Friday, May 30, 2008
The Entrance Mass for Mary Gibson of Veritatis Splendor blog, perhaps more well known as the Roamin' Roman, has been rescheduled from June 6th to May 30th (TODAY) at 5:15 p.m. The Mass will be in the Sacred Heart Chapel at the Cathedral of St. Paul-a Chapel with a special meaning to Mary.
Mary will be entering the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles in Kansas City in a few weeks.
Which reminds me, I'm sure Mary could still use some help paying down her debt before she enters the order so if you can help.....here
Today is the Ordination Jubilee of the day, May 30, 1992 of Father Tim Vakoc, Army Major and chaplain as a priest. For many priests, their jubilee is their big personal celebration of their year.
It is interesting, and not a coincidence, that this day is the date of the United States' original holiday to remember its military veterans, once called Decoration Day, later Memorial Day, but now moved to Mondays so folks could get a three day weekend and ignore those who sacrificed so much that they could have a life of peace and freedom here.
Yesterday, May 29, was the fourth anniversary of the day when Vakoc (pronounced VAH-Kitch), of the U.S. Army's 44th Corps Support Battalion, suffered a severe head wound while returning from a Mass he celebrated for soldiers outside the Iraqi city of Mosul. The Robbinsdale, MN, native was the first Army chaplain seriously injured in the Iraq war. For more Stella Borealis posts and links, see here.
Pray for Father Tim as he continues his long and slow recovery. He is blessed with a Mom and Sister and many volunteers who love and care for him. I had the honor of meeting him and being blessed by him quite recently.
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Deacon Greg Kandra, an employee of CBS News in New York, has a wonderful blog called the Deacon's Bench, where he blogs on interesting Catholic subjects. Today he, again, not so coincidentally, blogs on military chaplains in a time of war today.
Here's a story we don't hear told often enough -- about life as a chaplain serving the soldiers, who are serving us, in Iraq:
On a recent morning, an Army chaplain, Lt. Col. Richard E. Brunk Jr., met with a suicidal soldier who had served in Iraq, drove across Fort Hood to greet 70 activated reservists, attended meetings on future deployments and then retreated to his computer to counsel members of his military flock around the world.Check the link to read more. Let us keep these brave men in our prayers. The Deacon's Bench
Finally, just before 4 a.m. the next day, after stealing an hour’s sleep, Chaplain Brunk stood on a tarmac shaking hands with soldiers bound for Iraq, murmuring words of encouragement and offering an occasional hug.
As a casualty of war himself, he knows what soldiers can experience. Injured in Iraq in January 2005, Chaplain Brunk suffers from moderate brain trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. “I’ve been really pushed to my limits and beyond,” he said. “At times, I’ve really wondered if I could get through.”
Just as it has claimed so many other members of the military, the war in Iraq has taken a toll on chaplains. Although they do not engage in combat, chaplains face the perils of war as they move around Iraq to visit troops. None have been killed, but some, like Chaplain Brunk, have been wounded. Many report post-traumatic stress disorder and other stress problems.
In the past year, the Army has begun to recognize those problems among chaplains and is ensuring that those suffering from stress disorders receive medical treatment at military hospitals.
The Army’s chief of chaplains, Maj. Gen. Douglas L. Carver, has mandated that every military installation offer programs to ensure the mental well being of its chaplains. A spiritual center will open this summer at the chaplain training headquarters at Fort Jackson, S.C., and chaplains will be invited to retreats.
“We are doing more for the chaplains because the chaplains are doing more,” said Lt. Col. Ran Dolinger, a spokesman for the chief of chaplains. Because of multiple deployments to combat zones, Colonel Dolinger said, “they just needed more help.”
Created by the Continental Congress, the chaplaincy is charged with ensuring that every soldier can freely practice his or her religion, especially in war. Trained in various specialties, chaplains today do a broad variety of tasks, including offering advice about Islam to battlefield commanders, monitoring soldiers for signs of stress and counseling struggling Army families back home.
The Army has about 2,500 chaplains, with 250 serving in Iraq and Afghanistan at any time. The length of their tours of duty varies.
No battalion goes into a war zone without a chaplain. But a shortage — particularly acute among Roman Catholic priests, mirroring a national trend — has left Army Reserve and Army National Guard units and those stateside stretched thin. In a combat zone, chaplains crisscross hostile terrain to reach soldiers of all faiths.
Chaplain Brunk, a retired Army chaplain’s son and a 57-year-old Lutheran minister, had been in Iraq only a month when he was wounded.
On a sunny morning during a service at Camp Victory in Baghdad, three missiles struck nearby, shattering the windows and spewing rubble. The blast threw him to the marble floor.
As he lay amid the chocolates he had been saving as a treat for after services, he could see a fellow chaplain mouthing words but he heard nothing. His eardrums had been ruptured, and he had an undiagnosed brain injury.
“They told me I had a really bad headache,” he said. “They told me to get some sleep.”
He said he still did not remember the first three days after the blast, including a telephone call home to talk about the birth of his grandson. Several weeks later, he passed out at a meeting.
He was treated at hospitals in Iraq, Germany and the United States, and returned to Baghdad in May 2005 to finish his deployment. He was sent home again, however, after doctors found blood clots in his brain, caused by exposure to five explosions during his time in Baghdad. Like a boxer repeatedly punched in the head, the trauma had been cumulative.
Chaplain Brunk still has headaches, which he says make his head feel “like a sizzling hotplate,” and he hears a rushing sound like a waterfall.
“I started to get very angry, crying uncontrollably,” he said, speaking of his post-traumatic stress disorder.
A sergeant who had been in Vietnam recognized the symptoms and told a doctor, who sent Chaplain Brunk home.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Officials in Ramsey County, Minnesota have sent letters to more than 800 churches and related entities there demanding various documents to justify the tax-exempt status of the ministries. Christian legal experts call the move illegal harassment.
Douglas Napier, senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), says the county is violating state law just by requesting the information. "Government officials have no right to harass churches in violation of state law," says the attorney. "And the county needs to realize that its threats to revoke the tax-exempt status of hundreds of churches, unless those churches submit their laundry list of documents, is [sic] clearly a violation of Minnesota law."
He says the county assessor's goal is not entirely clear. "It appears from the letters that they're on a fishing expedition to find out anything and everything that they can to possibly disqualify these churches," says Napier, noting that the only issue applicable is property tax. "So if it's land -- whether it's developed or not -- they are trying to, apparently, look for a way to disqualify them from their tax-exempt status for that land," he suggests.
