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Baltimore, Md., Jul 22, 2014 / 04:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a recent interview with CNA, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore reaffirmed religious liberty as a priority for the U.S. bishops, emphasizing its relation to personal dignity and evangelization.

“Let me just say that religious liberty is so fundamental to the dignity of the human person,” Archbishop Lori stated, continuing that “anyone who is an impartial observer of the culture would say that in recent times, the challenges to religious liberty have accelerated.

Because of these situation, the archbishop said that the American bishops have dedicated themselves to upholding religious freedom, and will continue to discuss the “multifaceted challenges” faced by the Church.

Archbishop Lori noted that the right to religious liberty “is very much related to truth,” and “does not just depend on (the content of one's) belief.”

“God gave us the gift of religious liberty so that we could sincerely seek the truth, and embrace it once we have found it.”

He added that “to attenuate religious liberty is to attenuate the search for truth. So that is the fundamental level at which we are committed to religious liberty.”

Archbishop Lori also discussed the “linguistic and philosophical gulfs between the teaching of the Church, and the culture,” because “there are those who think religious liberty is really a guise for some right to discriminate, that the Church or others are seeking. So, we have to break those things down, in our catechesis and our evangelization.”

The vast differences in philosophical outlook and in use of language, between the Church and the mainstream culture, are important for Church leaders to take into account, he said.

“For those who preach and teach, it's important that we break down the language that we use into terms that are, in fact, preachable and teachable.”

Archbishop Lori reflected on the U.S. bishops' decision last month to renew for another three years its ad hoc committee, which he chairs, on religious liberty.

“I'm happy that they reaffirmed religious liberty as a priority for the work of the conference.”

This committee deals with affronts to religious liberty coming from such things as international persecution of minority religions; the re-definition of marriage; and challenges to religious practice and speech on university campuses.

“In setting up the ad hoc committee, the conference heard from bishops all around the country who have faced these kinds of challenges at the very local level, and now we're seeing them at the federal level.”

Echoing the Baltimore prelate's sentiments, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville said to CNA that he had heard from bishops that “not only has this been worthwhile on a national level in helping us to craft approaches to public policy, but it’s been helpful to people in our parishes, and  to bishops in their dioceses.”

Archbishop Kurtz also reflected how the ad hoc nature of the committee means precisely that the U.S. bishops will have to continue discussing the committee's ambit: “we’re not where we were three years ago, so are there new things that need to be done in composition, as well as the scope.”

“I heard Archbishop Lori say they are already anticipating, the existing committee is already recommending things, and they probably see the horizon better than any of us. And so I am sure we will be focused very much on the horizon, and the observations that the present committee has, as we move forward.”

Archbishop Lori concluded that the bishops' affirmation of the religious liberty committee indicates the episcopate continues to experience challenges to the exercise of religious freedom, “and that this is not at all a narrow focus.”

“This is a very fundamental focus on the life and dignity of the human person, and the ability of the Church to contribute to the common good.”

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Huntington, Ind., Jul 22, 2014 / 11:59 am (CNA).- Dignity of the human person, solidarity and care for creation are just a few topics author Brandon Vogt discusses in his new book, “Saints and Social Justice: A Guide to Changing the World.”

“I hope that this book is a ringing call to saintliness for all readers to say, ‘I want to be a saint and here’s the game plan for doing it,’” Vogt told CNA July 11.

The book focuses on seven basic themes of Catholic social teaching – life and dignity of the human person; call to family, community and participation; rights and responsibilities; option for the poor and vulnerable; dignity of work and the rights of workers; solidarity; and care for creation.

It uses examples of the saints to show how those themes can be lived out in daily life.

“There’s lots of books on Catholic social teaching that are helpful in terms of the theoretical principles they provide, but most of them are very abstract. That’s what makes Catholic social teaching difficult – it’s hard to apply.”

By providing readers with examples of how real people practiced the principles of Catholic social teaching, he hopes that readers will be able to more easily live them out themselves.

Vogt first became interested in learning more about the Church’s teaching on social justice when he converted from Protestantism in 2008. Like many young Evangelicals, he was “extremely enthusiastic” about social justice.

When he brought up these ideas to his fellow Catholics, he quickly realized that there were many negative connotations attached to the idea of social justice.

“The more I started reading and learning, I discovered that over the last several decades, these words and phrases have really been twisted and hijacked for all sorts of purposes, but why that worried me was that one of the things that led me to the Catholic Church was social teaching,” he explained.

In reading Church teachings, writings of the saints and encyclicals, he found a “disconnect” between what the Church actually taught and how certain words and phrases were interpreted “on the street.”

“I wanted to fix that, I wanted to sort of reclaim Catholic social teaching and give it an authentic presentation and I figured the best way to do that was by availing by the lives of the saints,” Vogt said.

For each of the Church’s teachings on social justice, Vogt chose two saints whose lives highlighted a particular principle.

The most important of the Church’s social teachings is belief in the dignity of the human person, which Vogt called “the first and most fundamental principle.”

“We believe that, for instance, it’s wrong to kill an unborn child, or an elderly person constrained to a wheelchair, because every person has inviolable dignity that was a result of them being created in the image and likeness of God,” he said.

“It’s that principle that drives everything that Catholics do to help the world whereas non-believers really don’t have a basis in the same way that religious people do, especially Catholics.”

In his book, Vogt chose Blessed Mother Teresa and St. Peter Claver to highlight this principle.

Mother Teresa not only dedicated her life to serving the poor, but she also brought them dignity by seeing them as Jesus in the “distressing disguise of the poor.” Similarly St. Peter Claver, who ministered to African slaves in South America, saw each person as a reflection of God and dedicated his life to living as “the Slave of the Slaves.”

Vogt said he also wanted a wide variety of saints in his book so a wide audience would find them relatable. He chose single or married members of the laity as well as religious and clergy of various ages and times in history to highlight the different parts of Catholic social teaching.

“We often times see the saints as museum pieces on pedestals that are unapproachable and unattainable, but really when you read this book and you read the stories of their own struggles, their own travails, their own difficulties and challenges, they’re in many ways a lot like us,” he explained.

Vogt is not only writing about social justice, he is also seeking to live it out, as evidenced by his decision to donate all royalties of the book to Catholic Charities.

“I’m in a position where I have a job, I have food and I have drink and I have a home, so I didn’t necessarily need the money,” he said. “I figured I’d put into practice what I was advocating throughout the entire book.”

“Saints and Social Justice” is available through Our Sunday Visitor publishing.

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St. Mary Magdalene
7/22/2014 12:00:00 AM
On July 22, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Mary Magdelene, one of the most prominent women mentioned in the New Testament. Her name comes from the town of Magdala in Galilee, where she originated. Scripture introduces her as a woman “who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out� (Lk. 8:2). Some scholars identify Mary Magdalene with the sinful woman who anointed the feet of Christ with oil in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Lk. 7:36-50). Others associate her with Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (Lk. 10:38-42, Jn. 11). Some believe the three figures to be one person, while others believe them to be three distinct individuals. What the Scriptures make certain about Mary Magdalene is that she was a follower of Christ, who accompanied and ministered to him (Lk. 8:2-3). The Gospels record her as being one of the women present at Christ’s crucifixion. In addition, she was the first recorded witness of the Resurrection. The Gospels all describe Mary Magdalene going to the tomb on Easter morning. When she saw that the tomb was empty, she stood outside, weeping. Jesus appeared to her and asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?� (Jn. 20:15) She did not recognize him, however, and thought he was the gardener, until he said her name, “Mary!� (Jn. 20:16) Upon hearing this, Mary recognized him. She returned to the grieving disciples to announce to them the message of the Resurrection. Pope Benedict XVI spoke about Mary Magdalene in his address before the Angelus on July 23, 2006. He referred to her as “a disciple of the Lord who plays a lead role in the Gospels.� The Pope recalled Mary Magdalene’s presence “beneath the Cross� on Good Friday, as well as how “she was to be the one to discover the empty tomb� on Easter morning. “The story of Mary of Magdala reminds us all of a fundamental truth,� Pope Benedict said. “A disciple of Christ is one who, in the experience of human weakness, has had the humility to ask for his help, has been healed by him and has set out following closely after him, becoming a witness of the power of his merciful love that is stronger than sin and death.�
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First Reading - Mic 7: 14-15, 18-20
7/22/2014 12:00:00 AM
14 Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thy inheritance, them that dwell alone in the forest, in the midst of Carmel: they shall feed in Basan and Galaad according to the days of old. 15 According to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt I will shew him wonders. 18 Who is a God like to thee, who takest away iniquity, and passest by the sin of the remnant of thy inheritance? he will send his fury in no more, because he delighteth in mercy. 19 He will turn again, and have mercy on us: he will put away our iniquities: and he will cast all our sins into the bottom of the sea. 20 Thou wilt perform the truth of Jacob, the mercy to Abraham: which thou hast sworn to our fathers from the days of old. 
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