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Sister Wilhelmina’s body placed in glass case after solemn rosary procession
Posted on 05/30/2023 04:02 AM (CNA Daily News)
Gower, Missouri, May 29, 2023 / 20:02 pm (CNA).
The body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, an African American nun whose surprisingly intact remains have created a sensation at a remote Missouri abbey, was placed inside a glass display case Monday after a solemn procession led by members of the community she founded.
About 5 p.m., dozens of religious sisters of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, carried their foundress on a platform around the property of the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus, reciting the rosary and singing hymns. Some of the thousands of pilgrims who visited the abbey over the three-day Memorial Day weekend followed behind.
Beautiful procession of the remains of Sr. Wilhelmina Lancaster, a Benedictine nun who died in 2019 and now appears to be in an unexpected state of preservation. Her new resting place is inside the church at the sisters’ monastery in Gower, MO. pic.twitter.com/Ax9uYPKXYv— Joe Bukuras (@JoeBukuras) May 29, 2023
The procession, held in bright, late-afternoon sunshine, culminated inside the abbey’s church, where the nun’s body was placed into a specially made glass case. Flowers surrounded her body and decorated the top of the case, where there is an image of St. Joseph holding the Child Jesus. The church was filled with pilgrims, including many priests and religious sisters from other orders.
Sister Wilhelmina, who founded the Benedictine order in 1995 when she was 70 years old, died in 2019. Expecting to find only bones, her fellow sisters exhumed her remains on May 18 intending to reinter them in a newly completed St. Joseph’s Shrine, only to discover that her body appeared astonishingly well-preserved.
The sisters say they intended to keep their discovery quiet, but the news got out anyway, prompting worldwide media coverage and a flood of pilgrims arriving at the abbey in Gower, a city of 1,500 residents about an hour’s drive from Kansas City, Missouri. A volunteer told CNA that more than 1,000 vehicles came onto the property on Monday but no official count was available.
There has been no official declaration that Sister Wilhelmina's remains are “incorrupt,” a possible sign of sanctity, nor is there a formal cause underway for her canonization, a rigorous process that can take many years. The local ordinary, Bishop Vann Johnston of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, has said that a “thorough investigation” is needed to answer “important questions” raised by the state of her body, but there has been no word on if or when such an analysis will take place.
Before Monday's procession, pilgrims again waited in line throughout the day for an opportunity to see and touch Sister Wilhelmina’s body before its placement in the glass case, where it will remain accessible for public viewing.
Among those who came on Monday were Tonya and William Kattner, of Excelsior Springs, Missouri.
“You've got to experience the magic and the miracle of it,” Tonya Kattner said.
“It’s a modern-day miracle and it was just something we had to come to,” William Kattner said. “Especially with everything going on in the world today, something like this brings hope.”
Kate and Peteh Jalloh, of Kansas City, Missouri, also didn't want to pass up the chance to see Sister Wilhelmina.
“I strongly believe in the Catholic faith. I believe in miracles and I have never seen anything like this before. I’ve got a lot going on in my life and this is the best time to get that message from a nun,” Kate Jalloh said.
“It could take another hundred years for us to see something like this,” she added.
Janie Bruck came with her cousins, Kristy Cook and Halle Cook, all from Omaha, Nebraska.
“I came to witness the miracle. I believe we’re in a Jesus revolution and he’s sending us lots of signs,” Bruck said. Kristy Cook, a former Omaha police officer, said she was surprised that Sister Wilhelmina’s body had no odor of decay.
The sisters have publicly thanked the many local law enforcement officers, medical personnel, and volunteers who helped manage the influx of pilgrims over the holiday weekend.
Among the volunteers was Lucas Boddicker, of Kearney, Missouri, who joined members of his Knights of Columbus council based at St. Anne’s Catholic Church in nearby Plattsburgh, Missouri, to guide visiting vehicles to a makeshift parking lot in an open field. Other knights from local parishes helped set up tents and handed out free hamburgers, fruit, and bottles of water.
“That’s one thing the Knights do pretty well,” Boddicker said. “They get the word out when we need manpower.”
Priests heard confessions in a large grass field for hours, some using trees for shade, as young children played on the abbey grounds.
Three religious sisters from the Poor of Jesus Christ order, based in Kansas City, Kansas, said they were inspired by seeing Sister Wilhelmina’s body.
One of the religious, Sister Azucena, said she “wanted to cry,” while praying at the nun’s side. “I just had this feeling of peace and love. We share a vocation. Her fidelity to the Lord and her love, I could feel that there,” she said.
A married couple, Jason and Jessica Ewell, both of whom are blind, were visiting Kansas City, Missouri, from Pennsylvania when they heard Monday morning about Sister Wilhelmina’s body.
“It’s just kind of a neat thing to be a part of the beginning of this story,” Jessica Ewell said.
“I was asking for her intercession for children for our marriage,” she said. “A lot of people think ‘Oh, it’s the blindness,’ but no, it’s not that at all,’” she said.
“Yesterday I was kind of in a place where I said, ‘God, I need something right now,’” she said. “We always hear about these miracles. But they’re long ago and far away and always happen to other people.”
Trish Bachicha, Jessica’s mother, said she believes that God is sending a message.