Napier says that, at this time, the church's suit against the county does not address the First Amendment issues that are part of the case because the Minnesota law against what the county is doing is so clear. "It's simpler than even understanding the First Amendment," remarks the attorney. "They've got specific laws on the books in Minnesota that tell them that churches don't have to do this. And, certainly, from a First Amendment standpoint, there are serious issues of entanglement here, and overreaching."
ADF attorneys have already gotten the court to bar the county from collecting property taxes from one of the churches while a lawsuit against the county proceeds. Napier hopes the court will simply enforce the existing state law against the county and leave the churches alone.
"We just want them to back down and respect the nature of the churches and continue to acknowledge their tax-exempt status," he shares. One News Now
The Catholic Diocese of Des Moines installed it's ninth bishop Thursday in Des Moines. Sixty-five-year-old Richard Pates is taking over for Bishop Joseph Charron, who retired for health reasons. Pates came to Des Moines from St. Paul, Minnesota, and showed a sense of humor in his introductory remarks.
"It is a great consolation to me that I come to the Church Des Moines as its ninth bishop. Such lengthy genealogy provides prospective," Pates says, "my predecessor bishops, each in his unique way has made a difference. And even if I shall blow it badly, the Diocese will go on. The tenth, eleventh and twelfth bishops will just have to work a little harder."
Pates turned serious in his homily, addressing many familiar issues of the church. He talked about the importance of a husband and wife fulfilling the Sacrament of Marriage, and about respect for life. Pates says all of us can trace our existence to the creating hand of God, and each of us is called to "protect, nurture, and enhance the precious gift of human life from the moment of conception to natural death."
Pates discussed the impact of immigrants in the state. "We insist that all are guaranteed the basic human rights of food, education, healthcare, security, work, freedom of religious practice," Pates says, "we not only welcome but accept the enriching presence of newcomers among us. For us in this part of Iowa, it means placing the welcome mat out for Latinos, Sudanese, those from Asian nations and other parts of Latin America." Pate says change is not always easy to accept.
Pates says, "The changing face of this state and diocese, the influx of Hispanics and other immigrants, the consequences and the costs of sexual abuse, the tension of economic hardship, all these raise fear, even despair for some, certainly the anxieties that always come with change." Pates says the fears of change may have some questioning their faith. Pates says the diocese needs to embrace the changes.
"We need to leave behind our anger, our divisions, our hard and embittered feelings, our grudges," Pates says. "Being Irish, I can tell you all about grudges, I can also tell you of the liberation, the exhilaration of being freed when I let grudges go. Equally liberating is experiencing the forgiveness and the dropping of grudges others have held against me." Pates sat in the same chair used by Pope John Paul the second during the Pope's visit to Iowa in 1979. The Des Moines Diocese covers 23 counties in central and southwest Iowa, serving around 97,000 people in 82 parishes. Radio Iowa
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Former archdiocesan Auxiliary Bishop Robert Carlson, who was appointed Bishop of Sioux Falls in 1995 and then Bishop of Saginaw, Michigan in 2005, continues to do wonders working against the secular tide, vocation-wise. Rocco from Whispers notes:
This is the first time since 1982 that at least four priests have been ordained for the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw. Four men were ordained that year by Bishop Kenneth E. Untener, however, those ordinations did not take place on the same day. June 7, 1969 was the last day in which at least four priests were ordained for Saginaw on the same day by Bishop Francis F. Reh at St. Mary Cathedral in Saginaw....The Saginaw ordinations bring to seven the number of new priests ordained by Bishop Robert Carlson... that is, just within the last year.
Bishop Carlson also is set to ordain two transitional deacons during a 10 a.m. Mass on Saturday at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Midland.
For the record, the Michigan diocese counts a Catholic population of somewhere around 140,000.
The litany of vocational wonder-workers is well-known: Carlson's 30-odd candidates (up from two on his 2005 arrival in Saginaw); Bishop Robert Morlino's six-to-30+ over his five years in Madison; Bishop Art Serratelli's nearly forty in Paterson -- a 900% increase during his four years in the North Jersey diocese... etc.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
South St. Paul, Minnesota
Faith Off has been commissioned by the digital TV station the Islam Channel in a bid to foster good relations and better understanding between different faiths.
The show is expected to feature all of the flashing lights, buzzers, puns and cheesy smiles common to ordinary game shows.
But instead of questions about celebrities and soaps, contestants will be expected to demonstrate their religious knowledge.
Two teams of four people will compete in each episode of the eight-part series, which will be hosted by Muslim comedian Jeff Mirza.
As well as being challenged to identify key figures such as the Dalai Lama and the Pope from grainy images, there will be multiple choice questions where contestants answer questions about their own, or another contestant’s religion.
Those taking part will be picked in part from respondents to online advertisements on Muslim websites, and in part via the Islam Channel’s networks.
The show’s producer, Abrar Hussain, has also produced a competition to find Britain’s best mosque.
"We’re living in a multifaith, multicultural society," he told the Guardian newspaper.
"You learn about religions at school and then you forget, so it's about transferring the basic blocks of knowledge.. it’s also about learning the similarities between religions, instead of focusing on the differences."
Dang it! If those Muslim immigrants can come up with a sure fire hit series for 1% of the population, why I should be able to come up with a Christianity Bowl for 85 or 90% of the population.The Christianity Bowl will feature teams from the 35-50,000 different Christian denominations around the world, pitting them against each other in a series of run-offs starting with the "Sweet 1,024" which will put NCAA Basketball to shame.
We will need a few dozen philosophers, theologians, historians and liturgists to come up with a million or two questions. Most of them are generally out of work or under-employed, so I don't expect that to be a problem. A consolation bracket will have valuable door prizes for the contestants.
We will need to rent a Las Vegas hotel and conference room to schedule the auditions. That shouldn't be a problem in a time of $5 a gallon gas and $200 a ticket surcharges on airline seats.
I will be in charge of handling the gambling proceeds and TV contracts.
Christian teams will be graded not only on the correctness and completeness of their answers, but also on the orthodoxy of their sect.
My biggest problem will be getting a team of five impartial judges to vote on the the teams as they appear during the various shows of the "Final 1,024."
Applications may be forwarded to me with an unrefundable $2,000 deposit to handle handling expenses.
Upwards of 1,000 people showed up for this year's celebration in St. Paul. It started at the Residence facility of the Little Sisters of the Poor near Seven Corners in St. Paul.
The Little Sisters' home looked especially nice this year being that they are celebrating their 125 jubilee of their presence in St Paul in two weeks. Why not pay them a visit on that day. They have a beautiful chapel and a wonderful outdoor garden in the back with a view of the Mississippi.
At 2:15, punctually, the procession started down Exchange, led by a Master of Ceremonies, acolytes from the St. Paul Seminary escorting Father Joseph Johnson, rector of the Cathedral carrying the monstrance. He was followed by a good sized company of priests, sisters and brothers and then the people from the pews. Some in the procession carried radios that transmitted the prayers and hymns of two cantors at the head of the march so that everybody could be more or less on the same note/word.
The procession wended its way down through Irvine Park, beautifully decorated with flowers by the parade committee, and continued on to Eagle Drive and Kellogg Boulevard and thence moved rather rapidly about 3/4 of a mile straight up the hill to the Cathedral. Being in the rear of the procession and not being able to catch up with the leaders, it could be stated that only three people are known not to have completed the procession. One debated jumping on a St Paul Police horse, but instead caught a bus.
The St. Paul Police Reserves did a great job as the procession was twice as large as was expected. But cars stopped in traffic did not seem to exhibit any impatience.
Kudos to Father Johnson for doing his part without using any substitutes during the steep parts.
Our new Archbishop John Nienstedt was waiting at the Cathedral and led the congregation in hymns, Benediction and gave a fine Corpus Christi homily.
An ice cream social that was quite well attended on the gorgeous afternoon was held in the back of the Cathedral afterwards. Archbishop Nienstedt reappeared in Choir Dress, the red cassock and lace white surplice worn by bishops on formal occasions. He looked pretty smashing.
Also pretty smashing were all the priests gussied up in their cassocks. It's good to see that. Actually on a warm and humid day, I'd bet that they might have been more comfortable than pants.
Father John Zuhlsdorf, the famous "Father Z" of the Catholic blogging pantheon, former St. Agnes parishioner, who blogs from Rome and Wisconsin, made an appearance, took a few photos as he must have jogged up the hill and pumped the flesh of almost everyone there. He has posted pictures on Corpus Christi around the country, and in St. Paul, here.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Archdiocesan Corpus Christi Procession
Sunday, May 25, 2:00-4:00 p.m. Memorial Day Weekend
Little Sisters of the Poor, uphill to the Cathedral of St. Paul
Archbishop John C. Nienstedt
will lead this festive walk with our Eucharistic Lord. Ice cream social follows. Park in the Cathedral parking lot and ride a free shuttle bus to Little Sisters' from 1:00 to 1:50 p.m. Make it part of your holiday weekend.
Details at www.WalkWithHim.net or call (651) 489-0116.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Bangkok - The United Nations will send nearly a quarter of a million condoms into cyclone-hit Myanmar to help needy survivors with no access to contraceptives, a UN official says.
So far, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said it had sent 72 800 condoms to survivors struggling to maintain their family planning after the storm hit in early May.
A total of 218 400 condoms would be delivered, UNFPA aid advisor Chaiyos Kunanusont said.
"We don't want regular use of contraception disrupted. An emergency usually damages the health system, so people don't have access to condoms and contraceptives," said Chaiyos. The Curt Jester
That's great! Any food with those rubbers?
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
.Plaster high in the dome of the Cathedral of St. Paul shows water damage that occurred before a leaky roof was replaced six years ago during a $32 million renovation. Cathedral officials say repairing the damage — peeling paint and plaster and corroded stonework — will cost nearly $14 million.
The leaking in the dome of the Cathedral of St. Paul may have been fixed several years ago, but officials are still dealing with its costly consequences. Water damage — peeling paint and plaster and corroded stonework — could threaten the long-term integrity of the structure, they say.
The cathedral's fundraising arm is trying to gather the nearly $14 million it will take to repair the interior — including $2.5 million to rebuild the organ.
"It's certainly serviceable," said John Mecum, architect in charge of the project. But "it's started to look a little tattered."
The grand old dame is one of the city's main landmarks and mother church for Twin Cities Catholics. It's on the National Register of Historic Places, built between 1906 and 1915 at a cost of $1.5 million.
After about 85 years of service and a number of patches, the copper roof was replaced in 2002 as part of a $32 million renovation.
At the time, officials reportedly didn't think water damage from previous leaks was extensive.
But a tour of the structure reveals damage in a number of areas:
When lightning strikes and shakes the cathedral, a fine layer of powder covers the pews the next morning. Humidity causes a similar problem.
"That's our ceiling coming down," said the cathedral's rector, the Very Rev. Joseph R. Johnson.
"It's a corrosive and destructive thing, not just a cosmetic," Johnson said.
Decades ago, Johnson said, it was a perilous undertaking that required a worker to inch his way along the 12-inch cornice — his back against the wall — and slowly replace each bulb.
Today, the scaffolding necessary to reach those heights is expensive.
The problems are on the minds of some parishioners.
Marianne Costanzi, an 84-year-old Summit Avenue resident who goes to the cathedral six days a week, says the damage "bothers me when I pay attention to it. Hopefully, I'm paying attention to the front altar and saying prayers, but I'm human and have eyes, and so when I look up, I see it."
Stopping the deterioration seems to be the main priority in the project — and Mecum said air conditioning would help by keeping the humidity down.
The church also needs to replace the boiler and work on the choir loft. And church officials are also considering making the cathedral more accessible to the handicapped.
The building also needs more public restrooms, Johnson said. It has just two on the main floor and two on the lower level, requiring longer concert intermissions to accommodate the time it takes for visitors to get through the lines.
And though it's not a repair, Johnson said someday he would like to prepare an observation area in the north tower and open it to the public. That would require installing a stairway or elevator.
The church still owes $13 million on the new roof. It went into debt for that work to prevent further damage, Johnson said, but it needs to raise money for the interior renovation and ongoing maintenance.
Last summer the archdiocese established the Cathedral Foundation to oversee the project.
Johnson said all money raised goes to renovation — not to religious programs.
Historically and architecturally, he said, "the cathedral is a community treasure." Pioneer Press
Someone asked about how bishops get appointed on another Stella Borealis post. I thought the answer was important enough to make it into its own post.
A. I'm no expert, but I think that the local ordinary (bishop) and the provincial archbishop submit names to the papal nuncio, the Pope's diplomatic representative in Washington, D.C. I suspect he gets recommendations from other bishops also. And one of his jobs is to keep tabs on the American Church so the nuncio probably develops his own list through other contacts, too.
The Archbishop of St Paul and Minneapolis is the provincial archbishop of the province that includes Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota). The archbishop has no authority over the other bishops; he is essentially a communications node for the people in the Vatican. He also leads the delegation when the province goes to Rome for their ad limina visits, their every five years personal report to the Pope on the state of their dioceses.
Each individual bishop is responsible directly to the Pope, and to God, of course. I would imagine that if there is a death in a diocese, an auxiliary bishop or a vicar general might also submit names of candidates.
How else would Father Peter Christiansen of Nativity parish in St Paul have been appointed as Bishop of Superior? Or Auxiliary Bishop Frederick Campbell of St Paul-Minneapolis become Bishop of Columbus, OH.
So the nuncio culls the list down to three names and forwards it to the Pope. No doubt this takes a considerable amount of time.
The nuncio's list is referred to the Vatican Congregation for Bishops where they do their own investigations. As they monitor bishops all over world, they probably have their own sources and no doubt promote others or quash some names from the list.
I've heard that "people who know people", i.e. priests who attended the North American College in Rome, the Harvard/M.I.T./Stanford of the Church, and others, get to know people in the Congregation for Bishops and attempt to get their views heard at this point. "You can't want to appoint HIM, can you?" Or, "Father Soandso would make a wonderful bishop!"
They are busy in the Congregation for Bishops. Generally a couple dozen bishops from around the world are appointed each month.
Then it goes to the Pope. Mind you, this "vetting" process may take as long as a year or more. The Vatican is rarely in a hurry.
The Pope probably has suspicions about the recommendations he receives -- especially about appointments in his own country, or countries with which he is familiar. I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't inkle a name or two to trusted sources to get other reactions.
The church has changed. In the past it was almost certain that the Pope's first choice would accept the position when offered to him. An unknown health condition was almost always the reason for a refusal.
Recently, I have been told, it has become more common that priests and bishops are refusing appointments. This is making it much more difficult to fill vacancies. Right now in the U.S. there are seven vacancies, one going back to June of last year.
I speculate that refusals might be related to the size of the diocese offered, the problems facing it, or the possibility of a "nicer opening" becoming available in the near future.
When the candidate has accepted the appointment in the telephone call from the nuncio, then it is announced a week or so later. The Pope still might change his mind at this point. Not a democracy, no suffrage, more like a republic with unelected somewhat democratic representatives at work.
With the Holy Spirit looking over their shoulders all the time. But of course, not all are listening.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Father Michael O'Connell has done yeoman's work, lo these past 20 years or so at the Basilica of St. Mary. Having reached the age of reason (I did it a bit ago), he is retiring and abandoning the Basilica parish and retaining his Ascension parish in north Minneapolis, just to keep his hand in, and stay on the mailing list.
Minnesota Public Radio, not on the USCCB's mailing list, interviewed him today about the state of the Catholic Church in the U.S. in the year 2008:
You'll need Real Radio or equivalent to listen to this.
Tip O' the Hat to Nancy who is blogless
Monday, May 19, 2008
Call To Action is just another of the many groups that have grown up after Vatican Two that forty years afterwards, is still attempting to re-interpret the documents of the Council to serve their own relativistic, progressive, protestant agenda.
On May 2, Archbishop John Nienstedt became the official archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. He does not come from the local faith community here. The local faith community had little, if any say in his coming. He was selected and sent here by the institutional part of the Catholic Church --- the Roman Curia with Pope Benedict's approval.
We pray for the former. Regarding the latter, we watch with concern.
B. W., Minneapolis
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In his letter titled “A man of faith and a man of questions”,
Archbishop Nienstedt, appointed by Christ, acting through His vicar on earth the pope, to be an apostle for the here (St. Paul and
There will be no surprises (I predict) in his leadership. If one wishes to know how His Excellency will respond to any situation (well almost any) one simply has to look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church, available to all on the web site of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops (google USCCB). The contents are not, as B.W. states “man-made, institutional laws.” They are, Catholics believe, the commandments of God.
He was not sent by “
B.W. concludes: “We pray for the former. Regarding the latter, we watch with concern.” To him we say, “Keep praying, keep watching, but dispel your concerns.”
Catholic Defense League
University of St. Thomas student Susan Slattery was listing aloud the errands she had to do that afternoon - stop at the mall, go for a run and find a way to convince airport security her large pillow was a necessary carry-on. Slattery, 22, was leaving the next day for a semester in Rome, Italy, and she felt she still had a lot to do before boarding the plane.
A senior majoring in Catholic studies and biochemistry, Slattery had taken summer courses to make sure she could leave St. Paul for a semester. The Catholic studies semester in Rome is the pinnacle of her major, she said, and she didn't want to miss out.
Slattery came to St. Thomas from Omaha, Neb., because she was interested in pre-medicine studies and theology. She discovered Catholic studies in the middle of her freshman year and declared it her major.
And she isn't alone.
The number of students majoring in Catholic studies has jumped from five in its first year in spring 1994 to 214 today. Now, it's the fourth largest major in the College of Arts and Sciences, after biology, journalism/communications studies and psychology.
The University of St. Thomas' undergraduate Catholic studies program - which has grown into a university department - was the first program of its kind in the United States when it was launched in 1993.
By offering courses in theology, philosophy, politics, art history, business ethics, literature, psychology, history and other disciplines, the Catholic studies department seeks to unify the intellectual tradition in the Catholic Church.
"It's clear as students come to us, they are seeking a kind of integration of their life, their faith and their work," said Don Briel, director of the Center for Catholic Studies.
Problem of specialization
The trend in college education today is specialization among the disciplines, which can lead to a fragmented education, Briel said.
The Catholic studies program resists this trend. Father Michael Keating, a professor in the department, said his own education at the University of Michigan felt like a "grab bag" - that there was no coherence to the courses he took.
When he came to St. Thomas, he appreciated the Catholic studies program because it unified the disciplines and sought to form the whole person.
"There's been an unfortunate driving out of the classroom of the intellectual importance of faith," he said. "Is there a Christian way to think? Is there an intellectual context to the faith that changes the way you look at the world? The answer is yes."
Catholic studies connects the life of the mind with the moral life, the spiritual life and the social life, Father Keating said. It also forms an informal community of Catholic students and scholars.
Catholic studies hopes to form a person who can integrate all aspects of his or her life, not just teach career-based skills, Father Keating said.
When in Rome
The Center for Catholic Studies houses more than just an academic department. It also coordinates the John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought; the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law and Public Policy; and the quarterly journal, "Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture."
The department is the only one in the United States to offer a master's degree in Catholic studies. Master's degree students may also pursue a joint degree in Catholic studies and law.
The center also sponsors two houses - one for Catholic men and one for Catholic women - who want to experience life in an intentional Catholic community. Students pray, eat and study together, and their homes serve as a hub for Catholic studies social activities.
