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What’s the point of fasting, anyway?

null / Credit: Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Feb 16, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

God commanded it, Jesus practiced it, the Church fathers have preached the importance of it — fasting is a powerful and fundamental part of the Christian life.

But for many Catholics today, it’s more of an afterthought: something we grudgingly do on Good Friday, perhaps on Ash Wednesday if we remember it. Would we fast more, especially during Lent, if we understood how helpful it is for our lives?

The answer to this, say both saints of the past and experts today, is a resounding yes.

“Let us take for our standard and for our example those that have run the race and have won,” said Father Hezekias Carnazzo, founding executive director of the Institute of Catholic Culture.

“And ... those that have run the race and won have been men and women of prayer and fasting.”

So what, in essence, is fasting?

It’s “the deprivation of the good, in order to make a decision for a greater good,” Carnazzo explained. It is most commonly associated with abstention from food, although it can also take the form of giving up other goods like comforts and entertainment.

The current fasting obligation for Latin-rite Catholics in the United States is this: All over the age of 14 must abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Fridays in Lent. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, adults age 18 to 59 must fast — eating no more than one full meal and two smaller meals that together do not add up in quantity to the full meal.

Catholics, “if possible,” can continue the Good Friday fast through Holy Saturday until the Easter Vigil, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says.

Other Fridays throughout the year (aside from Friday within the Octave of Easter) “are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church,” according to Canon Law 1250. Catholics once abstained from meat on all Fridays, but the U.S. bishops received permission from the Holy See for Catholics to substitute another sacrifice or perform an act of charity instead.

Eastern-rite Catholics, meanwhile, follow the fasting laws of their own particular Church.

In its 1966 “Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence,” the National Conference of Catholic Bishops exhorted the faithful, on other days of Lent where fasting is not required, to “participation in daily Mass and a self-imposed observance of fasting.”

Aside from the stipulations, though, what’s the point of fasting?

“The whole purpose of fasting is to put the created order and our spiritual life in a proper balance,” Carnazzo said.

As “bodily creatures in a post-fallen state,” it’s easy to let our “lower passions” for physical goods supersede our higher intellect, he explained. We take good things for granted and reach for them whenever we feel like it, “without thinking, without reference to the One who gives us the food, and without reference to the question of whether it’s good for us or not,” he added.

Thus, fasting helps “make more room for God in our life,” said Monsignor Charles Pope, pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Catholic Church in Washington, D.C.

“And the Lord said at the well, with the [Samaritan] woman, he said that ‘everyone that drinks from this well is going to be thirsty again. Why don’t you let me go to work in your life and I’ll give you a fountain welling up to eternal life?’”

While fasting can take many forms, is abstaining from food especially important?

“The reason why 2,000 years of Christianity has said food [for fasting], because food’s like air. It’s like water, it’s the most fundamental,” Carnazzo said. “And that’s where the Church says ‘stop right here, this fundamental level, and gain control there.’ It’s like the first step in the spiritual life.”

What the Bible says about fasting

Yet why is fasting so important in the life of the Church? And what are the roots of the practice in Scripture?

The very first fast was ordered by God to Adam in the Garden of Eden, Carnazzo noted, when God instructed Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gn 2:16-17).

This divine prohibition was not because the tree was bad, the deacon clarified. It was “made good” like all creation, but its fruit was meant to be eaten “in the right time and the right way.” In the same way, we abstain from created goods so we may enjoy them “in the right time and the right way.”

The fast is the weapon of protection against demons. — St. Basil the Great

Fasting is also good because it is submission to God, he said. By fasting from the fruit of the tree, Adam and Eve would have become partakers in the divine nature through their obedience to God. Instead, they tried to take this knowledge of good and evil for themselves and ate the fruit, disobeying God and bringing original sin, death, and illness upon mankind.

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus abstained from food and water for 40 days and nights in the desert and thus “reversed what happened in the Garden of Eden,” Carnazzo explained. Like Adam and Eve, Christ was tempted by the devil but instead remained obedient to God the Father, reversing the disobedience of Adam and Eve and restoring our humanity.

Following the example of Jesus, Catholics are called to fast, said Dominican Father Lawrence Lew, prior and parish priest at Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Dominic in London. Also, the Church fathers preached the importance of fasting.

Why fasting is so powerful

“The fast is the weapon of protection against demons,” St. Basil the Great taught. “Our guardian angels more really stay with those who have cleansed our souls through fasting.”

Why is fasting so powerful? “By setting aside this [created] realm where the devil works, we put ourselves into communion with another realm where the devil does not work; he cannot touch us,” Carnazzo explained.

It better disposes us for prayer, Monsignor Pope noted. Because we feel greater hunger or thirst when we fast from food and water, “it reminds us of our frailty and helps us be more humble,” he said. “Without humility, prayer and then our experience of God really can’t be unlocked.”

