Tag Archives: Vatican

Murder of John Paul I — from the inside?

April 25, 2014

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UnknownThe pages are yellowing in the this English-translation of “The Last Pope” that I couldn’t resist in an antique store, and the copy looked as though it had never been touched.

That should have been one tip that “The Last Pope” was no “The Shoes of the Fisherman,” but the glossy cover of the hardback claimed it was an international bestseller, so I sprang for the $7.

“The Last Pope” was probably worth the $7, but not a cent more. Its premise is that rather than dying in his sleep, as is the official word on the passing of the former Cardinal Albino Luciani, the man who was pope for only 33 days in 1978 was killed because he had made plans to remove high-ranking Vatican officials. Several cardinals from that era are implicated in ordering the pope’s death.

In the story, copies of John Paul I’s supposed plans have made their way out of the Vatican archives, and the bad guys are killing folks to get them back. A beautiful female reporter and a mysterious “Rafael” get involved, and, well, no spoilers here.

What the novel by Luis Miguel Rocha is, of course, is a vehicle to paint the Vatican Curia as corrupt and the church itself as behind-the-times on all kinds of contemporary issues. John Paul I was going to change all that, so the story goes, and the usual Catholic punching bags — birth control, homosexual relations, priestly celibacy, female priests — take their lumps.

That’s too bad, because “The Last Pope” isn’t a bad novel. But it does explain why the eight-year-old copy was sitting untouched in an antique store.

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From Home to Rome: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Skirt

March 20, 2013

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Lisa skirtBy Lisa Weier

A couple years ago, I walked out of a Nebraska thrift store with the close friends I had come with, a couple new-to-me skirts I hadn’t, and the satisfaction of time and money well spent.  One of the skirts in my shopping bag was particularly feminine and flowery, and billowed out perfectly when its wearer spun around. My friend Lucy and I split its cost with the shared understanding that this particular skirt would dance its way between our closets.  We never really planned for it to go between our suitcases too.

When Lucy went to Rome in the spring of 2012, it was an easy decision to send the skirt with her.  I also, then, took the skirt with me this year on my own Roman adventure, having no idea how much of an adventure it would really be.  The Conclave, for instance, was unexpected.

March 13 was the most personally convenient time for a new pope to be chosen; I would not need to run across the city, dodging people and vaulting mini-cars.  Instead, we had set time aside to go and pray in the square, and of course keep an eye on the Sistine chimney. So I went, with the thirty-three other students in my Catholic Studies Study Abroad program.  And I wore the skirt.

I did a bit of singing and dancing in the rain down the streets of Rome, fabric swishing underneath my trench coat and over the tops of my boots.  When we entered the square, there were already many people present, from seemingly everywhere in the world.  Most of them were holding umbrellas, beautifully arched over heads, a ridiculous amount of patterns and colors.  We prayed, talked and waited.  And waited.  And a seagull, I presume wanting to be on TV, landed on the top of the smokestack.  And we waited longer.

And suddenly, there was gray smoke.  Gray?  Everyone was trapped in confusion for a couple seconds, but as we saw the smoke become whiter and whiter, our confusion turned into desire for a good view.  There was a mad rush for the front of the square, closest to the doors where the new Pope would emerge.  I grabbed onto one of my classmate seminarian’s book bags and listened to the joyful yells of another classmate seminarian gripping my shoulder as we snaked toward the front, “LISA! WE HAVE A POPE! WE HAVE A POPE!”

We waited in suspense for an hour under our group’s US and papal flags.  I was in a sea of umbrellas, cameras, reporters and conjecture. The Swiss Guard band played and marched.  Then they stood still for a long time (I sometimes think they are some of the best statues in Rome).

Someone turned the interior lights of St. Peter’s on to a collective gasp from the thousands below.  Something rustled the curtains inside the balcony door.  A cameraman emerged to groans. FINALLY the proclamation sounded, “Habemus Papam.”  An absolutely joyful noise erupted, screams and cries of “Papa!” emerged all over.

Once we quieted down, the cardinal announced the elect’s name to more confusion.  Who?  Finally the word circulated and was confirmed through technology, Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, Papa Francesco.  Chants of “Francesco, Francesco!” prompted his first steps onto the balcony.  He stood, taking in the crowd, probably overwhelmed with the day he was having.  And then his words cut through the cheers, “Buona sera. Come stai?”  Good evening.  How are you?  We laughed and he went on.

He spoke in Italian, I didn’t understand all of it, but I did know he asked us to pray for him in silence; I’ve never heard Rome quite that quiet before.  I also could see that he loved us in humility.  I was so happy to have a Papa again.  In the midst of it all, I found it beautiful that I was still very much connected to home, holding the hem of the skirt.  Lucy, my family and other friends, were on my mind, in my prayers, and also under the subsequent blessing of the new Holy Father.  I like to think the skirt can retain a bit of it too… Viva il Papa!

 

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Take a peek inside the Vatican

March 8, 2013

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Vatican Diaries coverJohn Thavis, who covered the Vatican as a journalist for 30 years, betrayed his Minnesota roots when he wrote, “Attending these Rome academic conferences was like fishing on a slow day — you waited a lot and hoped something would bite.”

Thavis, a native of Mankato, Minn., and a graduate of St. John’s University in Collegeville, hooked an author’s dream: His book on the inner workings of the Vatican was ready to be released when Pope Benedict XVI unexpectedly announced his decision to retire.

Viking moved up the release date, making “The Vatican Diaries” as timely a read as a writer might hope for.

Thavis, whose byline ran in The Catholic Spirit for many years, retired just last year as Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service.

That post and the many friends and sources he made in and around St. Peter’s often put him in unique position to observe and hear of any number of interesting goings on, some foolhardy, some machiavellian, some scandalous.

Anecdotes, even atrocities

There is, for example, the blatant disregard for an ancient cemetery by one Vatican City functionary, who is intent on bulldozing the monuments and the remains to add more parking to the cramped tiny space.

A lengthy chapter on the finally denounced, cult-like Legion of Christ gives a vivid picture of how power works in the Vatican, and it’s not a very nice portrait.

Thavis details how the once-revered founder of the Legion of Christ was protected by people in high places who refused to believe accusations made against him over the course of decades, and it was only when Father Marcial Maciel Degollado’s double life was revealed — that he had fathered children by two women, sexually abused his own son and hidden secret assets of nearly $30 million — that the Vatican finally intervened.

The incident has left an obvious black mark on the late Pope John Paul II’s record, but Thavis presents insight here that echoes in other Catholic locales around the globe.

He writes, “To a good number of Vatican officials, the calls for transparency and full accountability [in the Maciel case] were typical of moralistic (and legalistic) Americans, but not necessarily helpful for the universal church. . . As one Vatican offical put it, ‘We have a two-thousand-year history of not airing dirty laundry. You don’t really expect that to change, do you?’ ”

Thavis dives into the ongoing squabble over the ultra-conservative, breakaway Society of St. Pius X, sharing probably more than the typical Catholic would want to know about the battle over the validity of Vatican II by this hard-core group of naysayers.

Superb reporting, writing

There’s a terrific chapter that’s really a personality profile of the American priest who was one of the Vatican’s top Latin language experts — the fun, enlightening and eccentric Father Reginald Foster.

Foster — Thavis eschews his title throughout — is a reporter’s dream, someone on the inside who knows a lot, isn’t afraid to share and shares in colorful language. The chapter on “The Latinist” is of the quality of a piece you’d expect to read in the New York Times Magazine or The New Yorker.

Thavis went along to some 60 countries with John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and “The Vatican Diaries” includes hilarious anecdotes about life as a reporter on papal trips. There’s plenty about life covering the Vatican to enjoy reading, too, including the story about the pope’s preacher admitting he used Google as a source.

Readers will find that the halo they may have imagined above the heads of some high-ranking residents of Vatican City ends up, shall we say, “less glowing,” to describe it the way a Vatican official might, avoiding the use of the more accurate “tarnished.”

And that may be what Thavis does best here.

Important contribution

He offers sound reporting and analysis, to be sure. But he’s at the top of his game explaining how “The Vatican” sees things.

He translates Vatican-ese, putting in plain language what official statements really say, and in many cases what those statements say by not saying something directly.

