Amidst the overwhelmingly massive crowd of three million young people who gathered to celebrate the solidarity of the Catholic faith were forty-five Diocese of Orlando pilgrims. Experiencing the exuberance and excitement of the 31st World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, the land of Pope St. John Paul II, the small group of sojourners were called to reflect on the spiritual theme, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
Lasting twelve days, the trip not only transported travelers to cities of magnificent beauty, but also to the glaring atrocities of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. The stark contrasts of darkness and light, evil and goodness, hatred and mercy moved us to tears as we prayed for the million plus people slaughtered at the hands of the Nazis.
The trip included visiting the monastery founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe; participating in the celebration of Mass at the Basilica of the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy; celebrating the Stations of the Cross with Pope Francis in Błonia Park; praying at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa; and venerating the relics of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, one of the patrons of World Youth Day. The excursion culminated with the closing prayer vigil and Mass at Campus Misericordia where the Holy Father proclaimed, “Let us remember this encounter, let us preserve the memory of the presence of God and his word, and let us listen once more to the voice of Jesus as he calls us by name.”
This article appeared in the August 11th edition of The Florida Catholic, Diocese of Orlando issue.
Throughout much of last week, Catholics from across the country flocked to Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia to welcome the Holy Father to our beloved nation. While many were fortunate enough to secure a ticket to attend and participate in the many liturgies celebrated by Pope Francis, others were content with simply getting a glimpse of the pope as he drove by in his modest Fiat 500 or Jeep Popemobile. For many, the Holy Father’s first-ever visit to the United States allowed them to encounter the presence of the Holy Spirit and filled them with a tremendous sense of joy and peace.
Many of the seminarians from St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach were privileged to make the journey to our nation’s capital for the Papal Visit. The highlight of the trip was Mass in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception where Pope Francis canonized Junípero Serra. Prior to the celebration of the Eucharist, the Holy Father entered the basilica and greeted the many seminarians and religious brothers and sisters who were patiently awaiting his arrival.
When he walked through the front doors, the usually tranquil worship space erupted into a thunderous roar of excitement. As Pope Francis approached our position towards the front of the basilica, the seminarians from St. Vincent de Paul, myself included, jumped up onto the pews to get a glimpse of our chief shepherd. The successor of Peter was in our midst, something none of us will ever forget.
Throughout his time as archbishop of Buenos Aires and now as Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis has authentically lived the Gospel. By his words and actions during his time in the United States, he has invited us to do the same. Each of us are called to radically live out the Gospel message and to be authentic witnesses to the love and compassion of Christ in the world. Personally, the Holy Father challenges me tremendously to look at my own life and ask the important questions. Do I live my life in such a way that directs others to Christ? When I encounter strangers on the street, does my interaction with them lead them to an experience of the loving presence of God in their lives? Do I bring the joy of the Gospel to all those I meet during the day?
Throughout the next several weeks, let us pray that the Holy Father’s visit to the United States continue to have a lasting impact on our spiritual lives. May his words and example continue to stir within our hearts a desire to grow closer to the Lord.
Some 27 years ago, a 35-year-old mother of three with her fourth child on the way arrived at her doctor’s office for one of her prenatal visits. The pregnancy was going smoothly and she was looking forward to hearing an update on how things were progressing with the little guy forming within her. It was a regular visit to the doctor, or so she thought.
Following his examination, the doctor informed this expectant mother that there was something wrong. Based on his medical observations, he believed this mother’s son would have a whole slew of medical issues. He believed her child would be born severely deformed and suffering from mental incapacity. It was in her best interests and her baby’s, therefore, that he recommended she go forward with an abortion.
Absolutely crushed by this news, the young mother drove home with a stream of tears running down her face. When her husband got home that afternoon, she informed him of what the doctor had to say. Devastated by the news, the husband consoled his sobbing wife. As they talked about the situation, the two parents decided that they would welcome whatever gift God offered them.
In March 1988, their fourth child was born a healthy baby boy. The only deformity was a slight hole on their son’s ear, which closed up within days after being born. Today, this child whose life could have easily been ended because of misguided observations of a doctor is studying to be a Catholic priest. That now-mother-of-four is none other than my very own mother.
Some people often ask me why I care so much about prolife issues, specifically abortion. I think the answer is pretty clear, don’t you? I speak out against abortion because I am a survivor. Imagine what would have happened had my parents not had such a strong faith that God was going to provide for them. Imagine if my parents would have followed the doctor’s recommendations and gone through with the procedure.
Abortion closes us off to the possibility of life and prevents us from welcoming God’s gift. Therefore, in the words of the great St. John Paul II, we must “stand up for life!” We must “never tire of firmly speaking out in defense of life from its conception” and cannot be “deterred from the commitment to defend the dignity of every human person with courageous determination.”
This is why I march! This is why I speak out against abortion. I am a survivor and I thank God every day for the parents that he gave to me. Without their faith and their determination that God would provide, I would not be here today. Thank God they were open to the possibility of life!
On Saturday, October 18th, St. John Vianney College Seminary hosted the 4th Annual Recovery Walk for the St. Luke’s Center, an addiction recovery ministry of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Miami. The recovery walk helps increase awareness within the community about the good work being carried out at the St. Luke’s Center. It also provides the opportunity to secure some financial assistance to the center so that this work can continue.
Together with several other members of the community, the seminarians at St. John Vianney were able to help raise over $21,000 for St. Luke’s Center. We could not have done this well without your support. A special thanks to all of those who offered their prayers and financial support to my fundraising efforts for the Recovery Walk. Together, you and I raised $546 for St. Luke’s Center.
Below are a couple of pictures from the Recovery Walk. More images are available on the St. John Vianney College Seminary website and on the Facebook page for Catholic Charities of Miami.
Photo Credit: St. John Vianney College Seminary
Photo Credit: Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami
Thanks again for all your support!
Every year, St. John Vianney College Seminary hosts the St. Luke’s Recovery Walk to benefit the St. Luke’s Center, a service of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Miami. Each seminarian studying at St. John Vianney participates in the walk, to do our part to help our brothers and sisters facing addiction.
Addicts face an uphill battle in their efforts to achieve sobriety. Many suffer “co-occuring disorders” – medical conditions like mental illness, post traumatic stress disorder, trauma/abuse, and genetic makeups that make them vulnerable to addiction. Funding sources cover treatment and lodging costs but they don’t cover medications to address patients’ underlying conditions. Without mental stability they are highly likely to relapse.
St. Luke’s also provides “extras” not covered by grants/funders – like clothing, bus passes, and gas cards so patients can seek jobs. Employment is the cornerstone of self-reliance so it is important to empower patients to rejoin the workforce.
Addicts are ordinary people with children, jobs, and families who love them. Their addictions take a toll on loved ones causing alienation and distress. The lucky ones get help. Others die from overdoses, or suffer debilitating illnesses caused by the substances they consume.
THAT’s why we need YOU!
Your gifts empower addicts to get on the road to long-term sobriety.
Please DONATE. No amount is too big or too small.
For more information or to donate, please click on the banner below: