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Closing of the Holy Door

BURLINGTON--This Holy Year of Mercy will come to a close on Sunday, Nov. 20, the Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe.
 
Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne will celebrate a special Mass in celebration of God’s gift of Mercy through Christ Jesus, and the many gifts God has bestowed in this Jubilee year. Mass will begin at 3 pm in St. Joseph Co-Cathedral. Light refreshments will be available after Mass.
 
Throughout this Year of Mercy, the Diocese of Burlington has celebrated jubilees for lay ministers, religious and consecrated life, young children, young adults, deacons, priests and seminarians, families, musicians, catechists and school teachers and the sick, while also holding all of God’s people in prayers of mercy, peace and love.
 
Take a look back at the opening of this extraordinary Jubilee, what mercy means in our lives, and the various celebrations each month at vermontcatholic.org/yearofmercy.
 
"In this Jubilee Year, may the Church echo the word of God that resounds strong and clear as a message and a sign of pardon, strength, aid, and love. May she never tire of extending mercy, and be ever patient in offering compassion and comfort. May the Church become the voice of every man and woman, and repeat confidently without end: “Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old” (Ps 25:6)."  -Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus
 

From Father Thomas Mattison

Pastor Christ our Savior Parish in Manchester Center and Arlington
 
We have been conditioned by years (centuries?) of teaching to think of love/charity as a virtue, something to do or not. But St. John tells us God is love. He does not tell us that God does love. I want to suggest that this is the insight – although never spoken – that makes Israel think of God as Elector/Electing; having no other identity than the one who chooses his own people. I do not think that we go far wrong when we assert that the only God we know is the one who loves/chooses us. With those observations in mind, I might like to revise the translation of John’s phrase and say that God is Loving, not as an attribute, but as the very dynamic of His being. You may want to reread this paragraph in order to forge ahead.
 
If God is Loving, then all of creation is something like a love letter. You and I are words in that love letter. I don’t mean to sound like a song from the Seventies, but we must bite the bullet on this one and admit it: Unloving undoes creation and undoes the unlover. Whatever is must be love or it is not. I want to show you two examples of that.
 
As Jesus hung upon the cross, He experienced, with all the sensitivity that only a divine being could possess, what it means to be un-loved by priests and procurators, by disciples and strangers. In this moment when everyone and everything seems bent on un-loving/unmaking Him, He calls out to God who is Loving, “Why have you abandoned me?” Why does love feel so unloving?
 
At the end of her life, Therese Martin, as her intestines we rotting away from tuberculosis, ventured the observation, “I did not think that love could hurt so much.”
 
Each of them knows that to be is to be loved, and each of them affirms that even being in pain is being loved. The clarity of their understanding at first baffles us; then it makes us gape in wonder.
 
This is where real virtue begins. If pain or hostility or weakness or ignorance or poverty or disgrace or guilt means that one is unloved, then love is not worth the trouble. But if one is loved even in such untoward circumstances, then these circumstances are but a paring away of all that is not essential to life and love, allowing life and love to be seen in its purest form that we call resurrection. You might want to reread this paragraph too. (Or think of all the times the weight trainer tells you to go for the burn or to work to failure.) These are terribly clarifying (or maybe just terrible) thoughts. They reduce the whole of life and living to just one thing. But no other reduction allows for the same unified and coherent vision of reality.
 
Thus, while we pray that we will be spared abandonment and tuberculosis, we can learn from these great and holy people the power of this vision to comfort even as it challenges, to bring hope even as it plunges us into deeper darkness, to inspire love even in the unloved and, to paraphrase some poet or other, to find the Lover even in the unlovely.
 
Father Mattison’s parish website is www.christoursaviorvt.com.
 

Parents play pivotal role in encouraging, supporting vocations


David Parker, left, and his son David Jr., lay prostrate during an ordination Mass at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Pulaski, Wis., May 7. The elder Parker was ordained a permanent deacon and his son was ordained a transitional deacon as part of his formation for the priesthood. (CNS photo/Sam Lucero, The Compass)
WASHINGTON (CNS) – When young people feel called to the priesthood or religious life, they can't keep it a secret. Eventually, they need to break the news to their parents.
 
And whether their parents expected the news or are pleasantly surprised or shocked by it, their response carries a lot of weight.
 
Father Mark Ivany, director of spiritual formation at a minor seminary in the Archdiocese of Washington, said it makes a big difference when seminarians feel their parents' support.
 
But he also says "the Lord is never outdone though," meaning the vocational call can still be followed without a parent's enthusiasm, but it might be more of a challenge.
Sister Mary Angela Woelkers, a 27-year-old Sister of the Servants of the Pierced Heart of Jesus and Mary, said it was a "great blessing" to have her parents support her decision to become a sister, but she also clarified that it didn't mean they "joyfully carried me to the convent."
 
She felt called to religious life when she was 18 but didn't tell her parents about it until a year later.
 
"Now looking back, I think of it like dating," she said, adding, "If I were dating, maybe I'd tell my parents, but I wouldn't bring him home to meet Mom and Dad until I knew for sure."
 
