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Feast of the Guardian Angels

Painting titled The Guardian Angel
Image: The Guardian Angel | Marcantonio Franceschini

Saint of the Day for October 2

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The Story of the Feast of the Guardian Angels

Perhaps no aspect of Catholic piety is as comforting to parents as the belief that an angel protects their little ones from dangers real and imagined. Yet guardian angels are not only for children. Their role is to represent individuals before God, to watch over them always, to aid their prayer, and to present their souls to God at death.

The concept of an angel assigned to guide and nurture each human being is a development of Catholic doctrine and piety based on Scripture but not directly drawn from it. Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:10 best support the belief: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

Devotion to the angels began to develop with the birth of the monastic tradition. Saint Benedict gave it impetus and Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, the great 12th-century reformer, was such an eloquent spokesman for the guardian angels that angelic devotion assumed its current form in his day.

A feast in honor of the guardian angels was first observed in the 16th century. In 1615, Pope Paul V added it to the Roman calendar.


Reflection

Devotion to the angels is, at base, an expression of faith in God’s enduring love and providential care extended to each person day in and day out.


Click here for more on angels!


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BREAKING: Pope Francis appeals to Putin for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine

Pope Francis dedicated nearly all of his Angelus address on Oct. 1 to the war in Ukraine. / Vatican News

Rome Newsroom, Oct 2, 2022 / 06:32 am (CNA).

Pope Francis made a direct appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin for an immediate ceasefire on Sunday, imploring him to end the “spiral of violence and death” in Ukraine.

Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace on Oct. 2, the pope dedicated nearly all of his Angelus address to the war in Ukraine.

“I deeply deplore the grave situation that has arisen in recent days … It increases the risk of nuclear escalation, giving rise to fears of uncontrollable and catastrophic consequences worldwide,” Pope Francis said.

“My appeal is addressed first and foremost to the president of the Russian Federation, imploring him to stop this spiral of violence and death, also for the sake of his people,” he said.

The pope also appealed to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to be “open to serious proposals for peace” and to the international community to “do everything possible to bring an end to the war without allowing themselves to be drawn into dangerous escalations.”

He said: “After seven months of hostilities, let us use all diplomatic means, even those that may not have been used so far, to bring an end to this terrible tragedy. War in itself is a mistake and a horror.”

The pope’s five-minute speech on the war in Ukraine from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square was a departure from his typical Sunday routine. The pope usually gives a reflection on the Church’s Sunday Gospel reading before praying the Angelus, a traditional Marian prayer, and speaking about his prayer intentions.

Pope Francis underlined that he chose to devote his entire reflection to Ukraine because the course of the war has “has become so serious, devastating, and threatening that it has caused great concern.”

“I am saddened by the rivers of blood and tears spilled in these months,” he said.

“I am grieved by the thousands of victims, especially children, and the destruction that has left many people and families homeless and threatens vast territories with cold and hunger. Such actions can never be justified, never!”

The pope has frequently mentioned Ukraine in his prayers at the end of his public audiences since the war began in February. Recently in a conversation with Jesuit priests during his trip to Kazakhstan, the pope said that he had attempted to help a prisoner swap between Ukraine and Russia.

“In the name of God and in the name of the sense of humanity that dwells in every heart, I renew my call for an immediate ceasefire,” Pope Francis said in his appeal.

“Let there be a halt to arms, and let us seek the conditions for negotiations that will lead to solutions that are not imposed by force, but consensual, just and stable. And they will be so if they are based on respect for the sacrosanct value of human life, as well as the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each country, and the rights of minorities and legitimate concerns.”

At the end of his Angelus address dedicated to Ukraine, the pope said that he has also been praying for the people of Florida and Cuba hit by Hurricane Ian

“May the Lord receive the victims, give consolation and hope to those who suffer, and sustain the solidarity efforts,” he said.

Francis added that he was praying for the victims of a stampede at the end of a soccer match in Indonesia, where at least 174 people died, according to the Associated Press.

Pope Francis also offered a reminder to the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square that a new light display on the life of St. Peter will be projected on the Vatican basilica each night for the first two weeks of October. Andrea Bocelli is slated to sing at the show’s inauguration on the night of Oct. 2.

More than ‘the nuts and bolts’: World’s newest bishops talk synodality in Rome

St. Peter's Basilica / Simone Savoldi / Unsplash (CC0)

Rome Newsroom, Oct 2, 2022 / 03:00 am (CNA).

The world’s newest bishops gathered in Rome last month to learn more about what it means to be a Catholic bishop.

While the week’s presentations spanned a range of topics, three U.S. bishops who attended told CNA that synodality emerged as a key theme.

The Vatican’s annual formation course, sometimes known by the nickname “baby bishop school,” was canceled for two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic — making the 2022 edition the largest yet, with approximately 330 participating bishops across two sessions.

“People kind of picture baby bishop school as nuts and bolts, like ‘how to be a bishop.’ It’s not that at all,” Bishop Erik Pohlmeier of the Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida, told CNA at the end of the course.

“It’s kind of whatever the Church is talking about at that time, bringing that to the bishops that are coming on board,” he said. “The synodal process has been ... a hallmark of conversation for the last couple of years, so now as we’re new bishops ... the reflections revolved around that.”

The seminar’s first session was primarily attended by bishops consecrated in 2019 and 2020, while the second session was mostly those who joined the ranks in 2021 and the first part of 2022.

Thirty-nine U.S. bishops and auxiliary bishops attended, divided between the two weeks.

Pohlmeier was the freshest U.S. bishop to join. He was ordained a bishop on July 22 — just two days after his 51st birthday and seven weeks before arriving in Rome for the Sept. 12–19 course. 

Speaking to CNA in Rome on Sept. 19, Pohlmeier said that as a new bishop, there are many things you do not know, but that’s where one’s fellow bishops come in.

“Every bishop knows other bishops,” he explained, like the bishop of the diocese where they served as a priest. “And they’re always, I mean to a person, helpful.”

Bishop Gregory Gordon, the first-ever auxiliary bishop of Las Vegas, Nevada, told CNA on Sept. 19 that the U.S. bishops’ conference also organizes meetings between bishops of the same ordination year, or “class,” as a way to build fraternity and create a network of support.

Bishop Gregory Gordon greets Pope Francis at the end of the course Sept. 19, 2022. Vatican Media
Bishop Gregory Gordon greets Pope Francis at the end of the course Sept. 19, 2022. Vatican Media

While the formal theme of this year’s seminar was how to announce the Gospel in changing times, Pohlmeier, Gordon, and Bishop Louis Tylka of Peoria, Illinois, said the unofficial topic of the week was synodality.

What they talked about

“We’re in the midst of the synod,” Tylka, who attended the seminar Sept. 1–8, told CNA by phone from his diocese. So the course, he added, focused on questions such as: “What does it mean to be a synodal Church? What is the ministry of the bishop in relation to that?”

Care for the planet and one’s neighbor, themes important to Pope Francis’ pontificate, were also a major part of the seminar, Tylka said.

The week’s presentations also covered child protection and the sexual abuse crisis.

“That’s one of those things that I think we will take home, saying we will be very, very careful not to neglect,” Gordon said. 

Some talks, Pohlmeier noted, were directly about synodality and what it means. At the same time, those of a more practical nature, such as canon law for bishops, “would always include some comment on the synodal approach.”

“You’re going to get different articulations of what that means depending on who you talk to, but in general, my understanding is that it is more of a listening posture,” the St. Augustine bishop said.

A bishop takes a photo of Pope Francis during their encounter on Sept. 19, 2022. Vatican Media
A bishop takes a photo of Pope Francis during their encounter on Sept. 19, 2022. Vatican Media

Bishop Gordon said Pope Francis himself modeled this listening attitude in their meeting with him on the final day of formation.

In the nearly two-hour meeting, he said most of the time was spent with the pope answering the bishops’ questions. “So you finished the course, [the pope] said. You’ve heard a lot already... Now I want to hear from you.”

This was Gordon’s big takeaway from the week: “It has to go back to the Holy Father’s words to us as he was answering our own questions, you know, asking us to exercise that episcopal closeness.”

The week also included time for communal prayer, Mass, adoration, and confession. 

Bishop Tylka of Peoria said his personal opinion is that “a big part of synodality is the willingness and openness to create space for people to share their stories, to share their own encounters with Christ, to share their own experiences of how life is going.”

“So I think the role of the bishop clearly is to model that openness and that willingness to engage in dialogue,” he said.

What (not) to wear

But there is also a lighter side to being a new bishop, as Pohlmeier evidenced with an amusing scene from the end of the week.

“Here we are, brand new and so ... we got instructions on what we’re supposed to wear to meet the pope,” Pohlmeier said.

He explained that bishops in the Latin Church have two main styles of a full-length garment called a cassock. The new bishops were told to meet the pope. They should wear a black cassock with red trim, a purple fascia, and a purple zucchetto. (There is also a purple cassock with red trim for special liturgical events.)

Pohlmeier said it was funny to watch the bishops get ready for Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and, afterward, the meeting with Pope Francis. Many of them were helping each other figure out where each piece of the complicated attire went — including the tall headpiece, called a mitre, which bishops wear to denote their office.

“Guys are literally opening up bags that haven’t been opened with miters from right there, from Euroclero,” Pohlmeier said, pointing over his shoulder in the direction of a clerical supply store next to St. Peter’s Square.

“You could see everybody that bought one this morning because they all matched,” he chuckled. “There were several people that were literally opening it up and pulling it out of the package and trying to get it on straight, and get things attached right, and not sure what clips go where and what’s right.”