“He saying ‘I’m alive and well and I haven’t forgotten you,’” she said.
PHOTOS: Discover 8 beautiful images of the Virgin Mary in St. Peter’s Basilica
Posted on 05/29/2023 18:30 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, May 29, 2023 / 10:30 am (CNA).
To honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Vatican offers a special Marian pilgrimage within St. Peter’s Basilica each Saturday afternoon during the month of May.
The Marian itinerary brings pilgrims from Michelangelo’s marble sculpture of the Pieta to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a 12th-century painting brought into the basilica in 1578 in a solemn procession.
For those unable to travel to the Eternal City, CNA is providing the following "virtual tour" with photos by Daniel Ibañez of eight beautiful images of Our Lady in St. Peter’s Basilica for the feast of Mary, Mother of the Church.
In the basilica’s Chapel of the Choir, a large altarpiece reveals Mary, Virgin Immaculate, in the glory of heaven above angels and saints. The mosaic based on an 18th-century painting by Italian artist Pietro Bianchi depicts St. John Chrysostom St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Anthony of Padua venerating the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The chapel is located on the left side of the basilica behind an iron gate designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. St. John Chrysostom is buried beneath the altar, which also contains relics of St. Francis and St. Anthony.
When Pope Pius IX declared the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary on December 8, 1854, he had a golden crown added to the mosaic of Mary. Pope Pius X later added a larger diamond crown to mark the 50th anniversary of the declaration in 1904.
The original painting by Bianchi can be found in Rome’s Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri.
Mother of the Church
The basilica contains an icon of the Virgin Mary titled “Mater Ecclesiae,” which means “Mother of the Church.”
The original image of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child was painted on a column in old St. Peter’s Basilica, built by Emperor Constantine in the fourth century. It was later transferred to the 16th-century St. Peter’s Basilica. Paul VI honored the icon with the title “Mater Ecclesiae” after the Second Vatican Council.
The icon can still be seen above one of the basilica’s side altars in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Column, which also contains the remains of Pope St. Leo the Great (440-461).
A mosaic of the Virgin Mary overlooking St. Peter’s Square was inspired by the original Mater Ecclesiae image. The mosaic was installed after the assassination attempt against St. John Paul II in 1981.
When he blessed the mosaic, John Paul II prayed “that all those who will come to this St. Peter’s Square will lift up their gaze towards you [Mary], to direct, with feelings of filial trust, their greetings and their prayers.”
In 2018, Pope Francis added the memorial of “Mary, Mother of the Church” to the liturgical calendar for the Monday after Pentecost.
Mother of Pilgrims
A restored 16th-century painting of Our Lady holding her son can be found in St. Peter’s Basilica above the sarcophagus of Pope Gregory XIV.
The image is titled “Mater Peregrinorum" or Mother of Pilgrims. The original artist is not known, but Italians also refer to the painting as the "Madonna di Scossacavalli” because it came from Rome’s Church of San Giacomo Scossacavalli, which was demolished in 1937 to create the current Via della Conciliazione leading to St. Peter’s Basilica.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help
A 12th-century painting on wood titled Our Lady of Perpetual Help, also known as Our Lady of Succor, was transferred to an altar in St. Peter’s Gregorian Chapel on February 12, 1578 with a solemn procession.
The painting was the first artistic restoration completed under Pope Francis’ pontificate during the Year of Faith, according to a book published by the Knights of Columbus.
The remains of the Doctor of the Church St. Gregory of Nazianzus (d. 390) are preserved in an urn beneath the Altar of Our Lady of Succor in the Gregorian Chapel, found on the right side of the basilica.
Ark of the Covenant
A colorful mosaic altarpiece of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary in the Temple brightens the wall above the tomb of Pope St. Pius X (d. 1914) in the Presentation Chapel near the left-front entrance of the basilica.
A young Mary is depicted on the steps of the Temple with her parents, Sts. Anne and Joachim, the grandparents of Jesus.
The mosaic completed by Pietro Paolo Cristofari in 1728 is based on a painting by 17th-century artist Giovanni Francesco Romaneli, the original of which can be found in Rome’s Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri.
Gate of Heaven
The central door leading to basilica was retained from the old St. Peter’s Basilica and is known as the Filarete Door. Created by a Florentine artist in 1455, the door depicts Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the apostles Sts. Peter and Paul.
According to Father Agnello Stoia, the pastor of the parish of St. Peter’s Basilica, the 15th-century image of Mary on the door is a reminder of Mary’s title, “Gate of Heaven.”
Queen Assumed into Heaven
Looking up at the soaring cupola, or dome, of St. Peter’s Basilica, one sees mosaics depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary next to Christ the Redeemer, along with St. John the Baptist and the apostles.
The mosaic of the Virgin Mary on the Great Dome, completed in 1610 by Orazio Gentileschi, is based on drawings by Italian Mannerist painter Giuseppe Cesari.
Mother of the Redeemer
Michelangelo Buonarroti carved the Pieta from a single slab of Carrara marble when he was 24-years old. The sculpture was unveiled in St. Peter's Basilica for the Jubilee of 1500.
The moving sculpture conveys the faith and emotion of the Blessed Virgin Mary as she cradles in her arms the dead body of her only son after witnessing him crucified.
