Program #0022 for Thursday, April 7, 2011: Courtyard of Gentiles, Mass. Catholic Conference, Bl. John Paul II

April 7, 2011

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Susan Abbott

Today’s guest(s): Fr. Roger Landry, executive editor of The Anchor, the newspaper of the Diocese of Fall River; and Gregory Tracy, managing editor of The Pilot, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston

Today’s topics: The Courtyard of the Gentiles; A new director for the Mass. Catholic Conference; Pope John Paul II is being beatified for his personal virtue, not his historic pontificate; and two stories of simple but heroic courage and virtue

A summary of today’s show: Fr. Roger Landry and Gregory Tracy look at the news of the week with Scot Landry and Susan Abbott, including the Courtyard of the Gentiles, a Vatican initiative to engage with atheists, agnostics, and non-believers on an intellectual level; the new director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference and one of the issues he’ll be tackling: the Church’s response to casino gambling in the state; why the beatification of Pope John Paul II won’t be because of his historic pontificate, but instead about his personal virtue; and the heroic virtue of a young man performing a simple act of charity that captured a nation’s attention and the heroic courage of an unemployed father to sacrifice a job rather than cooperate with evil.

1st segment: Susan was at the symposium on adolescent catechesis this morning and it was wonderful. She said Bob Rice’s talks were inspiring for the catechists and priests and DREs who were present. She said she was also at the New Roman Missal workshop for laity at the Pastoral Center yesterday where there were hundreds of participants. Scot said the Knights of Malta also had a gathering at the Pastoral Center for their annual pilgrimage to Lourdes.

Tonight is both Carl Anderson’s talk at Fanueil Hall and Bob Rice’s talk at Theology on Tap. Tomorrow is Bob Rice’s mini-retreat day for youth ministers and on Saturday is the Co-Workers in the Vineyard conference.

2nd segment: Scot and Susan welcome Fr. Roger Landry and Gregory Tracy. Fr. Landry wrote this week in his editorial about the Courtyard of the Gentiles, the Pope’s outreach to atheists, agnostics, and non-believers. A couple of years ago, Pope Benedict spoke about the well-meaning atheists he’d met on a trip to the Czech Republic. Pope Benedict said we needed to recover the sense of the courtyard of the Gentiles from the ancient Jewish temple where Gentiles could come and ask questions and find out what the Jewish faith was about. There have been many outreaches since Vatican II to Jews, to other Christians, and to other non-Judeo/Christian religions, but we haven’t had anything for non-believers. So on March 21 in Paris, they held this first Courtyard of the Gentiles, culminating with a live video address by Pope Benedict XVI. The next gathering will be in Chicago.

Believers can have more than a little to do with the birth of atheism when we teach error or are deficient in showing the authentic face of God. Gregory said it points to the need for ongoing faith development for ourselves. He recalls meeting someone from Europe who was truly un-churched and literally knew nothing about Christianity. He and his wife took some time to explain the basics. We can never fail to reach out to those who are curious. The first step in conversion is engaging in a dialogue.

Just as non-believers have nothing to fear from God, believers should have no fear of those who live in accord with their consciences, Pope Benedict said. It addresses the fear of believers sharing a conversation with those who don’t share in the same belief. Susan was impressed by the Pope calling believers to task: “Non-believers challenge believers to live in a way consistent with the faith they profess.”

Fr. Landry said the Vatican doesn’t intend for this to remain a series of itinerant intellectual events sponsored by the Vatican, but hopes that it would become a “fixture of the pastoral activity of every diocese.” It should be a place where non-believers could feel free to come and ask questions. We do a good job caring for the hungry, for those who are seeking faith, who want to enter the Church, but there are so many in our universities, so many immigrants from non-Christian—even Communist— countries, who could be vigorously engaged.

3rd segment: On April 5, the bishops of the four dioceses in Massachusetts appointed a new executive director for the Mass. Catholic Conference, James F. Driscoll, a resident of Scituate and parishioner at St. Mary of the Nativity in Scituate. Gregory met Jim Driscoll yesterday when he stopped by the Pilot’s office. Gregory had a good impression of him and believes he will serve well as head of the conference, which is the Mass. bishops’ voice before the legislators on Beacon Hill. It is the Church’s major way to engage in the public square on major issues.

Fr. Landry said the MCC spends a lot of time lobbying on Beacon Hill, but it also supports other initiatives such as when parishioners were being mobilized to contact their legislators on the issue of marriage in this state. So their two focuses are on lobbying—offering the Church’s wisdom when it would be helpful—but also helping churches to educate and mobilize people. Driscoll has a lot of experience in state government, having worked in the state auditor’s office and, before that, in the Lottery Commission.

He replaces Gerry D’Avolio, who was interim director after the sudden death of Ed Saunders last year.