“Those kinds of things are funny,” Pohlmeier said, “but nobody just tells you, ‘OK, buy this stuff, here’s what you need.’”

8 quotes from saints on guardian angels

null / Petra Homeier/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Oct 2, 2022 / 00:00 am (CNA).

On Oct. 2, the Catholic Church celebrates the memorial of the guardian angels.

Guardian angels are instruments of providence who protect their charges from suffering serious harm, and care for their salvation.

It is a theologically certain teaching that every one one of the faithful has his or her own guardian angel from baptism, and it is the general teaching of theologians that every human person has his or her own guardian angel from birth.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their [angels’] watchful care and intercession. ‘Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.’ Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God” (CCC, 336).

Several of our greatest saints have also shared their thoughts on guardian angels. Here’s what they had to say:

St. John Vianney: “Our guardian angels are our most faithful friends, because they are with us day and night, always and everywhere. We ought often to invoke them.”

St. John Bosco: “When tempted, invoke your angel. He is more eager to help you than you are to be helped. Ignore the devil and do not be afraid of him; he trembles and flees at the sight of your guardian angel.”

St. Jerome: “How great is the dignity of souls, that each person has from birth received an angel to protect it.”

St. Basil the Great: “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd, leading him to life.”

St. Bernard of Clairvaux: “We should show our affection for the angels, for one day they will be our co-heirs just as here below they are our guardians and trustees appointed and set over us by the father.”

St. Francis de Sales: “Make yourself familiar with the angels, and behold them frequently in spirit. Without being seen, they are present with you.”

St. Josemaría Escrivá: “If you remembered the presence of your angel and the angels of your neighbors, you would avoid many of the foolish things which slip into your conversations.”

St. John Cassian: “Cherubim means knowledge in abundance. They provide an everlasting protection for that which appeases God, namely, the calm of your heart, and they will cast a shadow of protection against all the attacks of malign spirits.”

The enduring legacy of St. Edmund Arrowsmith, martyred for celebrating the Mass

St. Edmund Arrowsmith | An altar display of items associated with 17th century English Martyr St. Edmund Arrowsmith. / Wikimedia (CC0) | Joseph Kellaway Burnell

Manchester, England, Oct 1, 2022 / 06:00 am (CNA).

As Mass finished on a recent late-summer Sunday morning in northern England, people sang heartily “Faith of Our Fathers,” the anthem to the men and women who were executed by Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

No sooner did the chords die down than the people started forming a solemn queue. As they passed by a small cylinder enclosing a withered hand — COVID’s aftermath means they still cannot touch or kiss the reliquary — each worshipper prayed a silent prayer.

The hand belongs to Edmund Arrowsmith, a priest who was executed for celebrating Mass in the 17th century.

An altar display of items associated with 17th-century English martyr St. Edmund Arrowsmith at the Church of St. Edmund and St. Oswald in Ashton-in-Makerfield, a former mining town midway between Liverpool and Manchester. Photo credit: Joseph Kellaway Burnell
An altar display of items associated with 17th-century English martyr St. Edmund Arrowsmith at the Church of St. Edmund and St. Oswald in Ashton-in-Makerfield, a former mining town midway between Liverpool and Manchester. Photo credit: Joseph Kellaway Burnell

Like other martyrs of that era, he was hanged until nearly unconscious and then cut down only to be dragged through the streets lying on a hurdle before arriving at his final execution spot, where he was cut open and mutilated. (Picture the final scene of the Mel Gibson movie “Braveheart,” when William Wallace is disemboweled.) As a further deterrent, his body parts were displayed prominently to scare others from defying the monarch.

Brave devotees salvaged these relics, which is how the hand of now St. Edmund Arrowsmith has pride of place in the Church of St. Edmund and St. Oswald in Ashton-in-Makerfield, a former mining town midway between Liverpool and Manchester.

“St. Edmund’s life and witness is an inspiration,” said Paul Hurst, a broadcast journalist and podcaster who has worked for the BBC. Hurst, seen here venerating a relic of St. Edmund Arrowsmith, was received into the Church at the first parish Mass to celebrate the saint post-lockdown in 2020. Photo credit: Joseph Kellaway-Burnell
“St. Edmund’s life and witness is an inspiration,” said Paul Hurst, a broadcast journalist and podcaster who has worked for the BBC. Hurst, seen here venerating a relic of St. Edmund Arrowsmith, was received into the Church at the first parish Mass to celebrate the saint post-lockdown in 2020. Photo credit: Joseph Kellaway-Burnell

A persecuted family

The Jesuit and martyr was born Brian Arrowsmith around 1585 into a Catholic family that was constantly harassed for practicing the “old” faith.