The sculpture sits above a side-altar near the front entrance of St. Peter’s Basilica, where Mass was sometimes offered before recent restrictions. Visitors to the basilica can only see the Pieta behind bulletproof glass after a man attacked the sculpture with a hammer in May 1972.
The Pieta was the only work of art that Michelangelo ever signed.
Catholic ‘Shark Tank’: Startup founders pitch products with a purpose at SENT competition
Posted on 05/29/2023 15:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington D.C., May 29, 2023 / 07:00 am (CNA).
In a “Shark Tank”-style competition with a twist, Catholic founders recently pitched their startups and faced questions from a panel of judges while highlighting the importance of the Catholic faith in their businesses.
The event was the culmination of the SENT Ventures Summit at The Catholic University of America last month, a gathering of Catholic CEOs and founders looking to foster connections and grow in their faith.
Zak Slayback, a partner with the 1517 Fund, a venture capital fund supporting startups at early stages, is on the management team at the new Catholic investor group Catholic Angels, which hosted the event.
Slayback told the National Catholic Register that the competition “provided a chance for faith-driven entrepreneurs to present their startups to an audience of aligned partners and investors.” The winner took home $5,000 cash for their business as well as “credits for various startup resources, swag, and direct opportunities with SENT’s Catholic Angels investor network.”
The four early-stage startups selected as finalists were chosen out of more than 60 teams that applied to present at the competition. These four finalists told their stories to the judges, emphasizing their faith alignment, qualified team, user growth, the market for their product, and why the product works in today’s market.
Caring for the elderly
Nigel Mould, CEO at StackCare, talked about how his business was born out of the growing need to care for the elderly while preserving both their dignity and the peace of mind of caregivers.
“StackCare delivers alerts directly to family members and/or caregivers, and we do it all without being intrusive, while being HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliant, and making sure that we deliver on our core promise of dignity and independence for seniors and peace of mind for families,” Mould explained.
While their system is not a medical device, it does provide “insight to developing and/or potential problems: poor sleep, frequency or length of bathroom visits, skipping meals, activity levels, and much more.”
Mould said StackCare already has paid contracts in several states from Connecticut to California and is also establishing partnerships with paid installations at national home-care providers.
“The plea of the elderly in Psalm 71, ‘Do not cast me away when I am old,’ and the lack of caregivers today and in the future, for us is almost an invitation to use technology to allow seniors to age in place as they want to,” he said, “but at the same time letting families and caregivers know when they might need help.”
Reaching the Indian Catholic community
Tania Kottoor, founder and CEO of West by East, began her presentation by telling the story of a first-generation Indian-American woman who grew up in a Catholic community and also enjoyed watching Bollywood films, envisioning herself as a traditional bride in a sari.
When her wedding planning actually came around, she discovered a shortage of traditional options both online and in the few stores that were hours away. This scenario is how her company, West by East, was born, Kottoor recounted.
“Our customers can go to our website, they can select a silhouette, color, fabric; and then they can use their phone to take their measurements virtually in 60 seconds,” she said. “This allows us to capture their avatar, to create a 3-D rendering of the complete outfit on their actual body.”
“My co-founder and I have 20 years of experience in luxury fashion and manufacturing,” she said. “We both grew up in an Indian-Catholic community, as well as an immigrant household, and we realized that you need faith to succeed.”
“The values that we learned in church we brought into our business,” she continued. “Now, we have a crazy waitlist of over 2,000 folks, which equates to over half a million dollars in potential revenue. We have demand, but we’re at capacity. Now, we’re raising $1.2 million to be the market leader and to unlock that waitlist.”
She told the judges that their business has sold more than 1,500 units and 500 of those were to people of Catholic backgrounds. “We really lean into our own community to grow the business,” she said.
She hopes their business can one day expand to other diasporas like East Asian, African, and Middle Eastern communities. “I’ve seen so many brands come and go in the past few years,” she said. “No one’s doing it for other Catholics as well in all these diasporas.”
Making food safer
Paddy McNamara, the founder of Allera Tech, asked audience members to raise their hands if they knew someone with a food allergy.
“Almost all of us do,” he pointed out, then he shared a near-death experience he had due to his tree-nut allergy.
“It taught me that allergens are not just a problem for individuals with food allergies but [for] food manufacturers as well,” he said. “The average recall costs $10 million, and allergens are the No. 1 reason for recalls — so allergens are expensive. They’re also life-threatening.”
He said that for some of these food-manufacturing companies, “their quality-assurance data is entirely pen and paper. So right now, someone on the floor writes it down, pen and paper, hands it to a manager, who manually types it into Excel, and then it’s put into a filing cabinet for five to seven years for FDA audit.”
Allera Tech is addressing this circumstance with a software platform to input, store, and analyze data. The system, he said, would replace “pen and paper, which is prone to error.”
He explained that sanitizing and testing equipment for allergens currently takes a company about 15 minutes.
“For a food manufacturer, an hour of down time equates to about $40,000,” he said. “Some of these companies do hundreds of tests per week.”
In the longer term, his company is attempting to shorten the time involved in testing.
The company has several contracts with companies utilizing their software as well as a partnership with a top-10 food producer to build an allergen testing solution.
