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Eclipse a way to appreciate Creation

A total solar eclipse is a rare event, something to appreciate and enjoy in the mind of Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, director of the Vatican Observatory.

So as the first eclipse crossed the country from coast to coast in 99 years Aug. 21, Brother Consolmagno wasn’t going to do anything but take it in and think about the beauty and mystery of God’s creation.

The astronomer urged an audience in a packed Sts. Peter and Paul Church during a pre-eclipse program in this southwestern Kentucky town near the point of maximum eclipse to take the time to reflect on what the two minutes and 40 seconds of totality means to them.

“Pray for good weather,” he said to laughs. “But also pray for what God wants you to learn from the experience.”

Tens of thousands of people had descended on Hopkinsville, a city of 33,000 an hour northwest of Nashville, Tennessee, by late Aug. 20. Thousands more were expected the morning of the eclipse. Brother Consolmagno said he was as excited as anyone to view the blackening of the sun.

He also said that as a scientist and a person of faith, he is guided by inquisitiveness to explore the heavens and the desire to better understand how God put the universe together. There is no conflict between science the faith, he said.

“Being a scientist can be a way of worshipping God,” he said.

He repeated a similar message to reporters during a news conference before his presentation.

“We’re here not just to remind my fellow scientists who are used to me by now, but also to show religious people how important is it to be able to praise the Creator by studying creation, studying it honestly, finding out how God really created this place. There’s never going to be a shortage of marvels for us to discover or surprises for us to experience,” he said.

“We can come to know the Creator by seeing the things of his creation.”

He said the by understanding the cycle of solar eclipses — occurring about every 18 months and 11 days — people can see the rhythms of the universe and the continuing nature of creation and have an experience “that fills the soul with joy.”

Brother Consolmagno made the trip to Hopkinsville at the invitation of Father Richard Meredith, pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Church. Father Meredith told Catholic News Service he contacted the Vatican Observatory soon after he learned a few years ago that the eclipse path would pass over the town.

Parishioners prepared for more than a year, having established a committee to welcome visitors and host Brother Consolmagno.

“Being a parish with a parochial school, we stress the unity of truth,” Father Meredith said. “This (eclipse) is a major opportunity to reflect that, as science and faith work together serving to manifest the Lord.

The eclipse is a wonder and these wonders praise the creator. This could very well be the only planet around the only star whose moon is at the right distance and size to give a total solar eclipse,” the priest said.

He introduced Brother Consolmagno with by reading from Psalm 19: “The heavens proclaim the glory of God; the sky proclaims its builder’s craft.”

“This isn’t only Catholic,” he told CNS. “This is a tradition inherited from God’s revelation in the Old Testament.”

Rowing to draw attention to Fatima apparitions

Rowing an 18-foot-long open canoe solo along the Intracoastal Waterway from Miami to New York City, Greg Dougherty hopes to draw attention to the centennial of the Marian apparitions at Fatima, Portugal.
 
The craft named the Santa Maria de Fatima packed with bags of food, clothes, emergency gear and a statue of Our Lady of Fatima looks both cramped and small for such a long voyage.
 
His 1,400-mile nautical pilgrimage began June 13 and as of Aug. 14, he was 10 miles south of Myrtle Beach, S.C., he told Catholic News Service. He also said he hoped to arrive in New York by late September or early October.
 
The Southern Cross, newspaper of the Diocese of Savannah, caught up with Dougherty in early August on the 47th day of his pilgrimage. He had arrived at Thunderbolt Marina in Thunderbolt.
 
Dougherty's canoe outfitted with tandem sliding seats enables him to use his legs and arms as he repeatedly pulls on the oars throughout the day. His planned crewmate for the journey, Gerald Sargent, a member of the British Royal Marines, was called back to active duty leaving Dougherty on his own.
 
Rowing on his own "is exhausting," said Dougherty, "and that is a good thing." At night, he sleeps in the forward section of the two-man canoe.
 
The monotony of rowing all day has become an opportunity for prayer and meditation. "When I'm alone out there I'm praying," said Dougherty, "I say the rosary. I pray the whole time, especially in severe weather."
 
He described getting through a thunderstorm that came through just south of Savannah.
 
"All I could do is to position the boat and aim the bow into the wind. My oars became an anchor, and I just wouldn't let the storm move me, and so I just held my own until it passed," he said. "It's like treading water. Once the storm passed, there was still another storm moving in. So I found my way into some marsh grass and let that storm pass over."
 