One uncle died in prison, and Arrowsmith had to be cared for by neighbors, as his parents were carried off to jail when he was a child. A relative of his mother’s, Father John Gerard, wrote the classic account of life as an illegal pastor in his book “Autobiography of a Hunted Priest.” Gerard was tortured in the Tower of London and staged a daring escape from the prison in which so many Catholics were incarcerated.

Given this heritage, it was no surprise the future saint became a priest. Using his confirmation name, Edmund, he served as a missionary from 1612 to 1622, when he was arrested and questioned by the Anglican bishop of Chester.

Arrowsmith was released when King James I of England ordered an amnesty for all arrested priests as part of negotiations to arrange a Spanish marriage for his son.

During this period, restrictions ranged from punitive to murderous, but for six years, Arrowsmith was able to travel around the northwest of England, tending to the needs of a far-flung flock. Sadly, his rebuke of a couple for their sexual immorality saw him reported to the authorities, and he tried to flee his pursuers on horseback.

The house where he was based is called Arrowsmith House in the village of Brindle near the city of Preston. Holy Mass is celebrated once a year in the upstairs room where St. Edmund said his final Mass before fleeing.

The house where St. Edmund Arrowsmith celebrated his last Mass. Credit: St Edmund Arrowsmith and St Oswald parish
The house where St. Edmund Arrowsmith celebrated his last Mass. Credit: St Edmund Arrowsmith and St Oswald parish

This time, there was no reprieve, as the horse refused to clear a ditch. He was kept overnight in the cellar of a local pub, where his captors used his money to buy beer.

Arrowsmith was kept in Lancaster Castle before his execution but not before another priest to be martyred, now St. John Southworth, heard his confession. (Southworth’s remains are enclosed in a case in Westminster Cathedral, London.)

After his execution in Lancaster, the Arrowsmith family kept St. Edmund’s hand as a relic before it went to its present home in 1929 — the year of his beatification. The saint was one of the 40 English martyrs canonized by St. Paul VI in 1970.

Current parish priest at the Church of St. Edmund, Father John Gorman, feels the weight of the saint’s history on his shoulders.

“I feel like I am the custodian of his legacy, which is a very big responsibility,” he said. “As I told the people in my homily for the feast day [Aug. 28] this year, we are not likely to be executed for our faith but what we believe is not popular in the current climate. We all have to have the same fidelity of St. Edmund.”

Current parish priest at the Church of St. Edmund, Father John Gorman, celebrates Mass in the chapel of the house where St. Edmund Arrowsmith said his last Mass before fleeing the authorities and his eventual martyrdom. Photo credit: Joseph Kellaway-Burnell
Current parish priest at the Church of St. Edmund, Father John Gorman, celebrates Mass in the chapel of the house where St. Edmund Arrowsmith said his last Mass before fleeing the authorities and his eventual martyrdom. Photo credit: Joseph Kellaway-Burnell

The rosary: common myths and facts

null / Vatican Media.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 1, 2022 / 02:00 am (CNA).

October is designated by the Catholic Church as the “Month of the Rosary.” Here are seven common myths and facts about this devotion to Our Lady.

Only Catholics can pray the rosary. 

False. While rosaries are typically associated with Catholics, non-Catholics can certainly pray the rosary — and in fact, many credit it with their conversion. Even some Protestants recognize the rosary as a valid form of prayer.

Praying the rosary is idolatry. 

False. Some have objections to the rosary, claiming it idolizes Mary and is overly repetitive. 

Just like any practice, the rosary could be abused — just as someone might idolize a particular pastor or priest, form of worship, or fasting. But the rosary itself is not a form of idolatry. 

The rosary is not a prayer to Mary — it is a meditation on the life of Christ revealed in five mysteries “with the purposes of drawing the person praying deeper into reflecting on Christ’s joys, sacrifices, sufferings, and the glorious miracles of his life.” 

When we pray the Hail Mary, we are not adoring Mary, we are asking for her intercession — just as we might ask a friend or family member to pray for us. 

Second, any prayer can lose its meaning if we do not intentionally meditate on it. Focusing on the mysteries with purpose and intention is key to the rosary’s transforming power. As one author encourages: “The rosary itself stays the same, but we do not.”

You can wear a rosary as a necklace.

It depends. It is typically considered disrespectful and irreverent to wear a rosary around one’s neck, even though the Church does not have an explicit declaration against doing so. 

However, Canon 1171 of the Code of Canon Law says that “sacred objects, set aside for divine worship by dedication or blessing, are to be treated with reverence. They are not to be made over to secular or inappropriate use, even though they may belong to private persons.”

It is important to treat the rosary with respect and intention. If you intend to wear the rosary as a piece of jewelry, this would not be respectful and should be avoided. It goes without saying that wearing the rosary as a mockery or gang symbol would be a sin. 