McNamara was raised Catholic but drifted from the Church. He had a turning point during volunteer experiences serving the poor in AmeriCorps for a year in Missouri and a few months in El Salvador.
“It was the mystics like Thomas Merton and Teresa de Ávila that taught me how God sustains us through intense service experiences,” he said. “I found myself just always returning to the Catholic expression that I left.”
Family bonding over stories
Francisco Cornejo, co-founder and CEO of the “Storybook” app, and his wife and co-founder, Daniela Vega, came up with the business idea after their experience moving from Ecuador to Australia with their two young children, then ages 1 and 3, as Cornejo was completing his master’s degree. Due to their busy schedule, there was stress and anxiety at home.
“Daniela realized that she needed to connect with the kids,” he said. “Through faith and prayer, she found out about infant massage and how this was such an important tool to connect through the importance of physical affection; and while she was practicing this with the kids, she used to tell them stories. She had an iPad and candles, and she’d create this fantastic bedtime routine.”
“The kids started to fight each other about who’s going to go first,” he said, “but, more meaningfully, that was the moment we started to really bond with them.”
Their award-winning Storybook app combines relaxation techniques like guided reading and infant massage with bedtime stories and music to improve families’ emotional well-being and physical health. The app is free to download with yearly subscription plans and also has partnerships with schools and health providers.
Their database of more than 100 original audio stories in Spanish, English, and Portuguese, including Bible stories, continues to grow and is for children ages infant through 12.
“Seventy-nine percent of the parents using Storybook told us that their kids are sleeping better [and] are sleeping up to four times faster,” Cornejo said. “Eighty-nine percent of them told us that they feel more connected with their kids. We have been the No. 1 app in 90 countries. We have been called the ‘best for bedtime’ by Apple. We have surpassed 2.5 million downloads, more than 10,000 five-star reviews.”
And the winner is…
While the judges showed interest and appreciation for all the pitches, the Storybook app won the evening. “The Storybook team impressed our panel of judges with their ability to identify a real problem and bring Christ in a solution to their audience,” Slayback said.
Cornejo told the Register via email that “being among faith-driven founders was inspiring, and winning was a true blessing. It has already opened doors, leading to promising conversations with potential advisers and investors.” He also praised the SENT Summit, calling it “a unique blend of faith and business, a testament to the transformative work God is leading us all to undertake.”
Vega saw the win as “a deeply touching affirmation of our mission.”
“We know that God does not inspire the impossible; we are sure that our company is the work of God and that he uses our small forces to put us to work to rescue the family that today is so attacked,” she said. “This is more than a job for us — it’s a calling.”
This article was first published May 18, 2023, at the National Catholic Register and is reprinted here on CNA with permission.
Post office in Kansas receives new name in honor of Father Emil J. Kapaun
Posted on 05/29/2023 14:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
Denver, Colo., May 29, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).
After several years in the making, the United States Post Office in Herington, Kansas, will be changing its name to the Captain Emil J. Kapaun Post Office Building on May 30. This endeavor was first introduced in 2021 through a bill written by U.S. Rep. Tracey Mann, who wished to honor the life of the great Kansan and American hero.
“Father Emil Kapaun was a man of God who served Jesus and his country honorably,” Mann said during his speech on the House floor on Oct. 20, 2021.
The May 30 ceremonial day will begin at 11:30 a.m. CST with a memorial Mass at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Herington. The Mass will be concelebrated by priests from both the Salina and Wichita dioceses.
The renaming dedication ceremony will follow at 1 p.m. CST at the post office. U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran and Rep. Ron Estes are scheduled to attend the event. The public is invited to enjoy refreshments afterward and visit Kapaun’s Medal of Honor and Taegeuk, the Korean Medal of Honor, which will be on display.
Kapaun was born in Pilsen, Kansas, on April 20, 1916. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Wichita on June 9, 1940. Four years later, he began at the U.S. Army Chaplain School at Fort Devens (Massachusetts) and was later sent overseas to serve troops during the Korean War.
During his time in Korea, Kapaun regularly celebrated Mass, at times on the battlefield using the hood of a jeep as a makeshift altar. He brought the sacraments to troops, tended to the injured, and prayed with them in the foxholes.
In 1950, during the Battle of Unsan, Kapaun was captured along with other soldiers by communists. They were taken to a prison camp in Pyoktong, North Korea. While in the camp, Kapaun would regularly steal food for his fellow prisoners and managed to tend to their spiritual needs despite a prohibition on prayer.
Kapaun died on May 23, 1951, after months of malnutrition and pneumonia. He was named a Servant of God in 1993, his cause for canonization opened in June 2008, and he received the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama in 2013.
In March 2021, his remains were identified by investigators from the Department of Defense. It was determined that the priest’s remains were among nearly 900 unidentified soldiers buried at the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.
Kapaun’s remains returned to his hometown of Pilsen in September 2021. Their arrival marked 70 years since the American hero had died in a prisoner of war camp at the age of 35.
During his funeral Mass on Sept. 29, 2021, Bishop Carl Kemme said Kapaun’s ministry as a chaplain was characterized by “a sacrificial and selfless love of others, especially his beloved fellow soldiers … The accounts of his service to his fellow soldiers in those last months, his fellow POWs, reveal so much of the man whose body we honor today with Christian burial. His love was simple, effective, selfless, and deep.”