In calmer weather, his small craft attracts attention both on the water and when he pulls into a marina to have a hamburger and restock his supplies. Mark Bouy, a member of Blessed Sacrament Church in Savannah, met Dougherty at a marina in St. Augustine, Fla., and offered Dougherty a room, a shower and good food when he dropped anchor in Savannah. He spent three restful days with his host.
 
Dougherty is former president of Our Lady's Blue Army/World Apostolate of Fatima USA in the Diocese of Covington, Ky. The lay group's purpose is to promote the message of Fatima and to encourage the faithful to pray the rosary every day as Mary requested.
 
Mary appeared to three shepherd children -- Jacinta and Francisco Marto and their cousin Lucia dos Santos -- in Fatima in 1917. The apparitions began May 13, 1917, when 9-year-old Francisco and 7-year-old Jacinta, along with their cousin Lucia dos Santos, reported seeing the Virgin Mary. The apparitions continued once a month until Oct. 13, 1917, and later were declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church.
 
In his interview with the Southern Cross, Dougherty quickly pointed out the purpose of his pilgrimage is to spread awareness of Fatima. He said, "I don't want anyone to heap more onto this trip than what it is -– just a way to lead people to Christ through His mother's message."
 
"I've met so many who have fallen away from the church," Dougherty said. "What's encouraged me on this trip is the curiosity of our Protestant brothers and sisters. I think the ocean or the rowing intrigues them. Often they'll ask me what Fatima is, and I'll explain that just as the Lord sent His angels and prophets, in 1917, He sent His mother to deliver what is known as God's peace plan for the world.”
 
"And don't you know," he added, "the majority of hearts have been opened to that message. Lives have been touched, so this has been a beautiful journey so far."
 

Standing up to 'weisure'

By Carolyn Woo
 
An essay in The New Yorker on workload referenced renowned economist John Maynard Keynes, who, in the 1930s, projected the forthcoming of a three-hour workday due to the rise in living standards and incomes. In 1964, observing unprecedented conveniences in the office, home and on the road, Life magazine presented two reflections titled "Emptiness of Too Much Leisure" and "How to Take Life Easy."
 
Well, the projections got the higher incomes and conveniences right. In fact, they probably undershot the degree of automation as I peruse evaluations of robotic floor cleaners.
 
But something must have gone awry as people in full-time jobs are not working less or enjoying more leisure. Project: Time-Off reports that Americans left 662 million vacation days unused in 2016. Essentially, workers gave up "income" that has been earned.
 
The Internet with its massive connectivity has irreversibly changed the way we work. Benefits attributed to these advances include increased productivity, speed of response, flexibility in when and where we work and the ability to be in many different places at the same time.
 
Yet, whatever freedom and control we are supposed to gain, working less is not part of the parcel. Salon cited findings from different studies noting in one that 65 percent of respondents felt they had to be accessible outside of work; several other reports suggest that smartphones and tablets could add two to five hours of work a day for professionals.
 
One could surmise from the prevalence of sleep disorders that the quality of our rest when we do get it has also been compromised. Forbes reported that less than 50 percent of respondents regularly get a solid night's sleep, and 40 million prescriptions for sleep aid were issued in 2011 to address this problem.
 
The blending of work and personal times is the mode for how we conduct our activities now. Attention to work and personal business is fluid, demarcated by no real boundaries.
 
We check Amazon deals, latest Facebook postings, news alerts and personal messages while at work; the reverse finds us attending to office e-mails, sales results, requests for meetings interspersed with dinner preparation, bath times, morning routines, etc.
 
"Me-time" or the time to slow down and be present to oneself comes in short episodes, punctuated not only by work but also by the worries, conflicts and anxiety that work can trigger. Not only is "me-time" rendered obsolete, "me-space" is similarly colonized with work devices following us in the car, in the mall, in the gym, at kids' sports practice, everywhere in the home, with some people taking their devices to work in bed and others to bathrooms.
 
This blurring of work and leisure is so prevalent that it is given its own term "weisure" by sociologist Dalton Conley. As "weisure" finds its place in our lexicon, what about the words "linger," "savor," "cherish"? When will Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto have its own 39 minutes of playing time and not just as background for work?
 