But if it is your intention to use the rosary and be mindful of prayer, then it could be permissible. It is not uncommon in some cultures, like in Honduras and El Salvador, to see the rosary respectfully worn around the neck as a sign of devotion.

Rosary rings or bracelets might be a better option if you want to keep your rosary close at hand as a reminder to pray, as they are kept more out of sight and would not be as easily misconstrued to be a piece of jewelry. 

The rosary is an extremist symbol.

False. A widely-shared Atlantic article this summer went viral for accusing the rosary of being an “extremist symbol.” 

“Just as the AR-15 rifle has become a sacred object for Christian nationalists in general, the rosary has acquired a militaristic meaning for radical-traditional (or “rad trad”) Catholics,” the article read.

The author also cited the Church’s stance on traditional marriage and the sanctity of life as evidence of “extremism” and claimed that Catholics’ tendency to call the rosary a “weapon in the fight against evil” as dangerous. 

As CNA reported this year, popes have urged Catholics to pray the rosary since 1571 — often referring to the rosary as a prayer “weapon” and most powerful spiritual tool. 

The rosary is not biblical.

Untrue! Most of its words come directly from Scripture.

First, the Our Father is prayed. The words of the Our Father are those Christ taught his disciples to pray in Matthew 6:9–13.

The Hail Mary also comes straight from the Bible. The first part, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,” comes from Luke 1:28, and the second, “Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,” is found in Luke 1:42.

Finally, each of the decades prayed on the rosary symbolizes an event in the lives of Jesus and Mary. The decades are divided into four sets of mysteries: Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious, the majority of which are found in Scripture. 

A rosary bead, or pea, can kill you.

Somewhat true. A rosary pea, or abrus seed, is a vine plant native to India and parts of Asia. The seeds of the vine, which are red with black spots, are often used to make beaded jewelry — including rosaries. Rosary pea seeds contain a toxic substance called abrin, which is a naturally-occurring poison that can be fatal if ingested. However, it’s unlikely for someone to get abrin poisoning just from holding a rosary made from abrus seeds, as one would have to swallow them. 

Today, most rosaries are made from other non-toxic materials, such as olive wood, plastic, or glass — eliminating this concern.

Carrying a rosary can protect you.

True. The rosary has proven to be a miraculous force for protecting those of faith and bestowing upon them extra graces, such as the victory of the Christian forces at the Battle of Lepanto after St. Pius V implored Western Christians to pray the rosary.

Many great saints across history, including Pope John Paul II, Padre Pio, and Lucia of Fatima, have also recognized the rosary as the most powerful weapon in fighting the real spiritual battles we face in the world. 

We know that spiritual warfare is a real and present danger: “For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:11–12). 

“The Rosary is a powerful weapon to put the demons to flight and to keep oneself from sin … If you desire peace in your hearts, in your homes, and in your country, assemble each evening to recite the Rosary. Let not even one day pass without saying it, no matter how burdened you may be with many cares and labors,” Pope Pius XI said. 

House of saints: Visiting St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s home has inspired conversions

The backyard of St. Thérèse’s childhood home in Lisieux, France. / Photo credit: Courtney Mares

Rome Newsroom, Oct 1, 2022 / 01:00 am (CNA).

Scenes from St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s beloved spiritual autobiography “Story of a Soul” come alive when walking through the rooms of her childhood home in northern France.

The red brick home in Lisieux in the region of Normandy nurtured a household of saints under one roof.

In addition to the youngest doctor of the church, Thérèse’s parents, Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin, were canonized together in 2015, and the cause of her older sister, Léonie, is currently being examined by the Vatican.

Sister Veronique, a Carmelite who assists visitors to St. Thérèse’s childhood home, told CNA that visits to the house have resulted in “many conversions.”

“People are very touched by the witness of the Martin family when they come into this house. They realize how much love was exchanged between the parents and the children,” she said.

“They feel that love and that this house has a soul.”

The front of the Martin family home at 22 Chemin des Buissonnets. Photo credit: Courtney Mares
The front of the Martin family home at 22 Chemin des Buissonnets. Photo credit: Courtney Mares

The Martin family settled in the house in Lisieux in 1877 after Thérèse’s mother, Zélie, died of cancer when Thérèse was only 4 years old.

Thérèse was the ninth child in the family — four of her siblings, two of whom were boys, died before she was born.

After the death of his wife, Louis Martin “educated his girls well by placing God at the forefront of the family,” Sister Veronique said.

“He went to Mass every morning and when his daughters saw their father pray, they imagined him as a saint. Truly all of the Martin girls realized that they had parents who were saints and followed their example.”

Thérèse chose her older sister Pauline as her “second mother.” When Thérèse learned that Pauline planned to enter the local Carmelite convent as a cloistered religious sister, she was very distressed and eventually became ill. Her father asked for a novena of Masses to be offered for 10-year-old Thérèse’s healing. His prayers were soon answered.