Vatican releases pastoral reflection on Christian engagement with social media
Posted on 05/29/2023 12:30 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, May 29, 2023 / 04:30 am (CNA).
Attention #CatholicTwitter and keyboard warriors: The Vatican has released recommendations for how to better “love your neighbor” on social media.
The 20-page text, “Towards Full Presence: A Pastoral Reflection on Engagement with Social Media,” published on May 29, addresses the challenges Christians face in using social media.
Topics covered in the pastoral reflection include information overload, constant scrolling, not giving others one’s full attention, being an “influencer,” witnessing to Christ, “digital detox,” the need for silence, intentional listening, and building community in a fragmented world.
“One significant cognitive challenge of digital culture is the loss of our ability to think deeply and purposefully,” it warns. “We scan the surface and remain in the shallows, instead of deeply pondering realities.”
The Vatican Dicastery for Communication published the document, which was signed by its lay prefect Paolo Ruffini and its Argentine secretary Monsignor Lucio A. Ruiz, who cite many of Pope Francis’ speeches from past World Communications Days.
The text is “not meant to be precise ‘guidelines’ for pastoral ministry,” the dicastery clarified, but seeks to promote a common reflection on how to foster meaningful and caring relationships on social media.
Robbing our attention
The Vatican’s pastoral reflection posits that social media’s constant demand for people’s attention “is similar to the process through which any temptation enters into the human heart and draws our attention away from the only word that is really meaningful and life-giving, the Word of God.”
“Different websites, applications, and platforms are programmed to prey on our human desire for acknowledgment, and they are constantly fighting for people’s attention. Attention itself has become the most valuable asset and commodity,” it says.
“Instead of focusing on one issue at a time, our continuous partial attention rapidly passes from one topic to the other. In our ‘always on’ condition, we face the temptation to post instantly since we are physiologically hooked on digital stimulation, always wanting more content in endless scrolling and frustrated by any lack of updates.”
The text highlights the need for silence and for schools, families, and communities to carve out times for people to detach from digital devices.
It warns that space for “deliberate listening, attentiveness, and discernment of the truth is becoming rare.”
“Without silence and the space to think slowly, deeply, and purposefully, we risk losing not only cognitive capacities but also the depth of our interactions, both human and divine.”
Social media pitfalls
The document raises red flags about “pitfalls to avoid” with social media, such as aggressive and negative speech shared under the “cloak of pseudonymity.”
“Along the ‘digital highways’ many people are hurt by division and hatred. We cannot ignore it. We cannot be just silent passersby. In order to humanize digital environments, we must not forget those who are ‘left behind.’ We can only see what is going on if we look from the perspective of the wounded man in the parable of the Good Samaritan,” it says.
The text notes how algorithms’ content personalization can reinforce people’s own opinions without exposure to other ideas, which at times can lead to “encouraging extreme behaviors.”
It also raises concerns about how social media companies treat people as commodities whose “profiles and data are sold.” The text underlines that social media “is not free: We are paying with minutes of our attention and bytes of our data.”
The text adds: “Increasing emphasis on the distribution and trade of knowledge, data, and information has generated a paradox: In a society where information plays such an essential role, it is increasingly difficult to verify sources and the accuracy of the information that circulates digitally.”
From being an ‘influencer’ to a witness
The text highlights how “every Christian should be aware of his or her potential influence, no matter how many followers he or she has.”
“Our social media presence usually focuses on spreading information. Along these lines, presenting ideas, teachings, thoughts, spiritual reflections, and the like on social media needs to be faithful to the Christian tradition,” it says.
It recommends that Christians should take care to be “reflective not reactive on social media” to ensure that the way one treats others online is in itself a witness.
“We should all be careful not to fall into the digital traps hidden in content that is intentionally designed to sow conflict among users by causing outrage or emotional reactions,” it says. “We must be mindful of posting and sharing content that can cause misunderstanding, exacerbate division, incite conflict, and deepen prejudices.”
One question the text encourages Christians to reflect on is whether their social media posts are pursuing “followers” for themselves or for Christ.
“What does it mean to be a witness? The Greek word for witness is ‘martyr,’ and it is safe to say that some of the most powerful ‘Christian influencers’ have been martyrs,” it says.
It urges people to remember that “there were no ‘likes’ at all and almost no ‘followers’ at the moment of the biggest manifestation of the glory of God! Every human measurement of ‘success’ is relativized by the logic of the Gospel.”
“While martyrdom is the ultimate sign of Christian witness, every Christian is called to sacrifice himself or herself: Christian living is a vocation that consumes our very existence by offering ourselves, soul and body, to become a space for the communication of God’s love, a sign pointing toward the Son of God.”
“It is in this sense that we better understand the words of the great John the Baptist, the first witness of Christ: ‘He must increase; I must decrease’ (Jn 3:30). Like the Forerunner, who urged his disciples to follow Christ, we too are not pursuing ‘followers’ for ourselves, but for Christ. We can spread the Gospel only by forging a communion that unites us in Christ. We do this by following Jesus’ example of interacting with others.”
PHOTOS: Thousands visiting Sister Wilhelmina's body over holiday weekend
Posted on 05/28/2023 22:05 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 28, 2023 / 14:05 pm (CNA).