In the Third Commandment to keep holy the Sabbath, God mandated a day of rest. Its purpose is not just the cessation of labor but an invitation to imbibe the beauty of God's creation, to mark our freedom from slavery, to be held in God's goodness and unconditional love and to cultivate mindfulness for His presence in our daily existence with its share of joy and toil.
 
Has the speed of the Internet become the modern-day Pharaoh who determines how much and how fast we work? Would today's golden calf the Israelites equated with God look like our mobile devices?
 
How much of "me" does one want to surrender? How worthy is the recipient?

Woo is distinguished president's fellow for global development at Purdue University and served as the CEO and president of Catholic Relief Services from 2012 to 2016. She will be in Vermont to speak at the “Action for Ecological Justice: Celebrating a Year of Creation” conference at St. Michael's College on Sept. 30.
 

Catholic Charismatic Renewal turns 50

Chris Shafer grew up as a "nominal Catholic," and she wasn't even sure she still believed in God in the mid-1970s when she moved to Fort Walton Beach, Fla., where her husband, Doug, was stationed in the U.S. Air Force.
 
"I found that fascinating that anybody believed in God. He was like Santa Claus you believed in childhood," said Shafer, a parishioner at St. Ignatius of Antioch Church in Nashville. "This was no longer relevant."
 
But that began to change after talking with friends from her husband's unit who had become involved in the charismatic movement through their Episcopal church. She decided, "For this God story to survive all these thousands of years, there had to be something more than I knew about God."
 
Shafer found a Catholic Charismatic Renewal prayer group and decided to attend one of their prayer meetings. "I went home thinking, 'I walked in not even believing in God, but now I'm on fire,'" she said. "I sang all the way home."
 
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal marks the 50th anniversary of its founding this year.
 
In 1967, a group of students and professors at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh were on a retreat when they felt engulfed by the fire of the Holy Spirit. Their experience ignited the renewal, which has touched the lives of Catholics around the world.
 
Shafer's been going to prayer meetings for 40 years, including the Glory of Zion prayer group at St. Ignatius, since it was formed in 1980. "Everything I learned about God I learned at charismatic prayer meetings," Shafer told the Tennessee Register, newspaper of the Diocese of Nashville.
 
The movement calls people to experience the same excitement and deep relationship with God that the first Christians experienced at Pentecost.
 
A charismatic gathering in some ways can resemble a Pentecostal service, with an exuberant style of worship including dancing and waving of arms, people praying over others for healing, people speaking in tongues, and others prophesying about God's love for His people and inviting people to be open to that love.
 
"It is definitely exuberant," Shafer said. "You do what the Lord's calling you to."

"We try to present to people first and foremost the idea of God's love and forgiveness," said Teresa Seibert, another charter member of the Glory of Zion prayer group.
 
Although she is a cradle Catholic who grew up with the more traditional style of Catholic worship, Seibert wasn't fazed by the charismatic style.
 
"It didn't scare me," Seibert said. "The first experience of it was a real calming affect for me. I more or less saw this is what I've been looking for."
 
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal is really more about listening to the Holy Spirit, said Father Michael Baltrus, who first got involved in the movement in the 1970s and was a member of the Glory of Zion prayer group before he left for the seminary.
"It helped me listen to God," he said, which is "one of the best aspects" of the charismatic movement.
 
"You become more sensitive to what God is saying, what the Spirit is doing," said Father Baltrus, the new pastor at St Catherine Church in McMinnville and St. Gregory Church in Smithville. Listening to the Spirit "actually sets me free in my worship. That applies to the traditional form of worship and to people that are used to expressing themselves very much."
 
When people let down their defenses and open themselves to the will of the Spirit, Shafer said, they can let the Lord "break into our lives. That's what he wants."
That surrender to God's will helps people develop a personal relationship with God, Shafer said, "which we don't talk about much in the Catholic Church," Shafer said. "It was in the renewal I learned there was a God interested in my life ... who held my hand when I was in trouble."
 
 
 

U.S. Bishops chairman responds to repeal bill defeat

WASHINGTON—In response to last night’s Senate vote on the “skinny repeal” bill, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, has issued the following statement:    
 
“Despite the Senate’s decision not to pass legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act last night, the task of reforming the healthcare system still remains. The current healthcare system is not financially sustainable, lacks full Hyde protections and conscience rights, and is inaccessible to many immigrants.  Inaction will result in harm for too many people.
 