Even when he gets into such minutia of a story that you wonder if all these details are necessary, Thavis seems to perfectly sum it up by interpreting the event’s significance. It’s as if, without using these words, he’s says, now here’s why this is important.

“The Vatican Diaries” is not only informative and entertaining. Published as the Catholic Church prepares to welcome a new leader, it gives us valuable insight into the organizational challenges the new pontiff faces.

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The unforgettable Cardinal John Foley

December 12, 2011

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Goodbye to a mentor and a friend

Cardinal John P. Foley, speaking at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, Jan. 7, 2011. The American cardinal died Dec. 12, 2011.

Many will remember him as the voice doing the “play-by-play” during the Pope’s Christmas Midnight Mass from St. Peter’s Basilica, something he did for 25 years up until two years ago.

Journalists around the world will remember him as the archbishop who got them a radio or television feed or a straight answer about what the church teaches and why.

Those of us in Catholic media will remember the Philadelphian who became a Cardinal of the Church for his hilarious stories, his love of puns, and his commitment to his faith, to the church and to truthful Catholic journalism.

I remember John Patrick Foley as a mentor who became a friend.

Cardinal Foley, who died today, Dec. 11, at the age of 76, was the editor of Philadelphia’s Catholic newspaper when he hired me, just a 22-year-old, to be his news and sports editor back in 1974.

Best of mentors

I’m trying to avoid saying he was a demanding boss, because that would put too dark a tone on the reality of who he was. What he was was a boss who set high expectations — for himself as well as others.  He could never understand why anyone would ever give less than 100 percent when they could inform, form and inspire God’s people through the work we did.

Because he held those high standards, he could hold the reins loosely and let a young colt like me run. I tried out the latest in graphics. I cropped photos tight and used them big. I covered everything from high school football to the International Eucharistic Congress to the U.S. Supreme Court. When a tip about Catholic school teachers organizing a labor union got me into a sub rosa gathering at an apartment one night, then-Monsignor Foley not only published my full-page story but defended the story to archdiocesan officials because Catholics needed to know why their teachers felt they needed a union.

Along the way he taught me the importance of planning, the value of teamwork and collaboration, and the truism that Catholic media have nothing to fear from reporting bad news. His approach to Catholic news — one forged in part at Columbia’s School of Journalism and in part by his priesthood — was that Catholic media should tell every story, tell it honestly, and tell it with compassion. And he showed us all how to be Catholic, how to live out our faith every day in all we do, with everyone whose life touched ours.

When we worked for him in the mid-1970s we expected the monsignor to one day be named an auxiliary bishop. Instead he went right to archbishop; Pope John Paul II chose him to head the Vatican’s communication efforts. He became a cardinal in 2009.

I’d left Philadelphia in 1977, but through the years we’d see each other at Catholic Press Association conventions and correspond occasionally. He always helped me better understand the church and my faith. All his letters — every one — included “give my love to Barbara and the children,” never forgetting my wife and that he’d baptized two of our four.

When I think back I appreciate that he taught me the valuable lesson of having a reason for whatever I was doing. But even better, he showed me how to love the church, warts and all. The bureaucracy frustrated him and the politics drove him crazy, yet I don’t know how many times I heard him say, “I’ve never had an unhappy day as a priest.” It was a sentence he repeated last year when he came to the Twin Cities to help The Catholic Spirit celebrate its 100th anniversary.

He wowed ’em in Minneapolis

I thought the cardinal would be a big-name draw for our centennial celebration, so about a year in advance I invited him to be our keynote speaker in January 2011. Needless to say he was a hit. He had several hundred people laughing aloud as he quipped with his host, Archbishop John Nienstedt, and told anecdotes from his years in the Catholic news ministry.

It was only after he left town that I was told he had leukemia but didn’t want me to know it.

Once he was diagnosed with that cancerous blood disease he had cleared his calendar for two events: the 2011 Catholic Media Convention in Pittsburgh and the 100th anniversary celebration of The Catholic Spirit in the Twin Cities. I can’t describe them, so you’ll have to imagine my feelings upon hearing that our friendship meant that much to him that he would honor his commitment to me knowing that he hadn’t long to live.

Thank God he made it to Pittsburgh last June.  He was the keynote speaker there, too, and as we sat down for the centennial dinner I was asked to introduce the cardinal.