The bedroom where St. Thérèse was healed by the “Virgin’s smile.”. Photo credit: Courtney Mares
The bedroom where St. Thérèse was healed by the “Virgin’s smile.”. Photo credit: Courtney Mares

In Thérèse’s bedroom, on the second floor of the house, one can stand in the spot where a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary smiled at Thérèse and she experienced a miraculous healing on May 13, 1883.

Thérèse recounted the event in “Story of Soul”: “I turned to my Heavenly Mother, begging her from the bottom of my heart to have pity on me. Suddenly the statue seemed to come to life and grow beautiful, with a divine beauty that I shall never find words to describe. The expression of Our Lady’s face was ineffably sweet, tender, and compassionate, but what touched me to the very depths of my soul was her gracious smile.”

With the grace of the smile from the Blessed Virgin, Thérèse was cured. The white Marian statue currently in Thérèse’s bedroom is a copy of the original, which can be found above the shrine in the Carmelite chapel in Lisieux.

Hanging on the wall in the bedroom is St. Thérèse’s real hair, cut before she entered Carmel.

The dining room contains the original table where Thérèse ate her last family meal before she entered Carmel. Photo credit: Courtney Mares
The dining room contains the original table where Thérèse ate her last family meal before she entered Carmel. Photo credit: Courtney Mares

The dining room contains the original kitchen table and chairs where the Martin family would gather for their daily meals. The clock on the wall is signed “Louis Martin” by Thérèse’s father, who was both a jeweler and a clockmaker.

Sister Veronique’s favorite story from the life of St. Thérèse took place near the fireplace where Thérèse received a “Christmas grace” of complete conversion at the age of 14 in 1886.

The Little Flower wrote: “I knew that when we reached home after Midnight Mass I should find my shoes in the chimney-corner, filled with presents, just as when I was a little child, which proves that my sisters still treated me as a baby.”

However, Thérèse overheard her father complaining that she was too old to behave like such a little child. Though greatly upset, she did not cry, as she would have before.

“Choking back my tears, I ran down to the dining-room, and, though my heart beat fast, I picked up my shoes, and gaily pulled out all the things, looking as happy as a queen.”

Thérèse pinpointed this moment as the time that she “regained, once for all, the strength of mind which she had lost at the age of four and a half.”

Less than two years later, Thérèse left the childhood home where she had spent 11 years of her life and entered the Carmel, where she remained until her death from tuberculosis at 24 years of age on Sept. 30, 1897. Her house has been a place of pilgrimage since 1913.

“My mission — to make God loved — will begin after my death,” she said before she died. “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses.”

Caption: St. Thérèse’s tomb is a short walk from her childhood home in the Carmel of Lisieux. Photo credit: Courtney Mares
Caption: St. Thérèse’s tomb is a short walk from her childhood home in the Carmel of Lisieux. Photo credit: Courtney Mares

Seeking to build on papal visit, Canada’s bishops stress indigenous reconciliation

Pope Francis meets with clerics, consecrated persons, seminarians and pastoral workers of Canada at the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec in Quebec City, July 28, 2022. / Vatican Media

Denver Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

Indigenous issues were at the forefront when about 90 Catholic bishops met in Cornwall, Ontario for the Canadian bishops’ 2022 plenary assembly.

“2022 has been a historic year for listening, learning and working to rebuild longstanding relationships that have been profoundly damaged by the legacy of residential schools,” Bishop Raymond Poisson, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Sept. 29.

“Pope Francis apologized on behalf of the Church for the sins of her children, acknowledged the catastrophic impact of the residential school system and called on us to promote the rights of Indigenous Peoples and to favor processes of healing and reconciliation,” said Poisson, who heads Quebec’s Diocese of Saint-Jérôme - Mont-Laurier.

The residential school system was set up by the Canadian government, beginning in the 1870s, as a means to forcibly assimilate indigenous children and strip them of familial and cultural ties. Both Catholic and Protestant groups ran the schools, with Catholics responsible for the majority of them. 

The schools were poorly supervised and funded. The students received a poor education and lived in substandard housing. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in a 2015 report estimated that 4,100 to 6,000 students died as a result of disease, injury, neglect, or abuse over the decades. Tuberculosis was a major killer, as was influenza. As late as 1945, the death rate among indigenous children at the schools was almost five times the death rate of other Canadian children the same age.

The Canadian bishops’ conference president emphasized the need for continued action.

“We know that this is a journey that requires long-term commitment, dialogue and consultation, and we pray that our discussions at this plenary have been a meaningful step towards a more hopeful future,” Poisson commented.

Canadian bishops pledged continued dialogue and relationship-building with Canada’s indigenous people, known as First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. Indigenous delegations to Rome in March and the papal visit in July saw “respectful collaboration” between the Catholic Church and local, regional, and national indigenous leaders. The bishops hope to make this kind of collaboration more effective and permanent.

