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Law and Justice Party leader praises Polish archbishop for LGBT opposition

Warsaw, Poland, Aug 19, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- The leader of Poland’s ruling party praised the Archbishop of Krakow on Sunday for his opposition to the redefinition of marriage and gender ideology in the country.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) Party, said at a campaign event in Southeast Poland on Aug. 18 that he was “grateful” to Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski for his statement earlier this month that attempts to redefine marriage and impose gender ideology in Poland were part of a “rainbow plague.”

Calling the promotion of LGBT ideology a “hard offensive” and a “travelling theatre,” Kaczynski said that “we are the ones who are harmed by this, it must be unmasked and discarded,” Reuters reported on Sunday.

Archbishop Jędraszewski said in an August 1 homily, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, that “our land is no longer affected by the red plague, which does not mean that there is no new one that wants to control our souls, hearts and minds,” Reuters reported. 

That new “plague,” he said, is “not Marxist, Bolshevik, but born of the same spirit, neo-Marxist. Not red, but rainbow.”

Kaczynski’s remarks came at a campaign event for Poland’s national parliamentary elections in October, where the redefinition of marriage will be one of the issues of contention as pro-LGBT “pride” events are on the rise in Poland.

Amidst some secular backlash over his remarks, Archbishop Jędraszewski has received statements of support from fellow bishops. 

On Sunday, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski asked 80,000 pilgrims at a Mass and Eucharistic procession at the Marian sanctuary of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska in the Archdiocese of Krakow, to “pray for our dear pastors of our archdiocese, who bravely defend the truth and God’s law against all kinds of destructive ideologies.” Archbishop Jędraszewski concelebrated the Mass.

On August 8, the president of Poland’s conference of bishops, Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki of Poznań, issued a statement in response to recent “polemics” in the country “over the ‘LGBT ideology’,” including the “wave of criticism” against Archbishop Jedraszewski over his remarks.

There must be respect for all people including those with same-sex attraction, the archbishop said, but this must never include the “acceptance” of pro-LGBT ideologies.

“People belonging to milieus of the so-called sexual minorities are our brothers and sisters for whom Christ gave his life and whom He wants also to be saved,” Archbishop Gądecki said. 

“Respect for specified individuals cannot, however, lead to the acceptance of an ideology that aims to revolutionize social customs and interpersonal relationships.”

He noted “a significant increase in the number of so-called pride marches organized in our country” as well as the planned introduction of a new sex education in schools by local authorities, efforts to redefine marriage and impose gender ideology, and employers discriminating against employees who believe in traditional marriage.

In June, an IKEA store in Krakow fired an employee who quoted verses of Scripture against homosexuality on the company’s intranet, as he stated his refusal to attending a pro-LGBT event at the company’s request.

The uproar in the country against the Church and others supporting traditional marriage is a manifestation of an “ideological totalitarianism,” Gądecki said, “consisting in removing people who think differently outside the sphere of freedom.”

He urged lawmakers not to accede to the calls to redefine marriage, and called for “non-discrimination in public discussion” on both sides of the debate on sex and gender ideology.

This pro-LGBT “ideology,” he said, would bring about the ruin of society, he said, quoting Pope Francis’ November, 2014 address to the International Colloquium on the Complementarity Between Man and Woman.

Archbishop Gądecki quoted Pope Francis in his statement, “This revolution of customs and morals has often waved ‘the flag of freedom’, but it has, in reality, brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.”

'Unplanned' actress establishes scholarship for pregnant women

Columbus, Ohio, Aug 18, 2019 / 04:55 pm (CNA).- Ashley Bratcher, lead actress in the pro-life movie “Unplanned,” has helped establish a scholarship for women pursing an education during an unexpected pregnancy.

“Women can pursue their careers, live out their dreams, and have richer, more fulfilling lives while balancing motherhood. Sometimes, it just takes a little help,” Bratcher said in a recent press release from Heartbeat International.

“I wanted to be a part of empowering mothers to chase their dreams and to provide a means for those who choose life to continue their educations.”

The scholarship, called the Unplanned Movie Scholarship, will give $5,000 annually for a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy. It can go toward educational educational opportunities including college or trade school.