A moment has opened for Congress, and indeed all Americans, to set aside party and personal political interest and pursue the common good of our nation and its people, especially the most vulnerable. In order to be just, any bill for consideration must:
 
  • Protect the Medicaid program from changes that would harm millions of struggling Americans.
  • Protect the safety net from any other changes that harm the poor, immigrants, or any others at the margins.
  • Address the real probability of collapsing insurance markets and the corresponding loss of genuine affordability for those with limited means. 
  • Provide full Hyde Amendment provisions and much-needed conscience protections. 
  • Any final agreement that respects human life and dignity, honors conscience rights, and ensures that everyone can access health care that is comprehensive, high quality, and truly affordable deserves the support of all of us.
 
The greatness of our country is not measured by the well-being of the powerful but how we have cared for the ‘least of these.’  Congress can and should pass health care legislation that lives up to that greatness.”

 

Natural Family Planning Awareness Week

By Maggie Maslak
 
(CNA/EWTN News)--For some, it was a health-conscious decision. For others, it was environmental. For still others, it was faith-based.
 
But no matter the reason, more and more women are ditching the pill and opting for fertility awareness methods as a natural way to achieve or delay pregnancy.
 
“In the U.S., there does seem to be an increase in the interest in fertility tracking and understanding the signs and symptoms of our bodies to plan and prevent pregnancy,” said Dr. Victoria Jennings, director of the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University.
 
“Our work has shown that simple fertility awareness messages are extremely attractive to a wide range of women and can address their family planning needs,” Jennings told CNA.
 
July 23-29 is national Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, coinciding with the 48th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humane Vitae, which laid out the Church’s long-understood teachings on the sanctity of human sexuality. 
 
The Catholic Church has always taught that contraception is immoral, because it divorces procreation from the sexual act. However, the Church approves of Natural Family Planning (NFP) methods, which allow couples to remain open to life.
 
Through Natural Family Planning, a woman learns to understand her body’s natural monthly cycle. By tracking the signs of her own fertility each day, she is able to determine when she is fertile and infertile. Decisions about whether to engage in sexual activity can then be made, based upon this knowledge, and the couple’s desire to achieve or postpone a pregnancy.
 
While NFP is sometimes mistaken for the primitive “calendar method” of generations past, it is actually an umbrella term for a collection of modern fertility awareness methods. Carefully evaluating each woman’s individual body and cycle, modern methods are rooted in science and are 99.6 percent effective when used correctly – a number that competes with the pill, according to the Couple to Couple League, a group that promotes Natural Family Planning.
 
Additionally, these methods are free from the host of side effects and health risks accompanying hormonal contraception. They don’t pollute the environment. And they can even help women identify underlying health problems that may otherwise go undiagnosed.
 
And Catholics are not alone in their use of Fertility Awareness Methods (FAM). Increasingly, they are being joined by women of various faiths and no faiths at all, as the benefits of natural methods draw new awareness.
 
In recent years, many Evangelicals and other Protestants have started to find fault with artificial birth control and are turning to natural fertility-based methods instead.
 
“All women – Protestant, Catholic, atheists, and nones – can appreciate this hormone-free (and conscience-free) alternative to chemical contraception,” said Chelsen Vicari, the Evangelical program director for the Institute on Religion and Democracy, in an article last year.
 
Meanwhile, a survey conducted by the University of Utah found that more women, religious or not, are seeking alternatives to hormonal birth control without turning to surgery. And a 2015 study from the University of Iowa found that more than 1 in 5 women would be open to using fertility monitoring instead of the pill if they knew how it worked.
 
Methods for understanding fertility are also on the rise, and thanks to the help of modern technology and research, women are able to re-think the long list of side effects that can accompany hormonal contraception, such as depression, increased risk for stroke, and reported lower quality of life.
 
“Specifically in the app world, the use of fertility apps to track cycles or plan/prevent pregnancy is increasing exponentially,” Jennings said, noting that there are more than 1,000 fertility apps available on Apple and Google Play stores.
 
However, Jennings did warn that some of the apps have been proven to be inaccurate or “make claims that are either unsubstantiated or misleading, making it difficult for women to know which apps are most likely to meet their needs.”
 
Among the most well-respected fertility apps is Kindara. Launched in 2012, the iOS app offers charting tools to help women track when they are fertile by highlighting the ovulation period of a woman’s monthly cycle.
 