One of the issues the MCC is advocating is for the state to do a cost-benefit analysis on the proposed legalization of casino gambling. Susan said the Church has always been an advocate for the poor and studies have consistently showed that legalized gambling always affects the poor disproportionately. Cathy Davis at the MCC said there has already been an acknowledgement that there will be a societal cost, but it has not been quantified yet, while proponents have been advancing predictions of the windfalls the casinos will produce. Studies show that 70-90 percent of profits in casinos come from 10 percents of gamblers. They also show that when casinos open, the community sees massive increases in violent crime.

There have been several attempts to build casinos in the Fall River area. Fr. Landry said that unfortunately lawmakers approach the subject like gamblers: that even though everyone else loses, the luck will turn this time and they will hit the jackpot. It’s often touted as a job creation initiative, but they bring the lowest-level jobs and kill jobs when customers move away from local businesses to the casinos. Casinos are seen as a panacea for what ails us, but they present us with an expensive bill.

Gregory said casinos seem to be proposed every few years, and readers of the Pilot often question why the Church is opposed to casinos when many Catholic parishes offer Bingo games. But the Church says that recreational gambling can be legitimate. The difference is that casinos bring about the misery that has been talked about and are much more likely to bring about addiction.

4th segment: The head of the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes said Pope John Paul II is being beatified not for his impact on history or on the Catholic Church, but because of the way he lived the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love. Susan said Pope John Paul II is being beatified, not for his pontificate, but for his personal holiness. When we die, we will stand before God without titles, but only as a child of God.

Joaquin Navarro-Valls, JP2’s spokesman, said the Pope lived and acted and related to everyone he met with the firm belief that each person was created in the image and likeness of God.

Gregory said the Pope radiated holiness and even in his final days, the people saw and felt his love for them each. This was one of the reasons the people cried out for his canonization.

Three steps for the cause of a saint are the consideration of the vox populi, the voice of the people, declaring his holiness; then the vox Dei, the voice of God, seen in miracles through his intercession; and the vox ecclesiae, the voice of the Church, declaring his Christian virtues and whether he lived a life of heroic faith and love. The Church looks at all his public acts and his public faith and all of his writings. At the end of the process, a report is produced and if they can say this person lived heroic faith, it is passed to the Congregation for Saints. They would send it to the Pope. If he agrees, they then look at miracles that can be attributed to the intercession of the person. There have been 250 miracles submitted for the beatification of John Paul II, but only one is accepted as representing God’s certification of his being in heaven. After that, there must be a new miracle that occurs after beatification to declare a canonization.

There was a miracle in Fr. Landry’s own parish, Joe Amaral, who hadn’t walked in decades. His story was shown on ABC’s 20/20. He had prayed one day for the grace to accept the will of God for his own condition like John Paul had accepted his own Parkinson’s disease. He immediately was cured and was able to walk. He had been previously on able to move about only with great difficulty and now walks with ease. He now walks door to door in New Bedford to tell people that Jesus Christ has the power to heal sins and heal ailments.

5th segment: Heartwarming story from the Inner-City Scholarship Fund dinner at the end of March, which raised $2.4 million for scholarships for students from families that couldn’t afford tuition at Catholic schools. The keynote was by Rudy Favard, a senior at Malden Catholic, who was profiled in the Boston Globe just before Christmas for his volunteer work helping a local family care for a disabled young boy. He goes to the family’s home four days per week. He said at the dinner that through his mother’s hard work and generosity of the donors at the ICSF dinner, that God has given him an education and opportunity like he has had.

Susan said she likes to think that there are many Rudy’s out there. She was struck in the original story by his request to the reporter that story should be more about the young boy he serves than about himself. Susan was also gratified that it seems that all the attention has not gone to his head.

Fr. Landry said that what struck him was the nurse at Malden Catholic who had taken the responsibility to ask and Rudy happened to be the first she met and asked. It was the asking and knowing that young people have a lot to give. Pope John Paul II had always said that we should challenge and ask young people to give of themselves. Fr. Landry said he has often seen young people respond to being asked and you see many beautiful stories like Rudy Favard’s and we are reinvigorated by the beauty of the youth who serve.

This past weekend, the same Globe reporter gave an update this past weekend on Rudy and the Parker family. Rudy is very concerned at what will happen to the Parkers when he leaves. He said he would prefer that rather than receive the $5,000 scholarship he was given, that the Parkers should receive the money to help them get a handicapped-accessible house.

In the Anchor this week will be a column by Fr. Tad Paholczyk in which he tells the story of Tim Roach, an unemployed father of two in the Minneapolis area who was finally offered a very good job. But he learned that he was going to be the electrical supervisor on the work being done for a new Planned Parenthood facility being built. He refused to cooperate with the evil that would have happened there. He would have been facilitating that evil. He made a heroic decision not to sell his soul for a $70,000 salary, even with all the difficulties that would result for his family. Susan said the act of courage turning down a job is not just admirable, but is virtuous and heroic.

  • The Anchor will have Fr. Tad’s column on its website on Friday

Fr. Landry finished the show by relating that his parish now has a new bulletin through Parish Bulletins, part of the Catholic Media Secretariat of the Archdiocese of Boston.

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