not do the job to end abortions. It is up to the women AND men of our generation to use their bodies for the right reasons and remain chaste. By practicing the virtue of chastity, we can end the horrid idea of any type of abortion. From dressing modestly to waiting until marriage to have sex, loving others in chaste ways can protect our babies from death and save their lives.

Chastity isn’t something that is just suggested by God for us to live out. He wants us to live in the footsteps of His Son, Jesus, so we can make it to heaven and have eternal life with Him in His divine kingdom. We are required as a people to live out the virtues, commandments, and works of mercy given to us. But if we want to end the painful effects of abortion all together, it is our duty to educate our generation about the joy and beauty that comes from living a chaste life. By changing the hearts and minds of those who are lost, we will be able to have a future celebrating the culture of life, rather than the culture of death.


Sarah Hughes from St. Joseph-Cottleville Grade School and Parish (St. Joseph Academy) - Mr. & Mrs. George Kletzker Scholarship Winner

A Poem for the Hurting Heart of a Mother

I close my eyes and ponder what could have been
Perplexity in my partner’s eyes
Ready to start a virtuous family
Just as the will of God implies.

I cuddle my beautiful baby girl
As her blue eyes gaze into mine
I thank the Lord for this precious gift
A mystery and a blessing combined.

I envision the road ahead
Full of obstacles and success
Witnessing my baby grow up
Will be divine and nothing less.

With my new mission came a new name
Like Peter once took
I vow my love in the sacrament of marriage
As I write my unwritten book.

I open my eyes and examine the room
No family to be found
Ten years ago, I aborted my child
And stomped my heart to the ground.

At seventeen, we all made mistakes
An erratum in the book of life
I could have chosen to be chaste
And as consequence I’m not even a wife.

I take a look at my life today
Depressed, abandoned, and a fool
In high school I was sinful and immodest
Just to be considered “cool.”

Abortion, an atrocity, a cruel offense
Has no place on our beloved earth
For God has a plan for each of us
Commenced far before birth.

Killing an innocent child
Isn’t just wrong and unjust
It’s a crime against humanity
And to Satan it’s a must.

It is necessary to combat this uncivil act
For abortion is hitting its peak
To earn justice and the right to life
For the heartbeat heard at just six weeks.

Life is brimming with open doors
In which some we evade
It’s our decision to open the closed
And to take on what God’s displayed.

Virtue and sin are two distinct paths
In which Satan’s is more tempting to embrace
Popularity is misconceived happiness
Nothing compared to God’s grace.

Love yourself, love God, and His plan for you
You will be rewarded for doing right
Hold your head high and away from Satan
And you will conquer this fight.


Noah Apprill-Sokol from St. Gabriel the Archangel Grade School and Parish (St. Louis University High School) - Knights of Columbus Missouri State Council Scholarship Winner

We are made in God’s image; our bodies are sacred gifts. Human bodies are beautiful, amazing, and holy creations. This includes human sexuality and the union of man and woman in a loving relationship. We must honor God’s creation by honoring and caring for our bodies. This is a privilege that God has granted us through our free will. By choosing to adopt a chaste life, we grow in holiness by taking responsibility for our bodies and God’s creation.

Chastity does not necessarily mean we must shun all sexual desires. These desires are meant to be expressed in the life-long promise of marriage and the openness of having a family. A chaste life helps us to realize that sexual fulfillment is only a part of a committed married relationship that draws us closer to God. Leading a chaste life effectively prevents pregnancy before marriage, and therefore removes the possibility of abortion. More importantly, it means viewing sex as a sacred physical sign of a commitment between spouses and a gift from God. As a gift from God, the fruits of this gift are cause for joy – never an unwanted, unloved, or uncherished burden. Finally, honoring our God-made bodies helps us stay physically healthy by avoiding diseases that are transferred in promiscuous sexual relationships. Having sex with multiple partners is an easy way for sexually transmitted diseases to spread; over 30 million U.S. men and women currently suffer from one. Living a chaste life significantly reduces the likelihood of contracting these diseases.

Our society focuses too much on the sensual pleasure of sex, which is, at best, a fleeting happiness. It neglects the lasting fulfillment of God’s love and the honoring of God’s creation. Chastity is really a way of saying that sexuality is just one part of who we are as God’s creation. The lasting joy we seek is through a union with God; we are only fulfilled through His love.


James Brunts from Academy of the Sacred Heart and St. Charles Borromeo Parish (St. Louis University High School) - St. Joseph Evangelization Network Scholarship

Our world is constantly adapting. Every day new discoveries are made, new theories proved, and new trends formed. As a global community, we’re losing sight on what it means to live the way God intended. If we truly want to find happiness in our lives and live as God calls us, we must live a life of chastity. Chastity is not only the virtue of abstaining from sex before marriage, but also the virtue of loving others as we love ourselves and as we love God.

 Living with chastity allows us to connect on a more personal level with God and helps us in our journey to fulfill his plan for us. Additionally, if we live chastity, we ourselves will experience a more fruitful and beneficial marriage, should we be called to matrimony by God. As stated before, I believe our society’s grip on what is holy is fading, and it appears no one wants to live a chaste life anymore. Very quickly, our society is becoming more obsessed with sex, specifically, sex outside of marriage. Instead of two people bonding and eventually deciding to spend their lives with each other forever, many are “hooking up” for a few days, maybe even one night, and having sex outside of marriage. Unfortunately, many couples who seek sexual pleasure outside of marriage end up aborting their children, which we know to be a complete violation of God’s plan.

To me, living chastely is like giving a gift. It’s a gift we give our children, our spouse, and all of the people around us. When you are given a gift, you feel loved because you know someone was thinking about what you specifically would want to receive being the unique person you are. By giving the gift of chastity, we know how those surrounding us want to be loved and respected as individuals. I know that I will be living chastely throughout my life so that I remain holy and so my children, born or unborn, will have my gift of respect and the gift of life that God has granted us all.

Did you see us in the St. Louis Review?

Holy Trinity School in St. Ann was featured in the St. Louis Review for their Virtue-Based Restorative Discipline Program, a CCHD funded program! Click here to read more.

If you're looking to support CCHD in funding programs such as this, our annual collection is taking place this weekend, November 19th and 20th, as the second collection at mass. Please consider us in your donations and prayers!

2016 Annual Creative Writing Contest Winners Announced

2016 Finalists

On April 20, 2016, 125 finalists in the Annual Respect Life Creative Writing Contest gathered at the Cardinal Rigali Center to be recognized for their outstanding entries. 

These finalists, representing over 80 different Catholic elementary schools, parish schools of religion, and home schools, were selected from over 1100 entries. Finalists received a certificate of commendation, T-shirt, and book and were recognized by Bishop Edward Rice. Open to 8th graders in the Archdiocese, the contest asked students to respond to the prompt: Explain why living the virtue of chastity protects us from abortion and blesses us with true holiness, health, and happiness.

From these finalists, six students were recognized as honorable mention winners and five students were selected as scholarship winners. Honorable mention winners received a $250 award; the scholarship winners received a $1000 scholarship to be applied to their Catholic high school of choice. All honorable mention and scholarship winners also each received three tickets to the Annual Respect Life Convention in October, hosted by the Respect Life Apostolate.  

Honorable mention winners this year are:

  • Brianna Dierks from St. Patrick-Wentzville Grade School and Parish (Liberty High School)
  • Taylor Elmore, a homeschooler from St. Bridget of Kildare Parish & PSR (St. Francis Borgia High School)
  • Sara E. Franke from Queen of All Saints Grade School and Parish (Nerinx Hall)
  • Patrick Meehan, a homeschooler from St. Dominic Savio Parish (Bishop Du Bourg High School)
  • Peter Francis Montgomery from St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Homeschool and St. Clement of Rome Parish (St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Homeschool)
  • Harrison Petty from St. Clement of Rome Grade School and Parish (Saint Louis University High School)

Scholarship winners this year are:

  • Bishop Edward J. O'Donnell Scholarship: Maria Klassen from St. Joseph-Cottleville Grade School and Parish (St. Dominic High School)
  • Mary Forrestal Hennessey Scholarship: Daniel Vaporean, a homeschooler from St. Joseph-Manchester Parish (Homeschool)
  • Mr. & Mrs. George Kletzker Scholarships:
    • Madeline Derleth from St. Joseph-Cottleville Grade School and Parish (Barat Academy)
    • Elle Reardon from St. Clement of Rome Grade School and Parish (Villa Duchesne)
  • Knights of Columbus Missouri State Council Scholarship: Eric Meyer from St. Charles Borromeo Grade School and Parish (Chaminade College Prep)

To read the winning essays, click on each student's name.

Congratulations to all of our finalists, honorable mention winners,
and scholarship winners!!

 

Winners

Above our scholarship and honorable mention winners pose for a photograph with Bishop Edward M. Rice, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Michael Auchley, Missouri Knights of Columbus Respect Life Director, and Brian Cochran, nephew of the late Bishop Edward O'Donnell after whom one of the scholarships is named. Winners pictured from left to right are Madeline Derleth, Maria Klassen, Daniel Vaporean, Taylor Elmore, Harrison Petty, Peter Francis Montgomery, Elle Reardon, Sara Franke, Brianna Dierks, Patrick Meehan, and Eric Meyer.

 


Maria Klassen from St. Joseph Grade School in Cottleville (St. Dominic H.S.) - Bishop Edward J. O'Donnell Scholarship Winner

The atrocity of harming a child
Is brought to its very height
In this supreme outrage of natural law
And trespass of human rights.

To kill a small child who’s not even born
But was always a part of God’s plan
Shows a coldness of heart and a lack of respect
For every woman and man.

I think that it’s time that we recognize
Each individual’s worth
And treat other people the way they deserve
Even before their birth.

Abortion and chastity are so much alike
In more ways than we realize
For to hurt a small child or a woman or man
Is surely akin in God’s eyes.

Each child of God has a dignity
That we must learn to protect
To lead one away from the kingdom of Heaven
Is not something we should accept.

We must learn to put others before our own lives
And safeguard innocence at all costs
If we don’t save this treasure before it’s too late
It’s not long before all will be lost.

You deserve true love, and so does your child
And so does everyone
And to be satisfied with less than enough
Is to give in, and say that you’re done.

We should search for true love, and wait for the one
Who is truly and perfectly right.
One who will help us to follow God’s laws
And keep the right path in our sight.

Fight for love, and fight for life,
And fight for all that is true
For you may be sure, although you can’t see it
God is fighting for you.


Daniel Vaporean, a homeschooler from St. Joseph in Manchester Parish (Home School) - Mary Forrestal Hennessey Scholarship Winner

Good versus Evil

Each day of our lives we bravely fight on a battlefield where evil clashes with good. Piously, St. Paul who preached to the Ephesians, advised to wear the spiritual “armor of God” for protection in battle. Utilizing the spiritual armor, which consists of the shield of faith, the breastplate of righteousness, and the helmet of salvation will help us to live chaste lives. By living chastely, while preventing the evil of abortion, we will be blessed with true holiness and our lives filled with health and happiness.

The shield of faith protects chastity by helping us to live as God planned, which is through obedience to the Ten Commandments and the teachings of the Catholic Church. Since God’s plan for marriage is the uniting, both physically and mentally, of one man and one woman, it is important that they commit to each other freely, fruitfully, faithfully, and forever. Living according to this plan, sexuality would only be shared by married couples who truly love each other. This would prevent the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy, which may lead to an abortion. The breastplate of righteousness assists in prudence and practicing self-control. Willfully avoiding movies, music, and pornography, which encourage unchaste behaviors, keeps our souls holy as we exercise good judgment. Dressing modestly avoids attention being drawn to our sexual bodies and allows friendships to develop which are not based on lust. In keeping our bodies chaste with the helmet of salvation, we will have healthy bodies and avoid the risk of getting sexual diseases which may cause suffering and death. Valiantly remembering to wear our spiritual armor, we will be protected by God and His teachings to live a life of chastity.