That type of community also is emphasized in the study abroad program. Students can study in Rome for one semester or for an academic year at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, which is called the Angelicum. St. Thomas is the only American university to have an affiliation with a pontifical university in Rome.
"Our students are not simply experiencing an American program in a foreign setting, but truly participating in the universal church at the Angelicum," Briel said.
About 34 students study in Rome each semester. They live together at St. Thomas' Bernardi Residence and are encouraged to volunteer with the Missionaries of Charity and the Sant'Egidio Community. A Catholic studies' professor accompanies them and teaches one course.
Since St. Thomas began its Catholic studies program, several other colleges have added one.
There are about 60 academic Catholic studies programs at Catholic universities in the United States, and that number is increasing, Briel said. St. Thomas' program remains the largest in the country and serves as a model for other schools, he said. . . .
While popular, the local Catholic studies program isn't designed to prepare students for a particular career, Father Keating said. However, from the program's inception, it offered classes that combined professional aims, like management and medicine, with the Catholic faith.
"We wanted to enable students who were thinking about a particular profession to consider the implications of their faith for that career," Briel said.
Some graduates have pursued work in Catholic parishes or have entered priesthood or religious life. Others have become teachers or are in the business field. Some are doctors, lawyers, journalists and musicians. Several have entered graduate programs. . . . Catholic Spirit
|• Who studies Catholic studies?|
Sunday, May 18, 2008
CROOKSTON — His spiritual re-awakening in the mid-1990s, sparked by an evangelical men’s movement, nearly led Stephen Thomas to leave the Catholic faith he had been born and baptized into and schooled in for years.
On Saturday, in the sunlit Cathedral in Crookston, Thomas, husband, father and Grand Forks music store owner, became a cleric in the Roman Catholic Church as Bishop Michael Hoeppner laid his hands on his head, conveying an office that harks back 2,000 years.
Thomas and five other men were ordained permanent deacons in the Crookston diocese during a two-hour service in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception before hundreds of people.
|Bishop Michael Hoeppner ordains Stephen Thomas Saturday in Crookston by laying on of hands, transferring the churchÕs authority, making Thomas a permanent deacon. A native of East Grand Forks, Thomas will serve in Sacred Heart parish, where he grew up and graduated from high school. Herald photo by Eric Hylden.|
|Bishop Michael Hoeppner|
|Stephen J. Lee Archive|
Thomas, 53, grew up going to Sacred Heart Catholic schools in East Grand Forks, graduating high school there in 1973. He kept up a church-going image and found success in business, becoming an owner, with Dick Meyerchin, of Scott’s Music Stores, in downtown Grand Forks and Columbia Mall.
But he says “my inside didn’t match my outside.”
“From 20 to 40, I was running with the world. I was a hypocrite.”
Then a good customer at Scott’s Music persuaded Thomas to attend a huge Promise Keeper’s rally in the Metrodome in Minneapolis in 1995.
“I told him, ‘I don’t want to hold hands with 65,000 men and sing Kumbaya. I’ll pass,’” Thomas remembers.
But he went. And got God-smacked.
“Some people have sort of a gentle journey with God. Mine was more of a St. Paul on the road to Damascus. I was just confronted with the reality of a relationship with Jesus Christ,” he said. “It was like He reached down and grabbed me and said, ‘Come here, son.’ He sort of pulled me through all of my sin and brought me into a relationship with Him.”
As much as the experience awakened him spiritually, it also nearly made him leave Catholicism. He developed close friendships with several evangelical pastors and questioned his childhood church.
“I almost left the Catholic church,” he said. “But I didn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I went back into my faith with the idea of disproving it and really ended up with a love affair. I don’t think my journey is complete yet. I still have a lot of questions. … But I know that I know this is where I am to be.”
Where that is now is to serve, not to be served, Bishop Hoeppner told the six new deacons in the diocese that covers northwestern Minnesota. Besides Thomas, they are Gary Hager, Detroit Lakes; Thomas Jirik, Hawley; Donald Klick, Laporte; Allen Kukert, Moorhead; and John Muller, Two Inlets.
In the century-old Crookston diocese, with 36,000 members and only 33 priests to go around to 69 parishes, deacons fill a vital role and one that is growing, said Monsignor David Baumgartner, vicar general of the diocese. The six new deacons will join 10 others.
The first deacon, the Bible says, was Stephen, one of seven men chosen by the apostles to serve at tables and do other practical help so the apostles could preach and teach, Thomas points out.
“But in effect, Stephen was an evangelist,” Thomas said in an interview before his ordination of the first Christian martyr. “He went out into the street, and it ended up costing him his life. He got stoned.”
Thomas, too, sees his work as “serving people with the gospel.”
“I don’t want to whack people with a Bible,” he said. “I want to be able to find the Christ in them and hopefully they can find the Christ in me, and we can walk and talk together.”
His diaconate training took five years, “50 weekends,” he said. Deacons cannot celebrate Mass or give absolution at confession. But they can assist at Mass, lead the liturgy, teach and sometimes even preach, baptize, bury, witness marriages and distribute the Eucharist.
The permanent diaconate is one of the three clerical orders in the Catholic church. But both bishops and priests — for the past 1,000 years at least — vow to be celibate.
Deacons usually are married.
In fact, more and more, their wives take much of the training with them.
On Saturday, Bishop Hoeppner first asked the six wives if they were OK with it all before he laid hands on the men.
“Do you with your husband accept this life together in ministry?”
The six women, each standing next to her mate, said in unison, “With God’s help, I do.”
Steve and Jackie Thomas have been married 33 years. Nobody knows him better or been with him through more, he said.
Jackie said, “We have known each other since second grade. We grew up together.”
They have three daughters; Katie, 27, is teaching English in South Korea; Laura, 21, finished a Senate internship and soon will start graduate school at George Washington University; 26 years ago, Sarah died at three months of a heart condition.
“The great thing about the diaconate is it really is a ministry of husband and wife,” Thomas said. “We will do this together.”
Jackie knew God was behind her husband’s drive to be a deacon.
“I wanted to be on the same page as him spiritually,” she said. “It’s added a dimension to our marriage. I’m looking forward to working in ministry together.”
They already teach Bible studies and other classes together. She works part time at the music store, where they feel free to share their faith, she said.
Sam Pupino was in the first class of deacons ordained in 1979 in the Fargo diocese, which now has about 40 deacons. He is a deacon at St. Thomas Aquinas, the Newman Center at UND, and he is director of planned giving for the Crookston diocese. He was one of about a dozen deacons who hugged the new deacons Saturday.