Thus, the practice is “clearly linked by St. Thomas Aquinas, writing within the tradition, to chastity, to purity, and to clarity of mind,” Lew noted.

“You can kind of postulate from that that our modern-day struggles with the virtue of chastity, and perhaps a lack of clarity in theological knowledge, might be linked to an abandonment of fasting as well.”

A brief history of fasting

The current fasting obligations were set in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, but in previous centuries, the common fasts among Catholics were stricter and more regularly observed.  

Catholics abstained from meat on all Fridays of the year, Easter Friday excluded. During Lent, they had to fast — one main meal and two smaller meatless meals — on all days excluding Sunday, the day of the Resurrection. They abstained from meat on Fridays and Saturdays in Lent — the days of Christ’s death and lying in the tomb — but were allowed meat during the main meal on the other Lenten weekdays.

The obligations extended to other days of the liturgical year. Catholics fasted and abstained on the vigils of Christmas and Pentecost Sunday, and on ember days — the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the feast of St. Lucy on Dec. 13, after Ash Wednesday, after Pentecost Sunday, and after the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in September — corresponding with the four seasons.

In centuries past, the Lenten abstention was more austere. Catholics gave up not only meat but also animal products like milk and butter, as well as oil and even fish at times.

Why are today’s obligations in the Latin rite so minimal? The Church is setting clear boundaries outside of which one cannot be considered to be practicing the Christian life, Carnazzo explained. That is why intentionally violating the Lenten obligations is a mortal sin.

But should Catholics perform more than the minimum penance that is demanded? Yes, Father Lew said.

The minimum may be “what is due to God out of justice,” he explained, but we are “called not only to be just to God,” but also “to love God and to love our neighbor.” Charity, he added, “would call us to do more than just the minimum that is applied to us by the Code of Canon Law today, I think.”

In Jeremiah 31:31-33, God promises to write his law upon our hearts, Carnazzo noted. We must go beyond following a set of rules and love God with our hearts, and this involves doing more than what we are obliged to do, he added.

Be wary of your motivation

However, Lew noted, fasting “must be stirred up by charity.” A Catholic should not fast out of dieting or pride but out of love of God.

“It’s always dangerous in the spiritual life to compare yourself to other people,” he said, citing the Gospel of John where Jesus instructed St. Peter not to be concerned about the mission of St. John the Apostle but rather to “follow me” (Jn 21:20-23).

In like manner, we should be focused on God during Lent and not on the sacrifices of others, he said.  

Lent (is referred to) as a joyful season ... It’s the joy of loving him more.

“We will often fail, I think. And that’s not a bad thing. Because if we do fail, this is the opportunity to realize our utter dependence on God and his grace, to seek his mercy and forgiveness, and to seek his strength so that we can grow in virtue and do better,” he added.

And by realizing our weakness and dependence on God, we can “discover anew the depths of God’s mercy for us” and can be more merciful to others, he added.

Giving up good things may seem onerous and burdensome, but can — and should — a Catholic fast with joy?

“It’s referred to in the preface of Lent as a joyful season,” Lew said. “And it’s the joy of deepening our relationship with Christ, and therefore coming closer to him. It’s the joy of loving him more, and the more we love God the closer we draw to him.”

“Lent is all about the cross, and eventually the resurrection,” Carnazzo said. If we “make an authentic, real sacrifice for Christ” during Lent, “we can come to that day of the crucifixion and say ‘Yes, Lord, I willingly with you accept the cross. And when we do that, then we will behold the third day of resurrection.’”

A version of this article was originally published on CNA on Feb. 20, 2016, and has since been updated.

Rapid City bishop says he will move to hospice amid cancer fight

Bishop Peter Muhich of the Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota. / Credit: Diocese of Rapid City

CNA Staff, Feb 15, 2024 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Bishop Peter Muhich of the Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota, announced Wednesday he will be moving soon into hospice care amid treatment for esophageal and lymphatic cancer. 

“Despite the best efforts of my health care team, all treatment options have been exhausted and there is no more that can be done without causing greater harm to my system,” Muhich said in a statement posted to the diocesan website. 

“Therefore I have accepted the recommendation of my doctors and will move to hospice as soon as a space is prepared for me. Thanks to all of you for your many prayers, which have sustained me and strengthened me through the many trials along the way. I am grateful.”

Muhich said through the coming weeks or months, “as God wills,” he will continue to handle as much of the administrative work of the diocese as he can manage “with the assistance of my capable vicars and chancellor.”

“Let us pray that many graces flow from God to our diocese as I await God’s will. I offer all my sufferings for a true Eucharistic revival in our diocese,” the bishop concluded. 

Muhich, 62, had previously announced his cancer diagnosis in a July 2023 Facebook post. He said after several months of difficulty swallowing food, an endoscopy procedure found cancer in his lower esophagus. A PET scan showed the cancer present in one of his lymph nodes as well. At the time, Muhich said he was “glad to learn that the cancer is potentially curable and definitely treatable.”