The project is backed by Heartbeat International, a pro-life agency providing pregnancy resources to expecting mothers in over 2,000 locations worldwide.

“Not only will the scholarship financially support the decision of mothers to continue their education, but it will also connect them to an organization that will support them throughout their pregnancy and beyond,” Bratcher added.

Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International, said the scholarship will help expecting mothers embrace education and life.

“Tucked into Unplanned is a vivid reminder that education can present an obstacle to accepting the new life within,” said Godsey.

“The Unplanned Movie Scholarship will be a lifeline to a young mom's future as she makes the brave choice to embrace motherhood.”

Bratcher played Abby Johnson in the movie, “Unplanned.” The story follows the life of Johnson, a former clinic director for Planned Parenthood, who had a conversion experience after witnessing the horrors of abortion. Today, Johnson is a pro-life advocate and the director of And Then There Were None, a ministry that helps other abortion workers leave the industry.

Following the movie’s release, numerous women reached out to Bratcher to share their stories of difficult pregnancy situations. Andrea Trudden, director of communications for Heartbeat International, told CNA that many women shared a common conflict - they needed financial support to finish their education.

“After the release of ‘Unplanned,’ Ashley had a lot of different questions from moms who were reaching out sharing their stories about their unplanned pregnancies,” she said.

“The education aspect tended to be one of the hurdles.”

Trudden said the scholarship’s development is still underway. She said applicants will be recommended from one of the agency’s pregnancy help centers, where the mothers’ needs will be best addressed.

“[Pregnancy centers] provide parenting classes and financial classes. We are able to couple what we do through these pregnancy health organizations with the woman who wants to continue her education,” she said.

“We are really looking at exactly how to partner with our pregnancy help organizations in order to provide the funds to the women.”

She said the scholarship will begin accepting applicants at the end of this year, after the organization receives enough funds. The scholarship is now accepting donations at www.UnplannedMovieScholarship.com.

Trudden said the opportunity will provide women the support they need to pursue their education, but it also presents a bigger message.

“Women can have careers, they can have fulfilling lives and be mothers. It’s not an either-or situation,” she said.

“We want to do everything we can to support the mothers during these hard decisions, to help prepare her for motherhood and … [provide her with] everything she needs to get through her pregnancy in a loving and caring way so she can positive choices for her life.”

 

Pope Francis: Discover the beauty of prayer in adoration

Vatican City, Aug 18, 2019 / 05:25 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Sunday that prayer in adoration of God and service to others spreads the fire of God’s love, changing the world one heart at a time.

“I invite everyone to discover the beauty of the prayer of adoration and to exercise it often,” Pope Francis said Aug. 18.

Adoration of God in prayer is necessary to allow the fire of love that Jesus brought to the earth to envelop our entire existence, the pope explained.

In his Angelus address, the pope reflected upon this Sunday’s Gospel from Luke in which Jesus says to his disciples, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!”

“These words are intended to help the disciples to abandon any attitude of laziness, apathy, indifference and closure to welcome the fire of God's love; that love which, as Saint Paul reminds us, ‘has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit,’” Pope Francis said.

“Jesus reveals to his friends, and also to us, his most ardent desire: to bring to earth the fire of the Father's love, which kindles life and through which man is saved,” he said.

The Gospel is a limitless fire that saves and changes the world beginning with a change inside the heart of each person, Francis said. For this, he explained, it is necessary to adore God and serve others.

“It is a question of not living in a hypocritical way, but of being willing to pay the price for coherent choices - this is the attitude that each of us should look for in life: consistency - paying the price to be consistent with the Gospel,” Pope Francis said.

“It is good to say that we are Christians, but above all we must be Christians in concrete situations, bearing witness to the Gospel which is essentially love for God and for our brothers,” he said.

Pope Francis pointed to the example of communities and groups of young people who dedicate their summers to service to others. The pope said that he admires those who devote themselves to the service of the sick, the poor, and people with disabilities.

“To live according to the spirit of the Gospel it is necessary that, in the face of ever new needs that are looming in the world, there are disciples of Christ who know how to respond with new initiatives of charity,” he said.

“May Mary Most Holy help us to let our hearts be purified by the fire brought by Jesus and to spread it with our lives through decisive and courageous choices,” Pope Francis said.

'Remember Me' - Should Catholics talk to their dead loved ones? 

Denver, Colo., Aug 18, 2019 / 04:57 am (CNA).- In the 2017 Disney-Pixar movie “Coco,” the main character, Miguel, accidentally passes over into the land of the dead on Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) while trying to reconcile his love of music with his family’s ban on it.

There, he learns that the dead can only visit their loved ones on that holiday if they can prove there is a photo of them on their family’s “ofrenda”, an altar with photos of loved ones, colorful decorations, and the favorite foods, drinks and mementos of the deceased.

“We've put their photos on the ofrenda so their spirits can cross over. That is very important! If we don't put them up, they can't come!” Miguel’s abuelita explains.

While in the land of the dead, Miguel bumps into his own deceased family members, and learns his true family history.

Though Miguel’s experience is fictional, it is not uncommon for grieving loved ones to experience what psychologists call “After Death Communication,” in which the bereaved believe that they see, hear the voices of, or even smell their dead loved ones.

These experiences, sometimes called “bereavement hallucinations,” can be healing and comforting for those who grieve, multiple studies have found.

But Catholics should proceed with caution when “communicating” with the dead, two Catholic psychologists told CNA, and they should ground their communications in prayer.

Dana Nygaard is a Catholic and a licensed professional counselor who speaks to grief groups and counsels clients through loss. Nygaard told CNA that because many Catholics misunderstand what happens to souls after death, she urges caution when talking about what it means to talk to dead loved ones.

“If they're speaking to a loved one, how are they doing that? Is it through saying, ‘Hey grandma, I think you're up there in heaven with God. I really hope you pray and look over me.’ Okay, well that sounds fine,” she said.

“Or...are they going to a psychic or a medium? Is this necromancy? How were they doing this?  I think that's an important question,” Nygaard said.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “all forms of divination are to be rejected” which includes the “conjuring up the dead.”

However, the Church encourages Catholics to pray for the dead as one of the spiritual works of mercy.

“From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead,” the Catechism states.

“Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.”

“Prayer, prayer, prayer,” Nygaard said, noting that because Catholics do not know the state of the souls of their loved ones when they die, it is important to pray for them after their death, as prayers can help the souls in purgatory get to heaven faster.

The Liturgy of the Hours, a set of prayers said periodically throughout the day by priests, religious and some lay Catholics, includes a special Office of the Dead, a set of prayers said specifically for those who have died.

Nygaard told CNA that she often encourages Catholics who are grieving a loss to ask for the intercessory prayers of saints already canonized by the Church, which means that they are assured to be with God in heaven.

“Maybe it was that my great-grandmother was really close to St. Anne. I'm going to ask St. Anne, ‘Would you please look after my sweet great grandmother? I pray she's there with you in heaven.’ I've known people also to pray, ‘God, I'm asking you, do I need to keep praying for my father?’” she said.

Nygaard said that those she counsels through grief will sometimes, after a period of prayer, feel a deep sense of peace that their loved one is in heaven.

Dr. Chris Stravitsch is a licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist, as well as the president and founder of Rejoice Counseling Apostolate, a group of Catholic counselors. Stravitsch told CNA that in addition to prayer, he counsels his clients to prepare for their first year of grief, which can often be the most difficult.

“There are a lot of ‘firsts’ to pass through: the first Christmas without him or her; their first birthday without them present; the first wedding anniversary alone; etc. I counsel people to prepare for these occasions in advance because we know it will be painful and difficult,” he said.

He said he tells his clients to plan in advance how and with whom they will spend these difficult days, and how they will remember their loved ones at those times.

“It’s helpful to surround yourself with other loved ones who understand your loss, while also setting aside a little time to be alone in prayer and reminiscing,” he said.

“These are meaningful days to attend Mass, so that you can cling to Christ and receive His consolation. Visiting the gravesite or a place where you have a special memory can also be meaningful, whether that is done alone or with the support of others,” he said.

“Furthermore, be sure to tell stories and talk about your deceased loved ones,” he added. “We need to continue coming together at various times to remember them in a spirit of love and prayer. This is a balm for the brokenhearted.”

Stravitsch said it is important for Catholics to remember that death and grief are painful things to experience, and that Jesus himself wept at the death of his friend Lazarus.

“(Jesus) wants to be with us and share our grief,” he said. This means Catholics should be sensitive towards those who are grieving, and avoid well-intentioned but unhelpful comments such as: “It was God’s will”; “It was their time to go”; “They’re in a better place now”; or “There’s a reason for everything”; Stravitsch said.

“Simply saying, ‘I’m sorry’, giving a warm embrace, sharing a tear, and remaining at their side as long as needed can be far more consoling,” he said.

Checking back in after the funeral has passed, and continuing to talk about the deceased with those who are grieving are other ways Catholics can show compassion, he said.

Both Nygaard and Stravitsch said that they have found that clients are usually deeply comforted by the Church’s teaching on the communion of saints and the promise of everlasting life for all souls who are united with God.

“In the Catholic Church, like we have the mystical body of Christ. And we know that the souls in heaven are surrounding the altar during communion,” she said.

“What I have found is that normally brings a great sense of peace,” to the bereaved, she said. “It's not just me sitting there when I go up for communion...we're mystically connected and that we can ask for the intercession of the saints,” which means any soul that is in heaven with God.

In his Letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul recalls those already in heaven, and says that the faithful are surrounded “by so great a cloud of witnesses.”

“When the Lord comes in glory, and all his angels with him, death will be no more and all things will be subject to him. But at the present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating 'in full light, God himself triune and one, exactly as he is.’ All of us, however, in varying degrees and in different ways share in the same charity towards God and our neighbors, and we all sing the one hymn of glory to our God. All, indeed, who are of Christ and who have his Spirit form one Church and in Christ cleave together,’” the Catechism states.

These teachings are a “great consolation for the bereaved,” Stravitsch said. 

“Not only is there the hope of being reunited with our loved ones after death, but there is the reality of remaining mysteriously connected with them even today. Whether we are interceding for them as we pray for the repose of their soul or we are asking for their prayers, there is a sense that we are within reach of one another,” he added.

“The bonds of true love are not destroyed in death but are made ever stronger. The Church recognizes this in a unique way when we celebrate All Souls Day and we call to mind our deceased loved ones. We are united in Christ.”

 

Catholic aid agency to US government: Don't cut foreign aid funding

Washington D.C., Aug 17, 2019 / 04:07 pm (CNA).- Catholic Relief Services is speaking out against a potential reassignment of U.S. funds that Congress appropriated for foreign assistance programs, which aid agencies say could mean a loss of between $2 billion and $4 billion they would otherwise use for humanitarian efforts.

The Office of Management and Budget requested the temporary hold on the funding last week, asking for an “accounting” of all funding that has not yet been officially designated for specific purposes.

The letter identified 10 areas of aid to which the funding hold would apply, including development assistance, global health, contributions to international organizations, international narcotics control and peacekeeping activities, the New York Times reported.

Though the funding freeze was lifted Aug. 9, aid groups still worry that the administration may send Congress a budget that pulls billions of dollars in foreign assistance, Politico reports.

“Local churches and Catholic Relief Services partner with the U.S. government to reduce poverty, alleviate suffering, and foster peace around the world,” CRS said.

“Rescinding some of these and other international poverty-reducing funds will limit the United States’ ability to support poor and vulnerable communities, respond to global health challenges, address root causes of forced migration, and advance international religious freedom, global security, and peacekeeping.”

A cut of $4 billion from the aid budget represents 0.08% of the expected federal budget of $4.5 trillion. Still, CRS says, the funding makes a significant difference to their operations abroad.

“We urge the Administration not to rescind foreign assistance funds. We urge Congress to reject any rescissions that target poverty-reducing and peacebuilding accounts and require the Administration to obligate previously appropriated funds. The conflicts and crises today are dire. U.S. moral and financial leadership is necessary,” CRS concluded.