Sister Mary Angela, who grew up in Great Falls, Montana, and is now on a mission assignment in Rome, thinks she would've been able to pursue her vocation even if her parents hadn't supported her.
 
"The call of the Lord was very strong and I think that I would've been able to follow it even in the midst of great adversity, but it's been an immense gift from the Lord for me and for my parents that they were open to receive the vocation," she told Catholic News Service in an Oct. 27 Skype interview.
 
When she broke the news to her parents, her father's response was: "This is something very serious, like getting married," which she was glad to hear because she wasn't sure how he would react. And now, two years after Sister Mary Angela professed her final vows, she said her parents continue to be open to her vocation, or as she put it: "They want to know more and to walk with me."
 
That's also the attitude of Barb and Tom Niezer of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Fort Wayne, Indiana, whose son Daniel is studying for the priesthood for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, at Mount St. Mary's in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
Barb Niezer said she and her husband "continue to pray that God's will be done."
"We've learned a lot through Daniel. As much as we want (his priesthood), it's not our decision or his, it's the Lord's," she said.
 
She also said she and her husband didn't do anything particularly unique to set the foundation for their son's calling, instead she attributes it to the Holy Spirit, to going to church every Sunday as a family and being involved in parish life.
She also said she and her husband encouraged their four children to have an open mind about a religious vocation.
 
Beth and Brendan Glasgow, parishioners at St. Peter's Church in Olney, Maryland, and the parents of two seminarians, similarly stressed they didn't do "anything extraordinary" in their home lives to lead their sons on their current path.
What they did, Beth Glasgow told CNS, was "allow the Holy Spirit to do extraordinary things."
 
She founded a group called Joyful Mothers of the Cross, which includes other mothers of seminarians who get together once a month to pray for their sons and other seminarians and just to connect with each other.
 
She said she never had misgivings about her sons' decisions because she personally knows many happy priests.
 
She said it is harder for some parents to let their children follow this call or trust that they will be OK and not be lonely.
 
It's important your children know "you support them and are praying for them to discern God's will for them," she said, adding that the more this prayer is said, the easier it becomes to embrace their calling.
 
Father Ivany, who is based at the St. John Paul II Seminary in Washington and also is the director of priest vocations in the Washington Archdiocese, said it breaks his heart when seminarians don't have their parents' support, a trend he says has been on the rise.
 
"The reality is these parents love their sons, but they might have had a bad experience with the church" or a distrust that comes from society or the modern culture, he told CNS.
 
To counter that, the minor seminary has events during the school year to include seminarians' parents and families.
 
It's not like the old days, he noted, when a pastor would drop off a young man at the seminary and he might not see his parents for a year.
 
As Sister Mary Angela pointed out, joining a religious order doesn't have to mean being cut off from one's family. Instead, she described it as a "definite reordering," noting that she doesn't call her parents every minute of the day, but she keeps in regular contact with them, especially through social media.
 
Her parents are also able to say they didn't lose a daughter when she became a sister.
 
"Instead, they joke that they gained 30 more," she said, by calling the other sisters in her order the in-laws.
 
Note: National Vocation Awareness Week was celebrated Nov. 6-12.
 

Desire for power is an obstacle to serving God, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To serve God, Christians must learn to be at the service of all and not be dominated by a desire to exert power and authority over others, Pope Francis said. In his teaching, Jesus made it clear that "he who commands must become like one who serves," the pope said Nov. 8 in his homily during Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
 
"This desire for power is not the path to becoming a servant of the Lord," the pope said. "On the contrary, it is an obstacle; it is one of these obstacles that we have prayed to the Lord to keep far from us." Reflecting on the theme of service, the pope said that another major obstacle that impedes Christians from serving the Lord freely is disloyalty.
 
Disloyalty occurs, he said, when "someone wants to serve the Lord but also wants to serve other things that are not the Lord."
 

Miami archbishop praises new EPA initiative on environmental justice

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The federal Environmental Protection Agency's new environmental justice initiative, known as EJ 2020, was praised in a Nov. 4 statement from Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
 
The 66-page EPA document, issued Oct. 27, has as one of its primary goals deepening the "environmental justice practice within EPA programs to improve the health and environment of overburdened communities." "The concern for the good of people, especially the poor and vulnerable communities, is one of the central messages in Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment," said Archbishop Wenski, referring to "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home."
 
The EPA defines "overburdened" communities as "minority, low-income, tribal or indigenous populations or geographic locations in the United States that potentially experience disproportionate environmental harms and risks. ... The term describes situations where multiple factors, including both environmental and socioeconomic stressors, may act cumulatively to affect health and the environment and contribute to persistent environmental health disparities."
 

Pro-life supporters denounce Father Pavone over election Facebook video

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pro-life supporters in the Catholic Church are denouncing activist Father Frank Pavone for what he said was an "emergency situation" on the eve of the U.S. presidential election.
 