While asking for prayers from the Catholic community, Muhich also asked the intercession of Servant of God Nicholas Black Elk, a famous Native American Catholic whose sainthood cause was opened by the Rapid City Diocese in 2017.  

In a September 2023 update, Muhich said the radiation and chemotherapy treatments he had been undergoing “took a toll on the body and I am still weak.”

“I am offering the trials of this sickness for a deep and fruitful revival of Eucharistic faith in our diocese. I have constantly felt the Lord’s presence with me in these days of illness and uncertainty. God is good and will bring many graces out of this time of illness if we are open to receiving them.

Pope Francis appointed Muhich to lead the diocese, which serves roughly the western half of South Dakota, in May 2020. He was born in northern Minnesota and was ordained a priest in 1989 for the Diocese of Duluth.

Catholic mother killed in shooting at Kansas City Chiefs victory parade

Law enforcement responds to a shooting at Union Station during the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl LVIII victory parade on Feb. 14, 2024, in Kansas City, Missouri. / Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

CNA Staff, Feb 15, 2024 / 14:50 pm (CNA).

Following a shooting in downtown Kansas City yesterday afternoon during a packed Super Bowl victory rally, nearly two dozen people were injured and one person, so far, is confirmed dead. 

The lone fatality so far, according to local news reports, was Lisa Lopez-Galvan, a local radio DJ and a parishioner at Sacred Heart-Guadalupe Parish in Kansas City. 

Police in a news conference Thursday said initial investigations pointed to a dispute between people that ended in gunfire, with no apparent links to terrorism. They identified the single deceased victim as “Elizabeth Galvan,” 43. 

Lopez-Galvan’s employer, KKFI 90.1 FM, had the day before announced her death in a Facebook post. The victim hosted a music program on the station called “Taste of Tejano.”

“Our hearts and prayers are with her family … This senseless act has taken a beautiful person from her family and this KC Community,” the radio station said. 

The shooting took place at the parade’s end near Union Station. A total of 23 people were taken to the hospital, officials said. Several of the injured victims were children. 

According to the Kansas City Star, Lopez-Galvan had two children and other members of her family who were with her at the parade may have been injured. 

Reports noted that Father Luis Suárez, parochial administrator of Sacred Heart-Guadalupe Parish, encouraged the community to unite in prayer for Lopez-Galvan and her family amid the tragedy in his homily at the Ash Wednesday evening Mass. 

Reached by CNA, Suarez declined to comment further, saying Lopez-Galvan’s family has requested he not make any statements until they have had a chance to put together a press release.

“It has been a big tragedy and loss for our community … a moment of tears and sorrow. May the Lord comfort those who are affected by this situation,” the priest said. 

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, which encompasses the suburb where Lopez-Galvan lived, said in a statement to CNA that his “prayers and deepest condolences go out to the family of Lisa Lopez-Galvan.”

“We are surrounding her family with our love and support. She was a beloved member of our faith community,” the archbishop continued. 

“Our prayers and deepest sympathies are with her family during this sorrowful time. We take comfort in knowing that the resurrection of Our Lord is our consolation and are grateful for his promise of eternal life. We pray for the repose of her soul and healing, peace, and strength for her loved ones and our community.”

House members call for investigation into DC’s five late-term aborted babies

Rep. Chris Roy, R-Texas, and several House members and pro-life leaders hold a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 14, 2024, in which they demand a federal investigation into the possible illegal killing of five unborn babies. / Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA

Washington D.C., Feb 14, 2024 / 18:45 pm (CNA).

Pro-life House members are calling for autopsies and a full investigation into whether federal laws were broken in the late-term abortions of five babies whose remains were discovered by pro-life activists in Washington, D.C.

Several members of Congress and pro-life leaders held a press conference in front of the Capitol on Wednesday in which they said that the five babies’ remains suggest they may have been killed via an abortion method known as “partial-birth abortion,” which is banned nationally under federal law.

Partial-birth abortion is a procedure in which a doctor partially delivers a baby only to kill him or her by either crushing the skull or removing the brain by suction. The leaders at the press conference demanded action from the federal government to determine whether the babies, often referred to as the “D.C. Five,” were killed in this manner. 

“We’re talking about precious life that was just callously disregarded, discarded, just thrown away like refuse, that’s just unconscionable,” said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas.

“We need to go seek the truth. We need to know what’s going to happen next. We need the Department of Justice … to look into this,” he said.

Who are the D.C. Five? 

The secular pro-life group Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU) originally obtained the remains of the aborted babies in March 2022. The group said it acquired them from the Washington Surgi-Clinic run by Dr. Cesare Santangelo, an OB-GYN and well-known abortionist in the city.

The five babies, all of whom were in late stages of gestation, were discovered with major lacerations, torn limbs, and crushed skulls, all consistent with methods used in partial-birth abortions. Their discovery sparked outrage and calls for a federal investigation from pro-life groups and citizens.

Despite calls for an investigation, the Biden Department of Justice (DOJ) has not announced any plans to take action. On Feb. 5, PAAU announced that the office of the D.C. medical examiner had shared with the group its intent to cremate the babies’ remains at the behest of the DOJ. This prompted Roy and Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Arizona, to write a letter to the DOJ in which they said that “without an independent examination for the purposes of countering the argument of ‘lawful abortions’ it is not known how each child died.”

The D.C. medical examiner’s office has since reportedly postponed plans to cremate the babies’ remains; however, still no plans have been announced for an autopsy and their fate remains uncertain.

During the press conference, Rep. Bob Good, R-Virginia, accused the DOJ of being “complicit in covering up the cold-blooded murder” of “precious lives.”

“This is about murder and yet nothing’s been done,” Good said. “No autopsy. No investigation. You have to ask yourself: ‘Why?’ Are we a country that has a rule of law or not? Does the Justice Department actually dispense justice? Those are very fair questions.”

Good suggested that if the DOJ does not act, then Congress should investigate the killings.

“It’s high time Congress conduct its own investigation,” he said, “because the DOJ, if they won’t seek justice, then Congress, I think, is compelled to.”

On Feb. 8, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz issued a letter of his own in which he said: “Should the D.C. medical examiner’s office decide not to conduct timely autopsies, or preserve the bodies of these babies for outside examination, the Senate Judiciary Committee will have no choice but to expand this issue into a full hearing featuring the Department of Justice and the Office of the D.C. Medical Examiner as witnesses before the American public.” 

‘Their bodies tell a story’ 

Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, told CNA after the press conference that he believes the D.C. Five are not the only babies being killed through illegal partial-birth abortions and that they are just the “tip of a much larger human rights violating iceberg the likes of which Americans need to know about.”

“We’ve got to really shine the brightest light on what is going on,” he said. “Minimally, this particular doctor needs to be held to account. We do think he broke laws. But only evidence will prove that. Well, don’t destroy the evidence.”

Jamie Dangers, legislative director of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, who was also present at the conference, told CNA that it is especially important to find the truth about the D.C. Five because it proves the true barbarity of abortion.

“A lot of times with abortion, the whole idea can be very sanitized, and it can be construed as health care or anything like that,” Dangers said. “Yet, because we have the actual evidence, the actual bodies of these children, their bodies tell a story that cuts through all the euphemisms. And so, these five children, obviously their lives were cut short, we can’t help that, but what we can do is dignify their memories and use their stories to help protect other children from similar deaths.”

Priest resigns as head of Pontifical Missions USA, admits he broke vow of celibacy

Diocese of Brooklyn priest Monsignor Kieran Harrington resigned from his position as the national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States after an allegation against him of “inappropriate conduct with an adult” was substantiated, the Diocese of Brooklyn announced. / Credit: EWTN News Nightly YouTube

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 14, 2024 / 18:20 pm (CNA).

Monsignor Kieran Harrington has resigned his position as the national director of The Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States (TPMS US) after the Diocese of Brooklyn found “sufficient proof” of “inappropriate behavior with an adult,” which he has since admitted to.

The Diocese of Brooklyn’s Adult Allegation Committee (AAC) investigated Harrington after it received an allegation of “inappropriate conduct” on March 6, 2023. The committee found “sufficient proof” to support the allegation but did not disclose any specifics about the conduct.

In a statement provided to CNA, Harrington admitted that he had an “inappropriate” encounter with a woman in which he had “broken [his] promise of celibacy.” However, he claimed that the incident was consensual and occurred long before he assumed his leadership role with TPMS US.

“Regrettably, more than a decade ago and prior to my appointment to this position, I had a single, inappropriate, consensual encounter with an adult woman for whom I cared deeply,” Harrington said in a statement provided to CNA. “I was wrong to have done so.”

Harrington added that he is “not the subject of any complaint or civil proceeding” and that “the fact came to light during an ecclesiastical proceeding unrelated to me.” He said he “cooperated and was forthcoming about the events” with the diocese during the investigation.

Harrington claimed that the report “concluded that the encounter was consensual,” but the Diocese of Brooklyn disputed that characterization, telling CNA that “the board did not make a finding on the issue of consent.”

“The board concluded that his behavior violated the Code of Conduct and he should have known better,” the diocesan statement read.

Harrington since April 2021 served as the national director of TPMS US, which is a pontifical organization that supports the missionary work of the pope. He had also served as the vicar for communications for the Brooklyn Diocese since 2006 but was placed on a leave of absence from his priestly ministry pending a diocesan evaluation to determine whether he is suitable to serve the Church in the future.

“I have cherished my 22 years in the priesthood, both in Brooklyn and in service to the Holy Father and the Church,” Harrington said. “It has been my greatest privilege to serve in my parish and in the missions, accompanying the Church in places where it is still young, often poor, and frequently persecuted.”