“Over the past couple of decades, fertility awareness has been studied a lot. We know scientifically, based on evidence now, that it does work, and it works very well if you use it correctly,” says Lauren Risberg, the Content Lead for Kindara.
 
Another fertility app, Natural Cycles, was started by a nuclear physicist in Sweden and was recently approved by the European Union as a certified method of birth control.
 
The growing interest in fertility awareness also comes at a time of concern over false expectations of reliability with artificial birth control.
 
New statistics released this month indicate that more than half (51%) of the abortions performed in the UK last year were due to failed contraception from the pill, implants or patches.
 
In an interview with the Telegraph, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service Ann Furedi said that by encouraging women to use contraception, “you give them the sense that they can control their fertility.”
 
“Our data shows that women cannot control their fertility through contraception alone,” Furedi stressed.
 
In contrast, Church teaching surrounding Natural Family Planning emphasizes an openness to life, steering away from the notion that women control their fertility and instead empowering them with the knowledge to understand their bodies and cooperate with them to the fullest possible extent.
 
Emphasizing the gift of fertility and the ability to be co-creators with God to bring about a new human life, the Church teaches that couples should only avoid pregnancy through NFP when they have a just reason to do so.
 
With fertility awareness continuing to grow in popularity, the medical community would do well to pay attention, Jennings told CNA.
 
“Significant numbers of women worldwide don’t use birth control due to fears of side effects, negative beliefs about contraception, and because they don’t think they need it at the time,” she said.
 
“We believe the reproductive health community must take women's concerns seriously – and also take seriously evidence-based methods that rely on people knowing their own fertility.”
 

'Zita the Spacegirl'

As many parents know, all kids come into the world ready to draw, but as the years pass, each child reaches a point where they make a choice -- to draw or not to draw.
 
It was never a question for comic artist and arrow enthusiast Ben Hatke, who doodled his way through many a grade school and high school class, filling the margins with grand adventures.
 
His dad was an architect at Purdue University in Indiana and his mom took him and his two sisters to the library regularly. When the young boy discovered newspaper comics such as Calvin and Hobbes, it was love at first sight.
 
Now, many pounds of pencil lead and paper later, the Christendom College graduate and father of five has made a career out of "drawing in class." For nearly two decades, he has illustrated comics, Seton Home Study School textbooks, children's books and graphic novels.
 
The rights to his first graphic novel, "Zita the Spacegirl," was picked up recently by Fox for a movie, and there is hope that one day Hatke's brave characters will make it to the big screen.
 
"Zita the Spacegirl" chronicles the adventures of young Zita as she braves the unknown in pursuit of her friend who vanished after pushing a mysterious red button. The story, and subsequent trilogy, became a hit with readers who have become big fans of Hatke's work. What many of the fans don't know, however, is that Zita was not Hatke's idea.
 
"I feel like I'm always coming clean when I tell this story," said Hatke, as he sat next to his desk, covered with pens, paper, tiny action figures and a Madonna and Child statue.
 
"I stole the idea from this cute girl I met at Christendom College," he told the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington. "She had done these series of short little comics when she was in high school about this future girl named Zita so I was like, 'I'm going to develop this character.'"
 
The admirer from Indiana gave Zita a new outfit and added a green cape. He then presented his crush with a whole Zita comic book.
 
"This plan of impressing this girl totally worked because she married me, and here I am with my five daughters; and Anna is still putting up with my crazy artistic ways," he said.
 
According to Hatke, Anna chose the name Zita after St. Zita, who was the patroness of the region where Anna's father grew up in a village in Italy.
 
"(St. Zita) is a beautiful saint because she is not dramatic. She was a serving girl to a wealthy family, and she was just known for being kind to poor people and baking really great bread and giving it away," Hatke said. "In a time period when many of the saints were priests or religious, she was a lay saint. She just lived a really good life."
 
From the very beginning of Hatke's career, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien have been favorite storytelling influences. But while his style is similar to "The Chronicles of Narnia" by Lewis, Hatke tends to favor the storytelling philosophy of Tolkien, who was against making a story too message driven.
 
"The most important thing is that you are telling a good story, and if you are being honest in your good storytelling then what you think and feel and believe about the world will come out in that story and become apparent."
 
One thing that's become more apparent in Hatke's work is the influence of his family.
 
"I had a reason to look back in my stack of books, and it was shocking just how much of my interior life and psychology life comes out, especially in the Jack books," he said. In his latest graphic novel "Mighty Jack," released in 2016, the main character's house is identical to Hatke's, and the similarities do not stop there.
 
"I grew up with sisters. I now have daughters, and Jack also is surrounded by these different feminine characters who are pulling him in different directions," he explained. "I didn't even notice I was doing it until I read it in a review and then I was like, 'Oh man, this is me.'"
 
Anna and the girls play an important role as his first line of editorial support. The girls like to check on their dad at work and sometimes he will test a joke on them. If it goes over their heads he knows to try again.
 
His book "Little Robot" started out as a series of comic strips that he made during a time when he definitely had more important things to do. It turned into a book and won the 2016 Eisner Award for best publication for early readers.
 
"It has ended up being one of the books that is so important to me and it came because I was just 'goofing-off,'" he said.
 
The rising popularity of his books and the possible movie has reminded Hatke about the responsibility writers have to their young audience. "I'm so thankful and so grateful that I've wandered into this position that I really can share stories with people in this way," he said. "Having a voice and a young audience comes with a lot of responsibility, but also a lot of joy and a lot of excitement. The harder and more contentious times are, the more serious the role of the artist is in the world."
 
 

Bread and wine for the Eucharist

The Vatican recently published a circular letter, "On the bread and wine for the Eucharist," sent to diocesan bishops at the request of Pope Francis. Dated June 15 -- the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ -- the letter was made public by the Vatican July 8.
 
Because bread and wine for the Eucharist are no longer supplied just by religious communities, but "are also sold in supermarkets and other stores and even over the internet," bishops should set up guidelines, an oversight body and/or even a form of certification to help "remove any doubt about the validity of the matter for the Eucharist," the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments said.
 
In response to the Vatican statement, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat of Divine Worship has answered some of these frequently asked questions.
 
Q: Why is the Vatican worried about what makes up a Communion host? Doesn't it have more important things to focus on?
A: To say that the Eucharist is important to Catholics is an understatement; the bishops at the Second Vatican Council referred to it as the "source of and summit of the Christian life." On the night before he died, Jesus considered it important enough to spend time with his apostles at the Last Supper, telling them to continue to celebrate the Eucharist, instructing them to "do this in memory of me." So the Vatican is naturally interested in making sure that this instruction is carried out properly, and this requires not only a priest who says the correct words, but also the use of the correct material. Therefore, the Catholic Church has strict requirements for the bread and wine used at Mass.
 
Q: Has the validity of the materials used for the Eucharist been a problem in the United States?
A: The circular letter is addressed to the entire Church, to bishops all over the world. Circumstances are very different in various places around the globe, so it's difficult to know whether the Holy See's letter is a response to particular problems in certain places. It's important to note that the letter does not introduce any new teachings or regulations -- it simply reminds bishops of their important duty to ensure that the correct materials are used in the celebration of the Mass. We're fortunate in our country, insofar as it's not difficult to find bread and wine that are clearly suitable for the Mass.
 
Q: Concerning low-gluten hosts, how much gluten is in them? Are they safe for someone with celiac disease?
A: The gluten content in low-gluten hosts can vary by producer, but they typically contain less than 0.32 percent gluten. Foods with less than 20 parts per million gluten can be marketed as "gluten-free," and some low-gluten hosts -- while containing enough gluten to satisfy the Church's requirements for Mass -- would even fall into that category. The amount of gluten present in low-gluten hosts is considered safe for the vast majority of people with gluten-related health difficulties.
 
Q: For someone who does not want any exposure to gluten, the Church says that Communion may be received under the species of wine alone. What happens if a diocese does not offer Communion under both species?
A: Parishes are more than willing to make special arrangements to assist people who need to receive the Precious Blood instead of the host for medical reasons, even if the parish doesn't normally offer Communion under both kinds. It can take a little advanced planning to organize the procedures, but pastors are happy to do this. If for some reason a person in this situation runs into difficulties at the parish level, he or she should contact the bishop's office for assistance.
 
Q: What about someone, especially a priest, who has alcoholism? Is grape juice allowed?
A: Grape juice is not allowed for the Catholic Mass, but the use of "mustum" can be permitted. Mustum is a kind of wine that has an extremely low alcohol content. It's made by beginning the fermentation process in grape juice, but then suspending the process such that the alcohol content generally remains below 1 percent, far lower than the levels found in most table wines.
 
