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Jesuit aims to stem decline of faith with launch of catechetical website

Jesuit Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, former president of Gonzaga University, launched a cutting-edge catechetical website to confront the rising tide of unbelief spurred by an increasingly skeptical, science-saturated society.

The post Jesuit aims to stem decline of faith with launch of catechetical website appeared first on Superior Catholic Herald.

U.S. Bishops Provide Aid for Housing; Vulnerable People and Expanding Youth Ministries in Eastern Europe

 WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe approved $4.9 million in funding for 209 projects in 22 countries in Central and Eastern Europe at its meeting on June 12 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Projects approved for funding include:

● Refurbishment of St. Luke Social and Rehabilitation Center for children with cancer in Belarus. This Caritas-run facility in Minsk, Belarus, offers free lodging and psychological support to more than 50 poor families annually as their children undergo examination, treatment, and rehabilitation. This center is an important expression of how the Church, whose activities were previously forbidden, today continues to renew its capacity for social ministry and outreach to the poor.

● Expansion of a center for the homeless and the marginalized run by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in Rijeka, Croatia. For many years the Sisters of Charity have worked on a voluntary basis to help the immediate needs of people experiencing homelessness in Rijeka, where many live among abandoned buildings in the city. This grant will help the Sisters of Charity continue their ministry to aid the homeless and marginalized at a full-day center, engaging volunteers and social workers in managing individual cases and so mobilizing the local church to address underlying issues of homelessness.

● Development of a leadership course for youth ministers in Romania. Since independence, the Archdiocese of Alba Iulia in Romania has been in the process of renewing pastoral work in more than 250 parishes. However, ministry to youth is still developing and, to date, only one-third of those parishes have youth activities. This grant will support a seven-week youth formation program to develop leadership skills and further develop youth programs for the Church in Romania.

● Support of summer camps for children and youth from families internally displaced by war in Ukraine. Since war broke in 2014 in the East of Ukraine, children of internally displaced persons and children of soldiers have been among those most affected psychologically by the events. This grant will allow Caritas Donetsk to conduct two summer camps for 100 affected children and youth, where they will have the opportunity to interact with each other and receive rehabilitation and spiritual care with the assistance of mental health professionals, priests, and volunteers.

"As the people of Central and Eastern Europe continue to build a new future after decades of repression, we are all inspired by the example of great hope they give to the world that it is possible to bring healing to the wounds of the past. We can take pride that our steadfast support makes a significant contribution to all their efforts in renewing their communities and passing on the faith of their ancestors to the next generation," said Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe.

Other projects approved by the Subcommittee include scholarships and formation for church leadership, church and pastoral center construction, Catholic education renewal and development, and evangelization programs. Grants approved by the Subcommittee support the Church in countries previously oppressed by communism.

Grants are funded by the annual Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe. The national date for this collection is Ash Wednesday, although dioceses may take it up on different dates. The Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe oversees the collection and an annual grant program as part of the USCCB Committee on National Collections. More information about the collection and who it supports can be found at www.usccb.org/ccee.

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Keywords: Central and Eastern Europe, youth, lay formation, Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, catechesis, grants, Cardinal Blasé Cupich.

Media Contact:

Judy Keane

202-541-3200

<cspasteout id="csPasteouter">Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time</cspasteout>

Reading 1 Is 7:1-9

In the days of Ahaz, king of Judah, son of Jotham, son of Uzziah,
Rezin, king of Aram,
and Pekah, king of Israel, son of Remaliah,
went up to attack Jerusalem,
but they were not able to conquer it.
When word came to the house of David that Aram
was encamped in Ephraim,
the heart of the king and the heart of the people trembled,
as the trees of the forest tremble in the wind.

Then the LORD said to Isaiah: Go out to meet Ahaz,
you and your son Shear-jashub,
at the end of the conduit of the upper pool,
on the highway of the fuller’s field, and say to him:
Take care you remain tranquil and do not fear;
let not your courage fail
before these two stumps of smoldering brands
the blazing anger of Rezin and the Arameans,
and of the son Remaliah,
because of the mischief that
Aram, Ephraim and the son of Remaliah,
plots against you, saying,
“Let us go up and tear Judah asunder, make it our own by force,
and appoint the son of Tabeel king there.”

Thus says the LORD:
This shall not stand, it shall not be!
Damascus is the capital of Aram,
and Rezin is the head of Damascus;
Samaria is the capital of Ephraim,
and Remaliah’s son the head of Samaria.

But within sixty years and five,
Ephraim shall be crushed, no longer a nation.
Unless your faith is firm
you shall not be firm!