Harrington apologized to “my colleagues, friends, and parishioners” and requested their prayers. He added that he hopes this incident does not distract from the work of TPMS, which he said is “more vital than ever before.”

“I am proud of the team we’ve assembled at The Pontifical Mission Societies and our shared accomplishments,” Harrington said. “We’ve taken specific steps to increase levels of transparency, accountability, and oversight, including reforms in our governance, systems, and processes. I am so grateful for their dedication.”

A spokesperson for TPMS US accepted Harrington’s resignation but thanked him for his service with the organization.

“Monsignor Harrington’s resignation is related to a matter which occurred over a decade ago, prior to joining TPMS, when he was serving under the Diocese of Brooklyn,” the statement read. “We thank Monsignor Harrington for his service and dedication to the Church’s mission. Under his tenure, TPMS has taken specific steps to increase levels of transparency, accountability, and oversight.”

The board of directors for TPMS appointed Father Anthony Andreassi, CO, to serve as interim national director.

“TPMS is devoted to bringing the Gospel to all nations while strengthening the Church in the USA and mission territories,” the statement added. “We are committed to continuing our important work and serving God through our global network of Catholics united in prayer and alms.”

40 Days for Life campaign begins call for prayer and fasting for end to abortion

A 40 Days for Life prayer vigil. / Credit: 40 Days for Life

CNA Staff, Feb 14, 2024 / 17:25 pm (CNA).

The 40 Days for Life campaign is inviting others to join in 40 days of prayer during the Lenten season for an end to abortion starting today, Feb. 14.

The international 40-day campaign seeks to end abortion locally through prayer and fasting, community outreach, and peaceful all-day vigils outside of abortion facilities, according to the group’s website.

Starting on Feb. 14, the beginning of Lent, and ending on March 24, Palm Sunday, individuals can take part in prayer vigils happening outside of abortion facilities in their local communities.

The campaign aims to have participants hold prayer vigils nonstop, around the clock, for the 40-day, 960-hour period. 

“It is a peaceful and educational presence. Those who are called to stand witness during this 24-hour-a-day presence send a powerful message to the community about the tragic reality of abortion. It also serves as a call to repentance for those who work at the abortion center and those who patronize the facility,” the website states.

40 Days for Life launched its first-ever nationally coordinated campaign in 2007 and reached 89 cities in 33 states. Today, it has reached over 1,000 cities in 63 countries and claims to have saved more than 20,000 unborn lives. 

Additionally, the campaign has resulted in nearly 150 abortion facilities being closed and more than 200 abortion workers quitting their jobs — one of the most famous being pro-life speaker and advocate Abby Johnson. 

“40 Days for Life continued our record growth and high demand as we launched the largest Lent 40 Days for Life campaign ever in a record 656 cities,” President and CEO Shawn Carney told CNA. “This further reflects that in the grassroots, the pro-life movement has not gone away since the overturning of Roe, but quite the opposite, and has more momentum to end abortion at the local level than ever before in post-Roe America. Recently we saw abortion facilities close in places like New York City, Seattle, and Chicago, showing that you can change hearts and minds anywhere.”

Throughout the 40 Days for Life campaign, individuals, churches, families, and groups are asked to join in prayer for specific intentions each day and are encouraged to fast.

“With over 1 million volunteers praying, fasting, and standing in peaceful vigil, we see God continue to use this effort to save lives, reach women, help abortion workers have a conversion, and close abortion facilities,” Carney said.

You can find a local 40 Days for Life prayer vigil here.

‘This is about killing people’: Leading voice against euthanasia warns of pro-euthanasia efforts

Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Alex Schadenberg speaks with “EWTN News Nightly” Host Tracy Sabol on Feb. 13, 2024. / Credit: “EWTN News Nightly”

CNA Staff, Feb 14, 2024 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

The director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) said during an appearance on EWTN News this week that Catholics must be “vocal” against efforts to expand assisted suicide, warning that the issue is “about killing people.” 

EPC Executive Director Alex Schadenberg told “EWTN News Nightly” anchor Tracy Sabol on Tuesday that there are “20 states in the U.S. that are debating an assisted suicide bill.”

“This is their most active year ever and I think what they’re thinking is they’re unsure what’s going to happen in the election this year, so they’re pushing very hard in the states they hope to win in,” he said, naming Maryland, New York, and Massachusetts in particular.

“There’s several states where they’re pushing very hard, and they put a lot of money into this,” he said. “I’m really thinking that they’re absolutely convinced that Americans are ready for this.”

The Virginia Senate passed an assisted suicide bill last Friday, while Maryland has seen renewed interest with a bill called the End of Life Option Act. Other states considering assisted suicide this year include Arizona, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition’s mission is to combat the growing acceptance of assisted suicide through advocacy and education. Assisted suicide is legal in 10 states in the U.S.: Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, New Mexico, Vermont, Colorado, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Maine.