I wasn’t expecting that, but frankly it wasn’t difficult. I’d watched Foley through the years, and he was a master at self-effacing stories, at working an audience, at getting a message across clearly yet quickly.

The hard part, the lump-in-the-throat part, was finishing up the introduction by telling him — in front of several hundred people who work in Catholic media around North America — how much he meant to me. And how much I loved him.

Requiesat in pace, good and faithful servant.

 

 

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Young Swiss Guard shares lessons he learned from John Paul II that helped him succeed in business

October 14, 2011

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Ever since Tom Peters’ “In Search of Excellence” turned business improvement into a hot booksellers category, the printing presses have been revolving in earnest, pumping out titles to capture that audience of eager leaders and managers.

There have been a handful of valuable books as a result, works like “Good to Great,” “The Tipping Point,” “Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive” and “Made to Stick,” to name just a few.

A former Swiss Guard who has gone on to success in international business might not be the first person you’d think of to jump into this authorship arena, especially when he’s saying he learned how to succeed in business by observing Pope John Paul II.

“The Pope & The CEO” (Emmaus Road Publishing) isn’t the first business book to bring ethics into the conversation, nor is it the first to pull lessons from religion. But this one is done very, very well. It’s tasteful, it’s respectful, and most of all the lessons that Andreas Widmer shares are valuable.

This isn’t a Pollyanna piece. Widmer, a Swiss native who studied in both Europe and the United States and who has worked on five continents, has seen both success and disappointment in his business activity since leaving the ranks of the pope’s protectors. In his 20-plus years of leading technology firms with a global reach, though, he found that John Paul II was quite the role model for business leaders.

Those attributes that Widmer gleaned while standing guard in colorful garb at the Vatican he turns into lessons that will help every leader in every organization. And what makes this book such good reading is that the advice is peppered with anecdotes from the author’s time in the presence of the Holy Father that were those “teachable moments” that made a lasting impression on an impressionable young Andreas Widmer.

He writes about being true to one’s calling, knowing and doing what’s right, having a vision, about teamwork, humility, the power of prayer and more, and each chapter ends with a handful of questions for readers to ponder. Here are just a few examples:

  • What have been your greatest professional successes? What did you gain? What did it cost you? How did it change you?
  • Who was the best manager you ever had? Describe what made this leader great? Did this person lead as a coach or a critic? How did he or she bring out the best in you as an employee?
And Widmer’s Catholic faith — thanks to the example displayed by John Paul II — is an influence on literally every word.
“John Paul’s influence made me understand that business and faith go together — they are not opposed to each other,” he writes. “Business can be wonderful school of virtue and faith. What’s more, faith and virtue make a business and the economy truly prosperous.”
Readers will find practical advice throughout the 150 or so pages of this paperback.
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7 Tips for a Deeper Prayer Life from a Former Swiss Guard

October 14, 2011

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Andreas Widmer, now involved in global international business, learned as he observed Pope John Paul II during the two years he served as a Swiss Guard at the Vatican. In “The Pope & The CEO,” he offers practical tips for prayer. Here is an abbreviated version:

1. Be aware. Before you pray, focus on the fact that God is present and listening.

2. Slow down. When reading the Scriptures or other religious writing, don’t race from passage to passage. Treat the reading like a love letter from God. Savor the text, and ask God to help you understand the connection between the words on the page and the circumstances in your life and heart.

3. Praise always. Don’t take God’s goodness or love for granted. Thank him by acknowledging all that he is and all he’s done for you.

4. Tell him you’re sorry. You don’t have to wait for confession to examine your conscience. Make a habit of doing this nightly. Then express contrition to God and ask for the grace to do better the next day.

5. Be attentive. Listen for God’s voice in your soul.

6. Plan for prayer. Don’t let a day go by without making time for God. Schedule a daily appointment with God and never miss it. Cultivate a rhythm of prayer throughout the day. Before beginning difficult tasks, pray “Lord, come to my assistance.”

7. Pray in all things. Make your life a prayer by making a gift of yourself. Every time you make a sacrifice great or small, say silently, “Lord, I give this to you.”

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Which Marian apparitions are approved and is devotion required?

September 16, 2011

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Statue of Mary

CNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz

I recently visited the site of the first Marian apparitions to receive episcopal approval in the United States: Our Lady of Good Help near Green Bay, Wis. In 1859, the Blessed Mother appeared three times to a young Belgian immigrant woman and told her to catechize the children in the area. There are some amazing stories associated with Our Lady’s appearance to Adele Brise, especially related to the devastating Peshtigo Fire of 1871.

Even though this story is interesting and the bishop of Green Bay approved these apparitions last December, does that mean they’re formally approved by the Church? Are Catholics required to believe in them?  How many other apparition sites have received formal approval?

If the local bishop permits devotion inspired by the apparition, based on an initial assessment, that permission isn’t the same as formal approval, which recognizes the apparition as being supernatural in origin. Formal approval may not happen for years or even centuries.

Do we have to believe?

All apparitions are considered private revelation because public revelation ended with the Apostles’ deaths (when the New Testament was completed). According to the Catechism,  private revelation doesn’t improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but it helps us live more fully by it in a certain period of history. (CCC 67)   The Church will confirm an apparition as worthy of belief as a private revelation but Catholics aren’t required to believe it.

Marian experts have estimated that as many as 21,000 Marian apparitions have been reported since the year 1000.  The Holy See has formally approved the apparitions at 12 sites out of 295 it has studied, according to Father Salvatore Perrella, O.S.M., an expert in dogma and Mariology from the Marianum Pontifical Institute in Rome.

Some Vatican-approved apparition sites:

  • Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico
  • Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (Rue du Bac, Paris, France)
  • Our Lady of La Salette, France
  • Our Lady of Lourdes, France
  • Our Lady of Pontmain, France
  • Our Lady of Fatima, Portugal
  • Our Lady of Akita, Japan

A site that’s drawn millions of pilgrims but is not on the “approved” list is Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Investigation of this site is ongoing.

So why should we pay attention to apparitions when there are so many and it’s not always clear if the Church has approved them?

Maybe because they can point us toward heaven. Father Perrella said the Church-approved apparitions manifest Mary’s evangelical mission throughout the history of the Church, which has been to show the way to the Father’s house through faith in Christ.

I didn’t go to the shrine of Our Lady of Good Help because I’m especially intrigued by supernatural phenomena. I just thought that anywhere Our Lady had appeared would be a good place to seek the Lord, bring petitions and pray. What I found at the shrine was peace and a real sense of God’s presence.

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For sale: Car, lightly used by pope and astronauts

August 4, 2011

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Photo courtesy of Bonhams

In the market for a new car?

If so, and you have a lot of money to spend, you might consider buying this limo that was used by Pope Paul VI and some Apollo astronauts.

Bonhams, which describes itself as “one of the world’s oldest and largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques,” describes the car — to be auctioned Aug. 19 in Carmel, Calif., this way:

The 1964 Lincoln Continental Limousine was built at the special request of the Vatican to Ford Motor Company to convey Pope Paul VI through New York to address the United Nations on World Peace. It was rushed to completion in a span of less than two weeks from receipt of the request to delivery of the finished parade car to New York on October 5, 1965.

The wheelbase is stretched to a massive 160″ with an overall length of nearly 21 feet. Exterior step plates and handrails for security, additional interior seating for aides and prelates, a raised seat for the Pontiff, extra interior lighting, public address system, auxiliary power from a bank of seven batteries were only a few of the many detail changes.

The most visible attribute is the removable roof section, transparent rear landaulet roof and roof-mounted auxiliary windshield to protect the Pope and his entourage while allowing the thongs of spectators that lined the parade route to see the Pontiff.

After the Papal visit the Lincoln was loaned to the city of Chicago — after removal of the bubble top, Papal chair and associated internal fittings — where it served as a parade car and courtesy vehicle for visiting dignitaries.

In 1968 the Vatican remembered its performance and once again called upon Ford to use it for another Papal visit, this time to Bogotá, Colombia for the 39th Eucharistic Congress.  The task was complicated by Bogotá’s altitude, 8,600 feet above sea level, which required extensive engine modifications, aviation gasoline from the Colombian Air Force and a comprehensive kit of tools and spare parts.