Thousands of pilgrims are descending on a Benedictine abbey outside rural Gower, Missouri, this Memorial Day weekend to view the surprisingly well-preserved body of its African American foundress, Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, who died in 2019.
On Sunday, the feast of Pentecost, an average of 200 vehicles per hour were coming onto the abbey's property, an uptick in traffic from the day before, Clinton County Sheriff Larry Fish said in a Facebook video update. He said he expected 15,000 people to visit the site by the end of the day.
"We're going to see this probably for months, but right now this weekend is probably going to be the biggest influx of people that you’re going to see in this area," Fish predicted in an earlier video posted May 25.
Part of the urgency for those visiting the abbey over the holiday weekend is the limited opportunity to touch the nun’s body, which has been on public display in a room in the basement of the abbey's church for more than a week.
On Saturday, a photojournalist working for EWTN News witnessed pilgrims touching parts of Sister Wilhelmina's body with their hands or rosary beads and even kissing her hands. Such direct physical contact won’t be possible after Monday afternoon when the nun’s remains will be placed in a glass enclosure, though her body will still be available for public viewing.
No investigation so far
Sister Wilhelmina, a St. Louis native, founded the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles in 1995 when she was 70 years old. She died on May 29, 2019, and her unembalmed body was buried in a simple wooden coffin in the abbey’s outdoor cemetery.
Expecting to find only bones when they exhumed her remains on May 18 to be reinterred in their newly constructed St. Joseph’s Shrine, the sisters were astonished to find her body and traditional nun’s habit still remarkably intact. In addition, pilgrims who have visited the body have told CNA they did not smell any odor of decay. The sisters say they have applied wax to Sister Wilhelmina's hands and face.
The condition of her body has puzzled even experienced morticians. "If you’re telling me that this woman went into the ground unembalmed in a wooden box with no outer container in the ground and it was not sub-zero up in Alaska, I’m telling you, I’m going to start a devotion to this sister, because something special is going on there,” Barry Lease, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science, told CNA last week.
There has been no official determination that Sister Wilhelmina’s remains are “incorrupt,” a possible sign of sanctity, nor is there any cause underway for the nun’s canonization, a rigorous process in the Catholic Church that can take many years.
The local ordinary, Bishop Vann Johnston of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, who has visited the monastery to see Sister Wilhelmina’s remains, has said that a “thorough investigation” is needed to answer “important questions” raised by the state of her body, but there has been no word if and when such an analysis might take place. On Sunday a spokeswoman for the diocese said she was mistaken when she told CNA last week that Johnston had “been in touch with someone in Rome” about what has happened at the abbey.
Discovery meant to be kept quiet
Over the weekend, the Benedictine sisters posted a new statement on their website, announcing plans to hold a public rosary procession Monday at 4:30 p.m. local time, after which they will place Sister Wilhelmina’s body in the glass enclosure inside the St. Joseph's Shrine.
In the statement, the sisters also revealed that they had hoped to keep the startling condition of their foundress' body quiet.
“We had no intent to make the discovery so public, but unfortunately, a private email was posted publicly, and the news began to spread like wildfire." they wrote. "However, God works in mysterious ways, and we embrace His new plan for us."
The sisters said that they continued their normal daily routines despite the crowds and worldwide media attention.
“Many have voiced concern about the disruption to our life, but we have, thankfully, remained unaffected and able to continue on in our life of ora et labora, prayer and work, as Sister Wilhelmina would have it,” the statement says.
“Unless we looked out the front windows, or out at the crowds attending our Mass and Divine Offices, we would not even know people are here. An army of volunteers and our local law enforcement have stepped forward to manage the crowds, and we are deeply grateful to each of them, as they allow us to continue our life in peace, while granting the visitors a pleasant and prayerful experience at the Abbey.”
Pope Francis encourages Marian shrines around the world to pray for Synod on Synodality
Posted on 05/28/2023 15:15 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, May 28, 2023 / 07:15 am (CNA).
From the Philippines to Portugal, Marian shrines around the world will participate in a special day of prayer this Wednesday for the work of the Synod on Synodality.
In his Regina Caeli address, Pope Francis announced that the day of prayer for the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will take place on May 31, the last day of the month dedicated to Mary.
“Let us ask the Virgin Mary to accompany this important stage of the synod with her maternal protection,” the pope said.
The shrines of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Poland, the Knock Shrine in Ireland, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels in Costa Rica, Our Lady of Fourvière in France, and many other Marian shrines have confirmed their participation.
In the Philippines, 26 Marian shrines and minor basilicas will simultaneously hold prayers for the synod.
Nicaragua has announced that all parishes will take part in a full day of prayer for the synod. All dioceses in India, Malaysia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina will participate in the day of prayer.
Pope Francis also spoke about the upcoming Synod of Bishops at Pentecost Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica earlier in the day. He said: “Let us place the Holy Spirit at the beginning and at the heart of the work of the synod.”
“We walk together, because the Spirit, as at Pentecost, loves to descend while ‘everyone is together,’” he added. “The people of God, to be filled with the Spirit, must therefore walk together, hold a synod.”
