Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I got the following from the Vatican Information Service


VATICAN CITY, 29 SEP 2009 (VIS) - Made public today were the contents of a video Message from the Pope to participants in an international spiritual retreat for priests at the French shrine of Ars for the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney. The preacher of the retreat, which is taking place from 27 September to 3 October, is Cardinal Christoph Schonborn O.P., archbishop of Vienna, Austria, and the theme of the spiritual exercises is: "The joy of being a priest, consecrated for the salvation of the world".

"The priest", says the Holy Father in his Message, "is called to serve human beings and to give them life in God. ... He is a man of the divine Word and of all things holy and, today more than ever, he must be a man of joy and hope. To those who cannot conceive that God is pure Love, he will affirm that life is worthy to be lived and that Christ gives it its full meaning because He loves all humankind".

Benedict XVI then turns to address priests who have to serve a number of parishes and who "commit themselves unreservedly to preserving sacramental life in their various communities. The Church's recognition for you all is immense", he says. "Do not lose heart but continue to pray and to make others pray that many young people may accept the call of Christ, Who always wishes to see the number of His apostles increase".

The Holy Father also invites priests to consider "the extreme diversity of the ministries" they perform "in the service of the Church", and "the large number of Masses you celebrate or will celebrate, each time making Christ truly present at the altar. Think of the numerous absolutions you have given and will give, freeing sinners from their burdens. Thus you may perceive the infinite fruitfulness of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Your hands and lips become, for a single instant, the hands and lips of God".

"This thought", the Pope added, "should bring you to ensure harmonious relations among the clergy so as to form the priestly community as St. Peter wanted, and so build the body of Christ and consolidate you in love".

"The priest is the man of the future. ... What he does in this world is part of the order of things directed towards the final Goal. Mass is the only point of union between the means and the Goal because it enables us to contemplate, under the humble appearance of the bread and the wine, the Body and Blood of Him Whom we adore in eternity".

"Nothing will ever replace the ministry of priests in the heart of the Church", the Pope concluded. "You are the living witnesses of God's power at work in the weakness of human beings, consecrated for the salvation of the world, chosen by Christ Himself to be, thanks to Him, salt of the earth and light of the world".

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New Vocation Website

I'm sure some of you have heard about this already, but I thought it was worth sharing for those who have not heard about it.


September 22, 2009 – As the global push to increase vocations to the priesthood intensifies, Vocation Boom! on September 14 – the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross – launched its first contribution to that important effort – a new website devoted to encouraging young men to consider a priestly vocation. Visitors to www.vocationboom.com are raving about the site, while prayer support has poured in from around the world.

Founded by Jerry Usher, creator and former host of Catholic Answers Live, Vocation Boom! is a global support community for young men discerning a call to priesthood, as well as for priests, educators, and families and friends. Vocationboom.com is dedicated to fostering a positive perception of the priesthood and culture of priestly vocations. In what Pope Benedict XVI has deemed the Year for Priests, Catholics across the globe are being called to encourage vocations and to pray for the future of the priesthood.

Vocation Boom! has drawn the special interest of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in San Francisco and Sacramento, California. The sisters recognize the critical mission that Vocation Boom! has undertaken and are praying for it to successfully increase vocations to the priesthood. According to Jerry Usher, “Since God is the source of all priestly vocations, we feel it’s crucial to garner as much prayer support as possible for the Vocation Boom! initiative. And who better to pray for it than holy brides of Christ like our beautiful consecrated nuns?“

He added, “We are deeply grateful for the generous daily prayers being offered by the Missionaries of Charity. We know the Lord will hear and answer them. And, of course, we invite all men and women to join the sisters in praying for Vocation Boom! to bear abundant fruit and help to bring about an increase in vocations to the priesthood.”

It looks like the sisters’ prayers are working. The Vocation Boom! website has already attracted visitors from all corners of the United States and Canada, and from as far away as the Philippines and New Zealand. Log on to discover the newest frontier in the quest for increasing vocations to the priesthood.

Show your support by becoming a member today at www.vocationboom.com!

Monday, September 21, 2009

26th Week in Ordinary Time Year B Homily

This is the homily I delivered at the University of Great Falls at the 9 pm Mass. I was a bit tired. WARNING!!! This is not a professional recording

Thursday, September 17, 2009


From the Vatican Information Service

VATICAN CITY, 17 SEP 2009 (VIS) - This morning in Castelgandolfo the Holy Father received a group of prelates from the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (Northeast 2), who have just completed their "ad limina" visit.