Q: I understand other faiths have gluten-free substitutes. With the Church's insistence on the presence of wheat in the Communion wafer, has this caused any problems in ecumenical dialogue?
A: No, this has not been an issue in ecumenical dialogue.
 
Q: Who do I talk with if these issues are a concern of mine? Must my pastor accommodate my needs?
A: Someone who suffers in this way should talk to his or her pastor. Naturally, if someone arrives with this kind of request at the last second before Mass is set to begin, the pastor might not be able to accommodate his or her needs. But if someone reaches out in a reasonable manner, pastors are happy to help. Again, if someone runs into difficulties in this regard, he or she should contact the bishop's office for assistance. One of the greatest duties and privileges of bishops and priests is making the Eucharist available to the Catholic faithful, and they do their best to make this possible.
 

Bishops comment on opioid crisis

By Matt Hadro
 
(CNA/EWTN News)--Amidst a growing epidemic of drug overdose and opioid addiction, Catholic bishops have been speaking out on the need for prayer and solidarity with those suffering from addiction.
 
“The closer you get to the Catholic Church, the closer you get to the wounds of Christ,” Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas said during a June 14 press conference at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ recent meeting in Indianapolis.
 
“And it’s important for us to recognize that we accompany many people who are wounded,” he added. “It’s the very essence of the Church to reach out to those who are wounded.”
 
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have declared that opioid abuse is an “epidemic” in the United States. Every day, 91 Americans die of an opioid-related overdose. The drugs include those used in prescription painkillers like oxycodone, codeine, and morphine, but also heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.
 
Overdoses have also become the leading cause of death for Americans under age 50. Opioids are involved in over 60 percent of overdoses nationwide, the CDC noted, and opioid-related overdoses quadrupled between 1999 and 2015.
 
Many Americans have reported first using prescription drugs before they used heroin, and rates of “past month” and “past year” heroin use, as well as heroin addiction, went up among 18-25 year-olds from 2002-2013, the CDC found, as heroin has become more widely available and purer.
 
Heroin-related deaths have more than tripled between 2010 and 2015, driven in part by an increase in synthetic opioids like fentanyl being added to heroin and cocaine to increase the potency of the drugs, the CDC reported.
 
At the U.S. bishops’ annual spring meeting in Indianapolis, held June 14-15, several bishops addressed the rising opioid crisis and discussed what the Church is doing to help those addicted to opioids, and their families. “The problem is becoming just so massive,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference.
 
In Vermont, parishes are trying to reach out to victims on the local level but are making sure to reach the families of victims as well, Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne explained at the June 14 press conference.
 
“Oftentimes we are kind of limited in what we can do on a state level,” he acknowledged. “But at our parishes and in our agencies in our parishes we can continue to reach out to addicted families,” he noted, stressing, “not just those who are in recovery, but also their families.”
 
This also involves finding foster parents for children of addicted parents, particularly those whose parents have overdosed and those who suffer from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.
 
Ultimately, Catholics must “recognize that it’s not just the addicts; it’s the whole family that suffers,” he continued.
 
Catholic Charities in the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese is “already on to this question,” Cardinal DiNardo noted, and is providing “the kinds of charity and help and counseling for them and their families that Catholic Charities by its professional expertise brings.”
 
On June 29, Bishop Edward Malesic of Greensburg, Penn., published a pastoral letter on the opioid crisis. In his diocese in Western Pennsylvania, more than 300 opioid-related deaths had ravaged the communities in the previous year.
 
In his “Pastoral Letter on the Drug Abuse Crisis from Death and Despair to Life and Hope,” Bishop Malesic affirmed that in response to the crisis, “we can either sink down into despair or rise up in hope.”
 
“This is a plague that has come into the homes and families of every city, town, and even the rural areas of our diocese,” he acknowledged. Yet Catholics must choose hope, he added.
 
“Hope is the certain belief that God will provide what we need to overcome the struggles we are now facing. If we are not guided by hope, we will give up before the battle is won. We must have hope!” he insisted.
 
And Catholics must give hope to those mired in the despair of addiction, he said. “We accompany them with courageous faith. We offer them the comforting presence and power of Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. Jesus will provide.”
 
Bishop Malesic exhorted priests, religious, and deacons to “reach out” in Christ’s name to those suffering from drug addiction, and “let them know that they are not alone.”
 