After the Mass for the solemnity of Pentecost, Pope Francis appeared in the window of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace to deliver the Regina Caeli address to the crowd gathered in a sunny St. Peter’s Square.
The pope prayed for people in Myanmar and Bangladesh affected by Cyclone Mocha. He also marked the 150th anniversary of the death of Italian novelist Alessandro Manzoni, the author of one of the pope’s favorite books, “The Betrothed.”
Pope Francis reflected on how the Holy Spirit has the power to free people from “the prisons of fear.”
He said that only once the apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit, they dared to leave the upper room and go into the world to forgive sins and announce the good news of the Gospel.
“Thanks to [the Holy Spirit], fears are overcome and doors open. Because this is what the Spirit does: he makes us feel God’s closeness and so his love drives away fear, illuminates the path, consoles, supports in adversity,” the pope said.
“In the face of fears and closures, then, let us invoke the Holy Spirit for us, for the Church, and for the whole world: Because a new Pentecost can drive away the fears that assail us and rekindle the fire of God’s love.”
“Holy Mary, who was the first to be filled with the Holy Spirit, intercede for us,” Pope Francis said.
On Pentecost, Pope Francis says Holy Spirit can bring harmony to ‘a polarized Church’
Posted on 05/28/2023 13:15 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, May 28, 2023 / 05:15 am (CNA).
On the solemnity of Pentecost, Pope Francis urged Catholics to invoke the Holy Spirit daily to bring harmony to a divided world, a polarized Church, and to broken hearts.
Speaking in St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope explained that the role of the Holy Spirit, both at the beginning of the creation of the world and at all times, is to make “created realities pass from disorder to order” and “from confusion to harmony.”
“In our world today, there is so much discord, such great division. We are all ‘connected,’ yet find ourselves disconnected from one another, anesthetized by indifference and overwhelmed by solitude,” Pope Francis said in his homily on May 28.
“If the world is divided, if the Church is polarized, if hearts are broken, let us not waste time in criticizing others and growing angry with one another; instead, let us invoke the Holy Spirit. He is capable of resolving these things,” he said.
The pope added that without the Holy Spirit, “the Church is lifeless, faith is mere doctrine, morality mere duty, pastoral work mere toil. … With him, on the other hand, faith is life, the love of the Lord conquers us, and hope is reborn.”
“Let us put the Holy Spirit back at the center of the Church; otherwise, our hearts will not be consumed by love for Jesus but by love for ourselves,” he said.
Pope Francis added that he sees the Holy Spirit as not only as the “soul of the Church” but also as “the heart of synodality.”
He called for the Synod on Synodality, which will culminate in October with the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to “place the Holy Spirit at the beginning and at the heart of the work of the synod.”
“The synod now taking place is — and should be — a journey in accordance with the Spirit, not a parliament for demanding rights and claiming needs in accordance with the agenda of the world, nor an occasion for following wherever the wind is blowing, but the opportunity to be docile to the breath of the Holy Spirit,” he pope said.
Pope Francis, who canceled all of his audiences on Friday due to a fever, presided over the Mass but was not the main celebrant. The pope sat at the front of the congregation in a white chair to the right of the altar.
Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, the Brazilian prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, served as the main celebrant for the Pentecost Mass.
In his homily, Pope Francis underlined that the Holy Spirit also forgives sins, reconciles souls, and creates harmony in hearts that are “wounded by evil, broken by hurts, torn apart by feelings of guilt.”
“Only the Holy Spirit restores harmony in the heart, for he is the one who creates ‘intimacy with God,’” he said, citing St. Basil.
“Let’s invoke the Holy Spirit every day. Let’s start each day by praying to him. Let’s become docile to him,” Francis said.
During the Mass, the Palestrina Choir from Dublin led the congregation in the traditional “Veni Sancte Spiritus” sequence for the Mass for Pentecost.
Pope Francis urged Catholics to invoke the Holy Spirit daily upon the whole world to bring unity and peace.
The solemnity of Pentecost, which is celebrated 50 days after Easter, marks the descent of the Holy Spirit. Thousands were gathered inside St. Peter’s Basilica for the Mass.
At the end of his homily, Pope Francis prayed: “Holy Spirit, Spirit of Jesus and of the Father, inexhaustible wellspring of harmony, to you we entrust the world; to you we consecrate the Church and our hearts.”
“Come, Creator Spirit, harmony of humanity, renew the face of the earth. Come, giver of gifts, harmony of the Church, make us united in you. Come, Spirit of forgiveness, harmony of the heart, transform us as only you can, through the intercession of Mary.”
Everything you need to know about Pentecost
Posted on 05/28/2023 10:00 AM (CNA Daily News)
Denver, Colo., May 28, 2023 / 02:00 am (CNA).
This weekend, the Church celebrates Pentecost, one of the most important feast days of the year that concludes the Easter season and celebrates the beginning of the Church.
Here’s what you need to know about the feast day.
The timing and origins of Pentecost
Pentecost always occurs 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus and 10 days after his ascension into heaven. Because Easter is a moveable feast without a fixed date, and Pentecost depends on the timing of Easter, Pentecost can fall anywhere between May 10 and June 13.
The timing of these feasts is also where Catholics get the concept of the novena — nine days of prayer — because in Acts 1, Mary and the Apostles prayed together “continuously” for nine days after the Ascension leading up to Pentecost. Traditionally, the Church prays the novena to the Holy Spirit in the days before Pentecost.