Poisson, writing on behalf of the Canadian bishops, sent a Sept. 26 letter thanking Pope Francis for his visit to Canada.

“There can be no question that it has left a profound and lasting mark on Canada, Indigenous Peoples, and the local and universal Church,” said the letter. He said the Roman Pontiff’s presence and his words of healing and reconciliation have helped the bishops take steps toward “a more hopeful future.”

The bishops’ meeting pledged to continue providing documentation and records to help residential school survivors and researchers find the truth, in the face of cumbersome processes to identify and request records. They have approved guidelines for dioceses across Canada, emphasizing “transparency and simplicity.”

While the historic injustices against indigenous people have been discussed for decades, the residential schools again became a major issue in Canada in mid-2021 when researchers reported preliminary findings of what appeared to be graves of students near former residential schools. 

News reports erroneously depicted the possible graves as “mass graves” and often failed to clarify that the findings had not been confirmed by exhumation and other analysis. It is also possible that any graves are from community graveyards and include remains of non-students and non-indigenous peoples of the area, including residential school staff and their families.

The reaction to the reports helped inspire a wave of vandalism and arson against Catholic churches, including some churches on indigenous land which still serve indigenous Catholics. The attacks drew condemnation from indigenous leaders. Canada’s national statistical office, Canada Statistics, reported a 260% spike in anti-Catholic hate crimes in 2021.

Catholic outreach efforts continue. 

The Canadian bishops’ meeting pledged continued support for Catholic institutions, seminaries, and religious communities that foster a greater understanding of indigenous culture, language and spiritual traditions and values. They hoped that this support would lead to more direct encounters with indigenous communities and help non-indigenous clergy and laity hear indigenous perspectives, “with attention to the issues of colonization and residential schools.”

The bishops voiced recognition for “the contribution of Indigenous culture and wisdom to our future life in Canada.” They will stand in solidarity with indigenous peoples in “their stewardship of the land and the goods of Creation, the gifts of the Creator.” They will work with local community leaders to support the spiritual well-being of young people and to address social challenges like poverty, suicide, violence, and incarceration.

They reiterated support for the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund, which accepts donations from 73 Catholic dioceses across Canada to support reconciliation initiatives. The fund has raised $5.5 million and is “on track” to exceed its $30 million goal over five years.

The bishops said they would continue dialogue with the Vatican on issues indigenous delegates and representatives have identified. They are actively working with the Vatican to issue a new statement on the “Doctrine of Discovery,” principles of sovereignty and conquest found in some papal documents dating to the expeditions of European exploration in the 15th century, especially disputes between Spain and Portugal.

The bishops’ conference website provides documents on this subject, including the April 27, 2010 remarks of Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the apostolic nuncio leading the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations. 

Migliore said that the documents supposedly behind the “Doctrine of Discovery” were rendered irrelevant by successive documents or changing circumstances only a few years after they were issued.  He emphasized papal teaching in support of indigenous people, including the 1537 papal bull Sublimis Deus.

“Canada’s Bishops continue to reject and resist ideas associated with the Doctrine of Discovery in the strongest way possible,” the bishops’ conference said Sept. 29. They pledged continued support for the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The gathering was the first in-person plenary meeting since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Bishop Poisson, in his report to the bishops, discussed ongoing child abuse prevention efforts and the Synod on Synodality. He also noted that the new French-language version of the Roman Missal was implemented across the country. The bishops’ new National Program for Priestly Formation has been published and implemented. His report anticipated new resources to help dioceses form lay ministers of catechist, lector, and acolyte in keeping with Pope Francis’ apostolic letters.

Catholics converge on DC for a week of prayer and fasting

The International Week of Prayer and Fasting kicks off on Saturday, Oct. 1 at the National Basilica in Washington, DC. / The International Week of Prayer and Fasting (IWOPF)

Denver, Colo., Sep 30, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

On Saturday, Oct. 1, Catholics from around the world will once again kick off a week of prayer and fasting at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. 

Prayer and fasting are needed now more than ever, Maureen Flynn, founder of The International Week of Prayer and Fasting (IWOPF) told CNA. 

“It seems to be a real battle between the forces of darkness and the forces of light,” she said. 

The IWOPF is a grassroots movement made up of churches, schools, communities, and clergy who come together to pray and fast. In 2022, for the 30th IWOPF, Catholics everywhere are invited to pray for five intentions: the conversion of all peoples, to build a culture of life, defend the sanctity of marriage, for God’s mercy, and for all priests and vocations. 