Responsorial Psalm pS 48:2-3a, 3b-4, 5-6, 7-8

R. (see 9d) God upholds his city for ever.
Great is the LORD and wholly to be praised
in the city of our God.
His holy mountain, fairest of heights,
is the joy of all the earth.
R. God upholds his city for ever.
Mount Zion, “the recesses of the North,”
is the city of the great King.
God is with her castles;
renowned is he as a stronghold.
R. God upholds his city for ever.
For lo! the kings assemble,
they come on together;
They also see, and at once are stunned,
terrified, routed.
R. God upholds his city for ever.
Quaking seizes them there;
anguish, like a woman’s in labor,
As though a wind from the east
were shattering ships of Tarshish.
R. God upholds his city for ever.

Alleluia Ps 95:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 11:20-24

Jesus began to reproach the towns
where most of his mighty deeds had been done,
since they had not repented.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
And as for you, Capernaum:

Will you be exalted to heaven?
You will go down to the nether world.


For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom,
it would have remained until this day.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
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Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Jesuit aims to stem decline of faith with launch of catechetical website

IMAGE:

By Maureen Pratt

ANAHEIM, Calif. (CNS) -- Jesuit Father Robert J. Spitzer, former president of Gonzaga University, launched a cutting-edge catechetical website to confront the rising tide of unbelief spurred by an increasingly skeptical, science-saturated society.

Developed through Father Spitzer's Magis Center, based in Garden Grove, Credible Catholic offers 20 downloadable "modules" that equip Magis Center learners with evidence-based arguments for core Christian beliefs. The catechetical website is www.CredibleCatholic.com.

"The Credible Catholic modules correspond to fundamental apologetics in light of modern scientific methods," said Father Spitzer, author and co-host of the Eternal Word Television Network program, "Father Spitzer's Universe."

"For example, I approach the Resurrection through evidence, but I respond to every Scripture passage, too," he said in an interview with Catholic News Service.

Each module is available in animated PowerPoint or document format in three levels of complexity, from highly detailed to a "Cliff Notes" version, with a separate teaching.

Interactive resources on the website include a robust search engine for navigation to key words or phrases, and a "contact us" click-through to enable direct contact with Credible Catholic staff. The modules, downloadable files and all supporting resources, including Magis Center staff support, are free.

Based on Father Spitzer's books and other work in apologetics, modules include contributions from astrophysicists, historians, theologians, physicists, and other experts. Each module aligns with specific sections of The Catechism of the Catholic Church, so it can easily be used to supplement sacrament preparation or for individual study.

Father Spitzer's foray into a multidisciplinary catechetical website sprung from his growing concern that religious affiliation is declining, due in large part, he believes, to the influence, particularly on youth, of "secular myths that misstate and/or misrepresent the facts."

These myths include "science has proven God does not exist," "humans are just a bunch of conglomerated atoms and molecules," "suffering proves God does not exist," and Jesus was "a very special person but he certainly was not divine."

Older Catholics can find these arguments challenging, but particularly vulnerable, Father Spitzer said, are many young people whose faith is tremendously shaken or dissipates when confronted with the stresses of academic and peer pressures.

The Credible Catholic's "7 Essential Modules," the first modules developed by Father Spitzer, give students and catechists tools to meet the challenges of skeptics. They cover core Christian beliefs and offer science-based evidence to support them.

"Kids demand proof," said the priest. "The more validated it is, the more they like it. '7 Essential Modules' is the inoculation that we give to students so they can go through their college years without getting their faith knocked out from under them."

A discussion of terminal lucidity, for example, is included in the module regarding proof of the soul. In another, research in Near Death Experiences, or NDEs, help illuminate the reality of life after death. And an explanation of the physical properties of light and heat transference is used to explain how the image on the Shroud of Turin could not have been humanly possible at the time it was made.

Anne Steinemann, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Melbourne, Australia, an early supporter of Credible Catholic, has seen the positive impact Credible Catholic has on students.

"Science can explain 'what,'" Steinemann told CNS, "but it cannot answer the question, 'Why?' Credible Catholic is effective, easy and exciting. It answers, head on, the typical objections to the Catholic faith."

The modules' format also helps facilitate learning.

"Students," said Steinemann, "can view the presentations on their own time, on their own device, in their own way. In the age of information overload, and trying to get students' attention, this does."

Michael O'Hara, executive director for Credible Catholic, works with teachers, clergy and staff of dioceses and parishes to understand how the unique material can work with existing ministries, departments or catechetical classes.

"Most parishes are 'programmed out,' but this isn't a program," said O'Hara. "A school in Texas might use Module 2 in their science class. Another parish did the modules for homework, a summer study or journaled on it."

Parents benefit from the modules' content, too.

"The problem for the parent," said O'Hara, "is that their kids are growing up in a world unlike anything that they grew up in. They don't have a counter to the arguments. The modules help the parent cope, and help them feel confident to counter the arguments."

In November 2017, Father Spitzer and his team from Magis Center debuted "7 Essential Modules" at an event attended by U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, retired head of the Vatican's doctrinal congregation, and 34 other U.S. Catholic bishops.

In June of this year, the priest presented the modules to 75 archbishops and bishops during the spring assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Florida. He now has 80 dioceses lined to use the modules in their religious education or sacrament preparation programs, or as independent study add-ons.

Father Spitzer also plans to continue adding modules, eventually covering all of the catechism.

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Editor's Note: The Credible Catholic modules and a link to sign up for updates or staff support can be found at www.crediblecatholic.com. The website for Father Spitzer's Magis Center is www.magiscenter.com.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Tennessee's Catholic bishops urge governor to halt upcoming executions

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jed DeKalb, courtesy State of Tennessee

By Theresa Laurence

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) -- Bishops J. Mark Spalding of Nashville, Richard F. Stika of Knoxville and Martin D. Holley of Memphis have written to Gov. Bill Haslam urging him to "use your authority as governor to put an end to the fast-track executions planned" in the state of Tennessee in the upcoming months.

"It is within your power to establish your legacy as a governor of Tennessee who did not preside over an execution on your watch," the state's three Catholic bishops wrote.

The last person to be put to death by lethal injection in Tennessee was Cecil Johnson in 2009, when Phil Bredesen was governor. The state has carried out a total of six executions since 1976, five of those during Bredesen's tenure.

In Tennessee, the governor has sole authority to grant clemency to death-row inmates.

There are currently 62 men and one woman on Tennessee's death row.

The next man scheduled to be executed by the state is Billy Ray Irick Aug. 9. Irick, 59, who has a history of serious mental illness, was convicted in 1986 of the rape and murder of a 7-year-old Knox County girl named Paula Dyer, and has been on death row for more than three decades.

In their letter to Haslam, the bishops called for mercy, including for those who have committed terrible crimes. "We join with many other religious denominations in firm opposition to the execution of even those convicted of heinous crimes," they wrote.

The bishops thanked Haslam for meeting with them in the past, and for his willingness to learn more about the Catholic Church's opposition to capital punishment and the foundations of that teaching.

In their letter, the bishops recalled the story of St. John Paul II's visit to St. Louis in 1999, when he called for an end to the death penalty as both cruel and unnecessary. The pope said, "It is simply not necessary as the only means to protect society while still providing a just punishment for those who break civil laws," the bishops wrote in their letter. "Rather than serving as a path to justice, the death penalty contributes to the growing disrespect for human life."

The bishops' letter to the governor comes at the same time that a trial begins over Tennessee's new lethal injection protocol. More than 30 death-row inmates filed suit against the state, contending that the new three-drug combination -- midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride -- used in the lethal-injection protocol amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

Tennessee has not used this three-drug cocktail to carry out an execution before, but similar or identical drug combinations were used in botched executions in other states, according to the death-row inmates' attorneys.

The lethal-injection drug trial began July 9. With that underway and Irick's execution date set for Aug. 9, the state's capital punishment system is facing renewed scrutiny. The state's Catholic bishops are not the only ones voicing their opposition to it. 

The national organization Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty earlier this month named Nashville resident Hannah Cox its new national manager and is expanding its coalition of conservative lawmakers and constituents who are "questioning whether capital punishment is consistent with conservative principles and values due to the system's inefficiency, inequity and inaccuracy."

Cox, formerly with the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a free-market think tank, said in a statement, "Ending the death penalty aligns perfectly with my conservative beliefs because it eliminates the risk of executing innocent people, reduces costs to taxpayers, and is consistent with valuing life."

Three men have been released from Tennessee's death row in recent years after they were proven innocent. Paul House, who was exonerated by DNA evidence after spending 22 years on death row, has written an open petition to ask the state not to pursue Irick's execution or any execution, noting the risk of executing an innocent person.

In June, the American Bar Association released a study titled "Potential Cost-Savings of a Severe Mental Illness Exclusion from the Death Penalty: An Analysis of Tennessee Data," which noted that the state could save an estimated $1.4 million to $1.8 million per year by adopting a ban on capital punishment for defendants with severe mental illness.