God desires the best for us. When we love as He wants us to love, we experience true joy and happiness. We will be content because we know we are following God’s unsurpassable plan. Abortion will be no more. Living our lives in this way will help us increase in virtue and holiness. By faithfully wearing our spiritual armor and living chastely, evil will be defeated and good will win!


Madeline Derleth from St. Joseph in Cottleville Grade School (Barat Academy) - Mr. & Mrs. George Kletzker Scholarship Winner

A Smile on God’s Face

There are many virtues that make us unique,
But chastity really requires us to think.
Created in God’s image we shall always cherish,
But forgetting chastity will cause us to perish.
Pure and holy our bodies must remain,
For if we forget, then a life of pain.
Our bodies were created in God’s image of great beauty.
Protecting it and keeping it safe is our duty.
True love waits for that special one,
Whether that be a spouse, staying single, or life as a nun.

Our society seems as if it has forgotten this virtue,
Saying it is alright to do things that hurt you.
Having sex on a first date,
It’s ok, you don’t have to wait.
Doesn’t anyone see the lies they say?
Innocent lives and the prices they’ll pay?
So many abortions because of this sin,
Giving up chastity so Satan will win.
Statistics don’t lie, they speak the truth,
So many abortions from those unchaste youth.
Eighty-three percent of abortions that take place,
Are on women who have not married in God’s holy space.
Forgetting chastity doesn’t only hurt you,
Innocent babies are suffering too.
Abortion is forever, you can’t go back,
So remember your worth to keep you on track.

Your health is important and must be treated with care,
But abortion will scar you and recovery is rare.
Your body and mind will never be the same,
Stay chaste and remember your health isn’t a game.
True happiness doesn’t come from what you get this minute,
Staying true to yourself and your values will win it.
Remember to think before you act,
Because once you do, you can never go back.
All life is precious and valuable too,
So stay chaste to be a happier you.

Remember that God loves you so much,
Remaining chaste will help keep you in touch.
Holiness is your goal to achieve,
Keeping your body pure is what you must believe.
Not only will you be filled with grace,
But you will put a smile on God’s face.


Elle Reardon from St. Clement of Rome Grade School (Villa Duchesne) - Mr. & Mrs. George Kletzker Scholarship Winner

As a teen, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by mixed messages related to moral issues. The idea that chastity protects us from abortion might initially sound unlikely. Choosing to have sex doesn’t necessarily mean someone supports abortion. Although in reality, the compromises made in deciding to live an unchaste life can lead to further compromises in believing abortion is acceptable. Chastity is crucial for prohibiting abortion because it prevents the circumstances where someone would seek an abortion. Chastity protects us from worrying about unplanned pregnancies and feeling pressured to resort to an abortion.

Chastity blesses us with true holiness, health, and happiness because it honors a commitment to yourself, your future spouse, and the Holy Spirit. It may seem like chastity is depriving us from happiness because of social media’s influence giving us an inside view of what others are doing minute by minute, hour by hour, and day by day. Jenny went to Paris! Joe got a hoverboard! The latest posts make it appear as though happiness is found in having new and exciting experiences. Your life can look boring in comparison, making you doubt your own choices, leaving you with fear of missing out. It may distort your perception of what is morally acceptable because “everyone else is doing it.” What isn’t’ seen in those online posts is how one teenager cried herself to sleep feeling ashamed for having sex or how another teen felt scared to learn he had a sexually transmitted disease. There was also the girl whose parents were mourning because she felt forced to have an abortion for fear of embarrassment. Chastity truly protects us from negative consequences.

Our relationships are strengthened by valuing the gift of chastity. True happiness is found in the joy of honoring God and in being mindful of moments in life that give genuine meaning to your beliefs. I believe abortion is morally wrong and that chastity is the first step in saving millions of unborn lives. I challenge you to step up and commit to honor the virtue of chastity as your personal vow to protect the unborn.