“Every deacon has two vocations,” Pupino said. “His marriage and being a deacon.”
His wife, Kaaren, has been an essential partner in whatever he does as a deacon, said Pupino, who ran Wilkerson Hall’s food service at UND for 20 years. “You really are to be a servant of the people.”
Some deacons work full time for a parish or diocese.
But like Pupino and most deacons, Thomas won’t be paid and will continue in his “day job.”
One of his missions will continue to be reaching out to other churches.
Bob Bartlett, pastor of Cottonwood Community Church in Grand Forks, was one of several of Thomas’ Protestant friends who attended his ordination. He met Thomas just after the Flood of 1997.
“He held a retreat at his cabin on Cable Lake, near Maple Lake, for pastors,” Bartlett said Saturday before the ordination. “He paid for everything, had a golf tournament, a steak dinner.”
Bartlett still uses Thomas’ cabin as a personal retreat, and the men laugh and pray together.
Thomas’ ordination is “absolutely wonderful,” Bartlett said. “We need many more men like him.”
Thomas has brought Bartlett in to Sacred Heart to speak to teenagers, despite what could be seen as big divides between their two churches.
“I don’t think God is as caught up in our denominational differences as we are,” Bartlett said. “And the love of Christ transcends all denominations.”
Thomas has played a big role at Sacred Heart for years and becoming a deacon will formalize much of what he already does, said the Rev. Larry Delaney, the parish priest.
The doubting this Thomas has done serves him well in counseling others studying the Catholic faith, Delaney said.
“He has certainly gone on a spiritual journey, so he knows what the journey is all about.” Grand Forks Herald
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Or will we have to become pagan and homosexual before our military aid will be accepted?
Russia accused of annexing the Arctic for oil reserves by Canada
The battle for "ownership" of the polar oil reserves has accelerated with the disclosure that Russia has sent a fleet of nuclear-powered ice breakers into the Arctic.
It has reinforced fears that Moscow intends to annex "unlawfully" a vast portion of the ice-covered Arctic, beneath which scientists believe up to 10 billion tons of gas and oil could be buried. Russian ambition for control of the Arctic has provoked Canada to double to $40 million (£20.5 million) funding for work to map the Arctic seabed in support its claim over the territory.
The Russian ice breakers patrol huge areas of the frozen ocean for months on end, cutting through ice up to 8ft thick. There are thought to be eight in the region, dwarfing the British and American fleets, neither of which includes nuclear-powered ships.
Canada also plans to open an army training centre for cold-weather fighting at Resolute Bay and a deep-water port on the northern tip of Baffin Island, both of which are close to the disputed region. The country's defence ministry intends to build a special fleet of patrol boats to guard the North West Passage.
The crisis has raised the spectre of Russia and the West joining in a new cold war over the Arctic unless the United Nations can resolve the dispute.
Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, told Telegraph: "Four of the five Arctic powers are Nato members, yet Nato seems ill-configured to be able to respond to the sort of activities we have seen from the Russians. We need to ensure Nato has the will and the capability to deter Russian activity that contravenes international laws or treaties."
Jonathan Eyal, of the Royal United Services Institute, said the dispute could simmer for years. "The message from Vladimir Putin is that Russia will no longer be shackled to treaties signed by Yeltsin when he was half drunk or when Russia was on its knees," he said. "This dispute is not only about oil reserves which might or might not exist, it is about the control of sea lanes. Russia's movements could pitch it into a serious territorial dispute with the US for the first time."
Tension in the Arctic is also being heightened by the revival of Russian Cold War-era manoeuvres. Hardly a week passes without Russian aircraft over-flying the North Pole, simulating strikes on "enemy" bases and shipping.
The crisis erupted last year when a Russian submarine crew planted a flag on the Lomonosov Ridge, a 1,240-mile stretch of seabed that Moscow says is Russian. Derided at the time as a stunt, the move focused attention on the race for the Arctic's hidden treasures.
No country owns the Arctic Ocean or the North Pole, but under the 1982 UN Law of the Sea Convention, each country with a coast has exploitation rights in a limited "exclusive economic zone". On ratification of the convention – and America has yet to ratify it – each country has 10 years to make claims extending its zone.
Russia rivals Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer and is estimated to have the largest natural gas supplies. Energy earnings are funding a $189 billion (£97 billion) overhaul of its armed forces. The Telegraph U.K.
The Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa, and Bishop Richard Pates are extending an invitation to those who would like to attend his installation ceremony as bishop of the diocese at 2 p.m. Thursday, May 29, at the Iowa Event Center.
Travel by bus to and from the Mass and reception is being arranged through the Chancery in St. Paul.
Buses will leave at 9 a.m. from the Cathedral of St. Paul, St. Ambrose of Woodbury and Our Lady of Peace in Minneapolis.
They will return by about 9 p.m. A free-will offering of $35 is suggested, but no one will be turned away.
For more information about the trip, call Connie Howard at (651) 291-4427 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pope Benedict XVI appointed Bishop Pates, 65, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis since 2000, to the Diocese of Des Moines on April 10. Catholic Spirit
Once or twice a year, each student at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary will drop by Archbishop Raymond Burke's residence in the Central West End at 4:30 p.m. From there, they set off down Lindell Avenue and into Forest Park.
"The walks," as the seminarians call them, are opportunities for young men to have heart-to-hearts with a man who regularly meets with the pope, a heady prospect for a young priest-in-training. The conversations are usually casual, and the seminarians get to see a more personal, human side of Burke — like when he gets a little skittish around off-leash dogs.
Kenrick officials organize the walks using time sheets. When the sheets are posted, there's a rush to sign on.
"It's like when you throw pellets at the Japanese fish at the Botanical Gardens," said seminarian Edward Nemeth, 26. "Guys falling over each other to get their names on the list."
On May 24, Nemeth and eight of his colleagues at Kenrick will be ordained as priests in the St. Louis Archdiocese — the largest St. Louis ordination class in 25 years and one of the largest in the U.S. It's also the same number of ordinations in St. Louis as the last three years combined.
Since the 1980s, declining interest in the priesthood has been a growing crisis for the Roman Catholic church in the U.S., a situation that was compounded by the clergy sex-abuse scandal earlier this decade. One church study suggested that 80 percent of parents whose sons are considering the priesthood try to dissuade them, fearing their child is entering a life of loneliness and unhappiness.
Burke is credited for helping to address such concerns at Kenrick. He is active in recruiting priests and knows the seminarians — their names, their life stories, their joys and their fears. He's also a frequent visitor to the seminary, sometimes dropping by unannounced for lunch with the students.