On December 27, 1968 the Apollo 8 mission, the first manned space flight to orbit the moon, splashed down in the Pacific. Its astronauts, mission Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders were fêted with a tickertape parade through Chicago. They rode in this Lehmann-Peterson Lincoln Continental, as would the Apollo 11 (Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin), 13 (Lovell, Mattingly, Haise) and 15 (Scott, Worden, Irwin) astronauts as well.

It has been carefully maintained in completely original and well preserved condition as it was taken out of public service in the early 70′s.

The 1964 Lincoln Continental Parade Limousine has a marvelous history intricately entwined with some of the most memorable events of the Sixties and early Seventies, the Apollo space program and Pope Paul VI’s outreach to world leaders and citizens with his message of peace and understanding.

Its equipment includes the auxiliary power, climate control systems and dual rear-facing auxiliary seats added for the Bogotá, Colombia Papal excursion. It has enjoyed both special care and attention during its period as a Ford Motor Company special use vehicle and subsequently in collections that have appreciated and honored its special status and the important personages who have been favored to ride in it.

Its 21-foot long presence is imposing, as it should be for its history and importance, a reflection of the gravity of the accomplishments of its passengers.

So, who do you think should buy this? And, how much do you think it will go for?

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A month to learn more about the heavens

April 16, 2011

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April marks Global Astronomy Month — 30 days that annually bring together astronomy enthusiasts to cultivate interest in sky watching among the general public.

Astronomy clubs, planetariums, observatories, amateur observers and others around the world are sponsoring a host of GAM educational and viewing opportunities. There are online events and even an astropoetry blog.

GAM, organized by a group called Astronomers Without Borders, hopes to ride the wave of enthusiasm about space that accompanied 2009’s Year of Astronomy, an observance the Vatican said could help people better appreciate the beauty of God’s creation.

GAM is a great opportunity to introduce youth to the wonders of the universe. I realize that convincing kids to stand under the night sky to learn the constellations or peer through a telescope to spy the rings of Saturn may seem like a tough sell in an age when video games and multimedia entertainment options compete for young people’s attention.

I know because I have a 12-year-old son who, it seems, would spend all day playing computer games if you let him. But I have also heard him express awe at seeing sunspots through a telescope with a solar filter and shout with excitement as he watched the bright streaks of meteors flash across the sky. After such experiences, I typically field a litany of questions from him about the phenomena and why they happen.

Video games are fun, he once told me. But this cool stuff is real. And, he’s been hooked ever since.

I think other kids would get excited about astronomy, too, if they had a chance to experience it the same way. That’s what GAM is all about.

There is still time to take advantage of official GAM events, but you can do a lot on your own, too. Purchase an inexpensive star map and make it a family contest to see who can identify the most constellations. A simple guidebook will explain the mythological stories behind the star formations. (Astronomy magazine has a good website to help kids learn constellations.)

Looking at the moon though binoculars is a pretty awesome sight. The rings of Saturn currently are in position to be seen clearly with a small telescope. And, this month also brings the Lyrid meteor shower (The best viewing conditions will be under rural skies on the night of April 22/23.)

The Vatican had its own astronomy event this month when Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, a Vatican astronomer, gave a talk on faith and science April 7 at the American Academy in Rome.

It was on a hill in that location 400 years ago that Galileo gathered with the top scholars of his era to look through his telescope, an instrument he helped to perfect just a few years earlier. They saw the moons of Jupiter — no doubt an awesome sight for these privileged few.

Astronomy has come a long way since Galileo. Thanks to a variety of cheap and plentiful resources, sky watching is now accessible to anyone who is interested.

So, take advantage of GAM to learn more about heavens. If you have kids, pull them away from the video games for a while to show them the cool graphics God has waiting for them in the night sky.

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Cardinal John Foley’s remarks at the 100th anniversary celebration of the Catholic Bulletin/The Catholic Press

January 14, 2011

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REMARKS OF CARDINAL JOHN P. FOLEY

GRAND MASTER,

ORDER OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE OF JERUSALEM,

100th ANNIVERSARY OF THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT,

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA,

JANUARY 6, 2011

Your Grace, Archbishop Nienstedt, my brothers and sisters in Christ:

First of all, I want to thank Bob Zyskowski, the associate publisher of The Catholic Spirit, for his invitation to celebrate with all of you the 100th anniversary of The Catholic Spirit.  I also want to thank my friend of twenty-six years, Archbishop John Nienstedt, for his kind hospitality. I remember when he assured that my mother got an invitation for Thanksgiving in Rome in 1984, and I remain ever grateful to him.