When asked by Sabol about what the faithful can do to combat assisted suicide, Schadenberg responded: “Well, I think we have [to be] very clear and not play with the words. We have to say what this is. This is about killing people.”

“We understand that a lot of people go through difficult times in their life, so the other side is playing the whole card about suffering,” he said. “And we understand this is a reality, but at the same time we know, this is about killing people.”

“We need to be caring for people, not killing them,” he said. “And the other side changed the language and they want to call it something else; and no, we have to say what it is and stick to the point and be very vocal about that. Silence is not our friend.”

The director also cited the situation in Canada, where one Catholic hospital is set to face a lawsuit over its refusal to take part in the deliberate ending of a patient’s life. Supporters of the group Dying with Dignity Canada are planning a legal challenge against St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver because the Catholic medical center does not allow physician-assisted suicide.

The Archdiocese of Montreal is also currently suing the attorney general of Quebec, with Church officials demanding an exception to an assisted suicide bill passed last year. The bill would force the Catholic St. Raphael Palliative Care Home and Day Centre to offer physician-assisted suicide. 

“Bill 11 was passed by the government last June and it forces all institutions that provide medical treatment to do euthanasia,” Schadenberg said. 

“So this has been the standoff situation where St. Raphael’s is owned by the Archdiocese of Montreal, and so they’re now suing the Quebec government to prevent St. Raphael’s from being forced to do euthanasia.”

Schadenberg told Sabol he sees hope for the pro-life movement. Suicide bills “lost two years in a row in every single state,” he said. “So in the last two years every state that had an assisted suicide bill — they were all defeated. So that’s kudos to those who have been fighting assisted suicide.”

“But of course, ‘the killing lobby,’ they’re going to keep going,” he said. “And that’s the sad reality, and they’re pushing very hard this year.”

Police drop investigation into vandalization of Nebraska Blessed Mother statue

The statue of the Blessed Mother pictured before the incident on its pedestal in front of the headquarters of Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska. / Credit: Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 14, 2024 / 14:45 pm (CNA).

A local police investigation into the vandalization of a Blessed Virgin Mary statue outside a Catholic charitable group’s headquarters in Nebraska is currently listed as “inactive” after police were unable to identify the perpetrator.

Although one of the building’s security cameras caught the vandal on video, Erika Thomas, a representative for the Lincoln Police Department, told CNA that the case is inactive and that “it doesn’t look like there has been any movement on it because they don’t have any suspects.”

The incident occurred on the campus of Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska (CSS) on Feb. 7 at 6:32 p.m.

Video footage shows a man calmly approach and remove the Marian statue, which normally sits in front of the building’s entrance. After a brief struggle, the man rips the 5-foot-tall resin statue from its pedestal and carries it out of view. The statue was later found headfirst in a nearby dumpster.

A police report obtained by CNA lists the incident as a “larceny,” not as vandalism nor a possible hate crime.

When questioned by CNA on whether the vandalism would be investigated as a possible hate crime, the police representative said “no.” She explained that the criteria for a hate crime under Lincoln law require there be an intent to intimidate and that since no suspect has been identified the perpetrator’s intent cannot be determined.

“The suspect was too far away from the camera to be able to identify them,” Thomas said.

“All that our incident report says is that it looks like they had security camera video that saw the person taking it and putting it in the dumpster. They ended up finding it and there are no suspects listed,” she added, noting that “the case is listed currently as inactive.”

The statue of the Blessed Mother pictured before the incident on its pedestal in front of the headquarters of Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska. Credit: Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska.
The statue of the Blessed Mother pictured before the incident on its pedestal in front of the headquarters of Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska. Credit: Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska.

CSS is a nonprofit organization that offers several programs to help underprivileged pregnant mothers and families as well as programs to help migrants. The group works in conjunction with the Diocese of Lincoln, and Bishop James Conley of Lincoln serves as president of the board.

Katie Patrick, executive director of CSS, told CNA that this was the first time an incident such as this had occurred on their campus. Patrick said that the Marian statue is relatively new to the grounds, being added as part of the building’s renovation in October. She said that the statue of the Blessed Virgin was meant as “a symbol of the hope and love we strive to bring in every encounter.”

“As far as what would motivate someone to do something like this to Our Lady, it’s hard to say,” Patrick said.

While admitting that it could just be “a random act of violence,” Patrick said that “it could be construed as a hate crime since the statue was pried off its pedestal (it was held on by a concrete adhesive) and placed upside down in a nearby dumpster.”

She noted that the incident occurred the same day a local television station ran a story featuring their refugee resettlement program.

“There’s no way to know if there’s a connection, but it appears someone was trying to make a statement against CSS and/or the Church.”

Despite the perpetrator’s actions, Patrick said the statue only sustained “minor” damage and that it will be restored to its pedestal later this week.

Rather than bearing any anger toward the perpetrator, Patrick called for people to pray for him.