"He's the center and the core of this whole thing," said the Rev. Michael Butler, the vocations director for the archdiocese.
The student body at Kenrick-Glennon, which includes the undergraduate Cardinal Glennon College and graduate-level Kenrick Theological Seminary, is 112 students, the largest enrollment in two decades and a 50 percent increase over last year.
Monsignor Ted Wojcicki, Kenrick-Glennon's president, said he hopes to enroll 120 students next year, which would double the size of the seminary population from a decade ago. Last year, the archdiocese announced plans to expand the seminary.
The archdiocese officially attributes its recent success with vocations — Latin for vocare, which means, to call — to a higher power. More men are hearing God's call to the priesthood, they say. But God has had a hand from Burke, who decided vocations would be a high priority since he arrived in St. Louis in 2004.
"A bishop's principal responsibility is to provide priests for the people in his pastoral care," Burke said in an interview last week from Rome. "Ordinations have to be absolutely right at the top of my priorities."
During a Vatican meeting just months before his death in 2004, Pope John Paul II told Burke and other Midwest bishops to do more to increase the number of men training for the priesthood.
"No one can deny that the decline in priestly vocations represents a stark challenge for the church in the United States," the pope told the bishops.
John Paul was not exaggerating. The number of diocesan priests in the U.S. has declined 22 percent since 1965, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. In the same period, the number of graduate level seminarians has fallen 60 percent.
In 2005, the St. Louis Archdiocese estimated that by the end of 2008 it would have only 230 active diocesan priests, down from 313. The number has decreased, but not as precipitously as predicted three years ago and stands at 286.
At Kenrick, it's not just Burke's involvement that is cited for the turnaround in enrollment. The archbishop's conservatism, too, is an appealing aspect to young seminarians.
"The people who are attracted to the priesthood today tend to be much more conservative than their peers," said the Rev. Thomas Reese of the Woodstock Theological Center in Washington. "Even in the 1950s, the people attracted to seminaries were more conservative than their peers, but not to the degree they are today."
Seminarians say Burke's conservatism helps him connect with them. The seminarians openly discuss how they see Burke as a spiritual father and embrace the traditional atmosphere Burke has championed in the archdiocese and the seminary.
Burke, for example, is considered one of the most devoted supporters of the old Latin Mass among U.S. bishops, and last year, Kenrick began celebrating the traditional liturgy on Fridays. More formal vestments are now required at morning and evening prayers. Burke said such "little things" help him "encourage a strong identity among the seminarians, especially with the celebration of the sacred liturgy."
Noah Waldman, 39, a former architect, was studying with a traditionalist group of priests a number of years ago. Eventually, he felt called to be a diocesan priest rather than part of an order. The problem, he thought, was that most bishops would think he was too conservative.
"I was told there were two bishops in the U.S. who would be interested in me," he said.
Burke, at that time the bishop of La Crosse, Wis., took Waldman in. The architect entered the seminary but decided Wisconsin was not a good fit and applied to a philosophy program in England. Burke "told me I was making a big mistake," Waldman recalled.
After the death of Pope John Paul II, Waldman decided the priesthood was indeed his calling, and Burke, since installed in St. Louis, invited Waldman to Kenrick. "Because of his support, I was able to make it through," said Waldman, who will be ordained on May 24.
Burke, however, plays down the notion that he's the main attraction. "More traditionalist men have come on their own; it's not that I've gone out to look for them," he said. "When men say they feel very confident in my leadership, I tell them that they have to come to the archdiocese of St. Louis because they're devoted to the archdiocese, not me."
Michael Houser, 26, began considering the priesthood when he was 13. He is the oldest of 10 children born to parents in Chesterfield who took their children to Mass every Sunday and prayed the rosary together as a family every night.
The Housers were part of a lay group tied to the conservative Legion of Christ congregation of priests. Houser attended elementary school at Gateway Academy, run by the Legion of Christ in Chesterfield, then attended the Legion's seminary high school in New Hampshire.
Houser decided the life of a diocesan priest fit him best. "It appealed to me a lot to be able to have a connection to a particular diocese — there's more stability in diocesan priesthood," Houser said. "When Archbishop Burke came to St. Louis, I was in my first year (at seminary), and he was a real godsend to me."
Butler, the head of the archdiocese's vocations office, said he doesn't like to think of the call to the priesthood in terms of numbers, but the future of the archdiocese necessitates it. Based on priests' rate of retiring and advancing age, the archdiocese needs to ordain about 10 to 12 men each year, Butler said.
To reach that goal, Butler said, the archdiocese needs to bring in 20 to 24 men each year. That's about double the current level. Next year, the seminary expects a more typical ordination class of five, though with larger entering classes, the days of five-member ordination ceremonies might be a thing of the past.
Nemeth remembered when Burke first got to St. Louis, the archbishop promised to make the seminary the heart of the diocese. Nemeth believes Burke has made good on that promise, and in doing so, has become "like a father" to the seminarians.
Nemeth said his most difficult moment at Kenrick-Glennon was when he was a college sophomore during the clergy sexual abuse crisis that emerged in 2002. "I remember being so angry at priests," Nemeth said. "Anywhere I went I felt like I was under a microscope with people thinking, 'Is he one of them?'"
Strength, Nemeth said, came from watching Burke deal with controversy in the succeeding years, an example the archbishop continues to set for future seminarians.
"He stands for truth when he knows that's not going to be easy," Nemeth said, "so we know he'll support us when we have to do the same." STLtoday
The College of St. Scholastica is launching a Master of Business Administration degree program in Duluth. Classes begin in September at St. Scholastica’s campus at 1200 Kenwood Ave.
The CSS MBA will also be offered at St. Scholastica’s campuses in St. Paul and St. Cloud.
St. Scholastica will continue to offer its popular Master of Arts in Management degree in Duluth and in St. Paul.
“We worked with business leaders and student focus groups to design our new MBA program,” said Bob Sherman, dean of St. Scholastica’s School of Business and Technology.
“Its distinguishing characteristics are personal mentoring from coaches, a global perspective throughout the curriculum, and an emphasis on ethics and social responsibility.”
Prospective students and employers can learn more by visiting the CSS MBA Web site at mba.css.edu or by contacting Tonya Roth at (218) 723-6285 or toll free (866) 478-9277.
The CSS MBA features:
--Up-front assessment of each student’s leadership style, professional goals, and communication skills to match the student with a coach who is best able to develop the student’s potential.
--A capstone experience that offers the student an opportunity to help an international business work toward solution of a real-world problem.