Highlighting the functions of the various members of the Church, the Pope explained how "the particular identity of priests and laity must be seen in the light of the essential difference between priestly ministry and the 'common priesthood'. Hence it is important to avoid the secularisation of clergy and the 'clericalisation' of the laity".

"In this perspective", he went on, "the lay faithful must undertake to give expression in real life - also through political commitment - to the Christian view of anthropology and the social doctrine of the Church. While priests must distance themselves from politics in order to favour the unity and communion of all the faithful, thus becoming a point of reference for everyone".

Benedict XVI indicated that "the lack of priests does not justify a more active and abundant participation of the laity. The truth is that the greater the faithful's awareness of their own responsibilities within the Church, the clearer becomes the specific identity and inimitable role of the priest as pastor of the entire community, witness to the authenticity of the faith, and dispenser of the mysteries of salvation in the name of Christ the Head".

"The function of the clergy is essential and irreplaceable in announcing the Word and celebrating the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. ... For this reason it is vital to ask the Lord to send workers for His harvest; and it is necessary that priests express joy in their faithfulness to their identity".

The Pope made it clear that "the shortage of priests must not come to be considered as a normal or typical state of affairs for the future". In this context he encouraged the prelates "to combine efforts to encourage new priestly vocations and find the pastors your dioceses need, helping one another so that all of you have better-trained and more numerous priests to support the life of faith and the apostolic mission".

Referring then to the 150th anniversary of the death of the "Cure of Ars", which the Church is currently commemorating with the Year for Priests, Benedict XVI indicated that St. John Mary Vianney "continues even now to be a model for priests, especially in living a life of celibacy as a requirement for the total giving of self, expressed through that pastoral charity which Vatican Council II presents as the unifying centre of a priest's being and actions".

The Holy Father concluded by assuring the prelates of the existence of "many signs of hope for the future of particular Churches, a future that God is preparing through the dedication and the faithfulness with which you exercise your episcopal ministry".

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Health Care - A Bishop Speaks

The following is from Bishop Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota

Dear Priests, Deacons, Religious and Faithful of the Diocese of Fargo,

At this time in our nation’s history, we continually face new challenges as we witness to the Gospel in an ever increasing secularized society. Currently our civil leaders are discussing different proposals to provide greater access to health care in our country. Indeed, the Church has officially manifested her teaching, since Pius XI to Benedict XVI, in the recognition of the great importance of ensuring that all peoples have access to health care.

In principle, the Church ought to always promote wider and more complete access to health care; however, that does not mean that in practice the Church ought to support each and every plan which is proposed by civil leaders. At this time, I want to offer you some key principles that should always be used when evaluating the moral value and justice of a given plan to provide health care. The following is a brief summary of these principles, after which I will offer further explanation and application:

1. Any provisions for actions which deny the dignity of human life, especially abortion, euthanasia, whether passive or active, and embryonic stem-cell research must be excluded from all health care plans.

2. The freedom of consciences must be safeguarded. The moral voice of individual doctors, nurses, health professionals, as well as the general public, deserve reverence and respect.

3. Access to health care ought to be available to all people, including the poor, legal immigrants, the handicapped, and especially the elderly and unborn members of society.

4. The means of providing access to health care should be governed by the principle of subsidiarity, being reasonably and equitably distributed among members of society.

The Dignity of Human Life
Made in the image and likeness of God, each and every human person bears the mark of the Trinity’s own character and life. Because of this inherent dignity, each man and woman is to be reverenced with great care from the moment of conception through every stage of their life. From the right to life flow all other human duties and rights, including the duty to preserve and protect one’s own life and health with the right to the means of achieving this goal.

Any attempt to provide greater access to health care without safeguarding human life from the moment of conception is inherently inconsistent. Pope Benedict XVI shares this great wisdom of the Church in his latest encyclical letter, Caritas in Veritate, when he recalls the words of John Paul II, “A society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized” (Caritas in Veritate, 15; Evangelium Vitae, 101). True health care begins with the unborn child in the womb. When a given plan to provide care fails to protect that life, it is no longer animated by a source of truth and justice, thus it will not, and cannot, flourish. The killing of unborn children through abortion or as a means to do research has nothing to do with promoting health. Both encyclicals make clear the teaching of the Church that the destruction of human life by abortion and other evils can never be a neutral question or one that is promoted by any faithful Catholic.

Conscience Rights
One of the important developments that resulted from the Second Vatican Council is found in the document on religious freedom, Dignitatis Humanae. “Nobody may be forced to act against his convictions, nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience in religious matters in private or in public” (DH 2-1). In the arena of health care, this statement applies both to those who work directly in health care, as well as to the general public who participate in health care plans through insurance premiums and taxes.