“We’re praying for this individual — praying that he’ll find remorse in his petty crime and ask for forgiveness from God,” she said. “The public has been made aware of this unfortunate event so that they too can pray for this man and for our mission to bring hope in the good life to those in need.” 

This weekend’s New York Encounter: Come ‘verify that our soul is still there’ 

The New York Encounter, a three-day cultural festival taking place Feb. 16-18, 2024, will examine the theme “Tearing Open the Sleeping Soul” with panels, exhibitions, and artistic performances. / Credit: The New York Encounter

CNA Staff, Feb 14, 2024 / 13:15 pm (CNA).

“Ultimately, the New York Encounter is just that, it’s an encounter — an event that changes you,” said Holly Peterson, an educator with the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, who helped to organize the annual three-day cultural festival taking place in New York City this weekend.

“Speaking from experience, I always come home from the New York Encounter happier than when I went. Not because I’m rested or saw New York, but because my heart has been renewed,” Peterson told CNA.

The New York Encounter, taking place Feb. 16–18, is a Catholic event unlike any other. 

Now in its 16th year, the event — which is free of charge and open to the public — attracts thousands from across the nation and around the world. 

Held at the Metropolitan Paviliion in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, the event features panel discussions, artistic performances, and exhibitions that look at the issues and challenges people face today, and, in Peterson’s words, “go to the root in a radical way.”

‘Our humanity is sleeping’

The New York Encounter was founded by members of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement. This year’s Encounter has the theme ”Tearing Open the Sleeping Soul” with the subtitle “What is happening to our humanity?”

At a three-day retreat held last year, the event’s organizers shared their concerns about both world events and challenges they face in their own lives, Peterson explained. 

“There is no shortage of reasons to ponder this question: daily images of gratuitous violence; an epidemic of suicide; feeling suffocated by the imposition of opposite ideologies and their language, starting in school; the potential threat of generative AI; a sense of paralysis in front of the future; suffering and evil devoid of meaning or redemption; general weariness, malaise, numbness, and lack of desire. These signs suggest that our humanity is asleep. What can reawaken it?” reads a description of the theme on the event’s website.

This year’s scheduled panels and exhibitions, some of which will be livestreamed, consider these issues to “verify that our ‘soul’ is still there, waiting to be rekindled,” according to the event’s promotional materials.

“Last year it was very apparent that, after the pandemic and years of recovery, we were not back where we were before 2020 — the war was ongoing, there was an explosion of AI, a national mental health crisis was in full bloom, there was a huge teacher shortage, many felt disenfranchised,” Peterson told CNA.

“The Church has something to say on all of these issues, and there are people, living witnesses, who know these topics well and go to the root, in a radical way,” Peterson said, adding that they “take seriously the human experience.”

These are “people who have ‘torn open’ not only their topic, but who have something to say to the human, to the heart of the person,” she said.

Communion and Liberation is an ecclesial movement in the Catholic Church founded by Father Luigi Guissani in Milan in the 1960s. As a young teacher at a Catholic high school, Guissani noticed that many of his students, while baptized Catholic, had “zero” interest in the faith of their parents, favoring instead the secular political theories coming into vogue. He introduced them to a new method of thinking, one where God is revealed in everyday experiences.

“The charism of Father Giussani has educated us is to see reality as a sign,” Peterson told CNA.

“And the New York Encounter seeks to do that, to see reality as the place where God communicates to us. God calls us through signs, through what the sign invokes. In short, we have learned to take reality seriously, including issues which are sometimes painful, controversial, or seemingly profane, because at the bottom of them is something an Other gives or allows to happen to communicate to us something more,” she said. 

Attendance at the New York Encounter has grown exponentially since its founding — from 5,554 in 2015 to 15,500 in 2023. It is modeled after a meeting held in Rimini, Italy, every August attended by more than 800,000. While there are many Catholics and members of Communion and Liberation among the New York audience, the event attracts people from many different backgrounds. 

“All kinds of folks come to the Encounter — from babies in strollers to older people, from religious to lay, from Christians to nonbelievers. This is one of the unique features of the Encounter. There is no audience who is not welcomed,” Peterson said.

“The Encounter does not target any particular age group, but because of the nature of the topics — politics, the arts, literature, science, etc. — it draws people from every age group and every walk of life,” she said.

Attendees can pick and choose which panels and exhibitions they would like to attend, take time to socialize, line up to have their books signed by author-panelists, or fortify themselves with an espresso, Italian sandwich, or gelato — a nod to the event’s ties to Italy. 

In addition to the authors, scholars, experts, and artists taking part, leaders of the Catholic Church play a prominent role. This year, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, will be celebrating Mass on Sunday. Cardinal Seán O’Malley, archbishop of Boston; Cardinal Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the U.S.; Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, OFM, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica; and Bishop Earl K. Fernandes of the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, are among the weekend’s featured participants.