I also remember when Bob Zyskowski worked with me at The Catholic Standard and Times in Philadelphia thirty-five years ago.  One of his final responsibilities was to assemble the pre-and post- Eucharistic Congress issues of the newspaper in 1976.  It was an enormous task, and he did it very well, as always!

I fact, Cardinal Krol, then the Archbishop of  Philadelphia and our publisher, asked me if I would have a special supplement for the Second Coming of the Lord, and I responded “yes”.  When he asked what advertising I would get for the issue, I responded, “Going out of business sales!”

In 1975, as Bob will well remember, Cardinal Krol made a Holy Year pilgrimage, not only to Rome but also to the Holy Land, Egypt and Lebanon.

In Egypt, he visited the pyramids – and said to me – “Father Foley, they want me to get on that camel.  Should I get on that camel?”  I answered that I did not think he should get on the camel – so he got on the camel.  He was wearing a white cassock, and had a slight beard – and they put a kaffiyeh, or Arab headdress, on him.  He looked somewhat like Yassir Arafat.  Naturally, as a newsman, I took a photo of him on the camel.

After we got home, he began to get letters from Jewish groups lamenting that it looked as if he had embraced the Arab cause.

He asked me why, if I had counseled him not to get on the camel, I took a picture of him on the camel, and I replied that, as a priest, if asked, I would say what I thought he ought to do, but as a journalist I would cover whatever he did.  He smiled and made no more comment.

I hope that the environment to which Bob Zyskowski owes at least part of his formation was one of respectful candor – taking God and His Church seriously, but not ourselves – and insisting always on knowing and telling the truth.

It certainly comes as no surprise to me that Bob has produced an outstanding paper.  As far as I’m concerned, he is a blessing to the Catholic Press.  As many of you know, Bob was also president of the Catholic Press Association at the time I was named a cardinal – and so he decided to give me – in the name of the association – the clothes I’m wearing.  He thought it would be appropriate if a representative of Catholic journalism could be seen running in the red.

The Catholic Spirit, of course, has a wonderful tradition.  Established by the legendary Archbishop Ireland 100 years ago as The Catholic Bulletin, the diocesan newspaper of St. Paul – Minneapolis flourished until the mid-1990s when its circulation fell to about 26,000.  Reborn as The Catholic Spirit in 1996, 15 years ago this week, your weekly newspaper has gotten into the habit of winning the general excellence award of the Catholic Press Association.  You can be very proud of your newspaper.

Apparently, the only instruction given to the first editor of the paper was to publish and interesting, well-written and well-edited Catholic newspaper, non-political and non-controversial, which did not necessarily reflect the Archbishop’s views on any subject.

My own view was that a diocesan newspaper must be a source of information, formation and inspiration to supplement and indeed sometimes correct what is found in the secular media.

I have been fortunate to have known personally a number of your editors.  The first one I knew was the legendary Bernie Casserly, with whom I was very well acquainted during his last fifteen years at the paper.  I also knew Dan Medinger, who went on to service in Baltimore.  Finally, I knew well Paulist Father Tom Comber, a fellow Philadelphian, who did much to promote the newspaper.

You can be proud of The Catholic Spirit.  It serves your diocesan family well – and, indeed, it is one of the very best instruments for helping to form your diocesan family.  All of you are fortunate indeed to have Archbishop John Nienstedt as your spiritual shepherd, but he is fortunate indeed to have The Catholic Spirit as an instrument of information, formation and inspiration in his historic and dynamic archdiocese.

Congratulations to him, to associate publisher Bob Zyskowski, to editor Joe Towalski, to the staff of and contributors to The Catholic Spirit – and to all of you, its subscribers and supports – on 100 years of dynamic, stimulating, informative and inspiring Catholic journalism in America’s heartland.  God bless you all!

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