The week of prayer and fasting will culminate in the National Rosary Rally at the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 9. The events cap a 54-day rosary novena prayed by Catholics around the country, which begins each year on Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and ends on Oct. 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Catholics joining in prayer for the 2019 IWOPF. IWOPF
Catholics joining in prayer for the 2019 IWOPF. IWOPF

Speakers at this year’s event include Bishop Joseph Coffey, who will offer the opening Mass on Oct. 1. Also speaking are Father Francis Peffley; Dave and Joan Maroney, founders of MOMM, a Divine Mercy apostolate; Father Robert Altier; and Ted and Maureen Flynn, the founders of IWOPF, and several others. 

In an interview with CNA, Maureen Flynn talked about the moment she decided to take action and get others to join in prayer and fasting. She recalled that in 1989 she was reading a newspaper article about some grandmothers who said they were for abortion.

“I was appalled,” she said. Soon after, she called a good friend and brought up the idea of starting a day of prayer. 

“Because this is ridiculous. These are grandmothers and they’re thinking it’s fine to kill children,” she remembers telling him.

However, instead of a single day of prayer, he suggested an entire week. The following year, the first conference was held in front of the U.S. Capitol. Approximately 500 people attended.

In 1997, the event was moved to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. That was also the year Mother Teresa was scheduled to be the keynote speaker. The event would be held on Oct. 5, 1997. However, Mother Teresa would not be in attendance. The now-saint died one month before, on Sept. 5. 

Flynn recalled that Mother Teresa had been very enthusiastic about the project.

“I remember at one point, she said, ‘My daughter, you must do this. God wants this. Prayer is the answer to the world's problems.’ I'll never forget what she said. So I think that gave us encouragement,” she said.

St. John Paul II also gave the organization two apostolic blessings, one in 1997 and the other in 2001. Pope Francis also gave his apostolic blessing to participants at the 22nd conference.

EWTN’s foundress, Mother Angelica, was the keynote speaker in 2000 and gave a talk on the Lord in the Eucharist. Jim Caviezel joined the conference in 2003 as the keynote speaker after finishing the filming of “The Passion of the Christ.” 

Flynn told CNA that she is encouraged by how much more receptive Catholics are to prayer and fasting now. 

“Years ago it was like pulling teeth to try to get people to see the importance of the rosary and fasting. Now I hear people saying, ‘Tell me how to fast, and could you recommend some good books on fasting,’” she said.

Flynn feels optimistic about other aspects of the Church as well.

“There are prayer networks everywhere now, compared with 30 years ago. The prayer networks are amazing. They give me great hope,” she added. 

“There’s a lot of great ministries out there compared with 30 years ago; there are many Marian groups, many pro-life groups, a lot of publishers; there are just tremendous ministries out there now that weren’t there before,” she said. “So although the battle seems to be intensifying, you see the great goodness going on.”

This year’s conference will also be held virtually in addition to in person. The week’s events will be live-streamed on the IWOPF website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel beginning Oct. 1. 

LGBT organizations in Spain are pressuring the government to pass the ‘trans law’

null / Juanje Garrido/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Sep 30, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Three LGBT organizations have met with the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), the main party of the governing coalition in Spain, seeking the passage of the “trans law” before the close of the legislature at the end of next year.

The State Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Trans, Bisexuals, Intersexuals, and more (FELTBI+); the Triangle Foundation; and the Chrysallis association, made up of families of minors who have declared themselves transgender, have put pressure on the PSOE due to the division in the socialist ranks on the proposed law.

LGBT organizations fear that the debate between the feminists inside and outside the PSOE — those who deny that any man can define himself as a woman by his own volition and those who think it’s possible — will end up scuttling the law.

There are also members of Podemos, the party of the governing coalition, who oppose the law.

These members point out that they reached an agreement with the government on this law, “so there is no possibility that its going through the legislative process will be delayed or drawn out” as pro-family organizations have requested through a campaign.

Changing one’s sex in the Civil Registry

The Council of Ministers approved June 29 the bill titled “For the Real and Effective Equality of Trans People and for the Guarantee of LGTBI Rights,” known as the “trans law,” promoted by the Ministry of Equality. The council’s approval has allowed the bill to go through the legislative process, which has now begun.

The law provides that one can change one’s name and sex in the Civil Registry by submitting a statement, without providing medical reports, having started cross-sex hormonal treatments, or needing judicial authorization.

In the case of minors, a judge’s approval would be mandatory from the age of 12 and parental permission is required between the ages of 14 and 16. Those over 16 years but not yet 18 are considered to have reached the age of majority — the age when one is considered an adult as recognized by law — so they would be able to make the change upon request.

The General Council of the Judiciary, the governing body of judges, questioned various aspects of the law. On the registry issue, it issued a report that calls for the limit to claim a change of sex in the Civil Registry  upon request to be raised to at least 18 years of age.

Thus, the procedure requiring the approval of a judge who has to determine at least level of maturity or the stability of the person’s will in order to proceed with the change of sex in the Civil Registry would be extended until the age of majority, which is 18 in Spain.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.