"What did he do?" wrote Ed Mechmann, a public policy director whose areas of concern include pro-life issues, in a blog for the Archdiocese of New York. "He used a dead aborted baby, laying naked and bloody on an altar, as a prop for his video." But Father Pavone, no stranger to controversial situations, said he was trying to drive home, in a visual and impactful way, what it meant to choose one presidential candidate over the other on Election Day.
 
Father Pavone, appealing for votes for Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump, said he was showing "the Democrats' support of baby-killing. I'm showing the reality," he said in an interview on Election Day with Catholic News Service.
 
Father Pavone is a member of Trump's Catholic advisory group. But some say what he did, how he did it and where he did it -- a body on an altar via Facebook Live -- amounts to desecration of a body and also is sacrilegious because it was done on an altar, which should be used only for sacramental purposes, not to advance a political candidate.
 
"When a photo of a pro-life priest with a naked corpse of an unborn child on an altar is used to get out the vote, it's time to say: ENOUGH!" wrote Dominican Father Thomas Petri of Washington on Twitter Nov. 7.
 

Canada's euthanasia opponents say getting accurate stats problematic

OTTAWA, Ontario (CNS) -- With euthanasia occurring in Quebec at triple government predictions, obtaining accurate statistics on medically assisted deaths across Canada is almost impossible and could lead to abuse, according to opponents of the practice.
 
A recent report from the Quebec government showed 262 euthanasia deaths in the first seven months after the province legalized the practice last December. Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette told journalists he was surprised at the figure, which is about three times higher than anticipated. He said the number of euthanasia deaths in the province could reach 300 by the end of the year, but the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition believes the figure will be closer to 450.
 
Alex Schadenberg, coalition director, told Canadian Catholic News that, even in Quebec, where the requirements for reporting and oversight are the most rigorous, euthanasia deaths are likely being underreported.
 
He also expressed frustration at a lack of transparency in other provinces, making it impossible to compile accurate statistics on assisted suicide and euthanasia, leaving no way of identifying instances of abuse. "A system was promised, but we don't know what it is," Schadenberg said.
 

Mercy Fridays give pope a year of stories, tears, hugs

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Tears, prayers, caresses -- but most of all, listening -- were the hallmarks of Pope Francis' "Mercy Friday" visits during the Year of Mercy. As the jubilee began last December, Pope Francis said he would ditch the media one Friday afternoon each month and personally try to give life to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
 
Throughout the year, he used his weekly general audiences and monthly Saturday jubilee audiences to teach about the reality of God's mercy and the obligation of sharing mercy with others. But the Mercy Friday visits -- even the two that were not held on a Friday -- were about presence.
 
While top personnel at the places he visited had some advance notice, in most cases the guests, residents or patients did not. The Mercy Fridays gave them a chance to tell the pope their stories and, usually, to share a late afternoon snack with him.
 
 

DeGoesbriand Appeal

BURLINGTON—The Bishop deGoesbriand Appeal For Human Advancement second collection will take place on the weekend of Nov. 19-20.
           
The appeal raises money to support local non-profit organizations that make a difference in the daily lives of Vermonters.
 
Each November, Vermont parishes take a second collection to support this grant program. One hundred percent of the money collected is distributed throughout the state in the form of grants to local non-profit organizations that seek to create a higher quality of life in their communities. Financial support helps provide resources for homeless shelters, right-to-life programs and food programs for children and families, to name just a few.
 
Since the appeal’s inception, 153 organizations throughout Vermont have been awarded grants. 
 
“I rely on Community Emergency Relief Volunteers to help feed my family.  Without them I don’t know what I would do.  They always try to have something for everyone from meals to veggies, from cereal to soup,” said one food shelf recipient. “They even have shampoo, soaps and cleaning agents which helps out so much.”
 
The mother of a 9-month-old child at the John Graham Shelter said she was pregnant and afraid, with nowhere to go and no family to help. “I heard about the John Graham Shelter. They helped me to get health care and prenatal care. They helped me keep my job at Subway and stick to a budget,” she said. “Best of all they were a community of support throughout my high-risk pregnancy. I was able to move to one of the shelter's safe and beautiful apartments before my baby was born. She was never homeless! I am stronger now and plan to make sure she never will be” homeless.
 
The appeal’s ability to support local non-profit organizations depends on people’s generosity. Whether your gift is $10, $100, $1,000 or more, your gift will make a difference.
 
For more information about this appeal or how to give, contact Vermont Catholic Charities, 55 Joy Drive, South Burlington, VT 05403, 802-658-6111.
 

Spanish Mass

ENFIELD, N.H.--Father John Patrick Sullivan, M.S., who served as a missionary in Argentina for many years, celebrates Mass in Spanish at the LaSalette Shrine. Currently, Spanish Masses are scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 11, at 2:30 p.m. He is available for confessions in Spanish before and after the Spanish Mass. There will be refreshments after Mass. He also hears confessions both in Spanish and English at the regular confession times at the shrine. For more information, call 603-632-7087.
 
Bishop's Fund Annual Appeal