The report stated that if defendants with severe mental illness were excluded from the death penalty, this "could result in cost savings because a subset of individuals could face expensive capital prosecutions and decades of appeals would become ineligible" for capital punishment.

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Laurence is a staff writer for the Tennessee Register, newspaper of the Diocese of Nashville.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Learn from the past before looking to future, pope tells young people

A good Christian shares the Gospel, pope says

A good Christian shares the Gospel, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Fabio Frustaci, EPA

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- All Christians are called to be missionaries, concerned more with sharing the Gospel than with earning money or even with being successful at winning converts, Pope Francis said.

"A baptized person who does not feel the need to proclaim the Gospel, to announce Christ, is not a good Christian," the pope said July 15 before reciting the Angelus prayer with an estimated 15,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

Pope Francis was commenting on the day's Gospel reading, which told about how Jesus sent the disciples out two-by-two to preach and to heal in his name.

"It was a kind of apprenticeship for what they would be called to do with the power of the Holy Spirit after the resurrection of the Lord," the pope explained.

Speaking only in the name of Jesus, he said, "the apostles had nothing of their own to proclaim and none of their own abilities to demonstrate, but they spoke and acted as emissaries, as messengers of Jesus."

"This Gospel episode concerns us, too, and not only priests, but all the baptized, who are called to witness to the Gospel of Christ in all the situations of life," the pope said.

Christians fulfill their mission, he said, when their proclamation is motivated only by love for and obedience to Christ and when the only message they share is Christ's.

In the reading from St. Mark's Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples "to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick -- no food, no sack, no money in their belts."

The poverty and simplicity of lifestyle Jesus asks for, the pope said, were meant to make the disciples of yesterday and today "free and light."

Jesus, he said, calls his disciples to set out as "messengers of the kingdom of God, not powerful managers, not unmovable functionaries (and) not stars on tour."

Although all the baptized are sent out on mission by Christ, they go with no guarantee of success, the pope said. "This, too, is poverty: the experience of failure."

Pope Francis prayed that Mary, "the first disciple and missionary of the word of God, would help us bear the message of the Gospel in the world with a humble and radiant exultation that goes beyond every refusal, misunderstanding or tribulation."

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

A good Christian shares the Gospel, pope says

All Christians are called to be missionaries, concerned more with sharing the Gospel than with earning money or even with being successful at winning converts, Pope Francis said.

The post A good Christian shares the Gospel, pope says appeared first on Superior Catholic Herald.

Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Is 1:10-17

Hear the word of the LORD,
princes of Sodom!
Listen to the instruction of our God,
people of Gomorrah!
What care I for the number of your sacrifices?
says the LORD.
I have had enough of whole-burnt rams
and fat of fatlings;
In the blood of calves, lambs and goats
I find no pleasure.

When you come in to visit me,
who asks these things of you?
Trample my courts no more!
Bring no more worthless offerings;
your incense is loathsome to me.
New moon and sabbath, calling of assemblies,
octaves with wickedness: these I cannot bear.
Your new moons and festivals I detest;
they weigh me down, I tire of the load.
When you spread out your hands,
I close my eyes to you;
Though you pray the more,
I will not listen.
Your hands are full of blood!
Wash yourselves clean!
Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes;
cease doing evil; learn to do good.
Make justice your aim: redress the wronged,
hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.

Responsorial Psalm pS 50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23

R. (23b) To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you,
for your burnt offerings are before me always.
I take from your house no bullock,
no goats out of your fold.”
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“Why do you recite my statutes,
and profess my covenant with your mouth,
Though you hate discipline
and cast my words behind you?”
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
“When you do these things, shall I be deaf to it?
Or do you think you that I am like yourself?
I will correct you by drawing them up before your eyes.
He that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me;
and to him that goes the right way I will show the salvation of God.”
R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.

Alleluia Mt 5:10

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 10:34-11:1

Jesus said to his Apostles:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth.
I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
For I have come to set
a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s enemies will be those of his household.

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and whoever does not take up his cross
and follow after me is not worthy of me.
Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

“Whoever receives you receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet
will receive a prophet’s reward,
and whoever receives a righteous man
because he is righteous
will receive a righteous man’s reward.
And whoever gives only a cup of cold water
to one of these little ones to drink
because he is a disciple–
amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”

When Jesus finished giving these commands to his Twelve disciples,
he went away from that place to teach and to preach in their towns.
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Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.