The practice of medicine is a tremendous gift whereby the seemingly endless illnesses and maladies that afflict the human body can be studied, known and healed. This in-depth knowledge which serves the progress of human health can also be used to promote death and destruction. The doctors, nurses and health care professionals who possess such medical expertise are prime candidates for coercion from those who would destroy the most vulnerable human lives. The right to follow one’s conscience, as informed by God, must be guaranteed. It is imperative that health professionals and institutions have the freedom to refuse to perform unethical procedures and even to refuse to refer a patient to another professional or institution for treatments they believe, according to the natural law, are immoral.

The consciences of participants in health care plans must also be respected. In no way should taxpayers or policy holders be forced to participate in plans, whether private or public, which fund procedures that violate the moral precepts of the faith. In his August 11, 2009, letter to the House of Representatives, Cardinal Justin Rigali addresses this very issue as he writes, “By what right, then, and by what precedent, would Congress make abortion coverage into a nationwide norm, or force Americans to subsidize it as a condition for participating in a public health program?” The protection of the freedom of conscience is a concern not only for those directly involved in medicine, but for all members of society. No health care plan managed by our government or funded by taxpayer money may include provisions to provide for abortion or other evils without violating the rights and consciences of citizens. The right of individuals to contest the inclusion of such provisions in privately managed or funded plans must be also safeguarded.

Access to All
One of the basic messages of the Gospel is that the love of God has no bounds or conditions. Many of the parables and actions of Jesus Christ illustrate this foundational truth. We share in this unrestricted outpouring of divine life through the infused virtue of charity in our souls. In friendship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Christian receives the ability to love all people, especially those in the greatest need.

Therefore, as John Paul II wrote, the love of the Church must “embrace the immense multitudes of those…without medical care” (Solicitudo Rei Socialis, 42). In our day, when many times utilitarian values overlook the most vulnerable, we must ensure that the poor, the elderly, the handicapped, legal immigrants and the unborn, together with all citizens of our nation, have access to health care. Called to be the living presence of Jesus in the world, finding ways to provide medical care to those who have none is a perennial priority for the Church. In fact, health care was a chief concern of the Church in North Dakota when in the 1940’s, Msgr. Anthony Peschel, who wrote extensively on the duties and rights of individuals with respect to health care, played a major role in the establishment of health insurance programs in North Dakota.

Subsidiarity is the principle that states “a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1883). As a society seeks to bring about any good such as health care, there are many organic and intermediate groups which cooperate together to reach the desired goal. There is a danger in being persuaded to think that the national government is the sole instrument of the common good. Rather, according to the classic principle of subsidiarity in Catholic social thought, many different communities within society share this responsibility. These various strands of community life within society build up a strong and cohesive social fabric that is the hallmark of a true communion of persons. States, towns, fraternal organizations, businesses, cooperatives, parishes and especially the family have not only legitimate freedom to provide the goods they are rightly capable of supplying, but often times do so with far greater efficiency, less bureaucracy and, most importantly, with personalized care and love.

This is especially the case in the tremendous work that the Church has done in successfully bringing health care, from early hospitals to modern research centers, to more and more people. We see this truth vividly in the Catholic health facilities in our rural areas. As our society seeks to achieve the goal of ensuring access to health care for all, the federal government surely has a role to play, but definitely not the only role, or even the primary role. Working together with individual states to foster an environment where greater insurance options are available to all, fostering the formation of new and creative associations and finding ways in solidarity to assist financially and coordinate, when necessary, local and private entities are all desirable starting points for a task of such great scope. Honoring the principle of subsidiarity will enable all men and women to be true participants in contributing to the goal of providing greater access to health care.

These four principles provide a foundation for a fruitful discussion about health care reform and must be considered carefully as changes in health care policy are drafted. I encourage all of our Catholic health care facilities, medical professionals, parishes and lay faithful to become engaged in promoting genuine health care reform. I am sure this debate will not subside soon, so I also encourage you to continue to periodically check the Web sites of the North Dakota Catholic Conference (http://www.ndcatholic.org/) and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (www.usccb.org/healthcare/) in order to stay up to date.

Finally, may we be joined by the Holy Spirit in fervent prayer to the Father with our savior, Jesus Christ, who has said “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). He is the Lord of history who continues to guide and direct our world with the power of his truth and love. May we trust in him who continually inspires us to arduously work for the health, well-being and flourishing of all human life from the moment of conception through natural death.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

†Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila
Bishop of Fargo