Eric Meyer from St. Charles Borromeo Grade School (Chaminade College Prep) - Knights of Columbus Missouri State Council Scholarship Winner

The Past, Present, and Future of Chastity

When I was younger, life seemed simple. My parents made all of my decisions. There were few differences between the boys and girls in my class. I never thought about chastity because I didn’t know what it was and it was not an important issue. I learned the difference between right and wrong, but the situations I faced never seemed life-changing. I realize now how easy things were back then and sometimes wish they were still that way.

Now times are different. My parents are beginning to trust me to make my own decisions. Some decisions are small, like what to eat for dinner. Other choices aren’t so simple. For example, whether to join in when other boys are behaving poorly so I can look like I am part of the “popular crowd.” As a teenager, I am starting to understand what the virtue of chastity means. Chastity refers to having pure thoughts and actions. The relationships I have with my female classmates are different now because we are changing physically and emotionally. I must remember to treat them respectfully and not make crude comments while texting or in person. Chastity is also not having sexual relations before marriage. When I am older and have a girlfriend, chastity will be more of an issue. But I know if I stay strong in my faith and live a chaste life, I will not have to worry about STDs, pregnancies, or abortions. This seems like an easy decision, doesn’t it?

In the future, I hope to get married. It would make me happy to tell my wife that I remained chaste and I would love for her to say the same thing to me. It would be nice to begin our life together knowing that our past decisions will lead to holiness, health, and happiness in our marriage. I think that being a role model for my children is also important. If throughout our lives we stay close to God and practice the virtue of chastity, there will be no need for abortions and we will have a life full of blessings.

 

 

 

 

The Year of Mercy and the Gospel of Life

On April 11, 2015, Pope Francis declared a Jubilee Year of Mercy in Misericordiae vultusWhen one thinks of mercy, particularly in the context of our Catholic faith, forgiveness and the Sacrament of Confession come to mind. Something deeper, however, is going on. At its core, this Jubilee Year of Mercy focuses us on restoring our dignity as sons and daughters of God; it is intimately connected with the Gospel of Life and its call for a greater respect and defense of human dignity.

In declaring the Jubilee Year, Pope Francis stated, “This Holy Year will bring to the fore the richness of Jesus’ mission echoed in the words of the prophet: to bring a word and gesture of consolation to the poor, to proclaim liberty to those bound by new forms of slavery in modern society, to restore sight to those who can see no more because they are caught up in themselves, to restore dignity to all those from who it has been robbed” (Misericordiae vultus, no. 16). Yet, how does a focus on mercy restore human dignity?

Human Dignity and Mercy

Perhaps the clearest connection between the Gospel of Life and the concept of mercy can be found in St. John Paul II’s encyclical Dives in Misericordia, promulgated in 1980. In reflecting on the parable of the Prodigal Son, The Return of the Prodigal Sonhe focuses on the interior disposition of the son who realizes that the greater loss he has suffered was the loss of his status as a son in his father’s house. The loss of the son’s dignity would certainly be warranted under the order of justice for not only squandering his father’s material goods but also by offending his father in his actions. The father, however, is faithful to the love he has in his fatherhood. Love is the well-spring from which the mercy of the father springs. This love causes the father to be concerned about the dignity of his son. Despite the material loss caused by the son, the father sees the greater good to be saved: the son’s humanity. The father is able to rejoice because his greatest concern is of the dignity of the son; he cannot help but continually await his son’s return.

From this reflection, we see that, fundamentally, mercy, rooted in love, restores human dignity. St. John Paul II puts it this way: “Mercy is manifested in its true and proper aspect when it restores to value, promotes and draws good from all the forms of evil existing in the world and in man” (Dives in Misericordia, no. 6). This type of mercy, rather than humiliating or causing uneasiness, restores one to his or her proper dignity. We see the attitude of the father not as one seeking to judge or condemn the prodigal son, however much he may have deserved it; rather, the father is filled with joy. The son is able to appreciate who he is and his actions in the light of truth.