The name of the day itself is derived from the Greek word “pentecoste,” meaning 50th.
There is a parallel Jewish holiday, Shavu’ot, which falls 50 days after Passover. Shavu’ot is sometimes called the festival of weeks, referring to the seven weeks since Passover.
Originally a harvest feast, Shavu’ot now commemorates the sealing of the Old Covenant on Mount Sinai, when the Lord revealed the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai. Every year, the Jewish people renew their acceptance of the gift of the Torah on this feast.
What happens at Pentecost?
In the Christian tradition, Pentecost is the celebration of the person of the Holy Spirit coming upon the Apostles, Mary, and the first followers of Jesus, who were gathered together in the Upper Room.
A “strong, driving” wind filled the room where they were gathered, and tongues of fire came to rest on their heads, allowing them to speak in different languages so that they could understand each other. It was such a strange phenomenon that some people thought the Christians were just drunk — but Peter pointed out that it was only the morning, and said the phenomenon was caused by the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit also gave the apostles the other gifts and fruits necessary to fulfill the great commission — to go out and preach the Gospel to all nations. It fulfills the New Testament promise from Christ (Luke 24:46-49) that the Apostles would be “clothed with power” before they would be sent out to spread the Gospel.
Where’s that in the bible?
The main event of Pentecost (the strong driving wind and tongues of fire) takes place in Acts 2:13, though the events immediately following (Peter’s homily, the baptism of thousands) continue through verse 41.
Happy Birthday, Church!
It was right after Pentecost that Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, preached his first homily to Jews and other non-believers, in which he opened the scriptures of the Old Testament, showing how the prophet Joel prophesied events and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
He also told the people that the Jesus they crucified is the Lord and was raised from the dead, which “cut them to the heart.” When they asked what they should do, Peter exhorted them to repent of their sins and to be baptized. According to the account in Acts, about 3,000 people were baptized following Peter’s sermon.
For this reason, Pentecost is considered the birthday of the Church — Peter, the first Pope, preaches for the first time and converts thousands of new believers. The apostles and believers, for the first time, were united by a common language, and a common zeal and purpose to go and preach the Gospel.
Pentecost vestments and customs around the world
Typically, priests will wear red vestments on Pentecost, symbolic of the burning fire of God’s love and the tongues of fire that descended on the apostles.
However, in some parts of the world, Pentecost is also referred to as “WhitSunday”, or White Sunday, referring to the white vestments that are typically worn in Britain and Ireland. The white is symbolic of the dove of the Holy Spirit, and typical of the vestments that catechumens desiring baptism wear on that day.
An Italian Pentecost tradition is to scatter rose leaves from the ceiling of the churches to recall the miracle of the fiery tongues, and so in some places in Italy, Pentecost is sometimes called Pascha Rosatum (Easter roses).
In France, it is tradition to blow trumpets during Mass to recall the sound of the driving wind of the Holy Spirit.
In Asia, it is typical to have an extra service, called genuflexion, during which long poems and prayers are recited. In Russia, Mass-goers often carry flowers or green branches during Pentecost services.
This article was originally published on CNA June 2, 2017, and was updated May 26, 2023.
Pope Francis resumes normal schedule one day after fever
Posted on 05/27/2023 15:09 PM (CNA Daily News)
Rome Newsroom, May 27, 2023 / 07:09 am (CNA).
Pope Francis resumed his normal schedule of appointments on Saturday morning after suffering from a fever the day prior, a Vatican communications official said.
Andrea Tornielli, the editorial director of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication, wrote on Twitter on the morning of May 27 that Pope Francis had “resumed his regular audiences.”
Questa mattina #PapaFrancesco ha ripreso regolarmente le udienze— Andrea Tornielli (@Tornielli) May 27, 2023
A Vatican spokesman confirmed to CNA on Friday that the pope had canceled meetings in the morning May 26 due to a fever.
Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office, said that “due to a feverish condition, Pope Francis did not receive [anyone] in audience this morning.”
According to the Vatican’s daily news bulletin, Pope Francis had his regular Saturday morning meeting with the prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, Archbishop Robert Prevost.
He also met with delegations from the Orthodox Church of Athens and Loyola University of Seville, and with Father Wagner Ferreira da Silva, president of the Brazilian Catholic community Canção Nova.
The pope also had an audience with participants in a conference organized by the Jesuit magazine “La Civiltà Cattolica” and Georgetown University on “The Global Aesthetics of the Catholic Imagination.”
Film director Martin Scorsese and his wife Helen Morris attended the conference and took part in the papal audience.
On Friday afternoon, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, spoke briefly with journalists about the pope’s condition.
“The pope was tired. He had a very, very busy day yesterday,” Parolin said, according to the French-language media outlet La Presse. “They were telling me last night that he met with a lot of people, and in the context of this meeting with Scholas Occurrentes, he wanted to greet them all, and probably at some point the stamina fails.”
Pope Francis is scheduled to say Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the solemnity of Pentecost on May 28, followed by the recitation of the Regina Caeli antiphon.
The 86-year-old pope was hospitalized for four days at the end of March for a lung infection.