“With the power of prayer, we can lift up our needs and the needs of those who are addicted to a loving God who is concerned for all of us,” he said. “We know that prayer, this heartfelt and intimate communication with God, can make a dramatic difference in the life of someone coping with an addiction crisis.”
 
The bishop also announced initiatives the diocese was taking to respond to the crisis, including educational initiatives at the parish level and developing family recovery groups.
 
Last March, Massachusetts bishops also issued a statement in response to the state’s rising drug-overdose crisis, after the rate of overdose deaths had reached record levels there.
 
“We encourage our sisters and brothers who are suffering addiction or the addiction of loved ones to turn to their faith community for support, counsel and compassion, and we pray that those most affected will receive the physical, emotional and spiritual help that they need,” the commonwealth’s bishops stated.
 

Violent incidents involving controversial speakers

In the wake of several violent incidents involving controversial speakers at universities this year, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing June 20 on free speech on college campuses.
 
Earlier this year in Vermont, Middlebury College student protesters shut down a talk by controversial conservative social scientist Charles Murray and injured a Middlebury professor who was with him.
 
This issue of violent incidents involving controversial speakers at universities also prompted Catholic News Service to interview several Catholic observers and leaders in higher education who emphasized the importance of civility and dialogue in a time of violence and intolerance.
 
The hearing was titled "Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses" and centered on the topics of free speech, intellectual freedom and the dangers they face on college campuses. Several people gave testimony, including two current students.
 
Zachary R. Wood, a senior at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., described his efforts to invite speakers who advocate challenging or controversial views in his work as president of Uncomfortable Learning at Williams College. Often his efforts were met with verbal attacks and violent language.
 
"I adamantly believe that students should be encouraged to engage with people and ideas they vehemently disagree with," Wood said in his written testimony.
 
Wood warned of the dangers of a campus that is an echo chamber, in which one view dominates and dictates the intellectual climate of the university.
 
Jesuit Father Michael Sheeran is no stranger to higher education. He is president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, based in Washington, and before that was at Regis University in Denver for 40 years, serving as president the last 19 years of his tenure there.
 
Tracing the tradition of civility in education from Aristotle and Cicero's classical works through Cardinal John Henry Newman's "Idea of a University," Father Sheeran explained that Aristotle's conception of man as a social creature complements Cardinal Newman's conception of a gentleman as one who never inflicts pain upon another. In the last half of the 20th century, however, Father Sheeran described a diverging trend in conduct.
 
"Thanks, I think, to the media and the internet, it has become OK to exaggerate, to lie, to insult, to provoke, all justified under free speech," Father Sheeran told CNS in a phone interview.
 
To counter this, Father Sheeran advocates for a return to the civility of tradition.
"Universities need to teach students the tradition that has been destroyed over the period since the 20th Century," Father Sheeran said. "Faculty need to model civility in the classroom, not to belittle approaches to their academic discipline that they disagree with."
 
Gerard Powers, director of Catholic Peacebuilding Studies for the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, also emphasized the importance of listening to opinions that may contradict one's own and acknowledged the problem of echo chambers.
 
"You look for the facts that enforce your beliefs," Powers told CNS in a phone interview.
 
"I think all of us have a problem with being in our little echo chambers and silos," said Powers, who also is coordinator of the Catholic Peacebuilding Network based at Notre Dame.
 
Sister Patricia Chappell, executive director of Pax Christi USA, agreed. "I don't think it's healthy, honestly, to just be engaged with people who think like you, or who only believe in what you believe in," the Sister of Notre Dame de Namur told CNS. "I think that's myopic."
 
To escape these echo chambers, Powers proposes both having confidence in one's own moral values and being willing to dialogue with those with whom one disagrees.
 
"It's a combination of rootedness, a deep sense of who you are and what you believe in, your own moral compass, as well as a cultivation of your own humility," Powers said.
 
John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, joked that people should delete their friends on Facebook in order to exit their echo chambers. Carr further stressed the universal nature of Catholicism, indicating that being an active member of the Church should involve an open-minded approach to dialogue.
 
"We're called to renew the Earth, to change society, and I don't think you do that from an island," Carr told CNS.
 
It is important, Carr said, to try to anticipate the concerns that others hold rather than giving into the temptation to view them as bigoted, dangerous or disrespectful.

"That's the antithesis of what a college education and a college campus could be," Carr said.
 
 
 
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