A Divine Dignity

This dignity is also what lies at the center of the Gospel of Life, that is, a profound relationship between human beings and God. The Gospel of Life is about proclaiming the desire of God to be in an everlasting communion with us, granting us a dignity “little less than a god, crowned…with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:6). As St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote, “Man, as a being, is of no account; he is dust, grass, vanity. But once he is adopted by the God of the universe as a son, he becomes part of the family of that Being, whose excellence and greatness no one can see, hear, or understand. What words, thoughts, or flight of the spirit can praise the superabundance of this grace? Man surpasses his nature: mortal, he becomes immortal; perishable, he becomes imperishable; fleeting, he becomes eternal; human, he becomes divine” (De Beatitudinibus, Oratio VII).

Merciful Like the Father

This call to share in the very life of God is the source of the incomparable dignity and worth of each human person. It is this dignity which we seek to uphold and defend in working to end abortion, prevent euthanasia, and in serving the poor. Every person is created for and designed to exist in an eternal relationship with God. Violations of a person’s dignity inhibit one’s ability to freely live in that communion.

In Evangelium vitae, St. John Paul II points out that, even after Cain slays his brother, God is still merciful to him, protecting and defending him from others wishing to kill him, even those seeking to avenge the death of Abel. He says that “not even a murderer loses his personal dignity, and God himself pledges to guarantee this” showing for “the paradoxical mystery of the merciful justice of God” (Evangelium vitae, no. 9). Even in the face of grave sin which ripped away another’s dignity, God remains merciful.

There is a reason why feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful and so forth are called works of mercy: they restore dignity to those from whom it has been taken. As Pope Francis states, “Mercy is a key word that indicates God’s action towards us. He does not limit himself merely to affirming his love, but makes it visible and tangible.” (Misericordiae vultus, no. 9) These acts, in imitation of Christ, speak of the mercy of the Father and make visible the great love the Father has for each and every one of his children.

Building a Culture of Life is therefore intimately tied with being heralds of mercy. We bring mercy to the unborn child at risk of abortion for they are on “the outermost fringes of society” with no voice. We bring mercy to those impacted by abortion by speaking of the peace and forgiveness found in Christ Jesus. We bring mercy to those sentenced to death, recalling the mercy God had on Cain in Genesis. We bring mercy to those seeking physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia or those who are at risk of being victims by confirming their dignity as sons and daughters of God and sharing in their suffering.

Thus, as Pope Francis calls for the Church to “announce the mercy of God,” it is truly a command to recognize the God-given dignity of every human person and to help them realize it in themselves. To do so may require stepping outside of our comfort zones or breaking down our lens of indifference to see situations from a different perspective. By being “merciful like the Father” in charitable acts towards others, invitations to return to the Sacraments, prayers, and evangelization, may we reveal the love of God for every person.

This article originally appeared on Catholic Stand and is reprinted with permission.

What is CCHD?

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty by funding community programs that encourage independence. CCHD does this by helping low-income people participate in decisions that affect their lives, families, and communities. Click here for more information on the mission of CCHD.

CCHD PosterPrograms that assist those that are marginalized to speak out and improve their communities are funded by the generous support of Catholics in the United States. Each year, Catholics around the country donate to the annual CCHD collection, which is held the weekend before Thanksgiving. Money raised from the collection is then distributed to community organizations to support their anti-poverty initiatives. To qualify for CCHD grant money, applicant organizations must not, in any way, support or promote activities that work against Catholic values. Grants to local anti-poverty efforts are screened, awarded, and monitored in close partnership with local Catholic dioceses. Click here to learn more about how collection funds are distributed to anti-poverty programs. 

This year, the collection to support CCHD will be held on November 19th and 20th. You are essential to its success. Your generous donations will give those in poverty the support they need to make lasting changes. Together, we can make a difference both locally and nationally. Please donate prayerfully and generously.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, "The Eucharist commits us to the poor" (#1397). The Eucharist, celebrated as a community, teaches us about human dignity, calls us to right relationship with God, ourselves and others, and sends us on a mission to help transform our communities, neighborhoods, and world. The work of CCHD is an example of "Eucharistic" living. 

"To love God and neighbor is not something abstract, but profoundly concrete: it means seeing in every person the face of the Lord to be served, to serve him concretely. And you are, dear brothers and sisters, the face of Jesus." - Pope Francis

From the USCCB website.