Here are a few highlights from the panels and exhibits scheduled for this year’s New York Encounter:

Current events:

●  Saturday, Feb. 17, at 11:30 a.m.: “A Fundamental Difference”: A close look at artificial intelligence with Jonathan Stokes of Symbolic AI and Jennifer Strong, producer of the tech podcast “Shift.”

●  Saturday, Feb. 17, at 2 p.m.: “A Torn Open Wound”: A conversation on the war between Israel and Hamas and any conceivable road to peace with Shadi Hamid, columnist and editorial board member for The Washington Post, and Jacob Siegel, senior editor for the Tablet.

●  Sunday, Feb. 18, at 12:45 p.m.: “Fratelli Tutti”: A conversation on Pope Francis’ Fratelli Tutti encyclical with Cardinal Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the U.S., and Mrs. Tawakkol Karman, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

● Sunday, Feb. 18, at 2 p.m.: “An Incurable Wound?”: Eyewitness accounts of the life of Christians in the Holy Land with Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, and Father Gabriel Romanelli, pastor of Holy Family Catholic Parish in Gaza.

● Sunday, Feb. 18, at 4:15 p.m.: “Beyond Left and Right”: An exploration of the Supreme Court and its future with Stephanos Bibas, judge of the United States Court of Appeals, and Jeffrey Pojanowski, professor of law, University of Notre Dame.

Arts and language:

●  Friday, Feb. 16, at 6:30 p.m.: “A Soul Waiting to Be Reawakened”: The Encounter will be opened by creative offerings from Christian Wiman, poet, and Kuok-Wai Lio, classical pianist.

●  Saturday, Feb. 17, at 9:30 a.m.: “The Power of Language”: A presentation on the nature of language and the danger of ideologies with Andrea Moro, professor of general linguistics at the Institute of Superior Studies, Italy, and Marguerite Peeters, director of the Institute for Intercultural Dialogue Dynamics, Brussels.

●  Saturday, Feb.17, at 6 p.m.: “What Beauty Can Do to the Soul”: A conversation on the power of art to rekindle our humanity with Patrick Bringley, writer, and Jean-François Martel, author.

Education and hope:

●  Sunday, Feb. 18, at 11:30 a.m.: “Made to Be Free”: A discussion on education in light of Father Luigi Giussani’s pedagogy with Hans van Mourik Broekman, principal of Liverpool College, U.K., and Aaron Riches, professor of theology, Benedictine College.

●  Sunday, Feb. 18, at 5:30 p.m.: “From Death into Life”: Stories of forgiveness and hope with Gilbert King, journalist, and Rachel Muha, founder of the Brian Muha Foundation.

When and where is the New York Encounter?

The New York Encounter takes place this weekend, from Friday, Feb. 16, through Sunday, Feb. 18, at the Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street, in New York City. Admission is free of charge, and no registration is required.

To learn more and see a complete schedule visit the website for the New York Encounter.

11 quotes from the saints on love and relationships

Mother Teresa and John Paul II, May 25, 1983. / Credit: L'Osservatore Romano

CNA Staff, Feb 14, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

In a culture where the family is attacked and love is often confused with lust, it can be hard to know what godly love looks like in our relationships — whether that be in dating, in marriage, or within our home.

Here are 11 quotes from the saints on love and relationships.

St. Teresa of Calcutta:

“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home, for this is where our love for each other must start.”

Venerable Fulton Sheen:

“When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.”

St. John Paul II:

“Love is never something that is ready-made, something merely ‘given’ to man and woman; it is always at the same time a ‘task’ which they are set. Love should be seen as something which in a sense never ‘is’ but is always only ‘becoming,’ and what it becomes depends upon the contribution of both persons and the depth of their commitment.”

St. Clare of Assisi:

“We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become.”

St. John XXIII:

“The charity which burned in the household at Nazareth should be an inspiration for every family. All the Christian virtues should flourish in the family, unity should thrive, and the example of its virtuous living should shine brightly.”

St. John Chrysostom:

“When a husband and wife are united in marriage they no longer seem like something earthly, but rather like the image of God himself.”

St. Josemaría Escrivá:

“Marriage is to help married people sanctify themselves and others. For this reason they receive a special grace in the sacrament which Jesus instituted. Those who are called to the married state will, with the grace of God, find within their state everything they need to be holy.”

St. John Paul II:

“Love that leads to marriage is a gift from God and a great act of faith toward other human beings.”

St. Gianna Molla:

“Love is the most beautiful sentiment the Lord has put into the souls of men and women.”

St. Thomas Aquinas:

“The greater the friendship, the more solid and long-lasting the marriage will be, as we are united not only in flesh but in domestic activity.”

Venerable Fulton Sheen:

“It takes three to make love, not two: you, your spouse, and God. Without God, people only succeed in bringing out the worst in one another. Lovers who have nothing else to do but love each other soon find there is nothing else. Without a central loyalty life is unfinished.”

This article was originally published on Feb. 14, 2023, and has been updated.