--Cultivation of the student’s ethics and sense of social responsibility, which is an outgrowth of The College of St. Scholastica’s Catholic Benedictine heritage.
The St. Scholastica School of Business and Technology’s mission is to develop leaders who demonstrate the highest levels of professional excellence, global awareness, ethical decision-making and social responsibility.
U.S. News & World Report magazine calls The College of St. Scholastica a “Top Tier” Midwestern university, and USA Today newspaper has called it a “hidden gem.” Business North
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
It was announced by Father Mitch Pacwa this evening on EWTN Live that Father John Corapi, SOLT, dynamic preacher, has visited the Mayo Clinic in Rochester for further diagnosis of possible cancer.
Update Thursday, May 15: Just heard on Life on the Rock from Fr. Corapi himself that he does not have cancer but some other tumor on the parathyroid. Apparently he has been sick for 9 months.
Father Corapi is seen regularly on EWTN and travels extensively in the U.S. and other countries preaching the Gospel as it was intended to be preached.
Further information dated April 16, 2008 on the Faith and Country blog: http://catholicgop.blogspot.com/2008/04/latest-on-fr-corapi.html
I got this in an email
Dear Prayer Warriors,
Here is the latest on Fr. Corapi. Some of you had written asking if Fr. Corapi was really ill.
Many of us have been concerned about Father Corapi and his health. The rumors were indeed true, but thanks to Father Corapi's /Weekly Wisdom/ program, , he addressed the whole health issue on his 29 March program. For non-subscribers, here is an overview.
Bottom line, Father Corapi has a parathyroid tumor and will be going back to the Mayo Clinic next week for surgery. It's a very rare (1:167,000 men get it) tumor, which 98% of the time not cancerous. The good news is they ruled out lymphoma, which is what they thought he had. He goes through great detail explaining and extolling the Mayo Clinic, his tests, and our obligation to keep our bodies as healthy as we can. He also said for the past 7 months he was too sick to get out bed 70% of the time; intense exhaustion with flu-like symptoms (a result of the excess calcium this type of tumor causes, in addition to osteoporosis) . Surgery is the only cure.
As you might suspect, he turned his experience into a redemptive suffering lecture, reminding us that God's true power comes via our weakness. He also touched on what I've seen more and more recently especially among strong Catholics close to Mary and who offer their sufferings and that is the obvious - how much the world right now needs the help of redemption from the souls willing and able to offer it back to Christ via Mary, united to the cross. I'm sure most of us figured out it was pretty obvious that God needed Father Corapi's suffering especiall y during Holy Week.
He talked in fairly great detail about his week of tests; including the anxiety for his family, about maybe 'checking out,' i.e., having cancer, etc. With his humor, he joked about the benefit and happiness of dying (except for the pain to his family), rather than having to endure and see the face of a certain US Presidential candidate. He quite seriously said death would be better than having to endure this gentleman for the next four years, should he become president. Yikes!
Anyway, please spread the world to keep the Padre in your prayers. His favorite prayer is the Memorare, which is what he asked be prayed for him when he was first admitted to the Mayo Clinic. He wrapped up his segment with the profound words from his thesis on redemptive suffering: /To be set
at the foot of the cross is to be set at the pinnacle of all human possibilities./
Our Sorrowful Mother's Ministry
Jeff Miller, who blogs as The Curt Jester, which year in and year out consistently resides in the top level of blogs of all kinds, has written on the recent news from Rome that Catholics are free to believe in little green men from outer space (women, too). Jeff is a former atheist who converted to Catholicism some years ago and creates and writes some of the funniest posts going, and some of the most Catholic posts going. He should be right beneath Stella Borealis on your list of "must read" web sites each day.
It is always interesting to see the media news cycle when it comes to Vatican reporting. The latest story on the Vatican's head astronomer about the possibility of aliens in God's creation. For them this fits their perfect template because they think it is such an amazing admission and one that is suppose to undermine faith in Jesus from their point of view. They also don't care that this is a repeat story and forget that this is not exactly a new topic.
They don't understand that the great thing about being Catholic is how much freedom we have. We are totally free to speculate on the existence of extraterrestrials other than Angels and the possibility of life on other planets. We can also be greatly skeptical about this too. Either way we are totally free to do so. When I was an atheist I was really not free to believe that there was no other intelligent life in the universe. To accept such an hypothesis would have forced me to think about our uniqueness. In a random universe where life is just the result of pure chance it is dogmatic for an atheist to believe that in a universe of billions and billions of worlds that life would have to develop on worlds other than ours. This is an area where atheists just have faith that alien life must exist and it is no surprise that Muldur's poster in the X-Files contains a sort of creed 'I want to Believe' Mark Shea said the other day "... Atheism Tends to be an Interlude between Exhaling Biblical Belief and Inhaling Something Else." A supernatural vacuum must be filled by something.
As an atheist I was also not free to disbelieve in evolution and Darwinism specifically. As a Catholic I am free to do so or not to do so based on where the evidence leads me.
As an atheist I was not free to believe in Marian apparitions. As a Catholic I am totally free to believe or disbelieve them based again on where the evidence leads me.
As a Catholic even areas of theology that are dogmatic I enjoy a greater freedom since truth is one of the more freeing things they are. Being free from errors in these areas gives me the freedom to believe and do as I ought. The truth is everybody is dogmatic on something and I had plenty of my own dogmas as an atheist. As G.K. Chesterton said "In truth, there are only two kinds of people; those who accept dogma and know it, and those who accept dogma and don't know it"
When I was 12, it was extremely important for me to see visitors from outer space. I began to read about "flying saucers" on my weekly trips to the public library. Then I began to read the early stories of the SF greats, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke (who died just recently) and others whose story telling and portrayal of what seemed to be a likely future held on to me for a long time. Though I stopped reading SF some time ago (too much fantasy, not enough science and speculation) I still was intrigued and listened raptly to tales of Roswell and even went so far to hook my computer up for a time to the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) website to help in the search.
But the fraud in the non-fiction literature has pretty much turned me into a skeptic, although one who still occasionally glances at the stars and wonders.
Some Catholic philosophers and theologians assure us that we cannot place limits on God and if He chose to create other civilizations, He could have.
After pondering this for a time, and admittedly I'd have to spend a few hours in my favorite Adoration Chapel on that day when ET returns from Alpha Centauri VIII, I decided there really is only one critical issue that would have to be modified in our life styles.
Politicians and homilists would have to begin their orations, "Sisters, Brothers, Centurae, Centuri (and possibly, Centurova). . ."